With NFL free agency already five months old, the NFL draft a distant memory, and training camps kicking off this week, most teams already have the core of their rosters set as they prepare to start the marathon that will be the 2017 season.
Despite that, every year without fail, we always see a number of NFL veteran free agents who either through their own choice or not, end up signing with a team either before, during, or after training camp has wrapped up, and more often than not, those veterans end up making a difference.
This year is no different, as there are still a number of quality players out on the open market. Some of them have Super Bowls rings, others are former Pro-Bowlers, while there are even a few who are looking for one last chance at glory. Regardless, of where the remaining unsigned players find themselves, it is clear, that there is still a lot of talent to be had. As is usually the case in all of sports when it comes to free agency, sometimes all it comes down to is the price, timing, and fit.
With that said, we here at TheSportster give you where the top 15 remaining NFL free agents may sign.
15 Zachary Orr - Detroit Lions
In his first season as a starter last year, he recorded three interceptions, led the Baltimore Ravens in tackles with 130, established himself as a play-maker, and was named a second team All-Pro.
So why is Zachary Orr, a free agent you might be asking? It's because he retired at the end of the last season after tests performed by team doctors, showed that a previously diagnosed congenital neck and spine issue, would be to dangerous to allow him to continue playing. However, after getting a favourable second opinion on the diagnosis, Orr, announced in late June, that he would be coming out of retirement.
Because the player never filed the official retirement paperwork with the league office, and due to the fact that the Ravens assumed that Orr would stay retired, the franchise never bothered to place a tender on the would-be restricted free agent, thus making him an unrestricted free agent.
The Detroit Lions, who have an opening at linebacker, next to veteran Tahir Whitehead, and 2017 first round pick Jarrad Davis, and have seemingly forever, have been looking to add some impact players on that side of the ball to match the playmakers they have on offense, could definitely use Orr.
Orr's neck and spine issue, are the only reason why he isn't much higher on the list, but then again, he wouldn't be a free agent at all if it wasn't for his body. If his newfound diagnosis does indeed hold up, the Lions, or any other team that signs him, would be getting a huge steal .
14 Austin Pasztor - Cincinnati Bengals
A Canadian makes the list! The Ontario-born (Langton)o ffensive lineman, Pasztor, has spent time with the Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, and most recently, with the Cleveland Browns. In his five pro seasons, Pasztor, has 43 career starts, including starting a personal-best 16 games last season with the Browns.
What makes it so surprising that Pasztor, is still a free agent, is that at only 26 years of age, he is clearly in his prime, and just as important, he showed the versatility to play both guard, and tackle, as he started 15 games at the former, and one at the latter, last year in Cleveland.
There are numerous teams in the NFL, who need help along the offensive line. Even at this stage of free agency, when most squads have the majority of their starters already figured out, Pasztor, could come in and compete for a starting spot, or at the very least, fill in at the all-important swing lineman role, that would see him be the first player off the bench.
The Cincinnati Bengals, who lost offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, and Pasztor's replacement with the Browns in guard Kevin Zeitler, could use the services of the former Virginia Cavalier, as they try to break in the un-tested duo of Jake Fisher, and Cedric Ogbuehi, at the respective positions this year.
13 Dan Williams - Arizona Cardinals
Cut by the Oakland Raiders, two years into a 4-year $25 million dollar deal, Dan Williams had the worst season of his carer, as he posted a personal-low 11 tackles, and was part of a defense that gave up nearly 118 rushing yards per game (117.6).
Things were completely different this time last year, as the former Tennessee Volunteer, was coming off of the best season of his career, as he registered a personal-best 47 tackles, to go along with a sack. That performance suggests that last year's production might have just been an aberration.
After losing Calais Campbell in free agency, the Arizona Cardinals, would be a good landing spot for the 30 year-old. The fit would be seamless, seeing that Williams spent his first five seasons of his career in the desert, after the Cards selected him in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft.
12 Orlando Franklin - New York Giants
Just like Austin Pasztor, Orlando Franklin, can play Offensive Guard and Tackle, and he also grew up in Canada (Franklin was born in Jamaica). That's where the similarities end.
