2017 NFL Free Agents: Every Team's Best Remaining Option on the Market
We're a month-plus into free agency across the National Football League, and in less than three weeks the NFL draft will kick off in Philadelphia.
As such, for many NFL teams, especially those who have already spent big on the open market, focus has turned from the former to the latter.
That doesn't mean there's no one of note left on the open market. Free agency still features a veteran NFL starter at quarterback, no fewer than two 2,000-yard rushers and a cornerback once thought to be the very best in the league at what he does.
In other words, while the high-priced difference-makers may have been scooped up, there are players left who can make a real difference for NFL teams in 2017.
With that in mind, it's time to play a "Match Game" of sorts by pairing every NFL team with the free agent left who best meets its needs.
Our first contestant is a hot-blooded redhead who enjoys beautiful sunsets, getting a tan and explaining to people what a haboob is.
No, really—it's a word.
Corey Graham, Safety
Say hello to Arizona!
And in case you were wondering, a haboob is a dust storm.
It wasn't long ago that the Arizona Cardinals had more depth at safety than any team in the National Football League.
That's no longer the case. The team lost both Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger in free agency in 2017. While they were able to add veteran Antoine Bethea, the Redbirds are no longer in a position to run a lot of the three-safety looks that defined their playoff runs in 2014 and 2015.
That's assuming Tyrann Mathieu is able to return at 100 percent following yet another significant injury.
However, the Cardinals can add inexpensive depth in the secondary and a measure of insurance for Mathieu in one shot by adding veteran Corey Graham.
In 2014, the 31-year-old was a top-10 cornerback with the Buffalo Bills per Pro Football Focus. The following season he posted an eye-popping 127 tackles after making the switch to safety. Graham's numbers were down in 2016, but his release had more to do with money than it did with performance.
Graham is no "Honey Badger," but with him in the fold, the Redbirds could roll out a passing sub-package with two safeties who can cover (Graham and Mathieu) and a pair of hybrid safety/linebackers in Bethea and Deone Bucannon.
In today's "spread 'em out" NFL, that isn't a bad nickel look at all.
Dwight Freeney, Defensive End
You're going to notice a trend with a few of these. Call it the reunion tour phenomenon. Or not fixing what isn't broken.
Either way, it makes sense for some NFL teams to bring back aging pass-rushers for one last go-round...
And that most certainly goes for Dwight Freeney and the Atlanta Falcons.
With less than $10 million in cap space (after subtracting the rookie pool) per Spotrac, the Falcons aren't in a position to make more pricey acquisitions.
But the 37-year-old Freeney isn't going to be pricey.
Yes, Freeney's days as an every-down, pass-rushing terror are gone. Long gone. But the old man can still get after the quarterback in spurts. Two years ago Freeney had eight sacks and ranked sixth in the NFL at his position in PFF's Pass Rush Productivity metric.
Freeney had only three sacks last year, but he was still a top-12 end in that metric. Super Bowl LI was an object lesson in Freeney's ability to dial it up when called upon.
The Falcons can use all the pass-rush help they can get. Should the team pair 2016 sack king Vic Beasley with another young pass-rusher, those kids could use a mentor.
You aren't going to find a better one than Freeney.
Elvis Dumervil, Outside Linebacker
I told you there might be a theme.
When the Ravens released outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil in March, general manager Ozzie Newsome didn't rule out his return.
"Elvis Dumervil has been a leader for us on and off the field," Newsome said. "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. ... We have not closed the door on the possibility of him returning in the future."
Assuming that he didn't mean Dumervil will return from the future (seriously, how would he fit in a DeLorean?), it's time to make that return happen.
Yes, Dumervil had a rotten 2016. His three sacks for the Ravens were a career low, and Dumervil missed half the season with a nagging Achilles injury.
Also, the Ravens have reached the point where they have to address a pass rush that's gotten old. Actually, it got old three or four years ago. Now it's prehistoric.
However, even if the Ravens do select an edge-rusher at No. 16 or on the 2017 NFL draft's second day, that youngster is going to need time to acclimate to the NFL. The learning curve at that position is as steep as any in the NFL.
In other words, the Ravens need a short-term solution they can plug into the rotation.
Maybe a familiar face with 35.5 sacks over four seasons with the team.
Alterraun Verner, Cornerback
The Buffalo Bills took a beating in the defensive backfield in free agency, even if some of it was self-inflicted.
Buffalo released nickel back Nickell Robey-Coleman and then had insult added to injury when top cover man Stephon Gilmore not only landed a huge contract but did so with the division rival Patriots.
That's gotta sting.
With youngster Ronald Darby and Kevon "Who?" Seymour penciled in as the starters, it's a safe bet that cornerback will be a position the Bills address early in the 2017 NFL draft. But while the cream of the crop may be gone among free-agent corners, there are still some veteran options out there who could help the Bills.
Whether it was a matter of fit, health or lack of motivation after inking a big contract, Alterraun Verner's three years in Tampa could best be described as disappointing.
