A quick glance at the plethora of talent still left in the NFL free agency market.
The 2016 NFL free agency period kicked off last Wednesday with constant sizable signings all day. From the Giants going crazy with three massive contracts all in the span of the first two hours, to the Texans revamping their offense, there was a lot happening on day one of free agency. Still, now on day six of free agency, there is still a considerable amount of talent left for teams to go after. Going through these players, position by position, we’ll uncover some of the hidden gems left in the free agent market.
This is one aspect of free agency that has been scarce, with the best available QB on day one being Kirk Cousins. Now, six days in, the best available options have to be Ryan Fitzpatrick and Robert Griffin III. While you think you know what you’re getting with Fitzpatrick, 3,500 yards and around 25 touchdowns, you have no idea what to expect from RG3. He hasn’t played in an NFL game in over a year, and when he was playing 15 months ago, he was playing subpar football, with just four touchdowns and six interceptions in nine games played in 2014.
There is also now the wildcard of Johnny Manziel in this free agent class, after just being cut by the Cleveland Browns. While he is possibly even more of a toss-up than RG3, you cant argue that both Manziel and Griffin have all the physical talent to be starters in the NFL.
Definitely considered one of the deeper sections of the market this spring, there was a plethora of starter-level running backs when free agency opened Wednesday. Now, six days later, there are still multiple options here that could definitely be starters on multiple teams.
The headliner of these remaining running backs is four-time pro bowler and two-time all pro, Arian Foster. Foster, who has recorded a 1,000+ yard rushing season in every year that he has suited up for at least 10 or more games, is a guy who is waiting out the market hoping the right offer will come along. The reason this all-pro running back hasn’t seen any overwhelming offers is because of his considerable injury history, playing 16 games just twice in his seven-year career.
Although Foster is clearly the best remaining RB on the market, another solid option is Alfred Morris. Morris is a tough runner who, when given the opportunity, is a consistent producer at the position. To start his career, Morris had three straight 1,000+ yard seasons, but each year he has gained fewer yards. Now, coming off his fourth season where he recorded a career-low 751 yards, Morris heads into his fifth season seeking a chance to regain a starting job where he can get over 280 touches in a season.
One of the more undetermined factors at this point in this years free agency is the wide receiver market. While there are many recognizable names left, it is yet to be determined which players “still have it” or are going to develop into starter-level players.
The player with the mot potential left has to be Mike Wallace, a receiver who can take the top off of any defense. He has built a career on being able to get open on deep balls, despite the fact that teams know that’s what he’s trying to do. Wallace has been in tough spots for his last three years in the league, with Minnesota and Miami, being unable to have any truly substantial seasons. While he has managed to exceed 750 yards in all but one year of his career, last year, he still has untapped potential that could be exploited if he goes to a team with a big arm quarterback like he had with Pittsburgh and Roethlisberger.
Two other quality options left in free agency are long-time NFL stars Anquan Boldin and Andre Johnson. With 10 pro bowls between them, these two veteran wide receivers are solid options for teams searching for a reliable option at WR, without having to pay too much or commit too many years.
Now, the most under appreciated players in football are the offensive lineman. While having a line like the Cowboys and four pro-bowlers, isn’t necessary, you also don’t want to have a line like the Chargers, which is the lowest-graded line in the NFL and ranked 29th in penalties. The line is like the foundation of a house, with the house itself being all the skill position players, and if it weren’t for the foundation the house would collapse, or be tackled for that matter. Therefore, teams around the NFL are willing to spend big money on lineman in free agency, especially offensive tackles.
This free agent class has some very solid tackles left, such as Kelvin Beachum, Russell Okung, and Donald Penn. Okung and Penn are former pro-bowlers who have gained a reputation as very solid linemen who their teams can count on. Beachum is an up-and-coming tackle who has proven he can be very skilled at the position, which will certainly get him paid this offseason.
Tackles aren’t the only solid lineman left; there is also another former pro-bowler in guard Evan Mathis still available. While most of these lineman look for a team to “wow” them, it will be interesting to see where these players land, knowing they will make a considerable impact for whatever team they join.
While free agency is a key part of forming any contending team, the best teams know that overspending can lead to years of difficulties, for example, the 2011 Eagles. Therefore, while many of these players deserve to be on a team right now, most have to wait until they are given a fair offer to join a team. As the young free agents know this could be their one chance to truly “cash-in” on free agency, some of the most competitive veterans are seeking to finally win that elusive super bowl title by taking pay cuts. Nevertheless, all teams are constantly skimming free agency trying to figure out which of these guys could be the piece that they need to get them to that next level.
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