NFL Free-Agent Signings That Should Happen After Week 1 Injuries

Alex BallentineSeptember 15, 2022

NFL Free-Agent Signings That Should Happen After Week 1 Injuries

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    Landon Collins is among the most notable names still looking for a home in 2022. (Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Week 1 was a good reminder that many NFL teams are one injury away from looking totally different.

    Injuries are one of the most important and unfortunate realities of football. Players get hurt all the time, highlighting how depth is a crucial part of roster building.

    Multiple players went down with serious injuries in Week 1 and are going to miss at least the next few weeks, if not the season.

    Sometimes the solution isn't already on the roster. In those cases, teams have to look outside for help. Here's a look at a few key injury situations around the league and the free agents who could help those teams cope with the loss.

Baltimore Ravens Signing OT Eric Fisher

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    Icon Sportswire

    The Baltimore Ravens were already in trouble at left tackle with Ronnie Stanley working his way back from an ankle injury. Then backup Ja'Wuan James tore his Achilles in Week 1 and will be out for a second successive season because of the same injury.

    It leaves the Ravens in a precarious position.

    Stanley is one of the best left tackles in football when healthy, but he's only practiced three times since coming off the Physically Unable to Perform list. We also haven't seen him in game action since the season opener in 2021 because of the ankle injury.

    According to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, the Ravens are likely to "look around for tackle help," although he notes the options are thin.

    He's right on that front. It's difficult to find a starting-caliber tackle in free agency, but Eric Fisher remains an option.

    The former No. 1 pick started 15 games for the Indianapolis Colts last season, and while he did give up seven sacks, he scored a 68.2 grade from PFF. Patrick Mekari graded out at 60.3 in his 32 snaps last week.

    Mekari's natural position is inside at guard or even center. Regardless of when Stanley is ready to go, the Ravens need a swing tackle to replace James. Fisher is the most proven option available right now.

Dallas Cowboys Signing QB Cam Newton

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Dak Prescott's injury during Sunday Night Football makes the Dallas Cowboys a desperate team. Desperate times call for desperate measuresโ€”like calling up a 33-year-old Cam Newton.

    This is one of those moves that is more likely to fail than succeed, but it's worth a shot.

    The last time we saw Newton, it was borderline disastrous. He went 0-5 as the Carolina Panthers' starter last season. But as Baker Mayfield learned in Week 1, it isn't easy winning in Carolina right now.

    We are just one season removed from Newton going 7-8 with the New England Patriots and being a passable starter in the league.

    The Cowboys offense was downright bad against the Bucs. Even before Prescott sustained the thumb injury that required surgery, they were only able to muster three points.

    It looked even worse with Cooper Rush at the helm. He went 7-of-13 for 64 yards and looked outmatched against an admittedly great Tampa Bay defense.

    Former Newton teammate and Panthers receiver Robbie Anderson said during training camp that he felt like Newton wanted to play this year and was waiting on the right opportunity.

    Perhaps stepping in with a franchise like the Cowboys is that situation. It wasn't pretty on Sunday, but they do have a promising No. 1 receiver in CeeDee Lamb and a talented backfield duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.

    Prescott's injury might not be as bad as originally anticipated. Jerry Jones said the team is not putting him on injured reserve, because they want him to be an option within the next four weeks.

    That could be an optimistic outlook, though. It's worth keeping options open, which could mean plucking Newton out of free agency.

Green Bay Packers Signing LB Blake Martinez

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    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    A reunion might be in order in Green Bay. Blake Martinez enjoyed the most productive years of his career there before signing with the New York Giants in 2020.

    The Packers are set with starting inside linebackers De'Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker, but their depth took a hit when Krys Barnes went down in the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.

    The linebacker suffered ankle and calf injuries that forced the team to put him on injured reserve, guaranteeing he's going to be out for at least four games.

    To make matters worse, Walker is dealing with a shoulder injury, although he could play in Week 2, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.

    Barnes and backup Isaiah McDuffie only combined for 15 snaps in Week 1. However, if Walker is dinged up, that role could expand. Martinez is not the best in coverage, but he's good against the run and offers some upside as a blitzer.

    He's a high-floor player who could offer some stability and flexibility for the Packers as they look to be without Barnes and playing with a limited Walker.

Miami Dolphins Signing OT Bobby Massie

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    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Honestly, this is a signing that could have helped the Miami Dolphins weeks ago.

    The Dolphins entered the 2022 season hoping several young linemen would be able to make the leap. They made moves to upgrade the unit with Terron Armstead and Connor Williams, but taking a shot on another free-agent veteran like Massie would have provided a mentor and backup option.

    They still have time to make such a move, and Austin Jackson's injury should only serve to make the need for it more obvious. The third-year tackle left the Dolphins' game against the New England Patriots with an ankle injury in the second quarter and did not return.

    "He stayed in uniform and could've gone back in, in an emergency situation," coach Mike McDaniel told reporters of the injury. "It's serious enough that we're getting some more eyes on it."

    Swing tackle Greg Little gave up a sack and earned a PFF grade of 51.1 on 45 snaps as Jackson's replacement.

    Little showed in that glimpse of action that he's not the answer. Massie is still available and logged 796 snaps as a right tackle last year, giving up five sacks and earning a 70.0 grade.

    That might even be an upgrade over what Jackson is bringing to the table.

Pittsburgh Steelers Signing Edge Dee Ford

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    AP Photo/Matt Rourke

    The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered one of the most damaging injuries of Week 1. T.J. Watt might not be lost for the season, but he is expected to be out for at least six weeks with a pectoral injury, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    Losing the reigning Defensive Player of the Year for that long is a significant blow to the defense. While a lot of the pressure is going to fall onto Alex Highsmith to lead the Steelers' pass rush, it's also something that should have the Steelers looking for outside help.

    Last year, the Steelers didn't hesitate to make a move by adding Melvin Ingram in season.

    While that didn't exactly work out, they could still look to go the veteran route. Dee Ford might be the most intriguing name on the market.

    Ford was released by the 49ers during training camp, but Kyle Shanahan did note that doctors gave the pass-rusher a "good bill of health."

    That's important, because injuries have plagued him throughout the past three seasons. The Niners were hoping he would be a difference-maker when they traded for him, but he has only played in 18 regular-season games since 2019.

    What still makes him intriguing is that he also has 9.5 sacks in those 18 games.

    He could be instrumental if he can stay healthy enough to play major snaps before falling back to a rotational role when Watt returns.

Seattle Seahawks Signing S Landon Collins

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Jamal Adams is one of the most unique and talented safeties in the league. Unfortunately, the Seattle Seahawks are going be in the unenviable position of figuring out how to replace him for the foreseeable future.

    The star safety suffered a left knee injury during the team's season-opening win over the Denver Broncos. Head coach Pete Carroll did not offer a timeline in an appearance on Seattle Sports 710-AM (h/t ESPN), but it doesn't sound good.

    "He hurt his knee, and he's going to have to get some work on that. I don't know the extent of it yet, but I know it's serious. It just breaks your heart. He loves the game so much. We're going to miss him so much."

    The Seahawks aren't going to replace him with just one player. Few safeties in the league can blitz as effectively as Adams while still excelling in coverage.

    However, Landon Collins can help replace his production as an asset in the run game and blitzer. Collins blitzed 23 times for the Washington Commanders last season and registered three sacks. If that role were to be expanded, he could have something of a career revival.

    The three-time Pro Bowler has his limitations in coverage. His time in Washington was a disappointment, as he gave up a passer rating of 114.5 or higher in two of his three seasons.

    But utilized correctly, he could be a veteran leader on a defense that got off to a good start against the Broncos.

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