NFL Free Agents 2016: Best Players Available at Each Position After Day 3
After Day 3 of the 2016 NFL free-agency period, the league is left to pick through the remaining players on the market. It was a quiet day overall, as just a handful of top positional players were signed. We have you covered as to who the best players available are as the first weekend of free agency commences.
The second tier of free agents is where bargain hunters happily shop away. The right low-risk signing could be the difference between being average or achieving more. Some players just need a change of scenery.
Since there wasn’t much action on Friday, we’ve added some new names to our daily review. The best players still available after Day 3 will be listed in alphabetical order on each page.
Don’t forget to leave your biggest takeaways from free agency thus far in the comments section below.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, New York Jets
It turns out Ryan Fitzpatrick may have overplayed his hand in free agency. According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams have no interest in him. The 33-year-old Fitzpatrick had a career-high 31 touchdowns and 3,905 yards in 2015. While he’s a good short-term option for a team that needs a stopgap, Fitzpatrick is not a dynamic or consistent player.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
The NFL’s thirst for decent quarterback play led to Brock Osweiler receiving a $72 million contract from the Houston Texans. While Robert Griffin III is a wild card because of injuries and inconsistent play, it’s undeniable he was once viewed as a generational prospect. His arm strength, athleticism and knack for playmaking are worthwhile investments.
Griffin’s struggles to learn a more complex system and cascading injuries since his rookie season in 2012 make him a tough player to fully invest into. He needs a backup job he can ease into for 2016. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the New York Jets hosted Griffin on Friday.
Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has been a quality backup for the better part of his career and now has the chance to find somewhere to compete. The athletic signal-caller is a changeup for defenses to handle in a pinch with his running ability. He’s 32, though, so there’s a limited ceiling for his impact. The market for Jackson should be decent as a good backup always has value.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots
One of the biggest running backs in the NFL is LeGarrette Blount from the New England Patriots. The powerful bruiser has found his niche with the Patriots, as he’s bulldozed his way to 1,756 yards and 16 touchdowns in three (nonconsecutive) seasons with the team. For his career he’s averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Even at 29 years old, Blount would be a good short-yardage back for gap schemes.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
It’ll likely be a long wait for Arian Foster as he works to recover from a torn Achilles. The former undrafted free agent had an amazing career with the Houston Texans, amassing 6,472 rushing yards and 54 touchdowns in seven seasons. His inability to stay healthy at nearly 30 years old could severely limit his market and shelf life.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that Foster will be patient and wait until after the draft to make a decision.
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos
Ronnie Hillman is just 24 years old and posted 863 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015. The former Denver Broncos running back worked well in a tandem with C.J. Anderson. But the latter received an offer from the Miami Dolphins as a restricted free agent. The Broncos may try to hammer out a deal with Hillman and decline to match Anderson’s contract to save some money.
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
Former Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris will leave the nation’s capital with an impressive resume for a former sixth-round pick. He began his career with 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns as a rookie. Since then his numbers have dipped every season, and he seems to have lost some quickness.
Morris is only 27 and should benefit from a better offensive line than what Washington had in 2015. A zone-blocking team with another quality option to relieve pressure off Morris would be his best fit.
Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
It’s been 13 years since Anquan Boldin entered the NFL, and he’s been a consistent playmaker throughout the course of his career. He could serve as a big slot receiver in Chip Kelly’s offense but should be looking for a playoff contender instead. He finished with the least receiving yards since 2004 last year with 69 receptions and 789 yards. He can serve as a reliable third option for a veteran quarterback who trusts his receivers to play the ball.
Andre Holmes, WR, Oakland Raiders
A team that is looking for a young, tall and fast receiver could make a sleeper signing with former Oakland Raiders receiver Andre Holmes. The 27-year-old hasn’t found the right blend of big plays and consistency, as he’s accumulated 88 receptions, 1,336 yards and nine touchdowns in his four-year career. At 6’4” and 210 pounds he still has intrigue for a team that is willing to take a flier. Adam Caplan of ESPN reported the Philadelphia Eagles have interest in Holmes.
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
Another young receiver with size is former New York Giant Rueben Randle. The 6’2”, 208-pound receiver has the ability to play inside and out. He’s only 24 and had 797 yards in 2015. While he shouldn’t be counted on as more than a third receiver in a functional offense, his youth and catch radius are intriguing.
Mike Wallace, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Mike Wallace re-entered free agency as a cap casualty for the Minnesota Vikings. He was cut just one season into his Vikings tenure because of his diminishing physical skills. He had just 39 receptions, 473 yards and two touchdowns in 2015. His ability to create big plays has been practically absent the last few seasons, and he hasn’t been a major deep threat since 2011.
