NFL Free Agency 2011: Lofa Tatupu Leads 6 Impact FAs Still Inexplicably Unsigned
With the NFL free-agency period winding down and the 2011 season just around the corner, it's easy to forget that there are still some talented free agents on the market.
It's hard to imagine some of these players not finding work this season. Here, we'll highlight six particularly notable free agents who are still without contracts.
There are various reasons why teams avoid certain players, such as dubious injury histories and well-documented character concerns. But the players on this list are good enough that it's amazing nobody has taken a risk on them yet.
Here are six potential impact free agents who are still inexplicably without a deal.
Sources: WalterFootball.com, ESPN.com
Kevin Smith, RB (Detroit Lions)
What ever happened to Kevin Smith?
After being drafted by the Detroit Lions out of Central Florida in 2008, Smith had a notable rookie season, rushing 238 times for 976 yards and eight touchdowns.
Since then, however, it seems Smith hasn't been able to stay healthy. The incredible amount of carries he received while at UCF could have played an integral part in his recent injury proneness.
Regardless, Smith has had only 34 carries in six games last season, and if he can finally get back to 100 percent, he may be able to revive his career elsewhere. He's capable of great things on the field and could potentially be an integral part of any needy ground game.
He would have to receive a contract to do that, however. It's crazy that nobody has offered him a low-risk, one-year deal to bolster running back depth.
Jared Gaither, OT (Baltimore Ravens)
Jared Gaither has gotten a lot of hype throughout his NFL career but never quite lived up to expectations with the Baltimore Ravens.
It isn't that the 6'9", 340-pound behemoth isn't good, it's just that he hasn't been able to stay healthy.
It's understandable why nobody would want to take a big risk on a guy with such a well-known injury history, but given that nobody seems to be showing him interest, you'd think he would be willing to work out a very affordable deal.
Assuming that is the case, it's strange nobody has signed him to be a dominant body up front, at least until he gets hurt again. Who knows? Maybe he'd be the difference in one close win.
Rumor recently had it the Oakland Raiders were interested in Gaither's services, but apparently the deal fell through.
*UPDATE*—Jared Gaither has been signed by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Kirk Morrison, LB (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Kirk Morrison had a down year of sorts with the disappointing Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010, recording 89 tackles in 16 games with no other significant stats.
His previous experience, however, was five impressive seasons with the Oakland Raiders in which he totaled 632 tackles, five sacks, six forced fumbles and seven interceptions.
Morrison is an underrated linebacker who hasn't missed a game in his career and with the exception of last season, consistently produces and is a legitimate starter at inside linebacker.
Still, Morrison is inexplicably without a contract.
The 6'2", 240-pounder could start for a lot of defenses in the NFL, and because of his "down" season in '10, the fact that he is still unsigned is difficult to fathom.
Terrell Owens, WR (Cincinnati Bengals)
Terrell Owens is a 37-year-old receiver who is a cancer in the locker room and has consequently been a journeyman since 2004.
Given that information, why would anyone want to sign him?
His 2010 stat line of 72 catches for 983 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games might be a reason.
Sure, Terrell Owens has major character issues and yeah, he may not be worth it anymore. But maybe he is. His 2010 season with the Bengals proved that he still has some of his once-elite ability, and signing him to a one-year deal might be a big benefit for someone hurting at receiver, provided they can handle his antics for the season.
As long as Owens still has the ability to produce, he's worth a shot, and the fact that a Super Bowl contender hasn't taken a chance on a potentially dangerous weapon is weird.
Lofa Tatupu, LB (Seattle Seahawks)
Lofa Tatupu was a dominant player for the Seattle Seahawks from 2005 to 2008. Then he got injured in 2009, and he hasn't been quite the same since.
That doesn't mean Tatupu isn't still a very good player though, and it's crazy that he hasn't been signed somewhere else yet.
The 6'0", 250-pounder has only six years under his belt after starring for the USC Trojans in college. He exceeded 100 tackles in each of his first three seasons, and his 10 career interceptions for 232 return yards and two scores prove that he's equally adept in pass defense.
Tatupu is still good enough to start and could be an upgrade for anyone looking for help at inside linebacker. It'll be surprising if he isn't signed before the beginning of the season.
Kelvin Hayden, CB (Indianapolis Colts)
Kelvin Hayden was a stud for the Indianapolis Colts from 2007 to 2010, but because he missed 18 games in the past three seasons, the Colts released him this offseason.
Despite his apparent proneness to getting hurt recently, the 6'0", 195-pounder is a legitimate starter at cornerback that excels when healthy.
He established himself as a playmaking corner with nine interceptions for 214 return yards and three touchdowns in the past four seasons, while averaging over five tackles per game during that span.
It's amazing teams like the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos haven't raced to sign the talented player, who would start for most teams in the NFL.
It'll be very surprising if Hayden isn't picked up before the season starts.