Well, there are other descriptions, but if I use them I'll get in trouble.
However, Verner is still only 28 years old with two seasons of 80-plus tackles on his professional resume, and in his last year with the Tennessee Titans (2013) he was a top-15 performer at his position at Pro Football Focus.
There's potential here—reason to think a change of scenery and a "prove it" deal could motivate Verner to attempt to recapture past glories.
Given the state of the Buffalo secondary, the Bills don't have anything to lose.
Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback
Stop looking at me like that.
Answer me one question, frowny face.
Can you think of a player whose game more closely mirrors that of Cam Newton than Colin Kaepernick?
Did the 2015 NFL MVP not just have shoulder surgery—surgery that's expected to sideline him until at least the beginning of training camp?
OK, so that was two questions.
Derek Anderson is an OK backup. But that's all he is. As soon as Anderson takes the field, a good portion of Carolina's offense goes right out the window. He isn't equipped to do the sorts of zone-read things Newton is.
Kaepernick is another story altogether.
Spare me the political pontifications and histrionics. The same Carolina fans who might (in theory) be angry if Kaepernick were signed after his anthem protests last year would definitely (in theory) forgive him approximately the moment he came off the bench and got the Panthers a win.
That's the reality of the NFL. Victory cures everything.
At the very least, Kaepernick would allow the Panthers to have continuity in OTAs and camp. They can run their offense in practice, not some watered-down version.
And if Newton's rehab suffers a setback, the Panthers would have a battle-tested, athletic quarterback whose record in the Super Bowl is the same as Newton's.
Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver
The Chicago Bears have signed more players in free agency than any team in the NFL.
Yet they still need help all over the roster.
That's especially true at wide receiver. The team's top receiver (Cameron Meredith) was a virtual unknown before a breakout second season. "No. 2" wideout (and boy, does that need quotation marks) Kevin White has 19 career catches for 187 yards...in two years.
Given Michael Floyd's off-field issues, it's understandable that he's yet to find a new home. As ESPN.com's Adam Schefter reported in December, Floyd is looking at a multigame suspension for the DUI arrest that led to his release by the Arizona Cardinals.
However, Floyd is also a big-bodied burner with three 800-yard seasons in five years, including a 1,00-yard campaign in 2013 in which he averaged 16 yards a reception.
Signing Floyd would be risky. But the Bears have plenty of cap space (over $25 million per Spotrac), and the contract could be structured in a way that costs the Bears next to nothing if Floyd makes another misstep.
The Bears need talent at wide receiver, and Floyd is easily the most talented pass-catcher left.
Were he to sign, you could make the argument that he'd be the best receiver on the Bears roster the moment he stepped off the plane.
Nick Mangold, Center
Andy Dalton is a very good quarterback.
OK, let me qualify that. As Carl Yedor pointed out for Football Outsiders last year, Andy Dalton is a very good quarterback when he has time to survey the field. When he's under pressure, Dalton's effectiveness drops considerably.
This is not good news given that Cincinnati's two best offensive linemen (tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler) bolted the team in free agency.
Heading into 2017, the Bengals are counting on two young tackles (one of whom struggled bigly in 2016), a free-agent tackle (Andre Smith) the team plans to move to guard, a guard in Clint Boling who ranked 32nd at his position per PFF last year, and a center in Russell Bodine who ranked 28th.
At 33 years old, Mangold may no longer be the player who made it to seven Pro Bowls with the New York Jets. But provided he's healthy, Mangold would be an instant upgrade at either center or guard for a Bengals team that needs improved line play if it's going to make it back to the postseason in 2017.
The fact that Mangold starred up I-71 at Ohio State (and as such would be an instant fan favorite) is a bonus.
Getting Mike Brown to write checks is like trying to make water flow uphill, but this deal makes a lot of sense.
Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle
According to Spotrac, no team in the AFC has more salary-cap space remaining than the Cleveland Browns, who have over $60 million in wiggle room.
According to the free-agent rankings of Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, the highest-ranking defender still available is defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, who played his first four seasons for the New York Giants.
It's surprising Hankins is on the market at all. Per Dan Duggan of NJ.com, multiple league sources believe Hankins' agent has badly misread the market, making exorbitant contract demands that have left his client twisting in the proverbial wind.
That misstep could be a blessing in disguise for the Browns. Duggan writes that the belief is the only offer Hankins presently has on the table is a relatively modest multiyear offer from the G-Men.
The Browns can easily afford to better that offer. This isn't to say the team should hand Hankins the $10 million a year fever dream his agent has sought.
But the Browns have more than enough cap space to come closer to that number than New York on a shorter-term deal (two to three years at $7-8 million a season) while filling a need in the process.
Hankins isn't a dominant 3-technique, but he's a capable one. With Cleveland's switch to the 4-3 under Gregg Williams in 2017, the Browns need a player to man that spot.
