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2014 NFL Free Agency Reset

By Jared Smola 12:15pm EDT 3/18/14

The 2014 free-agent market turns 1 week old this afternoon.   The cash has been flying, and tons of big names are donning new uniforms.

Eric Decker is a Jet.

Ben Tate landed in Cleveland.

Steve Smith is a pissed-off Raven.

Darren Sproles was shipped to Philly.

Rashad Jennings could be a fantasy football sleeper with the Giants.

Plenty of impact players remain unsigned, though.  Let’s reset the free-agent market and take a look at the top 12 skill-position players still looking for a home.

1. TE Jermichael Finley

A healthy Finley would have been scooped up days ago.  This is a big, athletic, pass-catching TE who only turns 27 later this month.  He’s been prone to lapses in concentration, but guys with his combination of size and athleticism don’t come around often.  The real issue for Finley is durability.  He missed 16 games in his first 5 seasons and then suffered a scary spinal cord injury this past October.  Finley is reportedly close to gaining medical clearance, but Seattle is the only team that has had him in for a visit so far.  He’ll likely need to wait to get the green light from doctors before finding a new home, but a healthy Finley remains capable of being a difference maker in real life and fantasy football.

2. RB Knowshon Moreno

Interest in Moreno has been strangely nonexistent.  As far as we’ve heard, he hasn’t even made a single visit yet.  And there haven’t been any negotiations between Moreno and the Broncos.  Teams obviously aren’t fooled by Moreno’s career year in Peyton Manning’s offense.  If nothing else, though, this guy is a valuable commodity in the passing game.  Moreno has racked up 157 catches in 60 career games with an 8.9-yard average.  He finished 8th among RBs in Pro Football Focus’ 2013 receiving grades.  Washington is in the market for a pass-catching back -- they were interested in Darren Sproles -- and could be an option for Moreno.

3. RB LeGarrette Blount

Like Moreno, Blount has yet to make a free-agent visit.  Last we heard, the Patriots were interested in bringing Blount back.  New England remains his most likely landing spot.  Blount’s career was heading in the wrong direction before settling in with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick last year.  He proved a solid fit with the Pats, averaging 5.0 yards per carry, scoring 7 times and turning in an epic 4-TD outing in the playoffs.  Blount would contend for early-down work with Stevan Ridley if he returns for 2014.

4. RB Maurice Jones-Drew

Another RB whose market has been eerily quiet.  The Jets were reportedly showing “serious interest” in Jones-Drew a week ago, but they’ve yet to make a move.  No other team has even sniffed.  We shouldn’t be surprised.  This is a soon-to-be 29-year-old RB with more than 1,800 NFL carries on his tires.  MJD has missed 11 games over the past 2 years and averaged a career-worst 3.4 yards per carry in 2013.  He’s clearly nearing the end of the line and will need to settle for a committee role this coming season.  The run-heavy Jets offense might give him the best shot at fantasy value.

5. QB Michael Vick

He’s watched less-talented QBs Josh McCown and Matt Cassel land 2-year, $10 million deals this month.  Vick’s market, meanwhile, has been quiet.  His age (34 in June) and checkered past are the main culprits.  But Vick is also holding out for a starting job.  He hasn’t found any suitors.  The Jets are interested in his services but only as a backup to Geno Smith.  Vick will likely enter some training camp as the #2 QB, but there’s still a good chance he makes starts this season.  He tossed 5 TDs vs. 2 INTs and ran for 228 yards in his 4 full games last year.

6. WR Kenny Britt

Britt is a major question mark.  And teams are treating him as such.  He’s still only 25 years old and flashed difference-making ability early in his career.  But he’s totaled just 56 catches and 4 TDs in 26 games over the last 2 years.  The question is whether a multitude of knee injuries have wrecked his career, or if he just needs a fresh start.  Britt has visited the Patriots and Rams but left both teams without a contract.  The Panthers, Seahawks and Rams are also reportedly interested. This guy is talented enough to emerge as the #1 WR if he lands in Carolina or St. Louis.

7. WR Sidney Rice

The Seahawks cut ties with Rice and his $7.3 million 2014 cap number in February.  Teams will need to feel comfortable with Rice’s recovery from October’s torn ACL before bringing him aboard.  He’s tentatively expected to be ready for OTAs in late April.  Rice will only turn 28 in September but has never been able to stay healthy.  He’s played 16 games in just 2 of 7 NFL seasons.  The 6’4, 202-pounder can at least be a red-zone threat, though.  He scored 8 and 7 times, respectively, in his 2 healthy seasons.  The Jets, Saints and Seahawks have been mentioned as interested parties. And we have to believe the WR-desperate Panthers will take a look.

8. RB Andre Brown

A return to the Big Apple was Brown’s best bet for2014 fantasy value.  The G-Men instead opted to sign Rashad Jennings.  Now Brown might end up replacing Jennings in Oakland.  The Raiders are the only team that’s had Brown in for a visit so far.  He’d be the #2 back there, but Darren McFadden’s injury history would give him an excellent shot to make starts.  Of course, he’d be doing so behind what looks like 1 of the worst offensive lines in the league.  And Brown isn’t an elite talent.  He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry last year, ranking 47th among 55 RBs in Pro Football Focus’ 2013 grades.  He'd also likely face a challenge from 2nd-year RB Latavius Murray.

9. TE Owen Daniels

The Texans dumped Daniels shortly before the free-agent market opened last Tuesday.  The 31-year-old has drawn a fair amount of interest since.  He’s visited Green Bay and Washington, while the Ravens have at least talked about bringing him in.  Daniels would be reunited with Gary Kubiak in Baltimore but would play behind Dennis Pitta.  The Packers would give Daniels his best shot at a starting job.  Although he hasn’t played a 16-game season since 2008, Daniels posted a 62-716-6 line in 2012 and was on pace to surpass all those marks through 5 games this past year.

10. WR Miles Austin

The Cowboys cut ties with Austin a week ago.  We haven’t heard a peep of interest since.  Austin is still only 29, but bum hamstrings have wrecked his career.  He missed 6 games in 2010 and 5 more last year.  In the 11 games he did play in 2013, he mustered just 24 catches for 244 scoreless yards.  That 10.2 yards per catch was easily a career low.  He’ll need to settle for a reserve role in 2014 and is unlikely to be a fantasy asset.

11. WR Santonio Holmes

This 30-year-old brings a lengthy injury history and questionable work ethic.  It’s no surprise that he hasn’t drawn much interest since being released by the Jets on March 10.  Holmes will need to settle for a 1-year deal.  And he might need to wait until closer to training camp to get it.  Perhaps Bruce Arians, who was Holmes’ OC in Pittsburgh, will bring him to the desert.  The Cardinals could use a #3 WR after losing Andre Roberts to Washington.

12. TE Dustin Keller

Keller needs to figure out whether he’ll play in 2014 before worrying about where he’ll play.  He suffered a devastating knee injury last preseason, tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL and dislocating his kneecap.  He’s reportedly on track to return but is still in the middle of the rehab process.  Keller was a talented pass-catcher.  We’ll see what he has left in the tank as a 30-year-old coming off a significant injury.

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