NFL Free Agency About To Heat Back Up After The Draft, Former Starters Remain Available

Videos by OutKick

Teddy Bridgewater was weighing a decision on his next team a month ago when the Detroit Lions seemed to be the most logical landing spot for the free agent quarterback. And that might ultimately still be the case. But there is now some question whether the circumstances have changed.

The Lions, you see, drafted University of Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker in the third round. And although Hooker is not fully recovered from ACL surgery, his status on the team somewhat clouds Bridgewater’s situation.

So Bridgewater, a one-time first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings, must figure out where the Lions wish to go with their situation and what he’s going to do next. He’s been on four teams the past four seasons and team No. 5 is on the horizon.

That’s how it is for back-end unrestricted free agents after the NFL draft.

Quarterback Hendon Hooker of Tennessee speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 03, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Lions Picking Hooker Might Affect Bridgewater

The end of the NFL draft typically brings a flurry of veteran free agent activity. Teams that didn’t fill needs in the draft turn to short-term contracts with veteran free agents. The moves typically add depth.

We saw that the past couple of days when the New York Jets signed veteran offensive lineman Billy Turner after failing to find a tackle in the draft. Turner has played both guard and tackle throughout his career and provides New York a backstop should Mekhi Becton or Duane Brown — neither durable of late — fail to answer the call on any given game day in 2023.

And, not so amazingly, there are some bigger, more notable veterans still unsigned for teams with obvious needs to consider in what is the back end of the free agent market.

That list includes a trio of former starting quarterbacks in Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan and Bridgewater.

It includes a former No. 1 overall pick among multiple accomplished edge rushers.

It’s a who’s who of the NFL if we were living in 2016. Unfortunately for these guys, it’s 2023 so they are add-ons.


Plan C if Plans A and B fail.

Who are these one-time vital veterans?

Consider the best on the market:

Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Levi’s Stadium on January 22, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Name Running Backs Available

Running back Ezekiel Elliott: There’s a chance he might return to the Dallas Cowboys although that might be difficult after the team cut him for salary cap reasons after a disappointing 2022. Club owner Jerry Jones actually recently said the “ship hasn’t sailed” on an Elliott return. Elliott wasn’t dynamic last season, averaging 3.8 yard per carry. But he’s still a three-down back if necessary.

Running back Leonard Fournette: Money is a consideration here because Playoff Lenny wasn’t going to sign with just anyone or just any amount after he was released by the Tampa Bay Bucs. But jobs are getting scarce now and most teams aren’t paying for running backs anyway. He could wait for an injury on a team with playoff hopes before committing.

Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett.
Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Cleveland Browns pats Myles Garrett #95 on the back during a game against the Arizona Cardinals at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Anyone need an edge rusher or two?

DE Jadeveon Clowney: The first overall selection of the 2014 draft, Clowney has averaged only 3.5 sacks the past four years and managed only 2 in 12 games last season. But he’s experienced and still able to be disruptive on occasion.

DE Yannick Ngakoue: Any team that needs a minimum of eight sacks next season should be considering Ngakoue because that’s what he’s delivered every year he’s been in the NFL dating back to 2016. He’s only 6-foot-2 and 246 pounds and can be something of a liability in run defense. But as a pass specialist, he’s a try-hard guy who often disrupts the quarterback.

OLB Justin Houston: He had 9 sacks in 14 games as he was primarily a passing-down threat. Houston has played since 2011 and at age 34 might be considering retirement. But if he decides to come back another season, any number of teams would have him on their emergency list in case of injury during training camp or the regular season.

Edge Frank Clark: He had a rough regular season, managing only five sacks. Then came the postseason and Clark lit it up. He had 2.5 sacks in three playoff games to add to his KC total of 10.5 sacks in 12 postseason games. There is nothing that doesn’t suggest he can be a good situational pass rusher in 2023, especially for a team that suffers an injury and needs a quality replacement.

Cornerback Marcus Peters #24 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates following an interception during the fourth quarter of their AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on January 10, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Teams can Never Have Enough CBs

CB Rock Ya-Sin: The Baltimore Ravens kicked the tires a few weeks ago but never took the next step. With the club still looking for secondary help after the draft, this becomes an option.

CB Marcus Peters: He and Ya-Sin are not similar players but they do find themselves in similar situations.

OL Dalton Risner: He wants to start. But that might not be possible unless some team has injury problems. Risner, 28, is a great answer to injury problems because he played both guard spots in Denver, has tons of experience starting and even played right tackle in college. 

DE/DT Matthew Ioannidis: He was outstanding in 2019 when he recorded 64 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks. But that’s a long time ago now and the Panthers let him test free agency after his one-year contract expired at the end of 2022. Ioannidis remains an inside pass rush threat but at age 29 he doesn’t seem to finish as he did earlier in his career.

Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Miami Dolphins signals at the line of scrimmage during the second quarter of the preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Hard Rock Stadium on August 20, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

Durability A Question For Bridgewater

Bridgewater: He started only two games last season and wasn’t able to finish either. So now it’s about durability for a player who is supposed to be the answer if durability issues strike the starting quarterback.

LT Donovan Smith: He was bad for the Buccaneers last season. He led the NFL in holding penalties and gave up six sacks. But he’s a left tackle that, if healthy, can add experience. And no stage or situation is too big for him because he’s played well in the postseason in the past.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Leave a Reply