Free-agent cornerback Xavien Howard Megan Briggs/Getty Images

NFL Free Agents We Can't Believe Haven't Signed a Contract with New Team Yet

Alex Ballentine

With OTA season underway, attendance is one of the biggest storylines across the league right now.

For instance, Tee Higgins and Justin Jefferson have already made headlines by not showing up to offseason activities amid contract talks. In the grand scheme, there is plenty of time for them to sign on the dotted line and show up, but it's notable that they aren't with their respective teams.

For some veteran free agents, it's notable that they still don't even have a team.

Much like Higgins and Jefferson, there's still plenty of time. These players will likely sign somewhere to play in 2024 as teams get a better idea of what their roster looks like and where needs might arise.

Still, it's hard to believe that these players haven't found a home yet.

CB Stephon Gilmore

Stephon Gilmore Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The fact that Stephon Gilmore is still not on a roster is partially a choice he has made. The 33-year-old cornerback explained to Josina Anderson of CBS Sports earlier in May:

"I feel like it's the age thing with some of these teams. If I was 28, I would already have been signed by now; at the same time, I know the value I still bring. If you watch the tape, I feel like I played well the last two years, and literally almost played every snap last year."

In other words, Gilmore isn't going to panic and sign for bottom-dollar just because his market has been slow-moving.

The fact that his market has been slow is an interesting choice by teams around the league. Gilmore is 33 years old, but he still outplayed plenty of starters last season.

As he points out, he played nearly all of the snaps for the Cowboys last season, starting all 17 games and playing 94 percent of the snaps. He compiled 68 tackles while limiting opposing passers to an 82.7 passer rating.

Gilmore has been connected to a reunion with the Carolina Panthers, and general manager Dan Morgan hasn't shut down those talks. That makes some sense as they look for a starter opposite Jaycee Horn.

The Washington Commanders would be wise to give him a call as well. They lost Kendall Fuller in free agency, and Gilmore has experience with new head coach Dan Quinn.

Logical Landing Spots: Carolina Panthers, Washington Commanders

CB Xavien Howard

Xavien Howard Ryan Kang/Getty Images

It was easy to see the logic in the Miami Dolphins releasing Xavien Howard back in March because it wasn't about his on-field play. It was about balancing their books and creating some breathing room against the cap.

The fact that he hasn't been picked up in late May is a bit baffling.

The four-time Pro Bowler is going to be 31 in July, but he still put together a starting-caliber season for the Dolphins last year. He had 12 passes defended and gave up a passer rating of 81.3 when targeted.

Plenty of teams would upgrade their secondary by adding Howard. He has even said that he would potentially take less money to play on a contender.

Depending on his definition of contender, the Pittsburgh Steelers could be an option. They still have a need at the position. Joey Porter Jr. and Donte Jackson are the logical starting options at this point, but there's not much proven depth behind them.

The Houston Texans are an emerging contender that would make sense. The Texas native has expressed his interest in Houston, and they have a need opposite Derek Stingley Jr.

Signing Howard to a team-friendly deal would be an underrated move that could mean a lot come January and February.

Logical Landing Spots: Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans

OT Charles Leno Jr.

Charles Leno Jr. Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Offensive tackles flew off the draft board this spring because teams recognize how important it is to protect the quarterback. Several teams jumped at the opportunity to add a potentially elite personal protector on the outside.

After the rash of quarterback injuries last season, teams should be happy to settle for adequate in the pass-blocking game.

That's why it's surprising that Charles Leno Jr. has yet to be picked up by a team. With many teams still looking for an answer at the tackle positions or relying on a young player to start from Week 1, a veteran with Leno's track record should have already been signed.

The 32-year-old had hip surgery this offseason that should address the injury that held him out of the last few games of 2023. Before he went to injured reserve, he allowed just three sacks while logging 880 snaps for the Commanders.

A team like the New England Patriots should have already added Leno. They are set to start Drake Maye at some point but are unresolved at the left tackle spot with Chukwuma Okorafor moving over to the left side and taking first-team reps at OTAs.

Leno would give them additional flexibility to find the best five linemen to protect Maye.

It wouldn't hurt for the Ravens to have another experienced offensive lineman either. After losing thee starters, they will be relying on some young players to step up. That's good in theory, but if Leno could switch to the right side, he's more reliable than rookie Roger Rosengarten or second-year player Daniel Faalele right now.

Logical Landing Spots: New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens

Edge Emmanuel Ogbah

Emmanuel Ogbah Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

A deep, talented pass rush is the foundation for some of the best defenses in the league. The shortest way to building an elite defense in today's NFL is to have pass-rushers coming at offensive lines in waves.

Defensive lines across the league employ some sort of rotation on the defensive front. So it's notable that nobody has made the move to add Emmanuel Ogbah to their group.

