Every year, top-tier NFL free agents sign massive contracts, and most don't live up to those contracts.
Guys like Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Mario Williams will all have difficulty being worthy of their monumental contracts.
This article isn't about those headline-grabbing players. This is about guys like Brandon Lloyd and Eric Winston, players who didn't grab a headline when signed but will make a major impact in 2012.
Many players were signed to solid, well-deserved contracts, and these players will be the free agents who people will be talking about at the end of the season.
Lloyd, Winston and these players have been overlooked to this point, but at the end of the season, they will be considered absolute steals.
One of the biggest free-agent signings of the past several years was Steve Hutchinson, but he grabbed headlines when he signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2006.
This past offseason, though, Hutchinson signed a three-year deal with the Tennessee Titans. Despite going unnoticed for the most part, this signing should pay major dividends for the Titans this season.
After a season of tremendous play, Steve Hutchinson has proven that, at age 34, he still has the ability to be a top-tier offensive lineman.
With a solid performance from Hutchinson, the Titans running game could take off again this season. That could be the difference between missing the playoffs in 2011 and making them in 2012.
One of the few bright spots for the Colts this past season was the steady play of Jeff Saturday, who is still getting it done at age 36.
After losing their own center in Scott Wells, the Packers had a hole at center. Instead of taking a chance on a risky young player, the otherwise stacked Packers decided to sign the veteran Jeff Saturday.
This signing guarantees that the Packers will have steady play at the center position in 2012.
Despite not attracting any major headlines, signing Saturday should help the Packers offensive line continue to improve this season. Saturday's experience should help develop an offensive line that features young talent like Bryan Bulaga and Marshall Newhouse.
Though Saturday is not necessarily an upgrade over the departed Scott Wells, the stability and leadership he brings to the center position should be a major asset for the Packers.
After the suspension of Jonathan Vilma, the Saints desperately needed help at the linebacker position.
The Saints were already weak at the position, but without Vilma, the Saints had minimal starting-caliber talent on the roster.
Without panicking, the Saints pounced quickly, signing David Hawthorne to a major five-year deal.
Hawthorne has become one of the better linebackers in the NFL in the past few years. He is young and talented, and he should be a mainstay on the Saints defense for the foreseeable future.
Even without Vilma, Hawthorne offers a major upgrade for the Saints linebacker corps, which should help the defense improve in 2012.
The Saints were not content to just sign one player to upgrade their linebacker corps. As good as Hawthorne is, more work needed to be done, so the Saints added Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton to complete their group.
Lofton was the heart and soul of the Falcons defense throughout his career, so this addition weakens a rival as well as strengthens the Saints. The Falcons will be hard pressed to replace Lofton's tenacity and production.
As great as weakening the rival Falcons is, the Saints should be most happy about simply adding a quality linebacker.
With great heart and athleticism, Lofton offers a major upgrade at middle linebacker for the Saints. Even when Vilma comes back, Lofton might continue to be the leader of the defense.
Hawthorne and Lofton offer a major upgrade for the Saints defense, so despite the scandal that rocked New Orleans, the Saints could be improved in 2012.
The Colts are a completely new franchise in 2012. A new coach, a new quarterback and—less discussed but just as important—a new defense will all take the field this season.
The quarterback and the coach were clear early in the offseason, but with the switch to a 3-4 defense, new players needed to be signed to fit the scheme.
To that end, the Colts signed multiple former Ravens, the highlight of which was defensive end Cory Redding.
Redding will help the Colts' young defense develop in the new scheme, and he will bring his strong ability to defend the run as well.
Signing players with 3-4 experience was a major focus of the Colts' offseason. With Cory Redding on the roster, the Colts are moving in the right direction with their scheme change.
After languishing as a backup for the Carolina Panthers, Dan Connor will finally get his chance to make a major impact either as a nickel linebacker or a starter in Dallas.
With a defense that struggled at times in 2011, the Cowboys needed help at multiple positions, including linebacker. To that end, they signed Dan Connor to upgrade the depth of their linebacker corps.
Though Connor will be forced to compete for the starting job with Bruce Carter, Connor is a better player with more experience. He deserves a chance to show what he can do as a long-term starter.
Regardless, Connor will be a major player for the Cowboys defense in 2012, as he is an excellent athlete with the ability to play extensively in passing situations.
Eric Winston was shockingly released by the Houston Texans, and it was only a matter of time before a team pounced on the Texans' decision.
That team ended up being the Kansas City Chiefs, who signed Winston to fortify their offensive line and improve an offense that was stagnant at times in 2011.
Winston excels as a run-blocker, and he should help make Jamaal Charles' recovery from a torn ACL that much more exciting.
The Chiefs have a surprisingly talented and deep roster. The addition of Winston, along with the return of Charles, could be enough to make the Chiefs offense exciting in 2012.
As good as the Patriots were in 2011, they lacked a solid receiver opposite Wes Welker.
Because of that, they signed Brandon Lloyd, who has an excellent relationship with new Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Lloyd will bring great athleticism and production to the Patriots receiving corps. His ability as a deep threat makes him an ideal target opposite Wes Welker, who excels at running shorter, underneath routes.
Despite not being considered among the top wide receivers who changed hands this offseason, Lloyd could have the greatest impact out of all of them.
With Tom Brady throwing him deep balls, Lloyd should be among the most productive receivers in the NFL in 2012.