Under the Radar NFL Free Agents: Best of the Rest
The first day of free agency came and went with little surprise—players like Julius Peppers and Karlos Dansby signed with the teams they were speculated to, and only a few other minor things happened.
Now we are on to the second wave of free agency and the second-tier players are the only ones left, but this is where the value is to be had.
Most of the attention is on the unrestricted free agents, and rightfully so. But, with a less than normal amount of UFAs, don’t be surprised if teams are giving up draft picks to attain proven commodities in the form of other teams’ restricted free agents (I won’t be focusing on RFA’s though.).
With the best UFA wide receivers already signed (Kevin Walter back to Houston and Chris Chambers back to KC), Anquan Boldin now unavailable after a trade to Baltimore, and the real big guns being RFAs (Vincent Jackson, Miles Austin, Brandon Marshall), there isn’t much depth in this year’s WR FA class.
With the recent signing of Chris Chambers, the Chiefs now have no real urgency to sign another WR from free agency unless they want to use them in the slot.
Antonio Bryant leads the best of the rest when it comes to split ends, and could come at a good value to a team who signs him (maybe Cincinnati). While he definitely has lost a step since his prime, he still brings the ability to stretch a defense vertically and open up the running game because of it.
He won’t be a team’s number one receiver at his age, but Bryant certainly can come in and contribute to a team. The downside with Bryant, however, is that he is not exactly a stand-up citizen in the locker room, and has a reputation for being divisive in that area.
Derrick Mason is another grey-beard that has had a productive career thus far. He, like Bryant, is no longer a number one wide receiver, but can be a very valuable number two guy providing stability for any quarterback. He still is a great route-runner and has hands of glue. In his mid-30s, a team should be able to get him cheap for a one or two-year contract.
Ben Watson was one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets during the Patriots' Super Bowl runs, and his contract has run out in New England. This is a popular name being thrown around for any team who needs a tight end, but he clearly has Pioli connections and could fill the desperate need the Chiefs have had for a pass-catching TE since Tony Gonzalez left.
Ryan Lilja was released by the Colts a few days ago because they “want to get bigger” on the offensive line, and he was the first casualty of this movement. Even though a bit undersized for a guard (6’2”, 290 lbs.) he is a smart and effective pass blocker.
He occasionally has trouble moving his man off the line of scrimmage, but I would imagine this would be less of a concern for a team like the Chiefs, who run a zone blocking scheme.
In fact, one would figure that his intelligence and quickness would make him extremely attractive to GM Scott Pioli, and that Lilja would be high on his list to bring in for a workout.
Chester Pitts is another player with a lot of starting experience. In fact, he had started every game since he was drafted at right guard for the Texans until last year when he was injured in September. He will not be 100 percent again until sometime in May, but he is still definitely worth taking a look at.
Bobbie Williams was in instrumental part of Cedric Benson having a career year last year, even at 34 years of age. While he has publicly made it known that he wants to return to the Bengals, he understands that it is a business and can end up anywhere.
Williams has a reputation for being a leader in the locker room, and can be such a player for at least one if not two more years. If a team (like the Chiefs) is planning on drafting an interior lineman late in the draft this year, Williams would be the perfect guy to have him learn behind for a year or two.
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