Below is PFT’s list of the best unsigned veteran players at each position. Each player’s age as of September 1, 2015 is in parentheses.
Only unrestricted free agents — players with expired contracts and street free agents — were considered in our rankings. Restricted free agents and unsigned franchise free agents were excluded.
Players unsigned at this stage of the offseason are as such for a variety of reasons, including age, durability/injury concerns and position value. The majority of free agents left, should they sign, would figure to be role players.
Our list will be updated as events warrant during the offseason. Players added in our latest update are italicized.
Quarterback: Michael Vick (35), Jason Campbell (33), Tarvaris Jackson (32), Matt Flynn (30).
All four passers listed could be decent-enough backups, and it would be surprising if at least one or two didn’t find jobs by September.
Running back: Pierre Thomas (30), Steven Jackson (32), Chris Johnson (29), Ahmad Bradshaw (29).
Thomas catches the ball well. Jackson could handle 6-to-8 carries in a rotation. Bradshaw’s injury history is his drawback. Johnson was wounded in the shoulder in March and has an offseason arrest to sort out.
Fullback: Jed Collins (29), Chris Ogbonnaya (29).
Collins has made 28 starts over the last four seasons in stints with New Orleans and Detroit. Ogbonnaya can also play tailback.
Wide receiver: James Jones (31), Jerrel Jernigan (26), Mike Williams (28), Brad Smith (31), Wes Welker (34).
Jones (73 catches, 666 yards, six TDs in 2014) is far-and-away the best receiver on the market. Jernigan missed most of 2014 with a foot injury, but he flashed potential at the end of the previous season, and his age works in his favor. Williams’ age also gets him a spot here, but his Buffalo form was regrettable. Smith can contribute on special teams and gadget plays. Welker caught 49 passes in 14 games a season ago and might be a one-season slot-receiver solution for a contender.
Tight end: Jermaine Gresham (27), Zach Miller (29), Phillip Supernaw (25).
Gresham had surgery on a herniated disc in March. When healthy, he’s a serviceable starter. Miller has had some ankle issues. Supernaw has had stints with Houston, Baltimore and Kansas City.
Offensive tackle: Anthony Collins (29), Jake Long (30), Gabe Carimi (27).
Collins can play left tackle, which helps his value, but he’s been a third tackle most of his career, and he disappointed in his lone season with Tampa Bay. Long comes with considerable durability concerns. He visited the Giants on May 28, per ESPN. Carimi has played tackle and guard in the pros.
Offensive guard: Justin Blalock (31), Rob Sims (31), Chris Chester (32), Davin Joseph (31).
Every guard on this list started double-digit games a season ago, so teams have some options.
Center: Chris Myers (33), Samson Satele (30), Lyle Sendelin (31), Scott Wells (34).
Myers, Satele, Sendelin and Wells have ample experience, adding to the glut of serviceable unsigned players at the position.
Defensive end: DaQuan Bowers (25), Red Bryant (31), Osi Umenyiora (33), Luther Robinson (24).
There is not much left in the edge-rushing department, with Umenyiora one of the few notable options. Bowers, Bryant and Robinson offer some positional flexibility; all could kick inside if needed. Bowers has a history of knee issues.
Defensive tackle: C.J. Mosley (32), Kevin Williams (35), Mike Patterson (32), Barry Cofield (31).
Teams in need of veteran depth inside still have a few choices, with Patterson and Mosley among the most appealing candidates. Cofield had offseason hip surgery, per ESPN.
Inside linebacker: Terrell Manning (25), Colin McCarthy (27), D.J. Williams (33), Lance Briggs (34).
The post-draft signings of Brandon Spikes (New England) and Darryl Sharpton (Arizona) further thinned the market at this position. Briggs had a wonderful career at outside linebacker in Chicago; San Francisco, which needs inside linebackers, has reportedly expressed some interest. Williams, like Briggs, was a Chicago starter in 2014.
Outside linebacker: Ashlee Palmer (29), Quentin Groves (31), Dwight Freeney (35) Jacquian Williams (27).
Palmer and Williams are fits in 4-3 schemes, while Groves and Freeney could appeal to 3-4 clubs looking to add to their depth along the edges.
Cornerback: Jarrett Bush (31), Tarell Brown (30), Javier Arenas (27), Carlos Rogers (34).
Bush is a special teams standout. Brown was a starter with San Francisco and Oakland; a foot injury ended his 2014 season. Arenas adds special teams value. Rogers appeared in just seven games a season ago but has significant NFL experience.
Safety: Thomas DeCoud (30), Danieal Manning (33), M.D. Jennings (27).
DeCoud is a couple of years removed from top form. Manning can provide depth and contribute on special teams. Jennings started 26 games from 2012 through 2013 for Green Bay.
Kicker: Jay Feely (37).
Feely could be a solid short-term fill-in. He lacks leg strength, particularly on kickoffs.
Punter: Mat McBriar (36).
McBriar’s net average has really fallen off the last four seasons. However, special teams coaches love experienced punters, and he knows what to do.
Returner: Javier Arenas (27).
Has averaged 21.1 yards on 73 kickoffs and 9.8 yards on 106 punts. He can also contribute at cornerback.