2012 NFL Free Agents: Signings That Will Make Teams Contenders
It should be a crime to deprive the United States of America football for a period as long as six months.
From the time the Super Bowl ends on that first Sunday in February until the first kickoff of the following season, men, women and children alike find themselves at a loss.
Luckily, that big, gaping hole you feel in your chest during the spring can be filled in with talks of free agency and projections for the upcoming season.
Here we're going to give you some speculation as to which teams have become contenders thanks to their offseason acquisitions.
Let's be honest: Even if you're a fan of the Denver Broncos, you have no idea how they were able to win the division and make it to the divisional round of the playoffs last year.
They made a decent playoff run, but proved to be pretenders after they followed up a miracle win against the Pittsburgh Steelers by getting taken behind the woodshed by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Don't give me the whole speech about how good the rushing game was for the entire season, I don't want to hear it. The Broncos had to run the ball because they had nobody who could pass the ball under center.
Actually, maybe you do know how they got as far as they did. The defense was good, but it didn't turn it up until the end of the year. The Broncos finished 18th in opponent-passing yards and 22nd in opponent-rushing yards. That's not exactly anything to write home about.
That's all forgotten, though. The quarterback shortcomings of the heroic Tim Tebow are a thing of the past, and consummate NFL quarterback Peyton Manning has emerged as the true savior of the franchise.
Manning is one of the best quarterbacks to ever step under center. He makes every player around him better and will continue that trend at the stadium formerly known as Mile High.
Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and whomever the Broncos decide to be their starting tight end are going to be putting up some of the best stats in the league with Manning throwing them the ball. The offense is going to run so much more efficiently with Manning calling plays from the field.
How many games will the Denver Broncos win next season?
The passing game won't be the only aspect of the offense that gets better. The running game is going to be that much more effective with a quarterback who can make any throw he wants on the field.
The Broncos won't be running the ball into a defense that knows what's coming. They're going to have a great play action, as Manning is one of the best ball concealers in the NFL.
Couple the Manning-led passing attack with Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno in the backfield, and the Broncos are going to be the class of the AFC West next season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vincent Jackson
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into last season regarded as one of the most promising young teams in the entire NFL. Those dreams went unrealized when the team finished 4-12, losing their last 10 games.
Acquiring Vincent Jackson is going to help this team climb out of the doldrums of the NFC South and return to contender status yet again.
The addition of Jackson gives the Bucs two receivers that have to be given special attention down the field. Mike Williams can break through the secondary at any time, and Jackson has the size and speed to go up and over defensive backs.
Tampa Bay's running back corps is going to benefit from the acquisition of Jackson. LeGarrette Blount rushed for 781 yards on just 184 carries last season. First-round draft pick Doug Martin out of Boise State will provide a nice change of pace to Blount.
You know how it goes: The running game opens up the passing game and vice-versa.
Jackson is a battle-hardened veteran and knows how to find the soft spots in any defense. With Josh Freeman and his rocket arm under center, we're going to see Jackson—and the Bucs—have a big year in 2012.
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