The Most Underrated Players on the NFL Free-Agent Market
While players like Joe Flacco, Ryan Clady and Dwayne Bowe will garner plenty of attention from teams, there are a handful of players who will be underrated once free agency begins. Some of these players might have that label due to lack of playing time, while others are just undervalued.
Today, we'll break down those players on the NFL free-agent market while looking at possible landing spots.
Matt Moore, Quarterback
Potential Landing Spots: Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders
Let's start off by saying that Matt Moore is not a franchise quarterback. He isn't going to be leading a team for the next five years.
Think of Moore as more of a positional holder until something better comes along. Both the Raiders and Cardinals could use a new quarterback, but both hold high draft picks (third and seventh, respectively) they might not be willing to spend on the 2013 draft class.
Moore has proved in the past that he can be a successful starter, and there are plenty of teams that could use his talents for at least one year.
Jason Campbell, Quarterback
Potential Landing Spots: Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars
Think of Jason Campbell as a better version of Matt Moore. He's not a long-term solution, but he could provide solid play for a year or two.
Campbell clearly has the experience; he's started for both the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders. In fact, he actually looked good for the Raiders in 2011 before an injured collarbone knocked him out for the season.
Much like Moore, teams that are wary of trusting the quarterbacks of the 2013 draft class to lead their franchise will be pleased with a player like Campbell.
Reggie Bush, Running Back
Potential Landing Spots: Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions
The reason that Reggie Bush is considered underrated on the free-agent market is because he is a legitimate No. 1 running back. He's certainly proved that over the last two seasons with Miami.
While teams may be looking to make Bush a third-down specialty back, he is far too talented to be limited to only that role. However, his struggles with injuries in the past will likely make teams hesitant of giving him big money.
Look for whoever lands Bush to get an absolute steal as they sign one of the best playmakers in the game to a friendly contract.
Chris Ivory, Running Back
Potential Landing Spots: New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers
With so many running backs in New Orleans, it hasn't been easy for Chris Ivory to stand out. However, he may be more talented than Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas or Darren Sproles.
While he hasn't had many carries in his career (only 256 in three years), he has shown the ability to make the most of them. He's averaging 5.1 yards per carry in his career, despite the fact that teams know the Saints are running when he is in the game.
With such fresh legs, Ivory could step in and be the primary ball-carrier for a number of years in the league. Look for a team like Green Bay, which has lacked any type of ground game, to take a long look at Ivory in free agency.
Greg Jennings, Wide Receiver
Potential Landing Spots: Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs
It may seem surprising to consider Greg Jennings as an underrated free agent. After all, Jennings was considered a top-10 receiver a few years ago, and he still has plenty in the tank to offer teams at only 29 years old.
Unfortunately, injuries over the past two seasons have dramatically affected Jennings' value to teams. It is unlikely that Jennings will end up back with the Green Bay Packers, but whoever does sign him could end up getting the best deal in free agency.
As long as Jennings can stay healthy, he can still dominate in this league.
Domenik Hixon, Wide Receiver
Potential Landing Spots: New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings
Due to injuries in New York this past season, Domenik Hixon was able to see an increase in playing time for a few weeks. He took full advantage as he hauled in 39 receptions for 567 yards and two touchdowns in just 13 games.
Hixon's big performance came in Week 4, where he managed to grab six catches for a whopping 114 receiving yards. In that game, Hixon showed that he can be a valuable deep-threat receiver for any team in the league.
While he likely won't be a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver, he can still be a playmaker.
James Casey, Fullback/Tight End
Potential Landing Spots: Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins
For teams looking to add a dangerous receiver to their roster who can play a number of positions, they should look no further than James Casey.
As a "fullback" for the Houston Texans, Casey proved to be a valuable member of one of the league's top offenses. Not only is he willing and able to get out and block, Casey is also a very capable receiver out of the backfield.
Don't be surprised if the team that does sign Casey—if it isn't Houston—ends up moving him more toward a traditional tight end position. If that happens, he could put up some huge numbers in the right offense.
