It's easy to go shopping when your wallet is fat, but the real measure of a personnel department is what it does when funds are limited and the competition for potential impact players is great.
That is where we find ourselves as the second week of NFL free agency comes to a close. The big names are off the market. The large contracts have been doled out. Now, the real work begins. Can teams get more for less?
It would be disrespectful to say clubs are sifting through bargain bins, but there is no denying that they are looking for deals and steals, complementary pieces who won't win headlines but could help them win games.
The Philadelphia Eagles reached the Super Bowl last season in part because their high-profile acquisitions of wide receiver A.J. Brown and edge rusher Haason Reddick were complemented by an under-the-radar signing of linebacker Kyzir White, who finished second on the team in tackles after inking a one-year, $3 million deal.
The San Francisco 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship Game by hitting on their late signing of safety Tashaun Gipson, who was snagged with a one-year deal for just over $1 million. He was expected to be a placeholder while Jimmie Ward recovered from a severe hamstring injury, but Gipson was so effective he started every game on the league's top-ranked defense and earned himself a new contract this offseason.
Against that backdrop, we present some notable free agents who have yet to be signed but could be valuable additions. They won't cause television networks to interrupt programming with "BREAKING NEWS" banners, nor will they command eye-popping contracts. But they could fill voids that help lift teams to contender status.
NOTE: Players are listed with the age they will be on Sept. 7, when the 2023 NFL season is set to kick off.
The eighth-year veteran has limitations as a run defender, but he has been highly productive as a pass rusher. He has had at least eight sacks in each of his seven seasons, including 19.5 over the past two seasons, and figures to provide a boost to any pass rush in a situational role. Imagine him lining up on third-and-long with the 49ers' dominant defensive line. Scary.
There are reasons to slow-play this. Beckham has completed a full season only twice in his eight seasons and missed all of last year while rehabbing from a knee injury. He has not had a 1,000-yard season since 2019 and has not posted more than six touchdown receptions since 2016. That said, he is a dynamic threat when healthy. He showed as much late in the 2021 season after joining the Rams. He even appeared to be on pace to win the Super Bowl MVP before sustaining a knee injury in the game. He might not have the same burst or speed as he did in his early years, but it's hard to believe Beckham, who recently held a private workout for NFL teams, won't help to improve a squad's receiver room.
The fifth-year veteran is not a top-tier defender, but he is someone who can provide depth -- or more -- in the right situation. He is a physical player who is best-suited for a man-coverage scheme. Quarterbacks had only a 77.7 passer rating last season when targeting him, completing just 54.2 of those targets. He also allowed only one touchdown catch as the nearest defender in coverage, according to Next Gen Stats.
The fifth-year veteran is durable and dependable, starting each of the 62 games he appeared in with the Broncos the past four seasons and taking 93 percent or more of the offensive snaps in three of those years. He has not played with the physicality he showed coming out of college, but he's smart and moves fairly well. He won't win press conferences, but he could help teams win games, either as a starter or role player.
At 6-foot-4, he's a big receiver who can provide explosive plays as a deep threat and boundary target. In 11 games with the Lions last season, he averaged 16.7 yards per catch on 30 receptions and had nine plays of 20 yards or more, according to Pro Football Focus. Durability is a concern; he has never played a full season and has been slowed the past two seasons by an ankle injury. When healthy, however, he can be a nice addition.
UPDATE: After this article was posted, Chark signed a one-year deal with the Panthers.
The former No. 1 overall pick would like you to believe he is a pass-rush threat, but the numbers have never supported him. He has had three or fewer sacks in three of the past four seasons and has yet to reach double-digit sacks since entering the league in 2014, despite Myles Garrett drawing most of opponents' pass-blocking attention the past two seasons with the Browns. In fact, Clowney's four QB hits with the Browns last year were his fewest since his rookie year. That said, he is a capable run defender who can impact games with his ability to set the edge. Historically, his tendency has been to sign late in free agency, so it would be a mild surprise if he joined a club before the draft.
Thought to be in decline, Clark played well for the Chiefs last year in his eighth season. He finished with only five sacks, but he did a lot of other things to help a young defense mature. He could be a good fit with a team that needs a veteran presence among its defensive line. And there is this: Clark always seems to raise his game in the postseason, should his new team get there.