Big name NFL free agency is over. That sweep on some of the second-tier players has come and gone as well, and now there's a handful of veterans out there just waiting for their phone to ring, taking visits to various suitors, and hoping a little perceived competition can drive up their leverage and asking price before the draft.
For the moment, though, front offices are balking. Many would like to wait until May 12, the new date that replaces the old June 1 deadline, in which free agents signed by teams no longer impact the compensatory pick formula. As it stands now, signing free agents* before May 12 may mean that that team is giving up a chance at a comp pick in next year's draft. Some of these free agents may be worth that cost, but considering most of the players left out there right now are likely to be getting one-year, near league-minimum contracts -- or at best, one-year prove-it deals -- it behooves these teams to bide their time and hope all the other suitors are willing to do the same.
(*Non cap casualties or released players, and not teams' own free agents)
Nonetheless, there are still players out there that could contribute to new teams in 2015, and a few that could even play key roles. Let's take a quick look at a few.
Teams either have their starters at this point, will have a quarterback battle between a young buck and a veteran going into camp, or will be looking to the draft to solve that riddle. What's left on the open market for the quarterback position is a smattering of purely backup options, but as we've seen in this league over and over again, having a solid veteran backing up your starter is never a bad thing. Matt Hasselbeck recently re-signed with the Colts for $3 million. Matt Moore signed in Miami to backup Ryan Tannehill for $2.6 million. Matt Schaub signed on with the Ravens for $2 million. One of these remaining vets may get a chance to play similar roles.
He's likely the best pure backup still out there on the market, and he's apparently biding his time in hopes of driving up his price. After seeing what Hasselbeck, Moore and Schaub got, he can hope for something similar, and the Seahawks have expressed interest in his services again in 2015.
Vick is now 35 years old, admitted that he wasn't ready to play at times last year and is turnover prone, but he's highly experienced, mobile and has a better statistical resume than anyone still out there. Vick was brought in to provide competition for Geno Smith last year, but only played in three games, passing for 604 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He still has some tools, though, and depending on some of the systems teams are looking to run next year, could make some sense as a pure backup/mentor option.
Campbell has 133 starts on his resume and is a career 60 percent passer. Like the two other names mentioned here, he provides some mobility options for coordinators looking for a player that can get out of a jam when teams inevitably bring pressure against the poor backup quarterback in the game. Campbell spent last season backing up Andy Dalton and started eight games for the Browns in 2013.
For all the lamentation for the death of the running back position we've seen of late, Marshawn Lynch got a big new deal, and DeMarco Murray, Frank Gore, Ryan Matthews, Justin Forsett, Shane Vereen, Roy Helu, Reggie Bush and Darren McFadden all found new teams and some money GMs found in the couch cushions. Even with that relative spending spree, there's some solid talent still out there and even if we're talking running-back-by-committee roles, these are guys that could provide some value.
Ridley is coming off of an ACL surgery so his market will be/has been severely depressed by that. Teams will want to put the former Patriot onto a one-year "prove-it" deal to make sure the knee has held up and he's regained some of his explosiveness with it, but if those two things bear out, someone's going to be getting a pretty good deal.
Thomas is 30 years old and would be used primarily as a third-down back by any team that signs him, but he's been one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league over his last four seasons in New Orleans. During that time, he's averaged 53 catches per year while still maintaining a 4.4 yard per carry clip.
I'm a big fan of Bradshaw. In my mind, really the only drawback has been staying healthy. He's a dynamic runner, is excellent in the pass game (he had six receiving touchdowns in 10 games for the Colts last year), and is still on the right side of 30. That said, he misses games -- 19 over the last two seasons -- so it limits his market strength.
Johnson's only season with less than 1,000 yards came in 2014 with the Jets, but he actually improved his yards-per-carry to 4.3 last year as he picked up 663 yards on 155 carries. He's not likely to find a situation where he continues to get the bulk of a team's carries, but he could still be an "air" back for someone to be used in space.
