NFL Free Agents We Can't Believe Are Still Available

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2022

NFL Free Agents We Can't Believe Are Still Available

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    Ndamukong Suh (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    With two weeks of the NFL preseason complete and Week 1 of the regular season only two weeks away, the time for roster building is largely over. Most teams are now looking to dump players ahead of the 53-man roster cutdown on Aug. 30, not add them.

    The free-agent pool that will soon be flooded with talent already has something to offer. Several proven veterans have remained available all offseason, and it's frankly shocking that they're still looking for a team.

    We're talking about high-level starters, talented role players and former Pro Bowlers who would seem like logical fits for multiple rosters. Many of them will likely find homes once teams see how their regular-season rosters stack up.

    The New York Jets just signed five-time Pro Bowl tackle Duane Brown last week after starter Mekhi Becton suffered a fractured kneecap. Unsure of their internal depth, the Jets quickly moved to add the soon-to-be 37-year-old Brown.

    Below, we'll examine other players who could be late additions and key contributors during the 2022 season. We'll dive into what each could provide and examine 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

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    It wasn't a total shock that Odell Beckham Jr. remained unsigned heading into training camp. The three-time Pro Bowler helped the Los Angeles Rams win Super Bowl LVI, but he suffered a torn ACL during the game and is still recovering from that injury.

    Beckham may prefer not signing with a team until he's fully healthy and clear-cut Super Bowl contenders have emerged. However, signing him now would ensure that he's familiar with the offense and ready to contribute whenever he does get cleared.

    The latter would be less of a concern for the Rams since Beckham joined them in the middle of last season. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the Rams have "maintained interest" in him, although he's also receiving interest from "several teams, contending teams."

    Rapoport mentioned the Green Bay Packers as a team that could have interest in Beckham, which would make sense. The Packers traded Davante Adams in the offseason and don't have a proven No. 1 receiver on the roster. Rookie second-round pick Christian Watson has missed time following knee surgery and is only getting back to team drills this week.

    Both the Rams and Packers could afford to bring Beckham in for a postseason run. The Rams still have $8.3 million in available cap space, while the Packers have $11.7 million.

    Best Fits: Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers

Eric Fisher, OT

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    Now that Duane Brown is off the market, Eric Fisher could be the next tackle to find a new team if an injury creates a need.

    The 31-year-old was responsible for eight penalties and allowed seven sacks with the Indianapolis Colts last season, according to Pro Football Focus. However, it's worth noting that Fisher came back less than a year after suffering a torn Achilles with the Kansas City Chiefs. He did make 15 starts and play 89 percent of the Colts' offensive snaps.

    Now that he's another year removed from the injury, the two-time Pro Bowler should be in a better position to provide value.

    The Chicago Bears should consider signing Fisher if they're looking to upgrade Justin Fields' protection. He was sacked 36 times in 12 games as a rookie last season and was under pressure on 27.3 percent of his dropbacks.

    Right now, rookie fifth-round pick Braxton Jones is working with the Bears' first team at left tackle, according to Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports Chicago. The Bears have $13.8 million in cap space available, so they should be able to afford Fisher.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers should also take a long look at Fisher. Pittsburgh's offensive line allowed 38 sacks in 2021 and paved the way for a ground game that ranked 29th in yards per carry. It hasn't appeared any better this preseason.

    "We gotta do a better job of protecting [quarterback Mitch Trubisky] and having some semblance of a run game if you want a fair evaluation," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters. "And I'm just being bluntly honest."

    At some point, Pittsburgh is likely to start first-round pick Kenny Pickett over Trubisky, and protecting him should be paramount. The Steelers shouldn't be afraid to spend most or all of their $5.9 million in remaining cap space to improve the rookie's pass protection.

    Best Fits: Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers

Trey Flowers, DE

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    Defensive end Trey Flowers has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, having appeared in only seven games in each of the past two seasons. A forearm fracture landed him on injured reserve in 2020, while a knee injury placed him there last season.

    Injury concerns aside, though, young pass-rushers typically don't last this long on the free-agent market. It's hard to believe that a team hasn't taken a flier on Flowers, who just turned 29 earlier this month.

    While Flowers has never had 10 or more sacks in a season, he averaged seven sacks per season between 2016 and 2019. Between 2018 with the New England Patriots and 2019 with the Detroit Lions, he tallied an impressive 71 quarterback pressures.

    Flowers would be a fine fit for any team seeking pass-rushing help. The Las Vegas Raiders should be near the top of that list. They have a quality pair of pass-rushers in Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby, but they lack proven depth behind those two.

    Flowers, who spent his first four seasons in New England, should have some familiarity with Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who was the Patriots' linebackers coach during Flowers' rookie season. The Raiders have $21.9 million in available cap space.

    The Los Angeles Rams should likewise be interested in seeing if Flowers can be had at a team-friendly price following his two injury-hampered campaigns. They don't have a ton of cap space, but they could use another edge-rusher to help replace the departed Von Miller.

    Defensive tackle Aaron Donald will remain the centerpiece of L.A.'s pass rush, but Miller proved to be a huge asset during the postseason. He logged four sacks in four playoff games, including two in Super Bowl LVI.

    Miller's production will be tough for the Rams to replace, but taking a flier on Flowers could help.

    Best Fits: Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams

Will Fuller, WR

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    Will Fuller has never been the high-level top target that Odell Beckham Jr. was early in his career. However, he does carry similar health concerns. He has played more than 11 games only once in his six-year career and missed 15 games last season.

