By the time the preseason starts, free agency is pretty well depleted. There's no denying that.
There are, however, a few available players capable of helping a team on some level. Some players are capable of even more than that.
No greatness will be found on the open market, but a few players could provide valuable depth or even rotate onto the field.
Which available players are most able to help an NFL team?
Calling Donovan McNabb a starter at this point is a stretch at best. At worst, it's a laughable exaggeration and callback to the quarterback's former ability.
Now, McNabb is a backup who offers some experience and physical ability. But if he actually has to start...
Recently, Gary Brackett has struggled with injuries, but he was a productive player in his prime. Brackett isn't a starter by any means, but he could still play in nickel situations.
More importantly, though, Brackett offers valuable leadership and experience. He is a decent backup who has been around winning teams in the past and remains a high-character player.
One of the game's more athletic linebackers, Ernie Sims is adept in coverage but struggled shredding blockers and playing the run.
Sims is also a good special teams player who can offer value there. A team looking for a starting linebacker should seek help elsewhere, but Sims can contribute.
Prior to his arrest and subsequent release, Chad Johnson was starting for the Dolphins. That's probably more of a testament to Miami's lack of wideouts than Johnson's ability, but the point remains.
It's easy to see why a team would avoid Johnson. He was recently arrested, has struggled in recent years and is a bit of a distraction.
However, he may still have something left in the tank and could produce as a backup wide receiver.
E.J. Henderson is still capable of starting in the NFL. He would be a below-average player, perhaps, but there are teams with worse linebackers playing.
Henderson's already-limited mobility has decreased a bit, but he can play the run. At worst, Henderson offers good depth in the case of injury.
For years, Bryant McFadden was a valuable defensive back for the Steelers. He is now a free agent, but he isn't garbage by any means.
Maybe McFadden isn't a great nickelback at this point, but he is an excellent dime option. In the pass-happy NFL, dime corners are worth having.
In 2011, Matt Roth struggled with injuries, but he is a borderline starting defensive end. Roth is an excellent run-defender who struggles somewhat pressuring the quarterback.
Though he may not be an every-down starter, Roth can rotate onto the field on run situations. He also offers schematic versatility, as he has played in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes.
Though he is aging, Ryan Grant is still a useful player. He shouldn't be starting, but he can catch and block while running some.
The former Packer is coming off a season in which he averaged an acceptable 4.2 yards per carry. Plenty of NFL teams would benefit from Grant's all-around play.
At 34 years old and fresh out of jail, Plaxico Burress was surprisingly productive for the Jets in 2011. He isn't a dynamic starter by any means, but he is better than many guys who will see significant playing time in 2012.
At worst, Burress is a red-zone threat and possession receiver. There is always value in players who will pick up key touchdowns and first downs.
Andre Carter recorded 10 sacks in 2011. Ten sacks isn't quite what it used to be, but it's still a good number for a pass-rusher to reach.
It's a simple fact that an NFL team can never have too many threats off the edge. Carter isn't a beast by any means, but 10 sacks is 10 sacks.
He could start for a few teams out there and contribute for many.