2012 NFL free agency started out exceptionally strong at wide receiver and cornerback. We’re only seven days into the signing period, and those positions have been decapitated by first-week signings, many of the big-money variety.
The PFT Hot 100 is a good tool for tracking top free agent deals. We’re going to take a more in-depth look here at ten intriguing players that remain unsigned as of Tuesday evening.
1. Quarterback Josh Johnson — Johnson is still developing after four seasons, but he can power the football downfield with a deceptively strong arm and is a dynamic athlete with blazing straight-line speed. Even if the Niners re-sign Alex Smith, Johnson would make sense as competition for projected No. 2 quarterback Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco.
2. Tight end Jacob Tamme — Tamme has been largely underutilized as Dallas Clark’s backup in Indianapolis, but he is a weapon in the passing game. When Clark went down with an arm injury in 2010, Tamme piled up 67 catches for 631 yards and four touchdowns, and the Colts’ offense didn’t miss a beat. Don’t be surprised if Peyton Manning lobbies harder for Tamme than Clark in Denver. Tamme also has 20 special teams tackles over the past three seasons.
3. Linebacker Manny Lawson — The 22nd pick in the 2006 draft, Lawson has disappointed as an NFL pass rusher with 16 sacks through six seasons. Lawson is a freak athlete at 6-foot-5, 240 with low-4.4 speed and a 40-inch vertical, however, and he’s wicked smart (43 Wonderlic score). Lawson can set the edge against the run and has always been effective in coverage. With experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, Lawson should be generating more interest than he has so far.
4. Receiver Early Doucet — A tough tackle in the slot, Doucet set career highs in catches (54), yards (689), and touchdowns (five) last season amid consistently poor quarterback play in Arizona. The 26-year-old isn’t going to stretch defenses vertically, but Doucet is a serviceable third wideout with plus run-after-catch skills.
5. Defensive tackle Derek Landri — Landri is an undersized gap shooter at 6-foot-2, 290, but he’s been incredibly productive whenever given extended playing-time opportunities. While Landri lacks “scheme versatility” in that he appeals only to 4-3 teams, he can get after the passer from the interior and plays with a relentless motor.
6. Defensive end Dave Tollefson — Like Landri, Tollefson is a situational player but tends to capitalize when he sees action. Tollefson racked up five sacks in 2011 despite playing fourth fiddle behind Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora. NFL teams won’t view Tollefson as a starter, but he’s a workmanlike lineman with special teams value.
7. Offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz — Schwartz has visited the Vikings and 49ers so far in free agency. While a hip injury knocked him out for all of the 2011 season, Schwartz was a 16-game starter for Carolina in 2010. He can play right guard and right tackle, and has experience in both zone-blocking and power-running schemes.
8. Running back Justin Forsett — Forsett is a pint-sized scatback at 5-foot-9, 198, but he excels in the passing game and has averaged 4.63 yards per career carry. The Raiders make sense as a landing spot if Forsett’s price tag is reasonable. New Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Knapp ran the Seahawks’ offense during Forsett’s career-best 2009 season.
9. Safety Reggie Smith — Smith was ticketed for San Francisco’s starting free safety job last year before Dashon Goldson surprisingly returned on a one-year deal two weeks into training camp. Smith played cornerback in college and offers plus size at 6-foot-1, 200. He can also effectively cover kickoffs and punts.
10. Fullback Tony Fiammetta — The Cowboys didn’t tender Fiammetta in restricted free agency, moving forward with Lawrence Vickers instead. DeMarco Murray was noticeably more productive when Fiammetta was healthy during the 2011 season, however. The 25-year-old is also a willing special teamer.