NFL Free Agents 2013: Offseason Signings That Will Have Biggest Impact
The first two days of free agency yielded some big moves. Some acquisitions were expected, and others were a surprise, but there’s no question each will have an impact on multiple NFL franchises.
The realities of the salary cap forced teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens to allow some of their top talent to hit the open market this offseason. Kevin Colbert and Ozzie Newsome are two of the best general managers in the business, but both will be forced to make some creative moves in preparation for 2013.
Not every team was hamstrung by the salary cap, though.
The Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have enough cap room to make a splash in free agency this year. They may not be done playing the suitor role just yet, but each team has already made moves that will prove to have a massive impact on their future fortunes.
Let’s take a look at the three biggest signings from the first two days of free agency and break down the impact we can expect to see from each acquisition.
WR Wes Welker: Denver Broncos
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, wide receiver Wes Welker and the Denver Broncos have agreed on a two-year contract:
Wes Welker lands a two-year, $12 million deal from the Broncos. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker. Have fun, Peyton.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2013
Welker’s departure from New England will have as much a negative impact on the Patriots as it will a positive impact on the Denver Broncos. Tom Brady can’t afford to lose his top target without adding something in return.
For the Broncos, acquiring Welker was a much-needed boost. Brandon Stokley played well in the slot last season, but he lacks the quickness Welker brings to the position. With Demaryius Thomas on the outside, Welker in the slot and Eric Decker playing a little of both, the Broncos offense will be even more explosive in 2013.
The Patriots will reload this offseason, but it will be hard to replace the production and veteran leadership Welker brought to the table. His defection to Denver may very well represent a shift in the balance of power in the AFC.
WR Mike Wallace: Miami Dolphins
The Pittsburgh Steelers can recover from losing wide receiver Mike Wallace. Antonio Brown has the potential to be a good No. 1 receiver in the NFL, and Wallace’s departure should prove to be only a minor detriment in the coming years.
For the Miami Dolphins, acquiring Wallace was as big a move as they could have made this offseason. As Schefter reported Wednesday, Wallace’s deal will keep him in a Dolphins uniform for the next five seasons:
Deal for Dolphins WR Mike Wallace came in at 5 years, $60 million, $30 million guaranteed.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2013
Miami’s offense sputtered last season with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill at the helm. He has the physical tools to be a terrific signal-caller in the NFL, but he needed more weapons to put it all together.
Wallace changes the complexion of Miami’s entire passing attack. With a deep threat to take the top off defenses and keep safeties from cheating up in the box, the Dolphins will field a much more effective offense in 2013.
Brian Hartline and Davone Bess are good second and third options for Tannehill, and both will benefit from Wallace’s speed and big-play ability down the field. With the speedster split out, Tannehill will have a lot of options in the passing game.
Wallace’s contract was a bit inflated by the market, but that’s the price teams pay for signing big-name free agents. Miami made the right decision in inking the explosive wideout to a long-term contract.
S Dashon Goldson: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As Pro Football Talk reported on Twitter, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reached an agreement with free-agent safety Dashon Goldson on Wednesday:
S Dashon Goldson gets five years, $41.25 million, with $22 million guaranteed from the Bucs.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 13, 2013
San Francisco wasn’t expected to retain the heavy hitter, but losing him now creates another big void in its secondary. The 49ers have to address the position with a free-agent signing of their own or wait until the draft and use an early-round pick to fill the need.
The biggest impact from this signing will, no doubt, be on the team that gave Goldson the contract.
The Buccaneers fielded the league’s worst pass defense in 2012, and $8 million per season was a small price to pay for his expected production. Paired with 2012 first-round pick Mark Barron, the back-end of Tampa Bay’s secondary is now one of the best in the NFL.
The Buccaneers will still have to address needs at cornerback, but the safety positions won’t be an issues for the foreseeable future.
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