NFL teams prefer to build through the draft and cultivate their own talent. However, thanks to the instant-analysis world we live in, teams bring in free agents who must prove worthy of their contracts to keep teams relevant.
Few offseasons have seen the momentous movement of talent that 2012 provided. Headline guys changed uniforms like they were in one of those little-kid contests during timeouts of NBA games.
The signings weren't just big in terms of player names though. Every one of these players needs to step up in order for their respective squads to have the type of success their fans are expecting.
Carl Nicks Must Plow the Road in Tampa Bay
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went through a lot of upheaval, shedding their former coaching regime to begin Greg Schiano's power-rushing reign. To help create holes for running backs Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount, the front office made a heavy investment in guard Carl Nicks.
Nicks was a pillar of consistency while holding down the interior of the New Orleans Saints' offensive line. His abilities are beyond question, and few are concerned he won't answer the bell.
Yet, the scrutiny he will be under has just increased exponentially. The Bucs lost opposite starting guard Davin Joseph to a season-ending knee injury, which means Tampa Bay will be looking to Nicks to handle the point of attack on offense more often.
The San Diego Chargers Will Rely On Robert Meachem
Meachem saw an opportunity in San Diego to become the man after being a contributor in the whoever-is-open Saints offense. Now, he will find out what all that entails.
Former No. 1 wideout Vincent Jackson has run off to Tampa Bay to play catch with Josh Freeman, leaving a large void at the top of the depth chart. To make matters worse, the Bolts lost Vincent Brown to a broken ankle, who had been titillating coaches and observers with his play.
San Diego has other talented wide receivers in Eddie Royal and Malcom Floyd, but they aren't physically on Meachem's level. He needs to become more consistent to give Philip Rivers a steady deep threat that can stretch defenses.
Mario Williams is the Straw That Stirs the Drink in Buffalo
If you sign for $100 million, you are going to have to make a play from time to time. Although, I'm sure Mario Williams understand this.
The Buffalo Bills have the talent assembled to be a top defense. The front seven is outstanding with Marcell Dareus and Mark Anderson playing alongside Williams. In addition, first-rounder Stephon Gilmore should anchor an improving secondary.
The rest of the players aside, everything will center on the ridiculously talented Williams. If he pressures the quarterback as well as years past (five sacks in five games last season), Buffalo will have quite a bit to say come playoff time.
Dallas Hopes Brandon Carr Can Stop the Bleeding
The Dallas Cowboys start every year as a prominent Super Bowl pick. Lately, the Boys have ended every year as a bust.
The offense has all the firepower that a team could ask for with Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Miles Austin, and Dez Bryant. It's the defense that has let them down repeatedly.
The secondary (ranked 23rd against the pass) deserves much of the blame after failing to protect leads, most notably against the Detroit Lions. Carr was brought in for $50 million to help stabilize the backfield.
With him performing at a Pro Bowl level, Dallas will find themselves in a position to regain past glories.
Some Obscure Quarterback is Going to Lead the Denver Broncos
The entire 2012 offseason could be summed up with one name: Peyton Manning. The circus that followed his every move came to a rest (or tizzy?) in Denver as he became the new face of the franchise.
The Broncos struggled to move the ball or put up points last season. The passing game averaged an incredibly anemic 151 yards per game. But Manning should be able to help in that area.
Despite the recent string of surgeries, Peyton is under pressure to perform immediately. Supposing he can build consistent connections with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, the top running game from last year will make this offense difficult to stop.
If he doesn't sling the ball like he did for the Indianapolis Colts, the Broncos will end up in the basement of the AFC West.
With great money, comes great responsibility. And media scrutiny.
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