Unsigned Free Agents We Expect to Sign Before the End of Camp
The free agent frenzy can only last so long. Once the blue-chip players sign their tenders and contracts, we are left with a far less appealing crop of talent in the pool.
Marquee names remain; guys like Drew Brees and Mike Wallace who continue to haggle over their contracts, but there are even more veteran talents out there being overlooked due to injuries or age.
These players have plenty left to offer the NFL, even if they are on the decline in their careers. Some will take support roles, others will be expected to come in and fill a starting spot.
Here are just a few of the NFL veteran free agents we expect to see under contract by the time training camp ends.
Jim Leonhard, SS
Jim Leonhard has been the beating heart of the New York Jets' defense for several seasons now. A tremendous leader and playmaker, Leonhard has been one of the central players on the Jets vaunted defense in the Mark Sanchez/Rex Ryan era.
After a broken leg landed him on injured reserve last season, Leonhard's days with the Jets are likely over. New York has signed veteran safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry.
Leonhard has a lot to offer a team in terms of leadership and talent, even if he is a bit of a health risk.
He has too much left in the tank to pass up, especially at a coming-off-injury price. In a pass-happy league, the secondary is a huge concern across the league.
Projected Team: Detroit Lions
Marcus McNeill, OT
McNeill is a two time pro-bowler and only a six-year veteran, so what is he doing not under contract at the end of May?
Ah, the injury bug rears it's ugly head once again.
Despite his neck injury which limited him severely last season, McNeill has a long career ahead of him, and likely will continue to be a force on somebody's offensive line for years to come.
The Chargers would be foolish to let him walk away as they try to return to the playoffs.
Projected Team: San Diego Chargers
Rocky Bernard, DT
Rocky Bernard has not earned major dollar signs over the last few seasons with his statistics. He does not stuff the box score, and you won't see him on the week's top-10 plays.
Having said that, the 300-pound tackle was an integral part of the New York Giants' Super Bowl defensive line, providing relief to starting tackles Linval Joseph and Chris Canty.
The success of the Giants' front four during the 2011-12 postseason run should be enough for a team to reach out to him with a second-string job, or maybe even a starting spot should a devastating injury be suffered during camp.
With the return of Marvin Austin and the signing of Shaun Rogers, Bernard is the odd man out in New York.
Look for a team employing a 4-3 to look for someone like Bernard as insurance. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a possible candidate given the injury to Da'Quan Bowers and the injury history of Gerald McCoy.
Projected Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Wallace, WR
Mike Wallace still has not signed his first-round tender by the Pittsburgh Steelers, rightly believing himself to have earned much more than a one-year deal for $2.7 million.
He erroneously believes that his way of showing it is the right thing to do. The Steelers are well-known as a classy organization, and will likely do the right thing by Wallace, providing he does the right thing by them.
The first step is helping Wallace to realize he is not worth an eight-year contract for $120 million like Larry Fitzgerald. Once he gets over that delusion, maybe a long term deal can be struck.
It may take an annoying holdout, but eventually both sides will likely get something they can live with.
Projected Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Drew Brees, QB
The Drew Brees contract impasse is annoying for all involved parties.
The New Orleans Saints are right in wanting to preserve cap space in an already tumultuous offseason. Drew Brees is right in thinking he deserves a contract equal or greater than those of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
Worst of all, the fans don't care to see a multi-millionaire athlete whining over the difference between $19 million and $25 million.
Still, Drew Brees is not one to hold out and miss camp, nor is he prepared to screw over the organization by not playing.
The Saints will not want to lose Brees for the season, not amid Bountygate and the suspension of Sean Payton.
The deal should get done.
Projected Team: New Orleans Saints