Plus, like Mangold, Hankins played at Ohio State, and the Browns have collected ex-Buckeyes for years.
Rashad Johnson, Safety
The Dallas Cowboys have been stuck in free-agent limbo due to their annual dance with the salary cap. Tony Romo's release will help in that regard, but his money stays on the books until June 1.
With very little coin to re-up players, the Cowboys have suffered a handful of personnel losses in free agency. Nowhere has that held truer than the secondary, where four players who started games for the team have departed—including a pair of safeties.
Now, the acquisition of veteran Rashad Johnson isn't going to magically fix the Cowboys' issues at the back end of the defense. Johnson is 31 and coming off a down season in Tennessee in which he barely finished inside the top 70 safeties in the NFL per Pro Football Focus.
However, he is a versatile and experienced safety who can play both spots and has 58 career starts over eight NFL seasons. Johnson topped 90 total tackles for the Arizona Cardinals in 2014, and his 15 career interceptions demonstrate a nose for the occasional big play.
Most importantly, Johnson will be available on an inexpensive, short-term contract.
As a placeholder while a youngster learns the ropes or depth at the safety position, Johnson is an addition that could make a difference, even if it doesn't make headlines.
Austin Pasztor, Offensive Tackle
There isn't a player left on the free-agent market who leaves me shaking my head more than Austin Pasztor. The 26-year-old played over 1,000 snaps at right tackle for the Cleveland Browns last year. He also fared pretty well doing it, ranking 35th among all tackles per Pro Football Focus.
In short, we have a capable, durable lineman who can play both guard and tackle and who is now entering the prime of his career.
What's the problem?
There won't be any Tony Romo in Denver this season (I know, I know...the Broncos never "wanted" him), but whether it's Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch or Jay Cutler at quarterback, improving the offensive line remains a priority.
I was kidding about Cutler, by the way. I just wanted every Broncos fan who's reading this to simultaneously make the spoiled milk face.
As things stand today, the Broncos are counting on Menelik Watson to start at tackle for the team this year. Of the five mock drafts currently listed at NFL.com, three predict the Broncos will select a tackle at No. 20.
The Broncos may well go that route, but this isn't an awe-inspiring draft class along the offensive line, and signing Pasztor would alleviate some of the pressure on Denver to force a tackle in that slot.
Anquan Boldin, Wide Receiver
This one may well still come to pass. According to Kyle Meinke of MLive.com, Anquan Boldin indicated he'd like to play in 2017, even if he was unsure if it would be in Detroit.
"I mean, I'm definitely interested [in returning to Detroit]," Boldin said. "But for me, it's seeing what opportunities lie there, going over them with my wife, because any decision I make does not just affect me. But it affects my wife, my two boys. So it's something I have to take into consideration."
Lions general manager Bob Quinn voiced a similar refrain at the NFL owners' meetings: We'd love to have Boldin back...maybe.
"He's definitely an option," Quinn said. "We haven't made any decision on that one way or the other, but he's still out there."
It's possible Boldin could sign with a team closer to his Florida home. He'll essentially have his pick of half the league or more after a season in which he was second on the Lions in catches and led the team with eight scores.
Boldin left no doubt that while he may not be the player he once was, the 36-year-old can still get it done.
A decision isn't likely to come soon. At this point in his career, Boldin is probably about as interested in OTAs as I am the part of an annual physical that requires coughing.
But Boldin and quarterback Matthew Stafford have a relationship, and if winning is a priority for Boldin at this point, a Lions team that made the playoffs in 2016 gives him a decent chance of doing so.
Green Pay Packers
LeGarrette Blount, Running Back
It's hard for a veteran running back to get some love in today's NFL.
Despite topping 1,000 yards on the ground, leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns and keying the ground attack for the Super Bowl champions in 2016, LeGarrette Blount was still looking for work as March turned to April.
Yes, that was only the second 1,000-yard season of Blount's career, and he averaged a less than stellar 3.9 yards per carry.
Here's the thing, though: Ted Thompson and the Packers don't need Blount to carry the mail. What they need is a power back to pair with converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery.
Some Blount force trauma, if you will.
In that role Blount could be very successful for the Packers as a chain-moving bulldozer. The 30-year-old is also one of the best short-yardage backs in the National Football League—an area in which the Packers had all kinds of problems last year.
Over the first 10 weeks of 2016, the Packers (per Fansided's Ralph Mancini) scored three touchdowns on the ground.
All three were on Aaron Rodgers runs.
Granted, Blount has to be amenable to a timeshare. And it's possible he's just biding his time until Darth Hoodie gets around to tossing him a one-year deal once the Patriots have the rest of the roster fleshed out.
But if New England really is moving on from Blount, Green Bay would give him arguably his best shot at both playing a real role for his new team and winning a few games while doing it.
Jay Cutler, Quarterback
I know, I know. The idea of Jay Cutler under center for the Houston Texans in 2017 doesn't inspire visions of a Super Bowl run.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the 33-year-old was "not an option" for the Texans back on March 20.
