NFL Free Agency 2017: One Bargain Player Each Team Should Pursue

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMarch 30, 2017

NFL Free Agency 2017: One Bargain Player Each Team Should Pursue

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    Welcome to the NFL's bargain bin, where we're clearing the inventory and slashing prices!

    In the market for (relatively) cheap offensive line help? Veteran options like Ryan Clady, Sebastian Vollmer and Nick Mangold are still available.

    Interested in a scratch-and-dent pass-rusher? Elvis (Dumervil) hasn't yet left the building.

    Looking for a veteran quarterback who can lead your team to the playoffs?

    Yeah, that you ain't getting here. Sorry.

    However, there's still plenty of meat on the bone, from 1,000-yard tailbacks to accomplished receivers and Pro Bowl defensive backs. Granted, their best days may be behind them, but that doesn't mean they can't still help NFL teams.

    At a price that won't break the bank.

    Let's take a look around the free-agent emporium with a little exercise in who fits where, matching each NFL club with a bargain free agent who could make it better in 2017.

Arizona Cardinals

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    George Bridges/Associated Press

    Rashad Johnson, S

    As Darren Urban wrote for the Arizona Cardinals website, after a disappointing 2016 season the Arizona Cardinals are looking to fill a leadership void in the locker room.

    "When you are building a 53-man roster, there are so many things that go into it," general manager Steve Keim said. "Not just your ability to play the position but what you bring to the locker room."

    When it comes to the secondary, the Redbirds can accomplish that goal with a little reunion action.

    Back in 2014, Rashad Johnson played a pivotal role on an Arizona defense that helped the Cardinals play as well as any team in the NFC before injuries chewed the quarterback position to pieces. He topped 90 tackles that season, adding four interceptions.

    The following year, Johnson bumped that pick tally to five for an Arizona team that won 13 games.

    Granted, Johnson didn't have that same success last year with the Tennessee Titans, and he's on the wrong side of 30. But an argument can be made that had as much to do with how he was used as any big decline in his level of play.

    The Cardinals lost both Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger to free agency. While they added Antoine Bethea to offset those losses, the league's deepest safety corps suddenly isn't so much.

    Besides, who doesn't love a reunion?

Atlanta Falcons

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    Dwight Freeney, DE

    Despite a transcendent season from young pass-rusher Vic Beasley in 2016, getting better at getting after the quarterback remains a big need for the Atlanta Falcons in 2017.

    It might help the Falcons to turn to an old, familiar face in that regard.

    And I mean an old face.

    At 37, Dwight Freeney is one of the oldest position players in the National Football League, but per Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Freeney indicated he's interested in returning for a 16th NFL season.

    Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn told Alex Marvez of Sporting News on SiriusXM Radio he'd love to have Freeney back in the fold for a second season in Atlanta—provided that Freeney doesn't think he can take a pass on OTAs and training camp.

    "The standard is the standard," Quinn said. "If he decides he wants to do it, he's got to be all in to do it. I don't want to make special circumstances for anyone in any way."

    It makes sense for both sides. Freeney is familiar with the Falcons and their scheme. The Falcons know how to manage Freeney's snaps to keep him fresh.

    As Freeney showed in the Super Bowl, he can still be a force in spurts.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Elvis Dumervil, OLB

    Sometimes the best thing a team can do is to do nothing.

    Or at least undo what it did.

    When the Baltimore Ravens released veteran pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil earlier this month, general manager Ozzie Newsome hailed the 33-year-old's contributions over four seasons with the team, as relayed by Garrett Downing of the Ravens website:

    Elvis Dumervil has been a leader for us on and off the field. He has made a positive impression on our franchise, and we have been fortunate to have him as a Raven. We respect his professionalism and the way he plays the game, in addition to his extensive charitable efforts that have greatly impacted our Baltimore community and his parents' native country of Haiti.

    Then Newsome added, "We have not closed the door on the possibility of him returning in the future."

    It's that last part that's important. There's little doubt the Ravens will look to upgrade the pass rush early in this year's draft, but edge-rushers often take time to get their sea legs in the NFL.

    A Ravens team that annually fashions itself a Super Bowl contender doesn't have time to wait.

    Dumervil may be at best a short-term fix, but he knows the scheme and is well respected in the locker room.

    This may be the likeliest move in this entire article to happen.

Buffalo Bills

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    Victor Cruz, WR

    It wasn't that long ago Victor Cruz appeared to be one of the NFL's rising talents at the wide receiver spot. In both 2011 and 2012 he topped 1,000 receiving yards. He came up just short of that mark in 2013.

    Then disaster struck in the form of a serious knee injury.

