Organized Team Activites are finally underway as the NFL offseason is in full swing. With the draft completed and most big-name free agents signed, teams have a good idea what their rosters will look like heading into the 2017 season.
That being said, however, there are a lot of players out there waiting for a phone call to join a team in camp. Many of these names would make an impact immediately, while others would be transitional role players or add depth and veteran leadership.
Either way, I expect many of these free agents to get a call come training camp, especially when unfortunate injuries begin to mount.
So where will they end up? Let’s take a look at the top free agents left and some possible landing spots that make a lot of sense.
Ryan Clady – Tackle
Clady is probably the biggest name out there that no one is talking about. Still relatively young (31), Clady is a Pro Bowl Tackle when healthy. Unfortunately, that is the problem. He can’t stay healthy. After starting every game the first five years of his career, and garnering three Pro Bowl selections and two All-Pro honors, Clady played in only two games in 2013, missed all of 2015, and started only eight games last season with the Jets. He met with Seattle early in free agency but we haven’t heard much more than that. Clady signing with the Seahawks makes the most sense and I imagine it happening before training camp begins to add depth to the roster.
Elvis Dumervil – LB/DE
Here is another name that I am surprised is still available, but will not be once the season starts. Dumervil may not be the premium edge rusher that he once was, but he can still be a third down specialist for a team that needs depth. Negotiations may have stalled but if both sides can agree on a number, I can envision Elvis staying in Baltimore. He has been an important part of that defense and a veteran that they should aim to keep around.
However, if he sets his sights for greener pastures, Green Bay makes a lot of sense to me. He would add more depth and be a nice compliment to Clay Matthews. The Packers rarely pull the trigger in free agency but this would be a smart move for the defense.
Colin Kaepernick – QB
Recent reports are that Kaepernick has met with the Seattle Seahawks to become Russell Wilson‘s backup. If Kaep gets signed anywhere, this makes the absolute most sense. Head Coach Pete Carroll loves bold and brash players, and Colin would fit right into the locker room dynamic. His playing style also closely mirrors that of Wilson. He could learn the offense, and if he ever had to step in, the Seahawks would not have to alter the playbook at all. With Trevone Boykin‘s lack of experience and recent off-the-field issues, Kaepernick makes sense to supplant him has the backup.
Anquan Boldin – WR
There is no denying that Anquan Boldin isn’t getting any younger (36). Maybe he has lost a step, but that doesn’t supplant the fact that his veteran experience would be a huge asset for many teams. Last season with the Detroit Lions he compiled 67 receptions for 584 yards and eight touchdowns. I have heard his name linked with the Carolina Panthers, but to me, a return to the NFC West makes the most sense.
A veteran receiver is something that is extremely valuable for a young quarterback. Second-year Rams quarterback Jared Goff should reach out to Boldin personally. His nose for the end zone would be a huge addition to an offensive skill group that lacks size and veterans prowess.
Nick Mangold – Center
Nick Mangold has been a staple in the Jets offensive line for many years, being selected to seven Pro Bowls over his career, his most recent coming in 2015. His 2016 season was cut short due to injury as he only played in eight games. Mangold is now 33 years old, and coming off an injury, the Jets did not find enough value to resign him as they enter a full rebuild. Teams like the Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and Los Angeles Rams all need help protecting their quarterbacks, and Mangold would be a veteran asset to accomplish this goal. If he has a healthy campaign in 2017, one of these teams will be delighted that they gave him a shot.
Gary Barnidge – TE
Do you remember Gary Barnidge’s monster year in 2015? If you don’t here is a reminder: 79 receptions, 1,043 yards, and nine touchdowns. He was no slouch last season either hauling in 55 receptions for 612 yards and two touchdowns. Cleveland drafted David Njoku this year in the first round so they decided to move on from Barnidge, but as the saying goes (one man’s trash is another man’s treasure), and this veteran tight end could prove extremely valuable for another team.
One team that has a need at the tight end position is the New York Jets. Barnidge makes sense for a team that has been lacking a solid TE for years, except for the fact that he is 31 and the Jets seem to be in rebuild mode. Wouldn’t shock me if he signs with New York, but I’m sure he prefers other destinations.
Another team that makes sense to me is the Denver Broncos. Denver drafted Jake Butt in the fifth round of the NFL Draft to be the future at the tight end position, but there are still some question marks regarding his health to start the season. Barnidge would be a great one-year filler to aid a young quarterback room.
Alterraun Verner – CB
Verner has only missed two games in his seven-year career which makes him a valuable asset to any teams depth chart. He is a very talented player that had his best years early in his career but is still in his prime at 28 years of age. He has been linked to the Jaguars who have expressed interest in signing him before training camp. The Jags have A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, but Verner would add depth and Jacksonville seems to have a never-ending cap space.
The team that makes the most sense to me is the Houston Texans or Dallas Cowboys. Both lost starting corners to free agency and could use a veteran with some talent. Verner may not be a top corner in this league, but he has the talent to start if he finds himself in the right system.