ARLINGTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 23: Jacoby Brissett #12 of the Washington Commanders throws the ball in a timeout against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half at AT&T Stadium on November 23, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images)

Jacoby Brissett has been a capable and steady quarterback in several different offensive schemes. He could be a good stopgap for a team in QB purgatory. (Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images)

We are at the dawn of free agency! Or, with the signings, cuts and franchise tagging already trickling in, the rise (of the planet) of free agency. While fans and teams have starry eyes about that certain player who is for sure going to put their team over the top (but for some reason is curiously available on the open market), I went position-by-position and provided “the other guy(s)” at each spot. The less-than-heralded, under-the-radar, football-hipster-favorite types of free agents who are available, and who could provide more bang for their buck than their more headline-grabbing free-agent comrades.


Jacoby Brissett

The teams in quarterback purgatory should be figuring out a way to give Brissett a two-year deal and give themselves a prayer at quarterback competency in the near-term. Brissett has long been underrated as a steady hand behind center, a Dean Malenko-like Iceman that is the man of a thousand quarterback tricks from his career around the NFL:

another reason to love Jacoby Brissett:

watch him trail the running backs during the Browns 4 minute drill when they’re trying to burn clock. Being a safety net in case things get wonky.

The Big Fundamental

— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) January 20, 2023

Brissett is a smart player who has performed like an adequate, even quite-capable starter for long stretches in Cleveland (cleanly outplaying Deshaun Watson) and Indianapolis, and even in a brief stint in Washington. He is a level dropback operator who can play within structure and has cross-pollinated with every NFL offensive tree during his journeyman career. Straight dropback, play-action, heck, Brissett is even one of the best quarterbacks at sneaking in short yardage in the entire NFL right now. Why allocate your heaviest resources — splurging for a former name-brand signal-caller or reaching with your first-round draft pick, or moving up in the draft, for a player with maybe the same type of upside — when you can just sign Millennial Brad Johnson for less frills and get the same kind of output?

Running back

Gus Edwards

If you’re a team that struggles in short yardage — I’m looking at you, Dolphins, Jaguars and Cowboys — why not let others talk about adding Derrick “El Tractorcito” Henry when you can get the little “Little Tractor?” Edwards is on the field to steamroll downhill against defenses and has been one of the most successful running backs in doing so over the past few years. Edwards ranks behind only Henry in short-yardage rushing conversion rate (third or fourth down and 1-2 yards to go), converted 82.6% of his 46 short-yardage runs.

Yes, it’s predictable when Edwards is on the field, he’s limited in other capacities and is an iffy pass protector despite his size, but if you need a downhill thumper, Edwards is the guy. Put him in a running back committee and he will continue to be the same reliable chain-mover.

Wide receiver

Kendrick Bourne, K.J. Osborn

Bourne has already scored a free agency deal before, but I would love his scrappy and smart style in an already high-octane offense, where he can be a cog instead of the entire engine of a middling aerial assault, like he was in New England. He’s coming off injury and doesn’t figure to be a high-usage player at his next stop, but Bourne is a good route-runner, can play outside and in the slot and has a feel for space that makes him a key contributor on high-leverage plays like third down and in the red zone. Bourne could help out a lot of contenders looking for winning secondary pass catchers.

Osborn is a nice dirty work type of wide receiver who is best as a third or fourth pass catcher in your offense. He’s another great veteran fit for a team looking for a player who can play inside, outside and is willing to do the glue-guy things that make good offenses great, but can be a bit stretched out when asked to do more.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - DECEMBER 24: Colby Parkinson #84 of the Seattle Seahawks runs the ball during the first half in the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 24, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

There are a handful of strong tight end options on the free-agent market this year, including former Seahawk Colby Parkinson. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Tight end

Colby Parkinson, Hunter Henry, Noah Fant

Henry and Fant can be interesting tight end options for teams. Henry, in particular, checks a lot of boxes at the position; he is a solid blocker who can play in-line, but also is a valid underneath and intermediate receiving option that consistently comes up in the red zone. Henry could help out any offense but, as was the problem in New England the past couple of seasons, has a limitation if he has to be a featured player in the offense.

Fant could be a great lottery ticket for a team to purchase as he continues his slow ascent up Tight End Competency Mountain. He has started to actually become a consistent three-down player with receiving juice and some (finally) more sustained snaps of blocking.

For a more role-player type, Fant’s Seahawks teammate Colby Parkinson has real blocking chops and can legitimately be asked to hold up against edge defenders as a run and pass blocker:

Parkinson is a solid receiver with size and catching range as well. He can be legitimately asked to work into the intermediate levels on route concepts and get there with pace. Parkinson is the type of player who has a sneaky big role in successful offenses.