    Serious is an understatement. Cruz managed just six games in 2014, and a calf injury wiped out the entirety of his 2015 campaign.

    Cruz caught 39 passes for 586 yards and a touchdown for the New York Giants last year, but there's no denying a sad fact—he is an abject lesson in what might have been.

    Still, this isn't to say Cruz has nothing left to offer NFL teams. He doesn't have the explosiveness he once did, but he is still a shifty veteran who can do more than a little damage for a team out of the slot.

    As things stand today, the depth chart at receiver for the Buffalo Bills is as barren as any in the NFL. Even if the team (as many suspect) hits receiver early in this year's draft, a veteran presence to steady things isn't a terrible idea.

    Provided, of course, the price is right.

Carolina Panthers

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    Ryan Clady, OT

    There's already been a shakeup at tackle in Carolina this offseason. Mike Remmers is gone, replaced by Matt Kalil. But one thing remains the same.

    Michael Oher is still in townand as general manager Dave Gettleman told Bryan Strickland of the team's website, Oher remains in the NFL's concussion protocol...

    Six months after originally being placed there.

    "He looks great, he sounds great, but he's still in the protocol," Gettleman said. "He's working out five days a week. He's working his fanny off. He's doing NFL workouts. He's fully engaged in that weight room."

    The Panthers remain hopeful that Oher will recover and be able to play again. But we long ago reached the point where it's time to consider that he might not.

    Ryan Clady isn't the player who made four Pro Bowls with the Denver Broncos, and the 30-year-old has struggled with injuries the past few years.

    However, Tim Weaver of Panthers Wire believes Clady could be the best "Plan B" available.

    "Clady has a prototypical build for an NFL tackle with 91 games of experience," he wrote. "He's a solid run-blocker who could help solidify the right side of Carolina's offensive line if Oher's concussion issues prove to be an insurmountable obstacle."

    Given the options who remain on the open market at the position, it's hard to argue with that assessment.

Chicago Bears

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Leon Hall, CB

    The Bears have been the most active team in free agency this year so far as the number of total signings. The team has added a number of players, including a veteran cornerback in Prince Amukamara.

    But the Bears still have needs all over the roster, and the club could use more help in the secondary.

    Say a savvy former Pro Bowler who can play outside, in the slot and even at free safety.

    Leon Hall told Rebecca Toback of SB Nation he prefers to be a jack of all trades:

    I've always liked to do multiple things, which is part of the reason I like nickel so much. You get to do a whole plethora of things in coverages and blitzes, so being at dime is kind of the same idea as safety, which I played a little bit in Cincinnati or definitely practiced some of it. So it wasn't too out of the ordinary, but I like doing that kind of stuff.

    Hall is versatile, experienced and, as he showed in New York last year, still more than capable of holding his own at the back end of the defense.

    Acquiring the 32-year-old won't do much to solve the Bears' long-term issues on the defensive side of the ball.

    But his addition could help ensure the short term doesn't get any worse.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Jahri Evans, OG

    With the departure of Kevin Zeitler in free agency, the Cincinnati Bengals have a three-headed question mark across the interior of their offensive front.

    This is a real problem. As Carl Yedor of Football Outsiders wrote a year ago, Andy Dalton's effectiveness at quarterback for the Bengals is in many ways directly proportionate to the protection in front of him.

    That protection took a step back in 2016, and wouldn't you know it? The Bengals missed the playoffs for the first time in six years.

    The addition of Jahri Evans wouldn't be a cure-all. The 12th-year veteran, who will turn 34 in August, is well past his prime. The six-time Pro Bowler ranked 39th among all guards at Pro Football Focus in 2016 after making 16 starts at right guard for the New Orleans Saints.

    By weight of comparison, Zeitler was sixth.

    However, Evans wasn't any worse in that "down" season than Clint Boling, who started at left guard for the Bengals last year. In fact, despite playing nearly 200 more snaps than Boling, Evans allowed fewer sacks.

    Evans may no longer be one of the best in the business, but he's far from the worst. And he's durable, with only seven missed games in 11 years.

Cleveland Browns

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    Devin Taylor, DE

    The Cleveland Browns were one of the more active teams in the NFL over the first few weeks of free agency, especially on the offensive line.

    Now it's time to hit the other front.

    As the Browns switch to a four-man line under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, there are big changes afoot. The belief is Emmanuel Ogbah will fill one end spot on that new-look line. Plenty of folks think he'll be flanked by presumptive No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett.

    However, the Browns still need rotational players up front, as well as a 3-technique tackle.

    Devin Taylor could fill at least one (and possibly both) of those spots.

    Taylor appeared a young end on the rise last year after a seven-sack 2015 campaign, but his numbers slid. However, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin told ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein that dip in production doesn't necessarily indicate a drop in play.

    "I think Devin has played decent for us this year," Austin said. "I'm not saying he's played worse or better than he did last year. I'm not displeased with what he's done, I guess is the best way to answer that."

    Taylor's play against the run improved significantly in 2016—so much so that he could a serve as a base-down strong-side end with the size to (potentially) move inside to rush the passer in sub-packages.

    After several years of running the 3-4, the Browns are essentially a blank slate along the defensive line. A puzzle without any of the pieces fitted together.

    Taylor could be a piece of that puzzle.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Darrelle Revis, CB

    That Darrelle Revis could ever be considered a "bargain" signing speaks to just how much his level of play fell off in 2016.

    There have been all sorts of rumors that connect Revis with the New England Patriots of late, but there's another Super Bowl contender that could be a solid fit.

    The Dallas Cowboys have experienced quite a bit of attrition at cornerback in free agency this year, as both Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have moved on. The Cowboys added Nolan Carroll, but if you've seen Carroll play recently, you know that's not going to be enough.

    Enter the Cowboys, who Michael Robinson of NFL.com believes would be a good schematic fit.

    "Revis can still play," he said, "but he needs to find a zone scheme or a team that won't put him in man coverage all the time. I could see Revis in Dallas because Rod Marinelli runs a simple two-deep or three-deep type of defense. The Cowboys don't blitz a lot because they're not in man. Plus, this would be a great spot for Revis if he's looking to play for a contender."

    Add in Jerry Jones' longstanding penchant for adding "name" veterans, and I'm surprised this move hasn't already happened.

Denver Broncos

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    Austin Pasztor, OT

    This one is all about the money.

    Not that the Broncos don't have the cash to sign Austin Pasztor. According to Spotrac, Denver is sitting on a war chest of over $17 million in wiggle room.

    Of course, it's possible grand poobah John Elway is hoarding that cap space to take a run at a certain quarterback the Broncos continue to deny being interested in.

    Methinks they doth protest too much.

    However, regardless how the saga of Romo the wanderer plays out, the Broncos could stand to add another offensive lineman.

    Yes, the Broncos signed Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson in free agency, with the latter penciled in as the team's starting right tackle at present.

    The same Menelik Watson who has missed more games than he's played in over four NFL seasons.

    Austin Pasztor is a versatile and durable young 26-year-old lineman who played in all but 10 offensive snaps for the Cleveland Browns in 2016, ranking a respectable 35th among offensive tackles at Pro Football Focus.

    It won't matter who Denver's quarterback is in 2017 if he spends the season fleeing for his life, and counting on Watson to play 16 games seems unwise given that he's done it a grand total of never.

Detroit Lions

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    Josh Bynes, OLB

    You'll notice a theme among more than a few teams listed here.

    Do not fix that which is not broken.

    Is Josh Bynes a household name? Only in the Bynes household. The 27-year-old will all but surely never play in a Pro Bowl.

    Never say never, though, given the 35th alternates that wind up there every year.

    However, Bynes is a capable NFL linebacker who can play both the middle and weak side and has started 19 games for the Lions over the past two seasons.

    Not only that, but in eight starts for Detroit last year, Bynes played fairly well, ranking as a top-15 4-3 outside linebacker per Pro Football Focus.

    Add in his familiarity with Teryl Austin's defense, and you have any number of reasons to bring the six-year veteran back to Motown.

Green Bay Packers

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    Gerald Hodges, ILB

    This one is unlikely to happen. Ted Thompson isn't known as a wheeler and dealer in free agency, and the Packers general manager already caused more than a few fans to find religion when Green Bay signed tight end Martellus Bennett.

    Repent. The end is nigh.

    However, were Thompson to dip his toes in the free-agent pool a bit more, the Packers could improve an area that's plagued the defense for years without breaking the bank.

    The Packers have employed a carousel of inside linebackers in recent seasons, up to and including kicking Clay Matthews inside.

    In many respects, Gerald Hodges is just the sort of lower-tier free agent Thompson has shown a modicum of interest in adding in the past. It isn't going to take a knee-knocking amount of money to add the 26-year-old.

    But Hodges is also just entering his prime and coming off a 2016 season in which he set career highs in tackles (83), sacks (three) and interceptions (two) in 12 starts for the San Francisco 49ers.

    Youngsters Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez showed some promise for the Packers a year ago, but they were liabilities in pass coverage. Hodges wasn't a world-beater in that regard (28th among inside linebackers per PFF), but he was better.

