NFL: Free Agents Who Deserve a Look
The 2012 NFL season is fast approaching. Teams have begun OTA's and they have a general plan as they head into the opener.
The list of available free agents is dwindling. Many of the players still remaining come with some baggage, whether it be high contract demands or injury history. But there are still quality players who can be signed before training camp.
Here they are.
Andre Carter, Defensive End
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Andre Carter is coming off a very good season with the New England Patriots. He was arguably the best player they had on defense.
Posting 52 tackles and an impressive 10 sacks, Carter was elected to the Pro Bowl.
He didn't get a chance to participate in that game, however, due to a torn left quadriceps tendon, an injury he sustained in a December game.
Carter recently turned 33 and the injury may be a big reason why he hasn't been signed. But if he shows no ill effects from that injury, he can still be a valuable player and should be given a shot as a situational pass- rusher, if nothing else.
Mark Clayton, Wide Receiver
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Mark Clayton's St. Louis Rams career was never what it could have been. After five seasons in Baltimore, he came to the Rams through a trade and had a very promising start.
In five games, he caught 23 passes for 306 yards with a pair of TDs. He quickly became Sam Bradford's favorite target, but tore the patella tendon in his right knee, sadly ending his season. He was never able to get back on track the following season, either.
The Rams have seemingly already added enough weapons at wide receiver, meaning Clayton's days in the league may be over.
But he's still only 29 and may be able to add depth to a team with a young core of wideouts. A team like Jacksonville should at least consider him.
Raheem Brock, Defensive End
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This may not be the name most people would expect to see on this list, but Brock has been a very productive player, especially during his stint in Seattle. In two seasons as a Seahawk, he totaled 19.5 sacks and has 40.5 over his 10-year career, to go along with 345 tackles.
Brock is 33 now and the market for him is likely very small. But if any team needs depth at defensive end, Brock would be a nice option.
Marcus McNeill, Tackle
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I can't tell you why this guy isn't on a roster right now. At 6'7" and only 28 years old, he should be.
McNeill has proven to be a very solid tackle who has been selected to multiple Pro Bowls. It seemed as though he was always in a contract dispute with the Chargers and a threat to hold out, so they finally cut their losses with him.
Many teams should be taking a look at him. If any of them need a good, athletic tackle, they need to give McNeill a call.
Ryan Grant, Running Back
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The former Green Bay Packer should definitely be on a team by now. The only thing that can be holding it up is contract demands or that he still feels he should be a feature back.
In his career, Grant has run for more than 4,000 yards and 25 TDs. In addition, he has 92 career catches for another 726 yards. But since suffering a season-ending ankle injury in the 2010 season opener, Grant has not been the same player.
He was eventually supplanted by James Starks in Green Bay. In the past two seasons, he has rushed for only 604 yards after back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons.
Green Bay was the best place for Grant, but the Packers decided to part ways with him. The Detroit Lions and New England Patriots were both reportedly interested in at least working him out, but nothing ever came of that.
Grant can still help an NFL team, but he first must understand that he'll have to do so in a diminished role.
Plaxico Burress, Wide Receiver
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Plaxico Burress should be on an NFL roster, without question.
In his career, Burress has caught 550 passes for 8,457 yards and 63 touchdowns. Those are very good numbers.
In 2011 with the Jets, he caught 45 passes for 612 yards and an impressive eight TDs, which was just as many as Santonio Holmes had. Keep in mind that Burress had missed the previous two seasons while serving a prison sentence.
Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins have been linked to Burress. On each of those teams, he'd easily be the No. 2 wide receiver. But Plax has still yet to land a deal.
So what's the holdup?
Is it that he'll be 35 when the season starts? Is it the belief that he can bring problems to the locker room? Whatever the case may be, teams are shying away from Burress.
But numbers speak loudly and after missing two full seasons, his 2011 stats were very respectable.
Billy Volek, Quarterback
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It may surprise some to see this name on here as well, but Billy Volek has been a very serviceable quarterback in the NFL.
Primarily a backup in both Tennessee and San Diego, Volek has 27 career TD passes. And in 2004, he threw for 400 yards in back-to-back games, only the fourth player in history to do so at that time.
The Chargers released Volek in March in favor of bringing Charlie Whitehurst back into the fold. Personally, I'd much rather have Volek.
He can add depth to the position and would be very capable if called upon. So who needs a backup quarterback?
Maybe Pittsburgh, where they still have Charlie Batch for reasons only they would know. What about Tampa Bay? He's better than Dan Orlovsky.
I think the best fit would be St. Louis as a backup to Sam Bradford. He's a much better player than Kellen Clemens. That move would reunite him with his old head coach, Jeff Fisher.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Running Back
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I have to end with this guy. I know he says he's 95 percent retired, but Tomlinson would gladly suit up if it was the right situation.
So what's the right situation?
Tomlinson wants to win the Super Bowl, so he will only play for a team equipped and ready to do that. He'd also like to be more than just a third-down back. Is that option out there?
As an avid NFL fan, I sure hope so. I'd hate to see one of the best running backs in NFL history have his career end the way it did in New York, even though he seems at peace with it.
I feel a team like New Orleans would be a good fit. Despite the bounty scandal that has rocked the Saints, Tomlinson would fit right in. They use their running backs interchangeably and he would have some old teammates with him in Darren Sproles and Drew Brees, dating back to his Charger days.
If that can't happen, San Diego needs to do the right thing and sign him to a one-day contract so he can retire there.