Predicting Landing Spots for Top Remaining Free Agents After the Draft
With the 2013 NFL draft weekend in the books, the top rookie talent is off the board whether they were among the 254 selections or scooped up by an NFL team as an undrafted free agent.
After shifting focus from free agency to the draft, the attention in NFL front offices throughout the league will return to the free-agency pool to determine whether any of the veteran players still lingering on the market are worth bringing in as late additions and potential fits to fill team needs.
While most available veterans are still there for one reason or another (age, injuries, declining performance and retirement consideration, to name a few), the following 15 players proved last season that they can still perform at least well enough to make an impact on an NFL team this season, even if they are afflicted by one of those factors.
All financial figures courtesy of Spotrac.
15. DE Israel Idonije
Israel Idonije is a big defensive end (6'7", 290 lbs.) who had 7.5 sacks as an outside-inside rusher last season, but is also solid against the run. He is a very solid player who should at least have interest as a rotational player at this point in the offseason.
At age 32, Idonije would be a solid short-term addition and a bargain as a rotational defensive end. He has the versatility to play defensive end in both 4-3 and 3-4 defensive schemes.
Prediction: Carolina Panthers
Idonije has not received much buzz as a free agent this offseason, but he still has the skill set to be a productive player.
He would be a strong addition in Carolina, where he can provide competition and depth with the Panthers remaining slim on defensive end talent outside of Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson.
14. SS Quintin Mikell
The St. Louis Rams released Quintin Mikell, even though he would still be their best safety, due to his contract and age at 32.
However, Mikell can still make an impact as a strong safety. He can be a liability at times in pass coverage, but he is a very good run-support safety who hits hard and is also a terrific safety blitzer.
For a team looking for competition at strong safety or for a third safety who can come in and play the run in situational packages, Mikell could be a bargain late in free agency.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
The Packers did not draft any safeties this year, even though it is one of the weaker points on their roster. M.D. Jennings is a solid player, but bringing in Mikell would be an upgrade in run support and would give Jennings some serious competition for his starting spot while the Packers have plenty of cap room (more than $15 million) to make a move.
13. OLB Michael Boley
There is nothing spectacular about Michael Boley's game, but he has been a reliable starting weakside linebacker who tackles consistently and is very effective in coverage.
He looked as though he started to lose a stop last season for the New York Giants, but as a player who will be 31 years old when the 2013 season begins, he should still have a couple of solid years in front of him.
If not viewed as a starter anymore, he can at least provide solid rotational depth as a likely low-priced veteran for a 4-3 defense needing a weakside linebacker.
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks
With Leroy Hill remaining unsigned, the Seahawks could use another weakside linebacker with a well-rounded game and provide some more coverage ability. The Seahawks have less than $6 million in cap space, but Boley would be a good addition for depth to their defensive front seven on a one-year, $1-2 million contract.
12. DT/DE Richard Seymour
Richard Seymour's playing days could be behind him.
Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole said in March that Seymour only wanted to play in the NFL again if he "gets paid a lot", but if Seymour gets an itch to come back and his asking price comes down, he would be a good addition for a team as a disruptive interior defensive lineman, even at almost 34 years old.
Seymour is best suited to play 5-technique defensive tackle, where he played during the glory years of his NFL career with the New England Patriots, but he could draw consideration from 4-3 teams as well.
Regardless, he is going to have to be willing to play for a short-term, lower-rate deal considering his age and that he only played eight games last season due to injury.
Seymour still has the talent to play in the NFL, but coming off of a hamstring injury and wanting big money, there will not be a market for him unless he decides to settle for a small contract. If that does not turn out to be the case, then he will be calling it a career.
11. CB/S Charles Woodson
Charles Woodson's potential Hall of Fame career is nearing its end, but even at 36 years old and coming off of an injury-riddled season, it would come as no surprise to see him sign a late contract, even if that does not come until after training camp has begun.
Woodson's career as a starter is likely over, but one of the most gifted ballhawk defensive backs in NFL history could still find a home as a situational cornerback/safety for his still-solid playmaking ability.
