With the NFL Draft over a week in the rear-view mirror, teams can begin looking at the free agent market again. While most of the desirable players signed in the first wave of free agency, several cheap but productive veteran options remain available. Adding the right aging stars or mercenaries could round out a team’s depth chart.
Expect franchises that didn’t have many draft picks, like the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks, to play a significant role in the renewed free agent frenzy.
Honorable Mention- Earl Thomas, S
30. Kerryon Johnson, RB *Claimed by Eagles
Detroit recently released Johnson after the former second-round pick only saw 52 carries in 2020. As a rookie, the Auburn product provided a spark Detroit’s running game hadn’t had since Reggie Bush. Unfortunately, Johnson suffered injuries in 2018 and 2019 that led to the Lions drafting D’Andre Swift. Johnson is a free agent at only 23 years old.
29. Trai Turner, G
Turner made five consecutive Pro Bowls during his time in Carolina. Don’t let the fan votes deceive you. Turner never was an elite guard. His best season came in 2015. The LSU product has suffered steady but significant decline since his second season in the NFL. He received an abysmal 34.8 grade from PFF last year.
28. Kenny Vaccaro, S
Vaccaro never developed into the franchise player the New Orleans Saints envisioned he could become when they took him with the 15th overall pick in 2013. Despite his shortcomings, the 30-year-old free agent strong safety still offers quality snaps for a needy team. However, franchises worry about how he’ll hold up in coverage.
27. Geno Atkins, DT
Atkins is one of several active future Hall of Fame defensive tackles. Unfortunately, the eight-time Pro Bowler’s career is nearing an end. After earning a spot on the 2010s All-Decade team, Atkins only made eight appearances for Cincinnati in 2020. He didn’t make any starts and finished the year with only one tackle on roughly 119 defensive snaps.
26. Todd Gurley, RB
A stronger rookie running back class might’ve ended Gurley’s career. The former All-Pro ran for 678 yards last year, averaging 3.5 yards per attempt. He set a career-low with 6.6 yards per reception. While Gurley can still grind out yards for a needy team, he’s no longer an efficient option.
25. Duke Johnson, RB
Johnson is a 27-year-old specialist that produced 484 yards from scrimmage on horrible efficiency last year. However, Houston’s horrendous offensive line deserves some blame for Johnson’s struggles on the ground. He’s still a solid receiving back that’s only a year removed from producing 820 yards from scrimmage.
24. Le’Veon Bell, RB
Four years ago, Bell was arguably the best running back in football. Now, he’s a free agent just hoping to find a home for 2021. After a disappointing 2019 season, the New York Jets released Bell early in 2020. The former All-Pro landed in Kansas City, where he ran for 254 yards on 63 carries.
23. Everson Griffen, DE
Griffen bounced back from battling his demons in 2018 with the fourth and likely final Pro Bowl season of his career in 2019. The former fourth-round pick logged eight sacks, 24 quarterback hits, and 35 pressures. The 33-year-old’s snap totals rapidly declined this past year, but he still tallied six sacks and 23 pressures.
22. Ryan Kerrigan, OLB/DE
Kerrigan became a free agent after setting Washington’s franchise record for sacks with 95.5. The four-time Pro Bowler began battling injuries and decline in 2019, and he only made one start this past season. Despite only seeing about 400 snaps as a rotational player, Kerrigan amassed 5.5 sacks and 13 pressures.
21. Golden Tate, WR
The New York Giants jettisoned Tate in early March after the former Pro Bowler turned in his worst season since 2011. Tate is a 32-year-old free agent in a thin wide receiver market. His physical playing style might generate some attention from teams, but deep rookie wide receiver classes from the past several years aren’t helping veteran pass catchers find jobs.
20. Danny Amendola, WR
Even after 12 years, Amendola hasn’t had a season with over 700 receiving yards. However, in 2020 the 35-year-old crossed the 600-yard threshold for the seventh time in his career. Amendola is getting up there in age, but he’s still getting open and making life easier on quarterbacks.
19. Jurrell Casey, DT
Casey suffered a torn bicep three games into his only season with the Denver Broncos. The five-time Pro Bowler is 31 years old and one season removed from a five-sack campaign. While he’s no longer the man that amassed 51 sacks in Tennessee, Casey is a solid veteran interior option.
18. Bashaud Breeland, CB
Unlike many of the other players on this list, Breeland isn’t rebounding from a serious injury. He’s just a mediocre cornerback that didn’t find a significant market as a free agent. According to Pro Football Reference, Breeland allowed a 78.3 passer rating when targeted last season and gave up four touchdowns. He’s started 88 games since entering the NFL in 2014.
17. Bobby Massie, RT
Massie suffered a knee injury last season that limited the free agent to eight starts. He’s missed 14 games over the past two seasons but is still a viable starter. PFF claims Massie only allowed three sacks and committed one penalty during his 470 offensive snaps in 2020.
16. Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB
Robey-Coleman was one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL before going to Philadelphia. The 29-year-old’s one season in the City of Brotherly Love didn’t go as planned. He set or tied career-lows with zero interceptions and only one pass deflection. Pro Football Reference reports that Robey-Coleman allowed a 125.2 passer rating when targeted in 2020.
