2014 NFL Free Agents: Who Are the Best Values Remaining on the Market?
While everyone around the country (or world) has been busy filling in their NCAA college basketball tournament brackets the last few days, NFL general managers have been preoccupied filling their rosters with better football players.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for the 32 clubs to decide who the best fit is for their situation. Just 10 days into the 2014 free-agent period, more than 100 players have changed teams.
Here we will take a look at the players still on the market who represent the best value for a team, meaning they could come at a very reasonable salary as opposed to some performers and their anticipated price, while still producing on a consistent level.
Remember, best value doesn’t necessarily mean this is a list of best players available. You could certainly make a case for defensive end Jared Allen. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com has the latest on Allen. Once again, the key here is value.
In terms of order, we used an alphabetical system based on the player’s last name.
In case you would like to make a list of your own, Spotrac (subscription required) has the latest on who is still looking for a new club in 2014.
WR Jason Avant (Released by Philadelphia Eagles)
What seems like the better move: signing a former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver or trying to decide if one of the Birds’ wideouts is actually available?
Meanwhile, veteran wide receiver Jason Avant became expendable in Philadelphia when the team re-signed potential unrestricted free agents Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. In 2013, Avant caught 38 passes for 447 yards and a pair of scores. He has totaled 297 career receptions in eight seasons but only 12 for touchdowns.
A logical landing place would be the Kansas City Chiefs and a reunion with head coach Andy Reid. But also keep an eye on the Carolina Panthers, who are looking to reassemble their wide receiving corps, which was dismantled by free agency and the release of Steve Smith.
PK Rob Bironas (Released by Tennessee Titans)
Hey, kickers are players too!
All kidding aside, you get the impression some were quite surprised by the Tennessee Titans’ recent decision to part ways with veteran placekicker Rob Bironas.
In nine seasons with the franchise, he scored 1,032 points and connected on 239 of 279 field-goal attempts for a healthy .857 percentage. But according to John Glennon of The Tennessean, the accurate specialist became expendable because he became expensive.
A one-time Pro Bowler, Bironas still owns the NFL record for most field goals in a game, nailing eight kicks in a win over the Houston Texans in 2007.
It is anyone’s guess where the nine-year veteran could wind up. Sometimes the kicker market has this domino effect in which several teams all make changes before anyone can blink.
When it comes to Bironas, don’t be surprised when he has a new home before one can bat an eye.
RB LeGarrette Blount (UFA-New England Patriots)
Off last year’s late-season showing that included an impressive playoff appearance, it is somewhat surprising that running back LeGarrette Blount hasn’t found a new team or re-signed with the New England Patriots.
The one-time undrafted free agent was a major factor during the final Sunday of the regular season and came up even bigger in the first Saturday of the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
Blount rushed for a combined 355 yards and scored six times in wins over the Buffalo Bills and two weeks later versus the Indianapolis Colts.
Add in 182 yards on four kickoff returns in those contests, and the four-year pro and one-time 1,000-yard rusher would be an effective pickup for teams like the Atlanta Falcons or Dallas Cowboys, who might not be so quick to abandon the running game with a battering ram like Blount in the backfield.
Of course, a return to Foxborough isn’t impossible. Back in January, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that the feeling was mutual when it came it came to a reunion between the Pats and the power back.
FS Chris Clemons (UFA-Miami Dolphins)
We have already seen one Chris Clemons change teams during this offseason.
Will we soon see one leave the state of Florida as the other makes his home in the Sunshine State?
Earlier this month, the Jacksonville Jaguars signed veteran defensive end Chris Clemons, who had been released by the Seattle Seahawks.
As of now, five-year veteran free safety Chris Clemons is on the open market. A fifth-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2009, the one-time Clemson Tiger comes off a pair of very productive campaigns. In 2012, he finished third on the Dolphins with 98 stops and picked off a pair of passes.
This past season, the productive defender totaled 92 tackles, knocked down eight passes and nabbed one interception.
Could the Denver Broncos be a landing place for the former Dolphins performer? The team has not re-signed free safety Mike Adams to date.
After last season’s Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks, they probably wouldn’t mind having a Chris Clemons on their side.
FS Thomas DeCoud (Released by Atlanta Falcons)
Whether the Atlanta Falcons wind up missing former Pro Bowl free safety Thomas DeCoud is debatable.
