The Miami Hurricanes football program has been sending loads of talent to the National Football league since 1960. With NFL free agency set to begin on March 16, there will be a lot of that South Florida talent signing new contracts.
13 former Hurricane players are on the market and have an opportunity to resign or move on to a new team. One of them has already figured out their future for the 2022 season while the other 12 are still available.
Miami Alumni in Free Agency
After one of his best seasons in the NFL, kicker Michael Badly finds himself a free agent again. He spent the first three seasons of his professional career with the Los Angeles Chargers, making 52 of his 65 field goal attempts, an 80 percent success rate.
Last season, Badgley played a game for the Tennessee Titans, missing his only field-goal attempts and making one of his two extra-point attempts.
He then joined the Indianapolis Colts when their starting kicker was injured. That is when he looked more like the kicker we saw in college, making 18 of 21 field-goal attempts and all 39 of his extra points.
With the Colts having Rodrigo Blankenship, it is unlikely Badgley’s services will be needed in Indy again. But his kicking during the 2021 season gives him a chance to find a new home in 2022, whether it comes during the offseason or as an emergency during the season.
After one season with the San Francisco 49ers, wide receiver Travis Benjamin is now an unrestricted free agent. In the one season with the team, Benjamin was used sparingly, mostly a return man.
In 10 games, he was targeted five times, finishing the season with no catches. He did return three kickoffs for 47 total yards and two punts for 24 yards.
Benjamin has been in the NFL for 10 seasons, playing for three teams. He may be able to find a home as an effective return specialist, returning four kickoffs for touchdowns in his career.
Probably the best season for any Hurricanes in the NFL during the 2021 season came from wide receiver Braxton Berrios. In his third season, Berrios was named a First-Team All-Pro as a kick returner. He was also a solid receiver for a young New York Jets offense.
Berrios had 852 yards and a touchdown on 28 kickoff returns and 201 yards on 15 punt returns. He added 431 yards and two touchdowns on 46 receptions, mostly playing with a rookie quarterback. The Jets also used him in the ground game, picking up 40 yards and two touchdowns on seven rushing attempts.
As a young slot receiver with the ability to be effective on special teams, Berrios will not only have the option to return to New York but likely have many other choices if he wants to play for a winning team.
Burns played in 11 games and started six. He defended six passes and made a combined 23 tackles.
At only 26 years old, Burns is still a young corner who could find a home with a team needing depth and experience in the secondary.
Fellow defensive back and Chicago Bear Deon Bush is coming off his best season since being drafted and playing six years in the Windy City. Bush finished the season with career-highs with two interceptions, five passes defended, and 40 combined tackles.
The Bears have used Bush as a backup safety, playing in 79 career games, but just starting in 12. With Eddie Jackson returning and Tashaun Gipson Jr. being a free agent as well, one safety spot is open. Bush is five years younger than Gipson, so the Bears have options for that spot on the back end.
One of the best Miami players to play in the NFL, defensive lineman Calais Campbell is on the market. The last time he was a free agent in 2017, he signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was then traded to the Baltimore Ravens where he has played the last two seasons.
Though Campbell is going to be 36 years old for the 2022 season, he was still effective a season ago and could provide a team valuable leadership and experience. In 2021, he finished the season with 49 combined tackles, five tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.
At one time, Jimmy Graham was one of the best receiving tight ends the NFL had ever seen. It has been nearly a decade since Graham has had a 1,000-yard season, but he is still a solid option as a receiver.
In the last two seasons with the Chicago Bears, Graham had 64 catches for 623 yards and 11 touchdowns. During his 12-year career, he is 8th in receiving yards by a tight end and fourth in touchdowns by a tight end. Though his numbers have been trending downward, he could still be a solid option at the position.
After playing three seasons with the New York Jets, tight end Chris Herndon was traded to the Minnesota Vikings for the 2021 season. Though he was extremely productive for two seasons with the Jets, he wasn’t used much by the Vikings this past season.
As a rookie, Herndon caught 39 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns. His second season in the NFL ended in the first game of the season after just one catch for seven yards. He came back strong in 2020, catching 31 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns.
In his lone season with Minnesota, he caught just four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown.
Coming off the best stretch of his career as a pro, the all-time leading rusher in Miami history proved he can be effective as a runner. In four seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Duke Johnson had just 299 rushing attempts. In five games with the Miami Dolphins in 2021, he carried the ball 71 times and gained 330 yards and three touchdowns.
Throughout the first six seasons of his career, he was used mostly as a receiving threat out of the backfield, but his return to South Florida may have proven he can be used on all three downs.
After signing a one-year, $3.4 million contract last offseason, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad had a career year in almost every category. He doubled his previous career-high in sacks, picking up six during the 2021 season. He also had 48 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, and a forced fumble during his fourth season with the Indianapolis Colts.
NFL teams can never have enough pass rushers, so don’t be surprised if Muhammad is offered a solid contract, whether he stays with the Colts or finds a new home.
The first former Hurricane to know his fate during the 2022 offseason, tight end David Njoku was signed using the franchise tag by the Cleveland Browns. In five seasons with the Browns since being drafted with the 29th pick in 2017, Njoku has had an up-and-down career.
During his second season, Njoku looked like he was well on his way to an excellent career with 56 catches for 639 yards and four touchdowns. He followed that up with just five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown in only four games.
In 2021, Njoku looked to be getting back on the right track with 36 catches for 475 yards and four touchdowns. The solid season had Cleveland wanting him back even though they just signed tight end Austin Hooper to a four-year, $42 million deal last season. Signing Njoku to the franchise tag will have him making $10.834 million in 2022 if he doesn't sign a longer deal or get traded.
The fourth former Hurricane to play for the Bears in 2021 who is on this list, Pat O’Donnell has played in Chicago for eight seasons since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
In 2021, O’Donnell had his second-highest punt average with 46.2 yards per punt. He also had one of the longest punts of his career with a 72-yard bomb against the Vikings in week 14.
After spending his first two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, safety Sheldrick Redwine played for both the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets in 2021. He began the season with the Jets, played in two games, and was then waived by the team.
In his return to Miami, Redwine played in four games for the Dolphins during the 2021 season, finishing with just two tackles.