NFL Analysis


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2024 NFL Free Agency: 8 Underrated Players On The Market This Year

Bryce Huff celebrates a sack
New York Jets defensive end Bryce Huff (47) celebrates a sack against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Three-quarters of the NFL's 32 teams remain in playoff contention, so most teams have a ton left to play for this season. For players, these final weeks could serve as the last impression before they hit the free-agent market in March.

This year’s free agent crop has the potential to be top-heavy, especially at the offensive skill positions, if those players do not get franchised or re-sign with their original teams. There are several players set to hit big paydays this offseason.

But other players with less flashy names could still be meaningful pickups and valuable additions to any roster. These are a few players who could serve as underrated free-agent pickups.

8 Underrated 2024 Free Agents

Bryce Huff, EDGE, New York Jets

Bryce Huff, a former undrafted free agent, has made an impact as a pass-rush specialist for the New York Jets. His production has not decreased as he’s gotten more playing time outside third downs in 2023. Among players with at least 250 pass rush snaps, only Micah Parsons (23.0 percent) has a higher pressure rate than Huff (21.1 percent), per TruMedia.

He can be such a threat off the edge because he has one of the best get-offs among pass rushers. Huff is also eighth at the position in ESPN’s pass rush win rate this season.

The question for Huff will be if teams view him as an every-down player. This year, 43.7 percent of his snaps, 10 of his 17 quarterback hits, and 34 of his 59 pressures have come on third down. The plus side is Huff is so impactful on third down; he would be worth it if he provided little else. 

But there’s also some proof for production on early downs. Again, only Parsons has a higher pressure rate than Huff if just accounting for first and second down. Huff hasn’t been the strongest run defender, but he hasn’t been asked to do that as often as getting after the passer. 

The Jets thought enough of him last offseason to place the second-round restricted free agent tender on him, ensuring no other team would come in to make an offer. Now, as an unrestricted free agent, he could improve nearly every pass rush in the league.

Azeez Al-Shaair, LB, Tennessee Titans

Azeez Al-Shaair was a free agent last offseason and settled for a one-year, $5 million contract with the Tennessee Titans. Previously, he was the No. 3 linebacker on a San Francisco defense that played base at one of the highest rates in the league. He’s played in all 15 games so far and has played 95 percent of the defensive snaps for the Titans.

This season, Al-Shaair has been one of the league’s best run-defending linebackers and consistently finds himself around the ball. He’s made a tackle on 26.3 percent of his run defense snaps, which is second only to Ernest Jones of the Rams. Al-Shaair is also fourth in the league in total tackles that have produced a positive play for the defense, per TruMedia.

He’s also been effective as a blitzer with a career-high 11 pressures and six quarterback hits while rushing the passer on 8.6 percent of his pass snaps.

He can be susceptible to allowing a big play in coverage but can hold his own over a down-to-down basis.

The market for off-ball linebackers was mostly stale last offseason. Still, Al-Shaair, who will turn 27 years old in August, should be in line for a multi-year deal after proving the ability to be an every-down player and a lead linebacker for a defense.

Baltimore Ravens guard Kevin Zeitler
Baltimore Ravens guard Kevin Zeitler (70) is strong in both the run and pass games. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Kevin Zeitler, OG, Baltimore Ravens

Kevin Zeitler will turn 34 in March, but he’s still playing at a high level on the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line. He leads the position in votes for the Pro Bowl. It’s been a long but effective career for Zeitler, who has arguably improved since he was a Giants cap casualty before the 2021 season.

Blocking for Lamar Jackson can be a unique experience, but Zeitler has held up both in the run and pass game for the Greg Roman offenses that asked him to pull more than any other guard in the league and the current Todd Monken offense.

Among 84 offensive linemen with at least 500 pass-blocking snaps this season, Zeitler has allowed the seventh-fewest pressures, per TruMedia. That’s while Jackson has the eighth-longest average time to throw among quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks. There have been 74 linemen with at least 1,000 pass block snaps over the past two seasons, and Zeitler is fourth in pressure allowed.

If a team needs a reliable veteran to pair with a young or inexperienced offensive line — half the league at this point — Zeitler could be worth a call if Baltimore lets him hit the market.

