NFL Free Agent Signings: Hottest Free Agent Targets Still Looking for Work

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IJuly 29, 2011

NFL Free Agent Signings: Hottest Free Agent Targets Still Looking for Work

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    Free agency is in full swing right now and there have been no shortage of surprises.

    I'm not sure that many people saw Matt Hasselbeck heading to Tennessee or Sidney Rice landing in Seattle or even Johnathan Joseph winding up with the Texans.

    But it's also pretty surprising to see—even at this extremely early stage—some players still on the market. 

    Now, certainly some of these guys are weighing offers from everyone, hoping to drive the price up. And some are holding out hope for bigger deals. But there's also a collection of players who have question marks surrounding them and might not be quite as much of a guarantee as they seem on paper. 

    Either way there are some excellent players still on the board. Here's are the eight best....and if you missed it, Ray Edwards and Nnamdi Asomugha have signed, so they're off the list.

    Note: Salary cap casualty players like Nick Barnett or Todd Heap fall into a separate category—they're free agents for a different reason—so they don't have a spot here. 

No. 8: Donte Whitner, S

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    2010 Stats:  140 tackles, 96 solo, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception

    Experience: Six years

    I really expected Whitner to have signed with the Browns by now—they have a need, it was rumored long before the end of the lockout, and Whitner is from Cleveland. Now that may still happen as the Browns have had to do some rearranging and still have yet to make a major move.

    But if the Browns balk at him, someone will swoop right in. He's very big for a safety and physical and has been overlooked a bit because he played in Buffalo.

    With the right club that will change very quickly. 

No. 7: Michael Huff, S

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    2010 Stats: 94 tackles, 3 INT, 3 forced fumbles, 4 sacks

    Experience: 6 years

    It's interesting to note that two of the NFL's worst franchises over the last half-decade, the Bills and  Raiders, seemingly have no interest in re-signing big safeties whom they spent a Top 10 draft choice on not so long ago: the Bills with Donte Whitner and the Raiders with Michael Huff, back to back picks, no less.  

    Maybe that says something about the teams and their decision making, or maybe it's just a coincidence. 

    Still, Huff is a quality player and there will be several teams interested in him: he's coming off a monster year in which he was named second-team All Pro 

    He's bigger and more versatile than Whitner and can be a great asset in the pass rush off the edge. 

No. 6: Michael Bush, RB

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    2010 Stats: 158 carries, 655 yards, 8 TD


    Sure, Bush isn't the stud that Darren McFadden is, but he's a very solid runner with a big frame.

    And he has had his share of monster games, including a handful of 20+ carry efforts last season. 

    It remains to be seen whether or not he can emerge as a true feature back, the way Michael Turner did a few years ago when he joined the Falcons, but Bush has that potential. And even if he doesn't he's an excellent complement to any starter or an insurance policy for a starter coming back from an injury.  

No. 5: Steve Smith, WR (New York Giants)

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    2010 Stats: 49 catches, 529 yards, 3 TD

    Experience: 4 years

    The major knee surgery he underwent is huge cause for concern, but Smith has a great work ethic and in 2009 had a tremendous season, catching 107 passes for 1,220 yards. 

    The Giants would really like to be able to bring him back, but with Santonio Holmes re-signing with the Jets and the Seahawks pulling off a bit of a surprise with Sidney Rice, Smith becomes a bit more attractive.....his name-sake, the one in Carolina, reportedly staying put is also a factor. 

    Any club that signs him will likely get a major discount. 

No. 4: Carl Nicks, G

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    Experience: 3 years

    While the Saints busy themselves this offseason with their skills backfield--re-signing Pierre Thomas, drafting Mark Ingram Jr., trading Reggie Bush, signing Darren Sproles—they very well could lose a huge piece of the other part of the running game: the offensive line and more specifically the guard position.

    Carl Nicks was a starter for the Super Bowl winning 2009 Saints and he earned a pro bowl spot and a second team All-Pro spot.

    Like Brent Grimes, it would cost a team a first rounder to land Nicks, but considering how hard it is to find young reasonably healthy interior lineman (Nicks is only 26 and hasn't missed a game in his three years) he could be worth it to a club that expects to make the playoffs and wouldn't be risking a Top 10 choice.   

No. 3: Zach Miller, TE

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    2010 Stats: 60 catches, 685 yards, 5 TDs


    Oh those Oakland Raiders.....

    They finally crawled out of the basement they fell into back at the start of Super Bowl XXXVII and were in the hunt for the AFC West last year. And now, they could lose three huge pieces of that puzzle: one on defense (Michael Huff) and two on Michael Bush and Miller. 

    Miller won't put up Antonio Gates or Vernon Davis or Jason Witten numbers, but he can be that type of critical, clutch pass catcher—like Heath Miller in Pittsburgh or Visanthe Schiancoe in Minnesota—who is extremely valuable. 

    Since Miller was able to average 60+ catches and 700+ yards the last three seasons, in a pretty mediocre Oakland offense, imagine what he could do in one with a superstar passer. 

No. 2: Braylon Edwards, WR

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    2010 Stats:  53 catches, 904 yards, 7 TDs

    Experience: 7 years

    I don't think Edwards is an interchangeable piece for Santonio Holmes or Sidney Rice, but he's close.

    He has great size and the right amount of speed and it would seem that his dropsies problem of a few years back is behind him. And things with his DUI are now completely settled. So clubs should have no problem going after him.

    And as good as Santonio Holmes was last year in the second half of the season, Edwards was just as productive and with his size he's a great red zone threat.  

No. 1: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB

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    2010 Stats:  276 carries, 1,235 yards, 8 TDs

    Experience: 4 years

    There's always a huge danger about giving a player—especially a running back—a huge contract after just one year of excellent play. It could be a fluke, it could be the result of a contract-year, and it could just be that the system he played in was ideal.

    But if the Giants do not mange to re-sign Bradshaw those concerns will be forgotten...his problems with fumbles, maybe not.

    Still, you've got to be impressed with what he was able to do in an offense that already had Brandon Jacobs, relied so much on the pass, and turned the ball over so prodigiously.

    With DeAngelo Williams staying in Carolina, Bradshaw is clearly the best running back on the market and will be paid like it.