Free Agent Bargains to be Had
With Free Agency almost a week old, we’ve seen plenty of big moves and some massive contracts being handed out. That’s always exciting, but in truth, Super Bowl-winning teams are built just as much from having solid player who complement the stars as they are from those big name players.
That’s where teams can really help themselves in free agency, but picking up a starter or two who can really help out without a huge payday. There are still some high profile free agents out there, but here are 10 players we feel would make sensible additions which won’t break the bank.
Tarvaris Jackson, Quarterback
In a league where there aren’t 32 good starting quarterbacks, it’s always surprised me that Tarvaris Jackson hasn’t got another opportunity to start. He might not be a world-beater, but he’s played well enough in the past that it wouldn’t be a shock if he could push some of the other quarterbacks out there. We haven’t seen him start since 2011 (+5.5 passing grade), but he’s looked solid in the limited work we’ve seen from him since. There’s not much out there at quarterback, and Jackson is likely the only one who can contribute much if your starter goes down injured.
Steven Jackson, Running Back
Jackson’s problem is that he is an aging player at a position where teams are reluctant to spend much money these days. Despite his advancing years, though, Jackson is still a solid contributor, and one who is a effective all-around player who can offer prospective teams something as a pass blocker too. He had the 13th-highest rushing grade of all running backs last season, and it’s hard to see him not signing somewhere and helping a team out.
James Casey, Fullback/Tight End
When Casey signed in Philadelphia many expected him to see a lot of looks as a receiver in Chip Kelly’s offense. He struggled for playing time, though, and finds himself a free agent once again. What’s interesting with Casey is that when he played fullback in Houston, he wasn’t very successful as a blocker, but looked good as a receiver out of the backfield, yet in Philadelphia he was a much better blocker at tight end. Either as a receiving fullback, or a blocking tight end, Casey has something to offer.
Mike Pollak, Guard
Any team looking for a starting calibre guard out there could do a lot worse than to take a look at Pollak. He’s finished every season from 2010 onward with a positive grade, looking strong both as a run blocker and as a pass blocker. He also comes with the flexibility of having started at both left and right guard in 2014.
Brian De la Puente, Center
De La Puente started at both center and guard for the Chicago Bears in 2014 but didn’t look comfortable in his first start at guard in Week 11. He’s a solid center though, and finished 2014 as our seventh-highest graded player at the position, despite playing just 320 snaps there.
Tommy Kelly, Defensive Interior
Kelly isn’t going to give you a standout defensive lineman who can be a constant menace to opposing offensive lines, and his play in 2014 was up and down, but he still has something to offer for the right team. Our 17th-highest-graded 3-4 defensive end in 2014, he produced 41 total pressures from 424 pass rushing snaps andtied for the seventh best Pass Rushing Productivity Rating (PRP) at the position.
Dwight Freeney, Edge Defender
Even if all Dwight Freeney is these days is a situational pass rusher, brought in on obvious pass rushing situations, he looks like he’ll be a smart pickup for a team at some point this offseason. Only six 3-4 outside linebackers had a higher pass rushing grade than him, and his PRP of 11.0 was sixth best at the position. With plenty of pass rush-needy teams out there, he makes a lot of sense in a lot of destinations.
Rolando McClain, Linebacker
McClain’s off field struggles have been well-documented throughout the year, and perhaps that’s scaring some teams off, but on the field it’s hard to argue that he’d help out a team needing a linebacker who is stout against the run. A well-rounded 2014, grading positively against the run, in coverage and as a pass rusher, will draw someone to take a chance on him again in 2015.
Rashean Mathis, Cornerback
The concern with Mathis is obvious, he’ll be 35 when the season begins so how much does he really have left? Well, he had a better year in 2014 than he did in 2013 so if age is a factor, it hasn’t slowed him down yet. Only 10 cornerbacks in the NFL had a higher coverage grade than Mathis last season and, even if it’s just on a one-year deal, he would be an upgrade at the position for several teams around the league.
Dawan Landry, Safety
We’d seen a lull in Landry’s play since leaving Baltimore in 2010, but he found his form again with the New York Jets in 2014. He graded among the Top 15 at the position both in coverage and against the run last year after making a name for himself as a run-stopping safety early in his career. Even his play from 2011-2013 was good enough for him to have a place on a roster, but if he can maintain what we saw in 2014, he can be an upgrade for the right team.
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