2013 NFL Free Agents: Under-the-Radar Players to Watch

Paul Thelen@@ThePaulLenContributor IIJanuary 10, 2013

2013 NFL Free Agents: Under-the-Radar Players to Watch

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    There are plenty of big-time players in the 2013 free-agent class.

    The most sought-after players will be tackles Jake Long and Ryan Clady; wide receivers Greg Jennings, Victor Cruz, Dwayne Bowe and Mike Wallace; and quarterback Joe Flacco.

    Outside of the lights of those top players is a deep class of free agents that may be flying under-the-radar.

    These players won't secure outstanding contracts, but will certainly be names to watch once free agency begins March 9.

Danny Amendola

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    Amendola re-emerged this season as a sure-handed target for the St. Louis Rams, as he secured 66 catches for 663 yards in only 11 games.

    The knock on Amendola will be durability. After a 2010 season where he showcased his talents catching 85 passes, the 27-year-old was hurt in the 2011 season-opener, which forced him onto injured reserve for the remainder of the season.

    With a deep wide receiver pool in this free-agent class Amendola could fly under the radar, but he merits the interest of teams. His skill set allows to him play both in the slot and on the perimeter, as he has both well in St. Louis.

    Durability is an issue, but he will come significantly cheaper than the upper echelon. 

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

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    DRC's stock has fallen significantly since his arrival in Philadelphia, but who inside the Eagles' organization has played up to standard in the past two seasons?

    Rodgers-Cromartie is a dynamic cornerback that has the potential to return to a high level of performance. Because of the struggles of the Eagles' defense, and at times his own performance, DRC will come cheaper than other free-agent defensive backs Aqib Talib and Sam Shields.

    Rodgers-Cromartie has all the physical tools required to become a No. 1 corner, his 16 interceptions over his four-year career are evidence to that.

Alan Branch

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    Alan Branch is a physical force.

    At 6'6" 325 pounds, Branch is the anchor to the Seattle defensive front. To effectively play the 4-3 defense, you need a guy like Branch to clog up the middle and absorb blockers so your linebackers can have a clear path to the running back.

    Branch does this exceptionally well. It will cost a team to lure Branch away from Seattle, but expect teams to try. 

Jairus Byrd

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    Jairus Byrd is one of the best safeties in the league in the takeaway department.

    Byrd has been a ball hawk since he entered the league. Four years into his NFL career, Byrd has snatched 18 interceptions for the Buffalo Bills.

    Chris Brown of buffalobills.com suggests the Bills may use the franchise tag with Byrd, which is evidence to his talents, but if he hits the free-agent market expect his services to be highly sought after.

Julian Edleman

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    What's not to love about Julian Edleman?

    The college quarterback turned wide receiver showed significant improvements this season before a foot injury sidelined him for the season.

    He is a quick and sharp route-runner who can create space early in a play. Those skills make him an ideal slot receiver and a weapon against the blitz.

    Edleman is a proven punt returner, as he has run three back for touchdowns and 10 for returns of more than 20 yards.

    Like Amendola, Edleman's services will come much cheaper than Victor Cruz, Wes Welker, Mike Wallace and the other stars of the free-agent class.

Henry Melton

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    After Geno Atkins, Henry Melton might be the most dynamic 4-3 defensive tackle in football.

    You might remember Melton from his days at the University of Texas when he shared a backfield with Vince Young and rushed for 16 touchdowns.

    Melton's superior athleticism, evident by his transition from running back to defensive tackle, is what makes him so dangerous. He's undersized, but has the strength to engage guards and stop the run as well as the finesse and speed to rush the quarterback.

    In two seasons as a starter for the Bears, Melton has tallied 13 sacks, and this season his play earned him his first Pro Bowl selection.