While the top teams in the league are worried about the race to the Super Bowl, the rest of the NFL is already planning for the offseason and which 2013 free agents they can sign.
There are a few huge stars to hit the free-agent pool this year, but the best players on the market in 2013 are being underrated and will sign for less than they are worth.
NFL fans should be looking for all of the following players as free agency begins to see if their team snags one of these underrated players.
Peyton Hillis, Running Back
There is no doubting that Peyton Hillis is a shell of the running back that dominated the NFL in 2010, but to think that the 26-year-old running back has nothing left in the tank is just foolish.
Hillis will likely not re-sign with a Kansas City team changing to a more pass-oriented offense under new head coach Andy Reid, so any team looking for a short-yardage back that can also come in on third downs and pass protect should be interested in Hillis.
The veteran back will likely not have the opportunity to start immediately next season, but if he signs on with a team dedicated to the run—a franchise like the Arizona Cardinals—Hillis could win the starting job with a stellar performance.
Jake Long, Offensive Tackle
There is still a chance the Miami Dolphins could use the franchise tag on their No. 1 overall pick from 2008, offensive tackle Jake Long, but injuries and sagging performance coupled with a huge salary will force Miami’s hand and the free agent will hit the market.
When Long hits free agency, all teams with serious needs on the offensive line—franchises like the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and others—will explore what it would cost to sign the 27-year-old star.
Whichever team decides to sign Long this offseason must understand that there is a risk that comes with a big-time signing like this, and offensive linemen don’t last very long in the NFL.
The risk is well worth the reward for a talent as great as Long.
Jared Cook, Tight End
The most underrated free agent of the 2013 offseason will be Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook. If Tennessee doesn’t re-sign or use the franchise tag on the fourth-year player, Cook will become the top pass-catching tight end on the market.
While Cook has also displayed progressively better blocking for the rushing attack each year he has been in the NFL, it is the 6’5” and 248-pound tight end’s ability to beat the coverage against him in the pass game that makes him such a desired weapon.
After being underutilized in Tennessee, Cook will be looking to sign with a team desperate for a tight end to complement the passing attack. Teams like the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins to consider the 25-year-old pass catcher on the cusp of a breakout season.