Of course, a lot has changed since then.
With Tony Romo's retirement from the NFL to pursue a career in broadcasting, Cutler is far and away the most accomplished veteran signal-caller left on the open market.
Say what you want about Cutler. His surly attitude. His penchant for ill-timed interceptions (he's tossed 146 over his career). The endless memes.
However, for all the criticism Cutler receives (and boy oh boy, is there a lot), in 139 career starts he's only three games under .500—despite playing on some bad teams in Chicago.
Cutler's no Tony Romo. But Tom Savage is no Jay Cutler.
If the Texans are serious about making a run this year, Cutler is their best option at quarterback, unsettling though that may be.
Paul Kruger, Outside Linebacker
It's no secret that defense was a focus of the Indianapolis Colts in free agency—especially pass rush. The team's two biggest acquisitions so far (Jabaal Sheard and John Simon) were both outside linebackers.
The team also added youngster Barkevious Mingo, hopeful that the former first-round pick might start living up to that draft slot.
However, depth on the outside remains an area the Colts could stand to bolster, and bringing in veteran Paul Kruger could be an inexpensive way to do that.
It wasn't long ago (2014) that Kruger piled up 11 sacks for the Cleveland Browns, but largely due to injuries he has managed just four sacks over the past two seasons combined. At 31 years old, Kruger's best days of getting after quarterbacks are probably behind him.
Still, provided he's healthy, Kruger could give the Colts a measure of injury insurance behind their new starters at outside linebacker. Even in a limited role, he could help keep the Colts' pricey new additions fresh.
It wouldn't be a signing that would lead off the nightly sports report (or maybe it would—it hasn't been an especially good year for the Pacers), but there are some areas in the NFL where you can never have too much depth.
Pass-rusher is one of those areas.
Ryan Clady, Offensive Tackle
For the second straight season the Jacksonville Jaguars have been one of the NFL's most aggressive teams in free agency. However, even after sinking a ton of coin into the defense, the Jaguars have over $50 million in cap space per Spotrac.
The Jaguars should think long and hard about investing some of that cap space in the offensive front by taking a run at veteran tackle Ryan Clady.
Granted, adding Clady isn't guaranteed to fix anything. The 30-year-old missed nearly the entire 2013 season with an injured foot. His entire 2015 campaign was wiped out by a torn ACL. And last year Clady missed nearly half of his lone season with the New York Jets with a torn rotator cuff.
However, Clady is also a four-time Pro Bowler. His ranking of 54th among offensive tackles last year per Pro Football Focus hardly inspires cartwheels, but it's worth noting that was a handful of spots higher than Branden Albert.
The same Branden Albert the Jaguars recently brought in to start at left tackle.
Clady might not be a world-beater anymore. Calling him even an average tackle might be optimistic. And injuries are a real concern.
He's also probably the best free-agent tackle still available. The Jaguars aren't going to draft a tackle at No. 4 overall, and the cold truth is the team badly needs to add one.
He might be a short-term fix, but Clady beats a blank.
Kansas City Chiefs
Gerald Hodges, Inside Linebacker
Derrick Johnson has been a fixture in the middle of the Kansas City defense for the past decade.
That's also the approximate amount of time the Chiefs have been looking for a batterymate for the Pro Bowl inside linebacker, who is 34 and coming off a torn Achilles.
Gerald Hodges could be both that batterymate and a potential successor to the aging veteran—provided the Chiefs can find the money to sign him.
From a football standpoint it's a move that makes a lot of sense. In just under 600 snaps last year for the San Francisco 49ers, the 26-year-old Hodges was PFF's eighth-ranked inside linebacker. That's eight slots higher than Kansas City's Ramik Wilson and 17 slots higher than Johnson.
Hodges was especially stout against the run last year, an area in which the Chiefs had all sorts of problems, checking in at 26th in the NFL.
The problem is the same that faces the Chiefs where any free-agent moves are concerned: They don't have money. Per Spotrac, Kansas City is dead last in the NFL in cap space. They don't have the room to sign their own draft picks as things stand right now, much less bring in any veterans.
However, this hypothetical exercise is an examination of who teams should pursue. The Chiefs were the AFC's No. 2 seed last year, and their inability to stop the run was the team's most glaring weakness.
Of all the free agents still looking for work, Hodges best fills that hole. And the Chiefs apparently realize that.
They had Hodges in for a visit a few weeks ago.
Los Angeles Chargers
DeAndre Levy, Linebacker
In addition to a change in mailing addresses, the Chargers are switching defensive schemes in 2017, moving to a 4-3 "Under" front under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
That leaves the team with a couple of potential dilemmas. The Bolts are short on players who have NFL experience playing in the scheme and shallow at linebacker.
See where I'm going with this?
