2017 NFL Free Agents: Best Players Available for Week 2

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2017

2017 NFL Free Agents: Best Players Available for Week 2

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Week 1 of NFL free agency saw some notable deals go down, including the Cleveland Browns making Kevin Zeitler the highest-paid guard in NFL history and also making headlines for trading with the Houston Texans for Brock Osweiler for draft picks. 

    But it wasn't just the Browns making a splash in free agency last week; the Arizona Cardinals opened their checkbook for outside linebacker Chandler Jones, giving him a five-year deal worth $83 million, including a jaw-dropping $53 million guaranteed. According to ESPN, "it is believed to be the largest sum of guaranteed money handed out during this year's free-agency frenzy."

    Even the normally reticent Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson got in on the free-agency fun, signing both tight end Martellus Bennett and tight end Lance Kendricks. 

    But there are still plenty of impact players available for Week 2. Many of the following players are 30 or older, have injury concerns or will be costly. But that doesn't mean they're unlikely to find teams as we head beyond Day 5 of free agency. 

LB Dont'a Hightower

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots know that their free-agent linebacker, Dont'a Hightower, is not only the best defensive player still unsigned in free agency but, probably, the best overall player still available.

    That's why recent indications seem to point to New England bringing Hightower back. 

    Per CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, as of Sunday afternoon, the New York Jets and Patriots were "leading the Pack" in terms of signing the Super-Bowl-winning linebacker to a deal, though several other teams are "monitoring closely as well."

    As of Sunday, the Jets and Patriots have almost identical amounts of cap space to play with, at approximately $33 million apiece, per Spotrac.

    And there's no doubt Hightower will be costly; he racked up 65 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks and two passes defensed, as well as recovered a safety, as New England's most important defensive player in its championship season. 

DL Dontari Poe

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    It's somewhat shocking that Kansas City Chiefs free-agent defensive lineman Dontari Poe is still available five days into free agency, but it's not for lack of interest.

    Per Canfora, Poe visited with the Indianapolis Chiefs on Sunday, while the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins all have interest in hosting the difference-making defender. 

    Of the teams other than the Coltswho appear to be the front-runner—that have interest in Poe, only the Jaguars have more cap space to utilize. Indianapolis was estimated to be approximately $46 million under the salary cap as of Sunday, while Jacksonville had considerably more money to work with, at $58 million. 

    Poe has seen better statistical output in previous seasons, but he played in 16 games in 2016 and amassed 27 combined tackles, 1.5 sacks and three passes defensed. 

    There's no question teams in need of an upgrade up front are interested in Poe, but it's also not surprising that the defensive lineman is still available. That position's market has depreciated this offseason as there are so many quality players available in this year's draft class. 

RB Adrian Peterson

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    It's not that surprising that veteran running back Adrian Peterson is still available in free agency. 

    After all, Peterson missed most of the 2016 season with a knee injury and is on the wrong side of 30 now. To further compound concerns about his health, his indictment for child abuse in 2014, which was resolved with a plea deal, still has to loom large for many organizations concerned about character. 

    Still, for a team that's perhaps one productive rusher away from a trip to Super Bowl LII, Peterson could make a lot of sense if his price isn't too high. According to Canfora, Peterson was scheduled to visit with the running-back-needy Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. 

    Seattle has about $17 million in available cap space, and if it only wants to sign Peterson to a short-term deal, it may have to spend for him. But the move makes sense, as Peterson would be reunited with former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

CB Morris Claiborne

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Few teams have adequate outside corners, a position that only grows in importance each year as pass-catchers become bigger, faster and more athletic. 

    Morris Claiborne is still only 27 years old and has been productive for the Dallas Cowboys...when he's healthy. 

    That's the biggest problem with Claiborne; he's never in his five-year career played a full 16-game season, and in 2016, he played only seven games before becoming sidelined with a groin injury. 

    Claiborne has never had more than one interception in a season, but if you project his stats over a full 16 games, they would be adequate for a starting outside corner, especially his passes defensed numbers. His coverage skills are fantastic, even if he doesn't always make the flashy plays. 

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported at the start of free agency that the Baltimore Ravens had interest in the corner, but there has been no further movement on him.

S Bradley McDougald

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Safety Bradley McDougald had a great season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2016, and he is likely the best safety still unsigned in free agency. 

    McDougald had a whopping 91 combined tackles, 10 passes defensed and two interceptions with the Bucs last season, all of which were career highs. 

    However, the defensive back has never truly been paid like a starting free safety; his last deal with the Buccaneers was for one year and worth $2.5 million overall, per Spotrac. Teams may be shying away from paying what he and his reps feel he is entitled to after two good years of production. 

    The Bucs signed Cowboys free-agent safety J.J. Wilcox and re-signed Josh Robinson, which may suggest they are prepared to lose McDougald to another team. However, Tampa Bay still has plenty of cap space heading into Week 2 of free agency. 

RB Jamaal Charles

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    Tim Umphrey/Associated Press

    It seems crazy that after five 1,000-yard seasons and 43 career touchdowns, Jamaal Charles is a free agent hoping a team takes a chance on him to stay healthy and produce for them, but here we are. 

    The 30-year-old rusher played only eight games in the last two seasons after tearing his ACL in 2015 and continuing to suffer from the effects of that injury into 2016. 

    It was the second ACL tear of Charles' career, and he needed a second surgery by Dr. James Andrews.

    However, Charles' career speaks for itself and, like Peterson, the veteran could be an excellent one- or two-year addition for a contender needing an upgrade in the backfield. In fact, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (via Around the NFL's Chris Wesseling), Charles has actually received more interest during this period than Peterson.

    According to Rapoport, Charles and the Seattle Seahawks have "mutual interest."

LB Zach Brown

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    It's somewhat shocking that speedy inside linebacker Zach Brown hasn't yet been taken off the market.

    The 27-year-old had one of the best seasons of his career with the Buffalo Bills in 2016, amassing 97 total tackles, four sacks, four passes defensed and an interception. Brown proved that whenever he goes on the field, good things (and big plays) follow. 

    After Brown completed his rookie contract with the Tennessee Titans, he signed a one-year prove-it deal worth $1.25 million with the Bills, per Spotrac

    He certainly proved it, and now Spotrac estimates his market value at $4.5 million annually.

    But at least one team seems to be interested in paying that; as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported on the first day of free agency, the Miami Dolphins are hoping to get something done with Brown. 

RB Eddie Lacy

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Like the other free-agent running backs on this list, Eddie Lacy has injury concerns that could cause him to linger a little longer on the open market. 

    Unlike Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, however, Lacy is still a few years shy of 30 and is looking for his second NFL contract. Though it won't be nearly as lucrative as it could have been had injuries and poor conditioning not marred Lacy's early career, there could still be a tale of redemption ahead for Lacy.

    In his best seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Lacy totaled more than 1,000 yards and at least nine touchdowns. Having apparently taken a greater interest in his training and diet lately, there could still be numbers like those in Lacy's future.

    Lacy visited with the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and the Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson reported that it was "going well."