April 7, 2014 by Ell and Mike Sports
The Broncos pickup SS T.J. Ward from the Browns; he should really bring physicality to a secondary in need. He will make receivers and TEs think twice about going across the middle or going for a tipped pass. CB Aqib Talib was one of the best CBs last year for the Pats, if not this best. Last season showed that in a winning organization and a reason to play, he will play to his full potential. OLB/DE DeMarcus Ware is a well respected star and leader from the Cowboys who can bring good leadership, accountability, and production to take this defense to another level. WR Emmanuel Sanders from the Steelers should be a good WR who can take Decker’s spot as the 4th option in the offense. Peyton Manning should make him even better and he has homerun potential.
The Broncos loss a quality receiver in WR Eric Decker, but he was becoming a lesser part of the offense and can be replaced by Sanders and the core that’s left. Top CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has also moved on, but has been replaced and maybe slightly upgraded by the tougher and more physical Talib. RB Knowshon Moreno has also left the team, but they expect 2nd year RB Montee Ball to pound the rock. With the retiring of LG Chris Kuper and the loss of G Zane Beadles the Broncos can focus on the interior line, RB depth, and defense in the next draft.
The Bucs were one of the most active teams in free agency this year with HC Lovie Smith entering to put his system in place. The Bucs signed DE Michael Johnson from the Bengals who was the best pass rusher available giving them a consistent pass rush threat in his prime. Johnson should have an immediate impact on this D-line with his good size, speed, and motor. The Bucs also landed LT Anthony Collins from the Bengals also, but he has the ability to play multiple spots so he will start somewhere on the O-line starting with LT. The Bucs also signed top cornerback Alterraun Verner coming off his 1st Pro-Bowl season while entering his prime. C Evan Dietrich-Smith brings toughness and stability to the interior O-line. DT Clinton McDonald should start coming off a championship with the Seahawks, allowing star DT Gerald McCoy to play against less double-teams. QB Josh McCown also joins the Bucs as the new starter after leaving the Bears as he already has the approval of his former coach; this would allow QB Mike Glennon to continue to learn. TE Brandon Myers joins the team giving them another good pass catching TE, but he is a veteran in the league.
The Bucs cut star CB Darrelle Revis due to salary reasons, but he will be replaced by Verner and the signing of CB Mike Jenkins; a man to man cover corner is not needed in Smith’s system also. They also cut long time O-lineman LT Donald Penn and RG Davin Joseph. Penn had been inconsistent and Joseph has been injured too often, but Collins replaces Penn. WR Tiquan Underwood proved to be a developing speedster, but he was allowed to sign with the Panthers. The signing of WR Louis Murphy can lessen the blow of this loss as he provides depth. A lot of depth at the guard position has left the team and a few linebackers were also allowed to walk. Therefore, in the draft this team should be looking for O-line help (depth/interior lineman), linebacker depth, and a #2 WR.
The Bears upgraded their D-line by adding veteran DE Jared Allen who has consistently produced double-digit sack numbers. Also, at the beginning of free agency, the Bears acquired DE/DT Lamarr Houston from the Raiders. Houston is a very productive D-lineman with a very high motor and good strength. The additions of FS M.D. Jennings and S Ryan Mundy will cause a competition for spots at a position in need of an upgrade and may take the starting jobs. The return of QB Jay Culter and CB Charles Tillman keeps the leadership consistent on both sides of the ball, as well as, provide consistent performance. DE Willie Young gives them a nice quality DE who is in his prime and ready for a bigger role; he could excel opposite Allen.
The loss of DE Julius Peppers was due to a salary cut move, but he will nicely be replaced by a more motivated equal in Jared Allen. The Bears also allowed KR Devin Hester to walk putting an end to his great production in the return game. DT Henry Melton was allowed to walk also, as the Bears, chose not to bring him back coming off of injury. DE/DT Corey Wotton signed with the Vikings as he will no longer be needed with Houston around. The loss of QB Josh McCown hurts depth at the QB position, but based on his age it was time for a younger replacement anyway. Now after a good free agency, the Bears have set themselves up to pick the best player on the board maybe outside of WR in the draft.
