The draft is over, but teams with needs still have hope. The end of the draft usually kicks off a 2nd wave of free agency featuring players that teams were waiting until after the draft to sign. This year, more than any recent year, that group is loaded and has many players who could be starters and have impacts in 2013. These 18 players are all worthy of a cheap one year deal and could have value as a starter or key rotational player this season.
1. DE John Abraham
Why he’s still available: Abraham turns 35 next month. He’s also no longer capable of playing a full set of snaps because of his declining durability and mediocre run stopping skills. In an effort to keep him fresh, the Falcons played him on fewer than 70% of their snaps last season and his next team may have to go even lower than that as he ages. He might just be a pass rush specialist at this stage of the game and he’s not viewed as a good fit for the 3-4.
What he can still bring to a team: However, if brought in as a pass rush specialist, he can still have a major impact for a team, provided his skills haven’t fallen off a cliff in his age 35 off-season. Despite his limited snaps last year, he was still one of the league’s most productive pass rushers, totaling 10 sacks, 8 hits, and 38 hurries. He graded out as ProFootballFocus’ #5 end both overall and rushing the passer and he ranked 6th in pass rush efficiency.
Potential fits: Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta
2. S Quentin Mikell
Why he’s still available: He turns 33 in September and showed declining coverage skills last year, grading out below average in coverage on ProFootballFocus. It’s possible his asking price is too high as well. He was set to make 6 million dollars this season with the Rams, a big part of the reason why he was cut.
What he can still bring to a team: His salary was probably the only reason he was cut though. The Rams could have easily still seen him as a capable starter, just not worth what they were paying him. He actually graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 5th rated safety last year, which is a little misleading because so much of his high rating was based on his ability as a blitzer, which is not the #1 thing teams look for in a safety. It was also uncharacteristic of him when you look at his career as a whole and may not be something he keeps up long term. However, his rating as a run stuffer, something teams do still care about, was very good, grading out as the 3rd rated run stuffing safety in the league last year. He’s still a starter at the right price.
Potential fits: Cleveland, Arizona, Buffalo, NY Jets, San Diego, Carolina, St. Louis, Dallas, Cincinnati, Washington
3. OT Eric Winston
Why he’s still available: Unlike the two players above him on this list, Winston is not particularly old (he turns 30 in November), but anytime a player is released in back-to-back off-seasons on reasonably priced contracts, it raises a bit of an eyebrow. He’s also purely a right tackle, a position that seems to be devalued in the NFL. It’s probably the deepest position left on the market and Winston’s asking price is rumored to be too high.
What he can still bring to a team: I think Winston is being unfairly discriminated against for being cut two off-seasons in a row. Both were special circumstances. The Texans cut him last off-season because they were so pressed for cap space and the Chiefs cut him this off-season because they had the opportunity to replace him with the #1 overall pick, which turned out to be offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who looks poised to play in Winston’s old spot this year. However, Winston has graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 5th and 9th rated right tackle in the NFL in 2011 and 2012 respectively, doing so in two different schemes, so he’s not purely a zone blocking tackle. He’s a starter somewhere in this league and probably an above average one at that.
Potential fits: Detroit, Arizona, Miami, Dallas, Washington, Houston
4. OLB Daryl Smith
Why he’s still available: Smith is on the wrong side of 30, turning 31 last month and he missed all but 117 snaps with injury last year, not returning until week 16. In those 117 snaps, he graded out as a below average player on ProFootballFocus.
What he can still bring to a team: All you have to do is watch his 2011 tape to see what he can do for you when he’s right. Smith was ProFootballFocus’ 2nd ranked 4-3 outside linebacker, behind only Rookie of the Year Von Miller, excelling in all 3 facets of the game, run stuffing, coverage, and blitzing. It’s unclear if he can even be that player again, but he’s worth a shot. If he can be even half as good as he was in 2011, he’s a dependable starter.
Potential fits: Jacksonville, Oakland, Tampa Bay, NY Giants, Minnesota, Atlanta
5. S Kerry Rhodes
Why he’s still available: Like Mikell, Rhodes is aging and his asking price is probably too high at this point. He turns 31 in August and was set to count 6 million against Arizona’s cap this season, which led to his release. He’s also known for being very inconsistent. Though he had a strong season this year, he missed significant time with injury in 2011 and graded out below average on ProFootballFocus in 2010. He’s also rumored to have attitude and work ethic issues.
What he can still bring to a team: At the end of the day, this was actually ProFootballFocus’ 4th rated safety last year and heading into his age 31 season, it’s not inconceivable that he could continue to be a solid starter for another year or two. He’s not as old as some players on this list and he excelled in both coverage and against the run last season.
Potential fits: Cleveland, Buffalo, NY Jets, San Diego, Carolina, St. Louis, Dallas, Cincinnati, Washington
6. OT Tyson Clabo
Why he’s still available: Right tackle has become a devalued position and it’s also one of the most loaded positions still remaining on the market. With a strong right tackle draft, teams were not going to rush to sign the remaining right tackles available in free agency in a buyer’s market. Clabo also turns 32 in October.
What he can still bring to a team: Now that the draft is over, teams that didn’t fill their right tackle vacancy should call pretty quickly. While he’s only a right tackle, Clabo is as consistent as they come ranking 8th, 11th, 2nd, 1st, and 5th among right tackles on ProFootballFocus over the last 5 years and graded out well above average in each of those 5 seasons. He’s equally good as a run stuffer and pass protector and hasn’t had a negative grade in either of those facets in any of the last 5 seasons and, in typical Atlanta Falcon fashion, he’s only committed 22 penalties in those 5 seasons as well.
Potential fits: Detroit, Arizona, Miami, Carolina, Dallas, Washington
7. MLB Karlos Dansby
Why he’s still available: We have another over 30 player here as Dansby turns 32 in November. Though he’s played every down over the last few years, he’s shown declining coverage skills and may end up having to play just two downs at some point in the future.
What he can still bring to a team: Dansby was ProFootballFocus’ 13th rated middle linebacker last year. For comparison, Dannell Ellerbe was 14th, but because Ellerbe is 4 years younger, he got 35 million from the Dolphins and Dansby got cut. He’s still a starter in this league and should be an every down player for at least one more season. He’s also as scheme diverse as they come, playing middle linebacker in a 3-4 and outside linebacker in a 4-3 in his career, excelling in both.
Potential fits: Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Minnesota, Houston, Denver, Atlanta
8. OT Bryant McKinnie
Why he’s still available: He turns 34 this season and he’s been a pretty big headache since he’s entered his 30s, getting cut by the Vikings after the lockout for showing up at over 380 pounds and then last season barely playing for the Ravens because of weight and durability issues.
What he can still bring to a team: However, once he got himself into playing shape and the Ravens allowed him back on the field, he played very, very well. He played just 418 snaps with almost all of them coming in the post-season, but after Joe Flacco and maybe Anquan Boldin, there wasn’t a more important player to their Super Bowl run. McKinnie played above average at left tackle, which allowed Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele to play their natural positions of right tackle and left guard respectively.
Joe Flacco was sacked just 6 times in 4 post-season games and at the end of the day, he was the Super Bowl MVP and the Ravens were hoisting the Lombardi. For that reason, the Ravens almost have to give him another chance and he’s a better fit for them than anywhere else because they understand his issues best, but if they, for whatever reason, don’t show interest in him, I wouldn’t be shocked if he signed elsewhere.
Potential fits: Arizona, San Diego, Baltimore
9. DE Dwight Freeney
Why he’s still available: The future Hall of Famer was not himself last year, as he graded out below average on ProFootballFocus. He also missed the equivalent of 3 games with an injury that slowed him down until about week 8 and he turned 33 in February.
What he can still bring to a team: After he got healthy last year, Freeney ended the season actually pretty well. Though he struggled mightily against the run throughout, Freeney managed 4 sacks, 8 hits, and 25 hurries in his final 9 regular season games, before a poor showing in their post-season game in which he was held to just 1 hurry by the man one spot above him on this list. If he can stay healthy, he could be a dangerous pass rush specialist, especially in his natural 4-3 scheme. I don’t think he was ever a good 3-4 fit.
Potential fits: Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta
10. S Gerald Sensabaugh
Why he’s still available: He turns 30 in June and after a strong 2011, Sensabaugh declined in 2012, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 73rd ranked safety out of 88. He also happens to play a position where it’s a buyer’s market right now, especially after such a strong safety draft.
What he can still bring to a team: He’s not over the hill yet and his 2010 and 2011 tapes are both very good as he graded out above average in both seasons. I think he’s still a starter in this league. Now that the draft is over, he’ll get interest somewhere.
Potential fits: Jacksonville, Cleveland, Arizona, NY Jets, San Diego, Carolina, St. Louis, Cincinnati
11. S Charles Woodson
Why he’s still available: While other players on this list are old, Woodson is old by even those standards. He’s a future Hall of Famer, but he turns 37 in November. He made a free agency tour before the draft, but didn’t get anyone interested and there’s rumors he may just hang them up after a season in which he missed 9 games with injury.
What he can still bring to a team: Still, in the 7 regular season games he played last season, he graded out as an above average player, though a very poor showing in a post-season game against San Francisco dropped his rating to negative on the season overall. He’s versatile enough to play both slot cornerback and safety, something he did last year in Green Bay and he only allowed 8 catches on 18 attempts on the slot last year, which made him one of the better slot coverage backs in the league last year, albeit in a limited sample size.
Potential fits: Cincinnati, San Francisco
12. G Brandon Moore
Why he’s still available: He turns 33 in June and he plays a non-premium position at guard. He may also still have some of that Jet stink on him.
What he can still bring to a team: As far as guards go, there were few better last year. Only 3 guards, and 2 right guards, graded out better than he did on ProFootballFocus and despite his age that should earn him another starting job. He was equally good as a run and pass blocker and only committed 4 penalties. Also, Mark Sanchez thinks he has a real cushy butt.
