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Friday, July 20, 2018

15 best remaining NFL free agents

Dez Bryant

The early free agency frenzy is long over, the 2018 NFL Draft has passed, and organized team activities (OTAs) and mini-camps are in full swing around the league. But that doesn’t mean teams are done tweaking their rosters. There are still quite a few talented players available in free agency. As training camps approach, the interest in them will undoubtedly increase.

Here’s a look at the 15 best remaining NFL free agents.

15. Orleans Darkwa, RB

Orleans Darkwa’s name appearing on this list may come as a surprise to some, but he did some impressive things last year for the Giants. While playing with metal plates in his leg and behind a horrendous offensive line, the running back managed to rush for over 750 yards while averaging 4.4 yards per carry a season ago. With the plates having been removed this offseason, Darkwa will now see the return of his explosiveness, which he had just started to display prior to his injury in 2016. Capable of running, catching and pass protecting, Darkwa will get a well-deserved shot somewhere in 2018.

14. Coby Fleener, TE

Coby Fleener had a career year with the New Orleans Saints in 2016, hauling in 50 receptions for 631 yards and three touchdowns. However, a concussion limited him to just 11 games (one start) in 2017. As recently as mid-May, Fleener had still not been cleared to play. However, when Fleener is ultimately cleared, he immediately becomes a solid veteran option for any team in need and, arguably, the best remaining tight end on the free agent market.

13. Junior Galette, EDGE

After missing two full seasons after twice tearing his Achilles’ tendon, Junior Galette returned in 2017 and appeared in all 16 games, recording 20 tackles, three sacks, two passes defensed and one forced fumble. And while it wasn’t the same dynamic season-long performance Galette managed in 2013 and 2014, it was enough to prove he is over his injury history and still capable of producing in the NFL. The only issue may be Galette’s interest in playing. Despite receiving calls from several teams, Galette says he’s considering retirement. If he opts to return in 2018, he could be an interesting option for a team in need.

12. Eric Decker, WR

A shoulder injury cost Eric Decker much of the 2016 season, which ultimately led to his release from the New York Jets despite a 1,000-yard season just a year earlier. In 2017, he found a new home as a role player for the Tennessee Titans, where he recorded 54 receptions for 563 yards and one touchdown. He also saw his catch rate shoot up to 65.1 percent, while earning a 71.8 Pro Football Focus grade. At 31 years old, Decker may not be a No. 1 receiver anymore, but he can certainly produce from the slot and step up in the event of an injury. There’s still quite a bit of productivity left in his career.

11. Connor Barwin, EDGE

Connor Barwin has long been one of the league’s most underrated players, and that clearly hasn’t changed. In 14 games last season, Barwin recorded 34 tackles, two stuffs and five sacks for a revamped Los Angeles Rams defense, but saw a continued decline in his Pro Football Focus grade (42.6). However, the former Eagle isn’t that far removed from a career-year in which he recorded 14.5 sacks and a PFF grade of nearly 80.0. Of course, at 31 years old, Barwin is obviously on the downside of his career, but he could still produce at a high level as a situational pass rusher.

10. Kenny Vaccaro, S

Kenny Vaccaro has had his ups and downs over the first five seasons of his career, which hasn’t helped his market value — a market that is already extremely hard on safeties. However, Vaccaro is obviously skilled and has not yet come close to his ceiling, so with the right coaching and in the right situation, he could excel. He finished the 2017 season with 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven passes defensed and three interceptions. Vaccaro’s 35.4 Pro Football Focus grade certainly isn’t worth celebrating, but again, he’s displayed flashes of potentially elite talent and is worth taking the chance on for the right price.

9. Tre Boston, S

As noted previously, the safety market has taken a tremendous hit in recent years and players like Kenny Vaccaro and Tre Boston continue to pay for it. The 26-year-old finished last season with a career-high 76 tackles, eight passes defensed and five interceptions for the Los Angeles Chargers. Boston also earned an 81.4 grade courtesy of Pro Football Focus and was specifically lauded for his coverage. It only makes sense that coming off his best season to date that Boston not only get a call elsewhere, but land a starting job. He recently met with the Arizona Cardinals, but remains available for the taking.

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