|Don Heupel / Associated Press|
|Terrell Owens' stay in Buffalo was relatively storm-less, but a tight free-agent market could leave him out in the cold.|
The draft is over and offseason workouts are under way, which means teams are beginning to get a handle on the 80 players they will bring to training camp in July.
They're also gaining a sense on where the holes still remain on the roster. And there's only one market, aside from a trade, left to tap.
As one former general manager told me this week, "Coaches have to have a good feel for the depth and holes they have in the roster at this point and make a decision about going back into the veteran free-agent market."
Surprisingly, there are still a good number of free agents on the street. And this late into the offseason, the price is coming down to acquire them.
Some veteran free agents still have their heels dug in about their dollar value, and if they are prepared to hold out until somebody suffers a major injury in camp, they will wait on the sidelines.
My experience has been that if your team is a playoff contender, you can make a free-agent deal now. Look for general managers, like Washington's Bruce Allen, to fortify their rosters with quality veterans. The Redskins are one of three teams to kick the tires on Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook, who, despite a recent string of serious injuries -- including two concussions last year -- is still a commodity that could help a team.
Here's a look at my top seven free agents and their possible landing spots.
1. OT Flozell Adams (Cowboys)
Adams, who turns 35 this week, hasn't missed a start at left tackle in four years. He's durable and could plug in for a number of teams. His leverage was damaged when the Cowboys traded for Alex Barron this week, and last month he took another hit when four tackles were taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Now is the time to call him if you're in need of a solid veteran blind-side protector.
Teams that could use him: Arizona, St. Louis, Kansas City and Indianapolis. Two of those teams are playoff contenders, and Adams might realize that it's about time to sign on the dotted line.
2. QB Marc Bulger (Rams)
The 33-year-old Bulger has thrown 122 touchdowns in 95 starts and owns an 84.4 career passer rating. There's no doubt he can upgrade a team right away and, at worst, be the best backup in the NFL.
Teams that could use him: Buffalo, Jacksonville, San Francisco and Pittsburgh. All four need to think long and hard about signing him this spring because he would immediately make all of them better. Two of those teams -- the 49ers and Steelers -- look like playoff contenders and Bulger would help get them over the top. In the case of the Steelers, he would be an upgrade over Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon and be a solid fill-in while Ben Roethlisberger serves his suspension.
3. C Kevin Mawae (Titans)
Mawae is a bit long in the tooth at 39 years old. The veteran center believes his union affiliation is why teams haven't been calling, and there may be some truth to that considering he's outspoken as the player president. Nonetheless, he has 238 career starts, has only missed three games in the last four years and was voted to the Pro Bowl last season.
Teams that could use him: Houston, Jacksonville and Philadelphia.
4. WR Terrell Owens (Bills)
The controversial 36-year-old wide receiver kept his mouth shut last year in Buffalo on a one-year contract. He will probably never see anything but another one-year deal if he can even find that in this market. Last year he hauled in 55 catches at 15.1 yards per catch on a team with quarterback issues. In the last four years he has only missed one game, which speaks to his conditioning. In those four years, he has caught 290 passes and 43 touchdowns. There's little chance he's a No. 1 receiver anymore and the rumors are he still wants a big payday, which isn't going to happen. If he wants to continue playing in the NFL and beef up his career numbers of 1,006 receptions and 14,951 yards, he needs to take a modest deal.
Teams that could use him: Chicago and Oakland. These could be landing spots if he understands the market, otherwise he waits for a major injury to a wide receiver on a playoff contender.
5. OLB Adalius Thomas (Patriots)
Thomas, 33, is best suited for a 3-4 defense. The problem is that he has diminished production over the past three years and was released by the Patriots after the draft. He has 14.5 sacks in the last three seasons and just 53 sacks in his 135-game career. Thomas has missed nine games in the last two seasons, which doesn't help his cause. There are a number of teams that still need outside linebacker help, and he will find work if the price is right.
Teams that could use him: The New York Jets, Denver, Green Bay, Miami and Houston. All of these teams should take a close look. Thomas thrived under the tutelage of Jets coach Rex Ryan when Ryan was the defensive coordinator in Baltimore. While Thomas would be a good fit for the Jets, the team has been lukewarm about signing him. "I think with him we'll end up first in the league in defense," Ryan was quoted as saying, "and without him we'll end up first in the league in defense."
6. RB Brian Westbrook (Eagles)
Westbrook, who turns 31 in September, has a history of concussions and has never played all 16 games in any of his eight NFL seasons. On the other hand, he has scored 39 touchdowns in his last 49 games, averaging 119 yards in those contests. He is at the same point Warrick Dunn was when he retired from the Falcons.
Teams that could use him: Washington, St. Louis and Green Bay. If the Redskins signed him, he would be thrown in a running back pool that already includes Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker.
7. OLB Clint Ingram (Jaguars)
Jacksonville withdrew its RFA tender to Ingram, 27, and released him in late April. Last year, he averaged four tackles a game -- not exactly great production -- but he has lined up as a starter and he has youth on his side. Look at the Miami, Houston and San Francisco games from last season, when he had six tackles in each game, and ask yourself if he doesn't add quality depth to a roster and a chance to compete as a starter in the right situation.
Teams that could use him: New Orleans, New York Giants, and Tennessee.