NFL Free Agent Signings: Unheralded Moves That Will Have Major Impact
Mike Wallace stole the show on Tuesday, but he wasn’t the only player to find a new home on Day 1 of free agency (per ESPN).
Paul Kruger (via NFL.com), Dannell Ellerbe (via ESPN) and Andy Levitre (Yahoo! Sports) were among the biggest signings on Tuesday. Each player will have a major impact on his new team, but it’s the smaller names and more diminutive contracts we’ll examine after Day 1 of free agency.
The Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams each took to the free-agent market in search for some help. All three teams negotiated their way to cap-friendly deals and players who will fill some major holes heading into the 2013 season.
Let’s take a look at three players signed on Tuesday who could have a major impact on their new team this season.
OT Jermon Bushrod
The Chicago Bears need offensive line help in a big way. After Tuesday, they no longer have to worry about finding it at the left tackle position.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, for New Orleans Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod has agreed to a contract with the Bears:
Bears gave OT Jermon Bushrod a 5-year, $36 million deal, including $17.7 million guaranteed.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2013
Bushrod isn’t a big name at the position, but he played a huge role in defending Drew Brees’ blindside in New Orleans. Without the two-time Pro-Bowler in the mix, the Saints will have to find a cheaper alternative to solidifying the left side of their offensive line.
What this deal means for Chicago is one less position to address in the remaining days of free agency and through the NFL draft. Locking up Bushrod effectively ends the Bears’ search for a starting left tackle who can keep Jay Cutler on his feet.
Chicago may still add an interior lineman or swing tackle this offseason, but the cornerstone of its pass-protection unit is now in place for the next five years.
OG Louis Vasquez
Like the Bears, the Denver Broncos entered free agency in search of an offensive lineman who can help keep their quarterback on the field and on his feet. Chicago spent more for a more critical position, but that doesn’t mean Denver didn’t make a big move of its own.
According to Schefter, the Broncos inked former San Diego Chargers guard Louis Vasquez to a deal on Tuesday evening:
Broncos reach agreement on a four-year deal with former Chargers G Louis Vasquez.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2013
Cecil Lammey of ESPN Denver provided the financial details of the contract with this tweet:
Guards aren’t typically expected to be elite pass-protectors, but A-Gap pressure can unravel an offense just as easily as edge rushers and corner blitzes. With Vasquez locked up to a four-year deal, the Broncos have a good plan in place for protecting Peyton Manning.
As is the case with most free-agent dealings, the Broncos were forced to pay a little more than they would have liked for an interior offensive lineman, but Vasquez is still just 25 years old, and he’ll play a big role in the success of Denver’s offense in the coming years.
TE Jared Cook
Cook was the hottest free-agent name at the tight end position, but his signing hasn’t seemed to garner as much attention as some of the big-money players to have already signed.
The St. Louis Rams have been in need of a consistent option at the position, and adding a pass-catching weapon like Cook was a big move. Schefter first reported the signing on Twitter:
Former Titans TE Jared Cook scores a five-year deal with Rams.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2013
With Cook under contract, the Rams can now look to add some quality receivers this offseason. Danny Amendola probably won’t be back next season, and Sam Bradford hasn’t exactly been spoiled with good receiving options in his years in St. Louis.
While Cook isn’t a flashy home-run threat like Wallace, he is easily the most dynamic tight end to hit the market this offseason. With a big frame, excellent speed and the ability to stretch defenses down the center of the field, he stands to play a big role in the Rams’ offense going forward.
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