The Cardinals O-line struggled mightily last year mostly at the tackle spots and they acquired LT Jared Veldheer from the Raiders early in free agency to protect Carson Palmer’s blindside. He is a tough O-lineman who is just entering his prime. CB Antonio Cromoartie, released by the Jets, should fill in nicely across from young star CB Patrick Peterson. He is best suited as the
#2 CB again at this point in his career. WR Ted Ginn Jr. will help as a slot receiver and can also add to an already dangerous special teams unit. TE Jake Ballard gives them a big target who can mostly block which helps the O-line, but he can also catch.
The Cards loss MLB Karlos Dansby again, but it was best they didn’t overspend which they learned last time he was a free agent. G Daryn Colledge was released due to his high cap number and will be replaced by last year’s pick G Jonathan Cooper. Slot WR Andre Roberts became expandable with the growth of WR Michael Floyd. RB Rashard Mendehall decided to retire and do other things with his life while another Steelers’ back in RB Jonathan Dwyer has been signed to help replace him; along with an expanded role for RB Andre Ellington entering his 2nd year. In the draft they can now focus on depth on both sides of the ball, a pass rusher, a young QB to groom, and a big running back to add to the mix.
The Pats have upgraded their secondary with star CB Darrelle Revis and veteran CB Brandon Browner who has great size for the position and has also been a shutdown corner prior to his suspensions. The re-signing of WR Julian Edelman keeps a familiar face around after it looked like he would leave and the addition of WR Brandon LaFell really opens up competition for the young WRs on the team. The re-signing of NT Vince Wilfork also helps keep leadership, production, and continuity on D. Safety Patrick Chung was brought back after struggling with the Eagles and should be more productive in the system he is familiar with.
The Pats loss CB Aqib Talib who was rewarded with a rich contract, but he will be replaced by Revis who can hopefully do the same work; Revis is on a one year deal. MLB Brandon Spikes left via free agency, but he didn’t play much last season so he will not be missed. RB LeGarrette Blount was also allowed to walk, although he added a nice power punch to the Pats backfield on a 1 yr prove it deal. The Pats still need help along the interior O-line and could use depth on both sides of the ball mostly TE and LB in the upcoming draft.
After the secondary struggled mightily mostly at the safety position, the Eagles added FS Malcolm Jenkins who provides a physical presence along with the ability to cover a lot of field as he can also play CB at a NFL level. S Chris Maragos signs fresh off a SB championship and provides depth and competition at the safety position, as well as, a nice Special Teams gunner. CB Nolan Carroll is a veteran with good size who can provide nice competition to the cornerback spot and hopefully take a job. The Eagles also signed veteran QB Mark Sanchez after his release to provide depth behind starter Nick Foles which is probably best for Sanchez at this point. The re-signing of WRs Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper will hopefully help Foles continue his success.
The Eagles allowed veteran QB Mike Vick to leave via free agency which shows that QB Nick Foles is the unquestioned starter this year, but he will be replaced by Sanchez. The Eagles cut WR DeSean Jackson for personal reasons and will miss his playmaking ability unless Maclin can quickly regain his old form. They have also released all of the safeties, except Nate Allen due to their poor play, but they will be replaced by Jenkins and Maragos. Now, the Eagles are in position to pick the best player available in the upcoming draft, but will most likely look for pass rushers and WR depth.
The Saints brought back their depth in free agency and let a couple lesser known players walk, but the big move was signing FS Jairus Byrd from the Bills. Byrd is an instant upgrade in the secondary and will give the Saints a nice young duo for DC Rob Ryan to work with and move around. Byrd’s great coverage skills will help a secondary in need and help force turnovers. The Saints re-signing of RT Zach Strief also helps an O-line which struggled early in the season and could use some upgrades and depth. The Saints also decided to bring in veteran CB Champ Bailey who could be a nice veteran addition, but he must prove last year’s injuries are behind him and that he has more in the tank.