Taken with the 14th pick of the second round in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos, Franklin, was named to the league's All-Rookie team, as he helped the organization lead the NFL in rushing, with a franchise-record 164.5 yards per game.
His next year was just as impressive, as he was part of a line, that surrendered the least amount of sacks in the league, with 17. During his four years in the Mile High City, the started 63 of a possible 64 games for the team, and helped them reach Super Bowl XLVIII.
Franklin, left in 2015 to sign a 5-year free agent deal with the Chargers. Two years later, the Bolts cut the veteran after injuries and inconsistent play defined his time with the team.
The New York Giants, who have needed help along their offensive line for the last several years, should sign the versatile Franklin, and see if he can recapture his previous form.
11 Erik Walden - Tennessee Titans
It's not too often you see a player who is coming off of a season in which he posted double-digit sacks, still available at this stage of free agency, but Erik Walden, appears to be the exception to the rule.
In three years as a Green Bay Packer, Walden flashed some pass-rush potential, as he recorded 8 sacks, in a reserve role behind future Hall-of-Famers Julius Peppers, and Clay Matthews Jr. After signing a 4-year $16 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent in 2013, the Middle Tennessee State product, was supposed to step in to fill the huge shoes of Dwight Freeney (more on him later) after the franchise let the Canton-bound DE leave in free agency.
After the first three years of the deal, the signing looked like a complete flop, as Walden not only failed to fill Freeney’s shoes, he could barely rush the passer, as he produced only 12 sacks.
Last year, the light seemed to go on for Walden, as he sacked opposing quarterbacks a career-high 11 times. The question teams must be asking themselves is whether the production was legit, or if it was the typical play of a guy who was entering a contract year.
At this stage in the game, it looks like grabbing a starting spot on a team might be a long-shot for Walden. Regardless, the Tennessee Titans, who need some depth behind starting pass-rushing Outside Linebackers Brian Orakpo, and Derrick Morgan, would be a good landing spot for the 32-year-old.
10 DeAngelo Williams - Pittsburgh Steelers
Williams, has been busy this offseason. Besides training for the upcoming season, the 34-year-old made his professional wrestling debut on July 2nd, when he wrestled in a tag team match at Impact Wrestling’s Slammiverseray Pay-Per-View. Ironically enough, he teamed up with former NFL Offensive Lineman Quinn Ojinnaka, and the duo got the win.
When the Running Back is on the gridiron, he is a force to be reckoned with, as his physical running style, has helped him churn out 10,207 total yards, and 70 touchdowns throughout his 10-year career.
Despite being in the league for a decade, there appears to be a lot of rubber left on the Memphis product's tires, as he has gone over 200 carries in a season, only three times, due to the fact that he has split time in the backfield with other big name Running Backs.
In one of the funniest moments this offseason, Williams, recently released a list of teams he refused to sign with. Following the RB's request, I will not include the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Dallas Cowboys as potential landing spots.
One place that does make sense however, is the Steelers. Over the last two seasons, while filling-in for the oft-injured and suspended Le'Veon Bell, Williams, ran for 1,250 yards, and averaged 4.0 yards per carry. With only rookie RB James Connor slated to back up Bell this season, the team might need veteran help later on.
9 Perry Riley Jr. - Oakland Raiders
Last year in 11 games as a member of the Oakland Raiders (he was signed in Week 5), Perry Riley Jr., recorded 48 total tackles, to go along with 2 forced fumbles, and a pass deflection.
Prior to his time in the Black Hole, the former LSU Tiger, spent 6 seasons with the Washington Redskins, where he produced 455 tackles, including a career-high of 128 in 2012.
His play last year with the Raiders, still shows that at only 29 years old, Riley Jr., still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
With only the underwhelming duo of Ben Heeney, Cory James, and this year's fifth round pick in Marquel Lee, serving as the only Middle Linebackers on the team's roster, it's more than a little surprising, that the Raiders didn't re-sign the 7-year pro, especially since the the AFC West is home to dangerous Running Backs like Melvin Gordon, Jamaal Charles, and Spencer Ware.
Given that the Raiders, have shifted into Super Bowl or bust mode, after last season's (12-4) breakout campaign, that saw them make the playoffs for the first time since 2003, bringing a sturdy defender like Riley Jr., for another season, would be beneficial for both sides.
