While the focus of NFL media will be on star players who are potentially going to be traded — such as Julio Jones and Aaron Rodgers — there are still quite a few notable names on the free agent market. And the most telling reason as to why they are unsigned as of June is probably what you’d expect:
It’s difficult to land a job in the NFL if you’re 30 or older.
Over at NFL Trade Rumors, they have a list of 100 remaining free agents, and 10 of their top 12 are at least 30 years of age. Expand that a little and you’ll see that 14 of the top 17 are at least 29. The exceptions are all defensive backs: cornerbacks Brian Poole and Steven Nelson, as well as safety Malik Hooker.
Nelson and Poole are 28, while Hooker, who is recovering from a torn Achilles, is only 25.
Many of these names will find opportunities in June, July, and August. Some might not hear the phone ring until the season begins. And others don’t yet realize that their careers are over. The LA Rams have a few needs and a few million dollars left to spend, if they want to, so could they be the ones to call?
Here are a few notables, but if you see other names in that list that you think should be mentioned (and I’m 100% sure that there are such cases), add them in the comments and I’ll focus on them in a follow-up post.
Austin Reiter, C
Easily the best center available, but being an available center in June is bad news. There is a scarcity of talent at the position, so it is improbable that a starter could still be signed midway through the offseason. This despite the fact that Reiter started all 19 games for a Super Bowl champion in 2019. And he played in 18 games (15 starts) when the Chiefs returned to the Super Bowl last season.
That’s 37 games worth of snaps to Patrick Mahomes, but teams aren’t interested in him as an upgrade today. Why?
Well, a lot of teams are comfortable with what they have at center and it’s possible Reiter is biding his time until an injury opens up the best opportunity for him to continue his career at 29. The Rams are comfortable with Austin Corbett and we know that Sean McVay has unusual confidence in Brian Allen.
So Reiter may not be an option today, but that could change by late August, if Reiter is still available.
Chiefs Wire had this to say about him:
Contrary to popular belief, Reiter was really solid for the Chiefs in 2020. He didn’t allow a single sack during the entire season and postseason, with just 11 total pressures on the year. You have to go all the way back to Super Bowl LIV to find the last time he surrendered a sack.
Steven Nelson, CB
Brian Poole, CB
Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB
I’m lumping three cornerbacks together and singling them out because it’s still unclear who is going to replace Troy Hill. Will it be David Long? Or Terrell Burgess? Or Robert Rochell?
I’m sure that McVay and Raheem Morris don’t have an answer and won’t until training camp is well underway. However, that’s still three players with almost no professional experience on a defense.
Nelson seemed to be a solid corner during his time with the Steelers, though Pro-Football-Reference faulted him for seven touchdowns allowed in 2020. Nelson could sign with a team any day now, and the Eagles have been mentioned as a potential destination.
Poole made seven starts for the Jets last season, but New York was also the worst team in the NFL in many respects. He had seven passes defensed and two interceptions limited snaps, but he hasn’t landed his next opportunity yet. Poole is also primarily a slot cornerback and that should interest LA, given their needs.
Those ‘needs’ extend back to the time that the Rams let Robey-Coleman leave in free agency — just one year ago — to sign with the Eagles. His one-year stint in Philly resulted in 15 games, 44 tackles, only one pass defensed, and terrible coverage. But he was pretty good for the Rams, so could he be back once the dust has settled on a modest one-year pact?
K.J. Wright, LB
Finally (and yes, there are a lot more names we need to cover after this), I want to highlight a player who has been mentioned many times in the comments over the last few weeks. Wright has a lot of experience playing against the Rams after 10 seasons with the Seahawks, but he could also be the best available option left to LA as far as linebacker upgrades.
#Seahawks Free Agent KJ Wright had interest this week from #Colts #Eagles and #Dolphins in some initial coversation. #NFL #nflrumors— NFL Rumors (@nflrums) May 29, 2021
In recent seasons, Wright has been a liability in the passing game and he’s had some misses in the tackling area, which is how he eventually fell out of favor in Seattle. The Seahawks drafted his replacement in the first round last year — Jordyn Brooks — and I would be surprised if he’s not in a new location next season.
The Rams should be able to do a better job than the Seahawks of hiding Wright’s weaknesses and plugging him into the middle of their linebackers corps, behind Aaron Donald and alongside Leonard Floyd. His leadership and experience should be a welcome addition to a unit that lacks leadership and experience. Even if it’s only for one year.
That’s only five names out of many potential options. There’s a lot more summer to go, though.