He would only make sense as an addition for a contender in need of secondary depth and would have to be willing to accept a one-year contract that could likely be the last of his career.
Prediction: Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos could still consider looking for another potential playmaker in their secondary and a player who can challenge Rahim Moore at free safety in training camp.
Woodson looks like a cheap option as a secondary signing at this point and would want to go to a team where he would have to chance to compete for a Super Bowl, which he would in Denver.
10. RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Like Michael Boley, Ahmad Bradshaw was also a cap casualty of the New York Giants last season. Having just been cleared to resume football activities on Friday (according to ESPN's Adam Schefter) after foot surgery, Bradshaw should begin to draw interest as a May addition for NFL teams looking for a rotational running back.
Bradshaw continued to be productive for the Giants last season, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark with 1,015 yards on 221 carries, and he continues to be a tough runner with great quickness and the ability to bounce off contact. He deserves to have a spot in the NFL as a top-two back in a rotation.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers do not have a solid second-string running back behind Doug Martin, especially after trading LeGarrette Blount to the New England Patriots. Bradshaw would be a smart investment to pair with Martin and give them a very strong one-two punch out of the backfield.
9. WR Brandon Lloyd
Brandon Lloyd did not live up to the New England Patriots' expectations as an outside receiving playmaker last year and was released after only one season with the team.
That said, he is a gifted wideout who can make the difficult catches, has good size and speed and was productive in his lone season in New England, catching 74 passes for 911 yards.
Lloyd may not have proven to be the No. 1 wideout on the outside the Patriots had expected him to be, but he could still a reliable second option on the outside for a team in need of a playmaker at receiver.
Prediction: Oakland Raiders
Having released Darrius Heyward-Bey earlier this offseason, the Raiders could use another receiving weapon on the outside opposite Denarius Moore. If they can get Lloyd at a short-term, relatively cheap contract following his latest release, he would be a quality addition to their passing offense.
8. DE Dwight Freeney
Dwight Freeney looked well past his pass-rushing prime as a 33-year-old last season.
The former Indianapolis Colts star could still have a home in the NFL as a rotational pass-rushing defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, where he is much better suited to play than outside linebacker, the position he was forced to move to when the Colts shifted to a 3-4 scheme last season.
He would be a great choice for a team looking for a defensive end to come off the bench and rotate in to keep the starters fresh while still being a technically sound and strong pass-rusher.
Prediction: Detroit Lions
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport identified the Lions as one of three teams who Freeney was interested in playing for in March, and even after drafting Ezekiel Ansah with the No. 5 overall pick, Freeney would make sense for the Lions on a one-year deal. The Lions have little else at defensive end outside of Ansah. Freeney would provide great rotational depth at the position.
7. DE John Abraham
John Abraham was one of numerous cap casualties from the Atlanta Falcons earlier this offseason, but even at 34 years old, Abraham showed he can continue to get after the quarterback last season with 10 sacks.
He may no longer be a three-down player at defensive end, but would be a solid additional still as a rotational pass-rush specialist. He will be 35 by the start of the season, but could be an attractive option for a contender in need of a pass-rusher on a one-year contract.
Prediction: New England Patriots
Abraham has been rumored to eventually become a New England Patriot since early in free agency, and according to NE Patriots Draft's Mike Loyko, the team is still working on a deal. The Patriots drafted two pass-rushers in Jamie Collins and Michael Buchanan, but could still use a rotational rush option who can make an immediate impact in 2013 by signing Abraham to a short-term contract.
6. DT Sedrick Ellis
Sedrick Ellis never quite lived up to expectations as the No. 7 overall pick of the New Orleans Saints in the 2008 NFL draft, but although he is not a particularly disruptive playmaker, he is a solid run-stopping defensive tackle who could add value as a rotational nose tackle in a 4-3 defense.
Ellis is not much of an interior pass-rusher and likely lost his free-agent value after not getting a single sack last season. That said, a team looking to beef up its interior run defense should consider Ellis as a likely bargain option for rotational depth.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons are weak at defensive tackle outside of Jonathan Babineaux and would be smart to consider Ellis if they could sign him for a low rate. He could push Peria Jerry and Corey Peters for a spot in the lineup and playing time as well as add some strength against the run on the interior defensive line.
