NFL Free Agency is set to begin on March 14 and there will be no shortage of big names available on the market. From Kirk Cousins to Allen Robinson to former Pro Bowlers Jimmy Graham and Ezekiel Ansah, there are a handful of players that are about to get paid rather handsomely. That said, it often isn’t the big-name signings that end up making the biggest difference. Rather, it’s the unheralded guys that often end up being the difference between a good free agency haul and a great one. With that in mind, here are five NFL free agents that, although underrated, seem likely to have a big impact next season with their new teams.
Kenny Vaccaro, Safety
A former first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints, Kenny Vaccaro burst on to the scene as a rookie in 2013 before going on to post a string of inconsistent seasons. In the right role, Vaccaro is a dangerous playmaking safety, capable of producing big plays; unfortunately for the former Texas standout, the Saints have often played him out of position. With the team likely to move on this offseason, Vaccaro has a chance to join a team that will allow him to play to his strengths and that should allow him to return to his impressive rookie form.
Pierre Desir, Cornerback
Pierre Desir is exactly the type of solid starter that while not a big name, will make a big impact on whatever team he ends up signing with. Desir, a former fourth-round selection, has developed into a reliable presence, capable of matching up with bigger receivers due to his impressive size and coverage ability. Desir shouldn’t be matched up against any elite receivers, but as a second or third corner, he’s sure to be a great signing.
Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver
At his best, Michael Floyd has the ability to be an elite deep threat with excellent size and an ability to win jump balls against even the most athletic cornerbacks. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since we’ve seen that version of Floyd. Due to some off-field problems Floyd fell out of favor in Arizona and has spent a good part of the past two seasons failing to fit into offenses that have asked him to be more of an short-yardage weapon. Any team that needs a vertical threat could find a huge bargain in Floyd provided his character issues are a thing of the past.
Aaron Lynch, Defensive End
In both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Aaron Lynch proved himself as an above-average pass-rusher that can hold his own in run support. Unfortunately for Lynch however, the San Francisco 49ers changed their defensive schemes and in the process, spent three high first round selections on defensive lineman, leaving Lynch without a defined role. NFL teams are always on the hunt for players that have pass-rushing talent, and though Lynch likely won’t receive a big free agent deal this offseason, he should be able to show the talent we saw early in his career and make an impact as a bargain signing.
De’Anthony Thomas, Running Back/Wide Receiver
Another case of a player not playing in the right scheme, De’Anthony Thomas could take a lot of people by surprise if signed by a team that is able to put him in positions that take advantage of his speed and elusiveness. Thomas, who is one of the fastest players in the NFL, isn’t an every-down type of player, but as running-receiving hybrid with excellent kick return ability, he is a guy that could break out on a new team.