This is the time of year in the NFL where teams start getting desperate to find their missing pieces. Training camp is just around the corner and if a team has a glaring hole, they have no choice but to take desperate measures to attempt to fill it.
Case in point — according to NFL.com, the Dallas Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick for Ronaldo McClain. McClain cannot even decide whether he wants to play football, but the Cowboys are so decimated at middle linebacker that they had to take a chance.
Teams will always come out and claim they will go with someone on the roster, but rarely is that the case. Even if they do, it is not often successful.
In 2011, the Indianapolis Colts tried both, a desperate signing and a player from the roster. The Colts signed veteran Kerry Collins to lead their team in the mist of Peyton Manning’s neck injury. He struggled, and the team was unable to win any of his three starts. After Collins was benched, the team went with backup Curtis Painter. The team didn’t fare any better going 0-8 in his starts.
If a team needs help this time of year, it is usually a bad sign. However, there are a few players left who can still help if placed in the right situation.
Here are the top five available free agents:
If Finley is healthy, he is a real threat in the passing game. He is not a great blocker, so he won’t help the run game much. That aside, a team like the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, or Houston Texans would be smart to kick the tires on him. Injuries cost him in 2013 but in 2012 he had 60 receptions, with 667 yards receiving, and he averaged over 10 yards a catch. Giving him a training camp invite wouldn’t hurt anybody.
Holmes comes with baggage on and off the field. He also comes with route-running ability. His numbers the last two seasons have to be taken with a grain of salt. Two years ago, Mark Sanchez was his quarterback and then Holmes went down with a foot injury. Last season Geno Smith was his quarterback, and he threw the ball to the other team about as frequently as he threw it to his own guys.
In the right scenario Holmes could be valuable to a team. The Carolina Panthers need quality receivers. His old team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, appear to be thin at receiver. If he hasn’t burned every bridge he had in the New York Jets organization, a return there could make sense as well. Eric Decker will not solve the Jets skill position problem by himself.
McKinnie’s days of being a solid left tackle are likely behind him. Two seasons ago he was pivotal to the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl run but since has looked outmatched on the left side. He may be able to extend his career a year or two if he can kick over to the right side of the line. The right tackle position is not held in the same esteem as the left tackle; nevertheless, it is important to the function of any offense.
The Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, and Ravens could all take a look at him.
Samuel is not the ball hawk he once was, but there still may be gas left in the tank. He is not going to help in run support and he is not a great tackler, but he can still make a few plays in the passing game. The way teams are throwing the ball around now, a team can never have too many corners.
The Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Kansas City Chiefs should all discuss the possibility of bringing in Samuel.
Vilma is on the street because he has never been seen as a 3-4 linebacker. Even in his youth, the Jets traded him to the New Orleans Saints because he didn’t fit into that system. Most teams in the league now run the 3-4. There is also a fear that he can only play on first and second down. He is savvy enough to still be useful on third downs and in the right situation, he could help a team.
He will likely have to wait until someone is injured, but he will be on a roster in 2014.
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