2017 NFL Free Agents: Rumors and Predictions Surrounding Notable Players

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2017

Philadelphia Eagles running back Ryan Mathews (24) in action during an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The beginning of the NFL preseason tends to bring about a flurry of roster moves across the league. 

This year isn't any exception, not with the Buffalo Bills shipping Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams sitting as the headline act so far. Don't forget the close second, where the Bills struck up a deal for Jordan Matthews from the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Some of these roster moves can and will fall under the flag of free agency, though, where plenty of talented names continue to sit on the open market and await opportunities. These players are often veterans who can help out right away after injuries thin rosters or at least provide effective backup at a reasonable price. 

Below, let's look at some of the notable names left on the market and the current buzz around them. 

        

Rey Maualuga

Ron Schwane/Associated Press

If a team needs a run-stuffing presence for cheap, they won't have to look much further than veteran linebacker Rey Maualuga.

Maualuga spent eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals before being cut this past March. He's 30 years old now, though the move on Cincinnati's part had less to do with age and more with his diminishing role with the team. 

According to Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post, who spoke with sources about the situation, the Miami Dolphins are one team perhaps ready to put him on the field enough to justify signing him. 

The Dolphins find themselves in a position of need here thanks to the season-ending injury suffered by rookie linebacker Raekwon McMillan. His sudden absence means the Dolphins only have undrafted names ready to suit up on the strong side right now next to Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso. 

While the Dolphins might not be the only team interested in Maualuga, it's in his best interests to ink a deal there. By the end of his tenure in Cincinnati, he only played 30 percent of the snaps at the middle spot, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. That number could climb much higher in Miami. 

If Maualuga values money and playing time, a better option might not come up.

Prediction: Maualuga signs with the Dolphins   

         

Ryan Mathews

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The market for running backs this time of year is always a fickle beast, though new free agent Ryan Mathews brings along an interesting back story. 

Mathews got cut by the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday, a move the team confirmed. They were waiting for medical clearance after he spent the last few months rehabbing from offseason neck surgery. 

The new arrival to the market shouldn't have any problems drumming up interest, something Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun suggested when looking at the situation with a Baltimore Ravens slant: 

Mathews, 29, had a scary-sounding injury but seems to have plenty left in the tank. He's sitting on a 4.4-yards-per-carry career average with 37 touchdowns, having rushed more than 100 times and north of 4.3 yards per carry in each of his past two seasons while scoring 14 total rushing touchdowns. 

It's interesting Baltimore would come up in a conversation like this considering the top two names on the depth chart are Lorenzo Taliaferro and Terrance West. The latter ran for five scores a year ago and led the team in rushing during a year the Ravens boasted one of the league's worst rushing attacks. 

Mathews would be rather interesting as a rotational presence with a bruiser like West and a pass-catching option like Danny Woodhead. Another option, funnily enough, might include Miami as the team waits for starter Jay Ajayi to stay consistently healthy. 

For now, Baltimore looks like the best option because Mathews seems the exact missing piece of a strong rotation. Injuries and other developments might open up opportunities elsewhere, but the sooner Mathews gets to a camp, the better his odds of seeing serious playing time.  

Prediction: Mathews signs with the Ravens  

               

Tramaine Brock

RICK SCUTERI/Associated Press

It's not often teams have a chance at a starting-caliber cornerback in mid-August, yet here we are.

Tramaine Brock just had a legal situation dropped after an April arrest, and he released a statement concerning the issue and is already beginning to see interest on the open market. 

CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported the Seattle Seahawks have a major interest in bringing Brock aboard:

Here's where things should get a little crazy—if the Seahawks are making a push for a cornerback, it's probably best if the rest of the league gets in on the action. 

And it turns out the Seahawks are far from alone when it comes to Brock, as noted by Adam Caplan of ESPN: 

Teams that need help at cornerback are far and wide. The Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints are just a handful of teams of many that could use help at the spot. 

Brock, all of 28 years old, spent the first seven years of his career playing with the San Francisco 49ers and posting mostly strong returns while getting familiar with rivals such as the Seahawks. 

From the sounds of it, those Seahawks have done plenty of research on Brock. They'll apparently get the first crack, and the veteran will likely find it hard to ignore the idea of starting right away opposite Richard Sherman with the promise of playoff contention at a minimum sealing the deal.

Prediction: Brock signs with the Seahawks 

             

Stats courtesy of NFL.com.

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