NFL Free Agency 2013: Predicting Landing Spots for Veteran Defenders
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Veteran defenders are always an attractive commodity during the NFL free-agency period.
Potentially bringing in a well-established player ensures immediate reliability, regardless of position, and saves time compared to developing a rookie.
By the same token, adding a proven veteran helps with the progression of younger players and buys a team some time before readdressing that position later on. Meaning: Said franchise can focus on other areas of weakness during the NFL draft to improve upon that previous campaign or maintain its status as a playoff contender.
In short, this comes down to making quick fixes, because there's a limited amount of patience when it involves a dire thirst for success.
Charles Woodson, Safety
Charles Woodson was recently released by the Green Bay Packers.
Per Kareem Copeland of NFL.com last week:
The Green Bay Packers have released Charles Woodson, the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
"It's part of the business," agent Carl Poston told NFL.com's Ian Rapoport before the Packers made the release official. "I just talked to (Woodson). He sounds like he has a lot of football left. He'd like to go play for a contender, win another Super Bowl."
That said, Woodson still possesses the instincts and quick reactionary skills to make an impact as a safety.
Although he's 36 years old, Woodson recorded 38 tackles and defended five passes in seven regular-season games. The veteran also played quite well in the postseason.
Prediction: Denver Broncos
Not only do the Broncos need a safety capable of creating turnovers and changing the field position, but the 2013 NFL draft class for safeties is rather shallow. Denver could consider trading up further in Round 1, but getting Woodson to come aboard and close his career would address the position in the short term.
Ed Reed, Safety
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Ed Reed finally got his Super Bowl ring for the Baltimore Ravens.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, it's likely the end for Reed in Baltimore.
There is something perfect about the Baltimore season coming down to making three defensive stops from the 5-yard line, with Ray Lewis on the field for the last time and Ed Reed likely on the field for the last time as a Raven, and Baltimore coming up with three straight stops.
Given that Reed will be turning 35 years old early next season, he's obviously on the back-nine of his career. And a long-term contract with any team at this stage would be roughly three or four years.
Still, Reed continues to get better with age, as he defended 16 passes, recorded 58 tackles and generated seven turnovers (four picks, three fumbles recovered) in 2012. Defenses that desperately need to improve against the pass and force more turnovers have to strongly consider Reed's services.
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Colts may be in the mix:
The Colts, who absorbed their cap pain a year ago, are right there with the Browns in terms of available space, and Ed Reed could be a prime target for them (head coach Chuck Pagano is very close with Reed).
This is a great fit each way, because the Colts run a similar system to Baltimore's defense and Indy really needs to upgrade its coverage. Managing just 12 picks in 2012, the Colts also gave up a 62.4 completion percentage. Getting Reed immediately ups the turnover potential and restricts the number of completions allowed.
Marcus Trufant, Cornerback
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Marcus Trufant hasn't played a full season since the 2010 campaign, and the veteran is 32 years old.
So, it would not be surprising to see the Seattle Seahawks part ways with Trufant.
The Seahawks could be ready to move on from 10-year veteran Trufant, which means they will be looking for a nickel cornerback in free agency or the draft.
Last season Trufant made 34 tackles and defended just two passes in a limited role. Not to mention he played in only 14 games including the postseason. But numbers don't reveal the impact of Trufant's contributions last season.
Seattle allowed a mere 58 completion percentage and 15 passing touchdowns to 18 picks. Even though pro football is a passing league, we see plenty of offenses attack defenses underneath the safeties and on the outside.
Given Trufant's role, him blanketing the intermediate level forced quarterbacks to survey elsewhere. As a result, the Seahawks were among the best defenses in 2012.
Prediction: Cleveland Browns
It may not appear like a great fit at first glance, but Trufant really bolsters Cleveland's secondary. He would be an excellent complement opposite of Joe Haden and a better option than Sheldon Brown.
Additionally, should the Browns select a top cornerback in the draft, Trufant can retain his role as a nickel/dime back. Cleveland simply needs to enhance its coverage, not to mention Trufant's presence will allow the pass rush a bit more time to apply pressure.
Dwight Freeney, Defensive End
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Dwight Freeney is coming off the least productive season of his career from an all-encompassing perspective.
Now 33 years old, it wasn't surprising to see the Indianapolis Colts let him go.
According to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com last week:
The Colts met with both Freeney and [Austin] Collie on Friday and told the two that they will not be re-signed, a team source told NFL.com's Albert Breer. The Colts later confirmed that Freeney will not be back with the team next season.
The guy can still be a reliable situational pass-rusher, though, because applying quarterback pressure is his specialty. Indianapolis utilizing the 3-4 front simply wasn't a good fit for a true 4-3 defensive end, especially this late in his career.
Prediction: New York Giants
For one, the Giants need to improve their pass rush and get back to normal. Secondly, New York's 4-3 front suits Freeney to a T and he's complemented by Jason Pierre-Paul. Freeney also expressed interest in lining up for Big Blue earlier this week.
Freeney grew up a Giants fan. He says "playing in New York would be attractive...playing for them would be a dream." #SXMBLITZ— Adam Schein (@AdamSchein) February 20, 2013
He won't need to be an every-down player here, but that would still inflate the sack production for Freeney in this system.
Cliff Avril, Defensive End
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There is good news and, well, not so good news regarding Cliff Avril's potential return to the Detroit Lions.
Mayhew plans to meet with Avril's agent today. Said he was focusing on re-signing 9 of his own FAs - Avril, Houston among them— Chris McCosky (@cmccosky) February 22, 2013
And for the flip side, via Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
With just one defensive end under contract for the 2013 season, the Lions have made a potential contract with Avril a priority. However, they won't overpay him. While it's customary for the agent of a potential free agent to talk to general managers during the combine, it would take a big proposal from the Lions for Avril not to test free agency. The Lions currently can't afford that type of offer.
Last season was a down year for Avril—he collected only 9.5 sacks and forced just two fumbles. In 2011 he racked up 11 sacks, forced six fumbles, defended four passes and recorded an interception. That potential is exactly what makes Avril quite appealing.
Plus he is only turning 27 years old before the 2013 season.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons
Compiling only 29 sacks during 2012's regular season, Atlanta's pass rush didn't significantly make an impact in the playoffs either. With John Abraham turning 35 years old before next season, the Falcons must get younger and quicker on the edge.
Avril has already established his capabilities, and lining up in the pass-oriented NFC South will be to his advantage. Include Atlanta's opportunistic secondary and Avril is a great match.