Everyone gets excited about the draft after the season ends, but it’s NFL free agents who get to make noise before the young guys enter the league.
This year’s crop of NFL free agents contains a fair amount of talent that should be available at discount prices. While the top-money guys grab the spotlight, in the end many of the players who sign for less end up having just as much of an impact for their new teams.
Here’s a look at 10 NFL free agents who are in a position to provide incredible value.
Eric Reid, safety
Playing with a massive chip on his shoulder this past season for the Carolina Panthers, Reid showed he still has plenty left in the tank. Though he let his emotions get the better of him at times, the former 49ers star proved he can play at a high level and contribute on an every-down basis. Appearing in 13 games for Carolina, he tallied 71 tackles, one sack, one interception and five passes defensed.
Mark Ingram, running back
Missing the first four games of the 2018 season due to a suspension for PEDs, Ingram also saw his overall role in New Orleans shrink a bit due to the emergence of Alvin Kamara. Still, the former Heisman Trophy winner averaged 4.7 yards per carry, caught 21 passes, and scored seven touchdowns. Ingram will turn 30 at the end of next season but his body hasn’t taken the type of pounding other older backs have. He’ll be a huge bargain for whichever team lands him.
Kareem Jackson, cornerback
Jackson is a rock-solid overall cornerback who is one of the toughest defensive backs against the run in the NFL. He’ll turn 31 in April but is still playing at an extremely high level. Last year in Houston, he racked up 87 total tackles, came away with two interceptions, and forced two fumbles. He won’t break the bank but will certainly break more than a few big plays up next year.
John Brown, wide receiver
The Baltimore Ravens landed Brown on the cheap this past year, and if we’re being honest they didn’t do enough to get him involved more. When he was a focal point of the offense, Brown delivered, catching 42 passes for 715 yards — proving he’s still one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league — for five touchdowns. An impact receiver, Brown can absolutely blow up in the right offense and with the right quarterback. And he won’t cost a fortune, either.
Jared Cook, tight end
Cook is coming off a career year. He was a featured weapon in Jon Gruden’s offense and caught 68 passes for 896 yards and six touchdowns — all career highs. So, his stock has never been higher. However, we’re still talking about a player who is known for having issues with drops and never really living up to his full potential. Cook will also be 32 next year. So any deal he does might include some nice up-front cash but it’s not going to be crazy money.
K.J. Wright, linebacker
Wright is going to turn 30 before the next season begins, and so there’s no doubt he’ll be looking to cash in one final time before he retires. A stellar linebacker who flies sideline-to-sideline, he had been extremely durable for his entire career. I say “had” because last year he had a knee injury that caused him to miss 11 games and came back to bite him after he had it scoped. It seems like Seattle might be inclined to try and bring him back. But wherever he lands Wright should land a shorter-term deal that includes plenty of incentives and workout bonuses.
Donte Moncrief, wide receiver
He’s not a volume pass catcher, but Moncrief has proven over the long haul that he is an impact receiver. Even last year playing on a disastrous passing offense in Jacksonville, he averaged 13.9 yards per catch and hauled in 48 receptions. Over the course of his career, Moncrief has caught a touchdown for every 10 catches he’s made. He is still quite capable of making big plays downfield and will thrive in the right offense at a bargain rate.
Ramon Foster, offensive guard
Foster just turned 33, but don’t let his age fool you into thinking he’s not still a dominant road grader up front. This offensive guard was a big-time factor in Pittsburgh’s run game last year and is still pretty solid in pass protection as well. He started 16 games in his age-32 season and has only missed 14 games in his entire 10-year career. He won’t haul in a massive contract, but Foster still brings great value to the table.
Kwon Alexander, linebacker
Still a young player, Alexander will turn 25 right before the 2019 season begins. He already has four years of experience under his belt and is a proven commodity in this league. Alexander is fast, and he uses that speed well in the pass game. The big reason why Alexander should be a tremendous value in free agency is that he got injured last year (ACL tear) and missed the final 10 games of the season. Bad timing for him.
Daryl Williams, offensive tackle
Like Alexander, Williams suffered a season-ending injury at the worst possible time financially for him. The big right tackle was coming on strong for the Carolina Panthers when he suffered a dislocated kneecap and MCL tear last year. It stands to reason that the Panthers will do whatever they can to try and keep him in Carolina. The need the help. Williams might be inclined to test the market, and he should land a nice contract. But it won’t be anywhere near top dollar for his position.