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Sun, Feb 7, 2016

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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Five little-known free agents I like, and five well-known ones I don't


After a disappointing stint with Jacksonville, Reggie Nelson (right) had his best season in 2011. (Getty Images)  
After a disappointing stint with Jacksonville, Reggie Nelson (right) had his best season in 2011. (Getty Images)  

Now that the franchise tags have been settled, and we know who will be on the NFL free-agent market, I thought I would take a look at some players flying under the radar and some who should make the buyer beware.

Most of the buyer-beware players are names you might recognize, but also players who should come with a caution tag. Some are older, some are slowing, and some just aren't as good as their reputations.

As for the little-known players, these are guys who have flashed at times and might even be bargains for some. For others, it's their time.

Let free agency begin.

Little-known players I really like

1. Seahawks defensive tackle Red Bryant -- I will break him down on tape for a Thursday column here at CBSSports.com, but I really like this kid. He plays hard. He's an anchor in the 3-4 and can also play inside in a 4-3. Oh, and he's only 27.

2. Eagles defensive tackle Derek Landri -- This undersized player was a big surprise for the Eagles last season. Signed as a low-level free agent, he was one of their better pickups. He plays with a lot of effort and his quickness is a plus. Might not be the right fit for every team, but he is a player who will help in the defensive rotation.

3. Bengals safety Reggie Nelson -- He was considered a bust in Jacksonville as a first-round pick. Part of that was because he didn't put the work in to be a good player. He's changed. He's matured. And he has become a better player. In a league where range matters, Nelson has it. He isn't a great tackler, but he has improved there as well. With safety being a weak position in the draft, Nelson should get a lot of attention.

4. Jaguars safety Dwight Lowery -- Here's another young safety that should get a lot of play. The Jaguars want him back, but at what price? Lowery came over in a trade last year from the Jets and clearly outplayed any of the Jets safeties. He has range and he will tackle. This former corner has made a nice transition to the back end.

5. Bengals defensive tackle Pat Sims -- He is a load at 335 pounds and has shown flashes of being a quality player at times. Injuries have slowed him some. But he's only 26 years old and power players like him are hard to find. He has 23 starts in four seasons.

Players I would be cautious about

1. Falcons defensive end John Abraham -- He had 9½ sacks last season, but how many did he get in division games? One, and that's playing in all six. That's disturbing. So is his age. He'll be 34 in May, and he has battled some injury issues over the years. For the right money, he makes sense. But for a big deal, I would caution the team that is considering it.

2. Packers quarterback Matt Flynn -- I like him. I do. I just think that the idea he is a franchise passer is going to be propped up because teams are so desperate to get a franchise quarterback. In the right system, he will work. But I never think he's going to be a top-10 quarterback. For the right price, it's OK. But I doubt the price is right.

3. 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers -- He played well early last season, but his play tailed off some as the season wore on. He will be 31 in July, so you wonder how much he has left. I still think he can play at a high level for two or three years, so the contract has to be creative. This isn't an elite corner, but a good one. Paying him elite money could hurt a franchise.

4. Bengals running back Cedric Benson -- In the past two seasons, Benson had per-carry averages of 3.5 yards and 3.9 yards. That's not good enough in a league where explosive plays matter. He also will turn 30 in December. He is more of a grinder for a team looking for a second back. I just don't see explosive ability. And when you watched the Bengals, that always seemed to show up when he was in the game. The run game didn't scare anybody.

5. Falcons middle linebacker Curtis Lofton -- He is a good run player, but he has struggled at times against the pass. This is a passing league. So a team might be spending big for a two-down linebacker. The middle-linebacker value isn't what it once used to be.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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