NEW YORK — Missing: A handful of former NFL stars.
Reward: An opportunity to help a team and revive a once-flourishing career.
With NFL training camps about to open, several big-name players are still unemployed, waiting anxiously, wondering when — or if — they’ll get a call.
Retirement could be the next step for former All-Pros such as Ed Reed and James Harrison.
“I know that I can still play,” Reed said at a charity softball game in Baltimore last month. “It’s just a matter of the right fit.”
Jermichael Finley is coming off a career-threatening injury. Tim Tebow hasn’t been with a team in almost a year. Santonio Holmes, Ronnie Brown, Asante Samuel, Jonathan Vilma and Kellen Winslow Jr. are among former stars on the downside of their careers.
“I could retire,” Winslow wrote on Twitter last month, “but that’s not who I am.”
Here’s a look at a few familiar unsigned free agents:
Talk about a turn of events. Once considered a potential franchise quarterback for Tampa Bay, Freeman was benched last season in favor of rookie Mike Glennon, then released. He signed with the Vikings, was terrible in his one start and finished the season as Minnesota’s third-stringer. The Giants signed him in the offseason as insurance for Eli Manning, but cut him in May.
A menace to quarterbacks who frequently was fined for illegal hits, and a regular critic of Commissioner Roger Goodell, the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year is 36, had a reduced role in his one season in Cincinnati and has seen his sack totals decrease every year since 2010.
Tone Time might be running out. The Super Bowl MVP with the Steelers in 2009, the 30-year-old Holmes was terrific in his first two seasons after being traded to the Jets in 2010. But he has just 43 catches in 15 games over the last two years after suffering a serious foot injury in 2012 and missing five games last season with a hamstring problem.
He’ll always be known for his role in the harassment of former teammate Jonathan Martin, another offensive lineman and an assistant trainer last season. Incognito was suspended and missed the final eight games with Miami. The bullying scandal, along with being 31, might make it tough for the guard to find a suitor.
A year ago, the newly signed Reed was considered a key piece of the Texans’ improved defense. But he underwent hip surgery in the offseason, missed the first two games, then lost his starting job at safety. Reed was released after seven games, but reunited with Rex Ryan in New York and had three interceptions in seven games with the Jets. He’ll be 36 in September.
Helped the Patriots to two Super Bowls early in his career as one of the league’s top ballhawking cornerbacks. After four seasons with the Eagles, they traded him to the Falcons in 2012. Samuel is 33, but still productive — although he was limited to 11 games last season and relegated to backup duty.
A tackling machine early in his career with the Jets and Saints, he then dealt with knee injuries, ineffectiveness and also was identified in 2012 as a ring leader of New Orleans’ bounty program. Vilma missed the first five games of that season while rehabilitating his left knee, and played in only one game last year because of it.