Free agency speeds by faster than ever in today's NFL, which is saturated with salary-cap space. Only five players in the top 40 of our Top 101 Free Agents list remain available at the time this piece was published, but there are still plenty of compelling names out there for organizations seeking value.
The difficulty at this time of year for teams often comes in convincing players to sign contracts for less than they were expecting a week ago. I did my best to find optimal free agency fits for some of the biggest names still available.
Justin Houston, edge rusher: Indianapolis Colts
I like the fit of Houston with the Colts even more. Impatient Indy fans waiting for general manager Chris Ballard to drain more of the team's league-leading cap space should wait before casting judgment, because the Colts are primed to scoop up some of the league's better values (like Houston) during this second phase of free agency.
The Colts simply don't have enough pass rushers capable of winning one-on-one matchups. That showed up in their playoff loss to Houston's Chiefs, a game in which Houston had two sacks, a fumble recovery and a pass defensed. Houston can still play at a high level, and the Colts have the flexibility to pay him for it.
Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks were one of the teams in the mix for Suh last offseason, and he's the type of veteran -- with a great pedigree and involving minimal risk -- they often go after. He'd be an intriguing player to use in a rotation on Seattle's defensive line with Poona Ford and Jarran Reed; the run-stopping youngsters could allow Suh to push his way to the quarterback.
Eric Berry, safety: Dallas Cowboys
The problem for Berry is that he has only played four games (including the playoffs) over the last two seasons. Unlike Thomas, Berry's recent tape isn't inspiring. It might be a bitter pill to swallow for one of the game's best safeties from the first half of this decade, but he's absolutely in a "prove-it" phase of his career, because of the heel problems that have limited his availability and explosiveness. The Cowboys had Berry in for a visit first on Tuesday and seem most likely to spend starter money, betting on the 30-year-old's upside over in-house starter Jeff Heath. Berry is expected to go on more trips, yet may have to settle on an incentive-laden deal if he doesn't find what he's looking for.
Jay Ajayi, running back: Pittsburgh Steelers
Ajayi suffered poor timing by tearing his ACL before becoming a free agent, so he's unlikely to get a long-term deal as a starter anywhere. His best bet is to find an advantageous situation as a backup where he could work into the mix slowly and succeed if called upon to start. Ajayi is just the type of bruiser I can imagine getting 81 carries stretched over three straight starts in November in Pittsburgh if James Conner were to be injured.
Jamie Collins, linebacker: New England Patriots
Bringing back former Patriots who were vaguely disappointing in other locales is a Bill Belichick specialty. New England was rumored to be interested in trading for Collins last season and could certainly use the help on a front seven without much playmaking ability.
Jared Cook, tight end: New England Patriots
The longer Rob Gronkowski delays his decision about whether to play in 2019, the more likely it is that Gronk is returning. (Surely, the Patriots would love to know before the 2019 NFL Draft.) The potential signing of Cook, however, should have little to do with Gronk's future. Cook is a catch-first tight end and could be a complement to Gronk in two-TE sets. After the Patriots struck out on the slot receiver market in free agency, Cook could be the best available pair of hands out there.