The following is a list of the best available veteran players at each position as of late July. Rotoworld’s free agent list and NFLPA records were used in compiling the list of candidates.
A club’s scheme, positional depth and salary cap situation are all factors that must be weighed when considering whether a team would consider any free agent listed below. Similarly, a player’s skill, age, cost, health, injury history are also data to be considered, as are off-field concerns.
The squad will be updated as warranted as the season approaches:
If the 31-year-old Orton still wants to play, he’s the best backup passer available, perhaps the only legitimate plug-and-play short-term starter in free agency. Freeman’s offseason stint with the Giants lasted about a month and a half; the question now is whether he can land another job before the start of the season. He’s only 26 years old, but that’s almost said now with a shrug. Grossman (34 in August) started 13 games in 2011 but hasn’t seen regular season action since.
Still only 27, Jones could be a viable third or fourth option in a backfield. Brown ranked 16th in blocking among all NFL backs in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus. Bush (6-1, 245) is an inside runner who takes care of the ball (five career fumbles in 913 regular season touches), but he’s gained less than four yards per carry in each of the last three seasons.
Fullback: Vonta Leach.
Could be a fit for a team looking strictly for a blocking back. Turns 33 in November.
Holmes has shown playmaking ability throughout his career, gaining 15.7 yards per catch in an eight-season run. However, he has played only 15 combined games in the last two campaigns. The 27-year-old Bennett has been released by Chicago and Cleveland this offseason. At his best, he’s been a solid possession receiver. The 28-year-old Collie has 179 career receptions. Cribbs brings value on special teams.
Finley’s NFL future is tied to whether he gains medical clearance after an October 2013 neck injury. Given his talent and relatively young age (27), he’s one of the best free agents available if healthy. Hartsock’s value stems from his blocking; he was the NFL’s best run-blocker at tight end in 2013, per PFF. Keller missed the 2013 regular season after suffering multiple knee injuries in a preseason game. When healthy, he’s a solid pass-catching option. He turns 30 in September.
McKinnie (35 in September) is a short-term bridge option at left tackle. The 31-year-old Trueblood (10 starts for Atlanta in 2013) and the 33-year-old Pashos (12 starts for Oakland a season ago) are similar options at right tackle.
Smith, 33, was a four-season starter at guard for Houston (2010-2013). He can also play center. The 31-year-old Brisiel is another former Texan who started 15 games in each of the last two seasons for Oakland. Harris, 30, can also play center.
Center: Kyle Cook, Samson Satele.
Cook (6-3, 310) started 66 games for the Bengals from 2009 through 2013. He was limited to four games in 2012 after ankle surgery. Satele, 29, has been a starter in each of his previous seven NFL seasons, but the Colts parted ways with him in March.
Hunter and Te’o-Nesheim could appeal to 4-3 clubs, while the 35-year-old Keisel is the best of the 3-4 ends on the market.
Sopoaga and Franklin are fits at nose guard in 3-4 schemes. The 28-year-old Martin has 27 career starts and can also play end in a “30” front.
Bishop recorded more than 100 tackles playing inside in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme in 2010 and 2011. Connor (29 in November) has made 27 regular season starts. The 27-year-old Wilson started a pair of games at inside linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 front a season ago.
The Chargers’ first-round pick in 2009, the 28-year-old English has recorded 11 total sacks in five seasons. He could appeal to clubs looking for a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 end. So could the 24-year-old Jenkins, a fifth-round pick of Washington in 2013. Nicholas (ex-Atlanta) and Burnett (ex-Oakland) are fits in 4-3 schemes. Both are 31 years old. Burnett comes off wrist surgery.
Samuel, 33, has 51 career picks, but he’s entering his 12th NFL season. The 32-year-old Robinson would add experience and physicality to a secondary. Webster (20 career interceptions) is a 10th-year pro. Moore, 27, could help in “sub” packages.
Gregory, 31, has started at least 11 games in each of the last three seasons. Leonhard, 31, has been a starter on some very good defenses throughout his career and can catch punts.
Returner: Josh Cribbs.
A long-time special teams ace who can return kickoffs and punts and cover kicks, Cribbs can also be utilized at receiver and in “Wildcat” packages.
Kicker: Rob Bironas.
Has connected on 85.7 percent of his field goals (239-of-279) in his NFL career. May not have the same punch on kickoffs he had earlier in his career — forced just 32 touchbacks out of 80 attempts last season.
Punter: Mat McBriar.
Posted a 41.3-yard gross average (35.0-yard net) a season ago in nine games with Pittsburgh.