NFL Free Agency: The 40 Most Underrated Free Agents on the Market
While NFL head coaches and general managers await word from the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals as to what is happening with the lockout and when free agency can begin, teams are going back to the drawing board to fine tune their needs and what free agents can best fill those holes.
We have seen our fair share of stories that have shed light on all of the top free agents in the market, such as Oakland Raiders corner Nnamdi Asomugha, and the New York Jets wide receiving duo of Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards.
What about the rest of the free agents that are waiting by the phone? They are also hoping to extend their NFL careers, and hope to find another NFL team appreciative of their work.
There were many teams that did not fill their holes at the draft, so they will have to turn to free agency to plug someone in and hope that they seize the opportunity and run with it.
We are going to offer up 40 underrated free agents, listing them by position, so if you see a position your team needs help with, one of these guys may be a viable cheaper option.
Well, we say that with the caveat that we have no way yet of knowing of who will officially be considered a free agent, and who is not. We will know soon enough, but until then, we can at least do some speculation.
There was a feeding frenzy at the 2011 NFL Draft in the first round for quarterbacks that are totally unproven and still in need of a long period of coaching before they are ready to take the field. Imagine how the other teams that did not draft a quarterback will react to players that actually have a number of starts under their belt. They will probably be bid up rather aggressively.
The Buffalo Bills is one example of a NFL team that did not draft a quarterback. General manager Buddy Nix is on record as stating last week that he is looking to add one veteran free agent QB and possibly one more as well, to back up Ryan Fitzpatrick. I wrote a story looking at the skills of every potential QB that could be on the market this summer and broke them down here.
Billy Volek is an example of an underrated free agent quarterback. His career stats bear that out. Volek has thrown 27 TD to 15 interceptions. He has completed 60.1 percent of his passes and has a QB passer rating of 84.9. Due to working with Ron Rivera in San Diego, he may wind up as a mentor in Carolina.
Drew Stanton of the Detroit Lions is another example of what I would consider to be an underrated QB. Stanton is just 27 years old. In 2010, he threw for 780 yards, had four touchdowns to three interceptions and had a QB passer rating of 78.4, which are above his career norms. He may be ready to take on more duties. In 2010, he completed 58 percent of his passes, just under the preferred average of 60 percent.
Trent Edwards is not underrated, but since he is now out of a job, he might be willing to take less money to keep playing.
Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai is one of the free agents that will be available for teams that did not draft a running back. In his career, Addai has rushed for over 4,000 yards. His 2010 season was cut short due to injuries, but he still managed almost 500 yards with an average of 4.3 yards per rush, and 6.5 yards per catch. He has 38 rushing touchdowns to his credit and is only 28 years old.
The Dallas Cowboys drafted DeMarco Murray. That may force Tashard Choice to be expendable, and if so, teams might want to snap him up. Choice has averaged 4.8 yards per rushing attempt and 8.0 yards per reception, but appears to be caught up in a numbers game in Dallas.
Mike Tolbert of the San Diego Chargers has a second round tender offer. The restricted free agent had a pretty solid season in 2010 as he rushed for over 730 yards and added 11 touchdowns. Tolbert averaged 4.0 yards per carry, and his career average is 4.2 yards per carry.
Another Chargers running back that should be considered as underrated is Darren Sproles. Living in the shadows of LaDainian Tomlinson for the majority of his career, Sproles averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 2010. His career average is 4.6 yards per carry. Sproles is of course a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, as he averaged 8.8 yards per catch. For his career, he has averaged 9.6 yards per catch.
Malcolm Floyd is a free agent this year. The wide receiver of the San Diego Chargers is possibly due for a big payday because the Chargers have opted to place more emphasis on signing Vincent Jackson. In 2010, Floyd appeared in only 11 games, but still managed to make 37 catches for 717 yards, which comes out to an impressive average of 19.4 yards per catch. He scored six touchdowns last year. In his career, he has averaged 17.3 yards per catch. Floyd has 15 touchdowns so far in his career.
Steve Smith, the New York Giants wide receiver from USC, is another wide receiver that I would consider to be underrated. In the past three years, Smith has amassed 212 catches, good for over 2,300 yards and 11 touchdowns. Smith may be free to leave New York, if the Giants prefer Mario Manningham over him.