    He was also a top-10 option overall at the position.

    Thompson is likely to roll into the draft with essentially the hand he presently has. The Packers won't sign Hodges.

    But that doesn't mean they shouldn't.

Houston Texans

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    T.J. McDonald, S

    When free agency began, young safety T.J. McDonald wouldn't have been a name listed among bargain-bin options. Yet here we are, nearly a month into free agency, and the 26-year-old is still looking for a new home.

    The wait isn't going to do McDonald's bank account any favors, but it could be a godsend for the Houston Texans—especially after veteran Quintin Demps bolted in free agency.

    For as well as Houston's league-leading defense played in 2016, the safety spots were arguably the weak link. Demps was easily the best of the bunch, ranking 12th at the position per Pro Football Focus in 2016.

    McDonald didn't fare quite that well for the Los Angeles Rams, but he was a top-25 safety in pass coverage en route to 64 tackles, a sack and two interceptions.

    That was something of a down season for the four-year veteran. Back in 2014 (he missed five games in 2015), McDonald topped 80 solos and 100 total tackles for the Rams, demonstrating his willingness to get dirty in run support.

    In all honesty, the Texans aren't apt to do much of anything in free agency until the fate of a certain veteran quarterback is decided.

    However, if Houston wants to avoid opening the year with a huge question mark at the tail end of a defense that carried the club in 2016, checking out the menu at Mickey D's isn't a bad idea.

    I'll have a Big Mac and a medium fry, please.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Brandon Bolden, RB

    Frank Gore defied the odds last year, topping 1,000 yards on the ground in his age-33 season. However, the odds that Gore repeats that feat are even worse than the odds of its happening once.

    For that reason, many draftniks (including Rob Rang of CBS Sports) expect the Colts to hit the tailback position early in the NFL draft—perhaps even in the first round.

    But what if they don't? What if it's Day 3 before they address the position in the hopes they can wring one more season out of Gore?

    Were that the case, the Colts need to find someone who can take some of the load off the aging back. Preferably a back who won't cost a lot.

    Like, say, a 27-year-old running back who has shown the ability to perform as both a runner and receiver at the NFL level.

    Brandon Bolden found himself the odd man out in the running back rotation in New England last year, but as recently as 2015 he touched the ball 82 times and put up nearly 400 total yards.

    Bolden only averaged 3.3 yards per carry in 2015, but he's posted a career average nearly a yard higher. He's also an accomplished receiver out of the backfield, peeling off a 63-yard score against the Denver Broncos in 2015.

    The talent's there for Bolden to slide in behind Gore as a passing-down back for the Colts without sucking up too much of their $30 million and change in cap space.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Mike Adams, OT

    The Jacksonville Jaguars haven't been shy in free agency.

    For the second time in as many years, the Jaguars spent over $100 million in contracts on the defensive side of the ball. The team also swapped out its left tackle, with Kelvin Beachum giving way to Branden Albert.

    The addition of Albert doesn't fix all Jacksonville's problems on the offensive front. Starting right tackle Jermey Parnell is a former undrafted free agent. Behind the starting five, there isn't a whole lot.

    Is Mike Adams going to answer the questions on that offensive line? No. If there's one word that best describes Adams' five NFL seasons in Pittsburgh and Chicago, it's "disappointing."

    The former second-round pick of the Steelers might be a disappointment relative to his draft slot, but Adams has 21 career starts under his belt, and the 6'7", 323-pounder has played on both ends of the line.

    It wouldn't be an impact signing, but the Jaguars have hit their quota on those. Bringing Adams on board also wouldn't be expensive.

    Every team in the NFL is constantly looking for depth on the offensive line.

    The Jaguars need it more than most.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Darryl Morris, CB

    The Kansas City Chiefs aren't in much of a position to add anyone else in free agency. No team in the AFC has less salary-cap space than the Chiefs.

    However, the Chiefs could still make a sneaky-good acquisition in the secondary.

    Darryl Morris might not appear to be such a player. The 26-year-old is the definition of a journeyman. He's played for three teams in four seasons, and until the Indianapolis Colts came calling last year, Morris spent part of the 2016 season watching football on television.

    Morris told Andrew Walker of the Colts website in December that it was an incredible blessing to be in the NFL at all.

    "From being at the house a couple weeks ago to being on Monday Night Football catching an interception—just glory to God," Morris said. "You know, I'm so thankful for that, and it's just really a blessing, and I couldn't be happier."

    The thing is, Morris didn't play like a guy who was watching football from his couch less than a year ago. In just over 350 snaps, he was Indy's second-highest-graded corner per PFF.