After leading the NFL with 117 solos in 2014, DeAndre Levy's last two seasons for the Detroit Lions were an injury-marred disaster. While he eventually released Levy in a cost-cutting move, Lions general manager Bob Quinn told reporters at season's end he's confident Levy can get back to where he was before the injury.
"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."
That recovery hit a roadblock recently. Per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Fress Press, Levy just had knee surgery, and this is all moot if he isn't healthy. But for argument's sake we'll assume the procedure was a cleanup and Levy will recover in time for training camp.
Los Angeles has a couple of promising young linebackers in Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman. But neither is a slam-dunk fit for the "Will" spot on the weak side. I'm not sure Brown is quick enough in space or that Perryman has the instincts to read and react that are so important for that position.
It's also the spot Levy has spent eight seasons playing.
Is it guaranteed that Levy will recapture 2014 form? Nope.
But I'd gamble a short-term, "prove it" deal on the chance to find out in a second, because if he even comes close it would be a godsend for the Chargers defense.
Los Angeles Rams
Perry Riley, Inside Linebacker
The Chargers aren't the only team in La-La Land that's flipping defensive schemes in 2017. As ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez reported, the Rams are moving to the 3-4 under new coordinator Wade Phillips.
Bringing in Phillips (one of the NFL's best defensive minds) was a good get for the Rams, but the team has a problem—a shortage of inside linebackers.
Alec Ogletree will man one of the spots, but at just 214 pounds converted safety Mark Barron would be awfully small to play inside. This isn't to say it can't be done (Deone Bucannon made the switch from safety to 3-4 ILB in Arizona), but it's no sure bet.
Given that, the Rams would be well served to hedge said bet—say by bringing in a veteran linebacker with plenty of experience playing inside in the 3-4.
Perry Riley has that experience, having logged 63 starts over six seasons with the Washington Redskins. The 28-year-old is also coming off one of the better seasons of his career, checking in as a top-10 inside linebacker per Pro Football Focus last year with the Oakland Raiders.
Riley has had some issues in pass coverage in his career, but he'd be a fine add as a two-down thumper next to Ogletree inside. Barron could kick back to safety in the base defense (compensating for the loss of T.J. McDonald in free agency) and then slide into the second linebacker spot in sub-packages.
It wouldn't be easy to make the money work given the Rams' lack of cap space, but if L.A. is looking to add a veteran that could make a real impact in 2017, this is the sort of move that could do it.
Chris Johnson, Running Back
Despite being the wrong side of 30 and having missed over half of the past two seasons, Chris Johnson insists he has plenty of tread on his tires as a running back.
As he told ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss, Johnson is so confident he can still get it done in the NFL that he isn't about to just idle on the sideline in 2017.
"I feel fresh. ... 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."
Now, Johnson's desire to start is probably a pipe dream. But there are places where he could see regular touches in a complementary role.
Places like Miami, where the Dolphins could use both a veteran presence in the backfield and someone to take pressure off Jay Ajayi, who carried the ball a lot down the stretch last year.
Johnson isn't a 2,000-yard rusher any longer, but he could spell Ajayi, he can catch the football, and as recently as 2015 Johnson topped four yards a carry and piled up almost 900 total yards.
Relative to the sizes of the deals they'll sign, Johnson might turn out to be the best bargain of the bunch.
Mike Harris, Guard
This is one of the more difficult calls to make in this piece, if only because we still don't know what it was that caused Mike Harris to miss the entire 2016 season.
The 28-year-old was arguably the Vikings' best offensive lineman two years ago, but he spent all of last season on the non-football injury list.
Harris was cryptic about his future in January, according to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.
"It is my body, but I just … I feel fine," Harris said. "It was a tough couple of months, not being out there, but I feel great. I feel fine, but I need the trainers to just let me play. When that happens, I'll let you guys know. For now, I can't say much about it."
To date (that we know of) Harris has not yet been cleared. There have been any number of rumors about what might be wrong with him—rumors I'm not going to get into, because they are just that, and I'm not going to speculate about a man's health.
However, it isn't speculation to say that even after a number of offseason moves, a Vikings line that struggled mightily in 2016 can still use all the help it can get.
Two years ago, Harris was a top-25 guard per Pro Football Focus. If he's cleared, that ability to clog the inside of the Minny O-line would be a big benefit to quarterback Sam Bradford and new tailback Latavius Murray.
Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I'm holding out hope that everything works out for Harris and he's able to return to the field and the fold in Minnesota.
New England Patriots
Darrelle Revis, Cornerback
As Gary Myers wrote for the New York Daily News, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft would gladly welcome Darrelle Revis back to Beantown.
"I would love it," Kraft said. "Speaking for myself, if he wanted to come back, he's a great competitor, I'd welcome him if he wanted to come."
Revis spent the 2014 season with the Patriots, helping the team win Super Bowl XLIX, before inking a five-year, $70 million deal to return to the Big Apple.
That big contract turned out to be an even bigger disaster, as Revis' play declined sharply in 2016. So much so, in fact, that the Jets cut the 31-year-old despite owing $6 million in guaranteed money in 2017.