The Saints big losses came at safety with, FS Malcolm Jenkins and SS Roman Harper. Jenkins has been upgraded with Byrd coming and Harper was getting older and has been replaced by SS Kenny Vaccaro who was the Saints 1st round pick last year. The Saints had to cut RB Darren Sproles who signed with the Eagles, but they feel like his play in space can be replaced by WR Kenny Stills. They also cut WR Lance Moore who signed with the Steelers. Now, the Saints can focus on defense and depth on both sides of the ball in the upcoming draft.
The Packers wanted to be players in free agency, but this great organization just made smart moves around the board. The Packers landed a proven veteran DE in Julius Peppers from the Bears who will instantly upgrade the pass rush with his versatility to be moved around. At this point in his career, he probably is best as a DE in a 3-4 formation. The re-signing of DE Mike Neal keeps continuity on the D-line and he is a talented player with a high motor. The re-signing of DE/NT B.J. Raji on a 1-yr bargain deal was also a smart move as he has to prove himself; while most people expected him to be gone. RB James Starks also returns giving them a proven backup who worked well with now 2nd year RB Eddie Lacy. Re-signing FB John Kuhn also gives them a nice lead blocker to continue to lead the way.
The Packers didn’t lose much in free agency as WR James Jones signed with the Raiders, but he was more of a luxury in a crowded GB WR core. C Evan Dietrich-Smith left for the Bucs as his play from the interior will be missed if he is not properly replaced. RT Marshall Newhouse was also allowed to sign with the Bengals as he can play RT or G he was a nice fill-in for GB. Newhouse will be replaced by former 1st rd pick T Derek Sharrod and T Don Barclay. They also let some of the D-line depth go, but the return of Raji and Neal, along with the signing of Peppers negates that. The Packers attention in the draft will go towards interior O-line, safety, and depth at WR and the secondary.
The Colts had a good free agency as a surprise team in the race for WR Hakeem Nicks from the Giants they actually reeled him in making a solid receiving core with Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton already on the team. They also reeled in DE Arthur Jones from the Ravens a big man with a high motor and great strength who should have a great impact on the pass rush and battle at the line of scrimmage. C Phil Costa from the Cowboys will either provide nice depth to a poor interior line or maybe even grab a starting job at center or guard. The re-signing of CB Vontae Davis gives them a nice young cover corner in his prime for years to come. The Colts also added ILB D’Qwell Jackson who should provide a nice veteran presence, leadership, and solid tackling.
The Colts allowed RB Donald Brown to walk, as he signed with the Chargers. Although he was their most reliable runner last season, his touches will be replaced by the re-signing of RB Ahmad Bradshaw and the return of RB Vick Ballard from injury. Long time Colts S Antoine Bethea decided to leave for the 49ers, which leaves a hole in the secondary as he was a sure tackler and has good coverage skills. Young linebacker Kavell Conner had nice speed and was continuing to get better, but he was not part of the long term plan. A few lesser lineman and interior D-lineman were allowed to walk; therefore, O-line, Safety, and depth on defense will be the draft needs for the Colts.
The Lions finally find a partner for Megatron (WR Calvin Johnson) in WR Golden Tate from the Seahawks fresh off a SB championship. He has had consistent hands (least drops past few years) and no longer has to be a #1 WR. S James Ihedigbo should be a starter on this team after leaving the Ravens as he brings a physical presence in a secondary of need. TE Brandon Pettigrew was re-signed giving them a big physical presence who can block and also catch, hopefully he can be just a little better than last season under new HC Jim Caldwell. The Lions are also in talks to bring back veteran CB Rashean Mathis who was the best corner on the team and a good mentor to rookie CB Darius Slay who should continue to grow on the other side in his 2nd season.
The Lions didn’t suffer too many losses in free agency as DE Willie Young left for the Bears as a nice upcoming DE who should continue to get better. They also loss some O-line depth, but that will be an area of concern for the draft. QB Shaun Hill left to play with the Rams, but the Lions signed veteran QB Dan Orlovsky from TB as he should know the system. Veteran WR Nate Burleson was released and will be replaced by Tate. The Lions will look for defensive help at DE and the best player at any other defensive position outside the D-line, along with needs along the O-line.