How the Biggest Free-Agent Moves Impact the 2013 NFL Draft

Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2013

How the Biggest Free-Agent Moves Impact the 2013 NFL Draft

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    We're less than 48 hours into 2013 NFL free agency, and a number of high-profile names are already in new homes. 

    The addition of one player does not necessarily alter the rest of a team's offseason plans, but there are a few cases where the addition of a free agent can have a significant effect on a team's draft strategy.

    Here's a look at a few of the moves that will impact the thought process of various general managers on draft day. 

Mike Wallace Signs with Dolphins

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    The Dolphins paid a hefty price for Mike Wallace, but he may be just the weapon Ryan Tannehill needs to continue his development in Miami. 

    Over the past three seasons, Wallace is one of five receivers in the league with 30 or more receptions of at least 20 yards. 

    With Wallace and Brian Hartline on the outside and Davone Bess in the slot, the Dolphins have solidified their receiving corps and no longer need to address the area early in the draft. 

    With the first-round selection, the Dolphins can now focus on fixing the offensive line or potentially taking the best available defensive lineman. 

Gosder Cherilus Signs with Colts

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    The Colts may have landed the steal of free agency by signing Gosder Cherilus to a five-year, $35 million contract, with just $16.5 million guaranteed. 

    Upgrading the protection for Andrew Luck was a priority this offseason, and Cherilus graded out as one of the top pass-protectors in the league a season ago. 

    In 2012, the Colts' right tackles allowed a sack, hit or hurry once every 11.3 pass block snaps.

    Cherilus ranked among the league leaders with a rate of once every 20.7 snaps.

    With Cherilus in the fold, the Colts can now turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball in the draft. 

    General manager Ryan Grigson needs to find the right personnel for Chuck Pagano's hybrid scheme, and the 2013 draft should now be all about finding those pieces. 

Andy Levitre Signs with Titans

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    The Titans' interior offensive line struggled in 2012, and the retirement of Steve Hutchinson only increased their need for help at guard. 

    Enter Andy Levitre, arguably the top interior lineman on the market. 

    Prior to bringing in Levitre, the Titans were linked to either Alabama's Chance Warmack or North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper in many mock drafts. 

    The Titans could still use an upgrade at right guard, where Eugene Amano is penciled in as the starter at the moment. But it now appears to be a position more likely to be addressed later in the draft. 

    Kent State's Brian Winters or Kentucky's Larry Warford may be options on the second day of the draft. 

Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves Sign with Browns

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    When the Browns announced they were switching to a 3-4 defense under the guidance of new coordinator Ray Horton, it was clear they would need to add the right personnel. 

    The Browns front office wasted no time plugging in Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves, signing them both within the first 48 hours of free agency. 

    Kruger will start at outside linebacker opposite Jabaal Sheard, while Groves and James-Michael Johnson will serve as the backups. 

    In a matter of two days, the Browns' situation at outside linebacker suddenly went from a question mark to a strength. 

    These moves all but eliminate Oregon's Dion Jordan and Georgia's Jarvis Jones from consideration as the sixth pick. 

    The best move for the Browns would be to trade down from No. 6. They spent their 2013 second-round choice on Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft, so the team only owns one pick on the second day of the draft. 

Dashon Goldson Signs with Buccaneers

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    The Buccaneers gave their secondary a boost last offseason by drafting Mark Barron, and they have now paired him with one of the top available safeties on the market. 

    Dashon Goldson is a prototypical free safety, making him an ideal complement to Barron. 

    Prior to the addition of Goldson, Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro was considered a possibility for the Bucs with the 13th pick. 

    With Goldson on board, the Bucs can now turn their attention to other areas of the defense. 

    Cornerback remains a concern, and Florida State's Xavier Rhodes could be an ideal target.

Martellus Bennett Signs with Bears

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    In 2012, Bears' tight ends were targeted a league-low 60 times. That's only five more targets than Martellus Bennett had receptions a season ago with the Giants. 

    Jay Cutler has only had the privilege of working with a true threat at tight end for two seasons of his career, and during that time Greg Olsen caught more than 100 balls, so it's safe to say Cutler will have no issues finding Bennett. 

    By solving their tight end issues in free agency, the Bears avoid having to use their first-round pick on Tyler Eifert. 

    General manager Phil Emery can now turn his attention to the offensive line on draft day, or potentially to finding Brian Urlacher's replacement. 

Tony Gonzalez Re-Signs with Falcons

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    In 2012, Matt Ryan targeted Tony Gonzalez on 20.1 percent of his aimed pass attempts.

    It's not easy to replace that portion of your offense in one offseason, but the Falcons can now turn their attention to other areas of need.

    Had Gonzalez retired, the Falcons likely would have considered Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round. But with Gonzalez on board for at least another year, they can use that selection to fill a hole created by the departure of one of their other veterans.

    The release of Michael Turner and John Abraham opened up holes at running back and defensive end that the Falcons have yet to fill.

    Considering Gonzalez's age, tight end is still a need. But it's one they can now afford to address later in the draft with a developmental prospect who can be groomed behind Gonzalez for at least one season.  

     

    All advanced statistics via Pro Football Focus.