Plaxico Burress and the Best-Value NFL Free Agents Available for Training Camp

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2012

Plaxico Burress and the Best-Value NFL Free Agents Available for Training Camp

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    Plaxico Burress highlights 10 veteran free agents NFL teams should consider bringing into training camp. These are veterans whose age and injury histories have prevented them from signing with new teams this far into the offseason.

    However, they can still help those teams that didn't manage to answer all their needs during the early part of free agency and in the draft.

    Here are the 10 best players left on the market who could tempt NFL teams into making some late newsworthy moves.

Jim Leonhard, S

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    Smart veteran Jim Leonhard would be a great addition for any team still looking for help in the defensive backfield. Intelligent and versatile, Leonhard is effective in both coverage and run support.

    The eight-year veteran can be trusted to quarterback a secondary and help direct complex, multiple defensive schemes. Leonhard has missed eight games in the past two years and ended the 2011 campaign on injured reserve, after suffering a torn patella tendon.

    With the New York Jets adding LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, Leonhard appears surplus to requirements. Any team running a complex scheme requiring a safety with hybrid capabilities should offer the 29-year-old a chance.

Daniel Graham, TE

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    Daniel Graham has excellent blocking skills and is a credible goal-line target. The 33-year-old was released by the Titans back in June, but he could be a useful rotation player for the right offense.

    The 6'3", 257-pounder can handle linebackers and defensive ends at the line of scrimmage and is effective blocking in space. Used as a supplemental blocker, Graham would be very useful in pass protection, particularly against 3-4 teams.

    In 2010, the New England Patriots had great success using Alge Crumpler in the same role. Graham would offer similar value. 

Bryant McFadden, CB

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    Offering a wealth of experience as a zone defender and possessing above-average blitz skills, Bryant McFadden can still be viable third cornerback for a lot of teams.

    He has spent his first seven pro seasons working in the complex fire-zone schemes that are the vogue for modern NFL defenses. Operating as a slot corner in nickel packages would give McFadden plenty of blitz opportunities and limit his exposure in deep coverage.

Cedric Benson, RB

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    Even though he has taken a lot of hits in recent seasons and has had his share of legal troubles, it's still surprising that no NFL team has taken a chance on Cedric Benson after saying goodbye to Cincy.

    The 29-year-old is a true workhorse running back.

    Benson is able to absorb a lot of punishment between the tackles and keep the chains moving. He is a bruising runner who can help a team control the clock and set up the play-action passing game.

    On June 29, reported that the Oakland Raiders might be interested in securing the services of the eight-year pro. However, Benson remains on the market and as of now, no team has made a move for the player who has topped 1,000 rushing yards in each of the last three seasons.

Tommie Harris, DT

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    There are lots of good, run-stuffing defensive tackles left on the free-agent market, such as Aubrayo Franklin and Fred Robbins. Yet in terms of value, Tommie Harris would be the better signing.

    In today's pass-happy NFL, defenses needs all the pass-rushers they can get. That includes talented interior rushers for nickel packages. 

    That's just what Harris can offer a team.

    The 29-year-old is a natural three-technique, who has accumulated 31.5 career sacks. The Chicago Tribune has suggested that Harris could be welcomed back by his old team, the Chicago Bears. Any defense looking for a credible inside pass rush should consider inviting Harris to camp.

Braylon Edwards, WR

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    Braylon Edwards still offers enough of a deep threat to possibly tempt a team to rescue him from the NFL scrapheap. The 29-year-old failed to make an impact in his lone season with the San Francisco 49ers and is currently searching for a new home.

    At 6'3" and 214 pounds, Edwards has the size, range and vertical speed to add true big-play potential to a passing game. The problem is that the eight-year-vet has always struggled with distractions and inconsistency.

    Blighted by drops, occasional lapses in concentration and injuries, Edwards has exceeded 900 receiving yards only twice in his career, yet his innate ability to stretch a defense is a valuable asset in any offense.

Stephen Cooper, LB

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    Stephen Cooper may have only started five games in the last two seasons, but the veteran linebacker is a savvy and skilled defender who can work well in any system.

    As a member of the San Diego Chargers in 2010, Cooper captained the No. 1 ranked defense in the league. He has the intelligence and instincts to diagnose plays before the snap and is physical enough to attack aggressively downhill and match up in coverage.

    A 3-4 team looking for scheme knowledge in the linebacker rotation, would find Cooper a valuable addition.

Marcus McNeill, OT

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    Another former San Diego Charger makes this list, in the shape of skilled, but brittle offensive tackle Marcus McNeill.

    Still only 28, McNeill has missed 12 games during the last two seasons thanks to various ailments. When healthy, though, McNeill is one of the more technically refined linemen in the game.

    An accomplished pass protector, the 6'7" 336-pounder moves with a fluidity and foot speed that belie his massive frame. Given the value of good left tackles in today's NFL, it is surprising no team has yet been willing to look past McNeill's injury concerns.

    As a swing tackle with starter's ability, McNeill still offers tremendous value if he can prove his fitness.

Andre Carter, DE

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    Why exactly haven't the New England Patriots re-signed Andre Carter? Granted, the veteran defensive end is 33 and coming back from a season-ending quadriceps tear. However, the 12-year pro excelled in his first season with the AFC champions and is still a highly-effective pass-rusher.

    Carter logged 10 sacks and forced two fumbles in 2011. He still possesses a cat-quick first step and aggressive hands technique. Last season was the fourth time in his career that Carter has recorded double-digit sacks. has reported that Carter wants to stay with the Patriots, but is after more than just a short-term deal. Any 4-3 defense, or a team looking for a situational rusher for obvious passing situations, should try and tempt Carter to a new city.

Plaxico Burress, WR

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    Plaxico Burress can still prove a match for most cornerbacks in the league and offer quarterbacks a big and dependable outlet.

    The 34-year-old has the size and leaping ability to provide plenty of big plays, and also excels working the inside of a coverage scheme. He plays with a physicality few defensive backs can handle and his hands remain excellent.

    Burress still does his best work inside the red zone, evidenced by his eight touchdowns as a member of the New York Jets in 2011. With a knack for finding the end zone and the height and strength to challenge any secondary, Burress would be a valuable member to any receiving corps.