Franchise tags are being handed out and the Scouting Combine is just around the corner. That means it’s time to start talking free agency in the NFL.
You’re probably already aware that top names like Le’Veon Bell, Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, Sheldon Richardson, Jimmy Graham and DeMarcus Lawrence are slated to hit the open market. But here are 10 less-heralded impending unrestricted free agents who could be difference-makers wherever they land.
Colts CB Rashaan Melvin: The former journeyman settled in as a regular starter in Indy in 2017 and became one of the best defenders on the team. He had three interceptions in 10 games and had the league’s ninth-lowest passer rating in coverage.
Eagles LB Nigel Bradham: The quietly steady 28-year-old led all 4-3 outside linebackers in terms of yards allowed per coverage snap and coverage snaps per reception allowed in 2017. He should receive a Super Bowl premium.
Falcons WR Taylor Gabriel: The speedy 27-year-old has been overshadowed by one of the top 1-2 receiver duos in the league in Atlanta, but he’s still only a year removed from a six-touchdown Super Bowl season.
Seahawks WR Paul Richardson: The explosive 25-year-old is coming off a breakout season in which he scored six touchdowns and went over 700 yards, but it doesn’t seem as though anybody is talking about him.
Saints DE Alex Okafor: He’ll likely be overlooked and underpaid as he recovers from a torn Achilles, but the 27-year-old was having the best season of his career before suffering that injury 10 weeks into the 2017 campaign. He has double-digit-sack potential.
Eagles TE Trey Burton: Completely overshadowed by Zach Ertz, the 26-year-old scored five touchdowns and caught 74.1 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2017. He’s also hot right now after throwing a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.
Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon: The 25-year-old isn’t a lead dog, but he had a career year with 421 yards as a receiver in 2017.
Rams S Lamarcus Joyner: Also coming off a breakout season, the 27-year-old former second-round pick has improved steadily during his four years with the Rams. He had three interceptions, nine passes defensed, a touchdown, a forced fumble and superb Pro Football Focus grades in 2017.
Rams CB Nickell Robey-Coleman: The 26-year-old deserved more love than he got as a free agent coming off a great season with the Buffalo Bills last year. That’ll likely change after Robey-Coleman put together another top-notch campaign in the slot in 2017.
Titans LB Avery Williamson: He’s not flashy and he doesn’t play an impact position, but the 25-year-old is incredibly reliable. He has steadily started 59 games in his first four seasons and is coming off a year in which he ranked in the top 25 in football in terms of both run-stop percentage and pass-rush productivity.