Posted March 14, 2013

How free agency’s start has impacted the draft

NFL Free Agency
Jermon Bushrod

The Bears paid a steep price for LT Jermon Bushrod, and only time can tell if he’s worth that contract. (Tim Heitman/ USA TODAY Sports)

The 2013 free-agency period in the NFL is still in its infancy, with plenty of time remaining for teams to nab players for next season. But the first two days of free agency brought a whirlwind of transactions, including more than a few surprises.

Here, we break down how 10 of the most active teams have fared so far … and what their moves may mean as we inch ever closer to the 2013 draft. I’ve listed their pre-free-agency needs, crossing out the ones they’ve filled:

Chicago Bears

Offseason Needs: G, OT, TE, WR, LB

Maybe offensive tackle should only be half crossed out there. The Bears made an early splash by signing LT Jermon Bushrod — though they paid a huge price for him — but still have to decide if J’Marcus Webb can be the answer on the right side. Chicago’s move for tight end Martellus Bennett might wind up being a bigger score. He’ll provide Jay Cutler with a reliable target, plus help mask the Bears’ underwhelming talent at No. 3 receiver.

The Bears still have to be concerned about their O-line, and if Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper somehow fall to them at No. 20, they’d be foolish to pass. But linebacker’s in tough shape, too, with Brian Urlacher possibly leaving, Geno Hayes already gone and Lance Briggs rapidly aging.

Cleveland Browns

Offseason Needs: G, TE, WR, CB, OLB

With the move to a 3-4 defense, the Browns needed to find some help on the outside. They did just that, making an aggressive move for ex-Ravens pass rusher Paul Kruger. Cleveland then picked up OLB Quentin Groves to add some depth (and helped its D-line with the signing of Desmond Bryant).

But Rob Chudzinski’s offense could still use a top-notch tight end — the Browns’ former starter, Benjamin Watson, is a free agent, and recent signing Gary Barnidge is not of that ilk. Cleveland might look at that spot or receiver after Round 1 of the draft, but the franchise coughed up its Round 2 pick on Josh Gordon in last year’s supplemental draft. At No. 6 overall the Browns might consider another pass rusher; Alabama CB Dee Milliner would look nice across from Joe Haden, too.

Denver Broncos

Offseason Needs: G, RB, WR, DT, LB, S

The Broncos’ score came at receiver, where they plucked Wes Welker from New England to take over in the slot. Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker give Denver a loaded starting trio. Denver avoided taking any steps back up front on D, re-signing DT Kevin Vickerson and landing Terrance Knighton from Jacksonville. And ex-Cardinal Stewart Bradley should compete at middle linebacker.

Still, it’s the defense that needs a few more bodies. Bradley is no sure thing, and the depth on the D-line is a little low. Even more problematic is Denver’s secondary, which could use an upgrade on Mike Adams at safety; Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, if his head is on right, should help at corner.

It would be surprising to see the Broncos ignore their defense at No. 28 overall. The wild-card position there: running back.

Detroit Lions

Offseason Needs: G, RB, WR, CB, DE, DT, OLB, S

The Lions had a monster second day of free agency, landing RB Reggie Bush, DE/DT Jason Jones, S Glover Quin and re-signing top CB Chris Houston. Bush emphatically solves their issues at running back, while Quin — coupled with the re-signing of Amari Spievey — puts Detroit in much better shape at safety.

As you can see above, though, there remain a lot of places the Lions would like to get better. Picking No. 5 in Round 1 (plus No. 4 in Round 2 and No. 3 in Round 3) will leave just about every door open here. Left tackle, another position not even listed in the Lions’ needs, might wind up getting the nod at No. 5 overall, if Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher is there. Otherwise, Milliner and pretty much any pass-rushing DE/OLB-type you can think of are in play.

Indianapolis Colts

Offseason Needs: G, OT, WR, CB, DT, OLB, S

Outside linebacker is listed as filled with a little hesitancy — can (the now-overpaid) Erik Walden or Lawrence Sidbury provide enough pop opposite Robert Mathis? But the Colts got busy elsewhere, adding RT Gosder Cherilus, versatile OL Donald Thomas and CB Greg Toler, while re-signing Darius Butler.

A number of those “filled” positions could still be in the mix when Indianapolis picks at No. 24 overall, particularly on the offensive line. But there should be a lot of defensive tackles to choose from there, and the Colts badly need a third receiver now that Donnie Avery is a Chief.

And speaking of the Chiefs …

Kansas City Chiefs

Offseason Needs: OT, QB, WR, CB, DE, ILB

The Chiefs took care of their QB conundrum outside of free agency, swinging a deal for Alex Smith. They gave him a little help, too, with the signing of ex-Saint Chase Daniel.