At 6'4", 275 pounds, Ogbah is a heavy-handed power rusher who holds up well against the run. He can kick inside on sub-packages and has a record of steady production.

He has dealt with some injuries, but his play on the field was still an asset for the Dolphins last season. He had only five sacks, but he boasted a pressure percentage of 13.3 percent, which is a career high.

The Ravens are a contender that would be wise to take a look at Ogbah. They need to replace Jadeveon Clowney and are counting on the trio of Kyle Van Noy, Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo to lead the way.

Ogbah would be a good addition to provide depth and round up that group of edge-rushers.

The Bengals are another AFC North team that might want to add a veteran. Even with Trey Hendrickson back after requesting a trade, they could use Ogbah in the rotation along with Myles Murphy, Cam Sample and Joseph Ossai.

Logical Landing Spots: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals

S Justin Simmons

Justin Simmons Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

This offseason was not a particularly good one for the safety position as a whole. Xavier McKinney was the only one who got a contract worth more than $9 million annually.

When you throw out undrafted free agents, only four got more than a two-year contract. Justin Simmons was one of a few good veteran safeties who were dumped into that market when their teams cut them before free agency started.

Simmons was a second-team All-Pro selection last season and is still looking for a team. He's 30 years old, which works against him on the market, but Kevin Byard and Rayshawn Jenkins were both able to get respectable two-year deals from the Bears and Seahawks, respectively.

The veteran safety had three interceptions, eight passes defended, two forced fumbles and a sack. That's a lot of high-impact plays at a position that has mostly gone overlooked this offseason.

Diana Russini of The Athletic reported in March that Simmons was a target for the Tennessee Titans. Multiple waves of free agency and the draft have since passed and the Titans safety room remains about the same.

Elijah Molden and Amani Hooker project to be the starters at safety, but Molden's ability to play the slot could allow Molden, Hooker and Simmons to co-exist on the field.

The Philadelphia Eagles are another team to watch. They added Cooper DeJean in the draft, but his role is unclear after spending his collegiate career at cornerback. They have the trio of C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Reed Blankenship and Sydney Brown.

Simmons is an upgrade over Blankenship, and Gardner-Johnson could wind up playing in the slot.

Logical Landing Spots: Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles

QB Ryan Tannehill

Ryan Tannehill Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

There were 66 quarterbacks who started an NFL game during the 2023 season. It was a year of high-profile quarterback injuries, but when Nick Shook of ranked all 66 of them, he noted there were 68 who started in 2022.

Backup quarterback is a position that often goes overlooked, but it can make all the difference. In a league where playoff berths and positioning often come down to one or two games, having a second quarterback who can come in and win games is huge.

It's worth noting that when Shook put together his ranking for all 66 quarterbacks, former Tennessee Titans passer Ryan Tannehill was ranked 34th.

The veteran started eight games before injuries and poor play opened the door for Will Levis to take over. Tannehill threw just four touchdowns to seven interceptions and went 3-5 as the starter.

His days of starting are likely over, but there should have been more interest in a backup quarterback with a 39-24 record over the last five seasons.

The Packers, for instance, would be better off going to Tannehill in the event of a Jordan Love injury than hoping for the best with Sean Clifford (one career pass attempt) or rookie Michael Pratt.

Elsewhere in the NFC North, the Lions would be handing the offense over to second-year player Hendon Hooker if Jared Goff were to be injured. Hooker spent most of his rookie season rehabbing a torn ACL, so it would make sense for the Lions to bring in a more experienced passer behind Goff.

Logical Landing Spots: Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions

IOL Connor Williams

Connor Williams Ryan Kang/Getty Images

There's a reason offensive linemen were a hot commodity in this year's draft. There happened to be an abundance of talented prospects, but teams took nine in the first round and 24 over the first two days.

There are pressing needs across the league for quality linemen.

That's why it's shocking to see a player of Connor Williams' caliber remain unsigned. Williams did suffer a torn ACL in December. Drew Rosenhaus, Williams' agent, told media that his client might not sign at the very beginning of free agency as he heals, but we're now heading into the season and Williams isn't on a roster.

That's a surprising development even with the injury. There aren't many linemen around the league with successful starting experience at both center and guard who aren't even 30 yet.

Williams was a capable guard with the Dallas Cowboys before he signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2022 free agency. He moved to the pivot in South Beach and took his play to another level, earning an 86.5 grade from PFF and giving up just one sack last season.

Williams would be an upgrade for a number of teams as a center and could even go back to guard in the right situation.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported that a Williams-Dolphins reunion is possible. They signed Aaron Brewer at center, but he could certainly compete for the left guard spot when he gets healthy.

The Denver Broncos stand out as a team that could use him as a center. They lost Lloyd Cushenberry III in free agency but didn't replace him.

Logical Landing Spots: Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos


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