How free agency’s start has impacted the draft
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.