2012 NFL Free Agents: 11 Players the Market Won't Value, but Teams Should
They aren't the most recognizable names on the free-agent market, but maybe they should be.
This year's free-agent class has plenty of prominent names on it, but the lesser known players are intriguing as well. While the likes of Mario Williams, Vincent Jackson and Drew Brees will get most of the headlines this offseason, other free agents deserve some press too.
While the big money will be reserved for the stars, here are 11 free agents that will be worth every penny they earn this offseason.
Orton may be the most underappreciated quarterbacks in the league. He's bounced from team to team, always getting pushed out by another quarterback.
Orton has put together a pretty good career in the NFL. In seven seasons, he has totaled 80 touchdown passes, over 14,000 passing yards and 57 interceptions. At this point in his career, he can be a solid bridge quarterback for a team with a young signal-caller.
At age 29, Orton still has a few years left in him and enough quarterbacking knowledge to make him a valuable backup.
In the right system, Campbell could be an effective quarterback; he's an efficient passer who protects the ball the well. During his seven seasons, he has just 50 interceptions compared to 74 touchdowns.
However, that efficiency comes with a price. Campbell struggles with finding receivers downfield, often times settling for check-downs and underneath routes. In the six games he played last season before breaking his collarbone, Campbell completed only 16 passes of 20 yards or more. In contrast, Carson Palmer matched that number in his first two games with the Raiders.
At age 30, Campbell can still lead a team that's looking for a game manager, not a playmaker.
At age 26, Tolbert is a versatile running back who has a lot to offer a team.
Tolbert has proven he can be a power back as well as a solid pass catcher out of the backfield. Over the last two seasons, he has rushed for 21 touchdowns and caught 79 passes.
In the right offense, 1,200 total yards and 10 touchdowns would not be out of the question.
The Chargers have many tough decisions to make regarding their own free agents, Tolbert may be one they let get away.
The Patriots have two young running backs in Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen waiting for an opportunity, so it seems logical that Green-Ellis will be on his way out of New England.
However, with his 24 touchdowns, Green-Ellis has been the Patriots' most reliable running back over the last two seasons. Despite that, his numbers did decline last year.
In 2011, he rushed for 667 yards, down from 1,008 yards in 2010. His YPC also dropped from 4.0 in 2010 to 3.7 in 2011.
At 26, Green-Ellis is still in the prime of his career and has proven to be extremely durable and dependable. He hasn't missed a game the last two seasons and hasn't fumbled in his career.
Green-Ellis may have reached his peak in New England and could be looking for a new team this offseason. A change of scenery might be what he needs to get back to his 2010 form.
After bouncing around the league during his first five years in the NFL, Robinson is looking to settle down after a very productive 2011 season in which he scored 11 touchdowns to lead a talented Cowboys receiver corps.
With a deep wide receiver free-agent market, Robinson will likely get lost among the big names. However, at age 26 and no off-the-field baggage, he should receive plenty of attention once free agency opens.
Despite not having Peyton Manning under center, Garcon had his best season as a pro in 2011. He finished with 70 receptions for 947 yards and six touchdowns.
While Garcon doesn't have the same name recognition as some of the other free-agent wide receivers, he does have the playmaking ability that every team craves.
In 2011, he had three multiple touchdown games, as well as three 100-yard receiving games. He also had a better season than fellow free-agent receiver DeSean Jackson.
At 25, Garcon still has a lot of life left in his legs. Plus, unlike some of the top tier wide receiver free agents, he doesn't come with any baggage.
Wells is coming off a Pro Bowl season in Green Bay and did a solid job anchoring an improved Packers offensive line.
At 31, Wells is a smart center who looks like a guy who can play the position for many more years. The Packers would love to be able to keep him, but with several other notable free agents that could be difficult.
Despite being undersized, Wells has been extremely durable, starting every game the last two seasons. With the exception of his rookie year, Wells hasn't missed more than three games in a single season during his eight-year career.
Wells is one of the younger free-agent centers available and should get plenty of looks this free-agency period.
Despite playing in just seven games for the Bills in 2011, Bell showed much improvement protecting Ryan Fitzpatrick's blindside.
At 6'5" and 315 pounds, Bell is a solid pass blocker and an even better run blocker. The only issue with Bell has been his durability. He's missed time with knee and shoulder injuries, and was forced to sit out nine games in 2011.
Despite his injury concerns, Bell will be in high demand because of the importance placed on the left tackle position. Plus, Bell is just 27 years old and could offer teams stability at an important position for years.
Campbell has made steady improvement during his career and has emerged as one of the Cardinals' most important defensive players.
Last year, the 6'8", 300-pound defensive end had a career-high 72 tackles, eight sacks and an interception. Campbell has a total of 21 sacks for his career.
At age 25, he has a ton of upside and could be on the verge of stardom. But until that happens, he'll cash in on a long-term deal while other free agents grab the headlines.
Lofton's 147 tackles last year were good enough for fifth in the league, yet many people outside of Atlanta don't know his name. But after three straight seasons with more than 100 tackles, he's ready to cash in this offseason.
Lofton, who will turn 26 this year, has a nose for the ball. In 2011, he had 13 games with eight or more tackles and in seven of those games he had more than 10 tackles.
The biggest concern with Lofton is his pass coverage. But at just age 25, he still has plenty of years left to improve.
Carr is one half of the best young corner tandem in the league, but few people outside of Kansas City know who he is. The 25-year-old cornerback is coming off a solid 2011 season and is looking for a nice payday.
Carr wants to be paid like a No. 1 cornerback, even though his teammate Brandon Flowers is considered one of the top corners in the league. Still, Carr had similar numbers to Flowers in 2011 and is a top-level No. 2 corner.
If the Chiefs decide to let Carr go, he'll find plenty of potential suitors on the open market.