Another underrated free agent wide receiver is James Jones from the Green Bay Packers. Jones won't come in as a No. 1 receiver for somebody, but he will be a very good contributor. In 2010, he made 50 catches for 679 yards and five touchdowns. He averaged 13.6 yards per catch. In his four years at Green Bay, Jones made 149 catches for 2,069 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 13.9 yards a catch.
Mike Sims-Walker of the Jacksonville Jaguars is another example of a free agent that is probably flying under the radar. In 2010, Sims-Walker made 43 catches for 562 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged just under 14 yards a catch. In his career with the Jaguars, Sims-Walker made 122 catches for 1,648 yards, 14 touchdowns and an average of 13.5 yards per catch.
Lance Moore, wide receiver of the New Orleans Saints is a restricted free agent, as the Saints made him a tender offer. If that tender becomes a moot issue, Moore may get some strong offers. In 2010, Moore made 66 catches for 763 yards, eight touchdowns and an average of 11.6 yards per catch. For his career, Moore has 192 catches for 2,156 yards, 22 touchdowns and an average of 11.2 yards per catch.
Steve Breaston had a first-round restricted tender offer extended to him by the Arizona Cardinals. In just 13 games in 2010, Breaston made 47 catches for 718 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 15.3 yards per catch. During his career, Breaston has made 187 receptions for 2,528 yards, seven touchdowns and an average of 13.5 yards per catch.
Washington Redskins tackle Jammal Brown suffered through hip surgery and a concussion in 2010 season. He had a rough year, which might keep his value depressed, but we are talking about a two-time Pro Bowl player here. He is 30 years old, so he probably can still play for a number of years.
The Steelers extended a first-round restricted free agent tender to RT Willie Colon, who tore his Achilles in 2010. The injury may result in the Steelers not stepping up in their contract offer, which would open him up to the league if the tender offers are not enforceable.
One of the better run-blocking guards in the league, Atlanta Falcons guard Harvey Dahl has been fighting through injuries to his ankle and Achilles. Perhaps the injuries will keep his worth undervalued to the Falcons, but not to the rest of the league.
Oakland Raiders guard Robert Gallery at 30 years old now, will he follow his old head coach Tom Cable to Seattle? That is the current buzz regarding Gallery, the former first-round pick of the Raiders.
Dallas Cowboys tackle Doug Free was tendered at the first- and third-round level by the Cowboys. If the tender goes away due to the ruling by the court system, there would probably be a bidding war on Free, meaning that he could not live up to his name any longer.
New Orleans Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod is considered to be a better pass blocker than a run blocker, the Saints extended a second-round restricted free agent tender to LT Bushrod. For pass-happy teams needing help with protecting the blind side, he might be an interesting target.
Atlanta Falcons guard Justin Blalock. How many of the Falcon's free agent linemen will they be able to resign? Maybe they keep Dahl, and Blalock gets away, or vice versa. Blalock started all 16 games last year and is a solid guard.
New York Jets tackle Damien Woody has already been released by the Jets, so he is a true free agent. Coming off of an Achilles surgery, he may not be healthy until the summer, but if the ban doesn't get lifted until then, that gives him more time to recover.
Cincinnati guard Evan Mathis is caught up in a numbers game in Cincinnati, Mathis is a good run-blocking guard that is an underrated 29-year-old lineman.
Cincinnati center Kyle Cook is the only center on our list. Cook has been doing a solid job in run blocking and at 27 has a number of solid years ahead of him.
San Francisco tackle Aubrayo Franklin will be targeted by NFL teams in search of a defensive tackle to fortify their ability to control the line of scrimmage will be bidding up Franklin when free agency begins. Franklin is on the bottom fringe of the top 10 defensive tackles in the league. Not a sack artist, but helps out with the run game.
New York Giants end Mathias Kiwanuka is a playmaker at defensive end. In 2010, he picked up four sacks in the first three games, but suffered a neck injury that ended his season. The Giants tendered an offer to him, but due to their depth on the defensive line and his injury, he could slip through the cracks and be scooped up somebody looking to a pass rusher. Kiwanuka has 23.5 sacks in six NFL seasons and also been credited with seven forced fumbles. That is nothing to sneeze at.
Tennessee Titans have a pair of defensive ends that are free agents. They are Jason Babin and Jacob Ford. Both are on the smaller side, so the Titans may not retain them both. Babin recorded 12 and 1/2 sacks in 2010, and has 30 sacks for his career. He is 30 years old. Ford is 27 years old and has 15 career sacks.
