Forecasting How Free Agency Will Affect the 2013 NFL Draft

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Forecasting How Free Agency Will Affect the 2013 NFL Draft
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long and Houston Texans outside linebacker Connor Barwin are two free agents who could affect multiple teams' offseasons.

For all the 2013 NFL mock drafts that many draft prognosticators and I compiled in recent months, projections could change drastically once the NFL free agency period begins on March 12. With many teams projected to address major priorities with their early draft picks, those projections will change if teams instead fill those needs by signing top free agents.

One of the most important parts of the process for determining team draft needs is following which players re-sign with their current NFL teams and which players sign big contracts to address the needs of other teams. Teams’ greatest needs are often dictated by the key players they lose to free agency and which free agents from other teams they make a failed effort to sign.

The franchise-tag portion of free agency has already created waves in 2013 NFL draft projections, most notably the Kansas City Chiefs’ move to franchise tag left tackle Branden Albert for the 2013 season, which strongly decreases the likelihood of them drafting Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel with the No. 1 overall pick. Similarly, the Bengals’ tagging of Michael Johnson made a defensive end an unlikely selection at No. 21.

The following slideshow, however, focuses on the players who didn’t receive tags today, making them available to be signed by any team in the NFL should they not be re-signed by their current NFL teams prior to March 12. How will teams’ draft decisions be affected by whether they are able to bring back their current standout players?

NFL teams are listed alphabetically by city name.

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