Duane Brown and Other NFL Players Who Need to Be Signed Immediately
The 2022 NFL preseason kicked off last Thursday with the annual Hall of Fame Game. The first full week of preseason action is on the immediate horizon, and the regular season isn't far off.
Yet quality free agents are still unsigned and looking for work. 2021 Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown, for example, recently visited the New York Jets, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.
Brown turns 37 this month, but he's still capable of playing at a high level and shouldn't be a free agent with the regular season roughly a month away. He isn't the only player who should be scooped up between now and Week 1 either.
Here, we'll analyze seven free agents who need to be signed immediately. We'll examine the value each player can provide and dive into some potential landing spots based on factors like player upside, team needs, positional depth and salary-cap situations.
Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR
Wideout Odell Beckham Jr. might not seem like a prime candidate to sign immediately. He's coming off a torn ACL that he suffered in the Super Bowl and isn't likely to be ready early in the regular season.
However, getting Beckham under contract and into the facility now would actually make a ton of sense. For one, he's not going to remain available forever, and teams that wait too long are going to miss out.
Beckham has "continued to receive interest from several teams, contending teams," NFL Media's Ian Rapoport said on NFL Network.
Signing Beckham now would also allow him to begin working with a team's training staff and to start learning the offense. This would give him a better chance to hit the ground running once he's healthy enough to return.
As we saw with the Los Angeles Rams last year, Beckham can be a valuable late-season addition. In the playoffs alone, he had 288 yards and two touchdowns in fewer than four complete games.
A return to the Rams would be logical, as Beckham is already familiar with Sean McVay's system. Los Angeles still has $8.2 million available.
The Baltimore Ravens should try to swoop in and snag Beckham. The Ravens dealt former top perimeter target Marquise Brown during the draft and have one of the league's most underwhelming wide receiver groups.
Mark Andrews is a top-level tight end, and 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman showed some flashes last season. However, Lamar Jackson lacks reliable perimeter targets. In Baltimore, Beckham could eventually serve as the dangerous downfield threat that Brown was previously.
Best Fits: Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore Ravens
Duane Brown, OT
As previously mentioned, Brown is an older player at 36 but is still capable of being a high-end starter.
Brown started all 17 games for the Seattle Seahawks last year, and while he did allow eight sacks, per Pro Football Focus, he wound up with a Pro Bowl nod.
With five Pro Bowls and 203 starts on his resume, Brown is the best left tackle on the market and would make sense for just about any team seeking offensive line depth. With the Jets, Brown would presumably compete with George Fant for the starting left tackle job and/or allow Fant to serve as a backup swing tackle.
The added insurance may be needed soon. Right tackle Mekhi Becton suffered a knee injury on Monday, and
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported that it is "more concerning" than the team had initially believed. Becton will undergo more tests on Tuesday.
Bringing in competition would make a lot of sense for New York, which is looking to get a breakthrough season from second-year quarterback Zach Wilson. The BYU product was sacked 44 times as a rookie and was under pressure on 30.6 percent of his dropbacks.
The Jets are low on cap space, having just $3 million available, but would be wise to find a way to add Brown ahead of Week 1.
Brown should also be a target for the Chicago Bears, who have $15.7 million available and a dire need for better offensive line play.
Chicago quarterback Justin Fields was sacked 36 times in 12 games as a rookie last season and was under pressure on 27.3 percent of his dropbacks. There remains plenty of uncertainty at left tackle, as rookie fifth-round pick Braxton Jones appears to be the front-runner, according to Alyssa Barbieri of Bears Wire.
The Bears recently signed Riley Reiff. They should grab Brown as well.
Best Fits: New York Jets, Chicago Bears
Will Fuller, WR
Like Beckham, Will Fuller is a speedy wideout who carries health concerns. Fuller has played more than 11 games only once in his six-year career and missed 15 contests last season with a broken finger.
Yet when he's healthy, Fuller is a potent deep threat with the speed needed to take the top off a defense. His best statistical season came in 2020 when he caught 53 passes for 879 yards and eight touchdowns.
Fuller would be a fine complementary pass-catcher on most offenses. However, two teams stand out as ideal suitors.
Baltimore is one. As we mentioned when discussing Beckham, the Ravens lack quality weapons on the perimeter. They also lost their biggest deep threat on the outside when they dealt Brown to the Arizona Cardinals.
Fuller could step in as Jackson's new favorite downfield target.
The Bears should also be in on Fuller as they look to get more out of Fields. Chicago didn't do a ton to upgrade its receiving corps this offseason, adding Equanimeous St. Brown, N'Keal Harry, Byron Pringle and rookie Velus Jones Jr. Chicago also parted with former No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson II.
Harry recently suffered an ankle injury that is believed to be severe, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. Jones and Pringle are also dealing with injuries.
With few healthy options, Chicago should look at adding Fuller to its receiving corps immediately.