Also on the free-agent market, the Chiefs landed CB Dunta Robinson, WR Donnie Avery, TE Anthony Fasano and DE Mike DeVito. Of those, at least Robinson, Avery and DeVito could be headed for key roles — DeVito, specifically, is a much better fit for the Chiefs’ 3-4 than Glenn Dorsey ever was.

With the No. 1 overall pick, everything’s on the table for the Chiefs. Still, they might have tipped their hand a bit by releasing RT Eric Winston, thus setting the stage for Joeckel or Fisher to be the first selection.

Philadelphia Eagles

Offseason Needs: OT, CB, DT, OLB, S

The remake of this roster as Chip Kelly wants it has begun in earnest, with the Eagles making several important free-agent additions early. Both NT Isaac Sopoaga and S Patrick Chung should be starters from the get-go, and the same might be true of CB Bradley Fletcher or hybrid TE/FB James Casey.

Philadelphia still needs to address some areas on defense, but injuries to Jason Peters and Todd Herremans last season left the Eagles reeling at tackle. Could one of the draft’s elite talents be the pick at No. 4? If not, grabbing an athletic rush-linebacker might be in the cards.

St. Louis Rams

Offseason Needs: G, OT, TE, WR, OLB, S

The Rams should be just getting started in their efforts to contend with San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC West. Thus far, the Rams have made a pair of very important moves: re-signing coveted DE William Hayes and handing a huge contract to TE Jared Cook. The latter may not have deserved quite as lucrative a deal as he got, but he essentially will replace Danny Amendola in the offense.

St. Louis can be a bit patient, because it has two first-round picks (Nos. 16 and 22) and three selections in the top 46. The Rams should be able to find a starting safety in that window, and they’ll have the opportunity to address at least two more of those needs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Offseason Needs: OT, TE, WR, CB, DE, DT, S

The Buccaneers have not made the volume of signings that some other teams here have, but their one pickup was crucial. That addition: Dashon Goldson, who will pair with Mark Barron to give the Bucs an aggressive, hard-hitting set of safeties.

Now, what will be their plan for the remainder of free agency and in the early rounds of the draft? Defensive line is an obvious focus, with DE Michael Bennett and DT Roy Miller both possibly headed to other teams. The Buccaneers also must continue to improve in the secondary, after finishing last season dead last against the pass.

Tennessee Titans

Offseason Needs: G, RB, TE, CB, DT, S

The Titans addressed their troublesome interior line situation by handing Andy Levitre a staggeringly large contract. Keeping restricted free agent Fernando Velasco was important, but how much faith do the Titans still have in guard Eugene Amano?

Tennessee’s other moves to this point should round out some spots on the roster. Running back Shonn Greene is much better suited to a role as a situational hammer behind Chris Johnson than he was to starting in New York; Sammie Lee Hill will provide some important depth at defensive tackle; and do-everything TE Delanie Walker should make the loss of Jared Cook easier to swallow.

At No. 10 overall in the draft, the Titans are in prime position to pounce on another guard. Saving that, the secondary remains a problem spot — one that Tennessee has to deal with, either via free agency or come April’s draft.

Free Agency Tracker & Grades

24 comments
hawkman54
hawkman54

WOW- I started out intently reading each teams wee's and woe's and gets and losses only to find out as I scrolled down the page it was only on a select few teams!  WOW- What a disappointment to see that it didn't cover everybody !!!!  BECAUSE it was a great job in discussing the teams listed .   IT is REALLY too bad it didn't go that extra step to do ALL the NFL teams!    BUT - Thanks for what you did.

HarshRealities
HarshRealities

The Tamps Bay Bucs came into the free agency period with over 30 million in cap space to spend. When the draft comes around they will still have over 20 million in cap space. The Tampa bay Bucs have been the most profitable team in the NFL by fielding the lowest payroll team 6 years running. The owners don't care about winning and did just enough this FA period to throw up a smoke screen so they can say they tried to improve the team. The owners of the Bucs are a disgrace to the NFL and the NFL needs to force a change in ownership.

Joe R2
Joe R2

Lance Briggs is rapidly aging?  Maybe in age but he hasn't slowed down at all on the field.  Lead the team in tackles and had 2 pick-6's.  Maybe this writer should pay more attention to what happens on the field instead of simply looking at player profiles.

MaxmillianDulin
MaxmillianDulin

Seatlle traded a 1st round pick for a superstar reciever, as well as signed the best pass rusher on the market and they are NOT one of the ten most active teams?? You kidding?

 

JulioEcheverria
JulioEcheverria

So there are only 10 teams in the NFL? Seriously, this is lazy reporting and inaccurate at that. SI is slipping bad.

Rick K.
Rick K.

This article failed to mention that the Broncos also signed Louis Vasquez, a guard.  The main needs for the Broncos heading into the draft should be LB, RB, and S.

jtanner23
jtanner23

Your cover picture is #28 Thomas Decoud not Dunta Robinson.

steven19
steven19

As a Raider fan i'm not looking forward to this season. Denver and KC both bolstered their roster it seems while my boys in silver and black are finally re-building. Hopefully this season shows some promise with TP, and DMC better not get injured. AGAIN!!!!

rohnjaymiller
rohnjaymiller

Where's Minnesota?  Moving Percy Harvin for a #1 and #7, signing Loadholt, courting Jennings?  What is this chopped liver?

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @HarshRealities Uh, training camp does not begin until July.   Rosters are still in process.   The NFL can hardly force ownership changes based on a disgruntled fan or two.

kylepellerin24
kylepellerin24

 @HarshRealities

 Are you kidding me? Last year they made a huge splash in free agency. This year they still made a pretty big signing with Goldson and are still in the trade talks for Revis so I wouldn't go as far to say that the ownership is a disgrace.  Before last year yes they were very hesitant to make any real big signings but, they have turned the corner on that.  Last year they would have made the playoffs if it wasn't for injuries to Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph so early in the year and the d-line. I don't think they need much pieces to get to the dance maybe some corners a backer and RT and they're good to go.

BryanCustard
BryanCustard

 @HarshRealities Spending regulations on the new CBA will force them to spend 85% or 90% of the cap, creating a cap floor that will prevent this from happening, I believe beginning next year. This should ease some of your concerns. However, as a Falcons fan, it appears the Bucs management is spending and doing fairly well as of late. They absolutely nailed the draft last season and paid Vincent Jackson $11 million and Carl Nicks around the same, now they have added Goldson early on in free agency, with the draft and still several good players to sign. It appears more likely that they are saving room to either lock up more core players (Josh Freeman and Mike Williams off the top of my head, but they will have to pay Michael Bennett something and I know they want him back right now) or maybe its all just a smoke screen ;)

Richard Long
Richard Long

 @Rick K. Yes, pretty poor reporting given that Vasquez was signed on opening day of FA.  I still think DL is a need for them, MLB might also need another body as well. Cromartie is just a stop gap and with Champ being as old as he is, I think CB is a bigger priority than Safety. 

JulioEcheverria
JulioEcheverria

 @steven19  Patience! Seems like the entire Nation is going crazy. FA just started. There are a lot of very good players still out there. RM is waiting for the price tags to come down. Look at Miami, they over paid again. They might be staring at B. Marshall  2.0. RM needs to be let to his job and let him define first the identity, then the type of player needed for that identity and then draft for the future. It's really gonna take at least 3 years my fellow Raider.

FreddieFunStuff
FreddieFunStuff

 @steven19 You have 1-2 more rough years ahead as a Raiders fan. They had so many big contracts signed by average players from Big Al's final ears. They are shedding them and starting over. Be patient, and try not to blame Coach Allen. The Raiders seem to finally be moving in the right direction, but it's going to be a tough process.

ChuckSkluzacek
ChuckSkluzacek

 @rohnjaymiller

 You could argue that, besides resigning Loadholt and Simpson, the vikings have not added anyone of value and have not changed any of their needs (the point of the article) that were really apparent previously to the start of free agency, actually making their WR and CB needs even more apparent.  Now this could all change in the coming days. 

David2
David2

 @BryanCustard  They WAY overpaid for Goldson considering the depth of the free agents at the position that aren't remarkably worse than him but will end up signing for peanuts once the flashy acquisitions end. 

hawkman54
hawkman54

 @JulioEcheverria  @steven19  There are a lot of DECENT players still available.  BUT  Teams with a plan have already excuted it  !!!!!! Getting the top guys ( or almost all of them anyway).    And Now    they can also fill in gaps and depth for a pittance of what might have been!

hawkman54
hawkman54

 @FreddieFunStuff  @steven19 As a Former HUGE raider fan ( long story- born there moved to WASH. in my youth - so Hawks when started became my team!)   Would love to see the Raiders finally get ran like a professional organization!  Al was great until he hit the 2000's and then his philosophy, age and the changing dynamics of the NFL just didn't fall into his ways or mind( what was left of it). I hope they are on the upswing and can get back to the once GREATNESS that was The RAIDER'S !