A vast majority of NFL training camps begin next week, meaning fans of the game are very close to getting football back into their lives.
For NFL free agents still without a team, the clock is ticking to find a home before the 2012 season begins.
Several big names, including Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant and Plaxico Burress, remain without homes a week before camps start.
Let's run down if any progress has been made for the best available free agents and where they are likely to land.
Benson spoke with Adam Schein of Sirius XM Radio Tuesday, and he revealed that the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers have contacted him this offseason.
While contact with a player can mean a million things—and not necessarily genuine interest—the three teams Benson listed are interesting.
The run-heavy Jets would be an attractive option for Benson, who could spell Shonn Greene at times and help New York continue its ground-and-pound ways.
The Raiders have been linked to Benson for most of this offseason and, at this point, continue to be the front-runners for his services.
Green Bay has questionable depth at running back with James Starks (injury-prone), Alex Green (coming off a torn ACL), Brandon Saine (unproven) and two UDFAs in Duane Bennett and Marc Tyler. However, the team has so far passed on bringing back Ryan Grant, who would seem to be a much more suitable option for the Packers if they were concerned about the position.
One thing to keep in mind is that Benson appeared to be unwilling to budge from his position that he's worth more than the veteran's minimum. The sooner the lightbulb comes on for Benson that he's not, the sooner he'll be in camp with a team.
Grant garnered early interest on the free-agent market from both the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots, but each potential deal fell through for various reasons. Since then, Grant has heard nothing but crickets—especially from his former team in Green Bay.
The Packers gave away Grant's old locker back in late May, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press Gazette, which may suggest Green Bay has little interest in bringing him back for 2012.
The lack of interest in the 29-year-old back has been somewhat surprising. While Grant is creeping on the 30-year-old mark, he has limited wear on his tires and appeared to regain much of his burst late last season.
If the Packers—or any other team, for that matter—have any big issue arise at the running back position in training camp, Grant could still get a call. But things are starting to look dicey for the back I consider to be the best available.
Back in mid-June, Burress proclaimed that he had received his share of interest from NFL teams and was looking for the "right fit."
Either he hasn't found that fit (unlikely), or that statement from Burress was a load of bull (likely).
The Carolina Panthers were one team to quickly shoot down any interest in Burress, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer.
The chances of Burress finding a team before camp looks dire. While his 6'5", 235-pound frame can still provide a dangerous target in the red zone, Burress struggles to get separation and will be 35 years old in mid-August.
He may need a couple of big-name injuries to occur in camp if he wants an extended look.
Back in June, it appeared as if Edwards would have options in both Cincinnati and New York for the 2012 season. Both options went up in smoke, however, and there hasn't been much in terms of interest since.
Still, at 29 years old with productive years in his past, Edwards may offer the most of any receiver available on the free-agent market.
Keep in mind, Edwards' last season in New York saw the 6'3" receiver go for over 900 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. A knee injury cost him most of 2011, but that problem should be healed by the start of camp.
However, like Burress, Edwards may need to wait for another injury to get his chance. The interest simply hasn't been there.
Arguably the best defensive free agent available is Carter, who registered 10 sacks as a member of the New England Patriots last season.
A torn quad suffered late in 2011 has kept him unsigned through this offseason, however.
Once the injury heals—and he is reportedly way ahead of schedule, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald—it is still widely expected that Carter will re-sign with the Patriots.
The same Boston Herald report from late June stated that Carter was looking for a long-term deal from New England, but that seems unlikely for a 33-year-old defensive end coming off a serious injury. More than likely, Carter will return to New England on another one-year deal, much like the "prove it" deal he got from the organization last summer.