UPDATED 12:01 p.m. EST on Sunday, August 11.
Here is our rundown on the best players still available at each position. We will update the team as events warrant, and the list is subject to change at any time. Players are evaluated on numerous criteria, including age and injury history.
Quarterback: Matt Leinart.
We considered Byron Leftwich, Tyler Thigpen, Trent Edwards and Caleb Hanie, but in the end, we went with the 30-year-old Leinart, who was with Oakland last season. That said, there’s a fall-off from Vince Young to this group, including Leinart, and there really is not much separating this quintet. All could be viable starters for a game or two, but all have their drawbacks. With Leinart, accuracy is a primary concern. He’s also had some injuries. (Durability and mobility are factors when considering the 33-year-old Leftwich, a strong-armed, capable reserve who’s struggled to stay on the field in recent years — a problem for a top backup candidate.)
The positives for Leinart? He has experience in a variety of offensive systems and has 18 career starts to his credit. Moreover, he’s young enough to be a club’s backup for the next several seasons.
For Leinart and the other passers on this list, it now comes down to whether the call comes from a club unhappy with its reserve quarterbacks.
Running back: Willis McGahee.
A proven featured back, the 31-year-old McGahee rushed 1,930 yards in two seasons with Denver. What’s more, he racked up 4.6 yards per carry. The Broncos’ youth approach at running back makes sense, but McGahee can still help another club in 2013.
Fullback: Lawrence Vickers.
The former Cowboys, Browns lead blocker recently got a look from the Giants.
There’s been scant little buzz about Lloyd, who caught 74 passes for 911 yards and four touchdowns for New England in 2012. That said, he’s 32, and he’s played for six NFL teams already, so those factors probably work to limit his market. However, he’s far-and-away the best receiver available. Robinson has received some looks recently, but he suffered multiple concussions in 2012.
Tight end: Dallas Clark.
The best receiving option at his position still left on the market, but he’s 34.
One evaluator who saw Justice play in 2012 recently told PFT he liked what he saw from the former Colts right tackle. Gaither may well be the most talented tackle left, but the next NFL team he plays with will be his fourth in a relatively young career. Gaither can play both tackle spots, as can Locklear. Justice is best kept on the right side.
The 32-year-old Wharton missed 2012 with an ACL tear. He’s made 99 career starts. Carlisle has played more than 1,000 snaps in each of the last four seasons, according to Pro Football Focus data. However, he will be 36 at the start of the season.
Center: Geoff Hangartner.
The ex-Panther can play center and guard and has plenty of experience (83 regular-season starts). Moreover, the 31-year-old lineman is good in the locker room, too.
There are some effective role players available at this position. Parker, 35, has recorded at least six sacks in three out of the last four seasons. The 30-year-old Anderson has two double-digit sack seasons to his credit. Vanden Bosch, 34, is widely respected for his approach to the game.
Seymour has been linked to Atlanta in various free agency reports. He would make a lot of sense for a Falcons defense that needs to bolster its pass rush. He’s the top 4-3 tackle left. Meanwhile, 3-4 defenses looking for a short-term solution at nose guard might turn to Hampton, the long-time Pittsburgh run-stuffing stalwart.
Both are capable 4-3 outside linebackers if healthy, but Howard suffered an ACL tear in September 2012, while Gocong tore his Achilles last August. On another note, the candidate pool of 3-4 OLBs is quite shallow; were O’Brien Schofield to have made it through waivers, he would have been far-and-away the top option. Instead, the ex-Cardinal joins a strong Seattle defense.
James, 32, notched 77 tackles in 15 games for Houston a season ago. He would figure to be best in a 3-4 defense. The same can be said for Scott, whom the Jets let go in February. Scott has missed just one game in the last eight seasons.
Wright, 28, has made 81 NFL starts, but his consistency has been an issue, and he’s been through some off-field controversy, too. Clements got snaps at safety and cornerback for Cincinnati in 2012; the ability to back up both positions enhances his value. Brown is a tough, accomplished cornerback who could also be tried at safety should he land elsewhere. He started 14 games for Cleveland in 2012, grading out 21st among all cornerbacks, per Pro Football Focus.
Mikell played both free and strong safety for St. Louis in 2012 and notched a career-high 101 tackles. However, he will be 33 in September. Rhodes, 30, intercepted four passes a season ago.
Placekicker: Neil Rackers.
Rackers has hit 80 percent of his field goals in a long NFL career, but he didn’t attempt a regular-season kick in 2012, and kickoffs are not his strength.
Punter: Mat McBriar.
The former Pro Bowler has good leg strength, but his net average has dipped in recent seasons.
Return specialist: Stefan Logan.
Logan can return kicks and punts and can potentially serve as a backup running back and wide receiver. However, he’s 32, and he fumbled six times last season.