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NFL free agents 2013: Getting the most bang for your buck

It's not always about landing the top-rated players. The deeper talent in free agency features players with immense upside, with a little risk.

Andy Lyons

The NFL offseason officially begins at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12. It's here where teams can begin negotiating with free agents, and the initial feeding frenzy over the league's top players begins. This is a class headlined by some of the NFL's most productive receivers, with Mike Wallace, Wes Welker, and Greg Jennings all likely to find new teams. Instead of looking at those already elite players, today we're digging a little deeper into some who could provide a team a tremendous amount of talent, for a very small financial risk.

If a team needs a quarterback, this is a tough year to try and find help on the free agent market. The most intriguing option was Matt Moore, but the Dolphins locked him up with a two-year contract extension before he could get away. Given the lack of elite quarterback talent in the draft, there are several teams who could use a journeyman to mentor a young passer or even just fill in until the team can find a more permanent solution.

David Garrard and Jason Campbell -- get excited! -- are on the market, and probably the best two veteran quarterbacks to be had. Both will probably be more appealing as experienced backups. The name to keep an eye on among the quarterbacks is Chase Daniel, the former Saints backup. He has just enough talent to entice a team with his potential in the right system.

At wide receiver, there are a few second-tier names that could provide a team some value, depending on the circumstances. Donnie Avery caught 60 passes for 781 yards in Indianapolis last year, both career bests, in a rare full season of health from St. Louis's former second-round pick. Avery is strictly a deep threat, but the right offense could harness his production. Julian Edelman might entice some teams looking for a slot receiver.

A youth movement is one way a talented player can find himself in the cold, but more often you see gifted players fall to the wayside due to injury. Louis Delmas would be one of the top defensive backs in this free agent class, if not for missing 13 games over the last two years. The 25-year-old safety is just two seasons removed from recording 84 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in 2010. The Detroit Lions are no longer willing to lean on the oft-injured safety, opening the door for a needy team to take a chance -- as long as he's not their only option.

In a season full of disappointment, one of the bright spots for the New York Jets was the play of strong safety LaRon Landry. After missing a combined 15 games in 2010 and 2011, the Jets took a chance that paid huge dividends. Brought in on a one-year deal, he finished with 100 tackles and was integral to the little success the team had. Prior to his injuries, Delmas mirrored Landry on a statistical level — and it's possible he could have the same resurgence with a new team.

Andy Reid is still in the process of evaluating the roster in Kansas City, but there's a good chance defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey leaves the Chiefs following his rookie deal. Once considered a "once in a decade" player, Dorsey found himself at odds with the team's defensive scheme for much of his career, ultimately finding a home as a 5-technique defensive end. Despite having five years of NFL experience, Dorsey is still just 27 years old, and could find a place on a team looking for a powerful defensive tackle, preferably in a 4-3 scheme.

Each year there's a team willing to take a risk on a player with character concerns in favor of getting immense potential on the gridiron. Perhaps no free agent better embodies this more than Aqib Talib, formerly of the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With more off-field issues than years in the league, Talib found himself jettisoned by the Buccaneers for a seventh-round pick -- they were that desperate to part ways with the former first-rounder. Bill Belichick was willing to take a calculated risk on the cornerback, and it paid off.

There's a chance the Patriots could try and lure him back to New England. The Philadelphia Eagles would be taking a risk, especially with first-year coach Chip Kelly taking the reins, but with Nnamdi Asomugha's future uncertain, there's a chance the Eagles go in a different direction.

Free agency is often more about the smaller names than the headliners. It wasn't so long ago that Asomugha was the jewel in free agency, and now he's on the verge of being cut. The key isn't throwing the most money at the most talented players, but in identifying overlooked talent to help patch a team's holes rather than cure all their ills. Provided teams are willing to take a small leap of faith on players like Louis Delmas, Glenn Dorsey, and Aqib Talib, the rewards could be great.

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