Interior offensive line

John Simpson

Want a tone-setter in your offensive line room? Simpson is your guy (just watch that Gus Edwards run from earlier). He plays with a highlight-seeking attitude that will light up an entire offense and sideline. But Simpson isn’t some head-hunting goon who can only blindly pull. He has real bend and athleticism to hold up in pass protection and contribute in other ways, too.

Simpson played over 1,100 snaps for the second time in his career last season for the Ravens, he is just turning 27 and could be a strong answer at guard for a team seeking to add a mauler to their offensive line room.

Offensive tackle

Yosh Nijman

Nijman is a curious player, a former undrafted free agent who has shown stretches, truly strong stretches, of play at both tackle positions. He rotated in and out of the lineup this year as the Packers swapped Nijman and Rasheed Walker as they figured out their best starting offensive line, with some rumblings of discontent between Nijman and the Packers coaching staff.

In an NFL world that is always desperate for even a semblance of average-ish play at offensive tackle (Andre Dillard got paid last year!), taking a flier on a tackle who is under 30, has experience on both sides and actually has the size and athleticism to hold up doesn’t seem like the craziest low-risk bet to make.

Defensive line

Pick your nose (tackle)

Teair Tart, D.J. Reader, Grover Stewart, DaQuan Jones, Johnathan Hankins. What kind of beef do you want to shore up the middle of your defense?

All of these players play valuable snaps that can keep their speedier and more bendy teammates free to do their disruptive deeds. The Cowboys have been lost without Hankins on the field the past two seasons, Stewart is a huge part of the Colts’ success against the run, Jones was having a fantastic season in Buffalo before injuries hampered his (and the entire team’s) year and Reader has been one of the Bengals’ best defenders when on the field. Tart is the youngest of the group and has the most dynamic upside to tap into still, and he was set for a strong payday before disagreements with Titans brass led to his midseason release and subsequent waiver claim from the Texans. He’s a very good player who could be a sneaky great add for a contending defense, especially now that his market has stayed depressed.

As defenses get lighter and faster, having the brawn to complement all of that speed is a prerequisite to hold up as the months get colder. These players might not break the bank, but they could make-or-break a season.


Bryce Huff, Josh Uche

Not sure if 10-sack players can be “under the radar,” but these two designated pass-rusher types are going to have interesting markets and also test how much teams are willing to pay for that pass-rushing juice, even at a detriment to the run game.

Among the 169 qualifying NFL defenders over the past three seasons, Huff and Uche join Micah Parsons, Rashan Gary and Trey Hendrickson in the top five in pressure rate, just ahead of players like Nick Bosa and Myles Garrett. Even when the sacks are not happening, both of these players consistently impact the quarterback. Would I like either of them as the ace of my pass rushing group? No. But, as a super secondary rusher next to a bona fide star or as a cherry on top to a terrifying group (much like Huff was a part of with the Jets), then both of these players can push “good” into “elite.” The Browns adding Ogbo Okoronkwo last year is a good example.


Jordyn Brooks, Azeez Al-Shaair

It’s a dire linebacker landscape right now in the NFL, and looking at this year’s group of prospects (I currently have only one off-ball linebacker among my top 40 players on my big board for the 2024 NFL Draft), it doesn’t look like clear reinforcements are coming. This is why a player like Brooks, a true three-down linebacker who can actually perform the coverage and run game tasks of a modern off-ball player, is worth throwing some money at. Brooks has the preferred size and speed combination, while still well under the scary age range for linebacker (26), that could make him worth an extra couple dollars at what has been considered a “non-premium” position recently, but has seen its player supply dwindle over recent years.

Al-Shaair is more of a run-first player, but he reads the game well and is a strong tackler and another defender who can play starter-level snaps seeking to find an answer this spring. I was surprised he didn’t have more of a market last year after being the “other” linebacker in San Francisco, but he did nothing to hinder his stock after being a full-time starter in Tennessee.

Defensive back

Jordan Fuller

The cornerback market in free agency is pretty “meh” (but it’s a fun group of prospects, trust me), but the safety group is intriguing. A former star backend player (or two) seem to be getting released every single day, but what if a team were looking to go shopping for more off-brand or specific answers to their greatest safety needs?

Fuller is a clever player who is a safety in every semblance of the word; he constantly gets his teammates aligned and shores up their mistakes and leakiness. You can tell that he is a real student of the game and does a great job of diagnosing common offensive concepts, sometimes being able to make plays on the ball. Fuller isn’t the best athlete and has faced injuries already so far in his career, but when he’s on the field, he is the exact definition of solid, not a star, but a player who makes everyone around him better.

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