There are still some highly talented NFL free agents left on the market as teams move into their offseason programs.
Some of these unemployed stars are more surprising than others, but by the time the 2017 season begins we predict they will have landed new jobs. Guys like Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, LeGarrette Blount and Colin Kaepernick are still looking for work. And they still have plenty to offer, especially in the right setting.
So where would the top remaining NFL free agents fit in the best? Which teams would be best off landing their services?
That’s what we’re exploring here, pairing the top players left on the market with the teams that could use them the most.
LeGarrette Blount, running back
Ideal landing spot: Detroit Lions
Detroit fans might balk at this, because they love Zach Zenner. But let’s be real. Blount is by far a better option as a battering ram in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He pounded in 18 touchdowns last year for the New England Patriots and rushed for over 1,000 yards.
Despite the Lions’ assertion that Ameer Abdullah is going to be the starter, and that they are happy with their backfield, there is no doubt adding a running back of Blount’s caliber would be tremendous for this offense. An offense that has featured one 1,000-yard rusher since Matthew Stafford was drafted.
As we’ve seen countless times around the league, even the best quarterbacks do better in general when they have a reliable running game to balance things out. There’s a reason why the Atlanta Falcons were so prolific last year. Or why the Patriots continue to pound the rock on a regular basis.
The Lions also bolstered their offensive line this offseason and have the pieces in place to feature a very balanced attack. Adding a power back like Blount just makes sense.
Jason McCourty, cornerback
Ideal landing spot: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are strong everywhere on defense, except for at cornerback. While Patrick Peterson is a dynamic player, he doesn’t have a ton of help. Currently, Brandon Williams and Justin Bethel are competing for the second cornerback spot. While both players are certainly not scrubs, the Cardinals could still use an upgrade.
McCourty is an eight-year veteran who still has plenty left in the tank. He wants to have a chance to start, and he would have that chance in Arizona.
A hard-nosed player who is just as strong in the run game as he is against the pass, McCourty started 14 games for Tennessee last year and has mostly been durable throughout his career. He would add more toughness to one of the top defenses in football and would fill a need.
Anquan Boldin, wide receiver
Ideal landing spot: Washington Redskins
Washington watched its top two receivers bolt for greener pastures in free agency this past offseason. With DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon gone, suddenly there is a void to fill, not only in terms of production but also leadership.
At this time, Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder are penciled in as the starting trio for Washington. While the team has high hopes for Doctson, it would be smart to have a backup plan in place. Adding a guy like Boldin would be a sure way to give Kirk Cousins and the offense the best chance to succeed.
While Boldin may not be the fastest or the most dynamic player out there, he still caught eight touchdowns last year and is one of the most sure-handed players in the league on third downs and around the goal line. He would be a valuable asset for this team, both on and off the field, and would immediately be a leader in the locker room.
Jared Odrick, defensive tackle
Ideal landing spot: Denver Broncos
Despite the uncertainty at quarterback, the Broncos are still a team that is in win-now mode. As such, it needs every advantage it can get on both sides of the ball.
And while Denver has an impressive array of talent on the defensive side of the ball, it could still use some depth on the defensive line. This is a defense that is technically a 3-4 front, but oftentimes it features four men with their hands in the dirt and operates much like a 4-3 on passing downs.
That’s why Odrick is such a perfect fit. He’s a guy who can play inside and out, can be moved around like a chess piece and holds up well against the run. Though he missed 10 games last year due to injury, he’s fully healthy now and is no doubt looking for an opportunity to play for a winning team after spending his career in Miami and Jacksonville.
He’s a prototypical rotational player for Denver’s multiple-front defensive line.
Nick Mangold, center
Ideal landing spot: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens currently are without a true starting-caliber center. They have guard John Urschel penciled in as the starter right now, who has seven career starts as a center (in 2015) under his belt.
You couldn’t do much better than adding Mangold, who is a seven-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All Pro. He’s logged 164 starts since being selected in the first round by the New York Jets back in 2006.
New York cut Mangold because it is in a full-blown rebuilding project and needed cap space. But he’s still a top-of-the-line center who would be a big asset to a team that needs to get back to winning after missing the playoffs the past three years.
Baltimore has a stellar defense — arguably a championship-caliber defense. General manager Ozzie Newsome owes it to his team to make sure his offense can match that level. Adding Mangold would be a great way to ensure it does.
Brandon Flowers, cornerback
Ideal landing spot: Chicago Bears
The Bears desperately needed to upgrade their secondary heading into the draft. After general manager Ryan Pace butchered the draft, selecting nary a cornerback, nothing has changed.
Right now, Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller are the two starting cornerbacks. The dynamic passing offenses of the NFC North will feast on these two mediocre cover men. With that in mind, adding another experienced player like Flowers would at least give them a fighting chance to execute defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense with some level of competence.
While Flowers isn’t necessarily a dominant player, he’s been very good over the course of his nine-year career. He’s started 117 games, hauled in 21 interceptions, scored four touchdowns and defended 111 passes playing for the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers.
If he were inserted into Chicago’s defense, he’d immediately be their top cover man. His ability to cover the slot would be a huge benefit to Fangio, who has always gotten the most out of veteran cornerbacks who know how to follow assignments.
Colin Kaepernick, quarterback
Ideal landing spot: Seattle Seahawks
There are a few key reasons why Kaepernick landing in Seattle makes sense. Right off the bat, there are a few leaders in Seattle’s locker room who have staunchly defended Kaepernick at a time when some people were critical of his protest last year and who believe he’s being unfairly blackballed by the NFL right now.
Furthermore, Pete Carroll has always welcomed in players who have strong viewpoints and aren’t afraid to say what’s on their mind. So, while Kaepernick might fracture some locker rooms, that wouldn’t happen in Seatle.
On the football side of things, Kaepernick would be immediately the No. 2 guy with the Seahawks. Russell Wilson is the unquestioned starter, and there would be no controversy to be had on that front.
However, it also makes sense for Kaepernick to be Seattle’s No. 2 guy because in the event Wilson were to get hurt, the Seahawks would have a ready-made backup who plays the same kind of ball as Wilson. Both are dual-threat passers who do similar things behind the line, and both can push the ball down the field, though Wilson is more accurate.
Seattle brought on Travone Boykin to be Wilson’s backup. But so far that experiment has proved potentially disastrous. Boykin has been arrested twice since signing his deal and was arrested for assault last year. At this time, Kaepernick would be a much safer, more dependable option.
Darrelle Revis, cornerback
Ideal landing spot: New England Patriots
Where else is Revis going to go at this point?
In all seriousness, if any team could find a way to make Revis relevant again, it’s the Pats.
It’s clear he’s not the same guy who owned the NFL’s top receivers in years past. It’s clear his best days are behind him. But after the embarrassment of last year, Revis says he’s lost weight and is determined to be relevant again. We believe him. Nobody wants to go out like he did last season. It was pitiful.
New England already has its starting cornerbacks and a very strong overall secondary. But even if Revis was just 80 percent of his prime, he’d be a valuable addition to a team that just won a Super Bowl and is geared up for a repeat run with the best overall roster in the NFL.
He’s won a championship with New England already. At this point the Patriots still have cash to burn and Revis has the desire to prove himself again. It’s a match made in heaven.