10 Most Surprising Developments of NFL Free Agency

Nick Kostora@@nickkostoraContributor IIIMarch 14, 2013

10 Most Surprising Developments of NFL Free Agency

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    Developments have been coming in at a fast and frantic pace since NFL's free-agency period began.

    However, some of those developments have undoubtedly been more surprising than others.

    It did not take Nostradamus to predict that wide receiver Mike Wallace would take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Dolphins. Similarly, few eyes were batted when the Philadelphia Eagles decided to part ways with cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

    It is the deal no one sees coming that draws genuine intrigue and surprise. How many people predicted that the Detroit Lions would be one of the most active teams in free agency's opening days? Or that Glenn Dorsey would make the shift to yet another 3-4 defensive scheme?

    The surprises are probably not over, but it is always fun to see what has turned the most heads already.

    So let's reflect on the young free-agency season and examine the most surprising developments so far.

10. San Diego Chooses King Dunlap as Replacement for Louis Vazquez

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    The San Diego Chargers have had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL over the past few seasons. Last year alone, quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times.

    That is simply unacceptable at the NFL level and has to be considered a main reason Rivers' performance has faltered in recent years.

    However, there was at least one bright spot in Louis Vasquez. Vasquez started all 16 games for San Diego last season and was unquestionably the team's best offensive lineman. I say "was" because the guard has now moved on to a contract with the AFC West rival Denver Broncos, per Mike Garafolo of USA Today (h/t ProFootballTalk.com).

    Losing Vasquez is a huge blow to an already hurting line, but what the team has done to replenish that line will be of little reprieve for fans, as the Chargers have signed former Philadelphia Eagles left tackle King Dunlap, per Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego (h/t ProFootballTalk.com).

    San Diego was a team that could have potentially made a big splash with a lineman like Jake Long or Jermon Bushrod, but has instead gone with a below-average performer in Dunlap.

    Perhaps the Chargers are not done yet, but this signing is far from impressive.

9. Oakland Further Separates Itself from Al Davis Era

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    The remnants of the Al Davis era of the Oakland Raiders franchise are slowly but surely being removed from the active roster.

    Oakland was not in a great salary-cap situation heading into this season, but few could have seen this many losses hitting the team so quickly. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and safety Michael Huff (drafted under the Davis regime) have both been released (h/t CBSSports.com). 

    However, what may hurt more is that free-agent linebacker Philip Wheeler and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant have both signed contracts with new teams (h/t ESPN.com). With Richard Seymour a free agent as well, the Raiders are lacking defensive players on the roster and seem to be behind the 8-ball heading into 2013.

    Oakland has moved on from the Davis era, but the repercussions from the decisions of his regime are clearly still being felt.

8. Jacksonville Releases Laurent Robinson After One Season

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    The entire situation surrounding Laurent Robinson and the Jacksonville Jaguars is surprising, if nothing else.

    After signing Robinson to a mammoth, five-year, $32.5 million contract before last season, the Jaguars have now waived him, according to Ryan O’ Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

    Injuries were a concern for Robinson over the past year, particularly concussions, but his play was nothing spectacular when he was on the field. Robinson caught 24 passes for 252 yards and no touchdowns a season ago. His failures may have been a combination of injury and poor quarterback play from Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert, but they were failures nonetheless.

    Luckily the Jaguars look to be okay at the wide receiver position without Robinson. Justin Blackmon flourished late in his rookie season and Cecil Shorts is a dynamic weapon, particularly out of the slot.

7. Paul Kruger Picks Cleveland

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    Paul Kruger was considered the cream of the free-agency crop at outside linebacker. He dominated this past season with the Baltimore Ravens, recording nine sacks and 30 total tackles.

    Kruger likely had his pick of the litter when selecting where to go, and chose the Cleveland Browns, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    Why is this surprising?

    Well, Cleveland has not been one of the best teams in the NFL in recent memory, and bad teams often struggle to sign big-name free agents. The Browns have lost at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons and made the playoffs only once since 1999.

    Still, being able to sign a player like Kruger has to bode well for a Browns team that is in yet another transitional phase under new owner Jimmy Haslam.

6. Vikings Trade Percy Harvin to Seattle

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    We knew Percy Harvin had been disgruntled in Minnesota and was not interested in staying with the Vikings, but it was still a surprise to see him traded to the Seattle Seahawks.

    Harvin is one of the most electric playmakers in all of football and will add another weapon for quarterback Russell Wilson to target. He can line up in the slot, the backfield and even as a return man. 

