NFL Free Agents Besides Odell Beckham Jr. Who Can Still Help Teams in 2022

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2022

NFL Free Agents Besides Odell Beckham Jr. Who Can Still Help Teams in 2022

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    WR Will Fuller
    Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    Free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been in the headlines recently, as he remains unsigned and seeking a new team for the playoffs. However, Beckham is uninterested in playing in the regular season.

    "I'm not saying I couldn't step in and play regular season, but I don't see the point," Beckham said on Amazon Prime's TNF in The Shop.

    Beckham, who suffered a torn ACL in Super Bowl LVI, is likely seeking long-term employment and hoping to use the postseason as an audition for 2023 and beyond. For him, there indeed may not be much of a point to playing in the regular season. For teams looking to employ him, however, there is a big point.

    If Beckham is healthy enough to play now, teams should expect him to play right away.

    A month remains in the 2022 regular season, and a player like Beckham could be a huge help over the final four weeks. As Baker Mayfield showed in his Los Angeles Rams debut on Thursday, players can step in and make an immediate contribution.

    While teams may not expect immediate help from Beckham, several free agents are still available who could help over the final month. We'll examine that group here.

    Below, you'll find a look at some of the top unsigned free agents, what their recent resumes look like and how they could help a team in December and January.

    We'll also dive into some logical landing spots based on factors like player potential, team needs and team record.

DT Malcom Brown

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - JULY 28: Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Malcom Brown (90) stretches during training camp on July 28, 2022 at Episcopal School of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Defensive tackle Malcom Brown isn't going to command media attention like Beckham can. What the 28-year-old can do, though, is bolster a run defense in the trenches.

    Brown is a seven-year veteran who has been a full-time starter since his 2015 rookie season with the New England Patriots. He started all 17 games with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021, finishing with 57 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss.

    In Jacksonville, Brown was a regular contributor, playing 61 percent of the defensive snaps last season.

    The Los Angeles Chargers would be a logical landing spot for Brown. L.A. came into Week 14 ranked last in yards per carry allowed (5.4) and with several injuries along the defensive line.

    Otito Ogbonnia (knee) and Christian Covington (pectoral) are both out for the year. The Chargers also parted with 2019 first-round pick Jerry Tillery after the trade deadline.

    The Detroit Lions could also use help on the defensive interior. Detroit is still hanging around the NFC playoff picture but came into Week 14 allowing an average of 5.2 yards per carry.

LB L.J. Fort

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    Baltimore Ravens linebacker L.J. Fort works out during the team's NFL football organized team activities, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
    AP Photo/Julio Cortez

    Like Beckham, linebacker L.J. Fort is coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered last season. However, Fort suffered his injury back in the preseason, ending his 2021 campaign with the Baltimore Ravens before it began.

    Fort should be ready to make his way back to the playing field by now, and he could help bolster a front seven.

    In 2020, Fort played in 14 games with eight starts. He finished with 53 tackles, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown. He has 91 games and 19 starts on his overall resume.

    Fort would make a ton of sense for the New York Giants, who are now struggling to stay in the NFC playoff race. New York came into Week 14 allowing an average of 5.1 yards per rush and could use a run-defender like Fort at the second level.

    The Giants also employ defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale, who served as Fort's defensive coordinator in Baltimore.

    The Dallas Cowboys might want to consider signing Fort before the rival Giants have a chance to. Dallas came into Week 14 allowing 4.6 yards per carry and struggled to contain Dameon Pierce and the Houston Texans' ground game on Sunday.

    The Cowboys are closer to securing a playoff berth than New York, but they could use a defensive boost over the final month.

WR Will Fuller

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 26: Will Fuller #15 of the Houston Texans takes the field for warmups prior to a game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 26, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
    Nic Antaya/Getty Images

    Beckham is not the only free-agent receiver coming off of injury that could help a team down the stretch.

    Will Fuller, who missed the bulk of last season with a broken thumb, remains unsigned with a month to go. Injuries have long been an issue for the Notre Dame product—he has missed 42 games in six seasons—but his downfield ability is undeniable.

    Though 55 career games, Fuller has averaged 14.7 yards per catch and scored 24 touchdowns.

    The Cowboys are interested in adding to their receiving corps. They kicked the tires on Beckham recently but have concerns about his ability to be ready before the playoffs.

    "It's a lot different if you play one play or if you played or are available for a week and that week be the Super Bowl week, than if he's available the next week," Cowboys franchise owner Jerry Jones told 105.3 The Fan (h/t ESPN).

    Fuller, who suffered his injury in Week 4 of last season, should be ready to play right away.

    The Ravens should also look at Fuller as they battle the Cincinnati Bengals for control of the AFC North. Baltimore traded former top wideout Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals during draft weekend, and it has struggled to replace him on the perimeter.

    Tight end Mark Andrews remains the only Ravens player with at least 500 receiving yards after 14 weeks.

S Anthony Harris

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    TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 16: Anthony Harris #28 of the Philadelphia Eagles warms up prior to the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on January 16, 2022 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Safety Anthony Harris spent six seasons with the Minnesota Vikings before going to the Philadelphia Eagles last season. In Philadelphia, he was superb. He started 14 games, compiled 74 tackles and allowed an opposing passer rating of just 68.7 in 2021.

    Most recently, Harris played with the Denver Broncos. He was promoted off of Denver's practice squad and appeared in three games before being released earlier this month.

    Harris was in training camp with the Eagles again this offseason and was released as part of Philly's final cuts. It would make a lot of sense for the Eagles to bring him back now. While Philadelphia has already secured a playoff berth, it is hurting at safety.

    C.J. Gardner-Johnson was already on injured reserve with a lacerated kidney. Rookie safety Reed Blankenship exited Sunday's game against the New York Giants on a cart with a knee injury.

    Harris should be able to immediately step in and help fill the void.

    The Vikings would also be wise to consider bringing back Harris. Minnesota's 32nd-ranked pass defense is a major liability, and it was on full display against Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff on Sunday.

    Goff threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions during a 34-23 rout.

LB Dont'a Hightower

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    ATLANTA, GA  NOVEMBER 18:  New England outside linebacker Dont'a Hightower (54) during the NFL game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons on November 18th, 2021 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.  (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The New England Patriots decided not to bring back linebacker Dont'a Hightower in the offseason, and the two-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion has remained available since.

    Hightower opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns, but he returned to play in 2021 and played well. Last season with New England, Hightower started 15 games and finished with 65 tackles, 39 solo stops and 1.5 sacks.

    A return to New England would make sense for several reasons, most notably that he's played his entire career with the Patriots.

    At 6-6, New England is struggling to stay in playoff contention and could use all the help it can get down the stretch.

    If Hightower can be convinced to play outside of New England, the Tennessee Titans would be a logical destination.

    Tennessee leads the AFC South but has lost three straight. It could use linebacker help after placing starter David Long Jr. on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

    The Titans are fading fast, and after losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, the proverbial door in the division is still open. Adding a savvy veteran like Hightower for the final month could help close it.

LB Anthony Hitchens

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 30: Kansas City Chiefs middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens (53) in the first quarter of the AFC Championship game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs on Jan 30, 2022 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Anthony Hitchens is yet another veteran linebacker who has remained available all season. The 30-year-old worked out for the New Orleans Saints in August but did not sign.

    Hitchens has long been a tremendous tackler and racked up 158 combined tackles over the past two seasons. In 2021, however, he was also strong against the pass. He allowed an opposing passer rating of just 83.4 in coverage last season.

    Adding Hitchens would make sense for virtually any team seeking help at inside linebacker. The Iowa product has started 107 games in his eight-year career and has made 119 appearances.

    A return to Dallas—where Hitchens began his career as a fourth-round draft pick—would be logical, given their struggles against the run this season.

    Hitchens would also make sense for the Titans, given the loss of Long for the final month. Long started all 12 games in which he appeared this season and had compiled an impressive 86 tackles before the injury.

    If Hitchens can defend the pass as he did last season, he would be a huge addition for Tennessee, which came into Week 14 ranked 31st in passing yards allowed.

CB Kevin King

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    GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 22: Kevin King #20 of the Green Bay Packers defends as he runs during an NFL divisional playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field on January 22, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The 49ers won 13-10. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
    Michael Owens/Getty Images

    Because of Tennessee's struggles against the pass, the Titans should take a flier on a free-agent cornerback like Kevin King.

    King, a 2017 second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, is still only 27 years old. He dealt with a shoulder injury in 2021—missing seven games and allowing an opposing passer rating of 108.9 in coverage—but he showed a ton of promise early in his career.

    In 2019, King logged a career-high 15 passes defended and five interceptions. He allowed an opposing passer rating below 100 in each of the three seasons prior to last year.

    Adding King would also make a lot of sense for the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati improved to 9-4 on Sunday and has won five straight, but it could and should load up for a postseason run.

    With last week's win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bengals gave themselves a very realistic chance at earning the AFC's No. 1 seed—currently held by the 10-3 Buffalo Bills. Adding a big (6'3") physical corner like King could benefit Cincinnati greatly during the stretch run.

    The Bengals, it should be noted, lost starting corner Chidobe Awuzie to a torn ACL back in Week 8. They've been winning without him, but the Bengals came into Week 14 ranked a good-not-great 16th in passing yards and yards per completion allowed.

DT Sheldon Richardson

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    EAGAN, MN - JULY 29: Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (9) takes the field during training camp at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan, MN on July 29, 2021.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Last season, defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson played in a second stint with the Vikings. He performed well, finishing with 39 tackles, 2.5 sacks and four passes defended, but the Vikings did not bring him back for the 2022 season.

    It isn't too late.

    Richardson is still unsigned, and it would behoove the Vikings to change that. Minnesota came into Sunday ranked 16th against the run, 32nd against the pass and 31st in yards allowed.

    The Lions carved up Minnesota to the tune of 464 yards and 34 points on Sunday.

    Richardson has the potential to play inside or at defensive end, and he's familiar with Minnesota's personnel and senior defensive assistant Paul Guenther—if not new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.

    It wouldn't be a shock to see Richardson step into the Vikings defense and provide an instant spark, much like Mayfield did for the Rams on Thursday.

    The Chargers should also take a long look at Richardson given their aforementioned needs along the defensive line.


    *Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.

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