6 NFL Players Who Already Look Like 2023 NFL Free Agent Steals in Training Camp

6 NFL Players Who Already Look Like 2023 NFL Free-Agent Steals in Training Camp

0 of 6

    Bengals TE Irv Smith Jr.

    Bengals TE Irv Smith Jr.AP Photo/Jeff Dean

    Before training camp, free-agent fits are a hypothetical game. We spend all offseason pairing available names with needs on paper, but training camp is when projection starts to meet reality.

    It’s also when it starts to become apparent that some teams have done a good job of identifying a player who will fit right in.

    Value is the name of the game regarding free agency. Identifying the stars of a class and handing out big contracts is the easy part for a general manager. It’s finding those players on cheap deals who will fulfill a role on the team that is challenging.

    With training camp in full swing around the league, a few names are garnering some buzz. These players were also signed to relatively cheap deals at their position but are already headed toward valuable roles for their respective teams.

WR Braxton Berrios, Miami Dolphins

1 of 6

    Miami Dolphins wide receiver Braxton Berrios (src) runs drills during practice at the NFL football team's training facility, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2src23, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

    AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

    The Miami Dolphins lean more heavily on their top two receivers than just about anyone. Part of that is because Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are both game-breaking talents. But part of that was because their third receiver was Trent Sherfield.

    He brought more as a blocker than he did as a receiver. This year, someone else has to fulfill that role because he’s with the Buffalo Bills.

    Thus far, Braxton Berrios has emerged as the top candidate after signing a one-year, $3.5 million contract, per Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN.

    Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post has also been impressed with Berrios, noting that he has developed some chemistry with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Those signs point to Berrios getting the role over fellow free agent acquisition Robbie Chosen.

    Berrios has mostly made his name as a return man in four seasons with the New York Jets. Last season, he was an afterthought in the passing game with 18 receptions for 145 yards.

    The context is much different in New York, though. With both Hill and Waddle taking the top off the defense regularly, there’s going to be space underneath defenses to take advantage of.

    If Berrios’ chemistry with Tagovailoa continues, the third receiver could add an extra dimension to the Dolphins passing game.

WR DJ Chark Jr., Carolina Panthers

2 of 6

    SPARTANBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA - JULY 27: DJ Chark Jr. #17 of the Carolina Panthers receives a pass during Carolina Panthers Training Camp at Wofford College on July 27, 2src23 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    It’s critical to give a young quarterback enough weapons to develop. After trading DJ Moore as part of the deal to get Bryce Young, the Carolina Panthers had to find a way to do that on the cheap this season.

    That might be exactly what they’ve done by signing DJ Chark Jr. to a one-year, $5 million contract this offseason.

    The former Lions and Jaguars receiver has put together some productive seasons, but he’s also dealt with injuries that have held him back in recent seasons. He missed six games last year with an ankle injury.

    But those injuries don’t seem to have kept him from showing out in training camp. Specifically, the connection between him and Young has been a common observation.

    “He’s earned the trust of Bryce,” Panthers receivers coach Shawn Jefferson said of Chark, per Joe Person of The Athletic. “Any time Bryce sees him out there one-on-one, Bryce is gonna take a chance. He’s earned that right from Bryce.”

    David Newton of ESPN noted that Chark, “is becoming one of Young’s favorite targets, particularly in the red zone.”

    If Chark can stay healthy and become a consistent downfield threat for Young, he’s going to be well worth the one-year flier the Panthers took on him.

CB Marcus Peters, Las Vegas Raiders

3 of 6

    Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters (24) reacts after breaking up a pass during a wild-card playoff NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Monday, Jan. 16, 2src23, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

    AP Photo/Jeff Dean

    It took longer than it should have for an NFL team to pick up Marcus Peters. Fortunately for the Raiders, they were smart enough to give him a shot in a cornerback room that has been remade over the offseason.

    The 30-year-old Peters was signed just under two weeks ago, but he’s already establishing himself as one of the starting cornerbacks.

    Vinny Bonsignore of The Las Vegas Review-Journal called Peters, Nate Hobbs and rookie Jakorian Bennett the starting cornerbacks. He also noted they were a big part of the reason Jimmy Garoppolo has not looked good in camp at times.

