June is the NFL’s dead period. The draft is in the rear view mirror and training camps don’t begin for another few weeks. However there are still many players who have yet to find a home for the upcoming season who have potential to be key contributors on teams with Super Bowl aspirations. The following is a list of ten current NFL free agents who have the ability to play important roles in the upcoming season and the teams in which their services could be of most use.
1. DeMarco Murray – RB
Best Fit: Detroit Lions
DeMarco Murray may be on the wrong side of 30, however he still has a lot to contribute. The Titans made the right decision to move on from Murray as they have a young, talented, and hungry back in Derek Henry who is ready to take on a role as an every down back. Despite being released by the Titans, Murray still has the capabilities to be a productive back in this league. He was a Pro-Bowler as recently as 2016 and he has eclipsed the 1,000 yard rushing mark 3 times in his 7 year career. Murray’s best fit right now is with the Detroit Lions. The Lions are in a weird state right now as they have talent and a franchise QB in Matthew Stafford but they have yet to take the next step. Taking that step will be even harder next year in a division with a returning Aaron Rodgers, a Vikings team coming off a 13-3 season that found an improvement at QB, and a Chicago Bears team that is heading in the right direction. Murray can join Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, and LeGarrette Blount to help take some pressure off Stafford. Murray can be the 1st and 2nd down back the Lions desperately crave as Abdullah has failed in that role, Riddick is nothing more than a 3rd down back and Blount’s only use in this stage of his career is in the goal line.
2. Dez Bryant- WR
Best Fit: San Fransisco 49ers
Dez Bryant remaining unsigned is a mystery to me. He might not be the player he once was but he still can be a key contributor on a playoff team. The 49ers aren’t the perfect fit but they check most of the boxes. Baltimore seemed like an ideal fit for Bryant as Baltimore had a need for a playmaking WR and they are a playoff contender but Bryant rejected their contract offer earlier this offseason. Buffalo is another team with a need at WR but they are re-starting at the quarterback position and don’t seem to be ready to contend just yet despite last year’s post season appearance. Seattle also seemed like a good fit but they recently signed veteran WR Brandon Marshall essentially removing them from the list of Dez’s suitors. The 49ers are one of the few teams left that have a need at WR and are a team on the rise with postseason expectations. Dez can make Jimmy G’s life much easier next season and he is a significant upgrade over the 49ers current cast of wide outs including Pierre Garcon, Trent Taylor, and Marquise Goodwin.
3. Eric Reid- SS
Best Fit: Green Bay Packers
Despite all of the controversy, Eric Reid is a talented and starting-caliber safety. He is a former Pro-Bowler and is coming off another stellar season with the 49ers. His best fit is with the Green Bay Packers. They have a glaring hole at Strong Safety after Morgan Burnett signed with the Steelers and Reid fits nicely into new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s system. Eric Reid also would be a perfect complement to free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
4. Johnathan Hankins- DT
Best Fit: Cleveland Browns
Johnathan Hankins is a talented interior defensive lineman who would fill a huge need for the Browns. New General Manager John Dorsey has done an excellent job this offseason fixing holes on a weak Browns roster. Some of his best moves include adding Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield at the quarterback position and drafting CB Denzel Ward 4th overall. The defensive line in Cleveland looks pretty good with former first overall pick Miles Garrett and Emanuel Ogbah however in one of the more surprising moves of the offseason Dorsey sent former first round pick Danny Shelton to the Patriots leaving a gaping hole in the middle of Cleveland’s defensive line. Signing Hankins will fix this hole as he is talented run stuffer and has plenty to offer in Cleveland.
5. Antonio Gates- TE
Best Fit: Los Angeles Chargers
The former college basketball player has been a member of the Chargers since 2003. He is an 8 time Pro-Bowler and a 5 time All-Pro Selection, 3 of which were first team selections. Gates has done it all with the Chargers however the Chargers decided earlier this offseason that they would not be bringing Antonio Gates back. This made sense as the Chargers wanted to transition to former second round pick Hunter Henry becoming their Tight End of the future. unfortunately, Henry tore his ACL during a non-contact drill a few weeks back and now the Chargers have a gaping hole at TE. Gates wants to keep playing and the Chargers have a need for him. A reunion here makes a whole lot of sense.
