The 2017 NFL free agency is now in session which means that all 32 NFL teams are looking to land that marquee free agent to help their Super Bowl aspirations for next season (unless you’re the Browns, in which case you would settle for 4 wins). Instead of focusing on the big free agents who are guaranteed to garner a bigger contract than they may deserve, I’ll focus on lesser-known players that will provide a better bang-for-the-buck for the next season(s).
Danny Woodhead (RB)
As any fantasy football player knows, Danny Woodhead is always a solid asset on any team. The problem here is that Woodhead’s season was abruptly stopped after a torn ACL in September. Given that there are few suitors for a 30-something former MVP running back coming off injuries (Adrian Peterson), Woodhead seems unlikely to have teams barging through the door to sign him. The team that does, however, will hope that he can emulate his 2015 season where he accumulated 80 receptions for 755 yards, provided outstanding pass protection, and costed the Chargers less than $2 million in salary.
Johnathan Hankins (DT)
Assuming the New York Giants don’t re-sign him to a contract, Hankins would be an attractive player for many teams. Dontari Poe headlines the defensive tackle market and is valued for more than the five-year, $46.25 million that Damon Harrison commanded from the Giants last year. That price range is out of sight for many teams, which leaves Hankins as a solid backup option.
Dwight Freeney (DE)
Yeah, I know, Freeney is 37 and has 15 years of game mileage on him. Doesn’t matter. He signed a $1 million contract with the Falcons last year that seemed much more valuable in the long run. Helping them win reach the Super Bowl (sorry, I still can’t believe it) was readily worth the money, but Freeney is the perfect locker room teammate a team would want around their young guys. With some gas still left in the tank, Freeney is a perfect low-risk, high-reward kind of guy.
Dont’a Hightower (LB)
Coming off a Super Bowl victory, one would expect Hightower to garner a lot of interest on the open market. However, the Patriots are playing the same game that they did with Devin McCourty a few years back. They’ll let him test the open market, but if the offers are less than what was expected, the Patriots will be expected to retain him. It worked with McCourty, but I’m less assured that Hightower will be undercut in the market, especially considering he’s coming off another superb season at the LB position.
Logan Ryan (CB)
Logan Ryan is essentially in the same boat as Hightower except the Patriots have decided to push him overboard. Their signing of CB Stephon Gilmore from division rivals Buffalo Bills has essentially forced Ryan to field offers from the market. Gilmore is assumed to have fetched more than $14 million a year which is more than what top CB free agent A.J. Bouye will probably expect to receive. For teams that are hesitant on paying top-dollar for cornerbacks, Ryan is a solid-yet-unspectacular option that could probably go for half as much money as the others.
Pierre Garcon (WR)
Pierre Garcon is one of those players that has dropped under the radar in the past few seasons and for good reason. With Jordan Reed solidifying himself as the number 1 option in a high-powered Washington offense, Desean Jackson still an explosive downfield threat, and Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley catching passes out of the backfield, Garcon wasn’t allowed to establish himself as a threat like he did on the Colts. But, he has been a very solid option for the Redskins who view him as a dependable third down-and-long receiver. For someone who hasn’t missed a game in over 4 years, he’s definitely worth a flier as the 2nd or 3rd receiver on a team.
Brandon Williams (DT)
The Baltimore Ravens have lost some key players in free agency already which probably means that they will do whatever it takes to keep Brandon Williams. However, multiple teams have already expressed interest in Williams. The plus side for the team that signs Williams? He has been one of the best defensive tackles the past few years, but endured a tumultuous contract year. This could potentially drive his price down, making him a very good value signing.