    At his best, Peters is one of the best ball-hawking cornerbacks in the league. He’s already standing out with interceptions in camp.

    There are reasons to be dubious of the corner. He’s getting up there in age and suffered an ACL tear that forced him to miss all of 2021.

    But that could also explain why he struggled last season and gave up a passer rating of 113.7. It’s possible he will be much better a year farther away from the injury. That would mean the Raiders found a legitimate starting cornerback on a one-year, $3 million deal.

TE Irv Smith Jr., Cincinnati Bengals

4 of 6

    Cincinnati Bengals tight end Irv Smith Jr. (81) performs a drill during practice at the team's NFL football training facility, Tuesday, June 13, 2src23, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

    AP Photo/Jeff Dean

    Hayden Hurst turned a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Bengals into a three-year, $21.8 million contract.

    It was a partnership that turned out to be mutually beneficial. The Bengals got a productive replacement for C.J. Uzomah, and Hurst earned a big payday after snagging 52 receptions for 414 yards and two touchdowns.

    All of those would be career highs for Irv Smith Jr. Playing alongside Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, there are going to be a lot of opportunities for Smith to showcase his skills as a receiver.

    It also helps that the coaching staff has worked to find out ways he feels comfortable getting the ball. Geoff Hobson of the Bengals’ website noted that offensive coordinator Brian Callahan has talked to him about routes that he likes.

    “This is the best coaching staff I’ve been around,” the tight end said, per Hobson. “I put a lot of time and effort into getting better in the offseason and they’ve seen that and it’s a blessing.”

    Cue the Lion King music because it sure seems like the circle of life will continue to move for the Bengals at the tight end position. Smith is in position to have a career year at a discount price.

LB Drue Tranquill, Kansas City Chiefs

5 of 6

    ST. JOSEPH, MO - JULY 23: Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Drue Tranquill (23) during training camp on July 23, 2src23 at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Kansas City Chiefs have a lot of money committed to their biggest stars, so finding value is key for them to become back-to-back champions.

    If Drue Tranquill’s training camp performance is any indication, they’ve found a steal to round out their off-ball linebacker rotation.

    Tranquill came to Kansas City on a one-year, $3 million contract after playing four seasons with the division-rival Chargers. The Chargers didn’t re-sign after his only full year of starting in which he put up 146 tackles and five sacks.

    His history playing against the Chiefs means he already has a reputation with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

    “He’s just a smart player,” Mahomes said of Tranquill, per Nate Taylor of The Athletic. “I hated playing against him because he’s one of those linebackers that’s calling out what you’re saying at the line of scrimmage because he studies that much. I’ve already had to make up new code words because I can hear him on the other side.”

    Taylor noted that Tranquill has played all over for the Chiefs defense. He’s been disruptive as a pass rusher on blitzes and has covered well from his middle linebacker position. Other beat writers have noted his ability to get after the passer as well.

    Tranquill might not even be able to crack the starting lineup given how many good linebackers the Chiefs have. But he’s capable of coming in and playing any of the spots well so he’s going to be a factor.

RB D’Onta Foreman, Chicago Bears

6 of 6

    LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS - JULY 31: D'Onta Foreman #21 of the Chicago Bears runs a drill during the Chicago Bears Training Camp at Halas Hall on July 31, 2src23 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

    Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    The depressed running back market means that some teams really got great value in free agency.

    D’Onta Foreman could be a prime example with the Chicago Bears giving him a one-year, $2 million contract a year after he rushed for 914 yards and a career-high 4.5 yards per carry.

    The veteran back is 27 years old but only has 443 career carries. He was an effective back for Carolina after they traded away Christian McCaffrey. Now he has to carry on that momentum in a Bears backfield that is going to have competition for carries with Khalil Herbert and rookie Roschon Johnson.

    Those younger backs are going to get more attention, but Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune noted that Foreman is earning the trust of the coaching staff. He’s showcasing his abilities as a runner, pass blocker and receiver.

    Others have also mentioned Foreman catching the ball out of the backfield. It’s an interesting development because Foreman only has 23 career receptions in five seasons.

    If he adds that to his game he’s going to be an incredible value for a Bears offense that figures to be more explosive this season.


Deixe um comentário

O seu endereço de e-mail não será publicado.