5. FS Kerry Rhodes
Kerry Rhodes was a salary-cap casualty of the Arizona Cardinals due to a $6 million cap hit, but he is still among the NFL's top free safeties.
An athletic safety who is a playmaker in run support, but can still cover as well, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded Rhodes as the NFL's fourth-best safety last season.
At 30 years old, Rhodes is passing the peak of his career, but if he comes off the market late, he could be a bargain addition for a team looking for a one- to three-year option at free safety.
Prediction: Cleveland Browns
The Browns still have an unfilled need at free safety and $32 million in cap space. Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton came over from the Cardinals. Bringing in Rhodes to fill that need would be a logical move for both parties, as he excelled in Horton's system and could be drawn to Cleveland to follow him.
4. ILB Karlos Dansby
Karlos Dansby is coming off of his most productive season as a tackler, as he led the Dolphins and ranked 11th in the NFL with 134 total tackles.
The Dolphins replaced him this offseason with a younger, more athletic linebacker in Dannell Ellerbe, but even at 31 years old, Dansby would still be a great late addition by an NFL team as a run-stopping inside linebacker.
Dansby's game is better suited for playing in a 3-4 scheme, but he has had significant success in both. He has enough coverage ability to be a three-down linebacker and is a very good run defender who attacks the line of scrimmage and can blow up plays at the line of scrimmage.
Prediction: Denver Broncos
The Broncos did not draft a middle linebacker as a potential upgrade over Joe Mays and Nate Irving in a move that many expected in this year's draft. They could find a short-term upgrade immediately by adding Dansby as a free-agent addition to help bolster their presence in the interior run defense.
3. G Brandon Moore
Brandon Moore has consistently been one of the NFL's best guards over the past decade.
Although he continued his high level of play as both a run-blocker and pass-blocker last season—he graded out fourth among all NFL guards, according to Pro Football Focus—the 32-year-old remains unsigned.
If anything, it is surprising that he was not retained by his own team, which has a need at guard after letting both of their starters go. While Moore is getting older, he remains a quality starter at right guard and would be a great short-term fix for a team in need at the position.
Prediction: Cleveland Browns
The Browns should be looking for a short-term option and upgrade at right guard over Shawn Lauvao, and they could get that from Moore, who is an immediate plug-and-play option that would solidify an otherwise strong front line to the Cleveland offense
2. OT Tyson Clabo
Tyson Clabo (6'6", 314 lbs.) is a massive and powerful right tackle who can still shore up the right side of the offensive line as both a strong run-blocker and an efficient pass-protector.
Clabo was a surprising release to clear up cap room for the Atlanta Falcons, but is still available on the board. He would be a great addition for a two- or three-year contract on a team with a hole on the right side of its offensive line.
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
Doug Free had a very rough season at right tackle last season and the Cowboys still need to find an upgrade over him. The Cowboys remained interested in Clabo one week prior to the draft, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora. Considering they did not draft a right tackle, Clabo would make sense now as a late free-agent signing.
1. OT Eric Winston
Eric Winston has had a surprisingly difficult time sticking on an NFL roster, having been released in back-to-back seasons even though he is one of the league's best right tackles.
That said, the 29-year-old should find another home for a decent contract this offseason, one where he will hope to get a long-term contract and be able to play it out.
For a team in need of a right tackle, Winston would be a great choice and could come at a bargain rate after being released for a second consecutive year.
Prediction: Miami Dolphins
After failing to trade for Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert during the draft, the Miami Dolphins are likely to turn to free agency to find a starter opposite second-year offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, who could be projected to play on either the left or right side next season.
Winston has been in a "steady dialogue" with the Dolphins, according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald and would make sense to fill their need, at least as a right tackle if they feel comfortable playing Martin on the left side.
Dan Hope is an NFL draft featured columnist at Bleacher Report and was a National Draft Correspondent for this year’s live coverage of the 2013 NFL draft.