2014 NFL Free Agents: Highlighting Best Bargains Left on Market

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2014

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 13:  Defensive end Shaun Phillips #90 of the Denver Broncos defends against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 13, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Jaguars 35-19.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

After one of the wildest weeks the NFL market has seen, teams in search of a bargain can now pick at the remains of free agency and still find great value.

Teams simply have to know where to look. Just like the hunt for a diamond in the rough in the later rounds of each draft, teams have to sift through waves upon waves of veterans with foggy future forecasts thanks to age, injury or some other factor.

But amongst the waves are bargains that future contenders will unearth. Not only are these bargains financially friendly to suitors, they have a year or more of quality play left at the pro level.

 

Knowshon Moreno, RB

Feb 2, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (27) runs against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being just 26 years old, a market has yet to develop for Knowshon Moreno.

It makes some sense. Moreno had a career year last season thanks to his 1,039 rushing yards and 10 scores. He added 60 receptions, 548 yards and three scores through the air, but the knock on his future value may be that this breakthrough came within the confines of a Peyton Manning offense.

As Vic Lombardi of CBS4 points out, Moreno is still waiting for something—anything to happen with his market:

The fact that Moreno stepped up to the plate and emerged as a viable every-down back thanks to his newfound ability to catch passes consistently should speak volumes to potential suitors.

It is clear at this point that Moreno will come at a pretty cheap price and has plenty left in the tank. A smart team will come along, slap him in a committee and be very, very happy with the pickup for years.

 

Shaun Phillips, OLB

January 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end Shaun Phillips (90) following the 26-16 victory against the New England Patriots in the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Cheno
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos arguably scored the steal of free agency last offseason.

Veteran Shaun Phillips jumped across the AFC West from San Diego and signed with the Broncos on a one-year deal worth $1 million, according to Spotrac.

The result? A stellar 10 sacks in 16 games.

Now going on 33 years old, there is no reason to believe Phillips will suddenly fall off a cliff. He has recorded seven or more sacks in eight of his 10 seasons in the NFL with a high of 11.5.

A smart team is going to come along and slap Phillips with another one-year deal littered with incentives and get the most out of his talents as a situational pass-rusher.

 

Brian de la Puente, C 

October 7, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints center Brian De La Puente (60) during the first quarter of a game against the San Diego Chargers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Since joining the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2008, Brian de la Puente has been unappreciated. He finally broke through as the starter for the New Orleans Saints in 2011—and hasn't missed a game since.

Last season, de la Puente ranked as the No. 16 overall center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). As if that's not enough, ESPN's Mike Triplett explains why the California product is such a valuable commodity as the leader in the trenches:

De la Puente isn’t a mauler up front, but he’s got a good combination of power and athleticism -- which has served him well in the Saints’ versatile offense that relies so much on pass protection and screen passes. And his experience as a signal-caller for such a sophisticated passing offense will only enhance his market value.

Quality starting centers are hard to find in free agency, so it is a bit of a surprise de la Puente has yet to find a home. Going on 29 years old, he has plenty left in the tank and will be a nice steal for the team that finally scoops him up.

 

Antonio Cromartie, CB 

Nov 17, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie (31) catches a pass before the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

There is a reason Antonio Cromartie is still on the market despite his very recognizable name.

Cromartie had arguably his worst year as a pro last season and ranked as the No. 103 corner over at PFF—on a list that graded 110 players. As a corner set to hit the dreaded age of 30, that is not what potential suitors want to hear.

That said, Cromartie still offers plenty of value. The thought of a team taking a risk on him was helped by his classy exit from New York, as captured by Fox Sports:

Believe it or not, that can go a long way. A team considering taking the risk on what may be an over-the-hill veteran has to know that he will not become a cancer should he not receive the playing time he desires.

If healthy, Cromartie is a steal on a one-year deal laced with incentives. He's still athletic enough to be physical at the line of scrimmage and can, at the very least, provide quality depth on any roster around the league if the price is right.

 

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