    That's higher than Vontae Davis and Patrick Robinson.

    Morris isn't going to come in and start. But every team in the NFL can use additional depth in the secondary and special teams contributors.

    Morris can do both. At a reasonable price.

Los Angeles Chargers

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    Alterraun Verner, CB

    I'd list fans here, but the Los Angeles Chargers can't sign those.

    They may have to pay them soon enough, though.

    As Josh Alper reported for Pro Football Talk back before free agency even officially began, cornerback Alterraun Verner told SiriusXM Radio that he was already receiving calls from potential suitors.

    "My agent's been getting calls from multiple teams already," Verner said. "It's exciting to see what's going to be happening next. It's going to be exciting to see where I can go and hopefully contribute and put forth an effort to try to get to a Super Bowl."

    Apparently they were calling to see if Verner's refrigerator was running, because he's still unemployed.

    There's a reason for that. Since making 75 stops and picking off a pair of passes for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014, Verner's play has fallen off sharply. He played only 241 snaps last season, and the year before, he 28-year-old ranked 100th at his position per Pro Football Focus.

    Still, back in 2013 Verner played over 1,000 snaps for the Tennessee Titans ranked inside the top 15.

    Either Verner completely forgot how to play football, or he was a bad fit in Tampa. Well, that or he got a fat paycheck and put his career in neutral.

    The Tampa Bay fiasco should have Verner motivated to rebuild his career though, and the Chargers need help in the defensive backfield.

    Get where I'm going with this?

Los Angeles Rams

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    Case Keenum, QB

    Stop looking at me like that.

    Seriously. It's impolite.

    No, Case Keenum didn't play well in nine starts for the Rams in 2016. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was upside down, and Keenum barely cleared a 60-percent completion rate and passer rating of 75.

    None of that qualifies as news.

    The Rams appear confident to start the season with Sean Mannion as the backup, with Aaron Murray serving as a third-string camp arm.

    Mannion told Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com he's ready to take the next step as a pro.

    "I feel like I've made huge strides," Mannion said. "Without getting a chance to play, maybe it doesn’t show to you guys and you guys aren't able to see it, but I certainly feel like I've been getting better and better each day and each week, from last year to this year. That’s something I feel good about."

    But we're talking about a player who has attempted all of 13 NFL passes, playing behind a second-year starter who didn't exactly shine as a rookie.

    If anything goes wrong, a season that already doesn't look especially promising could hit full-blown disaster quickly.

    And at that point, having a signal-caller with a little experience on the roster is going to start looking a lot better.

Miami Dolphins

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    Shareece Wright, CB

    Shareece Wright didn't have the best season in 2016. Only six cornerbacks allowed more touchdowns in 2016 than the 29-year-old, who surrendered half a dozen, per Pro Football Focus.

    This is not a number that gets a phone to ring, and sure enough, Wright remains unsigned after the Ravens parted ways with him earlier this month.

    Wright isn't the best cornerback still left in free agency. But if I'm not going to post any duplicate names in this list, he makes the list.

    Because while he may not be the best, he also isn't the worst.

    Yes, Wright ranked 91st among cornerbacks last year at Pro Football Focus. But that was a higher grade than Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns, who's supposedly good.

    It was also a higher grade than every qualifying corner on the Miami Dolphins who wasn't Byron Maxwell.

    That's the thing. The Miami secondary is young. A team with playoff aspirations could use an infusion of experience in the defensive backfield.

    Whether it's Wright or another veteran defensive back listed here, the Dolphins could stand to get older at the back end.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Michael Floyd, WR


    I can see the head-shaking already.

    There's no denying that Michael Floyd has problems. The DUI that led to Floyd's release in Arizona was his third since 2011. Floyd just served jail time as a result of that arrest.

    However, there's also no denying that the Vikings need wideout help. The Vikes could especially use a viable deep threat.

    That's a role Floyd could fill with aplomb if his head's on straight.

    Back in 2013, Floyd topped 1,000 receiving yards and averaged 16 yards a catch for the Cardinals. His yardage was down the following two seasons, but the 27-year-old's average per grab actually increased just a bit.

    There's no guarantee that Floyd has his act together, but as Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman told Lindsey Young of the team's website, the Vikings' no-nonsense coach and veteran leadership form a foundation that (in theory) could help him keep it that way:

    "A lot of that is established by the veteran leadership and by Coach Zimmer. This is the way we want to do things around here, and what happens in our locker room and how we handle our business. When you layer that in, and those guys know the drill, they have a pretty strong influence on when the new guys come in and getting them aligned with how we want it down there."