Cleveland Browns defensive end Matt Roth is the potential victim of a defensive scheme adjustment in Cleveland that could see the free agent looking for a new home. In 2010, Roth made 86 tackles, which is high for a defensive end. He also contributed three sacks. For his career, the 28-year-old has made 20 sacks.
Barry Cofield, defensive tackle for the New York Giants, might have seen his fate sealed when the Giants drafted Marvin Austin in the second round. Cofield wasn't happy anyway signing one-year deals, so he wanted to test the waters in free agency. In 2010, Cofield made 54 tackles and had four sacks. The 27-year-old has made 210 tackles in his career and 10 and 1/2 sacks.
Paul Posluszny had his best season with the Bills, as he came up with 151 tackles which was good for No. 3 overall in the NFL in that category. Posluszny also had two sacks. In four NFL seasons, the 26-year-old Posluszny has made 397 tackles, had four forced fumbles and four interceptions. The Bills did tender him an offer, but right now nobody knows what that tender offer is actually good for.
Ranked right ahead of Posluszny on the 2010 tackle list was Stephen Tulloch of the Tennessee Titans. Tulloch made 159 tackles in 2010. The Titans rewarded him by drafting Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy, which sends a message that Tulloch may very well be finding a new home in 2011, despite leading the team in tackles for the past two years.
When Tampa Bay drafted Mason Foster, that might have been the final straw that meant that linebacker Barrett Ruud would be playing elsewhere in 2011. In 2010, Ruud made 120 tackles, forced two fumbles, had two sacks and one interception. In his career, Ruud made 587 tackles, had five sacks, six interceptions and six forced fumbles. Ruud is only 27 years old.
Rocky McIntosh, Washington Redskins linebacker, is going to be testing the free agent market in 2011. In the 2010 season he came up 110 tackles and two sacks. For his career, McIntosh has totaled 406 tackles, seven sacks, eight forced fumbles and three interceptions. He is 28 years old and still has years left to compete at a high level.
Chris Carr, Baltimore Ravens corner, was very solid in pass coverage in 2010 for the Ravens. He only came up with two interceptions, but any team needed cover help on the corners would be well advised to go after Carr.
Drayton Florence turned in two very respectable years at corner for the Buffalo Bills. He is an unrestricted free agent. It was assumed that the Bills and Florence would part ways after the 2010 season ended, especially after the Bills drafted corner Aaron Williams with the 34th overall pick, but Buddy Nix said it wasn't a given that Florence would be back with the team. Florence is 30 years old, has 14 career interceptions, made 391 tackles and defended 75 passes.
Carlos Rogers is a 29-year-old corner with the Washington Redskins that made 54 tackles and had two interceptions in 2010. For his career, he has 300 tackles, eight interceptions and has defended 76 passes.
Another Redskins corner, Phillip Buchanan, is also a free agent. At 30 years old, Buchanan made 49 tackles in 2010, had two forced fumbles and two interceptions. For his career, Buchanan made 388 tackles, 20 interceptions and eight forced fumbles. For someone that creates so many turnovers, there should be a number of teams interested in his services.
Dawan Landry had a solid 2010 season, with 111 tackles. Over his career, the Baltimore Ravens safety has made 362 tackles, five sacks, nine interceptions and defended 29 passes. He is 28 years old.
Donte Whitner had a solid season from a tackles standpoint, but his ball-hawking skills are more questionable. Whitner finished fifth in the NFL with 140 tackles in 2010, and was the only non-linebacker to finish in the top 13. In five seasons, Whitner has averaged one interception a year. He has made 451 tackles and defended 19 passes. He is only 25 years old. The Bills did place a tender offer on him.
San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle is ready to test free agency. He is just 26 years old and is coming off a solid campaign in 2010 that saw him register 96 tackles and come up with two interceptions. For his career, Weddle logged 358 tackles, six interceptions, four sacks and 29 passes defensed.
The New York Jets usually spend bigger bucks on their star cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. So, that means the safeties get less money, and that also means free agent Rodney Pool might be looking for greener pastures. Pool has 329 career tackles, 46 passes defended, 12 interceptions and three forced fumbles in his career. All that, and he is only 26 years old. It would not surprise me at all if he flies the coop.