8 Gary Barnidge - Baltimore Ravens
Given the ineptitude of the Cleveland Browns, it might seem like a distant memory, but Gary Barnidge, made the Pro Bowl as a Brown in 2015, after he put up a career-high in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, with 79, 1,043, and 9 respectively. What makes Barnidge's totals even more impressive, is the fact the he did it by catching passes from the dynamic duo of journeyman Josh McCown, and Johnny Football himself, Johnny Manziel.
This past season, Barnidge's numbers decreased, as he recorded 55 catches for 612 yards, and 2 TDs. It should be noted, however, that the Browns had an astonishing 5 different players take snaps at the position last year.
Unfortunately for Barnidge, the team has decided to go with a youth movement for the upcoming season, as they cut the Louisville product, and used a first round pick in this year's draft on his replacement, when they selected TE David Njoku.
Over the course of his 10-year career, the 31-year-old has proven that he can contribute both as a starter, or coming off the bench. The Baltimore Ravens, who already thin at the position, having lost Dennis Pitta, and Darren Waller, for the season due to injury and suspension respectively, should sign Barnidge.
7 Brandon Flowers - Pittsburgh Steelers
In a league where it seems that virtually every offense is using 3 and 4 receiver sets as their basic offensive, teams can never have enough Cornerbacks. Brandon Flowers, isn't your run of the mill Defensive Back. Over the course of his 9-year career, he has intercepted 21 passes, including 4 of which he returned for touchdowns.
Injuries have gotten in Flowers' way the last few seasons, as he hasn't played a full 16 games since the 2011 campaign. Last season, the 5-foot-9 DB missed 10 contests with a concussion. When he is healthy, the Virginia Tech product, isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty, as evidenced by his 487 career tackles.
A fixture in the AFC West, having played with both the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Chargers, Flowers, provides big play ability, and versatility, as he can cover both the slot, and outside receivers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who have seemingly forever needed help in their secondary, should sign Flowers, not only for his production and versatility, but for his ability to mentor the team's young defensive backs, in Artie Burns, Senquez Golsen, and Cameron Sutton.
6 Nick Mangold - Baltimore Ravens
The veteran Center entered the free agent market, when he was cut by the New York Jets, this past February, after the team elected to go with a much-needed youth movement.
In 11 seasons with Gang Green, the Ohio State product, made the Pro Bowl, an impressive 7 times, including back-to-back seasons in 2014 and 2015, and he was also named an All-Pro on three occasions as well.
Last year, was virtually a complete wash for Mangold, as an ankle injury forced him to miss half the season. If you look past the aforementioned ailment however, the former first-round pick has been the definition of reliable, as he has only missed a total of 4 games in his career.
The Baltimore Ravens, who dealt starting center Jeremy Zuttah to the San Francisco 49ers, earlier this offseason, would seem like the most logical spot for the 33-year-old Mangold, as he would immediately make the offensive line better, and it would give the veteran a shot at competing for a championship.
5 Ryan Clady - Seattle Seahawks
Injuries have derailed the career of the 2-time All-Pro Offensive Tackle. In 2013, he was placed on IR in Week 3, after suffering a Lisfranc Injury. Over the course of the last two seasons, the thirty year-old, has missed a total of 23 games due to a torn ACL and rotator cuff.
When he is healthy, the 12th overall pick of the 2008 NFL draft, has been dominant both in pass protection and run blocking, as evidenced by the fact that he has been voted to four Pro Bowls.
Besides solid blocking, the Boise State product, brings championship experience to the table, as he was a member of the 2015 Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. As you might have guessed, Clady, missed the game due to injury.
If Clady, is able to stay off the trainer's table, the Seattle Seahawks, who have last year's starting right guard, in second-year vet Germain Ifedi, and the perennial underwhelming Luke Jocekel, as the team's top two options at Offensive Tackle, need to bring in Clady, if they don't want to see franchise quarterback Russell Wilson, running for his life once again.
4 Dwight Freeney - Atlanta Falcons
The key to any defense, is their ability to get after the opposing quarterbacks. Since 2002, Dwight Freeney, has done exactly that time and time again, as the future Hall-Of-Fame defensive end, has recorded a jaw-dropping 122.5 sacks over the course of his 16-year career.
