NFL Free Agents Who Won't Find a Job Until Training Camp
We are quickly approaching the final stages of the 2014 NFL offseason with training camps right around the corner.
As each franchise spends the next couple of months trying to determine which players best fit its plan, at least a few eyes are sure to turn to the list of remaining unsigned free agents.
Yes, there are still some very capable players left among the ranks of the unsigned. However, many of these players are of the aging variety who have so far been ignored as teams chase younger (and potentially cheaper) options on the open market.
This means that teams probably won't come calling until injuries and inadequacies begin to present themselves in the midst of training camp. When they do come calling (and they inevitably will), the players on this list will be willing and able to step in and upgrade the talent level.
DE Brett Keisel
After 12 seasons together, the Pittsburgh Steelers and defensive end Brett Keisel decided to part ways this offseason.
While he has never been a superstar (just one Pro Bowl appearance), Keisel has long been one of the league's more dependable 3-4 defensive ends. Last season, he was rated 31st overall among all 3-4 ends by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Keisel was listed as a potential bargain player by CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora earlier this offseason. While he may be headed for a rotational role at age 35, Keisel still has value for any team running a 3-4 defense and looking to add experience to the end position.
Perhaps most importantly, Keisel is still very productive. Over the past two seasons, he has amassed 75 tackles and 8.5 sacks.
C Kyle Cook
After six seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, center Kyle Cook found his way into the free-agent market this offseason when the team released him with two years remaining on his contract.
The decision to release Cook may have been financially driven, as he was reportedly due to earn $5 million in base salary over the next two seasons.
Money may also be the reason Cook is still on the market. While he is not an elite center, Cook is a capable starter and should land with a team provided it is willing to offer more than the league minimum of $730,000.
According to Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press, Cook has received interest from "multiple teams" this offseason.
Cook started all 16 games for Cincinnati in 2013 and was rated 24th overall among centers by Pro Football Focus for the season.
LB Quentin Groves
Outside linebacker Quentin Groves was released earlier this offseason by the Cleveland Browns after experiencing his worst season as a pro. He produced just four tackles and 2.0 sacks in five games before being placed on injured reserve.
However, Groves is still only 29 years old and offers value as a situational pass-rusher (6.0 sacks the past two seasons) and special teams player.
According to Mike Jones of The Washington Post, Groves visited with the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins shortly after being released by the Browns.
Though his body of work was limited last season, Groves was rated 20th overall among 3-4 outside linebackers in 2012 by Pro Football Focus. He should get an early opportunity as veteran depth or an injury replacement in training camp.
K Rob Bironas
After nine seasons with the Tennessee Titans, kicker Rob Bironas became a free agent this offseason.
Bironas was scheduled to make $2.875 million in base salary this season before he was released by the Titans. He likely remains a free agent because most teams would rather audition younger kickers before turning their attention to a potentially costly veteran.
However, Bironas should get a chance to stick with a club once training camps get underway and more inexperienced kickers begin to show their shortcomings.
Bironas was ranked 25th overall among kicker last season by Pro Football Focus. There are more than 25 kicking jobs available in the NFL, and at some point, the former All-Pro will appear a favorable option.
OT Bryant McKinnie
Though he did not have a particularly impressive year in 2013, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie should be high on teams' lists as a potential injury replacement because of his experience.
McKinnie has played 12 NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins.
He started five games last season with Baltimore and 10 for Miami. However, McKinnie ranked just 65th among offensive tackles for the season, according to Pro Football Focus.
McKinnie is likely still unemployed because of his subpar 2013 performances, but he should be able to find a job before the start of the regular season. Teams in need of experienced depth or a short-term starter at the left tackle position will likely be looking in his direction.
WR Santonio Holmes
A little over five years ago, wide receiver Santonio Holmes was a world champion and Super Bowl MVP.
Now Holmes is unemployed and hoping teams will overlook his recent injury history in order to give him an opportunity. Holmes has missed 17 games over the past two seasons, which is likely why teams haven't been quick to sign him.
“Teams are interested in him,” Holmes' trainer, Tom Shaw, recently told Brian Costello of the New York Post. “They want to see him work out to check his injury. He hasn't had any problems with his injury, which is a good thing.”
Ironically, Holmes may have to wait until training camp injuries claim a starting receiver before getting a chance with an NFL club. He has appeared in all 16 games just once over the past four years and has only topped the 1,000-yard mark once in his career.
However, Holmes does have postseason experience and could be especially valuable to a young team in need of a veteran presence.
QB Josh Freeman
Former first-round pick Josh Freeman is back on the market after spending less than two months as a camp arm for the New York Giants earlier this offseason.
New York was the third team franchise to part ways with Freeman in the past year. He was released by the team that drafted him, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, midway through the regular season. He was then signed and subsequently released by the Minnesota Vikings.
Competing for a starting job at this point is probably out of the question. However, Freeman hopes that working out with Jon Gruden and quarterback guru Terry Shea will help get his career back on track, according to NFL Media's Gil Brandt.
Freeman would provide value as a backup because he does have four-plus years of starting experience.
He also has some intriguing potential, having passed for more than 4,000 yards just two short seasons ago. A quarterback-friendly head coach may want to take a chance on Freeman as a potential reclamation project.
CB Asante Samuel
Though he may be more of a big name than a big-game player at this stage of his career, cornerback Asante Samuel still appears to have a little left in the tank.
Even at 32 years of age (now 33), Samuel managed to rank 57th overall among cornerbacks last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
This may not seem like a particularly favorable ranking. However, it was one spot higher than Aqib Talib, who received a six-year, $57 million contract from the Denver Broncos this offseason.
Though he may be forced to accept a reduced role in the process, Samuel should have little trouble finding a home as training-camp injuries start to mount.
With 12 seasons with the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons under his belt, Samuel may be particularly appealing to a team looking to add experience and leadership to its secondary.
WR/KR Josh Cribbs
Though limited as a wide receiver (just 109 career receptions), Joshua Cribbs still has something to offer NFL teams as a depth player, special teams standout and gimmick quarterback.
After spending nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets (he finished last season on injured reserve), Cribbs may have to wait until deep into training camp before getting serious consideration from NFL teams.
He didn't sign with the Jets until October last season, but Cribbs still managed to return 20 kickoffs for 490 yards in six appearances. He was rated as the 19th-best return specialist for 2013 by Pro Football Focus.
For his career, Cribbs has amassed 1,167 yards receiving, 808 yards rushing and 12,755 combined return yards.
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