Best Fits: Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears
Kevin King, CB
Cornerback Kevin King never quite panned out with the Green Bay Packers. The 2017 second-round pick was a serviceable starter but failed to emerge as a true centerpiece in the secondary.
Last season, King dealt with a shoulder injury, missed seven games and allowed an opposing passer rating of 108.9 in coverage.
Still, there's plenty to like about the 27-year-old Washington product. He has youth and upside, possesses a long 6'3" frame and has 42 starts on his resume. King has the floor of a mid-level spot starter or high-end backup, and he could be more in the right defense.
In 2019, King logged 15 passes defended and five interceptions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are among the teams that should be in on King. They parted with longtime starter Joe Haden in free agency and still have $8.2 million in cap space remaining. The Steelers should have a solid starting tandem in Ahkello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace, but the depth in Pittsburgh is questionable.
Another team in the AFC North should be kicking the tires on King as well. Ravens starters Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are both returning from season-ending injuries, and Baltimore ranked dead-last in passing yards allowed last season.
King would provide a valuable bit of insurance and depth for the Ravens, who have $10 million in cap space available.
Best Fits: Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens
Sheldon Richardson, DT
At 31 years old, defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson may be nearing the latter stages of his career. However, he's still a solid player who can impact both the running and the passing games.
With the Minnesota Vikings last season, Richardson logged 39 tackles, six tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 18 quarterback pressures. He started all 16 games for the Cleveland Browns in 2020 and hasn't missed a game since the 2017 season.
Richardson should already be in an NFL camp.
A return to Cleveland would make plenty of sense and could happen. The Browns don't have a ton of established interior line depth and had Richardson as a starter in both 2019 and 2020.
"Richardson ... is good in the locker room and would be a strong mentor for a young player like fourth-round pick Perrion Winfrey," Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com wrote. "He also has a knack for keeping Myles Garrett motivated."
The Browns lead the league with $47.2 million in cap space and would have no trouble adding Richardson on a short- or long-term deal.
Richardson would also be a fine fit for the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas has a couple of nice pieces up front in DeMarcus Lawrence and Osa Odighizuwa, but it could use another rotational piece to bolster the run defense.
Last season, the Cowboys ranked tied for 22nd in yards per rush allowed.
Dallas has $20.2 million in cap space available. It recently added former Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. It should quickly move to pick up Richardson as well.
Best Fits: Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys
Ndamukong Suh, DT
It's surprising that defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh remains unsigned this late into the offseason. Though he is getting up there at 35 years old, Suh is still a high-end rotational defensive tackle.
Last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Suh played 63 percent of the defensive snaps and finished with 27 tackles, six sacks and 19 quarterback pressures. The five-time Pro Bowler started all 17 games.
Suh can still be a reliable starter, and at worst, he would be a high-end backup in just about any system.
The Browns are reportedly uninterested in adding Suh, according to Cabot. The Cowboys, however, should be kicking the tires.
Not only could Suh help improve Dallas' run defense, but he could also serve as an interior pass-rushing complement to Lawrence and 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons.
The Las Vegas Raiders should also be taking a look at Suh. He has expressed interest in playing for the Raiders, and he would fill a team need.
Las Vegas has a potentially great pass-rushing duo in Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby. However, it doesn't have a ton of interior rushing talent to complement the edges. Suh, who has 70.5 career sacks, could provide that.
Suh wouldn't be a cheap option, but with $22.8 million available, the Raiders trail only the Browns in cap space.
Best Fits: Dallas Cowboys, Las Vegas Raiders
JC Tretter, C
Center JC Tretter is another player who shouldn't still be available this late in the offseason. Though he doesn't play a premium position and has never been a Pro Bowler, Tretter has long been a durable and reliable starter.
Tretter missed one game in 2021 on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He didn't miss any other games with the Browns over the last five years and played 100 percent of the offensive snaps when active during that span.
In those 80 games with Cleveland, Tretter surrendered only six sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
The San Francisco 49ers would be a logical landing spot for Tretter—they lost Alex Mack to retirement in the offseason—if they had a better cap situation. Alas, San Francisco has only $692,613 available.
If the 49ers can clear some cap room, they'll be near the top of the list of landing spots for Tretter. Jimmy Garoppolo could be a player to watch there. If he's traded or released, it will free up $25.6 million in 2022 cap space.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a better cap situation—with $9.5 million available—and could also use a reliable veteran starter. Ryan Jensen suffered a potentially serious knee injury early in camp.
"We don't know the severity of it, per se, but I do know he'll miss some significant time, up to a couple months," head coach Todd Bowles said, per ESPN's Jenna Laine.
Tretter would also be a good fit for Minnesota, which has a mid-level starter in Garrett Bradbury. He has been responsible for seven sacks and 12 penalties over the past two seasons, according to PFF.
Vikings general manager—and former Browns VP of football operations—Kwesi Adofo-Mensah knows Tretter well enough. Minnesota has $8.7 million in cap space remaining. Center might not be a dire need for the Vikings, but it's a pairing that makes sense.
Best Fits: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings