NFL Free Agents Still on the Market Who Can Spark Playoff Runs
With Week 12 underway, the NFL playoff race is intensifying. There are multiple tight divisional races, and while some teams appear virtual locks for the postseason, no squad is close to perfect.
Even top teams continue to evaluate the free-agent market late into the season. The Philadelphia Eagles, for example, added running back Jay Ajayi roughly a week ago.
There aren't a plethora of All-Pro players sitting on the couch waiting to be called in for a postseason campaign. However, quality veterans are available who could help spark a playoff run in the right situation.
We'll examine the top players who remain unsigned, what they could add to a playoff contender and which teams might have interest this late in the regular season.
S Eric Berry
Former Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry hasn't played since the 2018 postseason, but he's long been one of the NFL's best ball-hawking safeties when healthy. When he last played a full 16-game slate in 2016, he finished with four interceptions, two touchdowns and a forced fumble.
Berry remains available and would be a tremendous addition for a few potential playoff teams.
The Cleveland Browns are an obvious choice. General manager John Dorsey has ties to Berry and the Chiefs, and Cleveland's safety depth is lacking. The Browns released Jermaine Whitehead a few weeks ago and lost Morgan Burnett to a torn ACL last Thursday night.
The Oakland Raiders could also use an experienced safety after placing Karl Joseph on injured reserve. Rookie Johnathan Abram was placed on injured reserve after Week 1, and veteran Lamarcus Joyner is still dealing with a hamstring injury.
The Dallas Cowboys, who kicked the tires on safety Jamal Adams before the trade deadline, would also make sense.
Top Potential Destinations: Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders
LB Nick Perry
After seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers, linebacker and edge-rusher Nick Perry was released in the spring. He has yet to land with a new team, which is surprising given his age (29) and ability to get to the quarterback.
While Perry struggled to produce off the edge in 2018, he amassed 18 sacks over the previous two seasons and has 32 for his career.
At this point in the season, he would likely come in as a situational pass-rusher—and there are a few teams that would benefit from his services. The Browns, for example, could use an additional edge-defender after losing Pro Bowler Myles Garrett to an indefinite suspension. Browns assistant general manager Eliot Wolf has ties to Perry and the Packers.
The Houston Texans might also want to take a look after losing defensive end J.J. Watt to a season-ending pectoral injury.
Top Potential Destinations: Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans
WR Antonio Brown
Any team looking to sign wideout Antonio Brown would be taking a risk. He is being sued by his former trainer who says he sexually assaulted her three times, and the NFL is investigating both that allegation and that of another woman who said he exposed himself to her and later sent her threatening texts when she came forward.
Despite that, given his on-field upside, teams could be willing to take that risk.
Brown's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN's Adam Schefter that "a few teams that are very interested in signing Antonio once this process is over."
Looking only at Brown as a player, it's easy to see why potential contenders could be interested. He's a premier talent who racked up an impressive 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns just last season. His production prompted the Oakland Raiders to trade for him in the offseason and the New England Patriots to sign him as a free agent in September after Oakland released him.
According to Schefter, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson pushed for his team to sign Brown before it added Josh Gordon.
Seattle could circle back to Brown ahead of the postseason, and receiver-needy teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, who placed DeSean Jackson on injured reserve after he underwent core muscle surgery, could also be interested.
Top Potential Destinations: Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles
RB Alfred Morris
Veteran running back Alfred Morris hasn't had a 1,000-yard season since 2014, but he could still be a valuable role player for a team in need of a running back. He's just 30 years old and has a physical running style that would fit with most offensive schemes.
Last season, Morris appeared in 12 games for the San Francisco 49ers and rushed for 428 yards on 3.9 yards per carry. He had a brief stint with the Arizona Cardinals earlier this season, appearing in one game and notching a single carry.
One team that would make sense for Morris is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh has dealt with multiple injuries at the running back position this season and ranks 27th in rushing offense (80.7 yards per game).
The Kansas City Chiefs might also want to take a look at Morris as they continue to identify a reliable starting back. Kansas City has juggled Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy in the starting role but has not found an answer, ranking 22nd in rushing (94.4 yards per game).
Top Potential Destinations: Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs
RB Alex Collins
While Morris might add a physical element to a contender's rushing attack, Alex Collins—once recognized for his Irish dancing footwork—could add some youth and shiftiness to the equation.
The Baltimore Ravens released Collins in March after he was arrested on handgun and marijuana charges, for which he received 18 months' probation. He also suffered a broken leg in July, but he is now healthy and recently had his suspension lifted.
While Collins averaged a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry last season, he averaged 4.6 while rushing for 973 yards in 2017. At just 25 years old, he also has the potential to be more than a short-term rental for a potential contender.
Collins would make sense for both the Chiefs and the Steelers, and his experience in and familiarity with the AFC North would be valuable to Pittsburgh. He could also help a team like the Chicago Bears. At 4-6, Chicago is trying to stay in the playoff race but has struggled to maintain a competitive offense. The Bears rank 29th in rushing, averaging 79.9 yards per game.
Top Potential Destination: Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs