NFL Free Agents Who Will Have to Wait Until After the 2017 Draft to Sign
With the 2017 NFL draft just a fortnight out, we're at that point at which a lot of the big-name free agents still lingering on the open market are likely to have to wait until the picks are made before finding a home for next season.
Here are eight veterans who are unlikely to find jobs between now and when Mr. Irrelevant is selected on April 29, along with explanations as to why that'll be the case.
RB Adrian Peterson
Nobody has a resume like four-time All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, but this year's draft is loaded with talent at that position. Teams won't want to sign a 32-year-old back coming off a knee injury if there's any chance they might wind up with LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook, Stanford's Christian McCaffrey or Tennessee's Alvin Kamara in the draft.
It's possible some teams will come to the realization that there's no way they'll be drafting those top-tier backs, but anyone able to draw that conclusion now isn't likely to be in desperate need of help at that position.
And even if they are and they want a veteran, LeGarrette Blount might be higher in the pecking order. Blount is two years younger and coming off a healthy season, and Michael Giardi of CSN New England reported that he has an offer on the table from the New England Patriots.
RB Jamaal Charles
The same dynamics apply to Jamaal Charles, but I wanted to give him his own space here because some Charles fans took exception to the fact he wasn't listed by yours truly last week as a top unsigned player.
Quite frankly, Charles is a poor man's Adrian Peterson. He's also on the wrong side of 30, and he's carried the ball just 83 times the last two seasons. He isn't a big guy, and he's undergone four separate knee surgeries in the last five years.
It's hard to believe he has much gas left in the tank, and even harder to believe anyone would give him a shot before considering drafting a rookie or signing Blount or Peterson.
QB Robert Griffin III
Tony Romo's retirement could pave the way for Colin Kaepernick and/or Jay Cutler to sign deals as potential starting quarterbacks. And those deals could even come with teams that are looking to add quarterbacks early in the draft, since none of the signal-callers in this year's class appear to be locked in as Day 1 starters.
So, if anything, those dynamics might guarantee that the top perceived backup quarterback options on the open market will have to wait for depth charts to take shape in the weeks to come.
In other words, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Fitzpatrick are likely to remain unemployed until teams know for sure that they won't have first-round picks serving as backup quarterbacks in 2017.
S Jairus Byrd
Jairus Byrd is a three-time Pro Bowler. And while he's 30 and coming off a tough run with the New Orleans Saints, safeties typically have long shelf lives. That probably means he'll get a shot somewhere this spring, but that shot likely won't come until we find out where the top few safety prospects land in the draft.
It looks as though as many as four safeties—Ohio State's Malik Hooker, LSU's Jamal Adams, Michigan's Jabrill Peppers and UConn's Obi Melifonwu—could go in the first round, and first-round safeties don't typically sit on the bench. In fact, all 14 safeties taken in the first round of the last eight drafts started the majority of their rookie seasons.
Close to a dozen starting-caliber safeties have already been removed from the free-agent market, leaving very few teams in desperate need of help at that position. Teams like the Los Angeles Chargers, Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys might already be tempted to give Byrd a shot, but they'd be smart to wait until seeing how things unfold on April 27, 28 and 29.
OT Ryan Clady
The offensive tackle market has also been reduced to scraps, with Andrew Whitworth, Riley Reiff, Ricky Wagner, Matt Kalil, Kelvin Beachum, Russell Okung and Mike Remmers all earning lucrative or semi-lucrative long-term deals in free agency.
That leaves four-time Pro Bowler Ryan Clady as probably the best veteran tackle available, but few teams appear to be jumping at the opportunity to sign him. That's probably because most projections indicate that a draft lacking blue-chip offensive tackles should make the top prospects at that position available to almost anybody that wants them.
The Bengals, Ravens, Colts, Giants, Buccaneers and Seahawks all could use a player like Clady, but they'll all have a chance to save money on a prospect with a higher ceiling. Some of those teams will probably wind up with Alabama's Cam Robinson, Utah's Garett Bolles or Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk in the draft. Those who don't will likely be in on Clady.
CB Brandon Flowers
Brandon Flowers is the cornerback version of Jairus Byrd. A former Pro Bowler at a position with a long shelf life, barely on the wrong side of 30 but coming off a tough stretch. He was released by the Los Angeles Chargers because of his bloated salary, but he has still looked like a No. 1 corner when healthy.
Flowers and the even older Darrelle Revis will land jobs with teams looking to add experience at a premium position, but not until those teams know for sure that they won't be starting Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore or Gareon Conley as rookie first-round picks.
And let's not forget that hot trade trade rumors have surrounded Pro Bowl corners Malcolm Butler and Richard Sherman. If those two get dealt, those trades will likely go down on draft night. Once Butler, Sherman, Lattimore, Conley and a few other top cornerback prospects have homes, the market should become clearer for Flowers and Revis.
DE Devin Taylor
Only a year removed from a seven-sack season as a backup in Detroit, defensive end Devin Taylor started all 16 games for the 2016 Lions but remains unemployed in the middle of April. It's a little surprising considering how valuable pass-rushers are and how few hit free agency, but now the draft is delaying Taylor's job search.
Beyond Texas A&M's Myles Garrett at the top, Stanford's Solomon Thomas, Tennessee's Derek Barnett, Missouri's Charles Harris, Michigan's Taco Charlton and UCLA's Takkarist McKinley could all be first-round picks on the edge. Teams are unlikely to invest in one of those guys as well as Taylor, and Taylor doesn't have a strong enough resume to cause a team to change its draft plans.
The 27-year-old will eventually catch on somewhere with a chance to compete for a starting job, but that opportunity won't likely come with any of the teams that draft the prospects listed above.
LB Gerald Hodges
Gerald Hodges' lack of employment is difficult for me to wrap my head around.
The 26-year-old linebacker had three sacks, two picks and 55 solo tackles in a breakout 2016 season with the San Francisco 49ers, posting the eighth-best Pro Football Focus grade at his position even though he took part in only 58 percent of the team's defensive snaps.
Why no love? It's odd because Malcolm Smith is a worse inside linebacker, and yet Smith received a five-year, $26.5 million contract from San Francisco. And inside guys A.J. Klein, Lawrence Timmons and Manti Te'o also signed multi-year contracts in free agency.
It certainly doesn't appear as though he'll be signing anywhere soon. He visited the Chiefs (according to Pro Football Talk) and the Seahawks (per ESPN's Adam Schefter) in March, but there hasn't been any buzz since.
Hodges will eventually land a job, but that probably won't come until Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham, Alabama's Reuben Foster and Temple's Haason Reddick have found homes in the draft.