The following is a list of the best available veteran players at each position as of mid-May. 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 and injury history are also data to be considered.
Players said to be contemplating retirement, including David Stewart and Travelle Wharton, have not been included on our list.
The team will be updated throughout the rest of the spring and into the summer. In fact, it’s possible the beginning of training camps in July could spark interest in some of the players below.
Quarterback: Josh Freeman, Brady Quinn, Vince Young.
Freeman’s 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. Quinn and Young have bounced around in recent years, and whether both could be top backups again is somewhat in doubt, but their NFL experience gives them a chance to be capable third quarterbacks.
Running back: Felix Jones, Ronnie Brown, Michael Bush.
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.
He could be a fit for a team looking strictly for a blocking back.
Wide receivers: Santonio Holmes, Earl Bennett, Jeremy Ebert, Austin Collie, Josh Cribbs.
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. Ebert, 25, played five regular season games with the Jaguars in 2013. The 28-year-old Collie has 179 career receptions. Cribbs brings value in the kicking game.
Tight end: Jermichael Finley, Ben Hartsock, Dustin Keller.
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.
Offensive tackle: Bryant McKinnie, Tyson Clabo, Eric Winston.
McKinnie is an experienced, short-term bridge option at left tackle. He will be 35 in September. Winston (119 starts) and Clabo (116 starts) are similar options at right tackle.
Offensive guard: Wade Smith, Mike Brisiel, Garrett Reynolds.
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. Reynolds (27 in July) was a 10-game starter for Atlanta in 2013.
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. He will be 31 in July. Satele, 29, has been a starter in each of his previous seven NFL seasons, but the Colts parted ways with him in March.
Defensive end: Jason Hunter, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Brett Keisel.
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.
Defensive tackle: Isaac Sopoaga, Aubrayo Franklin, Vaughn Martin.
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.
Inside linebacker: Pat Angerer, Desmond Bishop, Dan Connor.
The 27-year-old Angerer could play either in the middle or on the weak side in a 4-3. Health and durability are the concerns with the Iowa product. 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.
Outside linebacker: Quentin Groves, Stephen Nicholas, Edgar Jones.
Groves (6-3, 265) is a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end who can also contribute on special teams. He turns 30 in July. Jones also has experience in a “30” front and is an experienced special teams player. Nicholas (50 starts) is a 4-3 outside linebacker.
Cornerback: Terrell Thomas, Asante Samuel, Dunta Robinson, Corey Webster.
The 29-year-old Thomas made a stirring comeback for the Giants in 2013 after missing two seasons with knee injuries. 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.
Safety: Jim Leonhard, Steve Gregory, Will Hill.
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. The 24-year-old Hill has proven playmaking ability, but he’s suspended for the first six games of the 2014 season.
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.