Fairley, Thurmond Headline Remaining Free Agents
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The pickings are getting slim but a pair of players with ties to the Eagles are among the best who remain on the open market 12 days after NFL free agency again.
Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, a former No. 13 overall pick in the 2011 Draft who has a history with new Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz dating back to their days on Detroit, is among the best players still looking for work, while defensive back Walter Thurmond, whom the Eagles replaced with free-agent signee Rodney McLeod, is contemplating retirement because the market for his services has not been as fervent as expected.
Here's the top 10 players left in NFL free agency as the league's annual spring meetings kicks off in Boca Raton, Fla.:
1. Reggie Nelson, S, Cincinnati Bengals - Nelson is proof positive of the ageism pervasive in the NFL. One of the best coverage safeties in football, Nelson is going to be 33 in September so teams are projecting the inevitable downfall before it's actually arrived. The adage in the NFL is that it's better to give up on a player a year too early than a year too late and that describes Nelson's plight.
2. Nick Fairley, DT, St. Louis Rams - The big 300-pounder has never really developed into what he was supposed to be coming out of Auburn mainly because he's always nicked up and has been unable to become a full-time player in either the Motor City or St. Louis. That said, if you change your thinking and picture Fairley as a rotational player, all of a sudden you can picture a really nice piece on your defensive front. Here in Philadelphia an interior threesome of Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Fairley would certainly project as one of the NFL's best and Schwartz has already proven to have a comfort level with ex-player but reports that Fairley was close to signing with the Eagles proved to be unfounded and he's set to meet with New England at the league meetings.
3. Walter Thurmond, S, Philadelphia Eagles - Thurmond had a really solid year in coverage on a bad Eagles' defense after moving from slot cornerback to the back end but hasn't received the offers he thought he was going to get on the open market. Because of that Thurmond, who has plenty of outside interests, is contemplating retirement. Teams remained concerned over Thurmond's injury history prior to last season and question whether he has the body type to hold up long term on the back end.
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, New York Jets - The Jets have low-balled Fitzpatrick, offering about $7 million a year or the same as the Eagles gave Bradford's new backup, Chase Daniel. From the outside, looking in it's hard to take that as anything other than an insult but by now the Harvard-educated Fitzpatrick is smart enough to know, the market for his services is not nearly as hot as those others mentioned despite greater success in 2015. Whether that's fair or not, the Jets and Fitzpatrick are now in a high-stakes game of chicken and Fitzpatrick has to decide whether he wants to grab for another million or so while starting over in another city or going back to the organization where he had his career-best year thanks in large part to stud receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
5. Greg Hardy, DE, Dallas Cowboys - From a talent perspective Hardy or Oakland edge rusher Aldon Smith would top this list but the off-the-field issues are so toxic on both that it's tough for nay organization to take the leap. Hardy has the better chance because he's not facing suspension and from a pure football perspective, he's a great 4-3 end. Heading back to North Texas on a discounted deal is the most likely option because the Cowboys' need pass rushers.
6. Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati Bengals - A former starter relegated to nickel back on a really good defense, Hall has been a really solid corner for almost a decade. Like Nelson, he's hurt by the fact that he's past 30 but as Hall's ex-teammate Terence Newman proved in Minnesota last season, if you can play, you can play. Hall can still go.
7. Patrick Robinson, CB, San Diego Chargers - Robinson did a solid job in the slot for San Diego last season but the Chargers went out and got Casey Hayward so he has to move on. The consistency has never been there for Robinson but if last season was indicative of the light going off, someone is going to get a real solid bargain as a sub-package player.
8. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins - RG3 was used as leverage by the Jets in an effort to get Fitzpatrick back and now Cleveland might be using him to get Colin Kaepernick's attention. Whatever the end game Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown spoke with a group of reporters at the spring meeting Monday morning and claimed that the Browns are moving forward in trying to sign Griffin.
9. Reuben Randle, WR, New York Giants - Randle is a talented wideout but a frustrating player due to his inconsistency. Still, you're talking about a guy who caught 57 balls and eight touchdowns last year and that's quite a bit of production to still be out on the street right now so receiver-desperate teams like the Rams and Vikings should start looking at him.
10. Aldon Smith, edge rusher, Oakland Raiders - Before his implosion Smith was a Von Miller-level rusher so he would easily top this list if on-field performance was the only measuring stick. However, when Smith does sign it will be with the knowledge that he will be serving a suspension through Week 10 of next season.
Just missed the list: Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins; Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans; Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers; Manny Ramirez, OC, Detroit Lions; Brandon Boykin, slot corner, Pittsburgh Steelers
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com and on Twitter @JFMcMullen.