Heading into the second week of the 2014 NFL free-agency period, most of the top players have already been signed, but there are certainly bargains to be had and excellent players to land.
This is the time when savvy general managers make moves that don't necessarily lead to big headlines now, but they could develop into big stories down the line.
One such move from last year was New Orleans signing cornerback Keenan Lewis, who wasn't thought to be one of the top players, but who ended up having a significant impact on the Saints' ability to dominate on defense.
"I know Keenan does a heck of a job for us," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said late in the season, via NewOrleansSaints.com. "We put him in a lot of tough situations and he’s come through week in and week out. He’s been extremely consistent and extremely productive.”
Some of the remaining players have a chance to have a similar impact on new teams this upcoming season. Here's the latest buzz surrounding a few of them, as teams continue to retool and reload rosters in preparation for 2014.
New York Is Infatuated with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Maybe it's something in the New York water, but both the Jets and Giants are high on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports Rex Ryan wants to land the defensive back "badly," noting his skill set is an "ideal fit" in Ryan's system:
I was told before weekend Rex Ryan wants to sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie badly. Ideal fit in his scheme. Jets desperately need him #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) March 17, 2014
Meanwhile, ESPN's Adam Schefter relayed this information, citing a source who says Rodgers-Cromartie will undergo a physical for the Giants on Monday morning:
Broncos CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is spending the night in New York so he can undergo a physical Monday with the Giants, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2014
The fact that both teams are hot to land the cornerback is not really surprising, as both have a need of a talented shutdown cornerback to shore up porous secondaries.
Which team will land Rodgers-Cromartie?
Rodgers-Cromartie finished last season as one of the league's top pure-cover corners for the Denver Broncos, collecting three interceptions, breaking up 10 passes and allowing opposing quarterbacks a measly 67.8 passer rating. His efforts earned him the No. 5 spot in the Pro Football Focus rankings (subscription required).
It will be fascinating to see which team lands him, and it seems like a sure thing he'll be playing for one of the New York teams in the fall.
Mario Manningham Could Be Reunited with Eli Manning
After helping the New York Giants win a Super Bowl in the 2011 season with an acrobatic 38-yard reception in the fourth quarter against the Patriots, Mario Manningham jumped ship to join the San Francisco 49ers in 2012.
Unfortunately for him and the 49ers, his two-year stint in Northern California was marred by injuries, and his impact was minimal.
Perhaps a trip back to the Big Apple will get him back on the right track.
According to Schefter, there's a distinct possibility he could end up playing with Eli Manning and the Giants once again:
Former Giants WR Mario Manningham is scheduled to meet former team in NJ on Monday, per source. Manningham highly interested in returning.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2014
It's not surprising that Manningham would be interested in coming back to the team that drafted him. In two seasons with San Francisco, he caught just one touchdown pass, whereas he tallied 18 in his final three years with New York.
Dan Hanzus of NFL.com provides a bit of perspective on the potential move: "The Giants are in need of a wide receiver after Hakeem Nicks signed with the Indianapolis Colts on Friday. The question is whether Manningham is still the same guy the Giants remember."
When healthy, Manningham is capable of being a productive player in the league. It remains to be seen if he's still capable of staying on the field, however, and as such, he can't expect to land a lucrative deal at this point.
It's possible the Giants will be able to land him for a bargain rate, which could work out quite well for Big Blue in 2014.
Oakland (Still) Seeking Veteran Quarterback Help, Matt Schaub 'Tops the List'
The Oakland Raiders have a quarterback problem—the team doesn't currently possess one.
Matt Schaub is still officially a member of the Houston Texans, but the latest reports indicate he won't be for long. And if he's released as expected, per Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com, then the Raiders are reportedly interested in signing him and potentially three others:
Two of the four veteran quarterbacks the Oakland Raiders plan to target in free agency are not yet free agents, although that is expected to change soon.
Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans tops the list, followed by the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez and current unrestricted free agents Josh Freeman and Michael Vick, in that order, according to a source.
Schaub and Sanchez are expected to be cut by their respective teams soon.
Of the four mentioned by Gutierrez, Schaub does make the most sense for Oakland. While he struggled greatly for Houston in 2013, he's still the most steady signal-caller of the bunch and would be an instant starter for the Raiders.
Perhaps it's for this reason that John McClain of the Houston Chronicle disputes any notion Houston would let Schaub go:
Before anyone asks, the Texans aren't interested in Brandon Weeden or Jason Campbell. Texans are keeping Matt Schaub for a while.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 12, 2014
McClain's claim is difficult to believe, however, given Schaub's current $10 million cap hit (per Spotrac.com) for the 2014 season. He's not likely going to be Houston's starter going forward under new head coach Bill O'Brien, and no team is comfortable shelling out that kind of cash for a backup.
This leaves the door wide open for a new team to claim him once Houston releases him, and judging by the latest chatter coming out of Oakland, the Raiders appear ready to pull the trigger.
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