The Best NFL free agents who are still available going into July
We’re a little over two months from the kickoff of the NFL season, and just a month away from the initial preseason games. By this time, all the draftees have settled into their new surroundings, traded players are getting used to playing in different colors, and the NFL’s best free agents have inked their new contracts. Well, the first two points are true, anyway. The third? Only mostly true. As we look towards a new season, there are more than a few players, some with Super Bowl rings in their jewelry boxes, who don’t know where they’ll be playing in 2022. At least, they haven’t let us know, even if they do know themselves.
There is certainly some value out there for teams who need to fill a hole on offense or defense, and some names who could jump in and play if starters get injured in training camp. Some of them are good enough to make fans run to casinos not on Gamstop to back their team to go all the way this season. As the clock ticks down, though, the question is increasingly going to be asked: “How did he not get picked up by someone?”. Below, we’ll look at some of the best of that number and see if they could be on the move soon.
Odell Beckham Jr (Last club: LA Rams)
OBJ’s move to the Rams halfway through the 2021 season was a prescient, intelligent move on his part. It saw him land up at SoFi Stadium in time to play for the Rams in the Super Bowl and pick up his first career ring. Unfortunately, during that Super Bowl he also tore his ACL, and is laid up with that injury right now. He won’t be expected back on the field until November, which is why there is no rush to get him onto a new roster. Still, an NFL team could make a worse decision than give him an incentive-laden multi-year contract now, see him through rehab and have one of the game’s stellar wide receivers for the next couple of years.
Trey Flowers (Detroit Lions)
Flowers followed Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to Michigan when the latter got his first NFL head coaching role, and at least lasted longer than Patricia at the Lions. He did get released back in March, though, after a second consecutive injury-disrupted season. He may not be the right signing for a team that wants an every-down defensive end, but at only 28 he has enough left in him to be a solid contributor in the right scheme.
That could theoretically mean joining up again with Patricia and the Patriots, who brought back the coach in an advisory role after he was sacked by the unimproved Lions. Flowers would also be welcomed by the Raiders, who have to face Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert twice each next season and will need some juice in their pass rush.
JC Tretter (Cleveland Browns)
It’s understandable that teams haven’t wanted to part with big money to bring Tretter on board. Although only 31, he basically doesn’t have knees anymore. He almost never practices, then shows up on game day and starts, as he has done every week for the five years he spent in Cleveland. But here’s the thing – he may have so much scar tissue in those knees and ankles that it’s basically holding his legs together at this point, but Tretter plays every down. And even if he’s playing on one leg and some duct tape, he’s still close to the best center in the NFL while doing it.
At some stage, you have to think a GM will puff out their cheeks, pick up the phone and try to get a deal done. They might have to wheel Tretter onto the field on a dolly on game days, but he’ll probably still swat away any nose tackle that so much as looks at him. Arizona needs a reliable center, and they could do much worse than give him a call.
There are, of course, other names who can expect a call the moment a player in their position limps off a practice field. Will Fuller won’t have appreciated in price after his tormented season in Miami, while Ndamukong Suh may be increasingly a luxury player as he settles into his mid-30s, but his experience and game intelligence could turn a playoff team into a Super Bowl one.