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10 Best Available NFL Free Agents

Liam McKeone
May 3, 2021, 10:59 AM EDT
Richard Sherman forces the incompletion
Richard Sherman forces the incompletion | Norm Hall/Getty Images
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The NFL Draft has come and gone. Some teams had big days, some had extremely poor ones. Now it is time to get back to free agency so teams can fill the rest of the holes on their rosters.

Undrafted free agents were signed en masse over the weekend. It's now Monday and the dust has settled. More significantly, this day signifies the first day of the league year in which free agents signed do not count against the compensatory pick formula. Teams can now sign whoever they'd like and won't offset any potential draft prizes next offseason for free agents lost.

That should mean the bigger names should go off the board sometime soon, and if not soon, they certainly will be by training camp in August. Here are the 10 best free agents available who will likely be in the news over the next week.

Best NFL Free Agents

Richard Sherman

The former All-Pro cornerback is still on the market. Sherman has accomplished just about everything a player could want in his career, and as such appears to be taking his time to find a new home. He played only five games with the Niners last year after hurting his calf in Week 1 and hitting the IR for most of the season, but was decent in 2019 when he recorded 11 passes defended and three interceptions. This isn't the same shutdown cornerback who was a foundational cornerstone of the Legion of Boom, but Sherman still has the chops to play well in a zone coverage defense and can hold his own against most of the wideouts in the NFL in man-to-man. He'd be a valuable veteran addition for any team looking for depth, but his recent injury history is probably why he's still on the market.

Melvin Ingram

The longtime Chargers edge rusher missed all but seven games in 2020 and didn't do much when he did play, recording only 10 tackles all season with no sacks and one interception. Ingram is no longer as fearsome as he once was, but if he's fully healthy, a role as a situational pass rusher could work well for him and a new team. Organizations are constantly in search of edge depth and Ingram shouldn't be out of work for long, although anyone hoping for a double-digit sack guy may be disappointed.

Justin Houston

Another former terrifying pass rusher past his prime, Houston has aged better than expected after joining Indianapolis as the second act of his career following his release from Kansas City; the former Pro Bowler racked up 11 sacks in 2019 and eight sacks in 2020. He still has the juice to contribute there. He's played two full seasons after missing at least one game from 2015-2018. Houston was probably impacted the most out of the compensatory pick formula situation, but should find a new city in short order.

Jason McCourty

McCourty has been great in New England for the last few years but has yet to re-sign with the Patriots. It feels likely that's the only team he would re-sign with, given he is on the tail end of his career, his twin brother still suits up in Foxborough, and he has the Super Bowl championship that he came to the team for in the first place. If he does go elsewhere, his new team will find that McCourty can still get burned in man coverage, but always knows the right place to be at the right time. That sometimes isn't good enough in the NFL, but for a third or fourth corner in a good secondary, it's valuable.

K.J. Wright

Before free agency began, Wright proclaimed he would not be taking anything resembling a hometown discount. The former Seahawks LB has stayed true to his word, but obviously hasn't found the market he's expecting. Wright is as steady as they come at the linebacker spot and is one of the more instinctual cover linebackers out there, knocking down 10 passes in 2020 while adding 86 tackles, an interception, and two sacks. As it stands, it seems the issue is how much money Wright feels he deserves. Should he lower that benchmark, he'll have plenty of suitors.

Russell Okung

Okung has only played 13 games over the last two seasons. Look no further as to why he's still available for the taking. His last full season was with the Chargers in 2018 and he wasn't particularly good, but he wasn't awful, either. Okung may be more known now for converting his money to Bitcoin, but he'd make for good depth at either tackle spot, even if he has to sit around until the training camp injury bug strikes some unlucky team.

Best Available Free Agents NFL

Sheldon Richardson

Richardson has put together a pair of rock-solid years in Cleveland, playing all 32 games over the last two seasons while racking up a total of 7.5 sacks and 126 tackles. He's not the game-breaker many thought he was early in his career while with the Jets, but he stays healthy and produces at a consistent clip. He ended up the odd man out with the Browns once they signed Jadeveon Clowney, and another franchise should benefit from his steady output.

Casey Hayward

Hayward has long been one of the better slot corners the NFL has to offer and one of the earliest specialists at that particular position. He's spent the last four years with the Chargers but isn't likely to return after L.A. invested some draft capital at his position. Hayward has been the definition of consistent over the last three seasons, missing only two games and defending eight passes in every season from 2018-2020. He's no lockdown guy, not anymore, but represents quality depth in the secondary.

Alejandro Villanueva

The longtime Steelers LT is now looking for a new line to bring his services to. Villanueva was a top-10 tackle in his prime and he's no longer quite that, but he hasn't missed a game in his NFL career. That kind of durability is rare in an offensive lineman, much less one who plays a crucial position. His current availability suggests other teams don't think highly of his current play level, but he's a great depth option at worst and a solid starter at best. Someone will take a chance.

Steven Nelson

Nelson has been really solid for the Steelers over the last two years and it was a bit of a surprise they let him go. He's only 28-years-old and recorded nine passes defended in 2020 with two interceptions in 15 games. Why he's still sitting at home is unknown, but the numbers and age suggest he still has a lot to contribute to another team.

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