Scott Chandler, TE, New England Patriots
We have yet to see another tight end come off the board since Day 1. The best blocking tight end available is Scott Chandler. The former New England Patriot finished with the seventh-highest run-block grade from Pro Football Focus. He’s only 30, so there’s still some tread in his tires.
Vernon Davis, TE, Denver Broncos
Vernon Davis won his first Super Bowl in 2015 and is looking to extend his career another four or five years, per Josina Anderson of ESPN. The former sixth overall pick one decade ago, Davis has dropped off in terms of production and impact. But he’s a crafty veteran who can contribute in both the receiving and running game in limited spurts.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Davis visited the Washington Redskins on Thursday.
Zach Miller, TE, Chicago Bears
Zach Miller didn’t play a single snap from 2011 to 2014, but that didn’t prevent him from having a solid season. The 31-year-old tight end had a career-high 439 yards and five touchdowns in 2015. He’s a good athlete who can be a tough matchup for linebackers in space. Look for an offense that needs a second tight end to call Miller.
Kelvin Beachum, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers
Kelvin Beachum was a stud left tackle before tearing his ACL midway through 2015. The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t adequately replace the 6’3”, 303-pound tackle since the league is devoid of depth at the position. His ability to step in right away and play at a respectable but not spectacular level should make him a commodity, but his injury should keep costs down for now.
Beachum received interest from the Baltimore Ravens this week, according to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network (h/t Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com). Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the New York Jets are also interested in Beachum.
Russell Okung, OT, Seattle Seahawks
Once considered an elite tackle prospect, Russell Okung was selected sixth overall in the 2010 draft. He’s been solid but has fallen short of those lofty expectations. He is good but not stellar. The athletic zone-blocker is only 28 years old but is coming off a dislocated shoulder injury that will sideline him for five months.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Okung visited with the New York Giants and will next stop in Detroit to hear the Lions’ pitch.
Donald Penn, OT, Oakland Raiders
Veteran Donald Penn has been a solid left tackle for the Oakland Raiders each of the last two seasons. He was one of the first bigger names signed by the team as it has been building through the draft. Now, Penn is ready to get paid, as the Raiders have splurged elsewhere to hasten their time frame to compete.
According to Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune, Penn wants to re-sign and believes the team wants him to stay in silver and black.
Interior Offensive Linemen
Jahri Evans, OG, New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints moved on from right guard Jahri Evans this offseason to save $3.2 million in cap space. Their 10-year partnership was highly successful for each party as Evans provided elite-level pass blocking. He was still a good starter for the team in 2015 but stifled the transition to a zone-blocking scheme. He’s purely a gap blocker with his power.
At 33, Evans is a short-term fix. According to his Twitter account, he visited the Buffalo Bills earlier in the week.
Geoff Schwartz, OG, New York Giants
Once a big free-agent signee, 29-year-old Geoff Schwartz is back on the market. This time around he is not as valuable, as he’s been plagued by injuries. He hasn’t finished a 16-game schedule since 2013 and has only done so twice since 2009. That being said, Schwartz is a good guard who can slide out to tackle if need be. He could be a steal on a one-year deal.
Stefen Wisniewski, C, Jacksonville Jaguars
The best interior lineman still on the market is 26-year-old Stefen Wisniewski. The zone-blocking scheme specialist is a good starter who is still in the prime of his career. He was ranked as Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller’s 15th-best center in 2015. He shouldn’t have a tough time finding work.
Greg Hardy, DE, Dallas Cowboys
Former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy is a troublesome but talented player who couldn’t even stay on Jerry Jones’ team. He’s one of the most dangerous defensive ends in the NFL and only 27, but his history of domestic abuse and locker-room issues could keep him on the market for a while. He’ll be an instant-impact starter if someone wants to roll the dice on him.
Akiem Hicks, DE, New England Patriots
At 6’5”, 324 pounds, Akiem Hicks should be a valuable commodity. He’s versatile enough to play as a 3-4 defensive end or a 4-3 defensive tackle. His stint with New England was successful as he rotated with several other quality linemen. Considering he’s only 26, it’s probably just a matter of time until Hicks is snatched up.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported Hicks met with the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions recently.
Chris Long, DE, Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams parted ways with 30-year-old defensive end Chris Long this offseason to help save cap space. He’s an ideal 4-3 strong-side defensive end who is capable of cleaning up sacks and providing adequate run support. He’s accumulated 54.5 sacks in his nine NFL seasons.
Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal reported that the Patriots are interested in Long.
Terrance Knighton, NT, Washington Redskins
Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton hit free agency for the second straight offseason after a disappointing season with the Washington Redskins. He wasn’t able to replicate the success he had in Denver back in 2014, as he appeared slow and heavy. That’ll be a concern anywhere he goes and part of the reason he’s earned that nickname.
B.J. Raji, NT, Green Bay Packers
The top nose tackle who is still available is former Green Bay Packer B.J. Raji. The mammoth 6’2”, 337-pound gap-eater has had an up-and-down career to this point. At 29, Raji needs to put together another big season to earn one more significant contract. He may not get that chance after injuries hampered his last two seasons.
Sealver Siliga, DT, New England Patriots
Although not a popular name, Sealver Siliga is a top run-defending specialist. His 6’2”, 325-pound body occupies space well and commands double-teams. His best fit is as a 1- or 5-technique. He’ll be just 26 years old this season and could flourish in a new situation that can offer more opportunity.
Zach Brown, LB, Tennessee Titans
An under-the-radar signing this offseason could be former Tennessee Titans linebacker Zach Brown. He put together an encouraging first two seasons but fell out of favor with a new staff in place. He hasn’t logged starter snaps since 2013, but a 3-4 team in need of an infusion of young talent should take a flier on the 26-year-old's athleticism.
Jerrell Freeman, LB, Indianapolis Colts
The best inside linebacker still available is Jerrell Freeman. He’ll turn 30 years old before the season begins, but his 2015 season was eye-opening. He had always been a talented coverage player, but he took his run defense to a new level last year.
Pro Football Focus graded Freeman as the second-best middle linebacker in the NFL last year. Fox 59 sports anchor Chris Hagan reported Freeman has received interest from the Chicago Bears, New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons.
Junior Galette, OLB, Washington Redskins
Once considered a top pass-rusher for the New Orleans Saints, Junior Galette hit the free-agent market as damaged goods with a high ceiling. He tore his Achilles last fall before ever logging a snap for the Washington Redskins. He’s able to fit a 3-4 or 4-3 defense and is extremely talented.
Tarik El-Bashir from CSN Mid-Atlantic reported Galette is looking for a one-year contract to prove his worth.
Brandon Boykin, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers traded a fifth-round draft pick for cornerback Brandon Boykin prior to the season and then refused to play him until late in the year. The move made zero sense as Boykin is a highly talented slot specialist. He fits into man-coverage schemes with his excellent quickness. At just 25 years old, he would be a solid acquisition on a long-term deal.
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the Atlanta Falcons are interested in him.
Casey Hayward, CB, Green Bay Packers
The market for cornerbacks seems to have dried up quickly, as Casey Hayward is now the best overall secondary player available. It's peculiar that he hasn’t been signed yet, given his ability to play in the slot or outside. At just 26 years old, he is a solid bet to provide an upgrade for any zone-coverage defense.
Patrick Robinson, CB, San Diego Chargers
San Diego Chargers cornerback Patrick Robinson is looking to find a long-term contract after putting together a solid 2015 campaign. The 28-year-old would bring speed and good size to a secondary that utilizes off-man and zone concepts. According to Josina Anderson of ESPN, he received interest from teams the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears earlier in the week.
Reggie Nelson, FS, Cincinnati Bengals
Now that we’ve reached the weekend, a veteran like Reggie Nelson should receive more phone calls. The 32-year-old free safety has been successful with the Cincinnati Bengals, but he may be able to find more money elsewhere. He’s a good Cover 2 fit as his skill set diminishes.
John Keim of ESPN.com reported the Washington Redskins have some interest in Nelson.
Walter Thurmond III, SS, Philadelphia Eagles
It’s surprising that a talented strong safety who is capable of playing cornerback is still available after Day 3 of free agency. Walter Thurmond III successfully moved positions in 2015 and should cash in, as many teams need an upgrade in the secondary. But he may not be interested in continuing his career.
Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News has heard Thurmond may want to retire.
Eric Weddle, FS, San Diego Chargers
Finding a capable single-high free safety is difficult, and getting the chance to sign one in free agency is even harder. And yet, free safety Eric Weddle is still on the market. The former second-round pick played through a groin injury that landed him on injured reserve in 2015. His statistics were limited last year from the injury, but a full offseason to recover should work wonders. A decision will come Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Weddle is deciding between four offers.
All stats used are from Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Ian Wharton is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.