NFL training camp tends to pour the spotlight on the young studs in camps. It's about first-round blue-chippers, the out-of-nowhere undrafted players and the late-rounders hoping to go from unknown to steal to starter to star.
However, there is still veteran help out there to be had. Not every free-agent opportunity has been exhausted; some players are still garnering interest and could possibly contribute in the 2014-15 season.
There is no easy way to put together a 53-piece roster puzzle, so it makes sense that NFL teams are willing to take a look at veteran leftovers before the rookies and practice-squad hopefuls have fully digested the playbook.
There are quite a few stories floating around regarding gridiron pros with neither a team crest nor colors. Let's make some predictions about how these free agents might fare in a dwindling market.
Mike Brisiel, G
According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan, veteran guard Mike Brisiel has drawn interest from both the Miami Dolphins and the Chicago Bears this offseason:
Veteran G Mike Brisiel would fit Giants WCO, but has not been contacted yet by the team. Has drawn interest from MIA and CHI this year.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) July 21, 2014
Brisiel has experience working in both vertical passing and zone-blocking schemes thanks to his time with the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans.
He's still only 31 years old and was a starter for two seasons with the Raiders. When the Raiders released him in April, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal indicated the move may have been more about salary, not competency:
Brisiel started all 30 games he played over the last two seasons, but the Raiders indicated he would have to compete for playing time this year. And $4 million is too much for a guard not guaranteed to have a job. Perhaps the Raiders just needed a little more salary cap room to make their move for DeSean Jackson.
There hasn't been much—if any—public movement on either of these fronts, which doesn't bode well for the Colorado State product. However, Brisiel could very well find a happy home with the Chicago Bears if he agrees to a cheaper deal.
Phillip Tanner, RB
On the news-oriented front, ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins reported via Twitter that former Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner worked out with the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday:
Former Cowboys RB Phillip Tanner worked out for Seattle today.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) July 26, 2014
Tanner amassed a grand total of 56 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns in three seasons with the 'Boys.
The Seahawks only have three true running backs in camp right now, per the team's website, and one of them is a rookie, Demitrius Bronson. It should also be noted that the team does have three players listed as fullbacks as well. Tanner would provide a sturdy challenge to the Seahawks' rather light (for training camp) stable of running backs, and age is no deterrent at just 25 years old.
One team that should take a look at Tanner is the San Francisco 49ers, especially after injuries to LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter. He could provide excellent depth and competition for rookie Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore.
It's difficult to determine where he will land, but Tanner has a good chance of finding work by the time the season begins. Let's go with Seattle.
Larry English, OLB
Nick Eatman of DallasCowboys.com notes that recent San Diego Chargers cast-off Larry English had a workout with the squad. He left without signing a contract.
The former Northern Illinois standout finished with just 11.5 sacks in five injury-riddled seasons with the Bolts. He won't bring great production, but English has always been a good team player and hard worker despite never reaching his full potential.
English should have a good chance of making the roster, as the Cowboys haven't been shy about bringing on reclamation projects like Rolando McClain and Amobi Okoye this offseason.
In fact, the San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee was of the opinion the Chargers released English with confidence in 34-year-old Dwight Freeney's health:
RT @UTgehlken: Chargers have released LB Larry English, team announced. Former 1st-round pick. >One takeaway: Dwight Freeney must be healthy— UTKevinAcee (@UTKevinAcee) July 22, 2014
One could take this as a suggestion that the Chargers had a bit of a luxury at outside linebacker, and English could be a worthy pickup for a team looking for depth and competition.
The Cowboys should sign the former first-round pick, seeing as they are well aware of the injury pitfalls in offseason workouts (get well soon, Sean Lee). It's a low-risk, medium-reward proposition for the team.
Brandon Driver, CB
According to The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson, the Baltimore Ravens gave cornerback Brandon Driver a tryout on Sunday.
Wilson noted on Twitter that he heard the workout went well:
Ravens tried out former San Jose State cornerback Brandon Driver (Parkville) today, not immediately signed. Hearing it went well, though.— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) July 28, 2014
The former San Jose State star would be a long shot just to make the squad. He finished his career with the Spartans in 2011 and nabbed just one interception during his time in college, per Sports-Reference.com.
Which of these four players has the best chance of landing a roster spot in 2014?
Driver was excited just to have the opportunity.
"It was an honor just to try out for the Ravens," Driver said, via Wilson. "It would be a dream come true to play for the Ravens. It was exciting to work out for them. Everything went smoothly. I put everything I had into it and feel good about how it went. They said it went well, so I'm happy about that."
Unfortunately for Driver, this just sounds like the Ravens want someone they can keep on the back burner in case of a massive rash of injuries. It would be a wonderful story for the hometown product, but it is doubtful that he latches on with the Ravens this season—or any of the other 31 NFL teams, for that matter.