The 2018 NFL season is underway, and we still have some pretty recognizable names that are still free agents. Because of the multitude of talent in the NFL, it makes it tough for many players to find a job, or get the contract they want. Players that looked really good before, may not look as good with young, cheaper talent walking through the doors. It’s become a league where no one is safe, no matter what your name is or what you have done in the past.
Teams showed no mercy releasing or trading their star players. Cap space is a huge part of the game, and NFL front offices have to know how to play it. And sometimes, it’s easier to cut a highly paid player to free up money to bring in three other guys to compete for the old guy’s job. But to be fair, it makes the league more interesting.
Players have to work a lot harder for the money that they want, and to stay with the team they have been with throughout their career. Unlike in the past, there’s always another option, unless you’re a top five quarterbacks. The best quarterbacks are really the only players that safe. Even if you’re the best receiver or running back in the league, you may not be guaranteed a roster spot. And that is why we have these 20 really talented athletes, that still in September are jobless as the new season begins.
20 Dan Bailey - Oakland Raiders
One of the most surprising roster cuts this training camp was Dan Bailey, the Cowboys' best kicker in franchise history, getting cut. Bailey had been locked in on a long-term deal, a rarity for kickers, but injuries last season affected his accuracy and the problems had persisted in training camp. When Bailey is eventually healthy again, any team with a kicking problem should be jumping all over him.
The Raiders cut Sebastian Janikowski in the offseason, then Giorgio Tevecchio in camp, who was supposed to be Sea Bass's replacement.
The Raiders have Mike Nugent for now, who's bounced around the NFL recently. A healthy Bailey would be a big upgrade for Oakland though.
19 Alex Boone - Houston Texans
Sometimes when teams sign established names at the end of the year, they still expect them to be starters. Alex Boone would not be a starter for the Houston Texans, but would provide depth for an offensive line that looked instable last season.
Boone has a ton of experience, as he’s played eight years in the NFL, with the 49ers, Vikings and Cardinals. He’s at an older age and may not look as good, but he will help these young guys grow as a unit, and be there in the case of an injury. It’s never a bad thing to have too much depth on the offensive line.
18 Jay Cutler - Houston Texans
Jay Cutler was expected to retire by now, but his silence this offseason has fans thinking he may want to try to stick it out another year in the NFL. Cutler's days as a starter are over after his terrible 2017 season with the Miami Dolphins and it's pretty telling that the Fins chose not to bring him back as a backup this year. One team that may eventually want some insurance at the QB position would be the Houston Texans. The Texans lost Deshaun Watson for much of the season last year. Houston's roster is much more talented than Miami's and Cutler could do fairly well there if he had to step in.
17 Jordan Matthews - Green Bay Packers
This may surprise, and confuse some fans. Jordan Matthews suffered a severe hamstring injury that forced the Patriots to put him on the injured reserve, once they signed him. They then made the decision that it was time to move on from him, considering he may never play. Teams aren’t as active during the season, as they are in the offseason.
The Green Bay Packers could use another receiver, and with some decisions to be made about their current receivers, it’s going to be important.
It may happen where the Packers sign Matthews to a multi-year deal towards the end of the season, to get him at a cheaper price and guarantee him for the future.
16 Chris Baker - Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones is still active even with the season going. The Cowboys are willing to work out a deal with the Seahawks to bring Earl Thomas to Dallas, for a third-round draft pick. If that doesn’t work out, the Cowboys have a pretty penny to spend, and may use some of it to patch up some holes. One hole: the defensive tackle spot.
Between injuries and suspensions, the depth at defensive tackle is not what they'd like it to be. The Cowboys already made it clear they don’t want to sign a current free agent safety, so maybe they go after Chris Baker. A veteran body who looked really good in 2015 and 2016, could make a return back to the NFC East.
