Around the NFL  

 

Eight under-the-radar NFL free-agent signings

Print

Free agency's big prizes have come and gone, reducing the NFL's news cycle to a whisper.

Plenty has been said about Brock Osweiler joining the Texans and Olivier Vernon winding up with the Giants, but history tells us that free agency's true gems often land later in the process.

Nobody broke a sweat when DeAngelo Williams signed with the Steelers last offseason, but the former Panthers running back wound up as one of the most valuable additions by any team league-wide in 2015. Same goes for New England adding ex-Browns pass rusher Jabaal Sheard and Buffalo taking a shot on the infamous Richie Incognito.

Watch:

With that in mind, which under-the-radar signings have a shot to outplay their billing in 2016? Let's take a look:

1. Alfred Morris, running back, Dallas Cowboys (signed two-year, $3.5 million contract): There's high potential for value here with the two-time Pro Bowler stationed behind one of the NFL's top offensive lines. After three straight 1,000-yard seasons, Morris plummeted to just 3.7 yards per carry last year in Washington. The Redskins let him walk, but Morris -- just 27 -- has a shot to unseat Darren McFadden for early-down carries in Dallas. Drafting a featured back would put both veterans on the hot seat, but Morris is a strong candidate to outplay his contract.

2. Charles Johnson, pass rusher, Carolina Panthers (re-signed one-year, $3 million contract): Johnson is making pennies after a dominant postseason and powerful showing in Super Bowl 50. His durability remains a concern, but the Panthers have a major bargain on their hands if he stays upright. This deal serves as another thrifty masterstroke by general manager Dave Gettleman.

3. Chris Long, pass rusher, New England Patriots (signed one-year, $2.375 million contract): Bill Belichick has made a cottage industry of landing inexpensive but proven veterans on the open market. Long hasn't been himself the past two seasons, but a fresh start in New England will help -- even at age 31. With Chandler Jones shipped to Arizona, Long has an opportunity to see plenty of snaps and chase after his 8.5 sacks from 2013.

4. Prince Amukamara, cornerback, Jacksonville Jaguars (signed one-year, $5.5 million contract): The Jaguars spent a hill of scratch on the open market, padding their needy defense with tackle Malik Jackson and safety Tashaun Gipson. Adding Amukamara to the mix was a crafty move by general manager David Caldwell. Set to start opposite Davon House, Amukamara comes relatively cheap for a player many expected to ink a multiyear pact.

5. Jared Cook, tight end, Green Bay Packers (signed one-year, $2.75 million contract): We've beaten this horse all week, but Cook fills an immediate void for the Packers, who haven't fielded a true pass-catching tight end since Jermichael Finley in 2013. "Personality-wise we're different. Playing-wise, you can see some comparisons in our games," Cook said of Finley. If that plays out, a rare venture into the open market will pay off for Green Bay.

6. Chris Hogan, wide receiver, New England Patriots (signed three-year, $12 million contract with $7.5 million guaranteed): When Belichick chases after restricted free agents, we pay attention. Hogan was far from a top target in Buffalo, but he might push Danny Amendola off the roster in New England. Belichick is impressed with Hogan's football IQ and views the wideout as a versatile asset. He's bigger than Amendola and Julian Edelman, and has the tools to line up in the slot or play the X. 

7. Jeremy Lane, cornerback, Seattle Seahawks (re-signed four-year, $23 million contract with $11 million guaranteed): It's more money than anyone else on this list, but Lane's signing came and went without much fanfare. "I was really happy to get Jeremy back," coach Pete Carroll said during last week's Annual League Meeting, noting that the combination of Lane and DeShawn Shead opposite Richard Sherman gives Seattle "the best flexibility we've ever had." No team does a better job of grooming young corners, making this signing an under-the-radar victory for the 'Hawks.

8. Brandon Boykin, slot corner, Carolina Panthers (signed one-year, $840K contract): He's far from a perfect player, but Boykin gives the Panthers instant relief in the slot with Bene' Benwikere moving outside across from Josh Norman. Boykin was a ghost out of the gate for the Steelers in 2015, but his role in Pittsburgh ballooned down the stretch with a solid postseason. If you're wondering why Belichick and Gettleman keep getting mentioned here, it's because few team-builders do a better job of finding gems in March.

Print

Fan Discussion