Since the NFL's free agency period opened on March 13, 2012, football enthusiasts have barely had a chance to breath. On day one we saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers go on a spending spree landing two big name free agents in wide receiver Vincent Jacksons and offensive guard Carl Nicks. A short time later the Buffalo Bills joined the big spender party and landed Mario Williams for a record contract for a defensive lineman, worth about $100 million. The NFL world held their collective breaths for the next two weeks waiting for Peyton Manning to make his decision. The NFL world exhaled when Manning chose the Denver Broncos, and $95 million. So, what's next? Now that the majority of the headline free agents have signed with their future teams, NFL junkies await the end of April and the NFL draft. But is there still some value in the free agent pool? Are there any players teams can look to in order to fill pre draft holes? Here are the top 5 free agents still awaiting contracts.
1. Dallas Clark, TE
There is one position on the offense that, if used properly, can drive defenses nuts and that is the tight end. Before his injury in 2010, Dallas Clark teamed with Peyton Manning to just wear defenses down. After a lack luster 2011 season with quarterback Curtis Painter at the helm, Clark was released by the Indianapolis Colts. Many thought the logical landing spot for Clark was the Denver Broncos after Peyton Manning signed a 5 year deal with them, but Denver signed Joel Dreessen (a free agent tight end from the Houston Texans). The question remains, does Clark have enough gas in the tank after 9 seasons to be an effective player? I feel that if Clark is used in the right situations, he can have a very successful year. Although many attribute Clark's success to playing his career with Peyton Manning, I feel Clark has enough talent left to be an effective tight end for a couple more years at a reasonable price. There are a couple of teams in need of an experienced tight end. Those teams include the Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, and the Oakland Raiders.
Projected 2012 Team: St. Louis Rams
2. Vernon Carey, OL
Is there a position on an NFL team that can never have too much depth? Yes, the offensive line. Vernon Carey, former offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, is a former first round pick that is a big physical player who has the ability to play the left or right side of the line. At 6'5" 340 lbs, Carey has the size to come in and be an instant anchor to a team looking for an interior line upgrade. Teams in need of an interior line upgrade include the St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans, and Detroit Lions.
Projected 2012 Team: Tennessee Titans
3. Aubrayo Franklin, DL
Teams can also never have too much depth at defensive line. Former New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Aubrayo Franklin was an effective fill in player for New Orleans in 2011. Franklin, who has been in the NFL for 9 seasons, had his most productive years playing for the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens. Both of those teams ran a base 3-4 defenses. The Saints, on the other hand, run a base 4-3 defense which may not suite Franklin's abilities best. I feel Franklin, who stands at 6'1", 301 pounds, can add depth to any 3-4 defense looking to add an experience player. Although Franklin may not have the athletic ability to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, he could be an effective rotational player at a nose tackle. Teams in need of depth along the defensive line are the San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, and the Denver Broncos.
Projected 2012 Team: San Diego Chargers
4. Amobi Okoye , DL
Amobi Okoye is an interesting free agent. Okoye, who was the youngest player to ever be drafted at age 19, is a former first round pick of the Houston Texans. Okoye fell out of favor in Houston because his production never matched the Texans' expectations. Okoye was released prior to the 2011 season and signed a one year deal with the Chicago Bears. For 2012 Okoye, who is only 24 years old and has five years of experience, can continue to develop as he progresses in his career; unfortunately at this point he may only be able to catch on as a rotational player. There are plenty of teams still looking to fill holes on their defensive line, and Okoye can fill in nicely in the right situation. Teams in need of defensive line depth include the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, and New England Patriots
Projected 2012 Team: Detroit Lions
5. Oshiomogho Atogwa, Safety
In 2011 Atogwa was one of the more sought after safeties in free agency. After playing his first six seasons for the St. Louis Rams, Atogwa, who was drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft, signed a 5 year $26 million deal with the Washington Redskins. After playing in only 13 games, Atogwa fell out of favor in Washington and was released at the conclusion of the 2011 season. Now in 2012, Atogwa remains an intriguing free agent. Atogwa has amassed 456 tackles and 25 interceptions in 101 games, which is pretty productive for a safety in todays NFL. Atogwa shouldn't have a problem signing on to a team in need of secondary depth, but he may have to wait until after the draft. Teams in need of depth at the safety position include the Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders, and Arizona Cardinals.
Projected 2012 Team: Carolina Panthers