NFL Free Agents: Veteran Players Who Can Still Contribute as Starters in 2012

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2012

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Bryant McFadden #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers gestures on the field against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

With injuries and underachieving play a guarantee in the early stages of the NFL regular season, a number of free agents will be getting calls from teams in need of reliable starters.

Therefore, just because these former NFL stars are without a team, doesn't mean they won't contribute in 2012.

Here we break down three veterans who can provide teams in need with dependable contributors this fall.


Mike Sims-Walker, WR

Former Jacksonville Jaguars and St. Louis Rams wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker is only 27 years old, and boasts four years of NFL experience but is currently a free agent. 

A former third-round pick in 2007, Sims-Walker had a breakout year in 2009, catching 63 balls for 869 yards and seven touchdowns in Jacksonville.

Sims-Walker again caught seven touchdown passes in 2010 before struggling mightily last season, eventually being released by the Rams in midseason.

Still, he is a big, 6'2" target and a worthy starter on a struggling NFL team this season. 


Bryant McFadden, CB

Seven-year NFL veteran Bryant McFadden was a mainstay on the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers' defense for six of the past seven seasons. 

Although he was cut this summer, McFadden is still capable of starting somewhere else. He is only 30, and brings excellent football IQ to the equation. 

In 2010, McFadden helped anchor a Steelers defense that led Pittsburgh to Super Bowl XLV. McFadden defended 10 passes that season, intercepted two balls and tallied 81 tackles.

With offenses transitioning into pass-first attacks more often than ever before, there is a starting role out there for Bryant McFadden in 2012.


Ryan Grant, RB

The former Green Bay Packers running back is 29 years old, sure, but that's nothing considering he has only carried the ball 924 times in 63 career regular season games.

Unlike most near-30-year-old backs, Grant lacks the wear and tear brought on by a lengthy NFL career. 

Grant is also a threat out of the backfield as a receiver in addition to providing a talented rushing option for an NFL team. 

He rushed for 1,200-plus yards in 2008 and 2009 with Green Bay, and has scored 25 touchdowns on the ground over the past five seasons. 

Grant can still be explosive and is poised to average at least four yards per carry for whoever calls him in this season.


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