Ranking the Top 10 Remaining 2014 NFL Free Agents
NFL free agency in 2014 was very exciting. We were able to watch stars like DeMarcus Ware, Darrelle Revis, Jared Allen, Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and other big names all find new homes in the NFL. But there were still more veterans left out of the new contract fun.
There are still more than a handful of NFL free agents that could make major contributions for a team next season. There is undoubtedly a sense of uneasiness with these players remaining because they have either been getting injured, underperforming or just getting older.
Why would an NFL team take a shot on these guys at this point? Well, just think of the thing you love to do the most, and then someone telling you that you can’t do it anymore. Now someone gives you a chance to go for what you love one more time. How hard are you going to fight for it? How much of yourself would you give that one last time? Well, if these men love football, then that is what they will give to their new teams. Some teams would say that heart alone is worth it.
Some remaining free agents are very talented players as well. We are talking guys who have gone to multiple Pro Bowls, gone to Super Bowls and even won Super Bowl MVPs.
These 10 players are examples of guys who have gone past their primes but could still have that last bit of themselves to leave on the football field. These are the 10 best free agents left in the NFL.
10. Michael Bush
He was backing up Matt Forte but was never able to establish himself as a threat. Over the last four seasons his yards per carry has steadily declined. In the 2009 season, Bush rushed for 4.8 yards per carry. In 2013, that number had declined all the way to 3.1. It is possible that this has less to do with his performance and more to do with his role.
Bush is a strong runner so he is most often used as a goal line or short yardage back.
Bush had recently gone to New England for a visit with the Patriots. ESPN’s Patriots reporter Mike Reiss wrote,
He can still help a club as a complementary back. While it would be easy to look at his bigger build and compare him to a bulldozing-type runner, he's actually more of a cross between Blount and third-year Patriots running back Brandon Bolden because we could see him as part of a rotation on early downs and short-yardage situations (Blount) and also in some passing situations (Bolden).
He is likely to sign with a team that is short of a tough short yardage running back. The Patriots do fit the bill, as well as a team like the Jaguars.
9. Santonio Holmes
Santonio Holmes played in only 15 games over the last two seasons combined for the New York Jets.
In Holmes' four seasons with the Jets, he has been up and down. His first two years he combined for over 100 catches, 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. During his final two seasons, however, he pulled in only 43 receptions, 728 yards and two touchdowns.
These numbers were not going to cut it, so on March 10 the Jets released Holmes. This move also relieved the Jets of his salary cap number of over $10 million.
If Holmes can stay healthy, he can help any team. The last time he played a full 16-game season, he pulled in eight touchdowns. I think he will have to see where teams go in the draft because this is a very deep wide receiver class and there won’t be many spots open on teams for a questionable veteran like Holmes.
But maybe one team will cut the former Super Bowl MVP some slack, and give him another shot. Maybe a team like the Steelers.
8. Asante Samuel
Asante Samuel was released by the Atlanta Falcons on February 5. The 33-year-old cornerback told ESPN that he wants to play for two or three more years.
I am sure that he will find a home because of his big-play ability. Over the last two seasons in Atlanta, he has a combined six interceptions, including a 79-yard interception touchdown return. That is the type of play that can keep a guy in the NFL until he is 35.
I'm a HUGE Asante Samuel fan. You don't just lose the ability to pull down 60 plus interceptions. He's the best zone CB of our era.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) March 29, 2014
Samuel clearly has some supporters, and there are a few cornerback needing teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who recently lost their veteran CB in Darrelle Revis. Samuel may have been a better fit for the Buccaneers than Revis because the Buccaneers failed to use Revis to his full potential, while Samuel would have fit their zones better. Another team to watch is the Tennessee Titans.
7. Kevin Williams
Kevin Williams has been one of the most reliable defensive linemen throughout his entire 11-year career. Out of 176 games, he has missed a total of five in his career. That is an outstanding number for a defensive lineman.
All 11 seasons of Williams career were spent with the Minnesota Vikings. Although he has not been a great player over the last two years, he has still been a solid contributor. Williams has combined for 59 tackles and 5.5 sacks over the last two years, which shows that he still has the gas to apply pressure.
Williams could add a much needed veteran presence to a locker room. In April, the New York Giants brought Kevin Williams in for a workout. The team has yet to announce a contract offer, but as a six-time Pro Bowler, the veteran leadership could work wonders for the team.
6. Davin Joseph
Davin Joseph had spent all eight seasons of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but after an offseason and an upcoming salary of $6 million in 2014, what happened on March 8 was inevitable.
#Bucs have released G Davin Joseph, the Times has learned.— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) March 8, 2014
Although he has had a tough time over the last two seasons, he is still a capable starter in the NFL. Teams have already inquired about him.
So far, the St. Louis Rams and, most recently, the Dallas Cowboys have brought him in for visits. To see what a player like Joseph has left is a smart idea, and at the very least, he adds quality depth at a much needed position in the NFL.
5. Kerry Rhodes
So I am not sure why everyone ignores the fact that Kerry Rhodes is not in the NFL right now, but I refuse to. He finished 2012 as one of the top safeties in the NFL, and there is no reason to think that this would be any different today.
In 2012, Rhodes had as many, if not more, interceptions than all but three safeties in the NFL in 2014. With safety being a fairly common need in the NFL, there should certainly be a team willing to bring him back into the league.
Many people believed that he was “black-listed” from the league because of rumors questioning his sexuality.
In an interview with ESPN’s Jane McManus, Rhodes said, “’I don't think I was blacklisted,’ Rhodes said during a phone interview Tuesday. ‘Especially with the NFL I don't think they would do that ... to me it was a product of me wanting to do other things and not finding the right opportunity.’”
Some people might want to say that with a year away from football, at his age, he may not be in football shape anymore. Well the following tweet, from April 17, 2014, would suggest otherwise.
It is clear that Rhodes should have never left the NFL, and he has expressed his interest in returning. Now it is all about finding the right team to take a chance.
4. Miles Austin
On March 12, 2014, the Dallas Cowboys released wide receiver Miles Austin, who had spent his first seven seasons with the team.
Austin has been dealing with hamstring injuries since 2011, causing him to miss six games that season. He missed another five games this season and only produced 24 receptions during his 11 games played.
When Austin is healthy, however, he is a great target. This has been evident since he first started in the NFL. During his very first start for the Dallas Cowboys in 2009, Austin caught 10 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime. His 250-yard performance stands today as the most receiving yards in one game in Cowboys history.
We may never see the 2009 Miles Austin again, but even a portion of that could be great for a team at the right price.
3. Anthony Spencer
Between the seasons of 2009 and 2012, then Dallas Cowboys defensive end, Anthony Spencer, had combined for 291 tackles, 28 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and 13 pass deflections.
Entering his contract year in 2013, and following up a career high in tackles in 2012, Spencer was ready to have another big year and turn his play into a big contract that offseason. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worst.
Cowboys' Anthony Spencer will have season ending surgery. Dr says he will be 100% by Jan or Feb.— Jordan Woy (@JordanWoy) September 24, 2013
Spencer only appeared in one game during the 2013 NFL season and now has to reprove himself at the age of 30. He may still be able to pull off a multi-year contract, but his opportunity for the big money has passed. This could work heavily in favor of a team that signs him.
A team like the Green Bay Packers or the San Francisco 49ers could use a veteran like Spencer to help the team make the final push for a Super Bowl.
2. Travelle Wharton
Travelle Wharton is the best offensive lineman available in the NFL. He spent most of his career with the Carolina Panthers. The 32-year-old Wharton had a very good 2013 campaign in his one year back with his old team, following a short stint with the Cincinnati Bengals.
#Panthers FA guard Travelle Wharton, attending South Carolina pro day, says he is leaning toward retirement. But no final decision yet.— Joe Person (@josephperson) April 2, 2014
Unfortunately, it seems that Wharton is leaning more towards retiring than helping another team. The market has not provided him with what he wants so far but there will be offers on the table.
A team like the Kansas City Chiefs or the St. Louis Rams could take a good look at a guard like Wharton. At the end of the day, however, I think it may come down to a return to Carolina or nothing.
Wharton is originally from South Carolina. He was an All-American football player at the University of South Carolina and was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2004. Wharton spoke at a gathering of former Gamecocks this spring and had said, “Just to have that opportunity to come back, to play here. It’s been a part of my family’s life, all my kids know, is being a Panther.”
1. Jermichael Finley
“Will I be able to walk again? Will I be able to move my arms again,” tight end Jermichael Finley asked himself while being carted off of the field after suffering a scary neck injury in Week 7 of last season.
Finley had a bruised spinal cord after taking a hit to the head against the Cleveland Browns. The injury would put an end to Finley’s 2013 season, but he is hopeful to get back to full form in the next season. In an interview with ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Finley said that neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon had told him, “99.9 percent, I’ll clear you once the fusions fuse back together.”
Jermichael Finley, at the top of his game, can be one of the best tight ends in the NFL. In the two seasons prior to his injury, Finley had combined for 115 receptions, 1,434 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
Finley had the opportunity to find out if his hard work had paid off when he was drawing interest from the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately, he failed his physical with the team in March. He is now set to have another X-ray and an MRI in the coming weeks.
If all clears for Finley, the Seattle Seahawks are no longer the only team in pursuit of the talented tight end. Reports have come out that Jermichael Finley has had discussions with the Miami Dolphins. No matter who Finley ends up playing for, that team will be significantly improved.