The 2014 free-agency class is deep, so the best thing NFL teams can do is resist the urge to splurge on major names in favor of saving cap space and taking a gamble on some of the market's deep sleepers.
Players who qualify for the description litter the market.
Whether it is a guy coming back from injury or simply a player who does not get enough credit for his quality body of work, free agency is filled with bargain buys who will instantly upgrade rosters around the league.
Kenny Britt, WR
Kenny Britt simply wore out his welcome in Tennessee and believes the staff was not fair to him, as detailed by John Glennon of The Tennessean:
Britt says he doesn't think he got a fair shake this year. Says other WRs dropped balls, so he thought there was double standard.— John Glennon (@glennonsports) December 30, 2013
Regardless of the validity of that statement by Britt, he deserves another chance. To be fair, he was buried behind the likes of Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Damian Williams on the depth chart last season.
Just 25 years old and coming in at 6'3" and 223 pounds, there is a lot to like about Britt. He is the same reliable player who caught nine touchdown passes in 12 games way back in 2010—when healthy.
The receiver market is so deep and Britt's final year in Tennessee was so strange that he will come at a very, very cheap cost. The team to scoop him up may end up with the steal of the class.
Brian de la Puente, C
It should be a criminal offense to continually underrate Brian de la Puente this badly.
As the man who was tasked with protecting Drew Brees in one of the NFL's most pass-happy attacks, De La Puente did a stellar job and has earned himself a nice chunk of change on the market this year.
He certainly will not get the same attention as an Alex Mack, but De La Puente is going to make some team very happy about their investment in the offensive trenches.
Clinton McDonald, DT
A former seventh-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that shipped him off after not having room for him a few years ago, Clinton McDonald was a critical cog in the defensive line last season who helped Seattle to the Super Bowl.
McDonald is quietly one of the league's better 4-3 interior pass-rushers. He ranked as the No. 27 overall tackle in the NFL last year, according to PFF, with his highest grade coming as a rusher.
As much as McDonald has to love the idea of sticking around and getting another shot at a Lombardi Trophy in Seattle, the prospect of potentially becoming an every-down starter and eventually being paid like one is probably even more tantalizing.
McDonald has plenty to offer tackle-needy teams such as Dallas and may come at a cheap cost thanks to his lack of starting experience. Whichever team takes the gamble will be rewarded in a major way.
Willie Young, DE
It's interesting how far under the radar Willie Young is at the moment, especially when one compares his production to that of some of the bigger names on the market, as Justin Rogers of MLive.com did:
Everson Griffen gets 5 years, $42 million. He had 27 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 46 QBP. Willie Young had 47 tackles, 3 sacks and 56 QBP.— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) March 9, 2014
To be fair, Young does not sound all too concerned about where he ends up with Detroit seemingly out of the picture, as captured by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:
I’m not stirred up, I’m not stressed about stuff with it. I am very excited, though. I have to tell you that I am very excited to be in the situation that I am in right now. I don’t think about it, but I just try to — I’m just enjoying it. It’s going to be interesting to see the teams that are willing to put in a bid for me or what not. And just going to look forward and going and producing for whoever the final decision comes out to be with.
Young is versatile, which really opens up his options on the market. He is one of the more efficient pass-rushers on the market, but does not seem close to landing with any team in the first wave of free agency.
But he should. Young quietly ranked as the No. 16 overall 4-3 defensive end last year, according to PFF. Sooner or later his market will get hot, so a needy team should quietly enter the fray early and work something out.