Todd Gurley II and Other NFL Players Who Need to Be Signed Immediately

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2021

Todd Gurley II and Other NFL Players Who Need to Be Signed Immediately

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    While NFL teams prepare for the first full week of preseason games, front offices will keep tabs on the free-agent pool.

    As always, clubs will weigh injuries, training camp performances and the overall talent at a position before signing a free agent. The top veterans can provide significant help without going through a full offseason program.

    Let's take a look at eight available players who should sign new contracts soon.

    These veterans have built strong resumes. Some have recently shown the ability to produce in rotational roles. We'll match each free agent with a team based on roster need and schematic fit.

Edge Vic Beasley Jr.

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    Vic Beasley Jr. had a forgettable 2020 season. He suited up for the Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders, logging four tackles and a forced fumble while playing 198 defensive snaps.

    Despite Beasley's ineffective stretch through 2020, he's only two years removed from an eight-sack campaign with the Atlanta Falcons. At 29 years old, the 2016 All-Pro defender can help a team that needs a boost in the pass rush.

    Through six seasons, Beasley has shown some versatility, lining up on the defensive line and as an off-ball outside linebacker under Dan Quinn in Atlanta. A club may give him another chance while he's still younger than 30.


    Best Fit: Los Angeles Chargers

    The Los Angeles Chargers signed Kyler Fackrell and selected Chris Rumph II in the fourth round of this year's draft.

    As a middle-round pick, Rumph may need time to develop to make a significant impact. At 6'3", 244 pounds, he must show functional strength at the point of attack, especially on run downs. Fackrell, meanwhile, has logged just five sacks since his breakout 10.5-sack term in 2018.

    Beasley would provide veteran insurance behind Joey Bosa and Uchenna Nwosu. The former has missed 17 contests in five seasons. The latter still needs to prove himself in a prominent role with only 10 starts on his resume.

RB Le'Veon Bell

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    Since Le'Veon Bell moved on from the Pittsburgh Steelers, his numbers have trended in the wrong direction. In 2020 with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, he hit rock bottom, logging 466 yards and two touchdowns from scrimmage.

    Bell criticized former Jets head coach Adam Gase's play-calling on Twitter, suggesting the team put him in a tough spot with a predictable game plan.

    Bell didn't have fond memories in Kansas City either. On an Instagram comment thread, he posted, "I'd never play for Andy Reid again ... I'd retire first."

    While Bell seems disgruntled, he'll have the opportunity to sit down with clubs and pick a destination that's best for him. Even in a rough 2020 term, the two-time All-Pro averaged four yards per carry. In the right spot, he can produce solid numbers in a one-two punch out of the backfield.


    Best Fit: Atlanta Falcons

    The Atlanta Falcons wiped the slate clean at running back, allowing their top three 2020 ball-carriers—Todd Gurley II, Brian Hill and Ito Smith—to hit the open market. The latter two have signed with new teams.

    Atlanta signed Mike Davis, but he's only served as the primary tailback once in his six-year career. Last season, the 5'9", 220-pounder filled in for Christian McCaffrey but still only logged 165 carries in 15 outings, which included 12 starts.

    Bell and Davis would give the Falcons a physical downhill ground attack, but the former has an extensive track record in the short passing game, hauling in 394 passes for 3,259 yards and eight touchdowns in his career. He can move the chains in obvious passing situations.

FS Tre Boston

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    Tre Boston falls in the underrated category among free agents. Typically, safeties don't generate much buzz, but he's a solid defender in deep coverage with 15 interceptions and 42 pass breakups in seven seasons.

    Last year, with the Carolina Panthers, Boston split snaps between the box and free safety roles. He logged a career-high 95 tackles but posted modest coverage numbers (four pass breakups and one interception).

    If Boston takes most of his snaps in center field as a free safety, he can help out a team that needs a defensive back with consistent ball production.


    Best Fit: Detroit Lions

    The Detroit Lions must sort out their safety unit. Will Harris and Tracy Walker project as first-stringers, but they both started fewer than eight games last season.

    According to The Athletic's Chris Burke, the Lions will use three-safety looks. While C.J. Moore can provide depth, the pecking order at the position seems fluid.

    "The Lions are going to have three safeties on the field in a lot of those dime looks," Burke wrote. "Moore could give them a fourth, in certain matchups, or he could push [Dean] Marlowe or Will Harris for time in those packages."

    With his experience and ball-tracking skills, Boston can solidify a spot atop the Lions' depth chart as arguably the best cover safety on the roster.

DT Jurrell Casey

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    Last season, Jurrell Casey tore his biceps, which cost him 13 games, but that injury won't derail his career or outlook for the 2021 campaign.

    According to Pro Football Network's Adam H. Beasley, multiple teams have shown interest in Casey. Despite the defensive tackle's injury-shortened 2020 campaign, his resume likely holds a lot of weight.

    For seven consecutive terms from 2013 to 2019, Casey recorded at least five sacks. He's a versatile interior threat who can play on all three downs. The 11th-year veteran has 85 tackles for loss and 51 sacks. Of course, he's a hot commodity among free agents.


    Best Fit: Green Bay Packers

    The Green Bay Packers have a solid trio of edge-rushers in Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary, but they're a little light up front against the run.

    In 2020, the Packers allowed 4.5 yards per rush attempt, which ranked 21st across the league. The front office should add another playmaker to the rotation.

