NFL Free Agency 2013: Top 10 Underrated Free Agents

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Thomas Campbell - USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 NFL free-agent market, as expected, contains quite a few big names, but many organizations will gladly overlook the well-known commodities in favor of digging up the game’s underrated players eager to make their mark on the league.

Often times, talented would-be stars in the NFL are held back from gaining the notoriety they deserve. It could be for a variety of reasons, including (obviously) lack of playing time, being stuck on a losing team that garners very little national attention, or simply playing in a scheme that doesn’t suit that particular player’s skill set.

Whatever the case, sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes for a player to thrive.

It happens every offseason, and 2013 will be no different. Front offices looking to make a big splash will jump at the chance to sign a guy like Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings, but they’ll strap themselves financially for years in order to do so.

So, why get in a bidding war for a top-tier free agent everyone is trying to get their hands on when you can simply do your homework and snag a lesser-coveted player who doesn’t force you to break the bank? The NFL is a tricky business, but the loose spenders often do more to hurt their club than set it up for a successful future.

The way to the top in the NFL is to make smart decisions in the draft and make even smarter ones in free agency. A failed draft pick won’t set you back nearly as far as dumping an excessive amount of dough into a proven free agent who is long past his peak level of performance.

But it happens.

Players like the ones you are about to see can make a big difference for a team with legitimate playoff aspirations next season. Here are the Top 10 underrated free agents of the 2013 NFL free-agent class.

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10. Phil Loadholt, Right Tackle

Phil Loadholt
Thomas Campbell - USA TODAY Sports

Having started all 63 games in his NFL career, the former second-round pick is durable, reliable and effective. The dominant run blocker has yet to reach the Pro Bowl, but he’ll get his notoriety soon enough and cost less than the top-tier tackles available in this year’s FA market.

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9. Brad Jones, Linebacker

Brad Jones
Benny Sieu - USA TODAY Sports

Few knew what Jones was capable of until he stepped in as the starting right inside linebacker for the Packers in 2012, replacing an injured Desmond Bishop. Jones proved his versatility in a hurry, excelling in both run defense and pass coverage. What’s even more impressive is the former seventh-round pick had been an outside linebacker up until that point.

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8. James Casey, Fullback

James Casey
Thomas Campbell - USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of versatility, Casey is listed as a fullback but he’s capable of so much more. He isn’t the world’s greatest lead blocker, but wore many different hats for the Texans in recent years and excels in the passing game with his impressively reliable set of hands.

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7. Delanie Walker, Tight End

Delanie Walker
Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

The man they call D-Walk is smarter than the average bear. He’s not the tallest tight end in the league, nor does he possess the trustiest mitts, but he’s fast, versatile and his overall football IQ is vastly underrated. Also, one of the better run-blocking TE’s in the game despite his small stature.

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6. Chris Houston, Cornerback

Chris Houston
Mike Carter - USA TODAY Sports

Obviously Houston isn’t an elite NFL corner, but he’s pretty damn close. The 28-year-old has quietly remained effective over the past couple of years despite playing in an otherwise awful Detroit Lions’ secondary, and even intercepted five passes in 2011.

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5. Martellus Bennett, Tight End

Martellus Bennett
Matthew Emmons - USA TODAY Sports

Bennett’s 2012 campaign with the Giants was the best of his young career (55 catches, 626 yards, 5 TDs), but I’m still not convinced people realize how good he really is. He’s reliable as a run-blocker, pass-catcher and rarely commits penalties, yet had to play all of last year under a one-year deal. Hopefully he’ll get his this offseason and one lucky team will lock him up long-term.

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4. Chris Clemons, Safety

Chris Clemons
Robert Mayer - USA TODAY Sports

Clemons might not be returning to the Miami Dolphins in 2013 despite a career-best season that included 98 tackles and two interceptions. The 27-year-old free safety isn’t exactly an unknown commodity, but whoever lands him will be getting one heck of a bargain.

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3. Andy Levitre, Guard

Andy Levitre
Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

Levitre quietly and consistently gets better each and every season he’s in the league. Whether or not people know it, and most outside of Buffalo don’t, he’s the top guard you’ll find in this free-agent class and will be worth every penny of whatever long-term deal he signs.

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2. Chris Ivory, Running Back

Chris Ivory
Cary Edmondson - USA TODAY Sports

Ivory’s carries have gone down each of his first three seasons in the league despite making the most of every single one. It’s a damn shame, to be honest, because he’s capable of making a sizable impact in a backfield outside of New Orleans and I’d say his career yards per carry average of 5.1 attests to that rather well. He runs hard, breaks tackles and just flat out deserves a bigger workload.

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1. Glover Quin, Safety

Glover Quin
Troy Taormina - USA TODAY Sports

Quin provides an usual amount of value from the safety position because he’s capable of covering wide receivers in man coverage, even ones that come out of the slot. He’s also quite durable and has already provided plenty of leadership for the Houston Texans despite the fact that he’s entering just his fifth year in the league. If not in Houston, this guy will become a staple of someone’s defense for years to come.