15 Kansas City Chiefs - Kenny Britt
It’s a matter of time until the Kansas City Chiefs realize that signing Sammy Watkins would be a mistake. But they have this young, really talented quarterback who needs receivers. A cheap option that has a ton of experience, is Kenny Britt. Just two years ago, Britt caught for over 1,000 yards.
Throughout most of his career he’s been pretty successful. Is he going to replace Watkins? No. But at least he could help open up the field for Patrick Mahomes. If he’s good for another 500 yards, that is just another way for the Chiefs to open up their passing attack.
14 Jeremy Lane - Seattle Seahawks
Unless the Seahawks have plans of tanking this season, they may have no choice but to re-sign Jeremy Lane. Lane is still a free agent, and has been a solid cornerback behind the stars in Seattle.
A mix of off field issues and injuries leave him as a free agent, but the Seahawks might have no choice.
Seattle right now is in a bad position where they could possibly be drafting top five in the 2019 draft. There’s holes all throughout their roster, and it could take a couple of years to replace. At least they can sign a cornerback who knows the system, and worry about the rest later.
13 Terrance West - Indianapolis Colts
Terrance West's training camp invite didn’t work out with the New Orleans Saints. But only drafted in 2014 as a third-round pick, some team eventually is going to feel the need to sign him. West played really well his rookie season with the Browns, and also looked really good in 2016 with the Ravens. He’s missed a ton of games which has alwasy been his biggest issue, but a team could find him valuable.
When you think of teams that really need a running back, the Colts almost cry for one. Marlon Mack and Christine Michael may be the most depressing back field there is.
12 Colin Kaepernick - Carolina Panthers
Speaking of Colin Kaepernick strictly as a football player, it's hard to argue he isn't more deserving of at least a backup job in the NFL over half the league's current backups. One glaring hole is in Carolina behind Cam Newton, whose backup at the moment is Taylor Heinicke. Needless to say, the Panthers can't run the same kind of offense with Heinickie as they could with Super Cam. Newton's been pretty durable in his career, but the Panthers should be better prepared for the worst case scenario; Cam getting hurt.
11 Orleans Darkwa - San Francisco 49ers (RB)
With the loss of Jerick McKinnon, the San Francisco 49ers may choose to bring in another running back. Alfred Morris was brought in before the McKinnon injury, in hopes of giving McKinnon some series’ off, and allowing McKinnon to play on more passing downs. With him gone, things change a bit.
The 49ers may decide to look to add another running back. Orleans Darkwa wasn’t all that bad last season with the Giants.
He may not be the starter you want, but he can help split carries with Morris, and occasionally catch passes out of the backfield. It depends on how confident Kyle Shanahan is in his other running backs.
10 Robert Ayers - Atlanta Falcons
All within a few hours, Robert Ayers was signed and released by the Detroit Lions. Maybe the Buccaneers had a reason why they decided to move on from him. But, many times you will see teams within the division pick up those guys, because they see them year after year.
Ayers had some solid good four years, and then struggled in 2017. The Falcons could use some help on the defensive line, and adding Ayers may help replace Adrian Clayborn. If he doesn’t work out, the Falcons can always release him mid-season, but at least they can try him out and see what type of production he will bring.
9 Eddie Lacy - Green Bay Packers
A comeback could be near. There’s no doubting that the Green Bay Packers look lost at the running back position. Ty Montgomery is not a true back, yet the Packers continue to try to work him there. If the Packers want Aaron Rodgers to have a chance to win a Super Bowl, they will need to improve this run game.
Lacy started his career with the Packers, and played well. The first two seasons Lacy played, he rushed for over 1,100 yards.
Throughout three seasons with the Packers, he scored 23 touchdowns. If Lacy was able to succeed in that offense, it might be worth spending a little money and a roster spot to bring him back.
8 Mike Mitchell - Dallas Cowboys
Things aren’t looking the way the Cowboys would like in regard to a trade for Earl Thomas. And if that’s the case, the Cowboys may choose to sign a cheap safety off the market. Mike Mitchell played with the Steelers for the past four seasons. There’s been really good points in his career, and really bad ones. But one thing's for sure, is that he would add depth to an area with very little depth in Dallas.
