Bargain free agents available

They won't get huge bonuses, but there are plenty of modestly-priced free agents who could make an impact.

Updated: March 3, 2004, 12:22 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

In four seasons, Tampa Bay tailback Aaron Stecker has totaled just 635 combined yards from scrimmage, scored only three touchdowns, and averaged a modest 20.8 yards on kickoff returns.

OK, so he won't break the bank in free agency, right? But the former NFL Europe player is high on the shopping lists of several teams seeking a modestly-priced player who can serve as a No. 2 tailback, play on special teams, bring a winning attitude to a locker room.

In fact, some fans might be surprised by the degree of interest teams demonstrated in him during the days preceding the start of the free agency period. Stecker is typical, though, of the kind of second-tier players who will have some options in a market where most clubs are seeking out middle-tier players to fill roles or perhaps even start.

Here is a look at 15 other such veterans:

Sleeper UFAs
Player Team Exp. Comment

DE James Hall
Lions 4 Started all 16 games in 2003, had 4½ sacks and flashed quickness off the ball. Could be a player who, in the right situation, might be poised to emerge as a double-digit sacker. Young, live body and plays with a big motor.

QB Billy Volek
Titans 4 Tennessee would love to have him back but, in the 1½ games he played last season, former Fresno State star made too many plays to remain below the radar screen. People shouldn't be surprised by how much attention he gets.

DE Bertrand Berry
Broncos 6 The detractors contend his '03 performance was a result of being surrounded by superior players, but you can't just write off those 12 sacks. Could be an excellent situational player, and eat up some snaps, for a team in need of a rush.

WR Tai Streets
49ers 5 A bit of a longstrider who doesn't quite play up to his stopwatch speed, and is more a possession player than a big-play threat. But for the right price, he could contend for a starting job somewhere, and is no worse than a No. 3.

OG Jeno James
Panthers 4 He languished for years on the Carolina bench because some former coaches questioned his smarts. But he started for a team that went to the Super Bowl in 2003, is a road grader-type blocker, and the late bloomer is coming on.

FS Mark Roman
Bengals 4 Productivity has never matched his potential, but he can play both safety spots and perhaps even the "nickel" corner position. Good sense for the game, a decent hitter, probably needs to develop his ball-skills to make step to next level.

DT Brian Young
Rams 4 As much as St. Louis officials kept trying to replace him with high-round draft choices, they never really could keep him out of the lineup for an extended period. Maximize his snaps and he'll get you 6-7 snaps and always play hard.

LB Brandon Short
Giants 4 Doesn't really do anything great but a lot of things well and his rising tackle totals attest to his progress over the last few years. A strongside guy who can stack, play a little over the tight end and moves well to the football.

CB Reggie Howard
Panthers 4 In a free agent pool overstocked with big-name corners, Howard might get lost in the shuffle a little, but he did start the last two years for the '03 NFC champions. Not great in coverage, best in a zone, plays the run aggressively.

DE/LB Adalius Thomas
Ravens 4 One of those standout utility defenders every team should have around. Played mostly in the 3-4, so a bit hard to project, but certainly a "nickel" rush guy at worst, and is one of the NFL's standout special teams performers.

OG Travis Claridge
Falcons 4 Hiring of new line coach Alex Gibbs could keep him in Atlanta but on the market for now. Former second-round pick has bounced between tackle and guard, probably best suited for the latter position, has a notable nasty streak.

RB Kevin Faulk
Patriots 5 Not big enough or durable enough to be a No. 1 back but can do a lot of things for you. Catches the ball well out of the backfield, returns kickoffs, can run back punts if necessary, and can be productive with 8-10 "touches" per game.

LB Clark Haggans
Steelers 4 Has only played in a 3-4, so teams will have to be very careful in how they view him. Typical Steelers linebacker, plays best coming forward. His salary demands are out of touch with reality and he may have to lower his price tag.

OT Adam Meadows
Colts 7 Released by the Colts last week, has already made two visits and has another one planned for late in the week. Six-year starter, mostly at right tackle, has also played left tackle and guard, good enough to start for a lot of teams.

OT Damion McIntosh
Chargers 4 Has missed time due to injuries, so buyer beware. Big body and a mean streak, played mostly at left tackle but might be better on the right side. Has 37 career starts and, if he can stay healthy, is a pretty intriguing guy.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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