On Aug. 2 of last year, the Falcons signed a free agent to bolster their pass rush, which finished the 2015 season with the fewest sacks in the NFL. That free agent was Dwight Freeney. Six months later, Freeney brought down Tom Brady in the Super Bowl for a sack, preventing a touchdown.
He wasn't a one-hit wonder. Prior to the Falcons' Super Bowl run, Freeney notched a sack in three straight regular-season wins, helping the Falcons race out to an 11-5 record, which ended up securing them the No. 2 seed in the NFC and home field advantage in the playoffs after the top-seeded Cowboys immediately went down. In all, Freeney was Pro Football Focus' 10th most-efficient pass rusher among 4-3 defensive ends in 2016.
The point being, Freeney -- a free agent in August -- made a difference. And he isn't the only late summer roster addition to make an impact in a recent Super Bowl.
In late August of 2015, the Broncos signed guard Evan Mathis to shore up their protection. He was the Broncos' top offensive player during the regular season, according to PFF's grading scale. He played in every offensive snap during the team's Super Bowl win over the Panthers.
In June of 2014, the Seahawks signed Kevin Williams. He didn't play nearly as much as Mathis, but he racked up two sacks late in the season (three overall), as the Seahawks mounted a six-game winning streak heading into the postseason. He notched three hurries and five stops in the playoffs, per PFF. The Seahawks' run ended with a gut-wrenching loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Those three examples from the past three seasons are intended to show that it's possible for teams to find important contributors this late in the offseason. So, let's take a look at the best remaining free agents at every position.
At some point, these players will get signed. And if they're lucky, they'll wind up on a playoff contender like Freeney, Mathis, and Williams did.
QB: Colin Kaepernick
As I've written far too many times in the past few weeks, Kaepernick is still a top-32 quarterback in the NFL. But a starting job has eluded him to this point and, barring a significant injury, that trend will continue. But Kaepernick can still help an NFL team. He'll be the best backup in the league as soon as a team (cough cough, Seattle, cough cough) signs him and he'll allow a team to stay afloat if their starter (cough cough, Russell Wilson, cough cough) suffers an injury.
The running back market is incredibly thin at this point, as guys like Jamaal Charles and LeGarrette Blount have recently found new homes in Denver and Philadelphia. Someone like Williams can't come in and serve as an RB1. But he can come in and provide solid depth to a weak backfield. It wasn't too long ago when Williams filled in admirably for Le'Veon Bell by averaging 4.5 yards per carry and rushing for 11 touchdowns in 2015.
WR: Anquan Boldin
Boldin is old (36), but as he's proven in recent years, he's still a capable possession receiver. He's averaged 68 catches, 686.5 yards, and six touchdowns per season since 2015. He can help someone.
TE: Gary Barnidge
With all due respect to Ladarius Green, who was recently cut by the Steelers, Barnidge is the best available tight end. In 2015, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and caught nine touchdowns. His numbers nosedived last year, but he still racked up 612 yards. Barnidge was released by the Browns because a rebuilding team doesn't have a need for a 31-year-old tight end -- especially not after they used a first-round pick on David Njoku. But a contender might need a dependable player like Barnidge.
OL: Nick Mangold
Mangold, cut by the Jets this offseason, is coming off an ankle injury. But if he's healthy, Mangold can still be a decent center in the league. His 2015 and 2016 seasons were forgettable, though Pro Football Focus did give him a positive grade last year. He was PFF's second-highest graded center in 2014. More than anything, Mangold could be a quality backup if he's OK with taking a spot on the bench. Look for Mangold to get signed once a training camp injury occurs and teams can make sure he's healthy.
DL: Jared Odrick
Not much needs to be said about Odrick, a first-round pick of the Dolphins in 2010, because this photo really says it all.
Someone hire him.
In all seriousness, Odrick is nothing but a depth candidate. He can be a rotational member of a defensive line. That has value, but limit expectations.
MLB: DeAndre Levy
Levy's only issue is injuries. If not for injuries, Levy would be one of the game's best middle linebackers. In 2013, he notched six picks and 85 tackles. He recorded 121 tackles in 2014. But he's appeared in just six games in the past two seasons. He's been dealing with a lingering knee issue and had surgery as recently as April. So, his availability will come down to his health.
OLB: Elvis Dumervil
Tough call with Paul Kruger also available, but I'm giving the edge to Dumervil and his nine sacks since 2015. Dumervil would be a nice addition for any 3-4 team that wants a situational pass rusher. According to PFF, Dumervil had 25 total pressures in 184 pass rushing snaps last year.
CB: Sam Shields
Concussions have played the biggest role in Shields' unemployment. He appeared in only one game for the Packers last year, as the fourth concussion of his career ended his season. He was also arrested in October. He was later charged with marijuana possession.
Yet Shields isn't planning to retire.
"I'm thinking it's not over," Shields said, according to ESPN. "I've still got more in me."
Shields racked up 18 interceptions from 2010-15.
Yes, Revis is a cornerback. No, he's no longer good enough to serve as a CB1.
But that doesn't mean Revis' career has to come to an end. It might be time for Revis to make the switch to safety. He has the football IQ to make the transition.
K: Dan Carpenter
Carpenter was inconsistent in 2016, making just 76 percent of his field goals, but the league is full of inconsistent kickers. All he needs is one starter to get the yips. In his nine-year career, which he's spent with the Dolphins and Bills, Carpenter has made 84 percent of his field goals.