Analyzing the Best Remaining NFL Free Agents and Where They'll Sign
The NFL free-agency period began with a lot of big-name signings, including Greg Jennings, Ed Reed and Elvis Dumervil. Some teams are still restructuring contracts and rosters to gain more cap room in an attempt to acquire one of the remaining unsigned players.
A lot of organizations feel they’re only one piece away from getting their team to the next level and these are the 10 best free agents remaining that will do so.
10: Victor Butler, LB
Victor Butler may not be a name that you’re accustomed to, but that could change next season. The former Cowboys OLB showed signs of real potential in the past, being able to come off the edge and rush the quarterback.
His stats don’t give him much recognition but that’s in part due to a lack of playing time behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. If he finds the right home, he has the talent to generate double digit sack numbers.
According to CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora, Butler has met with the Saints, along with the Steelers and Eagles. I see Butler ending up in New Orleans to be reunited with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
9: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR
Teams are always looking for new weapons in the passing game and former Raider Darrius Heyward-Bey is one of the best players left in that department. The first-round pick has underachieved his whole career, but perhaps a new team and consistent quarterback are just what he needs to become a top target.
The Colts announced on their team website that the receiver will be visiting Indianapolis this week. I think this fit works perfectly for both parties as the Colts find a cheap replacement for Donnie Avery and Heyward-Bey gets to catch passes from Andrew Luck.
8: Fred Davis, TE
Fred Davis is another offensive playmaker several teams could effectively utilize. Throughout his career in Washington, Davis has shown plenty of skill in the receiving game, including an ability to make big plays.
The negative is that he’s coming off season-ending Achilles surgery and we don’t know how he’ll react. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Davis had dinner with Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone this weekend. I think Buffalo is the place for Davis because of their lack of depth at tight end and in the passing game as a whole.
7: Michael Huff, S
Michael Huff is another top draft pick that failed to work out in Oakland. The 30-year-old safety is still considered a quality player however, and can help several teams’ secondary issues. Huff has shown he can be a durable starter in the league, missing only four games over the last seven seasons.
The Fort-Worth Star Telegram reported that the former Texas Longhorn is meeting with the Dallas Cowboys this week, even though they would have to clear some cap room before making any signing. The Cowboys would love to have Huff at safety as they are extremely thin at the position after releasing Gerald Sensabaugh. I see Huff in Dallas next year.
6: Antoine Winfield, CB
Cornerbacks will always be a necessity in the NFL, especially ones that have proven themselves throughout their career. Antoine Winfield, despite his age of 35, can still play the position with the best of them. Last season, Winfield had more pass deflections (12) than he’s ever had in his career.
According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, the Washington Redskins will talk to the corner this Wednesday. D.C. would be a great fit for Winfield who will help replace DeAngelo Hall and in doing so, join a Super Bowl contender.
5: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB
Two years ago, Nnamdi Asomugha was the most sought-after free agent in the market. After signing a monster deal worth more than $60 million in Philadelphia, everything has gone wrong and he’s back in free agency.
The corner had a very rough two seasons in Philly, but he’s young enough to turn the back-end of his career around. Matt Maiocco of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area reported that Asomugha met with the Saints on Sunday. New Orleans is the perfect spot for him because of his former ties to Rob Ryan and his ability to help one of the worst defenses in the league.
4: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB
Ahmad Bradshaw is by far the best running back on the market. The 27-year-old is recovering from a foot injury but still rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year.
Bradshaw told the Michael Kay Show that the Packers, Steelers, and Jets have all reported interest in him. I think Bradshaw can definitely be a starter in this league for a few more seasons and could really help solidify someone’s backfield. I see him signing in New York with the Jets or in Pittsburgh because of both teams’ commitment to the run.
3: Dwight Freeney, DE
Dwight Freeney has been one of the NFL’s greatest pass-rushers over the last decade. The defensive end has tallied more than 100 sacks throughout his career thus far. With the Colts parting ways, Freeney will have a new home in 2013 to terrorize quarterbacks.
According to Ian Rapoport, both the Saints and Broncos have an interest in the former All-Pro. Even though I think the Saints' defense needs him more, I see the Broncos grabbing Freeney to replace the loss of Elvis Dumervil.
2: Brent Grimes, CB
Brent Grimes is the top cornerback available in free agency. The increase of passing in the league has made the cornerback spot one of the biggest necessities for any good defense.
Grimes has shown his talent on the field with Atlanta, intercepting five or more passes in a season twice over his first six years. A cause for concern is that Grimes missed all but one game last year due to a torn Achilles.
1: Osi Umenyiora, DE
The best available NFL free agent remaining is two-time Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora. The defensive end didn’t have his strongest year with the Giants in 2012, but was still very much a key contributor.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Umenyiora said, "The only thing I can think of that would be better than being able to win in New York would be to be able to win here in Atlanta.”
Umenyiora would bring the pass rush Atlanta needs and fill the void left by John Abraham and potentially make Atlanta a real threat for the Lombardi Trophy.