The Kelechi Osemele’s, Janoris Jenkins’s and Mario Williams’s of the world are already getting enormous contracts they’ll have a very hard time living up to. Free agency is set to start at 4pm eastern today. And while fans get very excited about the new class of players and how they will transform their new team’s fortune, the reality is free agency yields a lot more busts and disappointments by the time it’s all said and done. That’s why the lower investments are always the ones that pay off the most. Below are players that may not sign on day one, or get the massive contract, but they will greatly help whoever signs them:
Donald Penn, T, Oakland Raiders
Penn turns 33 in April and he’s been solid but unspectacular for most of his career, which did feature a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2010. Based on his career it’s unlikely he’ll command the enormous top tackle money that some get – but make no mistake – Penn played extremely well at left tackle for the Raiders last year. The value here for a year or two could be extremely good. He also hasn’t missed a start since 2008. His two year $9.6 million deal in 2014 turned out to be a fantastic bargain.
Brandon Brooks, G, Houston Texans
Guard is a position a little bit less valued in the NFL, so sometimes you can get them at a more reasonable price. Brooks is a textbook pass blocker in a passing league. Someone will be lucky to have him.
Patrick Robinson, CB, San Diego Chargers
He was such a disaster in New Orleans that his 1st round draft status wasn’t justified at all. But on a “prove it” 1 year deal in San Diego, Robinson rebounded to have a very nice season. He’ll cost more now, perhaps, but his injuries and struggles with the Saints will lower his value on the open market. If you’re looking for a solid nickel corner that could spot start in a pinch, this is a good pickup.
Akiem Hicks, DT, New England Patriots
Hicks has been really hit or miss in his career, so it has to be the right system with the proper motivational group around him. When he’s on, though, he’s as good as anyone in the league. His mixed results up to this point means he could be very good value contract wise.
Aldon Smith, OLB, Oakland Raiders
He’s schedule to miss half the season due to suspension. When he comes back, though, teams will be interested. Pass rushers as explosive as him are near impossible to find.