At the start of each NFL season, there are unemployed players that were starters or significant contributors during the previous season. The best bet for unsigned players to find roster spots is through injury, which is inevitable in the NFL. Here’s a look at some of the more notable players that are available.

Quarterbacks

David Carr: The first overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft lost a pre-season battle with Curtis Painter to backup Eli Manning. Carr had spent four of the last five seasons with the New York Giants when he was released.
Vince Young: The 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year’s quest to become the Green Bay Packers’ backup quarterback fell short. General Manager Ted Thompson put some of the blame on himself because Young was signed after training camp started. Young, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2011 with the Philadelphia Eagles, has a 31-19 record as a starter.

Others: Trent Edwards, Graham Harrell, Byron Leftwich, Matt Leinart, John Skelton, Tim Tebow

Running Backs

Peyton Hillis: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released Hillis after he was inactive for the first two games of the season. Hillis’ career has been on a downward spiral ever since he rushed for 1,177 yards with the Cleveland Browns in 2010.

Michael Turner: Turner was a salary cap casualty in March when the Atlanta Falcons decided his $6.9 million salary was too much for a 31 year old running back with declining production. His 800 rushing yards with 3.6 yards per carry in 2012 were the lowest totals during his five seasons with the Falcons.

Others: Cedric Benson, Tim Hightower, Joe McKnight, Chris Rainey, Beanie Wells

Wide Receivers

Lavelle Hawkins: The Patriots released Hawkins early in training camp because they were comfortable with their rookie wide receivers. Hawkins quickly signed with the San Francisco 49ers but didn’t make the team despite a productive pre-season. He has worked out for the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions since the 49ers released him.

Laurent Robinson: The Jacksonville Jaguars released Robinson after a series of concussions limited him to seven games in 2012 despite a $2 million guaranteed roster bonus. Robinson has worked out for several teams since receiving medical clearance for his concussions in July. Some teams view Robinson as a medical risk because of the concussions.

Others: Steve Breaston, Braylon Edwards, Brandon Lloyd (retired?), Mohamed Massaquoi, David Nelson, Courtney Roby

Tight Ends

Jake Ballard: Ballard missed the entire 2012 season recovering from microfracture surgery and ACL reconstruction. He sustained his knee injury while playing for the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI against the New England Patriots. The emergence of rookie Zach Sudfeld and Ballard’s inability to regain his pre-injury form made him expendable to the Patriots. The Baltimore Ravens recently brought Ballard in for a workout.

Others: Daniel Fells, Todd Heap, Visanthe Shiancoe

Offensive Linemen

Lance Louis (OG): The Miami Dolphins cut Louis because of his slower than expected recovery from an ACL tear in his right knee. He was viewed as a potential starter at right guard when the Dolphins signed him in March. Louis had been a two-year starter with the Chicago Bears when he suffered the injury last November.

Jason Smith (OT): The second overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft hasn’t lived up to expectations. He spent the 2012 season with the New York Jets as a backup after the St. Louis Rams traded him for Wayne Hunter shortly before the start of the regular season. The New Orleans Saints signed him to compete with Charles Brown at left tackle. Smith was released after Brown easily won the starting job in training camp. He quickly re-signed with the Jets but he didn’t make the roster. The San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans have worked out Smith since the Jets released him.

Others: Jammal Brown, (OT), Jared Gaither (OT), Stephen Peterman (OG)

Defensive Linemen

Andre Carter (DE): The Oakland Raiders released Carter because of his inability to generate a pass rush during the pre-season. Carter worked out for the New England Patriots recently. He earned the lone Pro Bowl selection of his career with the Patriots in 2011 when he had 10 sacks in 14 games.

Richard Seymour (DT): The Atlanta Falcons were interested in Seymour during the off-season but his price tag was too high. Seymour will remain on the sidelines unless he lowers his salary demands.

Others: Mark Anderson (DE), Justin Bannan (DT), Rocky Bernard (DT), Casey Hampton (DT), Lawrence Jackson (DE), Sione Po’uha (DT), Kyle Vanden Bosch (DE)

Linebackers

Leroy Hill (OLB): A January domestic violence incident in which Hill faced felony charges likely contributed to the lack of interest in free agency. Hill, who started 12 games for the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, has worked out for the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants and Tennessee Titans since the charges were dropped in late July.

Takeo Spikes (ILB): The 15 year veteran was released by the San Diego Chargers in March primarily because of a new head coach and general manager being hired. Spikes had 66.23% playtime with the Chargers in 2012. The San Francisco 49ers expressed some interest in Spikes during the pre-season.

Others: Michael Boley, (OLB), Jo-Lonn Dunbar (OLB), Thomas Howard (OLB), Barrett Rudd (ILB)

Defensive Backs

Kenny Phillips (S): Phillips inability to shake the injury bug that plagued him when he was with the New York Giants kept him from making the Philadelphia Eagles. He was limited to one pre-season game because of a quadriceps injury.

Kerry Rhodes (S): Rhodes, a starter in 116 of his 118 career games, hasn’t generated much interest around the NFL since the Arizona Cardinals released him in March after he refused to take a paycut. The New York Giants brought Rhodes in for a workout last week. Rhodes was the fourth ranked safety in 2012 according the Pro Football Focus.

Antoine Winfield (CB): The three-time Pro Bowler announced his retirement after the Seattle Seahawks released him at the final roster cutdown. He had limited value to Seattle with Walter Thurmond winning the third cornerback spot because 36 year olds usually aren’t big special teams contributors. Winfield has had a change of heart about retiring. He’s interested in playing this season under the right circumstances.

Others: Ronald Bartell (CB), Stanford Routt (CB), James Sanders (S), Marcus Trufant (CB)

Kickers/Punters

Shayne Graham (K): Shayne Graham was expected to fill the shoes of Phil Dawson with the Cleveland Browns but was a surprise cut. He spent a week with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an insurance policy when Shaun Suisham injured his hamstring. The Steelers released Graham because of Suisham’s quick recovery.

Chris Kluwe (P): Kluwe lost a pre-season competition with Marquette King for the Oakland Raiders punting job. King is leading the NFL with a 50.7 yard gross punting average.

Others: Olindo Mare (K), Mat McBriar (P), Neil Rackers (K)
 

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Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Prior to his tenure at Premier, Joel worked for Management Plus Enterprises, which represented Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ronnie Lott. You can email Joel at jccorry@gmail.com.