NFL rules allow teams to designate up to two released vested veterans as "post-June 1" cuts and spread those players' salary cap hits across two years. The Bills used a "post-June 1" designation on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed with the Titans. The Raiders used the designation on defensive back Michael Huff, and as of June 1 realized an $8 million cap clearance, allowing GM Reggie McKenzie to sign his rookie class.
In addition to the Raiders and Bills, the Dolphins (Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett), Steelers (Willie Colon), Falcons (Tyson Clabo), Chargers (Jared Gaither), Panthers (James Anderson), Cardinals (Adam Snyder), Ravens (Bernard Pollard), and Cowboys (Marcus Spears) suddenly gained cap room as of June 1 by designating those released players as post-June 1 cap casualties.
So it would not be surprising if we saw slightly increased activity on the free-agent market this week. Here is my rundown of the top-10 free agents available around the NFL:
1. Defensive end John Abraham -- Even at age 35, Abraham remains a highly effective edge rusher with experience playing in both a two- and three-point stance. He can play both left and right end. Over the last three seasons, Abraham has never dipped below 9.5 sacks, and he tied a career high with six forced fumbles in 2012. To this point, the hang-up in negotiations has been Abraham's unwillingness to sign with a team that would use him in a part-time role. He wants to be at least a 60-percent player. Abraham likely also wouldn't accept less than Dwight Freeney money. The Chargers signed Freeney to a two-year, $8.75 million contract, with $4.75 million guaranteed.
Teams that have shown interest: Titans, Falcons, Seahawks, Patriots, Buccaneers, Dolphins, 49ers.
2. Right tackle Eric Winston -- Winston's market value is restricted by the facts that he is a right tackle-only incapable of playing other positions, and he only fits zone-blocking teams. Those factors automatically whittle down his list of potential suitors. While Winston remains an effective scheme-specific run blocker, he's become a liability in pass protection, even if his play is still competitive for the most part. Winston has openly admitted to seeking $3-4 million annually in a multi-year deal. Released in each of the last two offseasons, Winston doesn't turn 30 until November.
Teams that have shown interest: Titans, Texans, Chargers, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Patriots.
3. Free safety Kerry Rhodes -- The starting free safety for a Cardinals defense that ranked fifth in the NFL versus the pass in 2012, Rhodes graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 4 overall safety behind Eric Weddle, Jairus Byrd, and Reshad Jones. Rhodes turns 31 in August, so it's not as if he's over the hill. The lack of league-wide interest is surprising after Rhodes played so well, racking up 11 pass breakups, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Cleveland remains Rhodes' most sensible landing spot, where old Arizona defensive boss Ray Horton is now calling the defense. The Browns need free safety help. They just haven't pursued Rhodes aggressively yet.
Teams that have shown interest: Bengals.
4. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw -- Bradshaw has received full clearance following offseason foot surgery, but his market was dead silent throughout May. The Steelers ended their pre-draft pursuit of Bradshaw after using a second-rounder on Le'Veon Bell, and the Packers did the same following the Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin picks. Bradshaw and his agent would be smart to contact the Colts, whose running back depth chart is among the least talented in football. It's also possible Bradshaw will be reduced to a clear-cut backup on a minimum salary. The Bucs would make sense in that scenario, reuniting Bradshaw with former Giants assistant Mike Sullivan.
Teams that have shown interest: Bengals, Broncos, Steelers, Packers.
5. Defensive lineman Israel Idonije -- A movable defender capable of playing end and tackle, 32-year-old Idonije racked up 7.5 sacks and a forced fumble as an 11-game starter in Chicago last season, playing all 16 games in a rotation with Julius Peppers, Henry Melton, and Corey Wootton. The Bears are intent on increasing Wootton's role, but have a "standing offer" out to Idonije and would welcome him back if he can't find more money elsewhere. He's still a highly useful player.
Teams that have shown interest: Bears, Titans, 49ers.
6. Defensive lineman Richard Seymour -- Seymour's durability and on-field performance are waning going on age 34, but Pro Football Focus gave him a top-14 defensive tackle grade in an injury-shortened 2012 season, with strong marks as both a run defender and pass rusher. Seymour has experience all over the front, playing five-technique end, nose, and three-technique tackle. The Falcons are the team most frequently connected to Seymour after picking up an extra $4.5 million in cap space due to Tyson Clabo's post-June 1 release designation. I think he's going to Atlanta.
Teams that have shown interest: Falcons, Broncos.
7. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd -- Lloyd caught 74 passes for 911 yards (12.3 YPR) and four touchdowns across 16 games last year, but struggled for on-field chemistry with Tom Brady and was cut on March 16. Both the Boston Globe and NFL Network have either reported or insinuated that Lloyd was a locker-room lawyer on the Patriots, and he's never been a productive player outside of Josh McDaniels offenses. Lloyd should find a home by camp, but he turns 32 in July and may have to accept a minimum-salary deal. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome recently spoke of adding a veteran receiver. Lloyd is an underrated run-blocking wideout with reliable hands and route-running ability, but lacks speed to take the top off of defenses and offers zero after the catch.
Teams that have shown interest: Jets, Ravens?
8. Guard Brandon Moore -- Moore was a 16-game starter on a Jets line that graded fifth in the league in Football Outsiders' 2012 run-blocking rankings, and 11th according to Pro Football Focus. PFF rated Moore as a top-four guard in the entire NFL. Moore is 33 and likely asking for too much money, because his market has gone frosty cold after an initial flurry of free-agency period interest. He is a fit for power-running offenses and hasn't missed a start since 2004.
Teams that have shown interest: Lions, Dolphins, Cowboys, Bears.
9. Outside linebacker Daryl Smith -- Limited to two games by a debilitating groin injury last season, 31-year-old Smith was quietly one of the NFL's top 4-3 linebackers over the previous half-decade. He can play all three positions. Smith visited the Rams in April, before St. Louis emerged from the draft with first-rounder Alec Ogletree to man the weak side, across from Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Jeff Fisher's team may no longer have interest, and no other clubs have hosted Smith since.
Teams that have shown interest: Rams.
10. Strong safety Quintin Mikell -- Despite career highs in tackles (101), solo stops (83), and sacks (3) to go with four forced fumbles, Mikell was cut by St. Louis in a March cap maneuver. The Rams have stayed in constant contact with Mikell throughout his quiet free-agency process, even leaving Mikell's nameplate intact on his old locker room stall. Purely an in-the-box defender entering his age-33 season, Mikell would likely be stretched to function in a defense that fancies its safeties as interchangeable. St. Louis has been the only club linked to Mikell since his release, and he could return on a cheap contract if rookie T.J. McDonald proves capable of manning free safety.
Teams that have shown interest: Rams.
More Free Agents Of Note: OT Jared Gaither, RB Kevin Smith, DT Corey Williams, RB Cedric Benson, NT Sione Pouha, RB Beanie Wells, WR Randy Moss, NT Casey Hampton, WR Austin Collie, CB Sheldon Brown.
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