Free-Agency Signings That Will Affect the 2013 NFL Draft
For this slideshow, some of the most critical free-agent signings in regard to how they impact the 2013 NFL draft have been highlighted and discussed.
Obviously, teams are likely to tweak their draft strategies based on their activity in the free-agent market. Signing big-contract players with youth on their side tend to have the greatest impact on how teams prepare for the draft.
Conversely, guys like Wes Welker or Steven Jackson may be huge free-agent signings for their new franchises, but given their age and the dollar amount in their deals, they become prime examples of signings that probably won't affect those teams' draft strategies too significantly.
If the Falcons wanted a running back in the draft before they signed Jackson, I would assume little has changed after signing him. The same goes for the Broncos and Welker.
So with that in mind, it's time to find out what type of effect these signings have had on the upcoming draft.
Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions
The Reggie Bush factor in Detroit is in full effect.
Bush provides the Lions with an explosive running option who can also be a dangerous receiving threat. This signing should help fill the void left by Jahvid Best, whose absence is due to career-threatening concussions.
Detroit can now turn its attention in April's draft toward replenishing its depleted stable of pass-rushers. Before signing the former Heisman winner*, the Lions must have been eyeing a running back early on in the first or second round of the draft.
Now, that strategy should be off the table.
If Detroit still decides to take a running back come draft day, it likely won't be before the fifth round. This opens the door for other running back-needy teams to pounce on some talented guys like Christine Michael, Marcus Lattimore, Giovani Bernard and Andre Ellington.
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins
Miami was all but set to use its first-round draft pick on a weapon for Ryan Tannehill. Coach Joe Philbin has been vocal about the lack of a No. 1 option at receiver and has been looking to remedy this.
Enter Mike Wallace.
Wallace provides the Dolphins with the deep-threat target they've been looking for. When coupled with the deals for Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson, this should take them out of play for a wide receiver with the 12th pick in the draft.
This could be good news for the Rams. They are picking at 16 and 22 and are in the market for a first-round receiver, even more so after losing Danny Amendola in free agency.
With Wallace going to the Dolphins, the first wide receiver to be drafted could be either St. Louis at No. 16 or the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 17.
That is, unless the New York Jets decide to go with a wideout with the ninth pick.
It's no secret Mark Sanchez had next to nothing in terms of weaponry last year, but they're better off addressing another pressing need with their first pick by thinking either pass-rusher or quarterback.
Greg Jennings, WR, Minnesota Vikings
The signing of Greg Jennings has given the Minnesota Vikings some interesting options in the first round. As a part of the Percy Harvin deal, they now have the 23rd and 25th picks in Round 1.
Without landing Jennings, the Vikes might have used one of those first-round picks on a replacement for Harvin. Now they can consider cornerback, defensive tackle, linebacker or offensive line.
However, if a receiver Minnesota really loves happens to fall in its lap at No. 23 or 25, it still may pull the trigger on him as a luxury pick. The Vikings could still address a need with the other first-round pick.
Essentially, Jennings allows the Vikings to initiate a best-player-available strategy heading into the draft. One unlucky wide receiver prospect could fall out of the first round as a result.
Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams have the good fortune of three picks in the top 50, including two in the first round (16 and 22). Thanks to the addition of one of the most underrated pass-catchers in the league, Jared Cook, tight end isn't an area of need anymore.
Quarterback Sam Bradford has needed a real threat in the passing game for some time now, and this year he finally gets one. With the Rams out off the market for a tight end in the first round, guys like Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz could end up sliding further than expected.
All signs point to the Rams taking a wide receiver with at least one of their two first-round selections. The Rams can now look to focus some of their attention to the offensive line and safety positions, where help is surely needed.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago Bears
The Bears added a tight end of their own in Martellus Bennett. Like the Rams, Chicago may have selected a tight end early if it didn't make a move in free agency.
With these new developments, one really must wonder which team in the first round will be interested in one of the top tight ends in the draft.
It's not out of the question to think he could end up calling San Francisco his new home. Or perhaps the Atlanta Falcons find their tight end of the future with the 30th pick.
Jermon Bushrod, LT, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears shored up a big-time need at left tackle with Jermon Bushrod. Now left tackle is completely out of question for them in the first two rounds of the draft.
They still may address weaknesses upfront, but considering the amount of money invested in Bushrod (five years, $36 million), he's now the unquestioned starter for at least the next few years in Chicago.
There is a slight chance that left tackle Lane Johnson falls in this draft a bit. If the Oklahoma product makes it all the way to the Bears at No. 20, they will now pass him up as a direct result of the Bushrod signing.
However, if Alabama's Chance Warmack happens to still be around, there is no way they pass on him.
Andy Levitre, G, Tennessee Titans
The Titans were in serious need of help with their interior line, so they aggressively pursued and landed one of the league's best guards in Andy Levitre.
Tennessee sits at the 10th overall spot and could still use some help at guard, but taking one so high after paying big bucks to Levitre (six years, $46.8 million) is not a likely scenario.
The Bills will be picking at No. 8, and they just lost guards Levitre and Chad Rinehart to free agency. Expect them to make a move on one of the names mentioned.
However, in examination of some of the team needs, it's possible Tennessee still can't pass on whoever is available between guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper.
If the Bills decide to look elsewhere, cornerback, safety and defensive end could be options at No. 10.
Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, DEs, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have made quite a splash by signing two of the best defensive ends on the market in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. As a result, the rest of the teams thirsting for pass-rushers should be forced to think more seriously for one in the draft.
Seattle doesn't have a draft pick until No. 56 and could wind up using it on a defensive tackle or the offensive line.
After losing Avril, perhaps the Detroit Lions will look for a replacement at No. 5 overall. The draft is deep with pass-rushers this year, so perhaps they will trade back.
Paul Kruger, OLB, Cleveland Browns
The Browns had some serious needs at outside linebacker, which were instantly filled with the signing of Paul Kruger. Kruger had nine sacks last year with the Baltimore Ravens and should provide an instant impact on the defensive front.
With the additions of Desmond Bryant and Quentin Groves to pair with Kruger upfront, the Browns may decide to abandon Brandon Weeden as their quarterback and make a move on Geno Smith. If quarterback is the top need, the rest of the teams hoping for Smith to slide will be left disappointed.
They also have needs at cornerback and inside linebacker, but unless Alabama's Dee Milliner is available at No. 6, Cleveland will not take a corner so soon.
Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith, CBs, Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid has been busy in his first offseason with the Chiefs as he tries to improve on one of the worst teams in the league from a year ago. Signing cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith is a good start to help shore up a leaky secondary.
One thing we can say with certainty is that the Chiefs will not draft a cornerback in the first round. This means we can eliminate any scenario where Dee Milliner is the first overall selection.
There's expected to be a big run of cornerbacks taken starting around pick No. 20. With the Chiefs all set at the position, it may affect what happens with other teams.
Dashon Goldson, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dashon Goldson will be paired with Mark Barron to significantly improve Tampa Bay's secondary. Goldson is a hard-hitting safety who excels playing in center field and forcing turnovers.
This signing will take the Buccaneers out of contention for selecting a safety in at least the first two rounds, where they pick 13th and 43rd overall.
With safety out of consideration, it makes sense that the Bucs turn their attention toward acquiring a cornerback. A player like Texas' Kenny Vaccaro could slide down to the Cowboys or even Packers.