While most of the high-profile NFL free agents are off the market, there are still a number of veterans available who can make a big impact next season.
At this stage of the offseason, the majority of the focus is on the upcoming draft. The squads that have big holes in the lineup are more likely to fill them with a young prospect who can be there for a long time.
After the draft, however, front offices should go back and take another look at the free agents who were originally passed over. While not all of the available players can still get it done at this level, these veterans should find jobs soon and will be worthwhile gambles.
Jonathan Goodwin, Center
The San Francisco 49ers had one of the best offensive lines in football over the past three years, and a lot of that can be credited to the steady play and leadership of Jonathan Goodwin in the middle.
Before that, he was a key contributor for the New Orleans Saints and was a Pro Bowler in 2009 when the team won the Super Bowl.
Despite being 35 years old, the center still has a lot of good football in him and can help improve virtually any lineup. He is a strong run-blocker and could be a leader for a young unit.
At this point, the most likely destination is a return to New Orleans, according to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:
#Saints brought in former C Jonathan Goodwin for a visit today, per league source. A reunion possible. Makes a lot of sense.— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) April 16, 2014
However, the market should pick up after the draft for teams looking to solidify their offensive line.
Dustin Keller, Tight End
When healthy, Dustin Keller is one of the better tight ends in the NFL. He has good speed and consistent hands to become the best friend of any quarterback.
Unfortunately, he has not been healthy for the past two years, playing only eight games in 2012 before missing all of 2013 with a knee injury. The good news is that his agent Eugene Parker explained that Keller is "good to go," according to Jordan Raanan of NJ.com.
Keller signed a one-year deal before last season, a move that did not work out for the player due to an injury. However, Tom Pelissero of USA Today points out that he was performing well before going down:
A 1-year deal that didn't work out: Dustin Keller. Was tearing it up in camp before tearing ACL, though. Have heard he's on track to return.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 7, 2014
If he can prove that he is healthy enough to play, there should be plenty of teams ready to make a call to the talented veteran. Obviously, any potential contract would likely feature a low amount of guaranteed money, but he is worth the risk for any team.
Raanan considers the New York Giants to be a potential destination due to the lack of legitimate options at the position, but numerous other teams have a similar problem. All he needs to do is show that he is healthy and he should see his value grow immediately.
Anthony Spencer, Defensive End
Like Keller, Anthony Spencer dealt with a bad knee injury last season that limited him to just a single game. However, the defensive end's representative Jordan Woy explained that he will be healthy when the season starts, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News:
Structurally he is sound... Now he is building the strength back and conditioning to get ready for the season.
He would be very limited in OTA’s, but from what the doctors are telling us, he should be ready to go by preseason and regular season.
If this is true, Spencer could be in for a bounce-back season. The defensive end totaled 11 sacks in 2012 and has the athleticism necessary to once again get double-digit sacks. Bleacher Report's Christopher Hansen thinks a team should sign him:
Anthony Spencer is still out there. Could be huge upside gamble.— Christopher Hansen (@ChrisHansenNFL) April 2, 2014
Of course, the one team that really wants him is the one who watched him succeed over the past few years: the Dallas Cowboys. Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas explains that the team is interested in bringing him back:
Anthony Spencer is rehabbing at Valley Ranch and the Cowboys would like to bring him back but aren't in a hurry right now.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) March 24, 2014
On the other hand, any squad should be willing to take a chance on a talented pass-rusher who can make a big impact in 2014.
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