Best Bargains Still Available on the NFL Free-Agency Market
Outside of the NFC West arms race between San Francisco and Seattle, top teams around the National Football League were somewhat quiet during the first week of free agency.
This didn't stop hopeful contenders such as the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns from going on spending sprees in an attempt to catch up to the elite clubs in the AFC. While I highly doubt either made enough "good" moves to do so, these acquisitions, at least from the Browns' perspective, were needed.
That means there are a ton of valuable free agents still on the market.
Let's take a look at the best bargain options out there as the second week of NFL free agency gets going.
Note: I will only look at bargain free agents here. Those still on the market expected to sign larger deals are not included in this article.
Felix Jones, Running Back
If a team seeks a running back on the cheap with little risk, Felix Jones might be the way to go. The former first-round pick out of Arkansas has failed to excel in the NFL because lingering issues with consistency have impacted his ability to make a difference.
He does, however, have a ton of talent and upside as a change-of-pace running back. Jones' best year came in 2010 when he tallied 1,250 total yards and caught 48 passes.
Expect a "prove it" contract in the neighborhood of $2 million per season for Jones. The Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals make sense.
Jones has yet to make a free-agent stop.
Greg Jones, Fullback
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For Greg Jones, it really doesn't matter that he's one of the best fullbacks in the NFL. He couldn't have found a worse time to hit the open market. As most of you already know, the fullback position is quickly becoming extinct—with the exception of a few teams.
Jones has been Maurice Jones-Drew' lead blocker for seven seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and helped the talented running back win the NFL rushing title in 2011 (via Pro Football Reference).
The former second-round pick should draw interest from teams that still utilize a lead blocker. His value should be relatively high for teams in that situation.
Considering that new Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley came from the Seattle Seahawks, who utilized Michael Robinson in a similar role to Jones, a return to Jacksonville could be in the making.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Wide Receiver
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Some will go on record calling Darrius Heyward-Bey a bust, but it is a bit too soon for that. He hasn't exactly had the best quarterback play and supporting cast around him in Oakland. In addition, injuries have held the former top-10 pick back a great deal.
He did nearly compile 1,000 yards on 64 receptions in 2011 but failed to continue progressing this past season due to injury issues and a lack of consistency.
Heyward-Bey can be a solid deep threat for a team in need of help at wide receiver. The Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers come to mind first.
His contract will likely be in the range of the three-year, $8.6 million deal Donnie Avery received from the Kansas City Chiefs. If not, Heyward-Bey could easily look for a one-year deal and hit the market again in 2014.
Fred Davis, Tight End
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If it hadn't been for a four-game suspension to end the 2011 season, Davis would have broken the bank last offseason. Instead, he came back to the Washington Redskins and suffered an Achilles injury that saw him miss the final nine games of the season (via The Washington Post).
The former second-round pick out of USC is one of the more talented young tight ends in the NFL and can bring a heck of a lot to the table in terms of receiving ability.
ESPN's Adam Schefter recently reported (h/t Rotoworld) that the Cleveland Browns "are serious" about signing Davis. This makes a lot of sense for multiple reasons. Whoever Cleveland has under center next season will need to have a solid safety valve between the hashes. In addition, it looks like Ben Watson will move on.
Whether it is Brandon Weeden or a rookie like Geno Smith under center in 2013, Cleveland needs to get a talented tight end in the mix.
A contract similar to the four-year, $20.4 million deal that Martellus Bennett inked with the Chicago Bears last week seems to be the market value for Davis.
Will he get it this "late" into free agency? That's the question.
Brandon Moore, Guard
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Talk about production. Brandon Moore has started every single game over the last eight years and was among the best interior linemen in the league during that span. He doesn't get a lot of attention because of who the New York Jets have along the offensive line, but Moore is a damn good football player.
At 32 years old, Moore's market has not been as strong as he might have expected.
Still, there are a myriad of teams out there who could use an upgrade at guard.
The Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears could show interest as the second tier of free agency gets going.
According to Pro Football Focus, Moore compiled a positive ranking in each of his final eight starts with the Jets in 2012. It's this type of consistency that appeals to multiple teams on the market.
John Abraham, Defensive End
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Just a week ago, many assumed that John Abraham would take his talents out west to either the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers. Seattle has since brought in both Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, taking it completely out of the market for Abraham.
Considering that the veteran defensive end left San Francisco without a contract in hand and went on to visit with New England, it's easy to draw the conclusion that both Abraham and the 49ers have moved on.
Yes, the market sure seems to be dwindling a great deal for someone who has recorded 122 career sacks. This indicates that Abraham will see a relatively small contract considering his past performance.
I highly doubt that he earns anything more than $3 million per season at this point in his career. That makes Abraham extremely attractive to numerous teams in need of help getting to the quarterback.
While San Francisco did show initial interest, you have to believe that Abraham's market is strictly limited to teams that run a standard 4-3 defense.