Delanie Walker, Tight End
Potential Landing Spots: San Francisco 49ers
After putting together quite the performance for the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, I simply can't see how they can let Delanie Walker leave this offseason.
Walker can basically do whatever a team needs him to do. Need a huge block? Walker can do that. Want him to make a huge reception in the middle of the field? No problem.
It's unfortunate that Walker plays behind a player like Vernon Davis, because as a No. 1 tight end, he could really be something special.
Andy Levitre, Offensive Guard
Potential Landing Spots: San Diego Chargers, Chicago Bears
Teams in desperate need of a talented offensive lineman would be hard pressed to find a better option than Andy Levitre in free agency.
While he's mostly unknown to the casual fan, Levitre had a dominant year for the Buffalo Bills in 2012. According to Pro Football Focus, Levitre finished as the ninth-rated offensive guard this season.
Look for both the Chargers and Bears to make a strong push to improve their pass protection this offseason with Levitre.
Desmond Bryant, Defensive Tackle
Potential Landing Spots: Oakland Raiders, Chicago Bears
As an undrafted free agent out of Harvard University in 2009, Desmond Bryant had quite the uphill battle to even get into the league. However, he's taken full advantage of his playing time, even cracking the starting lineup in the second half of the 2012 season.
Bryant can do a little bit of everything for a defense, but he really excels at rushing the quarterback. He finished this last season with four sacks, and he also recorded 20 quarterback hurries.
A team like the Bears, who could be losing free agent Henry Melton, could be interested in bringing in a player like Bryant.
Dwight Freeney, Defensive End/Linebacker
Potential Landing Spots: Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons
When the Indianapolis Colts switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, no one really knew what to expect from Dwight Freeney. He'd been a great defensive end, but he didn't project well as an outside linebacker.
He struggled this past season, which could deter some teams from looking at Freeney, who turns 33 years old later this month. However, Freeney could still have plenty to offer teams as a situational pass-rusher.
Don't be surprised if Freeney has a bounce-back season for whoever signs him.
Victor Butler, Outside Linebacker
Potential Landing Spots: Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints
Despite only playing 300 snaps this past season, Victor Butler made quite the impact while on the field.
Not only was he successful against the run, but Butler also showed that he can produce some pressure off the edge. In fact, Butler actually graded out better than DeMarcus Ware in limited time, according to Pro Football Focus.
While Butler needs work when dropping into coverage, he should be highly sought after as an every-down linebacker for 3-4 defenses.
Brad Jones, Inside Linebacker
Potential Landing Spots: Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens
With the Green Bay Packers suffering injuries all over their defense, Brad Jones was able to get on the field and prove what he can do.
Jones actually played better than A.J. Hawk for the majority of the season. He proved to be valuable both against the run and against the pass for the Packers.
With the Ravens losing Ray Lewis, and the Bears still uncertain about the future of Brian Urlacher, both teams could be looking to add a player like Jones.
Bradley Fletcher, Cornerback
Potential Landing Spots: St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions
While Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins got much of the publicity in St. Louis this past season, Bradley Fletcher actually graded out better than either cornerback.
Fletcher held opposing quarterbacks to a 55.8 quarterback rating when they threw his way. Of course, he only played 374 snaps this season, but the proof is there that Fletcher can be a successful cornerback.
Teams looking for a starting-caliber cornerback will take a long look at Fletcher.
Adam "Pacman" Jones, Cornerback
Potential Landing Spots: Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos
Adam "Pacman" Jones quietly had a solid season for the Cincinnati Bengals. He played mostly as a nickel cornerback, which is probably how he's best suited for the remainder of his career.
Now that Jones has tamed his antics off the field, he appears focused on the game of football. His overall grade, via Pro Football Focus, landed him as the 11th-best cornerback in the league this season.
No team is likely to give Jones a long-term deal, but considering that he can be a valuable member of a defense, he could end up being the steal of free agency.
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