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10 Savvy Veterans Worth Adding in 2012 NFL Free Agency

Jake SilverCorrespondent INovember 23, 2011

10 Savvy Veterans Worth Adding in 2012 NFL Free Agency

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    After the conclusion of every NFL season, we enter a frenzied period where the biggest and baddest names in free agency are snapped up in a matter of days, if not hours. 

    The players who garner the massive, long-term contracts are generally younger, more productive, and better known than many veteran players in a free agent pool.

    These players might be past their prime, but signing low-priced veterans via free agency can be a terrific move from an investment standpoint.

    Some of them may not be as productive as they once were, but those who aren't can bring a level of experience and leadership to a locker room that many teams sorely lack.

    Here are 10 vets set to become free agents in 2012 who would make great additions to any ball club.

10. Lofa Tatupu

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    The fact that Lofa Tatupu does not currently have a job is ridiculous. Given the state of defenses around the NFL, the services of a middle linebacker in Tatupu's class should be in high demand.

    Just a year ago, he was in the middle of a six-year contract extension that made him one of the five highest-paid linebackers in the NFL and was going to take him to the end of his career with the Seattle Seahawks.

    Come spring 2012, Tatupu should be fully recovered from his previous season-ending injury in 2009, and there are more than a few teams that should take a low-risk shot on this smart veteran defensive leader.

    He definitely has some football left in the tank. It would be a shame to see it wasted.

9. Brandon Lloyd

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    Brandon Lloyd has a unique story in that his breakout season took place when he was 29 years old, far older than a player normally is upon having a talent-establishing season.

    Despite his 1,448 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns in 2010, the Denver Broncos elected to trade him to the St. Louis Rams for a low pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

    With no contract extension in place and the Rams likely looking to get younger on offense next season, Lloyd could find himself looking for work.

    Teams in need of receiving threats should not hesitate to look at the 30-year-old veteran. Despite his age, he still has the largest catch radius in the NFL, and has several good years of production left in him, especially with the right quarterback.

    He has 26 catches for 322 yards and three touchdowns in five games with the Rams.

8. Jim Leonhard

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    Jim Leonhard is small, even for a safety, at 5-foot-8, 188 pounds.

    Despite that, he is a tenacious and intelligent defender who, even at the age of 29, makes smart plays week after week on defense.

    An undrafted free agent in 2005 for the Buffalo Bills, Leonhard has proved himself over the years during his tenure in Buffalo and then with the Baltimore Ravens to be a capable safety.

    As a safety for the New York Jets, Leonhard is a fan favorite on the team's well-known defense, and a respected football player by his peers to boot.

    This veteran free agent would be a great addition to any 2012 locker room.

7. Michael Bush

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    At 27 years old, Michael Bush is old enough to be considered a "veteran" as far as running backs go. With the dreaded age of 30 closing in, Bush has only a few really good years left in his legs, and if his current production is any indication, he does not plan to waste them.

    Bush is a bruising back who can pound out the tough yardage whilst still being a consistent big-play threat.

    He is likely to be a big-ticket free agent in the 2012 offseason. The Raiders might even use the franchise tag to keep him around, which would be a wise move on their part.

6. John Carlson

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    Unless your name is Zach Miller, Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates or Jermichael Finley, tight end is not normally a position to see much attention from free agency suitors.

    John Carlson is not an outstanding or explosive player by any means, but he is solid and knows the ins and outs of his position.

    He can block and catch in equal measure, and his size allows him to do both with ease. A tight end with size just needs to know how to play the position based on his team's need, and Carlson fits the ticket.

    A team that needs some blocking and a red zone target would do well to look at Carlson this year.

5. Sione Pouha

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    Sione Pouha was a barely-known name when he stepped into Kris Jenkins' shoes for the New York Jets after Jenkins lost his 2009 season to an ACL tear.

    Now he is known as a powerful force on the Jets' respectable front line. At 32 years old, Pouha is likely entering the twilight of his career, but he is a dependable nose tackle who can lead a defensive front game in and game out.

    The 325-pound Tongan is crafty for his size, being slightly smaller than a standard 3-4 nose tackle, and a veteran with that kind of skill and knowledge is always a worthy free agency addition.

4. Ronde Barber

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    Ronde Barber does not fit your prototypical "attractive free agent" as a 37-year-old defensive back. However, he does fit like a glove into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive scheme, and they would be silly not to retain their longest-standing veteran. 

    Even if the Buccaneers were to let Barber go, there should be plenty of market left for him. Despite his advanced age, he has the speed and competitive drive to keep up with receivers almost young enough to be his kids.

    Far more importantly, Barber is a terrific leader, mentor and locker room presence. If the Buccaneers decide to let him walk (unlikely), he would do a terrific job in a teaching role for guys like Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara.

    He's still got a season or two.

3. London Fletcher

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    London Fletcher is practically the archetype for a savvy veteran player. At the age of 36, he still has not missed a beat, or a game, in his career.

    Free agency is coming up for Fletcher this year, and a rebuilding team like the Washington Redskins may balk at the kind of money he can command.

    Fletcher is a tremendous leader and tenacious defender. He can easily serve in a three-down role for any team next year and mentor their younger defensive players.

    His leadership and knowledge of how to both play great defense and stay healthy at the same time is a worthwhile investment for any team to put into their locker room.

    If you doubt his prowess at 36, know that he has amassed 96 tackles in 2011, with 56 of them being solo.

2. LaDanian Tomlinson

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    LaDanian Tomlinson is best known for his hall-of-fame career with the San Diego Chargers, where he set numerous NFL records, including single-season touchdowns (31) and single-season rushing touchdowns (28).

    He rushed for about 12,000 yards in San Diego and added 4,000 yards receiving as well, and ranks sixth all-time on the NFL rushing list. 

    His last two seasons with the New York Jets have been far less than spectacular, however, as age has clearly hit him very hard since turning 30.

    Despite his no longer having much ability to run the ball, Tomlinson is still a capable pass-catcher, a terrific pass protector, and most importantly a valuable leader.

    Just by his name and legacy alone, Tomlinson can command the respect of an entire locker room, so for a low-risk free agency deal, he could easily go to a title contender as a third-down back and mentor.

1. David Garrard

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    David Garrard's decent career with the Jacksonville Jaguars was brought to an abrupt and inglorious end right before the start of the 2011 season.

    The team decided late in the summer to not even use the 33-year-old signal caller as a mentor to rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

    Despite his sudden exit from Jacksonville, do not be fooled into thinking that Garrard cannot still play. He retains both his mobility and his arm that allowed him moderate success for the Jaguars.

    Quite a few teams should have need of a veteran transition quarterback in 2012, to play and teach while developing a younger draft pick.

    Garrard will fit that bill for many teams. A veteran backup quarterback is always a good thing to have. He might finally be willing to take a pay cut after missing all of the 2011 season.

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