After a seven-week lull, don't be surprised if NFL free agency starts to heat up again over the next few days and that's because May 9 is the unofficial start of the second wave of player signings.
If you've been following the NFL for any length of time, then you're probably well aware that the first day of free agency is almost always one of the craziest days on the NFL calendar every year. Although May 9 isn't as crazy, it's still a big deal in the NFL this year because it marks the first day that teams are allowed to sign free agents and NOT have it count toward the compensatory draft pick formula.
Basically, if Antonio Gates had signed a contract sometime before May 8, the Chargers would have had a chance to get a 2019 compensatory pick in return and the team that signed him would have had a lower chance of landing a compensatory pick. Instead, now that the deadline has passed, the Chargers won't get anything if Gates ends up signing with a new team.
Sure, the second wave of free agency isn't as exciting as the first wave -- or even half as exciting -- but there are still some big name players available who could end being major contributors in 2018. At this point last year, LeGarrette Blount was still available and things ended up working out pretty well for him. Instead of signing in March, Blount with the Eagles in May and ended up going on to win the Super Bowl.
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So who's even left in free agency and where might those players end up?
Let's check out the list of players who are still available, starting with Dez Bryant.
Dez Bryant (WR)
Over the past three weeks, it seems like half the Texans roster has been trying to recruit Bryant to Houston and there's a good reason for that: He'd likely be a perfect fit. If the Texans were to add Bryant to the roster, he would join a receiving corps that already includes DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, which means Deshaun Watson should probably start lobbying to make this happen as soon as possible.
If the Texans' front office is worried about a potential personality clash between Hopkins and Bryant -- remember, receivers want the ball on every play and don't generally enjoy sharing the spotlight -- it doesn't sound like that would happen. As a matter of fact, Hopkins is actually one of the players on the Texans' roster who wants to see Bryant in Houston.
"I love Dez, I looked up to Dez when I was in college," Hopkins said just before the draft, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "When he was at Oklahoma State, I used to watch his highlights, because we're kind of measured similarly. He's a little bigger than me, but our body type is similar and our style of play. I've always been a fan of his, so once I saw that the Cowboys dropped him, why not reach out to a guy that can still help a team win?"
The best part for Bryant is that he wouldn't even have to move away from Dallas, which is a big deal, because everyone hates moving. The other best part for Bryant is that he would got a shot at revenge on the Cowboys this season in primetime, because the Texans will be hosting Dallas on Sunday night in Week 5.
As for the Seahawks, after deciding that Russell Wilson doesn't need any offensive linemen, it appears that they've now decided he doesn't need any receivers. Since the beginning of the offseason, the Seahawks have lost both Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham in free agency and they haven't exactly done a good job of replacing their production. Graham led team in touchdown catches last year (12) while Richardson ranked second on the team in receiving yards (701). The Seahawks seem well aware they need to add someone to their receiving corps, which is probably why they brought in Brandon Marshall for a visit this week. The advantage with Bryant is that he's younger and if nothing else, Wilson can use him solely as a red zone target.
Speaking of red zone targets, the 49ers could probably use one after ranking second-to-last in the NFC last season in red zone scoring percentage. If anyone can figure out how to turn Bryant back into a deadly receiving weapon, it's 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who has proven that he can turn nearly anyone into an offensive weapon. With Jimmy Garoppolo throwing him the ball, there's no reason to think that Bryant couldn't approach or even beat the numbers he put up in Dallas last season (69 catches, 838 yards, six touchdowns).
The best part for any of these teams is that they don't even have to commit to Bryant, so there's almost no risk to signing him. Dez has alreadythis year so he can prove himself and then hit free agency again in 2019.
DeMarco Murray (RB)
At the beginning of the month, the Saints probably weren't even thinking about the possibility of adding a running back, but after Mark Ingram's four-game suspension , it wouldn't be surprising at all to see New Orleans in the market for one. Although Alvin Kamara will almost certainly become the feature back, no one in New Orleans has any idea if he can handle the beating to his body that would come with being an every down back. Kamara got to split carries with Ingram last season, which was a big reason why he was able to stay healthy and not hit the proverbial rookie wall. Adding a veteran like Murray would make sense, just so Kamara doesn't have to carry the entire rushing load for the first four games of the season. Also, if Murray plays well, the Saints could look to trade Ingram, or even cut him after his suspension. Sorry, Mark, the NFL is a cutthroat world.
As for the Seahawks, well, if you watched them play at all last season, then you understand why they would be interested in signing a running back. In what might go down as the ugliest team rushing performance in NFL history, no Seahawks running back rushed for more than 250 yards on the season and Wilson ended the year as the team's rushing leader with 586 yards. Although the Seahawks did use their first round pick on a running back this year (Rashaad Penny), it probaby wouldn't hurt to bring in a veteran for reinforcements.
On the Broncos' end, they're arguably in a more precarious situation than the Seahawks. Although Denver rushed for 1,852 yards as a team last season, four of the team's five leading rushers from 2017 won't be returning this year -- and we use the term "rushers" very loosely with Denver because two of their top five "rushers" were Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian. Although the Broncos have several young running backs -- including two they selected in this year's draft -- it probably wouldn't hurt to bring in a veteran.
Antonio Gates (TE)
If we've learned one thing about Bill Belichick over the past few years, it's that he loves to stock up on tight ends. Since 2015, the Patriots have either signed or traded for multiple tight ends, including Scott Chandler, Dwayne Allen and Martellus Bennett. This year has been no different as the Patriots have already signed a veteran tight end (Troy Niklas) and added one through the draft (Ian Thomas). Of course, Belichick can never have too many tight ends, which is why Gates landing in New England wouldn't be a total of surprise.
As for the Falcons, they're probably one of the few team that wouldn't be scared away by Gates' age (37). The last time the Falcons employed a 37-year-old All-Pro tight end came in 2012 when they had Tony Gonzalez and things seemed to work out pretty well for both parties that year. Not ot mention, the Falcons could probably use a No. 2 tight end after letting Levine Toilolo walk in free agency.
On the Cowboys' end, let's just say it would probably be in their best interest to add a veteran tight end.
Gates could even serve as a mentor for Rico Gathers, who is also trying to make the rare jump from college basketball to successful NFL tight end. Although Jerry Jones has said the Cowboys aren't interested in signing a veteran tight end right now, he also said he might change his mind, so we're keeping them on this list, because Jones loves to change his mind.
Zane Beadles (OL)
At times last year, Russell Wilson was facing so much defensive pressure that it didn't even seem like the Seahawks had an offensive line on the field. Although the Seahawks signed D.J. Fluker and used a fifth-round pick on tackle Jamarco Jones, the offensive line still isn't a strength for this team. Beadles isn't going to turn the Seahawks offensive line to the top ranked unit in the league, but he's a versatile player who adds depth at multiple positions. During his two seasons with the 49ers, he played every position on the line from left tackle to right guard to center.
The Bills also could use some offensive line depth after being hit hard by retirement this offseason. Over the past three months, both Richie Incognito and Eric Wood have announced they're done with football, although Incognito is , so there's a small chance he could be back. The Bills also lost starting left tackle Cordy Glenn, who .
As for the Vikings, although they have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL, one of their biggest holes is on the interior part of their offensive line and they should be looking to sign anyone who might be able to help them, especially if that person can play guard.
Adam Pacman Jones (CB)
The Colts had one of the worst secondaries in the NFL last season and things didn't definitely get better this year. Not only did they let one starter walk in free agency (Rashaan Melvin), but they didn't select a single defensive back in the draft. Now, signing Pacman Jones won't fix all of their problems in the secondary, or even some of their problems, but if there's one team that could use a veteran presence in the defensive backfield, it's Indy.
The problem with Jones is that he comes with baggage, which means he might actually be best suited to play for someone he's familiar with and that's where the Raiders and Browns both come in. The defensive coordinator in Oakland is Paul Guenther, who helped coach Jones for eight seasons in Cincinnati. As for the Browns, coach Hue Jackson is also familiar with Jones, which could make him a fit there. Let's also not rule out the possibility that the Bengals re-sign him, but at a much lower rate than the $5.3 million in base salary he was due to make in 2018 before Cincy declined his option in March.
Brian Cushing (LB)
Three teams that should target him: Patriots, Chargers, Seahawks
After Dont'a Hightower was lost for the season last October, the Patriots linebacking corps never really recovered. Although the 28-year-old Hightower is expected to be healthy for 2018, it probably wouldn't be a horrible idea for the Patriots to bring in some veteran insurance at the position. Hightower has had a tough time staying healthy over the past few years, missing a total of 22 games since 2014. Of course, you could also argue that adding an equally injury-prone linebacker might not be the answer and I don't think I would disagree with that.
If there's one team out there that could use some veteran linebacker depth at a relatively cheap price, it's the Chargers, which is why Cushing in Los Angeles could make some sense. If you look at the Chargers defense, their secondary and their defensive line are both stacked. As you may have noticed, the one unit that's not listed as being stacked is the team's linebackers. The Chargers should use the second-wave of free agency to beef up their depth at the position.
On the Seahawks' end, Cushing met with them in March and he's highly familiar with coach Pete Carroll, who coached him at USC. The one thing that could keep that Carroll-Cushing reunion from happening, though, is the fact that the Seahawks selected two linebackers in the draft. Although Seahawks roster seems to have a ton of holes -- I mean, we've listed them as a possibility for almost every free agent -- adding Cushing wouldn't be a pressing need.
Johnathan Hankins (DL)
Hankins is one of the few free agents left on the market who could make an instant impact no matter where he signs. That fact that he's even a free agent at all is somewhat surprising considering he had a pretty impressive season with the Colts last year. Despite the fact that he was arguably the best player on Indy's defensive line last season, the team. With the Colts getting set to move from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, the team decided they had no more use for the 26-year-old, who registered 44 tackles, two sacks and five quarterback hits in 2017.
Any team that's looking for a run-stuffing defensive lineman should give Hankins a call. In Detroit, Hankins could potentially fill the void left after Akeem Spence was traded to the Dolphins. With the Bengals, Hankins would have a chance to dominate because he would be paired up on the line with All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins. As for the Jets, Hankins visited with them earlier this offseason, so there's definitely some mutual interest there.
Tre Boston (S)
The Cowboys haven't really been hiding the fact that they've been looking around for a safety this offseason. If you followed them at all over the past month, then you're probably well aware that they made a strong push to trade for Earl Thomas. With Byron Jones making the move from safety to corner, it would probably make sense for the Cowboys to add at least one more safety to their roster before training camp begins, wouldn't you agree, Stephen Jones?
The safety market is actually one of the most interesting offseason stories in the NFL right now, and that's mainly cause there's still several highly talented players available. Although you'll sometimes see one or two players slip through the cracks of the March free agency window, you'll almost never see more than that. With safeties, we're two months into a free agency and talented players like Boston, Kenny Vaccaro and Eric Reid are still available. Of course, all three of those guys have one thing in common and that thing is that they protested racial inequality during the national anthem at certain points last year, which may or may not be why they haven't really received any offers. Reid thinks that's exactly the reason why he hasn't gotten any offers, which is why he .