Top Free Agents Who Could Help Desperate NFL Teams

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2019

Top Free Agents Who Could Help Desperate NFL Teams

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    NFL teams are already getting desperate heading into Week 3 of the regular season. 

    Luckily for those teams, there are still some worthwhile names on the free-agent market. The Washington Redskins are a good recent example. After recording just two sacks through as many games and getting none from first-round pick Montez Sweat, the Washington front office added free agent Noah Spence, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine.

    Granted, the NFL hasn't let any decent passers slip to the open market lately, so there isn't relief for teams with injured stars such as the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees and Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton

    But once injuries and poor play force front offices to seek help, these guys are still on the unemployment line and should be able to help. They are proven veterans with plenty left in the tank to reinforce a premium position. 


Eric Berry, S

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    It is a little weird to think Eric Berry is still a free agent. 

    Berry, after all, is only 30 years old, is a former top-five pick and has 445 total tackles, 5.5 sacks and 14 interceptions. In today's passing-oriented league, he's a gem of a find, provided he wants to play. 

    The desire or ability to play is a question that comes up with Berry after injuries limited him to just three games over the past two seasons. Rest assured, NFL teams have asked—most recently it was the Cleveland Browns

    If his conditioning is right, Berry wouldn't need a training camp or preseason to get ready and could provide at least a depth upgrade upon arrival. That could always happen around the season's midway mark, and teams like the Oakland Raiders or Los Angeles Chargers already make sense, given their injuries. 

    The Fit: Oakland Raiders

Nick Perry, EDGE

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Nick Perry was a first-round pick in 2012 and used an 11-sack campaign in 2016 to cash in with the Green Bay Packers on an extension. 

    Seemingly just scratching the surface, Perry dipped to seven sacks the year after and just 1.5 in 2018 before getting cut in a cash-saving move by the Packers. Since, he's had minimal reported interest on the open market. 

    Perry is only 29 years old, though, so if he's clear of injuries that cost him 11 games over the past two seasons, a team in need of help might want to check in on him. 

    Given his experience in varying looks, a contender like Chicago could always use quality depth through four quarters from a pass-rushing standpoint, and a rebuilder like Miami could always use more talent too. 

    The Fit: Washington Redskins

Muhammad Wilkerson, DL

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Muhammad Wilkerson surfaced with the Green Bay Packers last year but only appeared in three games and has undergone a pair of surgeries to repair an injured ankle. 

    A first-round pick in 2011 who turns 30 next month, Wilkerson has always seemed like one of those players destined for a one-year deal of the "prove it" variety—just like the Packers gave him last offseason. 

    Off the field, Wilkerson was arrested for DWI in June. On it, the 6'4", 315-pounder is a versatile trench player who never missed more than three games in a season from 2011-17 while drumming up 410 total tackles and 44.5 sacks.

    If everything checks out with Wilkerson, there are plenty of teams who could use his help inside, especially starting with a would-be contender such as Philadelphia as it tries to compensate for a big injury like the one suffered by Timmy Jernigan

    The Fit: Philadelphia Eagles

Jay Ajayi, RB

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Running backs might be devalued in today's NFL, yet Jay Ajayi should get a call as the injuries at the position continue to mount.

    Ajayi was cleared in July after tearing his ACL and had teams sniffing around him well before that. As always, the problem for an injured free-agent back is the influx of capable runners with each draft class. 

    That should only hold Ajayi back so long, though. He's only 26 years old and averages 4.5 yards per carry over his career since entering the league in 2015 via the fifth round. He's scored 13 times as a runner and—even better in today's NFL—he's caught 63 of his 85 targets in the passing game for 419 yards and a score. 

    While there aren't any clear-cut teams in need of a rotational back just yet, the nature of the position means it is only a matter of time. Ajayi should find a home eventually, and it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see him immediately produce after arriving.

    The Fit: Washington Redskins

Matt Kalil, OT

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    It wasn't any surprise to see the Houston Texans part ways with Matt Kalil in September after the trade for Laremy Tunsil went through. 

    Kalil is only 30 years old and a first-round pick from the 2012 draft, but the Texans made a move to upgrade for a reason. Injuries held him out of the 2018 season, and his 2017 campaign with the Carolina Panthers wasn't great—or he wouldn't have been let go in a tackle-needy league. 

    But that same state of the position leaguewide explains why Kalil is still the top tackle on a thin market. Two out of his past three seasons have been marred by injuries, yet some team will eventually be willing to roll the dice on his talent and experience, even if he would merely be a depth piece. 

    With injuries assaulting the tackle positions in New England and Cincinnati, Kalil might be a viable option who desperate teams look at soon. 

    The Fit: New England Patriots

Dez Bryant, WR

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    Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    The Dez Bryant comeback bid seems like a matter of time. 

    Bryant, who turns 31 in two months, attempted to do so last November with the New Orleans Saints and tore an Achilles in practice before getting on the field for a game. 

    This time, Bryant says he wants to return by mid-October, according to NFL Network's Jane Slater

    Wideout isn't necessarily a bad position around the league, but it would be hard for many teams to ignore Bryant, a former first-round talent and clear No. 1 wideout with 7,000-plus yards and 73 touchdowns since entering the league in 2010. 

    Would-be contenders like the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Chargers come to mind as fits here, provided Bryant is healthy and ready to go once teams start calling. 

    The Fit: Seattle Seahawks