    After the Vikings swung and missed on Laquon Treadwell a year ago, Floyd's upside is worth the minimal risk involved in a prove-it deal.

New England Patriots

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    DeAndre Levy, OLB

    It's a page right out of the Patriots' free agent playbook. Sign an aging veteran whose play has declined in recent years to a modest deal in the hopes that player has one more Pro Bowl season left in the tank.

    It's worked wonders for the team in the past, and it could work again with DeAndre Levy.

    Back in 2014. Levy paced the entire National Football League with 121 solo tackles. Over the past two seasons, however, injuries limited the 30-year-old to only six games.

    The Detroit Lions parted ways with Levy after eight seasons, but back in January, Lions general manager Bob Quinn told Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press that he's confident Levy could regain his pre-injury form.

    "I think he can be the same player he was a couple years ago," Quinn said. "It looks like to me he was getting healthier and healthier as the weeks went on when he came back."

    Of course, Quinn then turned around and let Levy go, which only reinforces concerns that Levy might be done.

    Bit if he isn't, adding Levy on the cheap could be another big get for a Patriots team most think has been one of the biggest winners of free agency in 2017.

New Orleans Saints

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    Sam Shields, CB

    With over $16 million in cap space, the New Orleans Saints appear to have the leeway to add at least one more middling free agent.

    Until, that is, you consider the Saints pursuit of restricted free agent Malcolm Butler—a pursuit that (if successful) will likely eat up upward of three-quarters of that space.

    That pursuit leaves the Saints in something of a limbo where free agency is concerned, but regardless of whether they obtain Butler. there are other options in the secondary the Saints could consider.

    Sam Shields would be a risky pickup. As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky wrote back in February, Shields still hasn't been cleared from the concussion he sustained in last year's season-opener. And the 29-year-old was arrested for marijuana possession in October.

    Shields told Demovsky that he's confident he'll be able to continue his NFL career:

    "I'm thinking it's not over. I've still got more in me. But like I said, I'm going through this, what I've got to go through. Just take it one day at a time. I just love the game, man, and I feel that I can get back out there and play. If not, then not. But right now it's just day by day."

    This is all contingent on Shields being cleared medically. Of course his safety is more important than playing football.

    But when last we saw Shields play extensively (707 snaps in 2015 per Pro Football Focus), he intercepted three passes and ranked a respectable 38th at his position.

    It would be a speculative addition, but one that could pay off in a big way.

New York GIants

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    Nick Mangold, C

    It feels weird to include Nick Mangold on a liast of bargain free agents. It wasn't that long ago that the 33-year-old was one of the NFL's best centers.

    However, after in injury-marred 2016 and a couple years of sliding play, the Jets cut bait on the 11-year veteran. And so here we are, a month or so into free agency with a seven-time Pro Bowler still on the open market.

    It's looking like that might not last much longer. And Mangold's new home may wind up looking a lot like his old one.

    Per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, the New York Giants have expressed interest in Mangold's services.

    It's a signing that would make a lot of sense for the Giants. The team has an entrenched starter at center in Weston Richburg, but there have been rumblings that Mangold's future involves a move to guard.

    If he's willing to do that, he'd be an improvement at right guard over John Jerry for a Giants team that averaged all of 3.5 yards a pop on the ground last year.

    There's little question that the o-line is Big Blue's weak spot.

    And even less question that Mangold's addition would help.

New York Jets

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    Corey Graham, S

    As Darryl Slater of NJ.com recently pointed out, while the New York Jets aren't in dire straits relative to the salary cap, they aren't exactly swimming in coin.

    Slater posited that the Jets might not be done making veteran cuts, listing free safety Marcus Gilchrist as a possible cap casualty. Gilchrist isn't an awful safety, but his salary-to-performance ratio is rather cattywampus.

    If that's the case, the Jets wouldn't have to go far to find an inexpensive replacement.

    Back in 2014 with the Buffalo Bills, Corey Graham was the ninth-ranked cornerback in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. The following season, Graham made the move to free safety and exploded for 122 total tackles—including 91 solo stops.

    Graham's numbers were down a season ago, but some of the blame for that is on nagging injuries and a constantly changing scheme in Western New York.

    Even so, Graham logged over 1,000 snaps in 2016, and while his grade of 34th among safeties at PFF isn't great, it was a full 25 spots higher than Gilchrist.

    Told you his paycheck-to-production ratio was cattywampus.

Oakland Raiders

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    Perry Riley, ILB

    The Oakland Raiders had a successful season last year not because of their 26th-ranked defense, but in spite of it.