"We did our work on him," he said. "He can still play. He can cover. He doesn't have that long speed anymore; he's not going to cover a No. 1 receiver deep. But he can cover in tight spaces, and he has great instincts. The film is not as bad as some would have you believe. He's a perfect fit in that quarters scheme Belichick runs, and they have the kind of safeties who can help him out too. We're convinced he's going back to New England. It just makes too much sense."
Yes, Revis had a bad year in 2016. But he is highly motivated to show he isn't "done," he's familiar with the scheme and the addition of Revis would soften the blow from a possible trade involving Malcolm Butler.
The real kick in the teeth?
The Pats can sign Revis for the veteran minimum, and the Jets will literally be paying him millions of dollars to help their most hated rivals win.
New Orleans Saints
Steven Terrell, Safety
With less than $5 million in cap space after accounting for the rookie pool, the New Orleans Saints are going to need to hit the bargain bin if they want to add more veteran free agents.
When Earl Thomas' season was cut short by a broken leg last year, fifth-year pro Steven Terrell was thrust into the starting lineup for the first time in his career. The 26-year-old had his ups and downs, but when the dust settled Terrell received a positive grade in just under 400 snaps from Pro Football Focus.
It was a grade higher than that of Saints rookie Vonn Bell. And Pro Bowler T.J. Ward of the Denver Broncos. And even Tyrann Mathieu of the Arizona Cardinals.
Now, this isn't to say Terrell is better than any of those players. Nor would signing Terrell necessarily make an impact on the Saints' starting lineup.
However, after releasing Jairus Byrd, the Saints are in a position where depth at the safety position could be an issue.
Inking Terrell, a versatile defender just now entering his prime, would address that issue—and do so with a player who has shown he can hold his own if called upon to play a larger role.
New York Giants
King Dunlap, Offensive Tackle
Heading into this offseason, the offensive line was one of the biggest priorities for the New York Giants. Pro Football Focus ranked the Giants' front 21st in pass protection and 24th in run-blocking in 2016.
However, the Giants missed out on the biggest names up front in free agency, with D.J. Fluker the team's marquee addition so far.
Stand back. I just stretched the term "marquee" so much that it might snap.
There isn't a whole lot left among free-agent linemen, but the Giants might be able to bolster the front with another former Charger.
The acquisition of Russell Okung in Los Angeles made King Dunlap expendable in L.A., and the 31-year-old former seventh-round pick remained unsigned as the calendar turned to April.
Bringing Dunlap in won't fix all New York's problems. He's missed 13 games over the past two seasons and has played in all 16 games only once in his career. Dunlap barely ranked inside the top 50 tackles after allowing five sacks in 12 games for the Chargers in 2016.
But Dunlap is capable of playing both tackle spots. Even if Fluker performs better than he has to this point in his disappointing career and manages to hold down the right side, the Giants still need a "swing" tackle behind him and Ereck Flowers.
ESPN's Jordan Raanan mentioned Dunlap as a potential target in that regard a few weeks ago, but to date there's been no movement on that front.
Frankly, it's more likely that Fluker will be Fluker and that the Giants still need a right tackle.
So they might want to get moving.
New York Jets
Leon Hall, Cornerback
The New York Jets secondary was so bad in 2016...
Sorry. That joke probably doesn't make any sense unless you're familiar with Johnny Carson.
The confused looks on your faces right now are making me feel old. Knock it off.
Anyway, it might not appear to make a lot of sense for a Jets team that's purging aging and overpriced veterans to sign a 32-year-old defensive back.
However, some believe cornerback Buster Skrine and safety Marcus Gilchrist could find themselves among the players cut loose by Gang Green. Cutting the duo would free up over $12 million in cap space, Gilchrist is coming off a serious knee injury and neither player is very, um...good.
Hall could conceivably man either Skrine's cornerback slot or Gilchrist's role at free safety at a fraction of the cost.
Consider this: In 384 snaps for the Giants in 2016, Hall ranked 40th among cornerbacks at Pro Football Focus.
Skrine was 95th. Gilchrist was 59th among safeties.
The Jets are trying to get younger, cheaper and better.
Hall can't help in the first regard, but two out of three ain't bad.
Adrian Peterson, Running Back
Just do it, Oakland.
Forget the flirtations with Marshawn Lynch.
Yes, Adrian Peterson is 32 years old. He averaged less than two yards a carry in 2016. And there have been reports that he's demanding $8 million a season on his new contract.
However, as Rana Cash of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote, Peterson disputed those reports on social media.
"Here is something straight from the horse's mouth," Peterson tweeted. "Finding the best fit and helping a team in a major way to win a championship is my main objective."
Odds are we won't see Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie add a veteran tailback until after the draft, and that assumes the Raiders don't select a rookie in the draft they feel can fill the void left by Latavius Murray's departure.
