There are still plenty of top pass-rushers on the market.
The best players on the free-agent market have all been signed by this point in the offseason, and teams have turned their attention to the NFL draft, less than a month away.
Perhaps the biggest reason a lot of players are still on the market is that they aren’t impressive on the field anymore. If teams believe they can get an equal player in the draft, it would benefit them to wait until after the draft before considering a pricier veteran.
Some of the most common flaws are age and health, but there are plenty of other reasons teams aren’t going crazy signing the remaining free agents. A player might not be a scheme fit for teams that have a need at certain position, plus free agents almost always cost significantly more than draft picks. There are also off-field concerns that could be preventing a team from expressing interest in a certain player.
Every player who remains unsigned has some type of flaw or weakness that is keeping them on the market, even if they have a lot of traits that could be useful to NFL teams.
Pros: Ahmad Bradshaw is still relatively young and boasts a 4.6 yards-per-carry average in his career. Bradshaw also has relatively low miles for a running back entering his seventh year, with just 921 career attempts.
He’s also well-built for the position and has two 1,000-yard seasons. Bradshaw is solid in pass protection, which is becoming more and more valuable to NFL teams.
Cons: Bradshaw had surgery on his foot in January, according to ESPN.com, and has been waiting to take a physical with teams. Teams are going to be extremely cautious about a running back with a foot injury, as it could be a hindrance going forward.
Running backs are also among the least valued players in the NFL, because they can be found quite easily and the league is shifting toward the passing game.
Pros: Dwight Freeney has been an elite pass-rusher in the game since he came into the league in 2002. In his 11-year career, Freeney has racked up 107.5 sacks and seven double-digit sack seasons.
Freeney did most of his damage as a 4-3 defensive end, where he used his speed, snap anticipation, quickness and agility to slip past opposing left tackles. Freeney still has what it takes to be an elite pass-rusher, which is what will make him an intriguing player for a contending team.
Cons: Freeney switched to 3-4 outside linebacker in 2012, and his sack numbers dipped for the fourth consecutive year. Freeney isn’t known for his ability to defend the run either, so a team that signs him will want to have a few good linebackers to fill the run behind him.
At 33 years old, Freeney might be nothing more than a declining situational pass-rusher—and he's looking for a $6 million annual salary, according to NFL.com.
Pros: Andre Smith is a big, powerful tackle capable of pushing the pile. ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required) even graded Smith as the best right tackle in the NFL in 2012. Smith has been an excellent run-blocker and capable pass-blocker for the Bengals for the past two years.
Cons: One minor concern is that Smith lacks the foot speed to be a great pass-blocker and gives up too many sacks in the passing game. Inconsistent would be the right word for Smith. His work ethic concerns may be gone, but any team giving him a lucrative contract will need to feel comfortable that he will continue to improve.
Smith is seeking a contract that pays him $9 million per year, according to ProFootballTalk, and not every team will be looking to make such a large investment on a right tackle.
Pros: When Brent Grimes was healthy two years ago, he was one of the best cornerbacks in football. Grimes was so good that the Falcons gave him the franchise tag, which paid him like one of the top five cornerbacks in the NFL.
Grimes has clawed his way to the top, starting his career as an undrafted free agent. Grimes has progressed from a guy who plays on special teams into a player capable of shutting down the best wide receivers in the game. You can’t knock Grimes’ work ethic, heart and determination to succeed.
Cons: Grimes tore his Achilles tendon in Week 1 of 2012 and missed the rest of the year. He not only has to prove to a team that he is completely healthy, but also that he’s going to be the same player he was before the injury.
Grimes isn’t the biggest or most athletic cornerback, so any drop-off in his ability could negatively impact his play. Grimes has started all 16 games just once in his career, and he’ll be 30 years old in 2013—the age many cornerbacks begin to decline.
Pros: There are few interior defensive linemen as disruptive as Richard Seymour when he’s motivated. Seymour can take over games and create opportunities for teammates. At times Seymour has been one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. Seymour is also capable of playing in just about any scheme. Seymour is a good pass-rusher who is equally capable of playing the run.
Cons: Unfortunately, Seymour is inconsistent and undisciplined. He draws way too many penalties, but also plays better when he’s mixing it up with the offensive line. Seymour is a prickly veteran who was forced into a leadership role in Oakland and is probably only going to play in 2013 if he gets paid a lot, according to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports.
Seymour will be 34 years old next season, which makes him an unappealing option for most teams. Seymour also missed eight games with a hamstring injury in 2012, which makes him a very risky investment.
