5 impending under-the-radar NFL restricted free agents
The 2020 season has reached its conclusion with a Tampa Bay Buccaneers victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. Attention will now turn to the league’s offseason, which promises to be every bit as interesting as the last one, due to COVID-19.
One thing that will not change is the rush on free agents come mid-March. Previously, we broke down a list of under-the-radar unrestricted free agents who may helps teams at a bargain price, but what about restricted free agents?
Although these players are less likely to switch teams (especially if tendered at a high round), some teams might decide to make a big move for them. Here is a look at five under-the-radar restricted free agents.
5. Efe Obada, DE
The Nigerian-born Efe Obada was a UK import back in 2014 and initially signed with the Dallas Cowboys. After bouncing around a bit his first two seasons, Obada landed with the Carolina Panthers in 2017 and slowly began to receive more playing time. In 2020, he saw his most significant action to date (415 defensive snaps) and responded with a career-high 5.5 sacks. Although Obada struggles a bit against the run and could stand to gain from better tackling, his pass rush grade of 74.4 speaks volumes about his potential. He has the skill to become a more multi-faceted talent, but even if a team wanted a sheer third-down pass rusher, the 29-year-old Obada may be worth the gamble.
4. Isaac Rochell, DT
Isaac Rochell has not taken more than 52 percent of the Los Angeles Chargers’ defensive snaps over his first four seasons, but that hasn’t stopped him from flashing his skills a time or two. In 2018, Rochell recorded a a career-high five sacks, which just so happened to coincide with a boost in playing time. He saw fewer snaps in both 2019 and 2020, but recorded a career-high 29 tackles last season despite that. Rochell also added 2.5 sacks, one safety, one pass defensed and three QB hits last year, while appearing in 16 games with six starts. Also a solid special teams contributor, there’s a lot to like about the 25-year-old, who could be a sneaky option for a team looking for a little help along the defensive line.
3. Mo Alie-Cox, WR
Mo Alie-Cox played well enough in 2020 that at the very least, teams are going to consider him. The undrafted basketball convert has good size (6-foot-6, 267 pounds) and decent speed (4.75 40-yard dash), and he took a major leap forward in his development this past season. Alie-Cox set career highs in receptions (31), yards (394), first downs (19) and touchdowns (2). And while his numbers do not exactly leap off the screen, it’s clear he’s an ascending player just beginning to hit his stride. His 81.0 PFF grade certainly speaks to that.
2. Gus Edwards, RB
Any time a running back averages 5.0 yards per carry or more, he should not be considered under-the-radar. However, when you play for the Baltimore Ravens and are behind the likes of Lamar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins, each of whom average 6.0 yards per carry or more, that’s what happens. And that’s the situation facing Gus Edwards, who will become a restricted free agent in March. Edwards has posted three consecutive seasons with 700 or more rushing yards and at least two touchdowns (six this past season). What limits Edwards is that he’s a pure rusher and doesn’t factor in too much out of the backfield. Still, he’s a quality back on a team stocked with running backs. Whatever tender Baltimore ultimately places on him, it’s not likely to dissuade other teams from showing interest.
1. Tim Patrick, WR
In Colorado, Tim Patrick has established himself as a household name for even casual fans, but he’s still a relative unknown outside of Denver. That will likely short-lived, however. After two sub-par seasons for the Broncos, Patrick erupted onto the scene in 2021, hauling in 51 receptions for 742 yards and six touchdowns, including three 100-yard games. And while those numbers tell the story of a quality WR2 or WR3 in today’s NFL, the film and advanced statistics most certainly on Patrick’s side. 14 of his 51 receptions went for 20-plus yards, four went for 40-plus yards, and a staggering 65% of his receptions were for first down. He’s a quality route runner, has proven an ability as a deep threat, and is still just 27 years old.