NFL Free Agency 2016: Bargain Solutions for Every Team
While we as fans want our team to make the monumental free-agent splashes, we need to keep in mind that adding low-cost options who will over-perform their respective contracts plays a huge factor in making it to the Promise Land.
For whatever the reason—injury, part-time player, poor previous season or "prove it" deals—opportunities await, and the play quality could exceed their current market value in 2016.
Every NFL team has holes on their respective rosters. Some are more prominent than others. These needs are addressed in a number of ways, including these low-risk deals.
It's all about finding the right value.
This article includes a list of players each team should go after, with just two players re-signing with their 2015 squads.
Let's kick it off with the Arizona Cardinals.
Arizona Cardinals: Courtney Upshaw, LB
Let me start with this: It would be a tragedy if the Baltimore Ravens lost linebacker Courtney Upshaw this offseason.
But in this game, let's pretend they did.
What's a better landing spot than the Arizona Cardinals?
With the Carson Palmer era potentially ending within the next few seasons, the Cardinals have limited time to try to make it to the Super Bowl.
In 2015, the Cardinals had serviceable play at the 3-4 outside linebacker position, but Upshaw would be a heck of an upgrade.
Among all 3-4 outside linebackers, Upshaw ranked just outside the top five in terms of run defense—an area the Cardinals could improve on when it comes to their own outside linebackers.
Due to Upshaw's coverage abilities and his pass-rushing issues in 2015, he could make some suitors pause before signing him.
Adding Upshaw to a defense that ranked inside the league's top half with elite talents in cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu would make the Cardinals a daunting task for opposing offensive coordinators.
Atlanta Falcons: Chris Long, DE
Although it came as a surprise to many, it was warranted.
Last week, the Los Angeles Rams released defensive end Chris Long, according to Marc Sessler of NFL Network. In 2015, Long had just four sacks and finished toward the bottom of 4-3 defensive end rankings, according to Pro Football Focus.
While Long has seen better days, the Atlanta Falcons recorded just 20 sacks in 2015.
Bringing in Long would add a low-cost, pass-rushing option who could assist the Falcons in an attempt to climb out of the cellar in terms of team sack rankings.
Baltimore Ravens: Anquan Boldin, WR
A reunion is in order.
First of all, a wide receiving duo of Steve Smith and Anquan Boldin sounds simply amazing, even at a combined age of 71 years old.
As we saw in 2015, the Baltimore Ravens were a pedestrian offense after Smith suffered a season-ending injury.
And, yeah, losing quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Justin Forsett didn't help, either.
If the Ravens retain fellow wide receiver Kamar Aiken, a receiving group consisting of Smith, Aiken, Boldin and 2015 first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman would make for a threatening passing game in 2016.
Buffalo Bills: Darryl Tapp, DE
Recording his highest sack and snap total since 2011, Detroit Lions defensive end Darryl Tapp would add depth along a Buffalo Bills defensive line that will likely to say goodbye to defensive end Mario Williams.
A career 46.2 percent snap player, Tapp has performed well in his limited action.
Behind Williams, there is hardly any depth at the defensive end position.
In 2015, the Bills made a minuscule contribution at the left defensive end position after Williams.
While Tapp hasn't been anything more than a part-time player, he would, in the event of a Williams release, be the defensive end option on the Bills roster after Jerry Hughes.
Carolina Panthers: Andre Smith, OT
I'm not entirely sure what has happened to Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith.
Even before his triceps tear in 2014, Smith was not enjoying one of his better seasons in his now seven-year NFL career.
Set to be a free agent, Smith would provide a veteran on the Carolina Panthers offensive line that, at the tackle position, did not perform nearly as well as its guard play.
In 2015, the Panthers sported Michael Oher at left tackle and Mike Remmers at right tackle.
Both Remmers and Oher finished with negative PFF grades. Oher finished particularly bad in run blocking.
A once premier tackle in the league, Smith could redeem both himself and his career with the reigning NFC champions.
Chicago Bears: Nick Fairley, DT
Imagine this: A tandem of Eddie Goldman and Nick Fairley on the Chicago Bears' defensive line.
In 2015, Fairley had the best PFF grade among all defensive tackles to play in 500 or less snaps, succeeding in both against the run and pass rushing.
A Fairley and Goldman duo would certainly make for a more formidable Bears defense in 2016.
Cincinnati Bengals: Nate Washington, WR
With wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu set to hit the market, the Cincinnati Bengals will likely be in need of a wide receiver opposite superstar A.J. Green.
According to Alex Marvez of Fox Sports, there is "virtually no chance" the Bengals re-sign Sanu.
Addressing Jones, he is likely to become the hottest free-agent wide receiver on the market in the event Chicago Bears wide receive Alshon Jeffery is franchise-tagged.
Either way, the Bengals are likely to lose both Jones and Sanu.
Having been around the league for some time now, Houston Texans wide receiver Nate Washington represents an inexpensive option to assist in restocking the Bengals wide receiver group.
In 2015, Washington saw nearly 100 targets, caught nearly 50 passes and recorded four touchdowns including the playoffs.
Although the stats themselves are teetering on impressive, remember those stats were accrued under the quarterback likes of Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden.
With Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, Washington could be in line for another quality season entering his 12th season in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns: Demario Davis, LB
New York Jets linebacker Demario Davis has been nothing to brag about among Jets fans throughout his career, with a few exceptions.
However, Davis has been a starter since 2013 and has had minimal durability questions throughout that time.
The Cleveland Browns need to add someone who can assist their linebacker unit, which performed poorly in 2015.
While Davis has received negative PFF grades throughout his career—except for 2014—he'll have an opportunity to turn his career around with the Browns in another starting role in 2016.
Davis is bound to rebound, as 2015 was his worst career by PFF's standards.
Dallas Cowboys: Brice McCain, CB
The Dallas Cowboys have had pedestrian cornerback play for what feels like a century now.
After the Miami Dolphins cut him earlier this month, cornerback Brice McCain could serve as much-needed depth to help tighten what has been a leaky Cowboys secondary.
McCain is not a player who is going to lock an opposing receiver down, but he brings depth and the ability to display quality play from time to time.
With the state of the cornerback group the Cowboys currently have, adding McCain and using their No. 4 overall pick on someone would be beneficial in aiding the Cowboys and quarterback Tony Romo's run to a championship.
Denver Broncos: Robert Griffin III, QB
According to Benjamin Allbright of Mile High Sports Radio, the Denver Broncos may have interest in signing (soon to be) former Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III if the Osweiler money becomes prohibitive.
Although RG3 is not technically a free agent yet, it's just a matter of time before the Redskins release him.
While RG3 is far from incumbent Broncos starting quarterback Peyton Manning, he'll be surrounded by a Super Bowl-winning cast on his road to a career redemption.
This move makes sense for both sides.
Detroit Lions: Manny Ramirez, OG
According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Detroit Lions guard Manuel Ramirez is not expected back with the team in 2016.
Simply put: Ramirez was one of the better offensive linemen the Lions had in 2015, amid the limited playing time.
While his playing time was limited, Ramirez graded out fairly well in both pass and run blocking, according to PFF.
Whether he returns as a starter or is relegated to a backup-lineman role again, the Lions could do a lot worse than Ramirez in 2016.
If they fail to re-sign him, quarterback Matthew Stafford can look forward to be sacked more than the 44 times he was in 2015.
Green Bay Packers: Nick Perry, LB
While it was tempting to go with another player here, just like the Detroit Lions, the Green Bay Packers should just focus their attention on retaining linebacker Nick Perry.
Finishing well in both the run-defense and pass-rush departments, the Packers cannot afford to lose Perry to another team.
Staying with the Packers also represents a chance at a Super Bowl run as long as Aaron Rodgers is the team's quarterback.
Retaining Perry is without a doubt near the top of their internal free agents they need to hold on to.
Houston Texans: Stevan Ridley, RB
Plagued by injury in 2015, New York Jets running back Stevan Ridley is a guy we could see burst onto the scene in 2016.
The Houston Texans are a team that makes sense for this marriage.
While Ridley is far from the savior, he serves as an inexpensive asset to throw into the carousel of running backs currently under contract with the Texans.
Indianapolis Colts: Brandon Brooks, OG
Flying under the radar as many offensive linemen do, Houston Texans guard Brandon Brooks has to be near the top of the Indianapolis Colts' free-agency board this offseason.
With Jack Mewhort doing a fine job managing the left guard position, the Colts need to address the right guard position due to the horrendous play Hugh Thornton displayed this past season.
What makes Brooks stand out is his ability to pass block, where he ranked just outside the top 10 in that category, according to PFF.
Protecting quarterback Andrew Luck is a must in 2016, and the Colts should definitely be a heavy suitor for Brooks.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Quintin Demps, S
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in desperate need of any kind of secondary help.
Something tells me the No. 5 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft could be spent on something to help in that department.
However, Houston Texans safety Quintin Demps would automatically, as of today, be a starter and arguably the Jaguars' best safety.
In 2015, Demps had undoubtedly the best season of his NFL career, playing in over 80 percent of the Texans snaps, and from Week 1 through the Wild Card Round, ranking inside the top 20 pass-coverage safeties overall, according to PFF.
Pass coverage is an area the Jaguars struggle in, with fellow safeties John Cyprien, Sergio Brown and Josh Evans all receiving negative grades, as well as the Jaguars themselves finishing in the bottom three in that category.
Adding Demps would not only provide veteran leadership to a young, up-and-coming team, but it would also develop a solid football player who is good enough to start for them in 2016.
Kansas City Chiefs: Geoff Schwartz, OG
One of three veteran offensive lineman to be released by the New York Giants, the reliable Geoff Schwartz, will be looking for a new home in 2016.
The Kansas City Chiefs are a team that will be on the lookout for bargain players given the nature of the key players who are impending free agents.
With Schwartz, the Chiefs will acquire not only veteran leadership along the offensive line, but they'll also get an excellent football player, as they know from his time with the team in 2013.
Before injuring his ankle in 2015, Schwartz ranked inside the top 20 in terms of run blocking and has never had a negative grade, according to PFF.
Given the need to try to re-sign any combination of their big-name free agents, signing Schwartz would help take care of the team's biggest needs this offseason—offensive line.
Los Angeles Rams: Matt Moore, QB
Yeah, I know—Matt Moore being the starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams' first season back in L.A. is far from exciting.
And, yeah, you're right.
While it's entirely possible the Rams spend the money on another quarterback option or simply draft one, Moore would serve as a bridge to the future Rams quarterback.
In 2011, his last meaningful season, Moore threw for nearly 2,500 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Moore would provide veteran leadership in the locker room and would serve as a game manager in 2016.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather have Moore over current Rams quarterbacks Case Keenum and Nick Foles.
Miami Dolphins: William Gay, CB
As it stands right now, the Miami Dolphins will open the 2016 NFL season with cornerbacks Brent Grimes, Bobby McCain and Jamar Taylor as the three main cornerback contributors from 2015.
The Dolphins did have Brice McCain before releasing him earlier this month.
Based off today's cap-space numbers from Over the Cap, the Dolphins have just over $8.6 million in cap space—not a ton, though that could change.
Of course, that could change. However, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay is a respectable option who would pair fairly well with Grimes in the Dolphins secondary.
The cornerback position is definitely going to need to be addressed this offseason, and Gay is a formidable asset to add to the depth chart.
Minnesota Vikings: Joe Barksdale, OT
Consistency and stability are among two of the many traits a team looks for in an offensive lineman.
San Diego Chargers right tackle Joe Barksdale embodies both of those traits.
Since his rookie season in 2011, Barksdale has played in no less than 81 percent of his respective teams snaps.
Most recently in 2015, Barksdale was the only constant offensive lineman in what was a carousel of a line for the Chargers. Where Barksdale shined was in pass protection, ranking inside the top 17 in that department, according to PFF.
With fellow offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings still developing for the Minnesota Vikings, coupled with a bottom-third finish for the Vikings in pass blocking as a team in 2015, Barksdale would add some much-needed depth and consistency along an offensive line that is needed to protect Teddy Bridgewater and to block for one of the games best running backs in Adrian Peterson.
New England Patriots: Russell Okung, OT
A couple of events would need to transpire in order for offensive tackle Russell Okung to go to the New England Patriots, but don't totally write it off.
One, Okung would need to buy into the "Patriot Way."
Meaning, he may need to swallow his pride and do some things he otherwise would not. This may be entirely possible, seeing as how the Patriots can realistically offer Okung a chance at winning a championship, as well as a chance to block for the greatest quarterback of all time—Tom Brady.
Two, Okung would need to be open to play right tackle.
This may not be that bad of an idea. With fellow offensive tackle Nate Solder set to come back in 2016, according to CBS Boston's Matt Dolloff, he'll likely take back over as the teams left tackle, which would prompt Okung to move to right tackle.
Injuries aside, Okung has been floundering somewhere around average and below-average at the left tackle position the last few seasons.
Re-signing with the Seattle Seahawks is entirely possible here, but in the event Okung does not, the Patriots placing Solder and Okung at the tackle positions could be step No. 1 for them as they seek a fifth championship in the Brady era.
New Orleans Saints: Adrian Clayborn, DT
Due to the cap-space problems the New Orleans Saints face this offseason, per Over the Cap, Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Adrian Clayborn represents an under-the-radar defensive line acquisition who could definitely propel one of the NFL's more feeble pass-rushing units.
In 472 snaps, Clayborn collected three sacks, and a top-10 grade in the pass-rushing department among all defensive tackles, according to PFF.
Having some of his best games of the season against the Saints, you'd have to think they're discussing Clayborn internally to say the least.
New York Giants: Mark Barron, LB/S
After receiving less than stellar play at the linebacker position in 2015, the New York Giants should set their sights on Los Angeles Rams linebacker/safety Mark Barron.
Drafted as a safety, Barron played arguably the best football of his NFL career after the Rams switched him from safety to outside linebacker.
Among all 4-3 outside linebackers, Barron finished inside the top 12 overall and inside the top 10 defending the run, according to PFF.
Due to his limited playing time at the position, Barron will likely be looking for some "prove it" money given his new quest playing linebacker.
Barron is likely an upgrade over Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard and/or J.T. Thomas.
New York Jets: Junior Galette, LB/DE
Everyone knows the talent Washington Redskins linebacker Junior Galette possesses. However, those same people also know about the off-the-field activities that led to the Saints releasing the double-digit sack machine.
In 2015, Galette signed a one-year, veteran-minimum deal with the Washington Redskins after the Saints cut him. Yet, Galette did not play a single snap for the team due to an Achilles injury suffered in preseason.
If the New York Jets were to sign Galette, it would definitely be a bit of a luxury considering the defensive players who inhabit the roster.
At the 3-4 outside linebacker position, the Jets had very limited contributions led by Calvin Pace.
Considering the Achilles injury, a committee of Galette and Pace, plus the Jets' defensive line, would literally destroy opposing quarterbacks.
Again, Galette is a luxury, but he is not in a position to demand a saddlebag full of money, and the idea of going to a contender would (or at least should) interest him.
Oakland Raiders: Jeremy Lane, CB
After missing a better part of the entire 2015 NFL season due to a broken arm and torn ACL suffered in Super Bowl XLIX, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane returned in Week 12 and, all things considered, played fairly well.
In what was a rough 2015 season debut, Lane did surrender two more touchdowns, but he did not allow more than 58 yards receiving the rest of the season, including the playoffs.
Although the Oakland Raiders have fellow cornerbacks such as D.J. Hayden, T.J. Carrie and Neiko Thorpe on the roster, you have to believe the Raiders may cut ties with one, if not two, of these guys for poor performances in 2015.
Most notably, Hayden, a former first-round draft pick, allowed an NFL rating over 100, surrendered five touchdowns and ranked as the NFL's third-worst cover cornerback.
With cornerback David Amerson's emergence, adding Lane would form a respectable duo at the position.
Philadelphia Eagles: Rashad Johnson, S
With safety Walter Thurmond's potential departure, per ESPN's Phil Sheridan, the Philadelphia Eagles could be in the market for another safety.
It is possible the team decides to let Johnson and his veteran leadership walk due to the embarrassment of riches the team has at the safety position in Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Buccanon.
If the Eagles did indeed acquire Johnson, they would be getting a safety who definitely has his fair share of pros and cons.
What makes Johnson enticing is his durability, interception totals and the zero touchdowns he allowed in the regular season.
However, his coverage skills make you pause for a moment, having finished with negative scores in both 2015 and 2014.
Johnson is a playmaking veteran who would help the Eagles in a number of ways, regardless of his coverage mishaps under the Doug Pederson regime.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Patrick Robinson, CB
Assuming the Pittsburgh Steelers are somehow unable to retain cornerback William Gay, San Diego Chargers cornerback Patrick Robinson would be a solid replacement.
The former first-round draft choice had one of the best seasons of his career, finishing inside the top 30 cornerbacks and performing better than big-name cornerbacks such as Darrelle Revis and Aqib Talib in the pass-coverage department, according to PFF.
With the state of the Steelers secondary, Robinson would be one of their better options at a cheaper price tag.
San Diego Chargers: Tyvon Branch, S
With safety Eric Weddle set to run away in free agency, the San Diego Chargers will be in desperate need of a safety.
That's where Kanas City Chiefs safety Tyvon Branch comes in.
In 2015, Branch was essentially the Chiefs' third- or fourth-string safety if you go by snap totals. However, Branch could have been a starter on a handful of teams. Playing less than 50 percent of the snaps, Branch graded out respectably on PFF.
Although the Chargers hold the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft and could spend the choice on Florida State Seminoles defensive back Jalen Ramsey or another secondary player, the Chargers should still pursue Branch.
A Ramsey/Branch pairing could be a threatening unit to opposing quarterbacks.
San Francisco 49ers: Phillip Wheeler, LB
A possible reunion? Perhaps.
To be blunt, the San Francisco 49ers could use all the defensive depth they can muster, especially with linebacker Michael Wilhoite, defensive tackle Ian Williams and defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie all set to hit the open market.
Since signing his megadeal with the Miami Dolphins in 2013, Philip Wheeler has had the description "bust" floating around him.
Unfortunately for him, it has been well-warranted.
Since the 2012 season, Wheeler has totaled just two sacks, but he has already graded out fairly well in the pass-rushing department, according to PFF.
The name of the game here is bargain-free agents.
Wheeler fits that mold.
Seattle Seahawks: Kelvin Beachum, OT
You're probably wondering, "Why doesn't Richard just put Russell Okung here? They play the same position!"
Yeah, it crossed my mind, but this seemed like a bit more fun.
One could argue Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum is just as good as, if not better than, Okung. Before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the 2015 season, Beachum played fairly well and did an admirable job in pass blocking.
In 2015, Okung struggled for the second season in a row and suffered a shoulder injury in the Divisional round against the Carolina Panthers.
If the Seahawks do not award Okung with a one-year "prove it" contract, Beachum would be a guy they could pursue to help stabilize one of the NFL's worst offensive lines in 2015.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Hardy, DE
I was reluctant to put Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy here because, quite frankly, he's a numskull.
From a pure-talent standpoint, it's hard to dispute how well he plays on the field.
With the Cowboys in 2015, Hardy had seven sacks and finished as one of the top 15 4-3 defensive end pass-rushers, according to PFF.
As far as the Buccaneers' defensive end position and pass rush, Hardy had half the collective output Buccaneers defensive ends Howard Jones, Jacquies Smith, George Johnson and William Gholston accomplished.
If the Buccaneers are somehow able to put up with Hardy's incessant nonsense, the Buccaneers' pass rush will be plenty more fierce in 2016.
Tennessee Titans: Will Beatty, OT
After missing the entire 2015 season with a torn pectoral muscle and rotator cuff surgery, the New York Giants cut ties with veteran left tackle Will Beatty.
In 2014, Beatty was one of the NFL's 12 best left tackles, according to PFF.
With all due respect to incumbent offensive tackles Byron Bell and Jeremiah Poutasi, they did not play well in 2015.
At the start of the 2016 season, Beatty will be 31 years old.
If Beatty is open to a potential move to right tackle, the Titans could have a quality tandem in Beatty and left tackle Taylor Lewan.
However, with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Titans could very well just take Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil.
In the event the Titans have a change of heart or trade out of the pick, Beatty would offer a stable veteran presence along an offensive line that needs to do a much-better job at protecting quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was sacked nearly 40 times in 2015.
Washington Redskins: Stefan Wisniewski, C
The best center on the market, Jacksonville Jaguars center Stefan Wisniewski is a player the Washington Redskins need to set their sights on and acquire.
The center position, manned by Josh LeRibeus and Kory Lichtensteiger, was dreadful in 2015.
In fact, LeRibeus and Lichtensteiger finished as the NFL's 11th and fifth-worst centers to play in at least 25 percent of their teams' respective snaps in 2015, according to PFF.
Wisniewski has posted just one negative PFF grade and excels in pass protection.
If the Redskins pay quarterback Kirk Cousins the big dollars he's set to get, why not protect him with one of the league's better centers?
Follow me on Twitter @RichardJanvrin.