6. Jeremy Maclin- WR
Best Fit: Tennessee Titans
Jeremy Maclin has struggled these last 2 seasons, to say the least. He was a surprise cut by the Chiefs following the 2016 season and he never clicked last year with the Ravens. He caught 40 balls for 440 yards which are pedestrian numbers at best. Maclin may never return to his Pro-Bowl form but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t provide value for a team. The Titans have a weak WR core at the moment headlined by Corey Davis, a top 5 pick coming off a disappointing rookie season, and veteran Rishard Matthews. Maclin can be a helpful vetran presence for Davis and provide some help for Marcus Mariota in his 4th season. Expectations for the Titans and Mariota are high after last year’s playoff berth and Maclin has the potential to be a signing now that can be playing dividends come January.
7. Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie (DRC)- DB
Best Fit: Washington Redskins
DRC, like most of the 2017 New York Giants roster, is coming off a tumultous and disappointing season. DRC, a two-time Pro-Bowler, fought with former head coach Ben McAdoo and was suspended indefinately by the team. He was released following the season and is still looking for a home for 2018. The best spot for him might be a division rival. The Washington Redskins lost 2 CBs this offseason, Kendall Fuller in the Alex Smith trade, and Bashaud Breeland (More on Him Later), and their response was to sign former Cowboy and Jet Orlando Scandrick. DRC is an improvement over Scandrick and signing DRC will allow Washington to move Scandrick into the slot, a place where he has played better throughout his career. Moving Scandrick to the slot and having Norman and DRC on the outsides is better than any option the Redskins currently have on thier roster at the moment.
8. Bashaud Breeland- CB
Best Fit: Kansas City Chiefs
Bashaud Breeland has had an interesting offseason, to say the least. He is a talented young CB who had agreed to a deal with the Carolina Panthers. That deal was void however due to Breeland not passing his physical due to an infected cut on his foot. Breeland is a quality #2 CB and he could be an ideal fit on plenty of teams. However for this list, the Panthers are not eligible as a fit as that situation failed. The Redskins, his former team, seem like a good fit for the reasons listed for DRC, but there seems to be little interest in a reunion. The Chiefs remain the best option. In Kansas City Breeland can reunite with former teammate Kendall Fuller. This partnership is beneficial as it would allow the Chiefs to move Fuller to the slot, a position he mastered last season in Washington. Breeland also gives a weak Kansas City defense much-needed help in the secondary.
9. Brian Cushing- LB
Best Fit: Philadelphia Eagles
Brian Cushing, a former Defensive Rookie of the Year, once looked like a future star in this league. However like many before him, injuries derailed what could have been a great career. Despite that Cushing is still talented and full of heart and he would be a great addition to any team in the NFL. One that stands out is the reigning Super Bowl Champions. The Eagles LB Depth is lacking after Mychael Kendricks was released and Paul Worrilow tore his ACL. Besides Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham, the Eagles have little to no experience at the Linebacker position and bringing aboard a veteran leader like Cushing could be a great idea. He won’t be an every-down player, but he can still play at a high level and help contribute on Phili’s quest to win back to back Super Bowls.
10. Adrian Peterson- RB
Best Fit: Seattle Seahawks
At one point in time, Adrian Peterson was considered the greatest running back of all time. Now he can’t find work. Father Time really is undefeated, well, except against Tom Brady. Adrian “All Day” Peterson was overshadowed by Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara in New Orleans before being traded to Arizona. In Arizona “AD” struggled and was eventually put on injury reserve due to neck issues. Despite last season, Peterson still wants to play in 2018, but teams around the league have shown little interest. Peterson had a workout with the Saints, but that didn’t amount to anything. At this point, the only good fit for Peterson is with the Seahawks. The Seahawks desperately need a running game to help alleviate some of the pressure of off do it all QB Russell Wilson. The Seahawks have a crowded RB room however many of these players are unknown young commodities. Pederson can come in and serve as a mentor for the young RBs. The Seahawks will be using a running back by committee next year with the likes of CJ Prosise, JD McKissic, Mike Davis, Rashaad Penny, and Chris Carson. Peterson can potentially be a valuable signing and add experience into this crowded but relatively unknown backfield.