10 NFL Free Agents Still Available Who Saw Significant Playing Time Last Season
The 2012 NFL free-agent signing period began on March 13. More than two months later, there are still players available who were recent fixtures for their teams.
These are durable veterans who made solid contributions to their teams last season. For whatever reason (age, perception, declining skills, etc.), they have yet to catch on with a team.
Here's a look at 10 free agents still available who saw significant playing time in 2011.
Cedric Benson had a productive 2011 season for the Cincinnati Bengals. His numbers were similar to his 2010 output with 1,067 yards and six touchdowns. Compare that to 2010, when he rushed for 1,111 yards and seven touchdowns. It should also be noted that he had 48 fewer carries last year.
So, no real drop-off for Benson, but he still remains unsigned. Why?
The answer could be his age (Benson will turn 30 in December). It could be his well-publicized police record (Benson has been arrested multiple times since 2008 for charges like boating while intoxicated and assault).
So there are some red flags. One team that's never been afraid of red flags, the Oakland Raiders, has shown interest in Benson, who has also expressed interest in playing for the Raiders.
The veteran running back would be a good fit for the Raiders, backing up and providing insurance for Darren McFadden. At this point in his career, he's not really suited to be the every-down starter.
Whoever picks him up will get a good, experienced back with more than a few miles left on the tires.
In his first season back from a two-year prison stint, Plaxico Burress played in all 16 games for the New York Jets, starting 13. He racked up 612 yards on 45 catches and eight touchdowns. Not too bad for a 34-year-old who spent the previous two years behind bars.
So, why is he still available?
The best guess would be his age. Burress will turn 35 in August. Thus, presumably on the downside of his career.
Interest in the wideout has been minimal to none. Burress, on the other hand, has expressed interest in playing for the Eagles, Dolphins, Raiders and Panthers.
The receiver-needy Dolphins could sure use him. In fact, there are quite a few teams that could use a tall, red-zone threat at receiver. Still, he remains unsigned.
When Brett Favre was with the Minnesota Vikings, his favorite red-zone target was Visanthe Shiancoe. Shiancoe's stats have fallen since Favre's departure, but that can be blamed on the inconsistent quarterback play of the Vikings.
Shiancoe played in all 16 games for the Vikings last year, starting 14. He hauled in 36 receptions totaling 409 yards and three touchdowns.
The Seahawks expressed interest in Shiancoe, but he remains a free agent.
At 31 years old and with nine years under his belt, Shiancoe could give a team decent production at the tight end spot for a couple years. It may take an injury in training camp to find out what team he'll be playing for in 2012.
Andre Carter went back to his natural position of defensive end for the New England Patriots last year and had a heck of a season, starting 14 games and picking up 10 sacks en route to a Pro Bowl selection. Despite reemerging as one of the top pass-rushers in the league, Carter is still waiting by the phone.
The 11-year vet just turned 33 earlier this month and saw his 2011 season end because of a quad injury that required surgery. Age and health have to be the reasons for the lack of interest in Carter.
Even though he hasn't heard from the Pats, he seems to think a deal will come sooner or later: "They [Patriots] kind of just said, 'Thanks for everything,’ at the end of the year and I haven’t heard from them since. But I’m optimistic everything works out."
My guess is he's back with the Patriots for another one-year deal.
A second-round pick in the '03 draft, E.J. Henderson has played his entire nine-year career in Minnesota. In 2011 he started all 16 games for the Vikings and finished second on the team with 109 tackles.
In 2010 he was elected to the Pro Bowl. So, why hasn't anyone signed him?
Though he previously stated his desire to remain a Viking, maybe he wants too much money.
From the Star Tribune:
There is still a good chance that E.J. Henderson will sign with the Vikings once he agrees to a contract paying the linebacker quite a bit less than the $6.7 million he was paid last year. Henderson still is demanding the same pay he got last year.
With the Vikings looking more and more like a rebuilding team, I can see why they wouldn't want to pay a 31-year-old linebacker that kind of money. The lack of interest from other teams shows they don't want to pay that kind of money either.
Chris Crocker started every game for the Bengals at safety last year, picking up 61 tackles and helping Cincinnati return to the playoffs.
The 10-year vet has recently visited the Lions and Cardinals, but did not reach an agreement with either.
As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out, the last time we saw Crocker, he was getting embarrassed on an Arian Foster touchdown run during the Bengals' playoff game with the Texans.
Check out the video here. Not too flattering.
Despite that, Crocker should find a team soon. He still has a lot to offer.
Jeremy Shockey started 13 games for the Carolina Panthers last year and caught 37 passes for 455 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers might not jump out at you, but keep in mind the Panthers also had Greg Olsen at tight end.
Make no mistake about it, Jeremy Shockey helped Cam Newton have the special year he had.
It's been a rough offseason for Shockey, as Warren Sapp accused him of being the snitch behind the Saints' bounty scandal, which Shockey denied. Roger Goodell set the record straight by confirming Shockey was not the whistleblower.
Could all that be the reason why the former Miami Hurricanes star remains unsigned? It may have something to do with it, but the main reason teams haven't shown interest is probably his age (Shockey will turn 32 in August).
Andre Goodman started every game at cornerback for the Denver Broncos last season. In fact, he's been their starting corner opposite Champ Bailey for the last three years.
Goodman will be 34 years old in August though. And with the Broncos' offseason additions of cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence, Goodman's time with Denver is almost certainly over.
After 11 years in the league, Goodman may no longer be a starting-caliber corner, but he could be a good nickelback for a team looking for experience and leadership in the secondary.
As with other players on this list, we may not see Andre Goodman until a team loses a corner in training camp.
A leader of the Pittsburgh defense for the last decade, longtime Steeler linebacker and defensive captain James Farrior started 14 games and registered 78 tackles last season.
The Steelers released him in March, and the 37-year-old is still without a team for the upcoming season.
He had a healthy 2011 and is one of the best defensive leaders in football—someone is bound to give him a shot. Even though the interest in him remains low, there are plenty of teams who would benefit just by having his leadership and experience on their roster.
Maybe he ends up back where his career started, with the New York Jets.
Jake Scott started every game at guard last year for the Tennessee Titans. In fact, he's started every game over the last seven years for the Colts/Titans. At 31 years old, he's still one of the better pass-blocking guards in the league.
After Chris Johnson had a rough year on the ground, the Titans, looking to upgrade their run-blocking, signed Steve Hutchinson after his release from Minnesota as Scott's replacement.
The former Super Bowl champion (Colts, 2006) Scott has visited the Cardinals, but other than that, the interest level for him has been relatively low.
Again, it may take a training-camp injury for him to catch his break. Scott has plenty left in the tank and will give the team that signs him dependability and good pass-blocking.
Follow Brian on Twitter @coldy4goldy.
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