The creme of the crop may have been taken in March and April, but there are still a handful of very solid, serviceable players available in 2012 NFL Free Agency.
Here’s a look at the Top 10 unrestricted free agents remaining on the open market heading into the second week of June.
(Note: This list is based on alphabetical order of each free agent’s last name.)
1. Cedric Benson, RB (Last Team: Cincinnati Bengals)
Benson bid his goodbye to the Bengals towards the end of March.
The 5-11, 227-pound back’s farewell was classy and his time was a success in Cincy. In his first season with the club, he carried the load 214 times and racked up 747 yards (3.5 YPC) and two touchdowns in 12 games (10 starts) in 2008.
However, he has elevated his numbers since, crossing the 1,000-yard mark the past three straight seasons, combining for 3,429 yards on 895 carries (3.83 yards per carry) and 19 scores with 60 catches for 371 yards and a score through the air.
His publicized police record (multiple arrests) and age (29) may have something to do with why he has yet to be signed. Despite the glacially slow market for his services, last we checked he was upbeat and looking at the glass half-full.
2. Gary Brackett, LB (Last Team: Indianapolis Colts)
While Gary Brackett, 32, is no spring chicken and missed all but one game in 2011 with a shoulder injury, he recently received medical clearance.
The 5-11, 235-pound middle linebacker was very consistent for most of his nine-year career in Indianapolis, appearing in 77 games (47 starts) and registering a total of 707 tackles, 4.0 sacks, four forced fumbles and 12 interceptions.
Brackett was cut by the Colts on March 9, but should find a spot as a starter sometime this summer.
3. Andre Carter, DE (Last Team: New England Patriots)
A very versatile and productive 12-seasoned veteran, Andre Carter, 32, racked up 52 total tackles, 10.0 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles in his first season in New England in 14 contests (all starts) in 2011.
The 6-4, 255-pound pass-rusher spent his first five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, before spending the next five years with the Washington Redskins. The former first-rounder (selected seventh overall in 2001) is still “limping heavily” after a quadriceps tear near the end of the 2011 season, but will quickly find work once he’s healthy.
4. Dennis Dixon, QB (Last Team: Pittsburgh Steelers)
Dennis Dixon was selected in the fifth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008 out of Oregon.
The 6-3, 209-pound signal-caller hopes to make a name for himself as he enters his fifth season.
Dixon, 27, went 12 of 26 (46.2 completion percentage) for 145 yards and one touchdown to one interception in one game and one start in 2009 and completed 22 of 32 throws (68.8 completion percentage) for 254 yards and one pick in two starts in 2010. The Oakland, CA native went 1-for-1 in ’09 and didn’t see the field at all last season.
5. Braylon Edwards, WR (Last Team: San Francisco 49ers)
Two months ago we reported that Gang Green had expressed interest in bringing back Braylon Edwards.
But it was believed that the 6-3, 214-pound wide out was still recovering from the knee injury which forced the 49ers to throw in the towel on his potential with the team last December.
Since Edwards is still available, it’s likely the perception hasn’t changed.
In addition, Edwards comes with a warning label for his off-the-field image and often catches the butterfingers. Nevertheless, he’s an underrated blocker and can separate from defenders with the best of ‘em when he’s healthy.
The 29-year-old receiver caught just 15 passes for 181 yards last year, but did put on a show in 2010 with the Jets with 53 receptiuons for 904 yards and seven scores. He also made fantasy owners a fortune in 2007 with 80 receptions for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns with the Cleveland Browns.
6. Ryan Grant, RB (Last Team: Green Bay Packers)
Ryan Grant, 29, emerged as an up-and-coming star in 2008 and 2009, when he appeared in 32 regular season games (30 starts) and combined for 2,456 yards and 15 touchdowns on 594 carries with 43 receptions for 313 yards and a score.
The 6-1, 222-pound veteran suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 of the 2010 season.
His 2011 campaign was less-than-impressive, as he chalked up 559 yards and two touchdowns on 134 carries with 19 receptions for 268 yards and a score, as he share the load with James Starks.
It was rumored earlier this month that he would visit the Detroit Lions, but is still searching for a place to play in 2012.
7. E.J. Henderson, LB (Last Team: Minnesota Vikings)
In nine seasons, E.J. Henderson, 31, has registered 751 tackles, 15.5 sacks, five interceptions and a dozen forced fumbles.
He’s played in 125 contests and has 105 career starts. The 6-1, 245-pound veteran was selected in the second round out of the 2003 NFL Draft out of the University of Maryland.
Last season, he racked up 109 tackles, 3.0 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. There’s a good chance he’ll return to the lineup with his younger brother, Erin Henderson, in Minnesota in the upcoming season.
8. Marcus McNeill, OT (Last Team: San Diego Chargers)
Marcus McNeill was released by the San Diego Chargers on March 13. The two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle was selected in the second round (50th overall) by the Bolts out of Auburn in the 2006 NFL Draft. McNeill has 82 starts under his belt at a premium position in the NFL, but medical concerns have taken a toll on his market value.
9. Chad Ochocinco, WR (Last Team: New England Patriots) Signed Monday With The Miami Dolphins
He’s 34-years-old. And analogous to Braylon Edwards, he had just 15 receptions last season.
But that may have had more to do with issues adapting to the “Patriot Way” and learning the scheme, rather than just not being able to deliver as a decent contributor.
“Regardless of which team signs him, the challenge will be to let Chad be Chad,” writes Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. ”The Patriots tried to clip his wings in 2011, and being different off the field made him different on the field. He seemed so scared about screwing up his opportunity that he ultimately screwed up his opportunity.”
“The next team that employs him has to be willing to embrace who he is, and to encourage him to be himself and be willing to make mistakes and not fear losing playing time or, eventually, his job,” Florio continued.
In 2010, Chad Ochocinco hauled in 67 receptions for 831 yards and four touchdowns. He played in chalked up 72 catches for 1,047 yards and nine scores in 2009. His 2008 campaign, in which he caught 53 passes for 540 yards and four scores, is the closest to his numbers from last year since his rookie season (2001).
The three-time All-Pro wide receiver and six-time Pro Bowler has had a remarkable career in the NFL.
10. Oshiomogho Atogwe, S (Last Team: Washington Redskins)
In seven seasons, O.J. Otogwe has registered 450 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles and 25 interceptions.
The 5-11, 205-pound safety spent his first six seasons in St. Louis, before taking his talents to Washington, where he racked up 60 tackles, half a sack and three interceptions in 13 games (eight starts).
Atogwe, 30, has played in 101 games (83 starts) and was released by the Redskins back on March 13. Since then, he’s been linked to the likes of the Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. Albeit he’s likely past his prime, he has plenty left in the tank.
Honorable Mentions: OT Matt Starks, DE Matt Roth, DB Drew Coleman, LB James Farrior, DT Aubrayo Franklin