2013 NFL Free Agents: Underrated Offensive Players Who Will Provide Great Value
NFL free agency is dominated by star power. The top players get a vast majority of the headlines leading up to and during the signing period. Not every team can afford to chase down those big names, however, and must focus on more cost-friendly options.
Too often these type of players slip through the cracks, at least from a fan's perspective, because they don't generate the same type of hype as somebody like Greg Jennings or Mike Wallace. But they can often provide great value in the right role.
With that in mind, let's examine three offensive players who could fly under the radar if they aren't re-signed by their current teams and would be wise targets for teams that can't pursue the top free agents.
Two seasons ago, Smith averaged nearly five yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns in seven games for the Detroit Lions. His role was greatly reduced in 2012, though, mostly due to the emergence of Mikel Leshoure.
The best thing about Smith is that he can fit multiple different offensive schemes. He can be an effective rusher or make plays coming out of the backfield in the passing game. That type of versatility should make him a solid No. 2 back at the very least.
It will be easy for him to get lost in the shuffle because his numbers were down this season, but that was simply due to a lack of playing time. If he lands with a team that uses him as a true No. 2 or in a timeshare, he will be productive.
Which of these potential FAs will provide the most value?
Wide receiver is shaping up to become one of the deepest positions in free agency. Teams are going to have multiple options to choose from, including some big names, which doesn't bode well for a second-tier guy like Hartline.
While he's been caught in a lackluster Miami Dolphins offense, he was still able to post his first 1,000-yard season. Skeptics might point toward his lack of touchdowns (one in 2012) as an issue, but Dolphins quarterbacks threw just 13 all season.
Hartline isn't a No. 1 receiver. He doesn't have the dynamic playmaking skills for that role. For a team that already has a top target, he can step in and be a huge asset. He's a reliable target that isn't afraid to go over the middle to help move the chains.
Cook is an athletic tight end with plenty of upside, which makes his lack of prominence in the Tennessee Titans' offense over the past few years surprising. He should have been one of the team's top targets, but it never worked out that way.
He's never caught more than 50 passes in a season and is coming off a career-high four touchdowns in 2012. Unimpressive numbers to say the least. With Cook, however, it's more about what he can become rather than what he's accomplished.
If he ends up in an offense where he gets utilized more often, that raw talent will quickly turn into big numbers. He's just 25, so there's still plenty of time for him to develop into a star, but he needs to find the right system.
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