    The details of the trade and subsequent deal that Harvin signed are perhaps what make this move so surprising. Harvin has been inked to a six-year, $67 million contract, per ProFootballTalk.com. That is a big contract for someone with such a troubled history, but Harvin has the talent to justify it.

    Will Minnesota be able to sign an elite wideout to replace Harvin? Guys like Mike Wallace and Wes Welker are already off the market, but Greg Jennings remains available, and he is reportedly visiting the Vikings Thursday. Finding a way to sign Jennings could immediately bolster the Vikings' depth chart and hurt the division-rival Green Bay Packers.

5. Wes Welker Signs with the Denver Broncos

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    Wes Welker has spent the last six seasons building a relationship and catching passes from Tom Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. So perhaps it is fitting that he finds another future Hall of Famer by joining Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (h/t ProFootballTalk.com).

    Denver had been rumored as a suitor for Welker, per WEEI.com, but seeing him added to the roster has to send shockwaves throughout the league.

    Brandon Stokley is far from what he once was and the Broncos need someone that can handle intermediate routes with a consistent set of hands. Welker is one of the league's best slot receivers and should have a seamless transition to Denver.

    Still, after Welker and the Patriots overcame their early season issues, it seemed like they would strike a deal. Instead, he joins one of New England's biggest competitors for AFC supremacy moving forward.

4. Glenn Dorsey Joins Another 3-4 Defense with the 49ers

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    Glenn Dorsey was a dominant force for the LSU Tigers as a defensive tackle. He overpowered defenders, utilized a strong frame and was able to get to the quarterback with ease.

    However, since being drafted fifth overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2008 draft, Dorsey has struggled to find success in the NFL. The likely culprit for Dorsey's problems has been playing in a 3-4 defensive scheme as a defensive end. 

    Dorsey simply does not fit in a 3-4 scheme, as he has a mere four career sacks and 159 solo tackles. Which makes his signing with the San Francisco 49ers (per ESPN.com) surprising because they also uses a base 3-4 defense.

    San Francisco definitely needed help along the defensive line, but this is an interesting way to address the issue, to say the least.

3. Three Quick Signings for the Detroit Lions

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    Detroit Free Press writer Dave Birkett had said that Reggie Bush could potentially make his way to the Detroit Lions, but who knew that it would come in the middle of a free-agency frenzy for the team?

    The Lions greatly underachieved last season, posting a 4-12 record and failing to continue the positive momentum from their 2011 playoff berth. Instead of resting on its laurels and hoping for a turnaround, Detroit's organization became extremely active early in the free-agency process.

    Bush was the biggest and perhaps most important domino to fall, as the team was able to wrangle him in for a 4-year, $16 million contract, per ProFootballTalk.com.

    But he was not the only move, as Detroit also signed safety Glover Quin away from the Houston Texans, per FoxSports.com, defensive lineman Jason Jones (h/t ESPN.com) and re-signed cornerback Chris Houston (h/t ESPN.com).

2. A Mass Exodus from Baltimore

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    Not every team can be a huge buyer on the free-agent market. There are buyers and sellers, and the Baltimore Ravens have definitely been sellers so far.

    The Ravens traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round pick, released Bernard Pollard and saw linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe sign contracts with new teams (h/t FoxSports.com).

    Couple these departures with the retirements of center Matt Birk and linebacker Ray Lewis, and you can understand the cause for concern in Baltimore. Ed Reed, Cary Williams and Bryant McKinnie all remain unsigned and are not guaranteed to be back in the fold.

    The fact that Joe Flacco signed one of the richest contracts in NFL history only highlights the fact that the Ravens are a team in transition. This is Flacco's team now, and he will definitely have plenty of new faces around him moving forward.

1. Kansas City Makes a Flurry of Moves

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    Everyone knew there was talent on the Kansas City Chiefs' roster heading into this offseason. The team had six Pro Bowlers a season ago and could be on the cusp of playoff contention. However, that hinged on bringing in the right kind of people moving forward.

    Kansas City is clearly doing that. After bringing in head coach Andy Reid and trading for quarterback Alex Smith, the Chiefs kept the ball rolling heading into free agency. The biggest move was re-signing star wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, per NFL.com.

    However, the Chiefs also re-signed punter Dustin Colquitt and franchise tagged tackle Branden Albert. On the open market Kansas City proved active as well, inking deals with tight end Anthony Fasano, quarterback Chase Daniel, defensive tackle Mike DeVito, cornerback Dunta Robinson and wide receiver Donnie Avery (h/t FoxSports.com)

    Kansas City is revamping its organization at a frenzied pace. Blink and you just might miss the Chiefs' next big move.