The first wave of NFL free agency brought some rather large contracts. There were some under-the-radar signings as well. Meanwhile, like we’ve seen every year since the start of free agency, some players will bomb out on their new teams.
As the second wave of free agency continues up until next month’s draft, there’s still a ton of top-end players that could prove to be steals.
Froma a Pro Bowl running back in Kansas City coming off two injury-plagued seasons to an embattled quarterback in Northern California, here are 10 remaining NFL free agents that could prove to be steals.
Jamaal Charles, running back, Kansas City Chiefs
Having already drawn interest from the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Charles signed on with a new team here relatively soon. While Seattle might be out of the picture after signing Eddie Lacy, that specific deal could have set a market for this former Pro Bowler.
Lacy received $2.9 million guaranteed with a potential of earning $4.3 million from Seattle. Coming off a two-year span that saw him play in a combined eight games, the 30-year-old Charles is likely looking at an incentive-laden one-year contract on the free-agent market.
Despite this recent injury history, Charles has more than proven himself capable of being an elite performer when on the football field. In his last two full seasons, the four-time Pro Bowl performer put up over 3,300 total yards with an NFL-best 33 touchdowns. He’s more than capable of returning to pre-injury form.
Pure conjecture here, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Charles land with former Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson in Philadelphia. That seems to make too much sense for all involved parties.
Jared Odrick, defensive tackle, Jacksonville Jaguars
Odrick might not fill out the stat sheet too much, but he’s about as consistent of a run defender as there is in the NFL. That’s a huge bonus for teams that run 3-4 defensive schemes. It will also make Odrick a wanted man once the third wave of free agency gets going following the upcoming draft.
We’ve seen it throughout the past several years. Defensive ends with an ability to stop the run provide tremendous value for teams around the NFL. Add in the fact that Odrick has recorded five-plus sacks three times in his career, and this is magnified even further.
We surely wouldn’t be surprised if a team like Green Bay or Baltimore came calling here. It won’t be the sexiest pick up and Odrick won’t be earning what he made in Jacksonville. But it would be a signing that targets a position of need with a specific skill set. That’s team building in its truest form.
Anquan Boldin, wide receiver, Detroit Lions
It remains to be seen whether Boldin will return to the Lions in 2017. What we do know is that he’s planning on putting off a decision until close to the start of training camp. That makes sense considering Boldin’s age and the fact that he likely doesn’t need off-season activities to step right in and perform at a high level next season.
Boldin, 36, was absolutely tremendous with the Lions in 2016. He recorded a whopping 71 percent catch rate to go with eight touchdowns, providing Matthew Stafford with that big-bodied target on third downs.
At this point in his career, Boldin is nothing more than a glorified possession tight end. He averaged a career low 8.7 yards per reception in 2016 and simply can’t stretch the field at his advanced age. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for potential suitors if they know exactly what to ask of Boldin.
A player of Boldin’s ilk can prove to be a valuable contributor. His physicality and ability to make the contested catch could go a long way in helping a contending team. We surely wouldn’t be too surprised if a team like the New England Patriots or Dallas Cowboys came calling here on a short-term deal. That’s the value Boldin will continue to provide until he calls it quits.
Lardarius Webb, safety, Baltimore Ravens
Webb performed extremely well in his first season as a safety. The eight-year pro recorded 73 tackles, five passes defended and an interception while starting every game for the Ravens this past year. Despite his tremendous performance, Webb was released to make room for free-agent signing Tony Jefferson. This gives other teams a potential stop-gap option at free safety moving forward.
We’ve seen cornerbacks move to what is called the center-field position in the past. Two prime examples of this would be Charles Woodson and Rod Woodson, both of whom extended their careers after proving unable to handle cornerback duties. Look for the 31-year-old Webb to continue this trend.
It will surely be interesting to see where Webb lands. He’ll likely be targeted by a contender in need of an upgrade in the back end. That’s where a team like the Indianapolis Colts come into play. They could surely stand to add a cover guy after moving on from Pro Bowler Mike Adams. Depending on what happens with Reggie Nelson, the Oakland Raiders could make some sense as well.
As it is, Webb’s market will be defined by what other free safeties have received in the recent past. He’s no longer going to receive the near $10 million per season he played under with Baltimore. Instead, Webb is looking more at the $5 million range. This would make him an extremely solid value add for any team in need of an upgrade at free safety.
Erik Walden, EDGE, Indianapolis Colts
Pretty much a situational pass rusher at this point in his career, Walden recorded a team-high 11 sacks for the Colts last season. He’s also pretty much limited to joining teams that run 3-4 defensive schemes. Simply put, Walden can’t perform at the same level when tasked with playing in a hands-down position in a 4-3 scheme.
This limits Walden’s market and will likely lead to a smaller payday than his recent success might suggest. It also pretty much means any team that signs Walden would be receiving a ridiculous value.
We’re looking at his former Green Bay Packers team as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers as solid potential landing spots for the former sixth-round pick from Middle Tennessee State. He’d provide tremendous value in a situational role for either squad.
