NFL Free Agents Who Could Still Receive Training Camp Invites
We’re now at the point in the offseason where teams have their training camp rosters set.
That doesn’t mean they won’t add a few players here and there, though, since there is a lot of talent left without a home.
There are some very talented guys still jobless, and they could find themselves invited to a training camp so teams can kick the tires personally and see if they are good organizational fits.
Who might find themselves with a roster invite? Let’s take a look at a few options, guys who have talent but for one reason or another aren’t finding work yet.
A few teams have “kicked the tires” on Jermichael Finley already, but for reasons we aren’t certain of, nobody has signed him. It could be lingering medical concerns, or it could be his asking price.
We know he was visiting with the New England Patriots (though ESPN’s Ed Werder noted that it was only to check his medicals), and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers are both interested.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Tyler Dunne said the Green Bay Packers are still open to a return.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy told sports radio host Bill Michaels, “No doors are closed yet, and we’ll see what happens" in regards to Jermichael Finley's return.
Of course, their medical staff is exceedingly conservative, and I would be shocked if he went back.
He has a tremendous amount of talent, though, and if a team is in need of a dynamic tight end, Finely should get a call.
Then it all depends on his health.
NFL.com’s Gil Brandt recently reported that Josh Freeman spent time working with former NFL coaches Jon Gruden and Terry Shea to “get [his] career back on track.”
We’re not 100 percent sure why Freeman’s career went off the rails in the first place, but this seems like a good step forward to correct the problem.
While both the end of his time in Tampa Bay and his brief sojourn in Minnesota were bad, he has shown he can lead an offense.
And you can certainly argue that part of the reason he failed in Minnesota was that he was thrown into a game well before he’d even had a second to read a playbook. It was all downhill from there.
Freeman has a solid arm and plenty of talent—enough for a team to bring him in and see what he has during camp.
Yes, a kicker made the list.
Cut in large part to save cap room, Rob Bironas had a solid 2013, going 25-of-29 on field-goals attempts, with 10 of them from 40-plus yards out (he missed three from that distance).
Kickers are a dime a dozen, but teams always want to push the ones they have. Bironas has played at a high level for a long time, and some team that's dissatisfied with its kicker’s 2013 will be looking to make its camp uncomfortable.
We’ve seen kickers and special teamers fall off into the abyss out of nowhere before (right, Chris Kluwe?), so it wouldn’t be a shocker if Bironas was next seen working at a Steak ‘n Shake sometime next fall, but I’m betting he’s at least brought in for a few weeks during camp.
Maybe he won’t get a call in time to start off camp with a team, but the moment the injuries pile up—and they usually do in July—someone is going to give Santonio Holmes a shot.
It’s clear “New York Jets Holmes” was not as good as “Pittsburgh Steelers Holmes” appeared to be—and even that appearance was more of an illusion than the Jets will admit to.
Still, Holmes has shown that he continues to have pretty good hands and can make plays after the catch. He’s had injury issues the last few years (he has only appeared in all 16 regular-season games once over the last four years), and his ability to fit into a locker room can be questioned.
But he has experience in big playoff moments and could be a help to a team that wants to make a push for the playoffs with a young corps of wide receivers.
The biggest issue with Terrell Thomas are lingering concerns about his last ACL surgery in September of 2012.
Thomas played well last season for the New York Giants—he ranked No. 53 out of 110 qualified corners by Pro Football Focus (subscription required)—appearing in all 16 games in a reserve role and should be able to do the same for a new team.
Able to play all along the secondary, Thomas can fill plenty of roles, even if he isn’t worth a start most weeks.
After three knee surgeries, there will be some hesitation, but once the bodies start falling, teams should come calling.
While not a starting back by any means, Michael Bush still has something left in the tank and could serve as a short-yardage or goal-line back.
The free-agent group remaining for the running back position is pretty lackluster, so if a team needs some depth or has injury issues, Bush has to be at the top of the list.
While he was a failure in Chicago, he saw a lot less use than he did with Oakland. In the right scheme, with some good blocking, he could tap the ability he has shown in the past.
Jason Babin led the Jacksonville Jaguars with 7.5 sacks in 2013, but that’s not what was surprising about his release. What’s surprising was that he was released after being re-signed just three months prior.
At 34, Babin has definitely lost a step or two, but he is very effective as an occasional pass-rusher.
While at the bottom half of Pro Football Focus’ 4-3 defensive end rankings for 2013, Babin was still productive.
He could be a good fit for a defense that needs veteran depth and a situational pass-rusher.
With concerns about his reconstructed knee no longer an issue, per Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Dustin Keller should eventually get a look.
While he has never fulfilled on the promise of his talent, Keller could be a great fit as a “move” or “joker” tight end because of his ability to stretch the field.
Keller doesn’t have the athleticism of a Jimmy Graham or even a Jermichael Finley, but he has enough talent and athleticism to fill a smaller or complementary role alongside other weapons that could pull the defense away from him.
At some point, he should get a look from a team in need of an extra weapon to spread out the defense.