- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
With free agency set to open Friday, Scouts Inc. takes a look at five of this year's hidden gems.
Chris Canty, DE, Dallas
With the growing popularity of the 3-4 defense in the NFL, players who fit that system obviously are becoming more sought after. The defensive end in this scheme does not get a lot of fanfare, but he is extremely important, and finding players with the proper dimensions and skill sets to excel as a five-technique DE is increasingly difficult.
Canty is still very young and has gotten better at a rather rapid pace. Physically, he is the prototype for the position and also can shift inside on passing downs, as he can use his quickness off the ball to penetrate and his great size to disrupt passing lanes from a defensive tackle position. Assuming Canty goes to a 3-4 scheme, there is very little bust potential here and he should continue to become an even better overall football player.
Jason Brown, C, Baltimore
Interior offensive linemen do not receive very much publicity, but Brown should be pursued aggressively by quite a few teams. He is young and brings a lot to the table. Brown can excel at any of the interior offensive line positions, with that position flexibility clearly making him even more attractive and adding to his number of suitors.
Most centers in the league are undersized and struggle with powerful nose tackle types, but that isn't the case with Brown, who shows excellent base and both upper- and lower-body power at the point of attack. He is what you look for in a power running scheme. Baltimore has a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason with its current roster, and Brown surely will entertain numerous offers. His new team should be quite happy with his services.
Chris Canty and Antonio Smith are among the lesser-known free agents who could pay big dividends for the right team.