NFL Analysis


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6 Late Free Agent Signings Who Could Shake Up 2024 NFL Draft

Veteran wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. played for the Baltimore Ravens in 2023
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) dives for a pass near the end zone against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. (The Enquirer/USA TODAY-Sports)

The 2024 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, but NFL free agency could still swing how the first round plays out.

Even with the first two waves of key free agents largely off the board, there's still enough talent available for teams to pivot before the end of April. Plugging a need with a short-term veteran can be a smart way to free up draft capital for another position.

We've identified six veterans who can be key late free agent signings before the draft. Most have big names and each is still worth investing in. Which remaining free agents can shake up the draft?

Free Agents Who Could Shake Up 2024 NFL Draft

Odell Beckham Jr., WR

Odell Beckham Jr.'s $15 million contract in 2023 was an ambitious one from the Baltimore Ravens, and he's no longer worth anything near that type of money.

However, the 31-year-old had a solid 2023 season, producing 16.1 yards per catch and three scores in 14 games. He likely can't handle the volume of targets he earned as a younger athlete, but his speed and route running can still justify being a third receiver on a good unit.

Since 2020, Beckham has averaged fewer than 46 yards and 3.5 catches per game, and his best days are clearly behind him. He's better positioned to be a situational and rotational contributor, where he schemes into space for easier opportunities.

Most rookies will lack the polish and timing Beckham can offer, so contenders needing someone to walk in as a capable playmaker should look to add Beckham. 

David Bakhtiari
Green Bay Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari (69) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

David Bakhtiari, OT

Despite playing only 55 snaps last year and 13 games in the past three seasons, the immense need for quality blockers across the NFL means David Bakhtiari can walk into a job tomorrow.

The draft boasts rare depth at the tackle position, but a healthy version of the 32-year-old will outperform most, if not all, rookies this fall. His health is the obvious question mark.

Bakhtiari spelled out the issues in his knee, saying in January he needed another surgery to get back to where he could return to the field. The Green Bay Packers understandably released him after compounding injuries and a rising cap hit ($40 million in 2024) became problematic.

But he's one of the best pure pass blockers in the NFL when he's right, and the season is still more than four months away.

Bakhtiari's Impact When Healthy
SeasonStartsPackers' recordHonors
20201213-3All-Pro1, Pro Bowl
20191613-3All-Pro2, Pro Bowl
20161610-6All-Pro2, Pro Bowl

Signing him now and completely passing on the rookie tackle class might be too risky for teams, but a team like the Dallas Cowboys or the Los Angeles Rams could benefit from adding an impact blindside blocker this offseason.

Bringing in Bakhtiari could reduce their desperation at tackle, freeing their early picks for other investments and allowing them then add a capable backup later in the draft.  

Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams (33) celebrates after making a play against the Arizona Cardinals during a game on Oct. 22, 2023, at Lumen Field. (Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

Jamal Adams, SAF

It's hard to blame you if Jamal Adams' name has left your immediate train of thought. Although he's played in only 10 games in the last two seasons, he's still only 28. The three-time Pro Bowler plays a unique style that can still be valuable in the right situation.

Young safeties rarely make an impact in the NFL, which is why the position has struggled to produce many first-round picks in recent years. Veterans have also seen their salaries slashed, so the devalued nature opens the door for a great pickup. Adams must be healthy, of course, and also used closer to the line of scrimmage.

The NFL evolved away from Adams' skill set almost as soon as he arrived in Seattle, so the Seahawks wisely used him more as a pass rusher in his first two seasons than anything else. He totaled a whopping 16 sacks between 2019 and 2020 but finished the next 22 games with zero. Now, NFL teams favor shorter passes and more rush attempts, which is good for Adams' game.

Whether as a subpackage player or rotational nickel rusher, Adams can be a weapon for creative defensive coordinators. The 6-foot-1, 213-pounder isn't a traditional coverage player, but his strong tackling ability and knack for getting after the quarterback are something no rookie safety will walk in and provide in 2024.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) catches a pass over Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell (24) in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sport

Michael Thomas, WR

The days of Michael Thomas producing well more than 1,100 yards in one season are gone, and he's totaled only 1,057 yards in the past four years.

But it's not time to completely give up on the 31-year-old. Thomas' per-game rates are still quite good, even if his availability has ruined what was a Hall-of-Fame pace in his first five seasons.

Thomas' best year since injuries struck in 2019 came in 2023. Playing in 10 games, he caught four receptions for almost 55 yards an outing. He's not reliable or explosive enough anymore for teams to pass on a receiver in the first two rounds. Still, he finally looked like a quality top-three receiver for the first time since his outstanding 2019 campaign. 

Thomas' Tale of Two Careers
2021injured all season
20191491,7259OPoY, All-Pro1, Pro Bowl
20181251,4059All-Pro1, Pro Bowl
20171041,2455Pro Bowl

His raw numbers suffered as the Saints' offense struggled to produce with an injured and declining Derek Carr at quarterback.

Putting Thomas in a more balanced offense with a less risk-averse passer can resurrect a career that has gone wayward. Considering the drop in talent at receiver after the top 80 or so players, Thomas is a wiser gamble than a less-heralded rookie who has been pushed up due to the lack of underclassmen in the 2024 class. 

Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons (31) celebrates after making an interception against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium on Oct. 12, 2023. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Simmons, SAF

The best overall available free agent is easily Justin Simmons. Only 30, the 6-foot-2, 202-pounder must be biding his time to find the best fit. Since being drafted in 2016, Simmons has one of the best resumes of any safety in the league. He has 30 interceptions, 604 tackles, 64 pass breakups, two Pro Bowls and four Second-Team All-Pro nods. 

A terrific ballhawk and tackler, Simmons can fit anywhere. He should land a multi-year deal, so it's fascinating he's lasted on the market this long. Could he be waiting until after June 1, when teams have more money available?

The 2024 safety class is quite lacking, so Simmons seems to boast considerable power in negotiations despite teams shying away from paying for the position. Adding Simmons will completely erase a team's need at safety for at least 2024, if not multiple years. 

Miami Dolphins Center Connor Williams
Miami Dolphins guard Connor Williams (58) snaps the ball in the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium. Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Connor Williams, IOL

Connor Williams is another player coming off injury (torn ACL) who has a solid ceiling. After spending four years at left guard in Dallas and relocating to Miami as a center, Williams was in position for a possible extension before suffering his injury. He's not a great snapper, but the athletic 6-foot-5, 312-pounder is a terrific run blocker and a plus pass blocker at guard and center.

Turning 27 in May, Williams is a potential long-term answer for his next team. His experience at two positions opens the door for numerous opportunities. This is a strong offensive line class, but interior blockers aren't usually high picks.

Teams such as Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, and Minnesota could find huge value in Williams by adding him now instead of waiting for his price to rise closer to the fall.