Free agency begins at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. With a strong eye toward value, not name recognition, these are the free agents, by position, that interest me.
Chad Henne—I liked him coming out of college and in his first year as a starter for the Dolphins. Henne is a strong-armed quarterback with a Michigan pedigree, a combination that seems to have worked nicely for the Patriots. I can’t help but wonder why the Dolphins are quitting on him. I think he’s a solid reclamation project, especially for a championship-caliber team looking for a quality, experienced backup that wants to re-establish his career.
Mike Tolbert—Short, thick, powerful inside runner that provides pop on the goal line and in short yardage and excels as a receiver and pass blocker. Tolbert caught 54 passes last season and he’s the perfect back for a team that wants to throw the ball. His running skills have been hidden in San Diego’s pass-oriented offense and Tolbert might break out as Michael Turner did when he left the Chargers for the Falcons. Several teams are thought to be interested in Tolbert and he won’t be cheap, but he’s coming into his prime years and has an upside that could make him a distinct value signing.
Lee Evans—If he can convince a team that he’ll make a full recovery from the foot injury that ruined his season in 2011, Evans could become an underpriced addition for a team looking for depth at the position. A big-play receiver early in his career, receivers have a way of using guile and savvy to lengthen their careers. Evans can likely be signed to an incentive-laden contract that won’t represent much risk but might yield significant reward.
Kareem McKenzie—He’s getting up in age but he’s long been a productive tackle that’s run blocked for Curtis Martin and Tiki Barber and pass blocked well enough for the Giants to win a couple of Super Bowls. He appeared in 2011 to still have game. Dependable tackles are hard to find.
Chris Kemoeatu—Wanna run the ball? This is your guy. He’s a big, powerful road-grader that can pull and lead a back through the hole. The downside is that he’s not nearly as accomplished as a pass blocker and he’ll cost you 10 yards at least twice a game, and often at the worst times. If somebody can reach this guy and develop his skills more fully, they’ll be rewarded by his durability and physicality.
Adam Carriker—Former first-round pick who possesses all of the measurables to predict success as a 3-4 defensive lineman. So why hasn’t he done it? If a team can figure that out, they might reel in a Ryan Pickett type of player that blossoms into a fixture at defensive end in the second half of his career. Carriker should be coming into his best years. Maybe all he needs is one good year.
Joe Mays—If you’re looking for an outside pass rusher, forget about it; teams don’t let those guys get away. Mays is a rugged, hard-hitting inside guy that brings toughness to your defense and special teams. He’s young and his arrow is pointing up. He could be one of the steals of free agency.
Tracy Porter—Young, veteran cornerback who knows how to play. Porter gave the Saints some very good years and one very big interception. He’s a free agent on a Saints team that has too many to re-sign them all. Porter might be ready to take his game to a higher level.