Available NFL Free Agents Who Can Still Be 2013 Starters
The bulk of the players in the NFL free-agent crop have already found new homes and donned new jerseys, but there are still guys on the open market who can make an immediate impact.
Starters are waiting to be plucked from the depths of despair and lifted onto an active roster where they can showcase their skills and prove that they were available for far too long. But which current free agents are worthy of such a distinction?
Let's wade through free agency and find players who can legitimately be Week 1 starters for whatever organization brings them in. In doing so, we will skip over punters and kickers, as any of those players that are signed are expected to start.
There are at least 12 players who fit the criteria. Some are obvious, such as Dwight Freeney and Andre Smith, but who will be joining them in the ranks?
Let's start with a safety who has been hiding in plain sight in Jacksonville.
12. Dawan Landry, S
Dawan Landry is a player who has been overlooked for seemingly his entire career. He has been a solid safety in the NFL for seven seasons, but he never garnered much attention with the Baltimore Ravens or Jacksonville Jaguars.
Still, Landry has 431 career total tackles and 12 interceptions. He is a quality player in coverage who has sound lateral quickness and good form. Landry is never going to miss assignments and give up the big play due to poor positioning.
His low interception totals show that he does not have the best nose for the ball or making exceptional plays, but he is a smart football player and is going to bring experience and leadership to a defense.
Add those traits to his impressive tackle totals, and you have someone who can be brought in as a starter with no question marks surrounding him.
11. Eric Winston, OT
There is a stark contrast between a player like Eric Winston and the other offensive tackle to come later on (spoiler: it's Andre Smith).
Winston is simply not the force that a player like Smith is. He is not exceptional at run blocking or pass protecting, but he is serviceable. It may not exactly be a glowing review, but Winston is capable of getting the job done.
He is going to make the plays he has to and rarely will cost his team a game. The price that Winston eventually finds in free agency will reflect that.
10. Quintin Mikell, S
It is going to be tough for Quintin Mikell to improve upon the impressive numbers he posted last season with the St. Louis Rams: 101 tackles, three sacks and four forced fumbles.
Mikell is a hard-hitting safety who is unafraid to step up and make any play. He does not always have the best instincts, but this 10-year veteran is absolutely fearless.
Mikell has reached his proverbial plateau, and it is up to prospective teams to determine how much gas he has left in the tank. He is certainly capable option in the short term.
9. Richard Seymour, DL
Richard Seymour is fully capable of being a starter next season pretty much anywhere on the defensive line.
He can rush off the edge or be a competent interior lineman. He can play in a 4-3 scheme or switch over to a 3-4. It is that versatility that makes him such an intriguing player at 33 years old.
Seymour has plenty of mileage on his tires, but he is still playing great football and should have at least two to three years of solid starting capabilities left in him.
Teams must account for Seymour at all times and have to be wary of the fact that he has recorded 18.5 sacks over the last four seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
8. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB
There is a misconception floating around that Nnamdi Asomugha has suddenly become a borderline starter who is too risky to keep on the field for the majority of a game.
This notion is absolutely ridiculous. Asomugha was uncomfortable in Philadelphia and did not gel with the Eagles' Wide 9 defensive scheme that was consistently used. He is adept at playing man-to-man coverage and using his physicality to bully receivers at the line of scrimmage.
In Philly, Asomugha was forced out of his element in zone coverage, and the lackluster results showed that it was not a smart transition to force him to make. Asomugha is 31 years old, so he is not out of his physical prime just yet.
This former Pro Bowler will be hard-pressed to find a massive contract waiting for him in free agency, but if he accepts a reasonable price, he can be a steal for someone on the open market.
7. John Abraham, DE
John Abraham is a freak of nature. There is no other way to describe this 34-year-old defensive end who seems to only get better with age.
Abraham recorded 10 sacks and 38 quarterback hurries last season. Those numbers correlate with the fact that he has at least 9.5 sacks in each of the last three seasons. He is not showing signs of age or the toll it takes on all players.
Maybe Abraham is secretly Benjamin Button. Maybe he stole Superman's kryptonite and has learned how to harness its power for himself.
6. Brandon Moore, OG
There is no legitimate reason for Brandon Moore to still be on the free-agent market. Like Andre Smith's run-blocking skill at the tackle position, Moore has one standout part of his game: pass protection.
After you get past the "butt fumble" blunder that he shared with Mark Sanchez last season, you see that Moore is 6'3", 305 pounds and provides an impenetrable wall that any QB would be happy to hide behind.
Moore has quick feet, especially for a player his size, and quickly moves at the snap of the ball. He has room to improve at running over defenders in the run game, but his agility is an asset that teams should not take lightly as free agency marches onward.
5. Dwight Freeney, DE
Dwight Freeney is not the dominant pass-rusher he was at an earlier point in his career. He will likely not garner double-digit sacks again or push for Pro Bowl honors.
However, if utilized properly, he can be a solid edge-rusher who can excel in bursts. Freeney is an 11-year veteran, so he simply does not have the motor he once did, but he is one of the smartest defensive linemen in football and always knows where to be.
Freeney knows when to use his superb spin move and when to attempt an inside rush. The problem is just that he cannot properly utilize his skills as an every-down player. Freeney can (and should) start wherever he goes, but his new franchise must realize his limitations.
Giving him limited snaps and putting him in a rotation will ensure that Freeney's talents are put to good use.
4. Kerry Rhodes, S
Kerry Rhodes has the potential to be an exceptional safety who could possibly make another Pro Bowl or two.
Rhodes is 30 years old and has eight seasons under his belt. However, that is not much of a detriment at this point because he is coming off a season in which he recorded four interceptions and 67 tackles. Rhodes is playing at his peak right now and should be an upgrade wherever he goes.
His 488 career tackles and 23 interceptions show that he has a history of consistency. Rhodes is a player who can be counted on and was a huge contributor to the Arizona Cardinals' defensive success over the past three seasons.
3. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB
Ahmad Bradshaw won't be a sole running back in the vein of Adrian Peterson or Marshawn Lynch. Instead, he needs a complementary power back to be at his most effective. Somewhat like the way he had Brandon Jacobs at his side earlier in his career.
Bradshaw has battled injuries over the past few seasons, but he is a versatile runner who can be effective in multiple ways. He can run up the middle, off the edge or be a threat in the passing game.
He has two 1,000-yard seasons to his credit and a 4.6 yards-per-carry average over the course of his career. If Bradshaw can stay healthy, he could prove to be one of the better free-agent pickups of the offseason.
2. Antoine Winfield, CB
It is usually tough to put much stock in a 14-year veteran as a starting option, but Antoine Winfield defies common logic. He is not deteriorating with age. Instead, Winfield continues to play at an extremely impressive level.
Winfield is one of the better cornerbacks in all of football because of his ability to excel in so many facets of the position. He can drop into a zone and pick off passes, press at the line of scrimmage or play man-to-man for 30 yards down the field.
There is little that is not in Winfield's repertoire, and that is likely why he has 895 career total tackles and 27 interceptions. He may be not be a long-term solution, but Winfield can be one of the best stopgap answers in football.
1. Andre Smith, OT
Andre Smith is one of the best run-blockers in the NFL. He had a slow start to his career after being overweight and slow coming out of the University of Alabama, but he has found his footing.
Smith, 26, is not a great pass-protector, but he is certainly serviceable in that regard. It is largely negated because of his exceptional run-blocking skills.
One has to always wonder if Smith will stay dedicated to the game after he signs another big contract. He has shown inconsistency at times, but he has the talent to be a perennial Pro Bowler.