Michael Vick, Knowshon Moreno headline best remaining 2014 NFL offensive free agents
The chaotic start to free agency has given way to a much more controlled setting around the NFL. The goal for teams now: find a few bargains who can help fill out a roster and, if luck should have it, a starting lineup.
What's left on the offensive side of the ball?
1. Michael Vick
2. Josh Freeman
3. Shaun Hill
Three very distinct classes of quarterback here. Vick presents the boom-or-bust option, a still-exciting player who could elevate an offense significantly if he stays healthy (a very big "if") -- to the point that Adrian Peterson said the Vikings would be a playoff team with Vick taking the snaps. Freeman is young enough (26) that he could develop into a better QB than he is now, but his best hope may be to land somewhere where he can compete for a backup job. Hill is without question a backup, albeit a very solid one capable of taking over an offense in a short window.
1. Knowshon Moreno
3. James Starks
At least publicly, the market for Moreno has been close to dead quiet despite him coming off a career year (1,038 yards rushing, 548 yards receiving, 13 total touchdowns). Teams may be worried about his ability to translate that success over to an offense not featuring Peyton Manning and the plethora of receiving options with which Denver stretched defenses. Blount carries similar question marks after shaking off two subpar years in Tampa Bay to excel for the Tom Brady-led Patriots in 2013. Starks may be one of the more underrated free agents left; he averaged 5.5 yards per carry and 8.9 yards per reception last season.
2. Owen Daniels
3. Ed Dickson
Finley comes with a major red flag -- namely, that he may be one hit away from the end of his career. Still, should his neck and head check out fine with a team's doctors, he is plenty capable of providing serious mismatch issues for defenses in the passing attack. Daniels missed 11 games himself in 2013 due to a broken leg. He did, however, make a Pro Bowl appearance the year prior off a 62-catch showing. Dickson probably limited himself to a No. 2 TE role on account of his so-so showing when Dennis Pitta was absent from Baltimore's lineup last season. The 26-year-old Dickson certainly could use a fresh start after finishing '13 ranked as the least effective tight end in the league by Pro Football Focus.
1. James Jones
2. Sidney Rice
3. Kenny Britt
The lack of buzz surrounding Jones thus far has been a little unexpected. He turns 30 later this month and obviously benefited from playing with Aaron Rodgers, but those 14 TDs he scored in 2012 were no fluke -- Jones is a reliable and experienced option. Rice is less so. The ex-Seahawk has played a full season just once in the past four years, missing half of 2013 and a combined 17 games in 2010-11. The upside is there when he's on. Britt has the highest ceiling of any available WR ... maybe of any available player, period. Are we ever going to see it? Headed into his sixth NFL season, Britt remains more of a headache-inducing enigma than anything resembling a star player.
2. John Kuhn
3. Greg Jones
The dying-breed position features several recognizable names among its free agents, including the three listed above plus longtime veteran Vonta Leach, Tampa Bay's Erik Lorig and versatile former Seahawk Michael Robinson. The scales may tip toward those who can handle multiple roles within an offense, and both McClain and Kuhn have shown themselves capable of at least grinding out short-yardage gains if not taking on more extensive action when pressed. Jones remains a sturdy lead back, but he has all of 21 total carries over the past four seasons.
1. Donald Penn
2. Eric Winston
3. Ryan Harris
With Zach Strief re-signing in New Orleans on Monday, the viable options at tackle dwindled to pretty slim pickings. Penn, a 2010 Pro Bowler, clearly leads the charge among the remaining guys. He has never missed a game in his NFL career and he started every single Buccaneers contest from 2008-13. The 12 sacks Penn allowed last season won't help his demands, though teams could do far worse. After Penn, it's time to start throwing darts. Winston has had success in spots throughout his career, while Harris filled a swing-tackle role in Houston admirably. Neither they nor any of the other remaining candidates (Bryant McKinnie, Charles Brown, etc.) would leave quarterbacks feeling too comfortable.
2. Willie Colon
3. Brian Waters
Wharton delivered a really solid 2013 season for the Panthers, yet his age (33 in May) and injury history (missed all of 2012 with a knee issue) may be holding him back. Needy teams could fare worse. The scouting report on Colon is nearly the same: He'll be 31 in April and is coming off a torn biceps suffered in Week 17. Add that injury to 15 missed games in 2011 and suitors will be wary. Waters was en route to a terrific 2013 season as a 36-year-old. He then tore his triceps and lost nine games while on injured reserve, a setback that may limit him to a Dallas-or-bust situation this offseason.
1. Alex Mack
2. Ryan Wendell
3. Brian de la Puente There are serviceable options here in Wendell, de la Puente, Jonathan Goodwin and others. And then there is one of the top players at the position in Mack, who's still sitting under the transition tag with the Browns. Mack has yet to sign that tag, so he is free to negotiate and sign an offer sheet with another team, thereby forcing Cleveland to decide if it would like to match or let him walk. The idea of chasing a player only to help his former team re-sign him is frustrating for front offices. Mack's talent -- he earned his second Pro Bowl bid last season -- might push a GM to roll the dice.