15. Justin Houston, DE
Houston looked like a potential Hall of Fame outside linebacker early in his career. Unfortunately, injuries slowed down the former All-Pro by his mid-20s. Houston experienced a resurgence in sack production with the Indianapolis Colts. Indy rotated Houston out of the lineup frequently, which preserved his health and led to him starting all 32 games over the past two years.
Houston hasn’t played over 700 defensive snaps in a season since 2018, but he still amassed 19 sacks, 30 quarterback hits, and 53 pressures since joining the Colts. The veteran can still create havoc in the right defensive scheme.
14. Austin Reiter, C
Kansas City acquired Reiter off waivers in 2018. The former seventh-round pick became the team’s full-time starter at center in 2019. While he’s not a standout player, Reiter is a mid-level starter or high-end backup. Per PFF, Reiter didn’t commit a penalty or allow a sack during his 867 offensive snaps this past season.
13. Malik Hooker, S
The Colts had high expectations for Hooker when they drafted him with the 15th overall pick in 2017. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old could never stay healthy. He missed 28 games during his first four seasons, including 14 this past year with a torn Achilles. Hooker’s youth and draft pedigree make him worth a gamble.
12. Russell Okung, OT
Okung finds himself on the free agent market again. The 32-year-old is far past his Pro Bowl prime but still offers above-average play when healthy. Unfortunately, Okung is rarely available. He’s only played in 13 games over the past two seasons. The only 16-game season of his career came in 2016.
11. Olivier Vernon, DE
Vernon suffered a torn Achilles late last season that could cost him time in 2021. When healthy, the 30-year-old former Pro Bowler is a reliable second option in the pass rush. Since becoming a starter eight years ago, Vernon has 60 sacks, including nine in 2020. The veteran is also a strong option against the run.
10. Melvin Ingram, DE
A knee injury limited Ingram’s 2020 season to seven games. For the first time in his career, Ingram failed to record a sack. While the former 18th overall pick never became a superstar, he tallied 43 sacks in the five seasons leading up to last year. Ingram is 32 years old.
9. K.J. Wright, OLB
Some analysts thought the Seattle Seahawks would part ways with Wright after an injury-riddled 2018 season. Instead, the former Pro Bowler started all 32 games over the past two years. While Wright isn’t a star in coverage anymore, he’s still capable of playing nearly 1,000 defensive snaps per year at a high level.
8. Ricky Wagner, RT
Wagner made a name for himself in Baltimore. The former fifth-round pick played out his rookie contract with the Ravens before heading to Detroit. Wagner started 40 games in his three years with the Lions. However, he only started nine of his 16 appearances with the Packers last season. According to PFF, Wagner only allowed one sack on 610 offensive snaps.
7. Eric Fisher, LT *Signed by Colts
Fisher suffered a torn Achilles before Kansas City’s ill-fated Super Bowl performance. The former Pro Bowler is already 32, but he’s arguably coming off the best season of his career. While Fisher’s injury could impact his availability for 2021, there are plenty of teams in need of blindside protectors.
6. Brian Poole, CB
Poole played in the slot for the Jets last year and was New York’s best cornerback. According to Pro Football Reference, Poole only allowed a 61.6 passer rating when targeted and didn’t surrender a touchdown. The 28-year-old is the best remaining slot cornerback on the free agent market.
5. Steven Nelson, CB
Nelson became a free agent after the Pittsburgh Steelers cut him in late March. The former third-round pick had a breakout season with Mike Tomlin’s team in 2019. Unfortunately, Nelson’s game took a significant step back last year. He’s a productive starter but hasn’t strung together multiple elite seasons.
4. Mitchell Schwartz, RT
A back injury ended Schwartz’s streak of consecutive games at 134. Before the injury, which required surgery, Schwartz hadn’t missed a game in his career. The soon-to-be 32-year-old earned First or Second-Team All-Pro honors every year dating back to 2016. In 2019, PFF claims Schwartz didn’t allow a sack on over 1,000 offensive plays.
The medicals are a considerable concern with Schwartz. If he’s healthy, the former second-round pick is arguably the best remaining free agent.
3. Charles Leno Jr., LT
Chicago recently parted ways with Leno, meaning the Bears must replace both starting tackles from last season. Leno made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and hasn’t missed a start since 2015. He’s consistently available and is only 29 years old. In a league desperate for offensive linemen, Leno is a hot commodity on the free agent market.
2. Sheldon Richardson, DT
Cleveland cut Richardson in April, clearing cap space for future signings. The Missouri product is already 30 years old, but he’s remained a productive player despite playing for four teams in the past five seasons. Richardson amassed 64 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 22 pressures last year. Those are hardly elite numbers, but they could help plenty of teams.
1. Richard Sherman, CB
Sherman rejuvenated his career in San Francisco, earning Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2019. Nagging injuries limited him to five games this past year, which is why he’s still on the free agent market. When healthy, Sherman is still a top-ten cornerback. Unfortunately, teams can’t continue counting on the 33-year-old’s health and athleticism.