Richard Seymour, Defensive Tackle
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It is important to note that Richard Seymour is just one season removed from being selected to the Pro Bowl and performing at the top of his game.
I could care less that the 12-year veteran turns 34 next October. He still has a whole heck of a lot left in the tank.
Despite missing eight games this past season due to injury, Seymour will help against the run and consistently take up double-teams, which helps oncoming pass-rushers hit their stride on the outside.
Seymour can play in both the 4-3 and 3-4, which indicates that the second tier of free agency should be kind to him.
Jason Cole of Yahoo! reported that Seymour will only play in 2013 "if he gets paid a lot." We already know this won't happen, so the veteran will have to settle for a short-term deal that won't pay him a whole lot.
The New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts seem to be fits. Expect Seymour to play for a contender unless he decides to go back to Oakland.
Alan Branch, Defensive Lineman
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Alan Branch was a major bust with the Arizona Cardinals in his first four NFL seasons. The former second-round pick from Michigan came into the league with high hopes but fizzled out in a big way in the desert. He started just three games and really didn't make much of an impact during that span.
Following his disappointing tenure in Arizona, Branch signed a small two-year, $8 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks. Over the last two seasons, Branch has been one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the entire league. He is stout against the run, collapses the pocket and can take up double-teams.
Still, the market hasn't seemed to play out too well for Branch.
Teams who run a 3-4 defense should come calling first. Branch can play the hybrid role if asked, but he succeeded in Seattle's defensive scheme under former coordinator Gus Bradley.
Either way, this is someone we should all pay attention to moving forward.
James Harrison, Linebacker
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James Harrison's worst performance of the last six seasons came this past year when he tallied a meager six sacks. The 34-year-old linebacker still has a bit left in the tank and is unlikely to return to Pittsburgh in 2013 following his release.
Only teams that run a 3-4 defense will pursue Harrison, limiting his market. While that seems to be an issue for a linebacker of his age, Harrison has been a darn productive performer as of late.
According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, the Ravens are "still talking" to Harrison. Baltimore just lost Paul Kruger to the Cleveland Browns and needs someone to share a role opposite Terrell Suggs at outside linebacker. In addition, Harrison has played his entire career in a 3-4 defense.
Either way, Harrison will make a strong impact for the $3 million or $4 million he makes in 2013.
Karlos Dansby, Linebacker
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Raise your hand if you were shocked by the news that the Miami Dolphins had signed Dannell Ellerbe. Now raise your hand if you realize that he isn't a significant upgrade over Karlos Dansby, whom the Dolphins just released.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Dansby ranked 16th among linebackers against the pass. While this isn't the greatest barometer of success, it does indicate that his perceived weakness is a bit overblown.
The veteran isn't scheme-specific either. He can be utilized in multiple roles in both the 4-3 and 3-4. That will definitely make Dansby someone worth mentioning as this week progresses.
Obviously, the Baltimore Ravens seem like a great fit. They just lost Ellerbe to the Dolphins and could use a replacement.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Cornerback
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Yes, Nnamdi Asomugha struggled a great deal these past two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. Expectations were incredibly high for a cornerback considered one of the best in the league during his days with the Oakland Raiders.
There are multiple reasons for this.
First, Philadelphia boasted one of the worst sets of safeties in the NFL during Asomugha's tenure. Even the best cover guys in the NFL need someone reliable over the top.
Second, the Eagles ran off coverage a majority of the time. This doesn't fit into the strengths that we saw from Asomugha in Oakland. He is a beast as a press guy and absolutely eats up wide receivers at the line.
Even at 31 years old, this veteran cornerback could easily go into the right situation and remake his career.
Asomugha has long been rumored to the San Francisco 49ers, which makes a lot of sense. They run press coverage and want a taller defensive back. However, it is important to note that he left Santa Clara without a contract and met with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday (via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area).
If Asomugha goes into the right situation, he should be able to resurrect a fledgling career. My money is still on San Francisco.
Charles Woodson, Safety
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Charles Woodson might be old, and he might be coming off an injury-plagued 2012 season, but the safety convert can still play this game we call football. He is better in coverage than a vast majority of the safeties that have come off the market and brings a great deal of veteran leadership with him.
The only team that Woodson has as much as met with since he was released by the Green Bay Packers is San Francisco.
Where does this leave the future Hall of Famer? If he needs to "beg" for a contract, my assumption is that Woodson just calls it quits. After all, he doesn't have a whole heck of a lot to prove.
Much like the previous slide, it seems that the writing is on the wall for Woodson to join the 49ers as a cheap veteran addition.
On that note, why isn't there a real market for him? That's the intriguing question at this point.
Vincent Frank is a NFL featured columnist here at Bleacher Report. He was hired prior to the 2011 season and couldn't be happier working with a great group of individuals here. In addition, Vincent is the head sports editor over at eDraft and co-host of eDraft Sports Radio, which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. ET.
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