Pros: Brandon Moore was considered one of the leaders on the Jets and has been one of the most consistent guards in the NFL for the past few years. Moore has also been one of the most durable players in the NFL, playing in every game since Week 9 of 2004. Moore isn’t a big mauling guard, but he’s proven himself in the run game and is a very good pass-blocker.
Cons: Moore is 32 years old, which means his best years are probably behind him at this point. Starting 137 straight regular-season games at one of the interior line positions has got to take a physical toll, which could make some teams wonder how many good years he has left.
Maybe people think Moore will cause more butt fumbles?
Pros: John Abraham has been one of the most consistent pass-rushers in the NFL since he became a starter way back in 2001. Abraham has compiled 122 sacks and seven double-digit sack seasons in his illustrious career, including a 10-sack season in 2012.
Abraham has also proven to be quite durable and has missed just two games since the start of 2007. Abraham is a veteran who uses an assortment of pass-rush moves, quickness, speed and power to blow past offensive tackles.
Cons: Abraham will be 35 years old next season, which is ancient for a pass-rusher. Only a handful of pass-rushers have continued to have double-digit sack seasons at 35 or older. That list includes names like Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Chris Doleman, Kevin Greene and Rickey Jackson.
Abraham was still producing in 2012, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to keep it up for another year.
If Abraham only gets six sacks in 2013, it’s doubtful he’ll be worth what he gets paid this offseason. Abraham isn’t an every-down player at this stage of his career either, and could struggle against the run if asked to play on first and second down.
Pros: Eric Winston is considered to be an excellent zone-blocking right tackle. Some people even consider Winston to be the best right tackle in the NFL because he moves so well. Winston isn’t a mauler as a drive-blocker in the run game, but he’s not a pushover either. Winston also is a solid pass-protector capable of holding up without too much help.
Cons: Some people describe him as being a leader in the locker room, but he’s now been released by two teams in two years. There has to be a reason teams don’t want to hang onto the talented 29-year-old.
The Chiefs even released Winston despite not having a replacement on the roster, which was an odd move considering he was also quite affordable. Winston’s problem could simply be that he isn’t dominant, so teams are content using younger and more flawed players at the right tackle position.
Pros: Matt Slauson has been a starter at left guard for the last three years and has improved each year while starting every game. Still just 27 years old, Slauson has his best years ahead of him. Slauson has also worked to become a better pass-blocker, and he’s a good run-blocker who is capable of moving the pile.
Cons: Slauson has turned himself into a solid player, but doesn’t dominate in any one area. Non-dominant offensive guards aren’t highly coveted because they are thought to be relatively easy to find. Lesser guards can also be hidden between a strong tackle and center.
Unless a team sees Slauson turning into a great player in the next couple years, the market for his services could be slow until after the draft.
Pro: Charles Woodson was always a guy who could make plays, which is an attribute almost completely unrelated to his physical ability. As a sub-package player, Woodson can still be an asset to just about any defense.
Woodson’s understanding of the game is amazing, and he’s always been a solid tackler for a defensive back. As a roaming safety, Woodson could still have one good year left.
Cons: Woodson isn’t going to be a man-to-man cover cornerback like he once was, but he hasn’t been that guy in several years. Woodson will be 37 next year, and many people are questioning how much he has left in the tank. Woodson only played in seven games in 2012 and had one of his least productive seasons since coming to the Packers.
After being routinely exploited in pass coverage in 2012, Woodson may no longer have adequate physical attributes to get the job done.
Pros: Fred Davis is an extremely talented tight end and boasts excellent speed for the position and good hands. Davis might be one of the most purely athletic tight ends in the entire league. Davis’ 796 yards in 12 games in 2011 made him the Redskins' franchise player and convinced the team to release long-time tight end Chris Cooley.
Cons: Davis has off-field concerns, which will make him unattractive to some teams. Davis also tore his Achilles tendon last October, and he’ll have to prove he’s completely recovered before a team will take a risk on him. Some teams might fear that the injury could make it hard for Davis to regain his speed, one of his greatest assets.
Davis also isn’t a great blocker, so he’ll need to go to a team that can pair him with a good blocker at the position.
Pros: Nnamdi Asomugha was once considered one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, but that was when he was playing press-man with the Oakland Raiders and was rarely tested. Still boasting excellent length, Asomugha could rebound in the right defensive scheme. Asomugha is still a very smart player, with good size and above-average athleticism.
Cons: Asomugha failed to adjust to playing zone and off-man coverage with the Eagles and was released just two years after signing a lucrative contract. Any team planning to sign Asomugha is going to be scheme limited unless they have the cornerback depth to take him off the field.
In turning 32 years old this summer, there is also a concern that Asomugha has lost a step.