The major names may be off the market, but NFL free agency is nowhere near finished with so many quality players still available who can impact the league.
To the surprise of nobody, two of the top players left on the market are running backs. A devalued position around the league is one reason the following players have yet to find a new home, while other reasons include age, salary expectations and more.
Regardless of the reason, the top names left will eventually find a home and still incite a ripple effect felt league-wide.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB
While he has been nothing short of a disappointment the last two seasons thanks to injuries and an overall lack of gaudy numbers, Maurice Jones-Drew has plenty to offer teams at just 28 years old.
Of course, the above factors and and his being two years before the dreaded age of 30 are certainly working against MJD. He has found a very quiet market, as have most backs, although he did manage to land a visit with the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Maurice Jones-Drew's visit with #Steelers ended. No contract. Still no backup RB. Next?— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) March 20, 2014
The main problem? It sounds like MJD wants more money than teams are willing to cough up, as CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora illustrates:
Maurice Jones Drew currently seeking about $3.5M/year. His career accomplishments are great but as older RB in this market could be tough— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 20, 2014
This is perhaps the reason Jacksonville has not brought MJD back, as a statement by owner Shad Khan to Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union from January continues to ring true as free agency progresses:
“He’s a great guy and we’re the only team he’s played for,” Khan said. “But it takes two to tango. Personally, I would love to see him back but it has to make sense for him. Dave has been on the record with what we want to do and that’s absolutely true.”
As unfair as it is, MJD isn't going to get the type of money he reportedly desires. As soon as he realizes this, a rotational role in Pittsburgh is about as good as it gets. It's an obvious fit and a nice way for MJD to extend his career.
Prediction: MJD signs with Pittsburgh
Chris Clemons, S
The market for Chris Clemons has suddenly heated up in a big way.
This should be no surprise, as safety is one of the most coveted positions in the league with not enough quality talent to fill all the holes currently out there.
Clemons was far from the first safety teams went after when the market opened, but it was just a matter of time. The Clemson product ranked as the No. 19 overall safety in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
As the grades note, Clemons has his struggles against the run, but he's sound against the pass and a quality center fielder. This would explain why both the Detroit Lions and New York Jets have expressed interest, according to La Canfora and Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News:
Lions continue looking at safeties; ex-Dolphin Chris Clemons visiting with them today— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 21, 2014
Jets looking to revamp/upgrade what was a shaky secondary in 2013. Casting a wide net. Dolphins S Chris Clemons is also on #NYJ's radar— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) March 9, 2014
Clemons is unlikely to get anything more than a one-year deal at this point as he gets ready to turn 29, but if he wants the best situation with the most playing time, he'll wind up in Detroit.
Prediction: Clemons signs with Detroit.
Knowshon Moreno, RB
There must be a certain stigma surrounding Knowshon Moreno, because he's only going to be 27 years old by next season and racked up 1,039 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and 548 yards with three more scores through the air last season.
The fact that Moreno had a career year in a Peyton Manning offense, in tandem with the devaluation of the position as a whole, has killed Moreno's market.
NBC's Ross Tucker put it best:
Knowshon Moreno has weakest FA market for 1st RD pick coming off career-highs in every category ever. Has to.— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) March 19, 2014
Moreno's market finally materialized recently in the form of a visit with the Miami Dolphins, according to Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post.
Let's put on tinfoil hats—Moreno's visit to Miami was a way to get more money out of another AFC East team. The New England Patriots also have a need at running back with LeGarrette Blount a free agent, and there is a distinct possibility that New England would be interested.
Playing division rivals against each other is an old agent tactic, and while the Patriots have not officially shown interest, one would have to imagine it is worth a look for Bill Belichick and Co. provided the team's offensive similarities to Denver, which produced a career year from Moreno.
Prediction: Moreno signs with the Patriots.