All the talk around water coolers today centers around Richard Sherman and umpteen potential trades involving the outspoken cornerback.
In a tug of war with the Seattle Seahawks, ostensibly because he wants out, Sherman has expressed his desire to be dealt to a contender.
However, the Seahawks will surely want full value for the four-time All-Pro who has recorded 30 interceptions in six years, which is 10 more than any corner in the league over that span.
While trades are intriguing, especially where the Seahawks and Sherman are concerned, there are still a number of unsigned free agents on the market, both offensive and defensive.
While the draft will have an impact on just who among remaining free agents will be inked to new deals, wet-behind-the-ears college picks may not be the answer, at least initially.
We’ve combed the FA list and have come up with 10 names, five on offence and five on defence, who can help needy teams immediately. In no particular order, with prospective new teams mentioned in the text.
10. Corey Graham, FS – Buffalo Bills
At last count, there are 27 defensive backs still on the market, more than any single group of offensive and defensive free agents. One name that stands out is Buffalo Bills free safety Corey Graham. The Buffalo native signed with his hometown team in 2014 and played all 48 games in the last three seasons. The durable defensive back has played in 144 straight games in nine seasons with Chicago (four), Baltimore (three) and Buffalo. Released on March 10 with one year remaining on the four-year, $16 million deal he signed with Buffalo in 2014, Graham still has game and would be a catch for a team in need of a dependable safety, like New Orleans. Graham made 87 tackles in 2016 for Buffalo, 62 solo. He added in a sack, a fumble recovery, nine passes defended and an interception. For his career, he has 15 total interceptions (one for a pick six in 2015) and 60 passes successfully defended.
9. Nick Mangold, C – New York Jets
At one time, the New York Times ranked Nick Mangold as the best center in the NFL. The durable 11-year veteran was a warrior for the Jets, playing in 164 of a possible 176 games in that span. The seven-time 33-year-old Pro Bowler was cut by New York in February and has yet to be claimed by another team. He may not be the player he was (right up to his last Pro Bowl nom in 2015), but there are a few teams who could upgrade at that position. One is Cincinnati, which really could use a veteran to anchor their O-line and give Andy Dalton the pass protection he really needs. The Bengals star QB was sacked 41 times last season, which tied him for second highest in that category, one behind poor Bills pivot Tyrod Taylor. Provided he can stay healthy (he missed eight games in 2016), Mangold could be that guy and an instant fan favorite, as he was a star at Ohio State.
8. Gerald Hodges, LB – San Francisco 49ers
It is probably more of a blessing, than a curse, that veteran LB Gerald Hodges was cut loose by the Niners, who were quite dysfunctional last season. Originally a fourth round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings, Hodges played for the Vikes for three seasons before a trade sent him to San Fran in 2015. Lately, Hodges has been rumored to want to return to Minnesota, who lost OLB Chad Greenway to retirement and reserve LB Audie Cole to free agency (Jacksonville). The former Penn State standout had his best season in five in 2016, playing in a career high 15 games and recording a career high 83 tackles (55 solo). He added in three sacks after recording just a half sack in four previous campaigns, as well as his first forced fumble and recovery, a career high two interceptions and two passes defended.
7. Adrian Peterson, RB – Minnesota Vikings
Someone should take a flyer on Adrian Peterson and there are quite a few NFL teams in need of a running back with Peterson’s pedigree. The much-maligned runner is just one season removed from the 1,485-yard, 11 TD effort he put in during the 2015 season and in the right scheme could still be a valuable first or second option out of the backfield. That is why his name has popped up in all kinds of chatter about what uniform he might wear in 2017. The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots have had him in for visits, but one interesting destination that has been talked about his New Orleans. Yes, they have a great starter in Mark Ingram, but they didn’t re-signed excellent back-up Tim Hightower (signed by Niners) who rushed for 548 yards and four TDs (two less than 1,000 yard rusher Ingram) in a secondary role. All that remains to be seen is how much it’s going to cost a team like ‘Nawlins to sign Peterson.