    Though third-year defensive lineman Kingsley Keke has upside, he's on the non-football injury list with an undisclosed ailment. Casey can provide a more consistent push into the opposing team's backfield than Tyler Lancaster, who has 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss in 43 career outings.

Edge Everson Griffen

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    Everson Griffen split 14 appearances between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions last year. For the first time since 2013, he didn't serve as a primary starter.

    Yet Griffen logged 33 tackles, seven for loss, six sacks and four pass breakups—decent numbers for a rotational edge-rusher. At 33 years old, he won't play 75 percent of the snaps, but he can still get to the quarterback in a designated pass-rushing role and occasionally seal the edge on run downs.

    Griffen has played in even-man fronts, so he's best suited to line up with his hand in the dirt rather than in a stand-up position in an odd-man alignment.


    Best Fit: Kansas City Chiefs

    The Kansas City Chiefs may have to patch up their defensive end rotation for the upcoming campaign. Prosecutors in Los Angeles County have charged Frank Clark with felony possession of an assault weapon after a March arrest, and he was also arrested in June and charged with felony possession of a concealed firearm. Even if he avoids prison time, the league can suspend him.

    In July, the Chiefs re-signed defensive end Alex Okafor, who has played two seasons in Kansas City, logging eight sacks. Still, the defense may need more help on the edge.

    Over the past two seasons, Okafor has missed 11 games because of injuries. Taco Charlton isn't a lock to make the roster after he logged two sacks in seven contests last season. Even though Chris Jones will play some snaps on the outside, Griffen could solidify the Chiefs' unit of defensive ends as a savvy veteran who's played the position at a high level for most of his career.

RB Todd Gurley II

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    Despite Todd Gurley II's decline over the past two terms, teams have hosted him for visits this offseason.

    According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gurley heard a pitch from the Detroit Lions. He also visited the Baltimore Ravens, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

    Only 27 years old, Gurley could have a couple of solid campaigns left as a complementary ball-carrier.

    The Ravens and Lions have solid running back duos with J.K. Dobbins paired with Gus Edwards and D'Andre Swift coupled with Jamaal Williams, respectively. Gurley sat down with those clubs anyway, which indicates he has likely come to terms with the idea of a lesser role after recording a career-low 842 scrimmage yards last season.


    Best Fit: Washington Football Team

    Behind Antonio Gibson, the Washington Football Team can upgrade the No. 2 running back spot.

    In 2020, Peyton Barber averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. J.D. McKissic played a bigger role in the passing game (80 receptions for 589 yards and two touchdowns) than on the ground (85 rush attempts for 365 yards and a touchdown). Washington signed Lamar Miller, but he has only suited up for one regular-season game and hasn't logged a carry since he tore his ACL and MCL during the 2019 preseason.

    Though Gurley recorded a career-low 678 rushing yards in 2020, he scored nine touchdowns on the ground. The two-time All-Pro can serve as a closer near the goal line or grind out tough yardage between the tackles in short-yardage scenarios.

OT Rick Wagner

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    In 2020, Rick Wagner had a solid showing as a fill-in starter for the Green Bay Packers. He joined the first unit in nine of 16 outings.

    Wagner took most of his snaps at right tackle, allowing one sack without drawing a penalty through 610 offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. He also held his own and sealed the edge on run downs.

    At a premium position, Wagner should garner interest from multiple clubs that need veteran insurance in the trenches. He can also start right away if needed. For a bargain-bin price, the 31-year-old can solidify an offensive line.


    Best Fit: Chicago Bears

    The Chicago Bears will dig deep into their tackle rotation with Teven Jenkins (back), Elijah Wilkinson (COVID-19 list), Larry Borom (concussion protocol) and Lachavious Simmons (concussion protocol) on the sidelines.

    Some of these players may return to practice sooner than later, but Jenkins, a rookie second-rounder set to start at left tackle, hasn't practiced with the team since he reported for training camp.

    Because of Jenkins' inexperience and lack of offseason reps, he could have a slow start to the season. The Bears may have to shuffle the offensive line group in the first few weeks. If so, Wagner can step into a role with the first unit as he did with the Packers last season.

    Even if Jenkins opens the season in the starting lineup, Wagner would serve as solid competition for Wilkinson on the right side while Borom develops in a backup role.

LB K.J. Wright

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    Surprisingly, K.J. Wright hasn't found a landing spot. He's coming off one of his best seasons with 86 tackles, 11 for loss, 10 pass breakups, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.

    Wright finished the 2020 campaign as the only player with 10-plus tackles for loss and 10-plus pass breakups. At 32 years old, he's still an every-down defender and a potential asset in the middle of a defense.

    Perhaps Wright's contract expectations exceeded his market value. He didn't want to take a discount to re-sign with the Seattle Seahawks, but the club will keep the door open for him.


    Best Fit: Las Vegas Raiders

    On Thursday, Wright visited the Las Vegas Raiders, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Silver and Black have a solid linebacker unit that includes Cory Littleton, Nick Morrow, Nick Kwiatkoski and 2020 third-rounder Tanner Muse as the top four players.

    However, Littleton is coming off a disappointing 2020 season. Kwiatkoski has lined up with the second unit during training camp. Muse has practiced with the starters in the base alignment, but he didn't play a snap last year because of a toe injury.

    Wright played under Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley for two seasons (2011 and 2012) with the Seahawks. Schematically, he's a fit in a system that's familiar to him.

    If Muse still needs to develop before he can take on a role in the base unit or the coaching staff has concerns about Littleton's ability to bounce back, Wright can fill a void on the second level of the defense.