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Five free agents who are out to sign their second contracts may surprise

Will the Vikings bring back Cordarrelle Patterson, who led the league in kick return average for the third time in four years, on a new contract? Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

The opening salvo of NFL free agency is always a mess, and with the excess of salary-cap space this year, the numbers will get only more distressing. Just think, quarterback Brock Osweiler's huge contract with Houston will look like a blip on the radar screen two years from now.

But what this should do for the smart NFL teams is create an opportunity like what the Patriots have been pursuing for years. Rather than compete for the absolute top of the NFL free-agent market -- a place that only rarely has star-caliber players -- those teams could try to scour the expired rookie contracts for gems. New England, of course, is even more proactive in this arena, trading for players such as Jabaal Sheard and Kyle Van Noy before their rookie contracts even expired. But with free agency, these risk-averse teams will no longer have to give up draft-pick compensation for reclamation projects.

I call these players second-contract sleepers. There's clearly a reason why their teams gave up on them, but they have enough talent to add value on another NFL roster. Here are five players who I think have a chance to be difference-makers somewhere: