Even as we hang in the dead period of the NFL calendar, there are still a few significant free agent shoes to drop. A number of popular names are still looking for NFL homes as we step closer toward training camp and should look to ink deals prior to the start of the preseason. While these players may not be at the same Pro Bowl level they once were earlier in their careers, they should still help a franchise throughout the 2021 regular season as a complementary piece on the roster.
Below, we're going to highlight some of the bigger-name free agents, dive a bit into their free agency experience to this point in the offseason and identify one destination where they could be a solid fit.
Le'Veon Bell, RB
Suggested landing spot: New Orleans Saints
Bell was once looked at as arguably the best running back in the NFL. As recently as 2017, the now 29-year-old put together an All-Pro season where he totaled 1,946 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns while also notching a career-high 85 receptions. His ability to patiently sit behind Pittsburgh's offensive line and then swiftly find a hole was marveled by the rest of the league. However, he sat sat out the 2018 campaign over a contract dispute and ultimately found his way to the New York Jets where he only lasted a season and a half before forcing his way out of town. After he was released, he signed on with the Kansas City Chiefs but was largely put in a reserve role behind then-rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Those frustrations over a lack of playing time seemed to spill over into this offseason where he said he'd never play for head coach Andy Reid again.
With a reunion with the Chiefs seemingly out the window, linking up with the New Orleans Saints could make for an interesting pairing. Of course, Bell wouldn't be the top dog in that backfield as Alvin Kamara would be the starter, but there could be snaps to be attained, especially if he can prove to be a better option than Latavius Murray. With Drew Brees retired and either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill about to take the reins as New Orleans' newest starter, Sean Payton could use all the offensive weapons he can get his hands on to help whomever is under center. If Bell is willing to take on a secondary role, this has the potential to be everything he thought K.C. would provide him last year.
Melvin Ingram, DE
Suggested landing spot: Los Angeles Rams
You don't have to look too far back to find a time when Ingram was considered to be one of the better players at his position. Heading into last season, the longtime Chargers defensive end was coming off three-straight Pro Bowl appearances and five-straight regular-season campaigns with at least seven sacks. In 2020, however, Ingram was limited to just seven games due to a knee injury. While he wasn't able to compile any sacks over that limited stretch, he was still able to get after the quarterback, totaling 12 pressures, seven hurries, and five knockdowns.
Should Ingram be considered an anchor to whichever defense he joins next? No. That said, as long as the 32-year-old is healthy, he can be a strong piece to a unit looking to contend for a championship. Who fits that bill? The Los Angeles Rams make some sense. Ingram could be looked at as a low-risk, high-upside addition that could evolve into a strong rotational piece within their pass-rushing unit. Bringing in a veteran of his caliber would also fit the mold of what the Rams appear to be building this offseason, especially as they've firmly swung open their Super Bowl window after acquiring quarterback Matthew Stafford in a trade with the Loins. Ingram would also be able to stay local as he'd simply be playing for the other team that currently resides in SoFi Stadium.
Pick Six Newsletter
Crafted By The Best NFL Experts
Get the day's big stories + fun stuff you love like mock drafts, picks and power rankings.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Richard Sherman, CB
Suggested landing spot: Dallas Cowboys
Sherman is best known for his days as a key piece to Seattle's Legion of Boom defense that was routinely contending for Super Bowls but his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers over the last few years continued to show that he's still a more-than-solid corner when healthy. He was second-team All-Pro in 2019 as the Niners reached Super Bowl LIV, but Sherman was limited to just five games in 2020 due to a calf strain. He was released in February and has patiently been waiting for the right opportunity to arise ever since.
While it was tempting to project a storybook ending to Sherman's career with a return to Seattle, the Cowboys do present an interesting landing spot as well. Dallas has invested in the secondary over the last two seasons with second-round picks Kelvin Joseph (2021) and Trevon Diggs (2020), but they could use a veteran piece like Sherman to help mold the still-developing unit over the next season or so. It also doesn't hurt that Sherman would have some familiarity with Dallas' defensive scheme with former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn now running that unit for head coach Mike McCarthy
Todd Gurley, RB
Suggested landing spot: Los Angeles Chargers
Similar to Bell, Gurley is another back that was once considered to be among the very best in the NFL. Over the last few years, however, knee problems have slowed the three-time Pro Bowler's production. After a career with the Rams that saw him finish sixth on the franchise's all-time rushing yards list and tied for first with Marshall Faulk as the club's all-time rushing touchdowns leader, Gurley was released in the spring of 2020 and later signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons. While Gurley led the team in rushing, it was his least productive season in the league to date.
This offseason, the Detroit Lions were said to be in pursuit of Gurley, but no deal has yet to be struck. If he doesn't end up in the Motor City, the Chargers could be a fun landing spot. He'd have something of a homecoming after playing in Los Angeles -- albeit for the Rams -- for four seasons of his career and could be a welcome addition to the Chargers backfield. While Austin Ekeler is the clear No. 1 back, the Chargers may not want him to go in-between the tackles as a bruising back on a week-to-week basis and open him up to injury. That's where Gurley could come in and provide some relief with his 6-foot-1, 224-pound frame. Would the Chargers expect the 2017 Offensive Player of the Year upon acquiring Gurley under this scenario? Of course not. Rather, he'd be a complementary piece to an offense that could take a massive leap as quarterback Justin Herbert heads into Year 2 of his career.
Golden Tate, WR
Suggested landing spot: New England Patriots
Tate has bounced around the league over the last few years. In the midst of the 2018 season, he was traded from the Detroit Lions to the Philadelphia Eagles and later signed with the New York Giants that following offseason. He spent the previous two seasons with the Giants before being released earlier this offseason. During his final season in New York, Tate was limited to just 12 games (four starts) and caught 35 passes for 388 yards and two scores. Those receptions and receiving yards were the lowest totals Tate has produced since his second year in the league with Seattle in 2011. With that in mind, the veteran receiver isn't the Pro Bowler that we've seen in years past, but should certainly still be able to provide some depth to a pass-catching unit.
Tate recently did list his top three landing spots, but we're going off-script with our selection in the New England Patriots. It's no secret that Bill Belichick's skill-position players didn't leave much to be desired last season and they made a push to fix that by making a big splash early in free agency this offseason. The headliners include bringing in tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith along with receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. While those additions should help, Tate could be another savvy addition to bring in and contend for a roster spot. After all, there was reportedly some interest in New England when he was a free agent in 2019, so it's safe to wonder if that interest is still there to a degree.