Andrew Van Ginkel, LB, Miami Dolphins

At Wisconsin, Andrew Van Ginkel was a linebacker with a high blitz rate and he’s bounced around at those two things throughout his NFL career. This season, he’s done a bit of both. He started Week 1 playing most of his snaps in the box but has played on the edge since. After Jalean Phillips was lost for the season, Van Ginkel has slid in as more of a full-time pass rusher.

Van Ginkel is fifth in pressure rate among players with at least 250 pass-rush snaps and 11th among those players in early down pressure rate. He’s an undersized player who can use quickness off the edge.

He’s still asked to do quite a bit in coverage because he’s rushed the passer on just 67.3 percent of his pass snaps this season, though that’s been 82.7 percent without Phillips. Van Ginkel is athletic enough to hang in coverage and is fourth among linebackers in yards allowed per coverage snap.

On top of a career-high six sacks, he set a career-high with eight passes defensed, including a pick-six against Washington earlier in December.

Van Ginkel will be 29 in July but could provide a versatile defender for any defense that needs linebackers to play several roles.

New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne
New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) runs for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

Kendrick Bourne, WR, New England Patriots

As a 29-year-old coming off a torn ACL in a market that’s potentially flooded with top-tier talent in free agency and the draft, Kendrick Bourne won’t command a big deal. That’s part of his appeal on a list like this.

Before his injury, Bourne was the only functioning piece of the New England passing game. He averaged 1.73 yards per route run, which ranked 36th among receivers with at least 100 routes run at his time of injury.

Bourne has been a smooth route runner throughout his career, which makes up for his lack of top-end speed. As a possession receiver, he’s been a reliable option on third downs and in the red zone, where Kyle Shanahan went to him during his 49ers tenure.

He’s not going to be a No. 1 option but had to be that too often for the Patriots. Bourne could fit well in any scheme with the ability to play outside, in the slot and as a plus blocker in the run game.

Josh Uche, EDGE, New England Patriots

When Josh Uche is on the field, few pass rushers have made a bigger impact. The problem is he just hasn’t been on the field much this season. Uche has played fewer than 300 snaps despite appearing in 13 games.

Last season, Uche was second in pressure rate (behind Huff) on his way to 11.5 sacks. However, those came on just 14 quarterback hits. That type of conversion rate wasn’t going to last but he was still getting to the quarterback at a high rate. This year, he only has five quarterback hits but is eighth in pressure rate among defenders with at least 150 pass-rush snaps.

Uche battled through knee and ankle injuries earlier in the season and those injuries reportedly scared off some teams from acquiring him at the trade deadline. With a full season of health and potentially a new team, Uche could find more playing time with more opportunities to rush the passer.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Frankie Lulu
Carolina Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu (49) runs onto the field at Bank of America Stadium. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Frankie Luvu, LB, Carolina Panthers

Frankie Luvu became a Football Twitter favorite during the 2022 season and he continued his positive play into 2023. He flashes on the field by playing like a bullet when going downhill. Last season, he had 19 tackles for loss, which led all linebackers, and 12 came on run plays.

This season, Luvu is 14th at the position in tackles that produced a positive play for the defense. He hasn’t made as many tackles behind the line but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been around it. Luvu has turned into a plus blitzer on third downs in Ejiro Evero’s system. He’s rushed the passer on 35 percent of his third down pass snaps this season with a 20.8 percent pressure rate and three sacks.

He’s not always a plus player in coverage but he’s already put up a career-high with five passes defensed this season.

Luvu only signed a two-year, $9 million deal with the Panthers but he has the proven ability to be a three-down player with strengths against the run and pass. He could be a plus for teams that want to play with a lighter box and/or with lighter personnel on the field.

Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, Houston Texans

Jonathan Greenard, a third-round pick of the Texans in 2020, showed signs of a breakout in 2021 when he had eight sacks but some injuries in 2022 stopped that momentum. Under Demeco Ryans, 2023 has been his full coming-out season in the final year of his rookie deal.

This season, Greenard has 22 quarterback hits, which is tied for 12th among all defenders. He’s only 54th in pressure rate but he can make his pressures count as a player who has always run hot in converting pressures and hits into sacks during his career.

Greenard has developed into one of the most well-rounded edge players in the league, mostly as a down lineman on the right side of Houston’s line. He’s seventh at the position in pass rush win rate and first in run stop win rate, per ESPN. He’s one of four players in the top 10 of both metrics, along with Myles Garrett, Bradley Chubb and teammate Will Anderson Jr.