The first “work week” of NFL free agency has concluded. All players with expiring contracts — with the exception of exclusively franchised Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott — were free to negotiate and sign with new teams. Given the economic and social uncertainty sweeping the country as a results of the coronavirus pandemic, it wasn’t surprising that most players wasted little time finding new homes or re-upping in their current ones.
Still, quality unsigned players remain — some perhaps not seeing the dollars they wanted, others likely victimized by restrictions put in place by the league in a bid to stunt the COVID-19 outbreak.
As we enter the weekend, these stack up as the 10 best — those bearing franchise tags, though technically available, weren’t included — still awaiting their next gig:
1. DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney: The Seattle Seahawks, who want to keep the imposing edge defender, were contractually barred from franchising Clowney. His scheme versatility and effectiveness as both a run defender and pass rusher seemed to promise a big payday even though Clowney’s stat line (5.3 sacks per season during his six-year career) has rarely reflected his value.
However the No. 1 pick of the 2014 draft remains the clear-cut top talent without an employer. According to multiple reports, Clowney, 27, has not received the windfall proposal he’d hoped for … despite an environment where 49ers DL Arik Armstead got a five-year, $85 million deal and his former teammate, DeForest Buckner, reeled in a four-year, $84 million extension after getting traded to the Colts.
Unless he decides to go back to Seattle, Clowney might need to wait until travel becomes safer and NFL facilities re-open given potential suitors would surely want to medically evaluate a player who’s had microfracture surgery and subsequent knee issues in the past. In addition, he suffered a core muscle injury at the end of the 2019 campaign, though he played through it during the Seahawks’ playoff games.
2. CB Nickell Robey-Coleman: Another of the Rams’ cap casualties, he’s best known for his infamous (but unflagged) pass interference in the 2018 NFC championship game at New Orleans. That obscures the fact that Robey-Coleman, 28, is one of the league’s top slot corners and, given his age, might be a better signing than Chris Harris, who’s nearly three years older.
3. DL Shelby Harris: He’s developed into a reliable player, one whom teams who run 3-4 fronts should covet — especially given the upcoming draft is light on interior D-linemen. As a member of the Broncos, Harris, 28, was a 16-game starter for the first time in 2019 and responded with a career-best six sacks.
4. S Vonn Bell: With one interception in four seasons in New Orleans, he’s more linebacker than center fielder. But Bell, 25, thrives as a box safety and is also one of the league’s better blitzers among defensive backs.
5. WR Robby Anderson: He’s got size (6-3, 190), speed and will turn 27 in May. And despite often being saddled with spotty quarterback play during his time with the Jets, Anderson has 18 TD catches over the past three seasons, averaging 55 grabs and 824 yards. A pair of arrests since 2017 may not be helping his portfolio, though he wound up with nothing more than a misdemeanor reckless driving charge. Still, teams also have little incentive to fork over a ton of money to a receiver given the position’s depth in the 2020 draft.
6. QB Jameis Winston: The 26-year-old’s Jekyll and Hyde tendencies are well known by now. He lofted a career-best 33 touchdown passes in 2019 playing for Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay but also served up a league-worst 30 interceptions. In five seasons, the No. 1 pick of the 2015 draft has 121 TD throws … and 111 turnovers. He may play like a younger version of Ryan Fitzpatrick, his former Buccaneers teammate, but Winston still has intriguing long-term potential. In the right situation — and with time to polish his game — he might leverage a backup opportunity into the type of success Ryan Tannehill had in 2019.
7. DE Everson Griffen: He missed time in 2018 while tending to his mental health. But Griffen, 32, got his Pro Bowl career back on track last year, recording eight sacks for the Vikings, giving him 74½ in his 10-year career. Besides bagging quarterbacks, Griffen has also been historically solid against the run.
8. DL Ndamukong Suh: Now 33, he may be past his prime. But Suh is still vicious — though he’s tempered his infamous on-field temper — and highly versatile, effective against the run and pass and able to play every down in any kind of scheme. He would be a valuable pick-up for a contender looking to round out its roster. A return to the go-for-broke Bucs makes sense.
9. RB Carlos Hyde: With Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley finding new teams Friday, Hyde is the best available back. He parachuted into Houston right before last season, replacing injured Lamar Miller, and cranked out his first 1,000-yard rushing season. Hyde will be 30 September, but he actually doesn’t have an inordinate amount of wear and tear on his body. And though he normally comes out on passing downs, he did catch 59 balls in 2017 for San Francisco.
10. CB Logan Ryan: An intelligent player who’s only 29, Ryan had four interceptions and a career-best 18 passes defensed last season for the Titans — though he also surrendered a career-worst seven TD passes, according to Pro Football Focus. Still, he could be ideal for a team looking for a savvy No. 2 corner and/or someone who can operate in the slot.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
If you love talking football, we have the perfect spot for you. Join our Facebook Group, The Ruling Off the Field, to engage in friendly debate and conversation with fellow football fans and our NFL insiders. Do the right thing, sign up now!