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Russell among veteran free agents who merit attention at this point

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The NFL's big-money period of free agency has long since passed us, but with the dog days of May here and training camp still several months away, I figured this was as good a time as any to take a look at some of the more prominent players still on the market.

Some of them might not get a deal done until just before the start of training camp -- if not during it. But of this group, all are likely to be back in the league in some capacity.

Here is where I think it makes the most sense for them to ultimately sign, based on various factors. Perhaps some of this will come to fruition, and if not, well, it makes for good spring conversation.

JaMarcus Russell -- Several teams have made initial inquiries, according to sources, and Russell is doing the right thing by focusing on himself, getting into shape and taking his time with his decision. This might be his last/best chance to make a career in this league. Hmm, tell me that doesn't sound like the quintessential Bengals move?

Cincinnati is exploring the option, and though things are not very far along, the Bengals have only J.T. O'Sullivan and Jordan Palmer behind Carson Palmer. For a reigning division champ with high hopes, that's scary, especially given Carson Palmer's maladies in recent years and troubles last season with accuracy/arm strength late in the season.

Having said all that, Russell might not be much of a backup at this point, either. He has everything to prove and has shown precious little thus far in his NFL career. Still, owner Mike Brown is a huge believer in second chances, and this would fit the description for that big time. Plus, Russell would likely come pretty cheap, too, having already pocketed $39 million from the Raiders.

Terrell Owens -- Owens is the guy I get asked about more than anyone else. Obviously, he's been one of the dominant figures in the NFL for quite some time, both for his ability on the field and antics off of it. The reality is he's not the same explosive receiver he was in the past, and, as the market has shown this offseason, he wasn't considered a priority to sign by any means.

Owens can still make plays, but could he ever handle not being a starter? And, if he is more of a depth receiver, gives you nothing on special teams, demands decent money (at least in the $5 million per season range), and doesn't have upside, then does it make more sense just to go with youth? Some team will ultimately answer no to that question. It just may take an injury to open up a potential starting spot for it to come together.

If I'm Jacksonville, I take a shot here. No, he does not fit the character mold of general manager Gene Smith, but they badly need playmakers in a tough division. Given the issues selling tickets and some questioning the future of the franchise, signing a showman who can add some spark and add some verve to the organization isn't such a bad thing.

The Bills tried it last year to the tune of $6.5 million, but T.O. might sign for half that this year. Plus, the Jags have the run game going already, which should open things up for him some. The Raiders, always a wildcard when it comes to personnel, might make some sense as well. A return to the Bay Area might cause a headline or two.

Brian Westbrook -- Westbrook visited his hometown Redskins this week, and though the backfield there is already crazy crowded with Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, Washington lacks a real pass catcher and third-down back like Westbrook. Reuniting with Donovan McNabb would be a natural fit as well. I get all of that and love a nostalgic trip as much as the next guy, but I think Green Bay or Minnesota would be a better fit.

The Pack has expressed some interest, but nothing strong to this point. Both of these two teams run a system that Westbrook knows well. Both lack a change-of-pace guy like Westbrook. Both are also arguably on the cusp of a Super Bowl run. Given all that Westbrook has been through, and the severity of his concussions, hooking up with a team with a real chance to take home a title would be paramount. I'll go with the Packers as the best fit, but the Vikings still make plenty of sense, since they have yet to replace third-down specialist Chester Taylor.

Kirwan's top free agents
NFL.com analyst Pat Kirwan ranks the top seven remaning veteran free agents. Was Marc Bulger able to beat out Flozell Adams for the No. 1 spot? See the the complete list.

» More: Kirwan's column archive

Marc Bulger -- Bulger knows Mike Martz's offensive system like few other people on the planet (Kurt Warner would be another, but he's retired). The Bears don't exactly have an abundance of options behind Jay Cutler. There are a lot of people in that organization trying desperately to make something of this season and keep their jobs, but if Cutler goes down, would any of them realistically think Caleb Hanie could get the job done over Bulger? Yes, there are concussion issues with Bulger. And, perhaps, his presence might cause some unease for Cutler, but that might not be the worst thing in the world, either.

The fact that Bulger is already so well versed in the system would make him like another coach, and would render the missed time this offseason irrelevant. He could step in the huddle tomorrow and be fine. With all the money the Bears have spent -- and I remain doubtful they will get substantial bang for their buck -- they might as well solidify the most important position in the game. With the shape of that offensive line, it might take more than one passer for the Bears this season, anyway.

Adalius Thomas -- Thomas was a big free agent prize just a few years ago, but floundered in New England and has found the marketplace to be very cool this time around. Nothing is brewing with him. A lot of people, myself included, thought he'd be a natural fit with coach Rex Ryan in New York, but the Jets had lukewarm interest at best.

Other 3-4 teams have not been quick to move on Thomas, including the Ravens, where he rose to fame. To me, it makes sense he stays in the division with Miami. The Dolphins lost a lot of veteran edge rushers, and while Thomas has been ineffective in recent years, he makes sense at the right price. Sure, he clashed with Bill Belichick, a Bill Parcells protégé, but this experience has to have humbled Thomas some. Perhaps he'll have a secret or two to share with the Dolphins as they try to derail the Patriots from taking yet another AFC East crown.

Flozell Adams -- How about the Redskins signing the long-time left tackle of the Dallas Cowboys? Makes sense to me. Even after drafting Trent Williams, the Redskins badly need a tackle or two. If Adams can play on the right side, then Stephon Heyer goes to a role as a third tackle, which is more suited to him. Adams could be a stopgap for a year and help groom Williams some (Flozell knows a trick or two about what you can, and can't, get away with).

It would add spice to the rivalry, and Adams knows about as much as anyone about the Cowboys' offense and tendencies. If it turns out he's the third tackle, so be it, though I doubt that would be the case. Someone will get another year out of Adams, and few teams have a more pressing need.

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