NFL free agency isn't all about stars. Sure, we want to know where quarterback Cam Newton and edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney will suit up next season. Yet teams need bargain-bin signings who turn into cost-effective solutions.
Last offseason, the Kansas City Chiefs signed safety Tyrann Mathieu to a three-year, $42 million contract, but they also added cornerback Bashaud Breeland on a one-year, $2 million deal.
Mathieu and Breeland helped elevate the team's pass defense from 31st in 2018 to eighth in 2019, combining for six interceptions and 20 pass breakups.
Before the start of the third week of free agency, let's take a look at underrated veterans on the market—players without an All-Pro or Pro Bowl season. We'll highlight each selection's strengths and connect them to a primary suitor—giving alternative landing spots—based on team needs.
RB Isaiah Crowell
Last March, the Las Vegas Raiders signed Isaiah Crowell, but he tore his Achilles during a team workout. The 27-year-old had an opportunity to complement Josh Jacobs but spent the year on injured reserve.
Assuming Crowell has recovered, he should land another rotational role. The six-year veteran can run and catch, having logged 4,725 yards from scrimmage (3,803 rushing, 922 receiving). Teams may be hesitant to sign him following a major injury, but he's still on the right the side of 30 years old.
The Detroit Lions need a No. 2 tailback behind Kerryon Johnson, who's missed 14 games in two seasons because of knee injuries. Last year, the coaching staff cycled through multiple reserves, including Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic and Bo Scarbrough. The last of that trio finished second on the team in rushing yards (377).
Scarbrough hauled in one reception out of four targets. Crowell would add a pass-catching dimension to the No. 2 spot, which gives offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell play-calling flexibility when Johnson is on the sideline.
Best Landing Spots: DET, NYJ, LVR
RB Carlos Hyde
In 2019 with the Houston Texans, Carlos Hyde rushed for a career-high 1,070 yards. According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the running back turned down a two-year deal worth about $10 million from the club.
The Texans acquired running back David Johnson as part of the trade for wideout DeAndre Hopkins in mid-March, which means Houston will have a new lead ball-carrier—though Duke Johnson remains as a backup.
Fortunately for Hyde, he performed at a high level on an expiring contract. Last season, the 29-year-old showed he can make one cut and go downhill, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
The Buffalo Bills haven't re-signed Frank Gore. They could add a running back who's seasoned but not in his mid-30s and close to retirement. Devin Singletary can lead the backfield, but he's 5'7", 203 pounds. The Florida Atlantic product scored one of his two rushing touchdowns from inside the 5-yard line last season.
Instead of Singletary banging bodies near the goal line or Josh Allen grinding out yards on quarterback keepers, Hyde could serve as the short-yardage ball-carrier. The six-year veteran adds a physical presence on the ground and has the experience to help in pass protection.
He's an ideal complement to Singletary.
Best Landing Spots: BUF, CAR, LAC
WR Rashard Higgins
With the Cleveland Browns, Rashard Higgins showed improvement every year since being drafted in 2016 before a drop-off last season.
In 2018, despite being fifth on the team in targets, Higgins produced solid numbers, catching 39 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns with a 73.6 percent catch rate.
Last year, wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry dominated the target share—about 52 percent between the two of them. Higgins also battled a knee injury, which factored into his slow start to the season. Still, he proved to be a quality contributor in the No. 3 spot during his time in Cleveland.
The Minnesota Vikings traded Stefon Diggs to the Bills on March 16, and although the Vikings may fill their wide receiver void during the draft, Higgins could be a placeholder in case the front office takes a different approach with its two first-round picks.
Still in the early stages of his career, Higgins has intriguing upside and big-play ability, averaging 14.7 yards per reception in 2018. He can line up on the perimeter if the Vikings select a rookie such as LSU's Justin Jefferson, who's effective in the slot.