    Fuller missed Week 1 last year for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He then suffered a broken finger in Week 4 and missed the rest of the season.

    However, Fuller has proved his value in the past as a complementary deep-threat target. His best statistical season came in 2020, when he caught 53 passes for 879 yards and eight touchdowns. He could fill that role again for a receiver-needy team willing to take a chance.

    The Baltimore Ravens should be high on the list of interested teams. The Ravens lack quality weapons on the perimeter and dumped their biggest deep threat when they dealt Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals during the draft.

    Fuller could step in as Lamar Jackson's new perimeter playmaker. Baltimore has slightly more than $7 million in cap space still available.

    The Chicago Bears should also consider Fuller in their continued effort to support Justin 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.

    Harry recently underwent surgery for a high-ankle sprain and is expected to miss around eight weeks, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.

    Convincing Fuller to join the rebuilding Bears may be an easier task than trying to get Beckham to sign on. It's a route Chicago should strongly consider before cutdown day.

    Best Fits: Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears

Dont'a Hightower, LB

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    Like several other players featured here, former New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (32) is on the older side. However, he proved last season that he still can be a regular contributor.

    Hightower finished the 2021 season with 64 tackles (including 39 solo stops), 1.5 sacks and 10 quarterback pressures. Those were solid numbers, especially considering that he opted out of the 2020 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Given his recent production and resume—Hightower was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and 2019—it's surprising that no one has scooped him up yet. A return to New England would seem logical, and the Patriots were reportedly open to the idea earlier in the offseason.

    "Hightower is still undecided on his future, but it sounds like the Patriots would welcome him back with open arms if he wants to return for a 10th season," The Athletic's Jeff Howe wrote in June.

    The Las Vegas Raiders also seem like a sensible destination for Hightower. Las Vegas ranked 19th in rushing yards allowed last season and still has $21.9 million in available cap space.

    Hightower also has ties to Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, both of whom previously worked for the Patriots.

    Best Fits: New England Patriots, Las Vegas Raiders

Kevin King, CB

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    Cornerback Kevin King had an up-and-down stint with the Green Bay Packers and is coming off a down season. He dealt with a shoulder injury, missed seven games and allowed an opposing passer rating of 108.9 in coverage. In 2019, however, King logged a career-high 15 passes defended and five interceptions.

    The 27-year-old is an athletic, physical corner with a rangy 6'3" frame and plenty of postseason experience. It's surprising that no team has taken a flier on him yet.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers should consider doing so after parting with longtime starting cornerback Joe Haden in free agency. The Steelers should have a solid starting tandem in Ahkello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace, but their depth is questionable. They still have $5.9 million in available cap space.

    The New England Patriots should also take a look at King after losing Malcolm Butler to a season-ending hip injury earlier this month.

    Butler didn't play in 2021, but he was expected to provide depth on the back end of New England's defense. The Patriots lost an integral piece of their secondary when they allowed J.C. Jackson to walk in free agency.

    King wouldn't outright replace Jackson's production, but he could help replace Brown as a depth piece. The Patriots have only $2.9 million in available cap space, but they might be able to get King on a team-friendly deal this late in the offseason.

    Best Fits: Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots

Ndamukong Suh, DT

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    Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh isn't the dominant playmaker that he was in his prime, but he's still a capable starter.

    Last season, Suh played 63 percent of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive snaps and finished with 27 tackles, six sacks and 19 quarterback pressures. The five-time Pro Bowler started all 17 games for the league's fifth-ranked scoring defense and hasn't missed a game since 2011.

    Suh could still be a starter for most teams. At worst, he'd be a high-end rotational player on a defensive interior.

    According to Tashan Reed of The Athletic, the Las Vegas Raiders remain interested in Suh, though his $9 million-per-year asking price could be prohibitive. While Las Vegas may not love that price point, it could afford to add Suh and should strongly consider it after finishing 26th in points allowed last season.

    The Minnesota Vikings had "multiple conversations" with Suh early in the offseason, according to Tyler Dragon of USA Today. They would be another logical landing spot after their defense ranked 30th in yards allowed and 24th in points allowed last season.

    The Vikings have only $5.2 million in available cap space, so they can't meet Suh's asking price. But if they can create more space to convince Suh to take slightly less, they would make sense for him.

    Best Fits: Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings

JC Tretter, C

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    JC Tretter is a starting-caliber center who hasn't missed a game due to injury over the past five seasons. (He missed one game on the reserve/COVID-19 list in 2021.)

    Cleveland Browns guard Joel Bitonio has an idea of why Tretter, who is the NFLPA president, may be unemployed.

    "Maybe some of the owners don't appreciate what he brings to the table on certain topics, where he's trying to protect player safety and things of that nature," Bitonio told reporters. "It seems a little suspicious to me."

    Regardless of how team owners feel about Tretter's stance on player safety, they still care about the bottom line. He can help a center-needy team win, which makes his availability this late in the season stunning.

    A return to Cleveland would make sense for Tretter after the Browns placed both Nick Harris and Dawson Deaton on injured reserve. The Browns do have Ethan Pocic, who started 10 games for the Seattle Seahawks last season, but bringing back Tretter would give them more depth along the offensive line.

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could also be a logical destination for Tretter, as they appear unlikely to have starter Ryan Jensen for most or all of the season after he suffered a knee injury in training camp. Tampa has 2021 third-round pick Robert Hainsey as Jensen's replacement, but he has never started as a pro.

    The Buccaneers have $6.5 million in available cap space. That isn't a ton, but the opportunity to play with Tom Brady could entice Tretter.

    Best Fits: Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Cap information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.


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