By Ryan Mayer
The busy period of NFL Free Agency has come and gone with a flurry of moves and big names changing teams. Now is the time when great bargains can be found with veterans who are left on the market. Let’s take a look at the 10 best remaining players out there.
10) Dwight Freeney OLB- Freeney is no longer the dominant whirling dervish of a pass rusher that he was during his 11 seasons in Indianapolis, but that doesn’t me he can’t still be an effective player. At age 35 heading into the season he’s mainly a situational pass rusher, and I wouldn’t give him more than a one year contract, but he can certainly help any team that is looking for a boost in its pass rush. He’s such a student of the game in terms of studying opposing tackles and how they’re going to play him that he can be a 3-5 sack guy on a good team.
9) Mason Foster MLB- Foster’s an interesting case because of how young he is. At 26 as a middle linebacker he would appear to have plenty of tread left on his tires and it’s slightly surprising to see him still on the free agent market this late in the offseason. He was supplanted in Tampa by Danny Lansanah this season, but has been a productive player in his career. It looks like he’ll get a change of scenery and that could unlock the potential that he previously flashed in the first three years of his career.
8) Justin Blalock OG- Blalock has been a solid, if unspectacular starter during his NFL career which has spanned 8 years, all of which were played in Atlanta with the Falcons. After a dismal season last year Blalock was one of the cap casualties of the new regime being brought in to try and turn Atlanta around. Blalock won’t win you any back pages or front pages with his signing, but solid offensive linemen who can provide depth or start while you develop a younger player always have a place in the league and at this late date in free agency the price would be right.
7) Greg Jennings WR- Another casualty of leaving Green Bay in free agency as a wide receiver. We’ve seen it before. Packers wide out has a big year in his contract season, hits the free agent market and Ted Thompson and crew wish him the best of luck and allow him to chase the money. (Remember Javon Walker? Donald Driver? How about James Jones?) Jennings, unlike the other three, had pretty good success in his new home with the Vikings the last two years catching 127 balls for over 1,500 yards and 10 TD’s but when the Vikings looked at his cap number this offseason they decided they’d be better off without him moving forward. Jennings provides a reliable, big, possession receiver for any QB. At age 32 he’s definitely lost a step but he was never an over the top threat, and should still be a productive player for any team in need of a receiver.
6) Joe Barksdale OT- One of two tackles let go by the Rams this offseason as they look to young Gregg Robinson and possibly another tackle in this year’s draft to be their line of the future in front of Nick Foles. Barksdale is only 27 having played four years in the league, and can immediately be a starting right tackle for any team.
5) Rolando McClain MLB- McClain revived his career this past season with the Cowboys after spending a year away from the game in 2013. There’s still plenty of potential here for the former number 8 overall pick, but the cause for concern at the moment is a possible suspension hanging over his head for the beginning of the 2015 season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
4) Brandon Spikes ILB- Spikes has been a very solid run defender over his career with the Patriots and Bills. The Bills let him test the FA waters after bringing in Rex Ryan who wants to make the defense in his image. At 28, he’s probably got at least 3 more years of high level play and you can get him at a discount price at this point.
3) Stefen Wisniewski C- This one is puzzling to me. Either the contract demands from his agent have been too high or teams know something that we don’t. He’s 25 and the second best center on the market behind Rodney Hudson who has been off the market for awhile. Teams in need of interior line help would absolutely benefit from bringing Wisniewski on board.
2) BJ Raji DT- Raji after the 2011 season looked primed to be a breakout star in the league with a Pro Bowl appearance and a dominant performance in that season. In each of the following two years, his production declined before he missed all of last season due to injury. At this point, he’s worth a one-year flyer that maybe he can return to his previous form. This time of free agency is all about the bargains and Raji could end up being a big one if he returns to form.
1) Michael Crabtree WR- An injury derailed him in 2013 and nagged him throughout much of the 2014 season. Being caught up in the turmoil that swirled around the entire 49ers organization last year probably didn’t help. Teams are concerned about a possible foot injury that he played through last season (Crabtree denies this) but at this point in the game a guy with 26 career receiving TD’s averaging over 12 yards per catch in his career is worth a look.