Nick Mangold, center, New York Jets
A seven-time Pro Bowler, Mangold has been the most consistently good center in the NFL over the past decade-plus. Despite this, New York decided it was time to move on from the potential future Hall of Famer. What is the Jets’ loss could very well be a solid addition for contending teams out there.
Mangold, 33, missed half of last season due to injury. There’s definitely been a colder-than-expected market for him. That’s primarily due to his age and said injury. Though, it’s important to note that Mangold is just one year removed from earning a Pro Bowl spot and had played in at least 14 games in each of his first 10 seasons prior to last year. Talk about consistency.
As with pretty much everyone on this list, Mangold will only return to the NFL if he were to latch on with a contender. After trading Pro Bowler Jeremy Zuttah to the San Francisco 49ers last week, the Ravens seem to be a logical fit.
The same can be said for the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, both of whom are in need of upgrades at center. It’s just likely not going to be a long-term deal valued at the near $8 million he earned annually with the Jets.
Elvis Dumervil, EDGE, Baltimore Ravens
At 33 years old and coming off an injury-plagued 2016 campaign, Dumervil is likely nothing more than a situational player. As with Walden, this doesn’t mean that teams won’t show interest in the five-time Pro Bowler.
Prior to struggling with injuries and production in 2016, Dumervil averaged nearly 12 sacks in his previous six seasons. He surely still has something left in the tank here.
Based on the schemes he’s played in during his career, Dumervil is likely limited to teams that run a 3-4 defense. This puts him on the same list of potential suitors as Walden with the division-rival Steelers seemingly the most-logical fit here.
While Dumervil’s days of recording double-digit sacks are likely over, he can be a tremendous rotational EDGE rusher in the right defense. Though, it won’t come at an incredibly high cost due to the above-mentioned injuries and his relatively advanced age.
Kamar Aiken, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens
With Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta both banged up in 2015, Aiken was left to act the part of Joe Flacco’s favorite target in Baltimore. He responded by putting up 75 receptions for 944 yards and five touchdowns. To put this into perspective, those 944 yards represent more than Aiken has put up in his other four NFL seasons combined.
In reality, what was saw in 2015 was likely an outlier for the 27-year-old former un-drafted free agent. On the same note, the 328 yards Aiken recorded last season is probably his absolute floor moving forward.
Aiken could surely be used as a solid No. 3 receiver for about half the teams in the NFL. The reason why we haven’t seen much of a market for him is that teams are likely focusing their attention at wide receiver on the draft.
Once the dust is settled there, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Aiken land on a team that’s preparing a prominent role for him. He was under-utilized by Baltimore last season. That likely won’t be the case in 2017.
Nickell Robey-Coleman, cornerback, Buffalo Bills
One of the top slot corners in the NFL last season, it was utterly shocking to hear the news that Buffalo released Robey-Coleman. That likely came after the Bills decided that this former USC standout wouldn’t be a fit in Leslie Frazier’s defense this upcoming season.
Even then, there’s no real reason to believe Robey-Coleman can’t latch on with a team in need of an upgrade at the slot position. The 25-year-old corner recorded 30 tackles, seven passes defended, two interceptions and a touchdown last season. He also graded out as one of the top nickel cover guys in the NFL.
Nickell Robey-Coleman cut by the Bills. He allowed a passer rating of 74.86 in the slot; 2nd best for slot CBs just behind Chris Harris Jr. pic.twitter.com/w00w9KfauW
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 6, 2017
Surely, limited to playing inside has impacted Robey-Coleman’s market. It will also likely lead to a value contract, maybe even on a short-term deal. Pure conjecture here but the San Francisco 49ers under new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh could make a ton of sense.
The above-mentioned Dallas Cowboys have a need at corner as well after losing both Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency. Either way, expect Robey-Coleman’s market to play out prior to the NFL draft next month.
Colin Kaepernick, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
Why the heck not? Different reports have come up recently indicting why Kaepernick is still unemployed. Some teams are apparently worried about public backlash should they sign the enigmatic former Super Bowl quarterback. He’s definitely a divisive figure following last season’s national anthem protest. Equally as important, some executives simply aren’t interest in signing Kaepernick the guy (more on that here).
On the field, however, there’s no reason to believe that Kaepernick can’t come in and do a solid job as a starter in the NFL. He recorded 18 total touchdowns compared to four interceptions while putting up 250-plus total yards in five of his 11 starts for the 49ers last season. It was Kaepernick’s best performance since he took over as San Francisco’s starter back in 2012.
Considering the likes of Matt Barkley, EJ Manuel, Nick Foles, Landry Jones and Geno Smith have all found jobs this month, it’s absolutely shocking that Kaepernick has not signed with a team.
Unlikely to return to the 49ers, it was reported last week that Kaepernick was close to inking a deal with another squad. It remains to be seen who said team might be, but the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and Houston Texans could all be in the market for an upgrade under center.
What we do know here is that Kaepernick is unlikely to earn north of $10 million annually on his new deal. Given what Mike Glennon received from the Chicago Bears, that would make this talented quarterback a tremendous value. Look for Kap’s market to play out some time following the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.