If they do though, Reggie...buddy...baby...let it be AD.
Let us find out if the player who returned from an ACL tear to put up almost 2,100 rushing yards a few years back has one more year of burst and power in those legs. Let us find out if Peterson has enough juice to explode through holes created by the best offensive line this side of Dallas.
Sure, Lynch is Oakland would be a feel-good story of sorts, although fans there are about to enter a season like no other the NFL has ever seen—the thrill of Super Bowl contention laced with the bitterness of the impending move to Las Vegas.
But "Beast Mode" has his ring. Should Peterson get his in what will likely be the last season of football in Oakland (playing there in 2018 is a disaster waiting to happen), it would at least put one heck of an exclamation point on the Black Hole.
A ray of light in the darkness, if you will.
Jamaal Charles, Running Back
Smoke has surrounded this potential move for over a month.
Speaking to reporters on March 1, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson wouldn't rule out a reunion between him and veteran running back 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."
Since then there's been very little movement by the Eagles in the backfield or among potential suitors for Charles. However, Matt Lombardo of NJ.com reported there's still reason to believe Charles could find a home in the City of Brotherly Love.
"Even if the Eagles invest a top pick next month in a running back," Lombardo said, "in all likelihood the team would prefer to also add a veteran at the position to pair with an incoming rookie and 2016 fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood. Given Jamaal Charles' history with Doug Pederson in Kansas City and the fact that the Seattle Seahawks opted to sign Eddie Lacy over Charles, the veteran's price could fall to a point that makes the Eagles' signing him manageable."
With the Eagles all but out of cap room (besides the rookie pool), this one's a waiting game. It could easily be well after the draft (and the June 1 roster cuts) before the Eagles are financially able to add a veteran tailback.
When they do, the smart move in this instance is to go with the devil they know. Injuries have limited Charles to just eight games the past two years, but perhaps a reduction in workload will allow the Eagles to milk one more successful season from the NFL's all-time top running back in yards per carry.
Brandon Flowers, Cornerback
In a way, it's ironic that veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers is on the move again.
As Steven Kutz wrote for MarketWatch, despite nine NFL seasons and upward of $50 million in career earnings, Flowers only recently bought his first house.
"I've always just saved my money. I just now bought my first house. I'll have it for a long time. It'll be my retirement house," Flowers said.
He added: "I was lucky to have a good agent. He always makes sure I look at every bank statement, every transaction on my credit card statement. I've had good people in my corner from the jump. A lot of guys in NFL don't pay attention to their money, even if they don't spend too much."
Flowers isn't going to add much to that nest egg at this point in his career after an injury-marred tenure in San Diego. Still, Curt Popejoy of Steelers Wire believes Flowers could rebound nicely in Pittsburgh's zone defense.
"If the Steelers want to continue to play primarily zone defense," he said, "Flowers would be an excellent fit. It was the insistence on playing so much man defense that bumped up Flowers’ catch rate with the Chargers. But in a mixed scheme that focuses more on zone, Flowers can be great again."
The Steelers have already reached out to Flowers, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, although no offer has been made yet.
It's a win-win, though. Flowers gets a chance to take a run at a ring as his career winds down, and the Steelers get veteran help in the secondary without breaking the bank.
How the Steelers address the secondary in the draft could scuttle this move, but I expect to see Flowers open OTAs in a black hat.
San Francisco 49ers
Devin Taylor, Defensive End
The San Francisco 49ers have spent first-round picks on a defensive end in each of the last two NFL drafts. More than a few draftniks believe the Niners will make it three straight in 2017 by selecting Stanford's Solomon Thomas.
Even then, the Niners might need more help at the position.
The problem is a schematic one. Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner were drafted to play end in a three-man front. But under new head coach Kyle Shanahan, the Niners are moving to a 4-3 "Under" front similar to the defense employed by the Seattle Seahawks.
That means moving more than a few pieces around and adding a new type of depth.
Luckily, with the most cap space in the NFL per Spotrac, the Niners have plenty of financial resources with which to add depth or rotational linemen, even if they have to overpay a bit.
Devin Taylor could be just such a player.
After a seven-sack 2015 season, it appeared Taylor might be even more for the Detroit Lions. The 27-year-old saw his sack numbers fall off in 2016 (to 4.5), but his run defense improved considerably.
If the Niners do pull the trigger on Thomas, this would be a luxury signing whose likelihood would decrease. A lot depends on that pick and whether the San Fran coaching staff thinks Armstead has the wheels to man the weak-side "Leo" end spot.
However, were the Niners to trade back from No. 2 and stockpile picks or draft a defensive back in that spot, bringing in Taylor makes more sense.
Armstead and Taylor outside as Buckner rushes upfield from the 3-technique tackle slot could be a line with some real promise.
Jahri Evans, Offensive Guard
It's deja vu all over again.
Last August, when Jahri Evans signed with Seattle after being cut by the Saints, he insisted he could still be an elite guard in the NFL.
