With free agency starting in mere hours, rumors are at an all-time high and the most coveted free agents are sitting back and watching the offers build up. Every year there are several players that slip under the radar of most NFL front offices, whether it is due to injuries, age or character concerns. Today we take a look at a couple of free agents who could make an impact in 2014, but who will most likely have to settle for one-year ”prove it” deals.
After injuries forced him into being the Giants’ top cornerback by default in 2009, Thomas proceeded to become one of the best CBs in the NFL. During the 2009 season, the Pasadena, California native led the Giants in tackles (85), passes defended (18) and interceptions (5), and then followed up with an outstanding 2010 campaign in which he again led the G-Men in tackles (101), PDs (21) and INTs (5).
The now 29-year-old Thomas then missed the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to two ACL injuries. The former Trojan and 2008 second-round pick returned to the field in 2013 and posted 67 tackles, seven PDs and one pick. During his tenure with the Giants from 2008 to 2013, Thomas posted 298 tackles, 45 PDs and 12 interceptions.
Thomas proved that he wasn’t finished after back-to-back ACL injuries by posting a solid 2013 season, and he should be even better in 2014, two years removed from the brutal injuries that cost him two years of his prime. If Corey Graham walks, Thomas could be a valuable addition to the Ravens secondary as the Nickel CB.
After posting 178 catches (4th most in school history) and 3,043 yards (Rutgers and Big East record) to go along with 17 TDs (T-2nd most in school history), this Bayonne, New Jersey native was drafted in the first round (30th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Titans.
During his first two seasons in 2009 and 2010, Britt posted 84 receptions for 1,476 yards and 12 TDs, while leading the team with 701 receiving yards in 2009 and then again in 2010 with 775 receiving yards, while also posting a team-high nine TDs.
After strong rookie and sophomore campaigns, Britt was on the verge of being a superstar in 2011, posting 289 yards on 17 receptions to go with three TDs in just three games before tearing his ACL and MCL against the Denver Broncos. The 6-3, 223-pound Britt returned in 2012, posting 45 catches for 589 yards and four TDs before having a season to forget in 2013, when he caught just 11 passes for 96 yards and 0 TDs while spending most of the season on the sidelines.
Now going on three years removed from the devastating knee injury, if Britt is fully healthy, he could be a steal in free agency. Still just 25 (26 in September), Britt still has potential, and if he can keep his head on straight (nine run-ins with the law since 2009) he could be worth a one-year flier.
If the Ravens lose Jacoby Jones, the legendary 31-year-old (32 in November) Hester would be a great option on a one or two-year deal. The Riviera Beach, Florida native is a three-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, and was named to the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade squad. Hester also holds the NFL records for ST return TDs (19), PR TDs (13) and the single-season NFL records for return TDs (six-2007) and PR TDs (four in 2007).
Since being chosen in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Bears, Hester has played his entire eight-year NFL career in Chicago, totaling 3,241 PR yards on 264 attempts (12.3 avg.) with 13 TDs and 5,504 KR yards on 222 attempts (24.8 avg.) with five scores. The explosive Hester has also posted 217 receptions for 2,807 yards (12.9 avg) and 14 TDs as a receiver.
In 2013, Hester racked up 256 punt return yards on 18 attempts (14.2 avg.) with one TD, while taking 52 kick returns for a league-leading 1,436 yards (27.6 avg.). Hester is expected to leave Chicago this offseason, ending his eight-year tenure with the Bears (2006-2013) with 11,558 All-Purpose yards and 33 Total TDs.
Hester proved he wasn’t done just yet in 2013, and he would be a perfect fit for the Ravens if Jacoby Jones bolts in the next couple of days. Not only does he bring a dangerous playmaking resume into free agency, but in the final years of his career, Hester might just want to go to a contender and make a run for pretty much the only achievement he’s yet to add to his collection – a Super Bowl ring.