If you measured a player solely by how he performs in big games, then Freeney would pass the test. Last season, as a situational pass-rusher with the Atlanta Falcons, the Syracuse product, recorded a sack in the Super Bowl, and was third among defensive ends this post-season, in pass rush productivity, which measures sacks, pressure, and QB hits.
The old football saying, that you can never have enough pass rushers, still holds true. The Falcons have last year's NFL sack leader in Vic Beasley, and used their first round pick this past April, on UCLA Defensive End, Takkarist McKinley.
Still, bringing back Freeney, would make sense for a team that not only plays in an NFC South division that is home to elite quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Jameis Winston, but also came within one second half defensive stop from beating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51.
3 Anquan Boldin - Carolina Panthers
A pro's pro, with his soft hands, and tough as nails approach to the game, Anquan Boldin, has been terrorizing NFL defenses for 14 years. Never blessed with game-breaking speed, Boldin has made a career off of precise route running and coming up with big catches to help move the chains. With a Super Bowl ring already on his resume, having won one as a member of the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, the 36 year-old, is still playing because he can.
Last season as a member of the Detroit Lions, Boldin, recorded 67 receptions for 584 yards, and a team-leading 8 touchdowns, while seeing time as the team's third receiver. Multiple reports this offseason said that the vet would prefer to play close to his Florida home. Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Jacksonville Jaguars, appear set at the position.
One team that needs help at WR is the Carolina Panthers. This offseason, the team lost big play threat Ted Ginn Jr in free agency, and after Pro Bowl Kelvin Benjamin, the team has very little in proven options to help out Cam Newton. Adding Boldin, would not only give the offense some much-needed production, but he could mentor, and raise the compete level of the Panthers' young wide-outs like Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel, and the aforementioned Benjamin.
2 Darrelle Revis - Dallas Cowboys
This is yet another example of how quickly things change in the NFL. Before last season Darrelle Revis, was looked at as one of, if not the best cornerback in the league, a member of a New York Jets, team that was supposed not only make the playoffs, but push the New England Patriots for the AFC East title. Obviously, neither happened, as the Pats cruised through the division, on the way to their fifth Lombardi Trophy, and the J-E-T-S finished with a 5-11 record.
As it stands right now, there is one of two ways to look at Revis. You might see a player who repeatedly got burnt in the first half of the regular season, as he surrendered a catch on 77.8 percent of passes thrown at him, and put up his worst numbers since the 2012 season, in which he tore his ACL in Week 2.
The other side of the glass, let's you see a cornerback, who was nicknamed “Revis Island”, routinely shut down the top wide receivers in the game, recorded 28 interceptions, was voted an All-Pro four times, and in 2015, was named to the Pro-Bowl for a seventh time.
The Dallas Cowboys, who appear ready to make a run at the Lombardi Trophy, have lost three starting members of their secondary this offseason. While it is possible that Revis might have lost a half step after just one bad season, there's a good chance he isn't completely washed up either.
1 Colin Kaepernick - Pittsburgh Steelers
Whether or not you believe Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed by the league for his decision to kneel during the United States national anthem, and for bringing attention to important social issues, the fact remains, that the man nicknamed Kap, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl just five years ago, can still help a team.
After being named the starting quarterback in Week 6 last season, Kaepernick, threw for 16 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. While those numbers might not blow you away, spread-out over an entire season, they were better than those of Carson Wentz, Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, and Cam Newton among others.
As much as certain members of the media try to portray the Quarterback/Civil Activist as a locker-room distraction, it didn't stop some of his 49er teammates, as well as numerous players across the league, from joining him in kneeling and raising their fists in solidarity during the anthem all over the NFL.
While Kaepernick might not ever turn back into the player he once was, when he took the league by storm, and ran into the record books, due mostly to Defensive Coordinators figuring out how to stop Kap's bread and butter in the read-option, when given the chance with a creative play-caller, as he had last season the QB still showed some of the flashes that made him a star in the league.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who have a creative OC in Todd Haley, and a strong-minded head coach in Mike Tomlin, would be a great landing spot for Kaepernick.
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