Potential fits: Jacksonville, Buffalo, San Diego, Indianapolis
13. DE Israel Idonije
Why he’s still available: A tweener defensive lineman who didn’t play a full set of snaps, Idonije turns 33 in November. Also, while he’s been productive, teams may be attributing that more to his supporting cast on Chicago’s defensive line (as well as defensive line coach genius Rod Marinelli) than anything else. Prior to a breakout 2010 season at age 30 in Chicago, he was no one. He might not be scheme diverse.
What he can still bring to a team: He may just be a rotational player, but he’s very efficient and he’s as versatile as they come. On 467 pass snaps, he recorded 9 sacks, 5 hits, and 37 hurries and also graded out above average against the run. Despite playing a good portion of his snaps at defensive tackle last year, Idonije graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 12th rated 4-3 defensive end and overall he actually graded out slightly higher than the much more heralded Julius Peppers. He’s versatile enough to play end on running downs and tackle on passing downs and could theoretically play 3-4 end at 6-5 275. His ideal fit, however, would be another cover 2 scheme and I think he has the most value to Chicago.
Potential fits: Jacksonville, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Chicago
14. DT Richard Seymour
Why he’s still available: Seymour turns 34 in October and is coming off a season in which he missed the final 9 games with injury. He also reportedly has very high contract demands and wants to play for a contender and could retire if he doesn’t get the right fit at the right price.
What he can still bring to a team: If he still wants to play, however, Seymour still has something to offer. He’s succeeded in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 scheme in his career, including last year in a 4-3 in Oakland. Before he got hurt, he was very, very good in 7 games and in spite of his short season, he still finished the season as the 14th ranked defensive tackle on ProFootballFocus. If healthy, he could still be a valuable rotational lineman in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, provided he wants to play.
Potential fits: New Orleans, Seattle, Green Bay, Denver, New England
15. OLB Nick Barnett
Why he’s still available: Like so many players on this list, Barnett’s age isn’t doing him any favors as he turns 32 in May. Despite being an every down player in Buffalo last year, Barnett may have to be just a two down player going forward.
What he can still bring to a team: Barnett played almost every snap for the Bills last season and he’s scheme diverse, succeeding in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 in his career. He graded out as an above average linebacker on ProFootballFocus, ranking 9th among 4-3 outside linebackers and posting a positive grade in coverage and against the run. He should have one more year in him as an every down player.
Potential fits: Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Minnesota, Houston, Denver, Atlanta
16. OLB Thomas Howard
Why he’s still available: While he’s young by these standards (30 in July), Howard is coming off a season in which he didn’t play a single snap after tearing his ACL. That type of thing might not be a huge deal for a higher rated player, but Howard was a marginal starter before his injury. Right now, he’s a question mark.
What he can still bring to a team: He’s not over the hill in football years yet and before his injury, while he was a marginal player, he was still an every down linebacker in Cincinnati, excelling in coverage, though struggling mightily against the run to bring his grade on ProFootballFocus to right around 0. He has a role somewhere.
Potential fits: Tampa Bay, NY Giants, Minnesota, Atlanta
17. RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Why he’s still available: Bradshaw had has countless foot surgeries and has really never been healthy in his career. The Giants finally had enough of his injury issues this off-season and decided to let him go after another surgery. He’s taken visits since, but he hasn’t been able to convince anyone he’s healthy enough and he plays a position that’s become devalued in the NFL over recent years, especially ones with injury problems.
What he can still bring to a team: For all his injury issues, he’s actually missed only 7 games in the last 4 years, totaling 831 carries over that span and topping 1000 yards twice, including 1015 last year. One of the toughest players in the NFL, Bradshaw has always been able to tough it out and play effectively. At his age 27, he’s not over the hill even by running back standards. He’ll have to prove he’s healthy before he gets signed, which might not come until July, but once he does, he’ll get signed and he should have a role somewhere in the NFL this season.
Potential fits: San Diego, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, NY Giants
18. S Ronde Barber
Why he’s still available: While this list has some old players, Ronde Barber is ancient even by these standards. The oldest defensive player in the league, Barber recently turned 38 years old and is contemplating retirement. He might also not be willing to sign with anyone else except Tampa Bay, the team with whom he’s played his entire 16 season career. After adding Darrelle Revis through trade, Dashon Goldson through free agency, and Johnathan Banks through the draft this off-season and Mark Barron through the draft and Eric Wright through free agency last off-season, there just might not be a spot for Barber in Tampa Bay.
What he can still bring to a team: A hybrid slot cornerback/safety, Barber actually played very well last season in his new role, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 10th rated safety, missing just 8 snaps all season. The Buccaneers could opt to bring him back as a slot cornerback behind Revis and Wright while Banks develops as the 4th cornerback with the idea of becoming a starter in 2014 and beyond opposite Revis with Wright set to hit free agency next off-season. He probably could, if he so chooses, get work elsewhere eventually.
Potential fits: Tampa Bay, Dallas