6. Jason Jones, DE – Miami Dolphins
Though he was suspended for two games this past season for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse, NFL teams on the prowl for D-line help could do worse than signing Jones. The nine-year veteran is a pretty good second tier player who actually asked for his release from Miami at the conclusion of the 2016 season. He got in 14 games last year and recorded 36 tackles as well as 3.5 of his career 31.5 sacks. If anything, Jones has been very consistent in his years with Tennessee (which drafted him 54th overall out of Eastern Michigan in 2008), Seattle, Detroit and finally Miami. That is, in six of the seven seasons he played more than 10 games, he never had any less than 22 tackles or more than his career high 39 and no less than three sacks. Atlanta and San Francisco both have needs at DE and Jones is a viable option.
5. Anquan Boldin, WR – Detroit Lions
For a relatively old guy, Anquan Boldin still can show the young buck receivers in the NFL a thing or two. And the Detroit Lions would best re-sign him before teams like the Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans — who both need wideouts — come knocking with fistfuls of dollars in hand. The 14-year veteran says he is looking at signing a contract, quite possibly with the Lions to play in his 15th campaign, but will likely do that closer to training camp. The Baltimore Ravens, who he won a championship with, are also a rumored destination. Boldin played in all 16 games with the Lions in 2016, grabbing 67 passes for 548 yards and eight TDs, which were his most since hauling in 11 with Arizona in 2008. Lifetime, Boldin has caught 1,076 passes for 13,779 yards and 82 TDs in 202 games, with his receiving yards ranked 14th all-time.
4. Lardarius Webb, DB – Baltimore Ravens
According to several reports, Lardarius Webb is all but re-signed in Baltimore, where he has played every one of his eight seasons since being drafted 88th overall by the Ravens in 2008. Yet, the Ravens saw fit to cut him loose in March to save $5.5 million in cap space, which, until he puts pen to paper still makes him a target. It is likely he will re-sign at a reduced rate, according to those reports, but as of Friday afternoon he was still a free agent. Webb played in all 16 games for the third time in his career last year and put up solid numbers in the defensive backfield. The Opelika, Alabama native had 73 tackles (second most in his career), a sack, an interception and five pass defences. If the Ravens do re-sign him, he’ll likely back up free agent signee Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle.
3. Colin Kaepernick, QB – San Francisco 49ers
After the lousy season in San Francisco and all the craziness surrounding his national anthem antics, it’s time for Colin Kaepernick to move on and sign somewhere for the 2017 season. The place that seems the best fit is Houston, which found out earlier this week that Tony Romo will be in a broadcast booth and not behind their center, as many expected when he was released by the Cowboys. Now that Romo is off the board, the Texans would do well to sign Kaepernick, who put up admirable numbers on a team that didn’t give him the pieces to work with. In 12 games, he completed 196 of 331 passes for 2,241 yards and a 90.7 rating. Even better, he tossed 16 touchdown passes against just four interceptions. A dual threat, Kaepernick had his third best rushing season even though he missed four games, rumbling for 468 yards and two TDs on 69 carries (career high 6.8 yards per attempt). Kaepernick, understandably, opted out of his contract on March 3.
2. Erik Walden, LB – Indianapolis Colts
Hard to believe that a guy who posted 11 sacks — tied for eighth best in the NFL — is now a free agent. Wait, this is the NFL and it’s not that hard to believe the Indianapolis Colts cut LB Erik Walden, as he was making $4 million a season and will likely get at least that as an unrestricted free agent in 2017. Therefore, with a passel of teams looking for help at outside linebacker, including the Baltimore Ravens, Walden should be a hot commodity the longer he remains unsigned. Other teams in need include the Giants and Green Bay Packers, so there might be a bit of a bidding war. Walden enters his 11th season after posting that career high sack total in 2017, along with 42 tackles, three forced fumbles (also a career best) and two stuffs. Since being drafted out of Middle Tennessee State, Walden has 320 tackles and 32 sacks in 127 games.
1. LeGarrette Blount, RB – New England Patriots
We said these players were in no particular order, but if there is a “premier” free agent left on the market, it’s Blount. New England’s eight-year veteran running back ran for over 1,000 yards for just the second time in his career, dashing for 1,161 yards (career high) on 299 carries and a massive 18 TDs (also a career high and second most in the league). Blount rolled up another 109 yards and another TD on 35 carries in three playoff games for the champion Pats. It’s very hard to believe, in Blount’s case, that he is still without work this close to training camp starting. In the mix, then, could be the Green Bay Packers, who could use a power back like Blount, in that the Pack had many problems in short-yardage situations last year. Of course, he could still sign a one-year deal with the Evil Empire. Wait and see.