Ranking the NFL's Most Underrated Free Agents Left on the Market Entering April

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2021

Ranking the NFL's Most Underrated Free Agents Left on the Market Entering April

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Underrated NFL free agents can change the complexion of divisions and perhaps the league. 

    That might sound a bit dramatic, but the right mixture of talent and fit at this stage of free agency can make a big difference. Think: Leonard Fournette, who after a 1,152-yard season in 2019 signed a one-year deal worth $2 million with Tampa Bay, scored six times and then had a huge impact in the postseason en route to a Super Bowl win. 

    The most overlooked or underappreciated free agents left on the market have steadily produced and project to keep doing so. They won't command top dollar, likely giving the buying team someone who outplays the contract—which formulates the crux of the rankings, as does positional importance.

6. C Austin Reiter

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The center position saw a couple of high-value signings after the Los Angeles Chargers gave a five-year $62.5 million megadeal to Corey Linsley, with pacts for David Andrews (four years, $19 million from New England) and Alex Mack (three years, $14.9 million from San Francisco). 

    Austin Reiter should be next. 

    Reiter isn't a household name, but he's quite the story as a 2015 seventh-round pick and 2018 Kansas City Chiefs waiver claim who emerged as a starter. Last year in 867 snaps, he allowed zero sacks and took no penalties, good for a 70.9 Pro Football Focus grade. 

    Heading into his age-30 season with 15 or more games in three of his last four seasons, Reiter seems a smart fit for another contender like Green Bay or a simple reunion with the Chiefs. 

5. OT Alejandro Villanueva

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Given the dire need for offensive tackles around the league, one would think Pittsburgh Steelers veteran lineman Alejandro Villanueva would have found a home already. While he's 32, Villanueva hasn't missed a game since 2015 and has played 16 contests five seasons in a row. 

    Last year, Villanueva allowed just three sacks and incurred four flags over 1,098 snaps, good for a 74.6 PFF grade. He also posted a grade of 74.0 while protecting the combo of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges in 2019.

    Villanueva is bound to thrive somewhere with a consistent quarterback situation, and he's got one of the most important traits possible: availability. A return to Pittsburgh or seeking a team in need like Dallas would work wonders. 

4. DL DaQuan Jones

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    DaQuan Jones is one of those guys who does all the dirty work but doesn't get a ton of credit. 

    Jones, 29, was a fourth-round pick in 2014 and has appeared in 16 games over five of his last six seasons with the Tennessee Titans.

    As an anchor who stops the run, he's not a stat-sheet stuffer. Still, his 67.7 PFF grade and three sacks in 2020 and the 77.6 with one sack the year prior say quite a bit.

    Jones could have a wide range of landing spots as a low-key centerpiece in his prime. A rebuilder like Houston could use the help, but so could a contender like Seattle as front offices shore up needs before the draft. 

3. CB Bashaud Breeland

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    Steve Sanders/Associated Press

    Bashaud Breeland has always flown a bit under the radar. 

    Still just 29 years old, he has had to settle for one-year deals in recent seasons. Last year it was with Kansas City, where signed his second consecutive single-season pact. He posted a 67.7 PFF grade, picking off two passes and allowing just 30 catches on 54 targets. 

    A three-down player, Breeland has picked off two passes in each of his last three seasons and over that span hasn't allowed a completion percentage better than 51.5. 

    As always, corner is one of the deeper spots in free agency. That will help make him a quality buy for a rebuilder like Detroit or even a contender like Tennessee as he likely nets another one-year contract. 

2. WR Kenny Stills

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    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    Kenny Stills slipped through the cracks of an incredibly deep free-agent wideout class, making him a likely steal for his next team. 

    Stills, who will turn 29 in April, has carved out a nice career after coming off the board in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. He's scored 37 times over 117 games, averaging a sturdy 15.6 yards per catch for his career. 

    2020 was a down season for Stills, as it was for almost anyone who suited up for the Houston Texans. That makes it easy to forget he'd scored four or more touchdowns four seasons in a row before last year, with a high of nine in 2016. 

    Given how things went in Houston over 10 games last season before he joined Buffalo's practice squad, Stills feels like a natural fit for a contender like Tennessee. Even a re-up with the Bills would work, as he could rehab his stock and hit the market again at age 30. 

1. Edge Ryan Kerrigan

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    Daniel Kucin Jr./Associated Press

    Pass-rushing pressure is the big counter to the pass-happy NFL, and it doesn't get more consistent than Ryan Kerrigan

    Going into his age-33 season, Kerrigan has missed just four games since entering the league via the first round in 2011. Since, he's posted 95.5 sacks in 156 games, registering 7.5 or more eight times. 

    Some will point to Kerrigan's 5.5 sacks in each of his last two seasons as proof of a decline, but it's more a sign of his usage, as his snap count fell to 57 and 38 percent over the last two seasons—which is what happens when a rebuilding team uses first-round picks on Montez Sweat and Chase Young. 

    NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Kerrigan had a visit with the Cincinnati Bengals, which makes sense given the team's defensive need. It's also possible he re-signs in Washington.


    Stats via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.