    Given those defensive deficiencies, it's not surprising the Raiders are looking to upgrade their linebackers—especially with the team possibly featuring more three-man fronts in 2017 after John Pagano joined the staff.

    Here's the thing, though: Perry Riley wasn't bad for the Raiders in 11 starts in 2016by any stretch of the imagination.

    Riley's 48 tackles and two forced fumbles aren't eye-popping numbers. But Riley ranked 10th among all inside linebackers in 2016, per the graders at Pro Football Focus.

    That's a higher grade than C.J. Mosley of the Baltimore Ravens, Eric Kendricks of the Minnesota Vikings, Derrick Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs, Ryan Shazier of the Pittsburgh Steelers and any number of bigger names at the position.

    Per Austin Gayle of USA Today's Raiders Wire, Oakland has visited with free agent inside linebacker Zach Brown, who led the AFC in tackles in 2016. But Brown is reportedly angling for more coin that general manager Reggie McKenzie is willing to spend.

    If that deal falls through, Riley isn't a bad fallback guy, especially when you consider his extensive experience in the 3-4 from his time in Washington.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Jamaal Charles, RB

    The Philadelphia Eagles haven't been shy about signing offensive weaponry in 2017. But with the least cap space in the NFL at present per Spotrac, the team isn't in much of a position to add anyone else.

    The Eagles could get a bit of space later this offseason by parting ways with veteran tailback Ryan Mathews. That will free up some cash, but also leave the team with a hole in the backfield.

    A hole that Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson might look to fill with a familiar face.

    Back at the NFL Scouting Combine, Pederson told David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he wasn't averse to the idea of a reunion with tailback Jamaal Charles.

    "I've got history with him in Kansas City for three years, and I think he's a tremendous running back," Pederson said. "You know, it's something that we'll evaluate now. We'll grade him just like we do every free agent and every person that's released and see where he can fit into our offense."

    It wouldn't be a signing without risk. It's been a couple years since we saw the Charles who is the all-time leader in yards per carry. Charles has played in only eight games the past two seasons.

    However, even as just a complementary back, the four-time Pro Bowler would be a big upgrade for a an Eagles ground game that's a huge question mark at the moment.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Brandon Flowers, CB

    The Pittsburgh Steelers were a middle-of-the-road pass defense in 2016. Right in the middle of the road, to be exact—16th in the NFL.

    Frankly, the same can be said about the Steelers' cornerbacks. They aren't great, but they aren't terrible. There's been scuttlebutt this offseason that the team wanted to add another veteran at the back end, and after the team missed out on Logan Ryan, ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler reported that the Steelers reached out to Brandon Flowers.

    After signing a free-agent deal with the Chargers three years ago, Flowers had one good season followed by a pair of injury-marred disappointments. The 31-year-old played in only six games a season ago.

    Still, when Flowers was on the field in 2016, he showed flashes of his Pro Bowl form. In 352 snaps, the 10th-year veteran ranked 30th among cornerbacks, per Pro Football Focus.

    According to Fowler, there's no signing imminent, although the Steelers could circle back—possibly after the draft.

    It's a move that makes sense. Flowers might not be a shutdown corner at this point in his career, and durability is a real concern, but the argument can be made that a healthy Flowers would be the best cornerback on Pittsburgh's roster from the day he arrived.

    For a Steelers team with Super Bowl aspirations, it's a risk worth taking.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Jacquies Smith, DE

    This might not be that much of a bargain. In order to pry defensive end Jacquies Smith away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the San Francisco 49ers will have to make the 27-year-old restricted free agent an offer the Bucs won't match.

    Of course, when you have over $65 million in cap space (more than twice the resources of the Buccaneers) that suddenly looks a lot more doable.

    With the 49ers transitioning to a 4-3 under front in 2017, defensive end is one of the team's biggest needs. Multiple mock drafts (including mine) have the Niners taking an edge-rusher with the No. 2 overall pick.

    In acquiring Smith, the 49ers could get a head start on filling that hole. Yes, he's coming off a torn ACL (sustained on the first play of the 2016 season—in kick coverage, no less), but all indications are his rehab is progressing well.

    So was his NFL career up until that injury. The four-year veteran had 13.5 sacks in 2014 and 2015 for the Buccaneers, including four over the first two games of the 2015 campaign.

    Smith isn't a superstar, and bringing him in won't alleviate the team's need to address the position early in this year's draft.

    But he is a talented young player capable of being a solid complementary starter for the Niners.

    Apparently, they agree. Per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the 49ers have already hosted Smith for a visit.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Colin Kaepernick, QB

    OK, so "bargain" is a relative term at the quarterback position. We live in a reality where Mike Glennon just got $15 million a season from the Chicago Bears.

    However, if the Seattle Seahawks can find the right number with the most polarizing free agent in the NFL, it makes a lot of sense for the team to consider adding Colin Kaepernick.

    Yes, the Seahawks have a backup to Russell Wilson in Trevone Boykin, but Boykin was just arrested and could be facing league discipline.

    As ESPN.com's Sheil Kapadia wrote, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman has been left shaking his head that Kaepernick is still out of work.

    You don't have 32 starting-level quarterbacks in this league. You have about eight elites, and then you have the rest of the league. You have about eight, nine elite quarterbacks. You have two or three who have the potential to be elite. And then you have the rest of the teams. So he could play and start on a ton of teams in this league. He would be a starter on probably 20 of the teams in this league. But you're telling me that you're going to let other guys, you're going to pick up some of these other guys and tell me that they're starters?

    Granted, Kap signing in Seattle would be the end of his dreams of starting in 2017. But in Seattle, you aren't likely to see a big fan backlash over Kaepernick's national anthem protests.

    Kaepernick gets a chance to rehab his image for a year. The Seahawks get a battle-tested backup with a similar skill set to Wilson.

    Everyone wins.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Robert Griffin, QB

    Speaking of young quarterbacks who have plummeted from once-promising heights.

    At this point, after flaming out last year in Cleveland, Robert Griffin's chances of starting in 2017 are approximately 0.00 percent.

    That ship has sailed for the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year. When the New York Jets pass on you in favor of Josh McCown, that just about says it all.

    If Griffin's going to be in the NFL at all in 2017, it's going to be as a backup.

    That being the case, Tampa Bay is a good landing spot.

    The Buccaneers are a rising young team with more than a little talent and aspirations of making a run at the playoffs. However, a quick look at the Buccaneers' depth chart at quarterback behind Jameis Winston shows just how quickly those dreams could be derailed.

    This isn't to say that Griffin could be some sort of savior were Winston to be lost for the season. But Griffin would be an infinitely better stopgap option than anything Tampa has at present.

    For his part, Griffin could get out of the spotlight for a season, on the bench in a small market playing for an offensive-minded coach in Dirk Koetter.

    That may be the best chance he has at salvaging his career.

Tennessee Titans

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    Anquan Boldin, WR

    Anquan Boldin is not a spring chicken. Or even an autumn chicken. At 36, he's a mid-winter chicken.

    However, as Boldin showed by ranking second on the Detroit Lions in catches, fourth in yardage and first in touchdowns in 2016, he isn't done by any stretch of the imagination.

    His performance last year should be enough to get him on the Tennessee Titans' radar. Money certainly isn't an issuethe Titans have upwards of $40 million in cap space at present.

    What is an issue is the Tennessee depth chart at wideout. Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe have shown flashes of ability, but they're hardly game-changers. And behind that duo there isn't a whole lot.

    Boldin might not be running past anyone at this point, but there's a good reason Matthew Stafford came to rely upon Boldin in Detroit's run to the playoffs last year.

    He can still be relied on. He'll be in the spot he's supposed to be in, and the defensive back who thinks he can take the ball from him in traffic is in for a rude awakening.

    Per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Boldin would like to play close to family in Florida. By my understanding, and Nashville is certainly closer than Detroit.

    Also, like Florida, Tennessee has no state income tax. So if he likes money...

Washington Redskins

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    Chris Johnson, RB

    Not many will argue that the Washington Redskins could use a more dynamic tailback. Many believe the team will look to that position relatively early in this year's draft.

    Far fewer people would agree that Chris Johnson is that option. It's been several years since the 31-year-old topped 1,000 yards in a season.

    However, Johnson told ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss he still believes he can start in the NFL.

    "I don't want to go nowhere where I'm just sitting there, just sitting on the bench," Johnson said. "I want to be a starter. If not a starter, I definitely want to be in a situation where I can have a role and be involved. I know for a fact that I can still make plays. When I was presented the opportunity (last season), I still made plays."

    Johnson didn't get many chances to make those plays in 2016 with the emergence of David Johnson in Arizona, but it's worth pointing out that the season before, Johnson had over 200 touches and nearly 900 total yards in 11 games for the Cardinals.

    Washington has a stable of young tailbacks. Each has things he can do well. Most have shown flashes of ability in NFL games.

    But none has the complete skill set of a healthy Johnson. They certainly don't have his resume. And Johnson's lack of usage last year also means a lack of wear and tear.

    Stranger things have happened.

    Especially in Washington.