The Free Agency period in the NFL began a few weeks ago on March 13th. There are various different types of free agency in the NFL but the key one is what’s called an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA), a player who is a UFA can move to any team they want and their franchise have little to no power over it.
Other types of Free agents include a Restricted Free Agent (RFA). This means that the player’s current team has the right to match any offer from another franchise. The player’s current franchise can then either block the signing, or force a trade with the other interested party. There is also a franchise tag, teams use this on a player who is due to become an Unrestricted Free Agent. A team gets one Franchise Tag for the year. A player who signs an exclusive Franchise Tag can’t negotiate with other teams. The player receives a 120% increase on their previous salary or the average of the top 5 salaries in that position (stats taken from the previous year). A non-exclusive Franchise tag player receives similar pay conditions, but can talk to other teams. If the player reaches an agreement with another franchise, his original franchise has the right to match the offer or it will receive 2 first round draft picks as compensation.
So we’re going to take a look at the best Unrestricted Free Agents currently on the market, a lot of the best ones have already moved to new teams, some have re-signed with their old team but there are still some solid players out there. Let’s take a look by position.
Andre Gurode: A 5 time Pro Bowler, Gurode last got there in 2011, is still a solid lineman who last played for the Baltimore Ravens. His age (34) may run against him but a veteran presence is needed in every locker room
Casey Wiegmann: Wiegmann last played for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs had a very solid run game and their offensive line was a big part of that. A former Pro Bowler, Wiegmann would be a good pickup, even if it was just to help younger offensive lineman.
Leonard Davis: An 11 year veteran, Davis didn’t play a snap for the Lions last season, a former Pro Bowler, Davis is probably no longer starting material in the league but would be a decent backup to have.
Deuce Lutui: Lutui had a decent season in an Arizona Cardinal Offensive line which struggled. A decent player, he still has a few seasons left if he can keep his weight in check. It has been an issue for him in the past.
Kareem McKenzie: He struggled a bit at times in the regular season with the New York Giants, in the playoffs he improved and helped establish that powerful running game the Giants have. Is capable of being a back up at least.
Marc Colombo: A veteran locker room presence as much as anything. He is a solid player, whose best years are probably behind him. He could still come in for certain situations or a couple of downs in a game.
Earnest Graham: Showed last year against the New Orleans Saints he is capable of being a feature back, he is a very solid player and played well until his season ending injury with the Buccaneers last year. His injury and age might mean teams stay away from him. However he would be good value for most teams
Jacob Hester: A man who has grown into the full back role after being used primarily as a running back during college. He has shown he is capable of blocking for guys like Darren Sproles and Mike Tolbert. He has decent rushing numbers and receiving numbers too.
Thomas Jones: He is a very solid player, who has put up good numbers with every team he has been on. A bit old to be a starting calibre player, but certainly an able back up.
LaRod Stephens-Howling: The man known as “the Hyphen” is probably best remembered for his spectacular touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in Over Time last season. He is a similar stature to current New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles. He is a small but incredibly quick player. Won’t be a person who puts together 20 carries a game but could handle 5-10. His presence would make people wary of the pass too. A return man too, the “Hyphen” would be a decent pickup.
Dallas Clark: He put up good numbers over the course of his career in Indianapolis. He struggled with injuries in 2010 and 2011. The poor QB play from the Colts didn’t help him either. He is still capable of making big plays, as we saw by his spectacular one handed grab against the Cincinnati Bengals last season. 2:10 into the video below.
Jeremy Shockey: A two time Super Bowl winner, Shockey brings a veteran presence to the locker room. He wasn’t the feature tight-end with the Panthers, but he still put up some decent receiving numbers alongside Greg Olson. Teams might be wary of signing him. There were rumours going around that he was the one who blew the whistle on the Bounty Gate scandal, as he left the New Orleans Saints.
Plaxico Burress : This may surprise people, but Burress had a pretty solid season last year. He wasn’t the first target for Mark Sanchez, nor did he start every game. He hauled in 8 TD passes and had 45 catches, not too shabby considering Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller were Sanchez’ top 2 receivers.
Braylon Edwards: He has problems with catching the football and yes he didn’t play that often for the San Francisco 49ers last year, but he is still a good 3rd/4th option to have on your team. In 2010, he showed he was a good red zone target for the Jets by hauling in 7 TDs. He can play and would be a decent pick up for relatively little money.
Conor Philpott writes also for Sportpulse