Intriguing Names Still on the Free Agent Market This Offseason
Vince Young may have announced his retirement after being cut from the Cleveland Browns this spring, as reported by KXAN's Brent Carney, but there are plenty of NFL veterans who aren't yet calling it quits.
At this point, many will have to wait until players get hurt during training camp, but at that point, some team, somewhere will be getting great value.
The following are eight players who could be interesting fits for some teams as we approach the start of training camps. Some are available because of injury concerns, while others are free agents because of age or a ridiculously big salary they didn't live up to.
All of them have a little left in the tank and could represent outstanding value for a team during the coming season.
Jermichael Finley, Tight End
The big question with Jermichael Finley is whether he is healthy enough to play football.
So far, since he has visited with the Patriots and walked away sans contract, you’d assume the answer is no. ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that New England brought Finley in chiefly for a medical check, while NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling relayed a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers were interested in Finley.
Wesseling also mentioned in the same report that the Seattle Seahawks no longer had interest.
Finley has tremendous athletic ability and would be an excellent addition to any offense. He has had issues with drops, but had improved in that area prior to his 2013 injury.
If he can ease the concerns of the teams interested, Finley will find work. But that seems to be a big if, right now.
Brandon Flowers, Cornerback
When ESPN’s Adam Teicher reported that the Kansas City Chiefs had released cornerback Brandon Flowers, we half expected him to be snatched up almost immediately by some team.
However, the fact that he struggled in press-man last season will scare off some teams. Teams like the New York Jets who play more press coverage will pass on him or at least wait until his asking price comes down.
It’s likely that any team that is playing more press-man principles will give him serious consideration, but teams that do not play heavy press could use him as a slot corner.
This past weekend, CBS’s Jason LaCanfora reported that Flowers has many suitors and should be signed mid-week.
It will be interesting to see where he ends up, and what the fit looks like.
Jason Babin, Defensive End
It was a bit surprising when ESPN’s Michael DiRocco reported that the Jacksonville Jaguars had released defensive end Jason Babin.
Not so much that he was released, as the timing of it.
They had just re-signed him back in March, even though they had Chris Clemons and Red Bryant coming in.
But release him they did. At 34, Babin is certainly on the wrong side of the peak of his career, but he still has value as a role-playing pass-rusher.
While he might not be able to be a full time presence on the defense, Babin has enough in the tank to help a defense bring heat on opposing quarterbacks.
Asante Samuel, Cornerback
For all his talk about being one of the best corners in the league, Asante Samuel was decidedly mediocre last season, ranked as the No. 57 corner in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required).
Despite that, Samuel still has some value. He is a decent cover corner, even if he has lost a step or three and isn’t quite as effective as he has been in the past.
He’s been on the market since February, and it doesn’t look as if that’s going to change until people start getting hurt in training camp.
Samuel will be someone who can come in on a single-season contract and could be a very interesting addition to a unit in need of a piece or two.
Chris Houston, Cornerback
The Detroit Lions looked a little crazy when they released Chris Houston a year into a five-year contract, but with the Detroit Free Press’s Dave Birkett reporting that concerns over Houston’s health were legitimate, maybe we were too quick to judge.
While Houston had an abominable season in 2013, he had been playing at a high level prior to that (hence the large contract). The Lions, according to Birkett, felt that Houston’s career was ending, but if he can recover he would be a great addition to a team looking for a corner who can both play press as well as zone.
The health is a big issue, but the team that brings him in as a role player could limit its exposure and get value from him even if he missed some time or had a limited of snaps.
Travelle Wharton, Guard
In terms of offensive linemen, the free agent pickings are slim.
But we’ve heard previous players discuss hanging 'em up and the reasons for doing so but not follow through and leave the game.
Wharton was ranked as Pro Football Focus’ fifth overall guard (subscription link) for last season, filling in for an injured Amini Silatolu.
After the season he just had, he will get some notice, especially when teams start seeing injuries in camp.
Wharton is getting old, but he proved last year that he still had plenty left in the tank. He was an extraordinary run-blocker last season and a very good pass-blocker.
He’ll find a home before August is done.
Santonio Holmes, Wide Receiver
A receiver’s career is rarely over at the age of 30, but Santonio Holmes’ tenure with the Jets has made it difficult for a Jet coach to pound the table on his behalf.
Aside from injury issues the last few years, reports such as the one written by ESPN’s Rich Cimini upon Holmes’ release by the Jets highlight an attitude problem (Cimini said one team official called him “a pain in the ass”) which may keep him from a new contract.
He’s still so young though, relatively speaking, and when healthy can be a productive part of the offense. Perhaps he was never a great fit as a number one receiver in New York, and maybe he was never worth the money they threw at him, but Holmes has shown ability in the past.
In the right situation, his sharp hands and ability to make the big catch at critical times could be a good fit for a few teams looking for someone who can provide a spark.
They just need to keep that spark from igniting the locker room.
Michael Bush, Running Back
All has been quiet on the subject of former Chicago Bear Michael Bush, ever since NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport had him visiting the Patriots back in March.
We know the market for running backs is pretty dead (and has been all offseason really), especially for a guy who is fairly limited in ability.
Still, are there really no teams who can use a big, bruising back who can hammer defensive lines in short-yardage situations? Sure, he’s a bit of a plodding back and toeing the dreaded “30 year old” line of demarcation for backs, but he has shown he can run the ball.
He didn’t work out for Chicago in part because they gave him too much money. A team which takes Bush on now, won’t do that.
Someone in the NFL could take a chance on a guy who, despite not having the best yards-per-carry average in 2013, can gain the one or two yards needed down near the goal line.