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Monday, July 13, 2020

5 intriguing NFL free agents who could still make an impact in 2019

Jay Ajayi

The 2019 NFL regular season is now nearing the quarter mark (if you can believe that) and injuries are beginning to mount across the league. In fact, quite a few of the injuries are significant and season-altering, so an added emphasis will soon be placed on remaining free agents.

But which free agents stand the greatest chance of making a big impact down the stretch? We’re glad you asked. Let’s take a look.

5. Eric Berry, safety

Is the Eric Berry story over? After battling his way back from cancer, injuries once again took a toll on the talented safety, limiting him to just three games over the past two seasons — a major reason why the 30-year-old remains on the free agent market. However, Berry has not indicated that he’s going to retire and he did draw a little interest throughout the offseason. Now, as teams suddenly find themselves in need of savvy veteran talent to fill holes as injuries mount, Berry could become a potentially hot target yet again. So long as his foot/ankle issues are no longer of concern, the book is not yet closed on Berry’s remarkably inspiring career.

4. Nick Perry, edge

In 2016, Nick Perry had posted a career-high 11 sacks leading to a cash-in with the Green Bay Packers, the very team that took him in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. However, Perry’s sack total fell to 7.0 in 2017 and then just 1.5 in 2018 when he appeared in only nine games. That led to a parting of ways in Green Bay and, to date, Perry has not managed to catch on elsewhere. Still, at the age 29, Perry has some gas remaining in the tank and could prove to be a valuable asset to a team looking for an edge rushing linebacker.

3. Muhammad Wilkerson, defensive end

A former first-round pick of the New York Jets, Muhammad Wilkerson appeared in just three games last season before suffering a serious ankle injury that required two surgeries to repair. Compounding matters, the veteran was arrested for a DWI in June and hasn’t really appeared on the radar of too many edge-needy teams. However, that will begin to change as playoff contenders and playoff pretenders begin to separate themselves. A pass rusher could make the difference between a Super Bowl run or a wildcard exit. So long as Wilkerson’s ankle checks out and his legal troubles are a thing of the past, some team, perhaps even the Philadelphia Eagles, will give him a chance.

2. Jay Ajayi, running back

After missing much of the 2018 season due to a torn ACL, Jay Ajayi believes he is ready to return to the field, and the timing could not be better for the veteran. Several teams are running back-starved or newly in need due to injuries (see: New York Giants). Ajayi arguably becomes the best available free agent at his position. So long as the back finds the right fit and is able to learn a new offense in short order, he stands to make a substantial impact down the stretch — potentially for a playoff team. The only thing that stands in his way, other than complete health, is selling a team on his talent over someone like C.J. Anderson, who also remains a surprise free agent.

1. Antonio Brown, wide receiver

Antonio Brown is a nightmare. He’s dramatic, destructive, unpredictable and has a wildly negative impact on the locker room. While all of those things are true, he’s also a remarkable and dynamic talent capable of taking over a game and pushing an offense in need over the top. And while he has a long climb back to the summit, Brown is reportedly not done with the NFL after all and has at least three teams interested in his services. The question is whether the league would stand in the way of him actually playing again this season.

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