The Leftovers: A Guide to the Dregs of NFL Free Agency

The beginning of the free-agency period is a milestone in the NFL offseason that marks the period of time between thinkpieces about the scouting combine and the first wave of mock drafts. It’s a chance for the Dolphins to look like they’re doing something, and for Philadelphia to delete all traces of the Chip Kelly era like the creepy technicians in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The 2016 free-agency period has had its highlights. Matt Forte finally escaped the mediocrity of the Bears, running right into the open arms of the Jets. The Broncos lost more quarterbacks than Marshall University in 1970. The Cleveland Browns’ new front-office supergeniuses Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta opted for the brilliant gambit of letting every Pro Bowler on their team leave. (That’s either a Bobby Fischer-type move, or a later-in-life Bobby Fischer-type move.)

Much as in Tom Perrotta’s novel The Leftovers—which is also now a confusing HBO show you’re supposed to say you like—most of the worthy free agents have suddenly vanished from their teams, headed perhaps toward some greater fate. But there are still some hopeful heathens milling around the field, waiting to be whisked away to football heaven. If your team has cap space to spare, you might consider getting enraptured with these, the hottest unsigned prospects remaining in the NFL.

Vince Young

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Vince Young is the Dick Clark of free agency—you can’t remember how long he’s been doing this, but it’s hard to imagine they ever did it without him. The former first-round draft pick hasn’t played a game since a 2011 loss with the Eagles, but that hasn’t stopped him from signing with three different teams over the next three years. Young is always quick to remind the media he’s still available and prepared for the call. The guy spends more time waiting by the phone than a Wyoming 911 dispatcher. It’s this or Jared Goff, your choice.

Nate Robinson

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NBA star Nate Robinson has said that he wants to try out for the NFL. The 5’9” NBA point guard played cornerback in high school, and even started college on a football scholarship before focusing his attention on hoops. He recently signed a deal to play basketball in Israel, but surely he could be tempted away from the Holy Land by the Mecca of Monday Night Football. We already know baseball players can play football (Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson) and that basketball players can’t play baseball (Michael Jordan). Only one way to solve the other leg of the equation. Basketball in Israel or football in America–either way, Nate, you get Saturdays off.

A VHS copy of Brian’s Song

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Will this VHS copy of Brian’s Song, marred by some tracking issues and minor water damage to the cardboard sleeve, help you push back against Denver’s formidable pass rush? Not directly, no, but some players are most valuable in the locker room. The classic 1971 ABC Movie of the Week co-starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams is certain to inspire tears and camaraderie on any squad. In a pinch, play highlights for a rousing halftime speech.

Jeb Bush

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We gotta find a team for this guy. Doesn’t have to be in the White House or the NFL, but somebody’s going to have to claim him. It’s just getting sad. Jeb is America’s Little Match Girl, gazing teary-eyed through the snow-flecked window at our warm party inside. He’s 6’3” and broad-shouldered, like a tight end. At the very least, maybe he can get a gig as an equipment manager with the Titans. He’s used to carrying water for a failed administration.

Members of the Gronkowski family

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Obviously there are his NFLer brothers Dan and Chris, plus potential future draftee Glenn. But there has to be some more untapped potential in that family tree. A younger nephew with a glandular disorder? An especially flinty aunt? Just seeing the name Gronkowski on a jersey is inspiring enough to warrant a look. Plus, there’ll be potential discounts on tickets to future party cruises.

Old college game tape of Johnny Manziel

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The surviving members of the Browns front office lean back in their chairs and listen to the faint crackle of the film spooling through the projector. On the wall, beautiful images are painted in vivid colors—a diminutive quarterback darting through the chaos, flinging improbable touchdown passes and plowing through stretches of green open field. There was no reason this couldn’t have worked, right? The game reaches its end, celluloid flapping against plastic to tap out, begging no more. They respool the film anyway and run the tape again. There he goes. Oh, what could have been.

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Bryan Miller is a comedian who’s available to punt for the right price. You should follow him on Twitter.

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