3 Free agents who should be signed shortly after the draft

There’s something wrong with a player who’s still unsigned in late April. The marquee names of free agency were gobbled up over a month ago, and now only the discarded and possibly broken misfits are avaliable.

Which means they’re also heavily discounted, and right after the draft once-forgotten veterans are suddenly in demand again. Any draft shopping list items that remain after those three days and seven rounds are checked with a renewed pursuit of veteran free agent castaways.

Suddenly there’s new life for the open market, albeit briefly. There’s one last long breath for aging though once productive role players before they’re resigned to the cold business of waiting for a training camp injury.

What names should could sizzle once the draft is over? I have a few ideas. Three of them, to be exact.

Ahmad Bradshaw

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right.

Ahmad Bradshaw is the walking (barely?) example of why running backs have generally seen their pay decline sharply in recent years. He’s 29 and has missed 13 games over the past two seasons. Worse, over an eight-year career he’s appeared in all 16 games only once (2010) while battling chronic foot and ankle injuries. Even more concerning is his most recent injury during Bradshaw’s final season with the Indianapolis Colts. Bradshaw broke his leg in Week 11, another major dent for a running back who’s had plenty of them.

But any team with a running back need after the draft should still look at that mile-long injury list and let loose a loud “meh”.

Given both his injury history and more broadly the combustile nature of the running back position, at this point signing Bradshaw would reqcuire little or no guaranteed money. Any Bradshaw pact would be similar to his most recent contract with the Indianapois Colts: A one-year deal worth only $855,000.

What would the buyer be getting for that nothing, non-guaranteed cost? One of the best pass-catching running backs in the leauge when healthy. In 2014 Bradshaw appeared in only 10 games, yet still recorded 300 receiving yards on 38 receptions. He was on pace for 480 receiving yards, which would have been fourth among all running backs.

Of course, the “when healthy” bit is a challenge and an unlikely goal. But at a minimal, likely non-guaranteed cost, Bradshaw becomes a promising lottery ticket while risk evaporates.

Dwight Freeney

Dwight Freeney is also old. Let’s get that out of the way, as the 35-year-old outside linebacker/defensive end is well past is prime. But he’s not done yet, and in 2014 showed he can still be plenty productive in a rotational role.

The San Diego Chargers used Freeney for only 54.9 percent of their defensive snaps in 2014. Yet remarkably he still finished sixth among 3-4 outside linebackers in total pressures, per Pro Football Focus. Freeney recorded 53 pressures as a rotational pass rusher.

He can still thrive in that role for a team that finds itself on the wrong side of what’s likely to be an early run on pass rushers during the first round Thursday night.

Brandon Spikes

Brandon Spikes is a swarming run stuffer at inside linebacker. That’s what he does, and it’s who he’s always been. Pass coverage isn’t really his thing, which explains why he’s till on the market. Teams don’t exactly throw themselves at two-down linebackers.

But now offering Spikes the bread crubs needed to retain his services will become a fine decision if a team can use him strickly in an early-down role. Similar to Freeney, Spikes was highly effective in limited use during the 2014 season, his first (and only?) year with the Buffalo Bills.

Spikes appeared on the field for only 46.2 percent of the Bills’ defensive snaps, and he still recorded a solid 20 run stops. He’s only a season removed from finishing second among all inside linebackers with 44 run stops.

Sean Tomlinson

About Sean Tomlinson

Hello there! This is starting out poorly because I already used an exclamation point. What would you like to know about me? I once worked at a mushroom farm, which is sort of different I guess (don't eat mushrooms). I'm pretty wild too, and at a New Year's Eve party years ago I double-dipped a chip. Oh, and I write about football here and in a few other places around the Internet, something I did previously as the NFL features writer and editor at The Score. Let's be friends.

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