Moreno has missed 33 games in six seasons so there are obvious injury concerns to overcome. That said, when healthy, he's proven to be an effective back and in 2013 he handled the load for the Broncos quite well. He suffered a season-ending ACL injury after three games for the Dolphins last year and has yet to find a new team.
The NFL's active rushing yards leader just needs to find a winning team. Someone with the potential for a winning record, please sign this guy.
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Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas were franchise-tagged, Randall Cobb ended up back with the Packers, Jeremy Maclin went to Kansas City, Torrey Smith to the Niners, Percy Harvin to the Bills, and after being released, Andre Johnson went to the Colts and Dwayne Bowe to the Browns. The secondary market saw a slew of teams find new receivers, but there remain a few free agents out there that curiously still have not found new homes.
Crabtree was never much of a speed guy before his injury. A ruptured Achilles has robbed him of some of his ability to separate and it appears to be hurting his stock on the open market. He's had some interest, just not at the price point he has been looking for. He'll wait things out and see if anyone has an offseason injury change things for them or hope that as the season gets closer, his leverage will go up. Crabtree caught 68 passes for 698 yards and four touchdowns last year, but was limited to a career-low 10.3 yards per catch. He'll find a home with a team that is looking for a solid possession receiver with great hands and savvy route-running ability.
Jennings did not live up to his five-year, $47.5 million dollar deal with the Vikings and was a cap casualty this offseason. That does not mean the 31-year-old former Packer cannot play. He's still a veteran route-runner that can make big catches in big moments, and even with a rookie quarterback at the helm in 2014, he caught 59 passes for 742 yards and six touchdowns.
Jennings is probably one of my favorite, and best remaining free agents, period.
Wayne is 36 and was more or less phased out of the Colts' offense down the stretch last year, but he recently admitted to playing hurt almost the entire season and that he was no longer as able to play through them.
Moore looked like a player on the rise his first three years in the league, but in 2014 he saw his playing time and production drop rapidly. After averaging 43 catches for 685 yards and six touchdowns per season from 2011-2013, he saw just 27 targets in 10 games last year and won't be back with the Raiders.
Gresham was supposed to be a hot commodity after the big three of Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron and Charles Clay were off the market, but his recent back surgery has teams waiting before they commit to the former first-rounder.
Housler is one of those tantalizing players that some team will take a shot on because of his athleticism. However, he fell out of favor in Bruce Arians' offensive system, and after catching 82 balls in 2012-2013, he only got 17 targets in 2014.
On the other hand, you have Zach Miller, who runs like he's underwater, but is one of the strongest blocking tight ends in the NFL. He was released by the Seahawks with the designation "failed physical" so there's some concern over his surgically repaired foot, but if he gets a clean bill of health, some team is going to get a solid veteran that can help them in the pass protection and run-blocking games.
Barksdale has started 29 games for the Rams over the last three years, and the big right tackle is apparently drawing interest from the Titans and Rams, at least. Part of the hold-up is his asking price. He's only 27 years old and a team looking for an experienced offensive lineman that could step into their starting lineup may throw him a line.
Bell took over as left tackle for the Panthers in 2014 after Jordan Gross retired, and started there all year. He's more suited for the right side with his next team.
Long has been one of the best left tackles in the game over his seven-year career, but has suffered ACL tears in both of the last two seasons. His health is the one major question.
Wisniewski went into the free agent period as the consensus No. 2 center behind Rodney Hudson. After the Raiders let Wis walk and signed Hudson, it was assumed the former would soon find new work elsewhere. After several visits, though, he's still without a job, and it was reported recently that he had offseason shoulder surgery and that's been putting his signing on hold.
Myers was to make $6 million this year, the final season of a four-year contract with Houston, but was released by the team in a cap-saving move. The 33-year-old two-time Pro Bowler is an NFL iron man -- he's started all 112 games during his Houston tenure, and is the NFL's current leader for active streak of consecutive games played in by an offensive lineman, with 153 straight. Obviously, having played in Houston the past seven years, the zone-blocking scheme is his wheelhouse.
You could probably do worse than Blalock, who has 125 starts in eight seasons under his belt. He struggled relative to his normal form in 2014, but will likely receive some interest up to and after the draft.