Ranking the Remaining NFL Free Agents

John Abraham has little to celebrate right now.

At this stage of the NFL off-season, free agency is winding down towards the final players who are in the market for a new team. Even though all the superstars of the open market now have new teams, there are still many players who can make NFL final rosters available and more importantly players who can contribute on a competitive team.

For a variety of reasons these players are not signed. Some may be waiting for the right fit. Some may be holding out for the best offer they can find before training camp. Others may have deals in place that can only be pushed through after June 1st, when some teams will get more cap space. Regardless of why they’re free, each of these free agents could potentially be worth adding in the right situation.

Brandon Lloyd probably isn’t smiling right now.

Top Targets

1.Richard Seymour

As I already wrote this week, Seymour still has huge value to any team pushing for a playoff spot.

2. Eric Winston

Outside of Tim Tebow still being relevant, Eric Winston’s consistent ventures into free agency since leaving the Houston Texans must be the most confusing thing about the NFL for fans who pay attention to these sort of things. If you don’t know, Winston has played like one of, if not the very best right tackles in the NFL for some time. He did experience some friction with the fanbase in Kansas City, but nobody saw his release coming when Andy Reid took over. Winston can be an immediate starter on most teams in this league.

3. Brandon Lloyd

Brandon Lloyd was disappointing for the Patriots last year without really doing a whole lot wrong. He didn’t put up Randy Moss numbers, but he did have the desired impact as a deep-threat who helped balance the team’s offense. Lloyd is a better receiver than many receivers who are currently on teams and he is versatile enough to fit in a variety of schemes. The only thing that may be putting teams off is the bad reputation that chased him out of New England.

4. Karlos Dansby

I’m not 100 percent sure if Dannell Ellerbe is even better than Karlos Dansby. Dansby may have been released from the Dolphins for being part of the leadership council with Reggie Bush and Jake Long. Dansby is 31 years of age, but he is also a very physically gifted athlete who should be able to play at a relatively high level for maybe four or five years.

5. Kerry Rhodes

There’s no real reason why Kerry Rhodes is unemployed. Claims about his sexuality could be affecting his market, but as a pure football player, Rhodes is a better safety than a number of players who are slated to start for teams in the league. He isn’t the greatest in coverage, but he has a history of finding his way to the football and is a good tackler in space.

6. John Abraham

The Falcons didn’t get what they expected from Abraham last year, but he was still clearly their best pass-rusher. He managed 10 sacks and six forced fumbles in what was considered a down year. If that’s a down year, he should be able to find work even if he is going to be 36 before next season.

7. Sedrick Ellis

The former first round pick never reached his potential with the New Orleans Saints, but he definitely has the talent to be a starter in this league. If he can find a better situation with a coach who can get the best out of him, Ellis still has plenty of time left to turn his career around. He is only 28 years of age.

8. Brandon Moore

Moore was arguably one of the Jets’ brightest spots last year. It’s hard to understand why the team jettisoned him for a combination of Willie Colon and Stephen Peterman. He will be 33 starting this season, but 33-year-old guards have repeatedly proved themselves capable of playing well. Moore should be able to continue that tradition.

9. Charles Woodson

Woodson probably won’t find a home until training camp begins. His age is really hurting his value, he will be 37 by the end of next season. The fact that he missed most of last season may be putting potential suitors off, but as a free safety his knack for finding the football could still be enough to make him a valauble contributor. Even if he isn’t a full-time starter.

10. Daryl Smith

The Jacksonville Jaguars were terrible in 2013, but they also suffered a number of injuries to key players. One of those players was impact linebacker Daryl Smith. Smith is 31 years of age and missed most of last season because of injury, but his versatility and overall level of talent will make him a steal for whoever picks him up this late in the off-season.

11. Nate Clements

Clements was displaced as a starter this past season by Terence Newman. While Clements has never been an overwhelmingly impressive starter, he can still contribute in a role as a versatile defensive back. He will be 34 by the end of the season, so he is a candidate for a one-year-deal.

