NFL Teams That Can Still Be Major Players in Free-Agent Market Before the Draft
The 2014 NFL draft is fast-approaching, just a scant two weeks away. The impending spectacle has left free agency in the dust. But what if there was more to tell on the open market?
There are still teams with plenty of cap space and needs to fill and a glut of free agents on the market. Of course, there is a reason they are still available—the best free agents have all been scooped up, after all, leaving the less-coveted ones to writhe in free agency.
Still, it's feasible we will see a flurry of moves yet. Here are the teams with the most cap space and how they might spend it in the days leading up to the draft.
Estimated Cap Space: $32 million
Needs: Quarterback, center, guard, pass-rusher
The Jaguars have done a nice job this offseason. They have beefed up their defensive line with Chris Clemons and Evander Hood, while retaining Jason Babin.
They also added help on the offensive line by signing guard Zane Beadles.
Their biggest need is also one that has no answers in free agency—quarterback. The best available guy on the market is Rex Grossman. 'Nuff said.
Brad Meester's retirement left a big hole at center, one the Jaguars tried to fill by signing Alex Mack away from the Cleveland Browns. Per CBS Sports' Will Brinson, the Browns matched the offer sheet and Mack is staying in Cleveland, however, and the Jaguars are left with a Meester-sized hole.
There are several viable free agents left, though none of them come close to what Mack would have offered the Jaguars. Fernando Velasco and Kyle Cook might be the best of the bunch at the position, each of which is capable of holding down the fort in the middle for a year or two.
Despite all the additions on the defensive line, the Jaguars could use another solid pass-rusher. Unfortunately, all the good ones got snapped up early in free agency.
Anthony Spencer curiously remains on the market, however, and he could be a great option here. The 30-year-old is coming off season-ending knee surgery, though, and he has been a better run defender than pass-rusher throughout his career.
As mentioned, there isn't much available there.
New York Jets
Estimated Cap Space: $30.9 million
Needs: Wide receiver, tight end, guard
The Jets have made some nice moves thus far this offseason. The offense has gotten particular attention, with receiver Eric Decker and quarterback Michael Vick coming on board.
There is plenty more work to do on that roster, however.
Most notably, the Jets need more help at tight end and along the offensive line. They brought Jeff Cumblerland back at tight end, but he's not exactly Jimmy Graham.
The best options available are Dustin Keller and Jermichael Finley. Unfortunately, both are coming off awful injuries, which is the only reason they have gone unsigned thus far. Neither would demand a big contract, though, minimizing risk.
Finley could be a particularly big boon for the Jets if he can make it all the way back from that scary neck injury he suffered last season.
The Jets could use another receiver, too, despite bringing Decker on board. Fortunately for them, the position is still saturated, albeit with a bunch of players nobody has deemed worth signing to this point. Perhaps the deep receiver class in the draft has something to do with it.
Santonio Holmes may have sandbagged his way out of New York, but he is the best player available at the position, when healthy. Former Dallas Cowboy Miles Austin is in a similar boat, though he wasn't very effective even when healthy last year.
There may not be huge talent on the market, but it couldn't hurt to kick some of those tires.
Estimated Cap Space: $30.5 million
Needs: Quarterback, guard, cornerback, wide receiver
Like in Jacksonville, quarterback is the biggest position of need in Cleveland. But, again, there isn't much on the open market. The Browns might be sold enough on Brian Hoyer to roll with him this season to boot.
The Browns have bigger fish they can fry in free agency, like at cornerback and offensive guard.
Terrell Thomas might be the best option left on the market. He missed two whole seasons due to injury, and he had a shaky season back with the Giants in 2013. Being more than a year removed from recovery could mean better things are in store, and the Browns could use some depth at the position.
There is a great stopgap option for the Browns at guard in 33-year-old Travelle Wharton. That is, of course, if he doesn't retire, something CBS Sports' Josh Katzowitz says the talented guard is pondering. Wharton could shore up a position of need next season while the Browns seek a long-term solution.
There isn't much else at the position outside of embattled Richie Incognito, which doesn't seem like a good idea for anybody.
Estimated Cap Space: $32 million
Needs: Cornerback, offensive tackle, defensive end, safety
The Bengals have a ton of cap space for one good reason—they haven't spent money in free agency. Their biggest signing has been quarterback Jason Campbell as they watched talent like defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins sign big contracts elsewhere.
To that point, it's difficult to see them suddenly picking up the pace in the days before the draft. Anything could happen, however, and there are certainly places for the Bengals to look.
The aforementioned Anthony Spencer would be a decent replacement for the departed Johnson, as would veteran offensive tackle Eric Winston for Collins.
Tyson Clabo, J'Marcus Webb and Jeremy Trueblood could also be decent stopgap players at offensive tackle for the Bengals.
Will they wake up and do any real work in free agency before the draft?
Estimated Cap Space: $19.9 million
Needs: Linebacker, safety, wide receiver, pass-rusher
Retaining productive players was the name of the game for the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason. Well, for the most part.
Philadelphia re-signed offensive linemen Jason Kelce, Jason Peters and receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, ensuring continuity on offense. There was one little problem, however—DeSean Jackson was doomed to be cut.
Jackson was Philadelphia's most productive receiver last season, and he now plies his trade for a divisional rival in Washington. Cooper and Maclin are a nice duo but losing Jackson will hurt.
There is nobody that can replace Jackson's production available in free agency, but a guy like Santonio Holmes might thrive in head coach Chip Kelly's offense, if he can stay healthy and keep his head down.
The Eagles could also use help at linebacker, and there are a plethora of options available in free agency.
Most notably, Erin Henderson is awaiting a call from a team that will take a chance on him. A couple of arrests got him the boot in Minnesota, but USA Today's Tom Pelissero wrote Henderson has turned his life around after rehab. There is a potential public relations nightmare there, but there is also potential for an upgrade at the position.
Many of the available linebackers are strictly special teamers but guys like Stephen Nicholas and Pat Angerer could be viable options, for depth if nothing else.
All cap and free agent information courtesy of Spotrac.com.
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