This is the dead period of the NFL, when everyone – coaches, players, team personnel and agents – tries to slip away for about a month.
That said, teams will be keeping tabs on the following players up until (and through) training camps begin around the country late next month. Here’s a look at 10 players that can still help a team this season.
Years pro: Five Stats: 79 tackles, eight passes defensed and five interceptions in 16 games last season Analysis: Boston is one of five safeties on this list, which is reflective of the, um, “odd” safety market this offseason. Boston’s tackling could improve but he should have a job somewhere. He’s young (turns 26 later this month) and he had a career year last season, tying for fifth in the NFL in interceptions while shining in coverage. Teams that have reportedly shown interest: Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts. Years pro: Five Stats: 50 tackles, 19 passes defensed, one interception in 15 games Analysis: Breeland is still looking for work after losing a $24 million free-agent deal with the Carolina Panthers a few months ago due to a failed physical linked to a non-football injury in which he cut his foot (and saw it get infected). He’s a solid cover man at the right corner spot, though, and there are not enough corners in a league in which nickel defenses are becoming the new base Teams that have reportedly shown interest: Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts Years pro: 11 Stats: 69 tackles, six passes defensed and zero interceptions in nine games Analysis: He’s really good when healthy. Branch was having a nice season until he suffered a season-ending knee injury last season. He was a starter until the injury and seemed to enjoy a good rapport with fellow safety Antoine Bethea. At his best, Branch is reliable against the run and pass, but he’ll still need to convince a suitor that last season’s injury didn’t sap his athleticism. Perhaps the Cardinals would welcome him back on an incentive-laden deal. Potential fits: Cardinals Years pro: Nine Stats: 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns in 16 games Analysis: Last season, Bryant looked more like a contested-ball specialist, a slant-ball guru with run-after-the-catch chops, than the dynamite downfield threat he was earlier in his career. Some teams are concerned about his temper (others simply call that “passion,” by the way). He’d probably be best served going to a title contender with alpha dogs at head coach and quarterback that he respects. Potential fits: Giants, Packers, Texans, Titans Years pro: Six Stats: 44 tackles, three passes defensed, five hurries and two sacks in 15 games Analysis: Hankins’ biggest issue is his inability to generate a pass rush in a league that values the interior pass rush more than ever. But as a one- or two-down run defender, Hankins is stout, strong and outstanding. He’ll find a home once training camp injuries set in, if not before then. Teams that have reportedly shown interest: Jets, Lions, Redskins Years pro: 8 Stats: 184 carries for 659 yards and six touchdowns, plus 39 catches for 266 yards and a touchdown Analysis: The Titans released Murray, who rushed for a career-low 659 yards last season, so save 6.5 million in cap space, but the opinion here is Murray — who battled through a hamstring injury last season — still has some juice left, perhaps as a No. 2 who can do a little bit of everything. Murray recently declined to work out for the Saints, who went on to sign another veteran back, Terrance West, but there’s a chance a training camp injury can create an opportunity for him somewhere. Teams that have reportedly shown interest: Dolphins, Seahawks Years pro: 6 Stats: 67 tackles, four passes defensed and two interceptions in 13 games Analysis: At only 26, this one-time Pro Bowler should already be signed somewhere. He’s coming off a strong season in which he fared well in coverage and well enough against the run. It has not been lost on anyone that as an anthem protester, he has not been signed. His collusion suit against the NFL certainly won’t help his case, but there should be no doubt that physically, he’s still got the talent to an above-average NFL starter. Potential fits: 49ers, Seahawks Years pro: 11 Stats: 48 tackles, one pass defensed, zero interceptions in 15 games Analysis: The stunning lack of ball production in 2017 is a concern, but the year before, DRC had 21 passes defensed and six interceptions. I don’t believe you lose all of that in a year. Rodgers-Cromartie recently hinted he could return to the Giants, who reportedly had plans to move him to safety prior to his release. Teams that have reportedly shown interest: Giants, Redskins Years pro: 8 Stats: 67 tackles, four passes defensed and two interceptions in 15 games Analysis: Parker’s stats don’t jump off the table, but I personally watched him last year as he served as the most consistent member of the Chiefs’ secondary, perhaps more than mercurial cornerback Marcus Peters. Parker’s ball production was down because he spent more time in the box after Eric Berry was lost for the season in the opener. He’s an up-and-down tackler, but he emerged as a respected locker room voice last season and someone who can help a team if they allow him to get back to doing what he does best, which is playing deep portions of the field in coverage. Potential fits: Buccaneers, Cowboys, Dolphins Years pro: 6 Stats: 60 tackles, seven passes defensed, three interceptions in 12 games Analysis: The selections of Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams made Vaccaro expendable in New Orleans, despite the abundance of three-safety sets they used. Vaccaro is primarily a box defender with plus run defense chops. He’s shown the ability to cover some tight ends, but he could be being dinged by teams for his struggles in coverage in an increasingly pass-happy league. Even still, he’s only 27 years old and would represent an upgrade for some teams. Teams that have reportedly shown interest: Colts, Dolphins, Jets