Not open for discussion is that former teammate and secondary companion William Moore will.
“That was my guy off the field and a heck of a player,'' said Moore to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “In his time here, he showed me a lot basically because he's done so many great things here in the red and black.”
As Moore discussed with McClure, DeCoud’s departure was based as much on performance as economics.
A third-round pick in 2008, the former University of California performer played in 10 games as a rookie. Over the next five seasons, he played in 79 games, starting 78 of them. Over that span, he totaled 14 interceptions and went to the Pro Bowl in 2012.
Of course, given the Falcons’ recent concerns, it remains to be seen if a team’s addition of the six-year pro would be a major coup (sorry, couldn’t resist).
CB Rashean Mathis (UFA-Detroit Lions)
Chances are Rashean Mathis will wind up with some team eventually this season.
What is taking so long?
This past season, his first with the Detroit Lions after 10 seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mathis made 13 starts and was tied for sixth on the team in tackles. He was also the team co-leader with 15 passes defensed. However, the 11-year pro failed to pick off a pass, a not-so-fabulous feat that occurred for the second straight season.
That lack of playmaking ability is hard to ignore.
Mathis, a one-time Pro Bowler who totaled 30 interceptions in his first nine seasons with the Jaguars, could be a post-draft pickup by some club looking to add some experience to perhaps a younger secondary.
WR Lance Moore (Released by New Orleans Saints)
It is safe to say that wide receiver Lance Moore has been a solid complementary receiver during his NFL career.
And that is meant to be a compliment.
The eight-year pro made just 30 starts in eight seasons with the New Orleans, although 19 of them came over the past three seasons.
The former undrafted free agent totaled 346 receptions for 4,281 yards and 38 scores with the Saints, who cut him loose this offseason. He has made 50 or more catches in four of his eight seasons, and 24 of those 38 touchdown receptions came in his last four years in the Crescent City.
The free-agent market in 2014 in terms of wide receivers took a little time to get going. Moore has made his stops around the league, and it’s hard to believe he doesn’t have a few years left and can’t help a team that is looking for a third or fourth wideout.
On March 21, Lance Moore agreed to a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
RB Knowshon Moreno (UFA-Denver Broncos)
The Denver Broncos have been one of the league’s busiest teams during free agency. Their offseason additions include defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib, strong safety T.J. Ward and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Of course, there have also been the free-agent defections of wide receiver Eric Decker, left guard Zane Beadles and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as well as the release of cornerback Champ Bailey—all starters in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Will running back Knowshon Moreno be joining that list? The former first-round pick totaled a career-high 1,586 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 2013 but remains an unrestricted free agent. With Montee Ball coming off a respectable rookie season and general manager John Elway looking to improve the running game, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com, Moreno remains on the outside looking in for now.
Speaking of the five-year pro, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that Moreno will meet with the Miami Dolphins on Friday, March 21.
G Uche Nwaneri (Released by Jacksonville Jaguars)
One of the earlier releases this offseason was the parting of ways between the Jacksonville Jaguars and longtime guard Uche Nwaneri.
The seven-year pro has started 91 out of 95 games in the past six seasons after the former fifth-round pick saw action in only nine games and made just one start during his rookie campaign of 2007.
Why no takers to date? According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the former Purdue University product is a solid pass-blocker but struggled when it came to the running game this past season.
Is that something that is fixable? At the very least, the 6’3”, 303-pound performer should be able to add some depth to any unit around the league.
OLB/DE Shaun Phillips (UFA-Denver Broncos)
These days, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. We hear it all the time.
For the guys on the other side of the football, it’s a quarterback-driven-into-the-ground league.
Over the last 10 seasons, former Pro Bowl outside linebacker turned defensive end Shaun Phillips has been pretty good at the latter.
The longtime San Diego Chargers defender spent the majority of his time at outside linebacker with the club before signing with the Denver Broncos in 2013 and lining up on the defensive front. In his Denver debut season, he totaled 35 tackles and led the Broncos with 10 sacks. He also knocked down five passes, forced a pair of fumbles and recorded an interception.
The 10-year veteran’s career resume includes 79.5 sacks, 22 forced fumbles and seven interceptions. He should be back with a club sooner than later. The Tennessee Titans, under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, could use a veteran with experience in the 3-4 defense.