Although the lockout has not been concluded, it is never too early to look to the future. As soon as the lockout is lifted there will be some kind of free-agency period. The new CBA will determine how free agency will conspire.
Without further ado, let's have a look at 5 overlooked free agents that do not get the attention that they have rightfully earned.
2010 team: New Orleans Saints
Roman Harper was drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for Harper, he got off to a rocky start due to an injury-riddled rookie season.
He came back strongly after his first year in the league and he hasn’t missed a game since. This has earned him two Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl championship with the team that drafted him.
When people talk about the Saints, Harper is rarely the first player mentioned. We hear so much talk about Reggie Bush, Marques Colston and star quarterback Drew Brees. Harper is one of those players that you should hear more about.
The strong safety has put up big numbers during the course of his career. He was just shy of repeating a 100 tackle-season last year and he also forced an impressive six fumbles.
According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Harper has stated that he is 90 % certain that he will return to the Saints this upcoming season—but you can put your money on the fact that there will be several teams taking a look at him.
2010 team: Baltimore Ravens
Le’Ron McClain is another player who does not get much attention by the media. That would be because he’s a fullback.
McClain is as much of a fullback as anyone in the business, and he has been very impressive for the Ravens since they took him off the board in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
Since then, McClain has received both two Pro Bowl selections as well as two All-Pro selections. These selections were well earned.
He has been creating openings for the highly effective running game in Baltimore—but blocking is not all he can do.
In 2008, he rushed for 902 yards on 232 carries—that’s nearly 3.9 YPC. That's better than many starting running backs in the league—not bad for the young fullback.
The Ravens have decided to let him test free agency, and I have a feeling that Denver could need an upgrade at fullback. Spencer Larsson is simply not good enough.
2010 team: New York Giants
Steve Smith is a free agent this year. No, not the discontent wide receiver in Carolina, the other Steve Smith—the one that is a fan favorite in New York.
He was drafted by the New York Giants in 2007. In his short career, Smith has managed to set a new franchise record for receptions in a season with 107. That was in 2009. Incredibly, he only made the Pro Bowl that year because an injury to another selection—that’s how overlooked he is!
He was the player who caught the pass to set up the play that won Super Bowl XLII for the Giants, and he has been Eli Manning’s favorite third down target since he was drafted.
One of the reasons for that is that he runs extremely crisp routes. The Giants are expected to resign him, but if the organization doesn’t make the move shortly after the lockout is lifted then there will be plenty of teams looking for a bargain.
2010 team: Tennessee Titans
Stephen Tulloch was drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft and has become a very solid middle linebacker since then.
He doesn’t receive nearly the attention he deserves. As an example: if you look at the Wikipedia article about him—it contains only six lines—three of which are about his NFL Draft, while the other three cover both his college and high school career.
Although he didn’t become the undisputed starter before 2008, he has played in every game since he was drafted. His production hit a career high with 160 combined tackles last year.
With the NFL being so much of a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” kind of league, we expect this player to be a hot commodity in 2011 Free Agency.
The Giants seems to be in the hunt to sign him as the team could definitely need to upgrade its linebacker group in order to restore the pride in the Big Blue Wrecking Crew
2010 team: New York Giants.
Some become future Giants and some become former Giants. Ahmad Bradshaw seems to be a Giant on the move this summer, as it seems as if the Giants are not willing to pay him the big bucks he’ll demand while the team is also paying Brandon Jacobs.
Ahmad Bradshaw was undoubtedly the biggest steal of the 2007 NFL Draft. He was picked in the seventh round—just five picks shy of becoming undrafted.
He became the Fire of the “Earth, Wind & Fire” threesome consisting of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw.
The trio was a big contributing factor to why the New York Giants won the Super Bowl the year Bradshaw was drafted. Bradshaw was given an increased role when Derrick Ward left the Big Apple in 2009, and has never looked back since.
He won the starting job in 2010 and led the league in rushing for a period of time before he was benched due to "fumble-itis." He racked up a career high of 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns in 2010.
Bradshaw has stated that he hopes to remain a Giant, but time will tell if the Giants can afford both parts of its talented rushing tandem.