As the league moves into the final phase before games actually count, some very recognizable NFL free agents are still looking for work.
Due to the nature of this business, that means there’s a chance they will remain jobless for the entire season. Teams are ramping up their efforts to come together, working overtime to find the cohesion necessary to make a meaningful run at a championship.
Adding players right now isn’t ideal.
Though, after the big cuts are made, perhaps we’ll see a few of these players finding new homes.
Jared Odrick, defensive lineman
Odrick isn’t a star. But he plays strong against the run and has some pop in the passing game as well. In his seven-year career, Odrick has tallied 170 tackles and 23 sacks. After missing time last year due to an injury, he passed a physical during a visit with the New England Patriots this past spring. The veteran defensive lineman has been linked to several teams but never had any serious talks about a contract. Perhaps teams are scared off by the multi-million-dollar grievance he is tangled up in with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
DeAngelo Williams, running back
On the surface, it’s understandable that NFL teams aren’t all that interested in a 34-year-old running back. But Williams isn’t your typical 34-year-old running back. While his numbers took a dive last year, he also didn’t play all that much and is one year removed from going for nearly 1,000 yards and tallying 11 rushing scores. Williams wants to play and has been keeping in excellent shape, so it’s surprising he didn’t get a chance to make an NFL roster this summer.
Darrelle Revis, cornerback
Is Revis the proud owner of his own island resort? Not any more. But it’s pretty stunning that he doesn’t have a job. Sure, last year was a disastrous scene. He didn’t give effort at times, but the Jets were a dumpster fire, and Revis has admitted he wasn’t totally focused. However, he’s committed himself to getting into prime shape and wants to play. At this point, the only reason this scribe can think of as to why Revis doesn’t have a job is that he still thinks he’s No. 1 cornerback material and wants to get paid like it. He’s not. But he’s sure as heck better than many others who do have jobs.
Vincent Jackson, wide receiver
Injuries have derailed Jackson’s past two seasons. He’s not a No. 1 receiver any more, either. But it’s hard to imagine he’s not good enough to be better than some receivers who are playing for teams that lack talent at the position. After all, this is a guy who hauled in at least 1,000 yards worth of passes five years running until his run of bad luck with injuries. Jackson said he would likely be waiting until the summer to sign with a team this year. Obviously that didn’t happen.
Dan Williams, defensive tackle
Williams is coming off a 2016 campaign that saw him start 11 games for the Oakland Raiders. Now he’s without work. A former first-round pick out of Tennessee, Williams has struggled with conditioning at times in his career. But he’s also been an effective interior defender against the run. While he’s far from a superstar, it’s pretty surprising that Williams isn’t on an NFL team as we head into the final stretch of the preseason.
Gary Barnidge, tight end
That Barnidge is unemployed right now is baffling. This is a guy who caught 134 passes for 1,655 yards and 11 touchdowns the past two seasons playing for the worst team in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns. We all understand that teams love to develop young talent. And Barnidge is far from young — he’ll be 32 before the season begins. Still, it’s crazy that a guy who’s been able to produce at such a high level for an offense that stunk to high heavens isn’t getting a chance to play.
Jairus Byrd, safety
Byrd never lived up to the expectations that came along with his huge contract in New Orleans. But that doesn’t mean he was a bad player. Since entering the NFL back in 2009 as a second-round pick out of Oregon, Byrd has been a full-time starter. He started 16 games last year for the Saints, who cut him due to salary-cap issues. Byrd worked out for the San Francisco 49ers this offseason, but that’s about all we’ve heard about any team showing him interest. A tenured veteran, it’s not inconceivable that Byrd could still land on a roster this year. That he’s not already playing is very surprising.
Nick Mangold, center
At this point one wonders if Mangold is simply done playing. A guy who has started 164 games, Mangold is a seven-time Pro Bowler and twice voted to the NFL’s First-team All-Pro squad. He has long been one of the best centers in the league. He missed half of the 2016 season due to injuries but was eager to play again in 2017 after the New York Jets cut him as part of their offseason purge. Maybe after an offseason away from the game he’s changed his mind about wanting to continue his career. If not, it’s very surprising he’s not on a team right now.
Mario Williams, defensive end
It’s crazy to realize that Super Mario is still just 32 years old. It’s also pretty wild to consider how swiftly he went from being one of the most feared pass rushers in the game to a guy who’s no longer working. Williams racked up 38 sacks between 2012-14 before Rex Ryan showed up in Buffalo and tried to convert him into a 3-4 outside linebacker. That didn’t take, and Williams landed in Miami after being unceremoniously cut in Buffalo. He was practically a non-factor last year and was released this offseason. So on the one hand, it’s kind of easy to see why he’s not working now. But this is a guy who still has his youth and who has been a proven pass rusher for many years. If he’s not on a roster at some point in 2017 we have to figure he’s probably done.
Robert Griffin III, quarterback
Given the amount of awful play at the quarterback position these days, it’s pretty stunning RG3 remains jobless. This is a guy who we know has struggled with injuries in his career. So on the one hand it’s understandable he’s not being given a chance to start. But teams could do (and are doing) plenty worse at the backup position. Remember, Griffin III was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year not that long ago. He can clearly play the game at a high level when he has protection and is in an offense that suits his abilities.
That’s why it was so shocking when the Los Angeles Chargers chose to trade for Cardale Jones rather than bring in RG3 following a workout.
Aaron Williams, safety
Williams has missed significant time the past two years due to injury. A neck injury last year landed him on IR. But he was out there looking for work again this spring after getting a clear bill of health. At the age of 27, he’s still a guy who can make meaningful contributions, and there are some talent-poor defensive secondaries out there that could use his services. The Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars both kicked the tires on Williams this offseason, but that’s about the last we’ve heard.
Colin Kaepernick, quarterback
Look around the league. There is terrible quarterback play on display all over the place. Two teams in particular — the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars — feature “starters” that are just awful. The Jets are tanking, though, so it’s not surprising they don’t want to bring in a competent starter. The Jags, on the other hand, have a playoff-caliber roster all the way around except at quarterback. Blake Bortles should be released this summer, and Chad Henne isn’t great, either. Kaepernick could come in and finally give them some stability on offense. He also has playoff (and Super Bowl) experience, to boot.