12. Shaun Cody

Cody is best fit as a rotational player on the defensive line. Depending on the team, he could flip between defensive end and nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme.

13. Chris Crocker

Crocker is 33, but he is also a proven player who can hold his own as a versatile starting safety.

Dwight Freeney might have something left.

Greater Risks

1. Thomas Howard

Howard tore his ACL in the Bengals’ first game last year. Coming off a torn ACL and turning 30 before the start of next season is not a promising combination, but Howard is a very talented weak-side linebacker who could earn a starting spot if he proves himself in training camp.

2. Sheldon Brown

Brown actually played quite well for the Cleveland Browns last year.  As he has done throughout his career, Brown played very physical coverage and was a strong tackler last year. He is 34 years of age, so it’s definitely a rental rather than long-term investment.

3. Dan Koppen

Koppen has snapped the ball to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady for most of his career. Undoubtedly his displays were aided by the presences of those quarterbacks, but at 34 years of age he still has starter potential at the center position.

4. Leroy Hill

Hill doesn’t have the same upside as other players who are available and his off the field issues could be keeping him from landing a contract with someone. On the field, Hill has proven to be a decent if somewhat inconsistent player who still has plenty of years left in the tank.

5. Dwight Freeney

It’s hard to tell if Freeney has fallen off or if he was just put off by the new scheme, supporting cast in Indianapolis last year. It’s very unlikely that someone won’t make a move for him, so we will get to find out if he can still get to the quarterback on a consistent basis.

6. Quintin Mikell

Mikell signed a big contract with the Rams two years ago and his cap hit was the primary reason why he was released. Even so, the Rams could still bring him back but turning 33 early on next season will hamper any market that is expected to develop.

7. Max Starks

Starks tore his ACL at the end of the 2011 season, but was re-signed in time for the start of the 2012 season. Starks is a solid left tackle who has proven himself as a starter protecting the blindside of a quarterback who likes to extend plays on a routine basis.

It’s weird seeing Brian Urlacher on a free agent list.

Worth a Chance

1. Brian Urlacher

The Bears’ heart and soul for so long is without a team and coming off a season that was hit by injuries. Urlacher will be 35 before the beginning of next season and he has spent his whole career in one scheme and with one team. Wherever he lands, he will likely need to play behind a dominant defensive line.

2. Laurent Robinson

Concussions ruined the first season of his big contract and they could potentially end his career. If Robinson is looking for work, teams should be willing to take a chance on the receiver who made such an impact in Dallas with the Cowboys.

3. Braylon Edwards

Edwards was barely on the field for the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets during his recent stints with each team, however he looked decent on the field when he did get opportunities.

4. Peyton Hillis

Anyone looking for a goal-line back will probably kick the tires on Hillis. They may find a golden needle amongst the haystack of fumbles.

5. Jamaal Brown

Brown had a decent spell in New Orleans not that long ago, but since then his career has endured some major struggles. There is talent there, but he needs to rebound if his career is to continue in the NFL.

6. Stanford Routt

Routt has really struggled since getting that big contract from the Raiders. His spells with the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans didn’t go so well last year, but he has at least shown that he can be a good press cover cornerback at this level.

7. Steve Breaston

Breaston failed a medical or else he may already have signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this off-season. After taking Markus Wheaton in the draft, the Steelers likely won’t have any interest in adding him when he’s healthy.

8. Ronde Barber

Barber’s lengthy career may finally be coming to a close. He could still find work as a slot cornerback or bit-part safety, but it’s unlikely at this stage.

9. Doug Legursky

Legursky is a center-guard who is probably a better center. He played well when he started for Maurkice Pouncey in Pittsburgh, but Pouncey is entrenched as the starter there so he is likely looking for a place he can compete for a better spot. Legursky is at worst a valuable, versatile backup even if his upside isn’t that high.

You can follow Cian Fahey on twitter @Cianaf


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