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10 NFL free agents who can still help a team

Terez Paylor
Senior NFL writer

This is the dead period of the NFL, when everyone — coaches, players, team personnel and agents — tries to slip away for about a month.

That said, teams will be keeping tabs on the following players up until (and through) training camps begin around the country late next month. Here’s a look at 10 players that can still help a team this season.

Tre Boston, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, safety
2017 team: Los Angeles Chargers
Age: 25
Years pro: Five
Stats: 79 tackles, eight passes defensed and five interceptions in 16 games last season
Analysis: Boston is one of five safeties on this list, which is reflective of the, um, “odd” safety market this offseason. Boston’s tackling could improve but he should have a job somewhere. He’s young (turns 26 later this month) and he had a career year last season, tying for fifth in the NFL in interceptions while shining in coverage.
Teams that have reportedly shown interest: Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts

Bashaud Breeland, 5-11, 195, cornerback
2017 team: Washington Redskins
Age: 26
Years pro: Five
Stats: 50 tackles, 19 passes defensed, one interception in 15 games
Analysis: Breeland is still looking for work after losing a $24 million free-agent deal with the Carolina Panthers a few months ago due to a failed physical linked to a non-football injury in which he cut his foot (and saw it get infected). He’s a solid cover man at the right corner spot, though, and there are not enough corners in a league in which nickel defenses are becoming the new base.
Teams that have reportedly shown interest: Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts

Tyvon Branch, 6-0, 210, safety
2017 team: Arizona Cardinals
Age: 31
Years pro: 11
Stats: 69 tackles, six passes defensed and zero interceptions in nine games
Analysis: He’s really good when healthy. Branch was having a nice season until he suffered a season-ending knee injury last season. He was a starter until the injury and seemed to enjoy a good rapport with fellow safety Antoine Bethea. At his best, Branch is reliable against the run and pass, but he’ll still need to convince a suitor that last season’s injury didn’t sap his athleticism. Perhaps the Cardinals would welcome him back on an incentive-laden deal.
Potential fits: Cardinals

Dez Bryant reportedly turned down a multi-year offer from the Ravens in April. (AP)

Dez Bryant, 6-2, 220, receiver
2017 team: Dallas Cowboys
Age: 29
Years pro: Nine
Stats: 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns in 16 games
Analysis: Last season, Bryant looked more like a contested-ball specialist, a slant-ball guru with run-after-the-catch chops, than the dynamite downfield threat he was earlier in his career. Some teams are concerned about his temper (others simply call that “passion,” by the way). He’d probably be best served going to a title contender with alpha dogs at head coach and quarterback that he respects.
Potential fits: New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans

Johnathan Hankins, 6-2, 325, defensive tackle
2017 team: Indianapolis Colts
Age: 26
Years pro: Six
Stats: 44 tackles, three passes defensed, five hurries and two sacks in 15 games
Analysis: Hankins’ biggest issue is his inability to generate a pass rush in a league that values the interior pass rush more than ever. But as a one- or two-down run defender, Hankins is stout and outstanding. He’ll find a home once training camp injuries set in, if not before then.
Teams that have reportedly shown interest: New York Jets, Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins

DeMarco Murray, 6-1, 220, running back
2017 team: Tennessee Titans
Age: 30
Years pro: Eight
Stats: 184 carries for 659 yards and six touchdowns, plus 39 catches for 266 yards and a touchdown
Analysis: The Titans released Murray, who rushed for a career-low in yardage last season. They saved $6.5 million in salary-cap space, but Murray — who battled through a hamstring injury last season — still has some juice left, perhaps as a No. 2 who can do a little bit of everything. Murray recently declined to work out for the New Orleans Saints, who went on to sign another veteran back, Terrance West. There’s a chance a training camp injury can create an opportunity for Murray somewhere.
Teams that have reportedly shown interest: Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks

Eric Reid’s grievance case against the NFL has complicated his free-agent situation. (AP)

Eric Reid, 6-1, 213, safety
2017 team: San Francisco 49ers
Age: 26
Years pro: Six
Stats: 67 tackles, four passes defensed and two interceptions in 13 games
Analysis: At only 26, this one-time Pro Bowler should already be signed somewhere. He’s coming off a strong season in which he fared well in coverage and well enough against the run. It has not been lost on anyone that as a visible protester of social inequalities, he has not been signed. His collusion suit against the NFL won’t help his case, but there should be no doubt that physically, he has the talent to be an above-average NFL starter.
Potential fits: 49ers, Seattle Seahawks

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 6-2, 203, cornerback
2017 team: New York Giants
Age: 32
Years pro: 11
Stats: 48 tackles, one pass defensed, zero interceptions in 15 games
Analysis: The stunning lack of ball production in 2017 is a concern, but the year before, DRC had 21 passes defensed and six interceptions. I don’t believe you lose all of that in a year. Rodgers-Cromartie recently hinted he could return to the Giants, who reportedly had plans to move him to safety prior to his release.
Teams that have reportedly shown interest: Giants, Washington Redskins

Ron Parker, 6-0, 206, safety
2017 team: Kansas City Chiefs
Age: 30
Years pro: Eight
Stats: 67 tackles, four passes defensed and two interceptions in 15 games
Analysis: Parker’s stats don’t jump off the table, but I watched him last year as he served as the most consistent member of the Chiefs’ secondary, perhaps more than mercurial cornerback Marcus Peters. Parker’s ball production was down because he spent more time in the box after Eric Berry was lost for the season in the opener. He’s an up-and-down tackler, but he emerged as a respected locker room voice last season and someone who can help a team if it allows him to get back to doing what he does best, which is playing deep portions of the field in coverage.
Potential fits: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins

Kenny Vaccaro, 6-0, 214, safety
2017 team: New Orleans Saints
Age: 27
Years pro: Six
Stats: 60 tackles, seven passes defensed, three interceptions in 12 games
Analysis: The selections of Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams made Vaccaro expendable in New Orleans, despite the abundance of three-safety sets it used. Vaccaro is primarily a box defender with plus run defense chops. He has shown the ability to cover some tight ends, but he could be being dinged by teams for his struggles in coverage in an increasingly pass-happy league. Even still, he’s only 27 years old and would represent an upgrade for some teams.
Teams that have reportedly shown interest: Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets

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