The free agency floodgates won’t open until March 17, but more than a handful of notable names will be able to sign with new teams before the market opens next week. Starting-caliber talent such as Bobby Wagner, Jordan Hicks, Dante Fowler, and Rodger Saffold are free to sign new contracts as street free agents.
What is a street free agent?
A street free agent is a player who has been cut by his former team and is no longer eligible for the waiver process. The market typically fills up with notable veteran talent ahead of free agency, as teams are trying to ship off cap casualties in order to gain spending space for new additions.
When the formerly high-priced players hit the market, they are able to sign with new teams immediately after their releases have been processed. For some players, being cut before free agency is an advantage, as they can get ahead of the market.
Teams also have an advantage when it comes to signing street free agents, as those players don’t count toward the compensatory formula. If a team signs a street free agent, the move will not impact their future compensatory compensation.
Top players already available
Some notable free agents have already hit the market. Who could be the most appealing to NFL teams?
Bobby Wagner might be the best veteran linebacker to hit the market in years. While he’s no longer an all-world talent, the former Seattle Seahawks defender is still one of the top 10 players at his position. The 31-year-old could be an option for a team like the Philadelphia Eagles, who badly need talent at linebacker but are also very cautious when it comes to the compensatory formula. A one-year deal for Wagner makes sense.
Like Wagner, Jordan Hicks is among the better linebackers in the NFL. Pushed out for younger talent in Arizona, Hicks will probably look for a spot where he can lead a defense. Given his background with Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson, Hicks might make sense as a tag-team partner for Myles Jack.
The Tennessee Titans dropped Rodger Saffold in a cost-cutting move on Thursday. Saffold has been a sturdy guard in the NFL for over a decade, and he could make sense for an offensive line that is being rebuilt from scratch. Teams like the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, and Cincinnati Bengals should have interest in the veteran lineman.
Released by the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday, Tavon Young is a veteran nickel corner who could get a jump on a crowded market. Young is a bit undersized, but he has played well against running backs, tight ends, and slot receivers over the years. He might be a good fit for Wink Martindale’s defense in the Meadowlands.
Dante Fowler was cut earlier in the offseason after an underwhelming second season in Atlanta. While Fowler will never be confused for a primary pass-rushing presence, his value comes with his versatility. Fowler can play in a 3-4 or 4-3 front, and he is a strong option for a heavy rotation.
With several teams lacking cornerback depth, Terrance Mitchell could make sense for quite a few suitors. The 30-year-old cornerback was a starter for the Houston Texans, and his experience could be valuable to a DB room.
Devontae Booker was a cap casualty of a new regime looking to cut costs. The former Giants and Broncos running back had a strong year as a rotational RB and should see some interest as a ground-and-pound presence out of the backfield. Teams like the Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers, and San Francisco 49ers could use what Booker brings to the table.
A.J. Klein, a veteran SAM linebacker and special teams ace, was cut by the Buffalo Bills earlier this week. He still has a lot left in the tank as a sub-package player, and he remains strong as a special teams contributor. Klein would make sense as a leader in a young locker room.
Kyle Van Noy
Cut for a second consecutive offseason, Kyle Van Noy will look for work in a hybrid defense. The former New England Patriots linebacker should find some suitors as a SAM linebacker. It’s unclear if teams view him as more than just a sub-package player at this point.
Anthony Hitchens is a former Super Bowl starter who the Kansas City Chiefs cut early in the offseason. He turns 30 in June, but he is still well within his prime years as an NFL linebacker. Hitchens makes sense as a cost-effective starter in a defense that already has a primary three-down linebacker.