Depth and experience is more than enough. Mitchell would be the oldest safety, making him the most experienced. But remember, this only happens if Earl Thomas doesn’t get traded to the Cowboys.
7 NaVorro Bowman - Oakland Raiders
Another return could be coming, with NaVorro Bowman back to the Raiders. If this does happen, it might take a few weeks into the season for it to occur. With some questionable decisions by Jon Gruden, he may choose to bring back a former Raider to help a position that has struggled in the past.
Teams have been able to succeed running the ball against the Raiders, and without Khalil Mack, they could use someone who could also bring pressure. Bowman was able to do it all, and may be asked to do it all once again for his former team.
6 Junior Galette - New York Jets
A lot of these signings have to have other variables to allow them to occur. Junior Galette has a good chance at signing with the Jets, if a trade doesn’t work out for Dante Fowler Jr. with the Jaguars. And it could become even more important to the Jets to improve the defensive line if Sam Darnold can lead this team to few victories early.
The Jets may believe they have an opportunity at a playoff spot, and look to do whatever it takes to achieve that.
And if they can get Galette to be half the player he was with the Saints, they’re heading in the right direction.
5 Johnathan Hankins - Detroit Lions
There are plenty of teams that need a defensive tackle, but only a few may actually be interested in Jonathan Hankins. The Detroit Lions may be the team to go ahead and take their chances. Hankins is a solid defensive tackle, that many analysts are surprised that he’s still a free agent. With his size and talent, many expected he would have been signed months ago.
But, the Lions could win big by signing him for a cheap one-year deal. That way if things don’t work out during the season, they can always release him and move forward with what they have.
4 Bashaud Breeland - Los Angeles Chargers
With some injuries at the cornerback position, including the season-ending injury to Jason Verrett, the Chargers may look to improve their secondary. It’s not a huge concern as they went without Verrett most of last season too, but all it will do is help by adding depth.
If nobody signs Bashaud Breeland, the Chargers may come in and sign him at a veteran minimum.
They wouldn't have to pay him much at this point and they really only need him while Verrett is sidelined. When the Chargers secondary is healthy, they’re really good. But without Verrett, they definitely lose some talent that they wish they could have this season.
3 Eric Reid - Cleveland Browns
Even after the Browns upgraded their safety position in last year’s draft, they could still use some help at the back end of their defense. With so much young talent there, it could be a defense that shocks people. Adding Eric Reid would make this defense even more solid, having a veteran overlooking the team from the back end.
Reid is one of the better safeties in the league, and would be a starter once signed. He’s good against the run and in pass coverage, helping the Browns all around on defense. The move could come sooner than some expect.
2 Jeremy Maclin - Buffalo Bills
It’s sad that nobody is talking about Jeremy Maclin still being a free agent. This was once one of the better receivers in the league, and is currently jobless. He’s getting old and he may not be as talented, but he’s still a solid weapon to have. A few years ago, he finished his second year going back to back 1,000 yard seasons. His production fell in 2016 and 2017, which is probably why he is a free agent. But considering some of the other receivers that got signed this offseason, Maclin should be on a team. The Bills need a receiver and some experience, something Maclin could provide.
1 Dez Bryant - New England Patriots
Surprise, Dez Bryant will be a New England Patriot. Bryant declined a contract from the Ravens, and just recently declined a contract with the Browns.
Many fans expected Bryant to sign with the Browns considering he tweeted about his meeting, but it may be more than him focusing on other things.
If Bryant wants to play, he’s going to sign with a team. But the real reason why he’s a free agent is likely that he wants to see which teams will be playoff teams. Bryant is a competitor, and wants to play for a winning team, which is most likely why he declined the Browns offer. Bryant has been vocal about wanting to play for Bill Belichick, and once the Patriots realize they need another receiver, Dez will be in Foxboro.