"I feel great. I still feel like I'm a top guard in this league if not the best," he told reporters. "I'm just going out there to work hard and just show it on the field really. The eye in the sky doesn't lie. I've been asked to do a lot of things in New Orleans that I probably won't be asked to do here, that's a little bit different, but I'm just looking to go out there and work hard."
Then Evans was cut by the Seahawks and wound up back in New Orleans on a one-year deal.
Now I'm saying the Seahawks should go after Evans...again.
Yes, Evans is old. He'll turn 34 before the season begins. And his ranking of 39th among guards last year at Pro Football Focus last year doesn't scream six-time Pro Bowler.
It was also light-years better than either guard Seattle rolled out there in 2016.
Mark Glowinski, the Seahawks starter at left guard last season, was the fifth-worst guard in football per PFF. Right guard Germain Ifedi was dead last. The pair combined to allow a staggering 10 sacks in 2016.
Evans allowed two.
Cutting Evans loose last September was a big fat oopsie.
It's time to fix it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Robert Griffin III, Quarterback
This isn't the first time I've suggested the Buccaneers should kick the tires on Robert Griffin III. The last time I did so there were a few nods, a lot of head-shaking and some very hurtful inferences on social media.
People can be so mean.
Still, I maintain that the Buccaneers are one hit away from having a promising 2017 season go right down the tubes. Sure, were Jameis Winston to be seriously hurt the Bucs would be toast, but in an NFL where more than half of the league's teams started more than one quarterback last year, having a player who can guide the ship for a week or two can make all the difference in the world to a contender.
Say what you will about Griffin, but he'd be a big upgrade as Winston's backup.
The 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year isn't going to cause some huge distraction. After flaming out in Cleveland, no one's going to clamor for RG3 to start if Winston throws three picks in a game.
Which he will. It's just who Jameis is. Gunslinger city.
The best thing that could happen to Griffin is to get out of the spotlight. Sit for a year behind an established starter in a small market and work with an offensive coach before taking another run at being an NFL starter.
The Buccaneers can offer that. They can afford the signing. And Robert Griffin gives them a much better chance of weathering a short absence from Winston than Ryan Griffin, who might as well be Peter Griffin.
I'm telling you, this isn't as wacky as it looks at first glance.
Victor Cruz, Wide Receiver
Much like the aforementioned Buccaneers, the Tennessee Titans were a pleasant surprise in 2016. With the fourth-most cap space in the NFL and a bevy of draft picks, the Titans are well positioned to add young talent in an effort to make a run at the AFC South title in 2017.
It might be wise to sprinkle in some veteran experience as well. And maybe a little salsa.
Victor Cruz is all but surely never going to be the offensive threat he was before his horrific knee injury. His 39 catches for 586 yards and one score for the Giants last year are depressing numbers from a player who once seemed destined to be a superstar for years.
However, the 30-year-old demonstrated that he's still capable of doing damage from the slot, even if he isn't the vertical threat he once was.
The Titans don't have the worst receiving corps in the NFL, but they most assuredly don't have the best either. Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe have shown flashes, but they remain relatively unproven commodities.
Behind them on the depth chart? There isn't much. Harry "And the Hendersons" Douglas and Eric "Sweet" Weems aren't scaring many defensive coordinators.
The Titans need a slot receiver, and they need to add experience to the pass-catching corps. Even if Tennessee goes receiver early and often in the 2017 NFL draft, Cruz's addition could help steady a young Titans offense that enters 2017 as a unit people expect to succeed.
Sen'Derrick Marks, Defensive Tackle
Back in 2014, Sen'Derrick Marks appeared to be on the cusp of coming into his own in the NFL. In his sixth NFL season in 2014, the 6'2", 309-pounder racked up 8.5 sacks for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
However, Marks never got the chance to back those numbers up. In his last game that year, Marks tore his ACL. He played in only four games in 2015 before rupturing a tendon in his arm. By the time 2016 rolled around, Marks' starting job was gone, and he spent last year in a complementary role, managing only 3.5 sacks in about 550 snaps.
Jacksonville's defensive makeover continued this spring, and after the team was unable to swing a trade, Marks was let go.
The thing is, as he told ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco, that's just how he wanted it—because he feels he can still contribute as a starter in the NFL.
"I like playing," Marks said. "You always enjoy the locker room. You always enjoy the guys, the camaraderie, just being around the football atmosphere. My preference is just football. It's what I like. I enjoy it. I have fun doing it. I haven't got too many years to go, so it doesn't matter to me [where he plays]."
There's no guarantee that the 30-year-old can recapture his old form, but thus far in free agency it appears the Redskins have been trying to compensate for the loss of Chris Baker with a quantity over quality approach.
Marks has more pass-rushing chops than any of the veterans Washington has added thus far, and if healthy he has (in theory) the size and quickness to play anywhere along Washington's three-man front.
It's a low-risk move that could pay a very nice reward.