The Best NFL Free Agents Still Available Ahead of Preseason

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2019

The Best NFL Free Agents Still Available Ahead of Preseason

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    While the offseason focus has shifted to the 32 NFL training camps and the happenings within them, the free-agent market shouldn't go overlooked.

    Granted, the early-August market isn't as interesting as when the floodgates initially opened and the money flowed for some of the league's biggest names. But training camp injuries, value buys and more will help notable stragglers reshape rosters before long. 

    The best remaining free agents have a mixture of name recognition, a clear-cut ability to help teams and some upside in the right fit. Reasons for their extended stays on the market vary, but it's easy to see all of them on a roster by Week 1 unless they decide to hang up the cleats.

        

S Eric Berry

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    When it comes to free-agent surprises, Eric Berry might be the biggest of all. 

    At one point, Berry was arguably the NFL's best safety. Since coming off the board as a top-five pick in 2010, he has recorded 448 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and 14 interceptions with five touchdowns. 

    The asterisk here, of course, is that Berry played in just three games over the past two seasons while recovering from a torn Achilles suffered in September 2017. That hasn't stopped teams like the Cleveland Browns from contacting him, but contact hasn't resulted in a job yet, either. 

    Berry is clearly on his way to a prove-it deal after deciding he'll attempt to play through an ankle issue. That he's waiting to see what opens up and not risking his health right now is a good decision for all parties. 

    Best Fit: Cleveland Browns

CB Morris Claiborne

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Morris Claiborne remains one of the more surprising names remaining on the unemployment line. 

    The 2012 first-round pick has had some interest from the Minnesota Vikings, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, but it was hard to predict his stay on the market would last this long. 

    Claiborne is still only 29 years old and put in some reliable snaps for the New York Jets over the past two seasons, revitalizing his stock after five up-and-down years with the Dallas Cowboys. 

    Outsiders can't know the exact reason Claiborne still sits on the market, though it is notable that a few big names like Darqueze Dennard got less than expected in a deep free-agent class. Waiting this long to sign somewhere might be a bit of a leverage play from the veteran. 

    Best Fit: Minnesota Vikings

WR Michael Crabtree

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Michael Crabtree was a financial cut by the Baltimore Ravens in February and hasn't been heard from since. 

    That's odd, as Crabtree is still only 31 years old and showed he can go last year with 54 receptions for 607 yards and three scores. He averaged 11.2 yards per catch, just shy of his career average (11.8). 

    Granted, Baltimore's shift to a new-look offense around quarterback Lamar Jackson was part of the reason Crabtree ended up being pushed out the door. It was easy to predict he'd stay on the market until after the draft as teams reloaded with an abundance of skill-position talent from the college ranks. 

    But now? The wait is a little harder to understand. Crabtree can play right away if necessary but would otherwise fit in as superb depth. He's likely going to end up as relief for a team that can't shake the injury bug. 

    Best Fit: New York Giants

DT Corey Liuget

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    It is only a matter of time for Corey Liuget. 

    Liuget had a tumultuous 2018 campaign, starting it suspended for four games for a violation of the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. He suffered a torn right quadriceps tendon later in the year and had his player option declined by the Los Angeles Chargers. 

    Even so, Liuget has remained open to a return with the Chargers. But if he proves he's fully recovered in time for the season, other teams might have interest in his enduring upside. 

    Despite everything that happened last year, Liuget is still a 2011 first-round pick who is just 29 years old and has high upside as a rotational pressure creator. 

    Best Fit: Los Angeles Chargers

OT Jermey Parnell

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    NFL teams will likely be inquiring about Jermey Parnell soon. 

    Parnell spent the last four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars but missed three games in each of the past two campaigns and was cut so the team could save some space. 

    Parnell is 33 years old, so doubt might exist as to whether he wants to keep playing or if teams would have any interest. Once the injury bug starts hitting, though, his capabilities as a backup will come into play.  

    As always, offensive tackle help is a rarity in today's NFL after years of rough offerings from the collegiate level. If Parnell wants to play, he'll end up rostered by September. 

    Best Fit: Washington Redskins

DE Nick Perry

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Nick Perry's fall from grace was hard to see coming—and so was his lack of a job by this point of the offseason. 

    The Green Bay Packers rewarded their 2012 first-round pick with a $60 million extension after Perry put up 11 sacks in 2016. One season later, he managed just seven, then only 1.5 over the course of nine games in 2018. 

    Sacks aren't the only metric that matters, of course. Perry was also having problems staying healthy, and the abundance of pass-rushing talent available in free agency and the draft made cutting him an understandable move. 

    Perry is still just 29 years old, though, so teams will eventually call with an offer he likes if his body is right. This might be a case of a capable player simply waiting to see where the injury dominoes fall during the preseason. 

    Best Fit: Seattle Seahawks

RB Theo Riddick

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Theo Riddick is a new addition to the free-agent pool after the Detroit Lions decided to cut ties with him in late July. 

    The Lions have their reasons thanks to a strong depth chart, but other teams aren't as fortunate. 

    Riddick shouldn't last long on the market. He's a pass-catching back by definition, hence his 281 receptions and 279 carries over the past five seasons. A 2013 sixth-round pick, he's just 28 years old and recorded 50-plus catches each of the last four campaigns, including 61 last year. 

    A surefire rotational starter regardless of where he lands, Riddick has plenty of leverage if he wants to make teams sweat. 

    Best Fit: New Orleans Saints 

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