Best available NFL free agents: Where should Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick sign?
- There's three months until the NFL preseason begins. Which of these free agents will land with teams?
The draft is over, and teams now have three months until the preseason begins (Arizona vs. Dallas on Aug. 3) to keep tweaking their rosters prior to Week 1. Once the undrafted-free-agent dust settles, GMs will turn their attention back to the veteran free-agent market, to start picking through the pieces remaining there.
So, who’s looking for a team? Here are a few of the best players still available as the calendar flips over to May:
Jay Cutler, QB: The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport revealed during draft coverage that Cutler had interest in playing for the Texans, but the team wouldn’t return his calls. So, what’s that leave for the ex-Bear? If Cutler doesn’t opt for retirement, the options are rather limited, mainly to teams that missed out on a QB at the draft—the Jets still stand out. Otherwise, perhaps he latches on somewhere around training camp.
Best team fit: New York Jets
Colin Kaepernick, QB: The Kaepernick debate long ago stretched beyond merely what he can or cannot do on the field, but also keep in mind a report by ESPN’s Dan Graziano that Kaepernick was looking for $9-10 million per year. If those possible demands have lowered by now, Kaepernick at least played well enough last season to warrant a look.
Best team fit: Arizona Cardinals
LeGarrette Blount, RB: It’s certainly no surprise to see a 30-year-old running back on the market in May, even one coming off an 1,161-yard, 18-touchdown season like Blount had last year. There doesn’t appear to be much room left on the Patriots’ roster (although, who knows? Bill Belichick can’t seem to stop adding RBs). But there ought to be other teams looking for a between-the-tackles option.
Best team fit: Detroit Lions
Jamaal Charles, RB: The talent always has been there, but the health has not—and maybe still isn’t. Charles, 30, has played just eight total games the past two seasons and is still working back from surgery on each of his knees. He could be a steal for a team willing to roll the dice that he can stay healthy.
Best team fit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Michael Floyd, WR: Floyd became a Super Bowl champion in New England—despite being inactive for the game due to injury—after he was dropped late last season by Arizona following a DUI arrest. So, the 27-year-old obviously comes with off-field questions. He never lived up to his 13th-overall draft pick billing, but he did average better than 900 yards receiving from 2013–15 as a Cardinal.
Best team fit: Baltimore Ravens
Anquan Boldin, WR: All signs point toward the 36-year-old Boldin playing at least one more season. (He told SI.com last summer, after signing with Detroit, that he’d love to retire as a Lion.) Boldin is what he is: a physical, reliable possession receiver. He averaged just 8.7 yards per catch last year, but finished with almost 700 yards and scored eight times.
Best team fit: Minnesota Vikings
King Dunlap, OT: Dunlap was banged up throughout much of his Chargers tenure (2013–16), and then he was arrested on suspicion of violating a protective order in February. Still, a team could do worse than to bring on the soon-to-be 32-year-old lineman as a swing-tackle option headed into the preseason.
Best team fit: Chicago Bears
Ryan Clady, OT: The Jets declined a $10 million option on Clady in February—a no-brainer, really, after Clady missed 23 games over two seasons. The former longtime Bronco is a four-time Pro Bowler, so no doubt there will be a GM willing to give him a shot at competing for a gig this summer. As is the case with many names still out there in free agency, his health is the real mystery.
Best team fit: New York Giants
Nick Mangold, C: Even though an ankle injury kept Mangold on the shelf for half of the 2016 season, this is exactly the type of player that can make a difference this late in free agency. Mangold long was one of football’s best centers and, assuming he checks out at 100%, should be itching to take at least one more crack at finishing his career on a high note.
Best team fit: Cincinnati Bengals
Dwight Freeney, DE/OLB: Freeney might still be on the market come August—there’s not much reason to put a 37-year-old, rotational edge rusher through a full off-season regiment. Freeney is just a part-time player these days, but one that still knows how to create problems in the backfield. There are few teams that could not benefit from having him available on passing downs.
Best team fit: Tennessee Titans
Jared Odrick, DT: An easy cap cut for the Jaguars, following two disappointing (and one injury-plagued) years. Odrick drew a little interest after his release, including from the Patriots. He should receive a few more calls now that the draft is in the rear-view mirror. He’ll never be a star, but he brings that DE/DT versatility teams covet so much.
Best team fit: Philadelphia Eagles
Jason Jones, DT/DE: Another defender who can move up and down the line, Jones was cut abruptly by the Dolphins just ahead of their playoff game with Miami. The 30-year-old (31 this month) should not be a starter, but he’s proven to be a valuable member of the active roster for several teams now.
Best team fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
Justin Durant, LB: Durant reportedly considered retirement before signing with Dallas last season, so we’ll see if he wants to go hunting for another team. The veteran linebacker offers 121 games’ worth of experience and nearly 500 career tackles, which is enough to land him a job in the coming months, if he wants one.
Best team fit: Buffalo Bills
Jason McCourty, CB: The ex-Titan figures to be among the more coveted post-draft free agents. His play in Tennessee did not measure up to his hefty contract, hence his release in a cost-cutting move, but he doesn’t turn 30 until October and still can hold his own outside in coverage.
Best team fit: Oakland Raiders
Darrelle Revis, CB: Revis Island was open for business last season. Whether or not Revis receives an opportunity to redeem himself in 2017 boils down, in large part, to how much he wants one. At this point, he easily could drift off into retirement. He’d make for an interesting reclamation project otherwise—nowhere near the talent he once was, but probably with more in the tank than it seemed in ’16.
Best team fit: New England Patriots
Corey Graham, S: The Bills released Graham back in March. The 32-year-old had started every game for them during the 2015-16 seasons, although that extensive playing time showed Graham probably should be in a less-intensive role. He does offer coverage abilities and experience on the back end, though.
Best team fit: Cleveland Browns