NFL Free Agency: 5 Most Underrated Free Agent Signings
When all the "oohs" and "ahhs" die down from the Percy Harvin, Anquan Boldin and Wes Welker moves, fans will be pleasantly surprised to see many new faces on new teams next year.
The moves that didn't make headlines will turn out to be just as valuable as the high-profile ones.
History has shown that throwing wads of cash at supposed superstars does not work, (I'm looking at you, Eagles.)
In modern-day free agency, teams seem to lose the value of dollar. The less heralded signings are just as important to rounding out a team and prove to be just as crucial to a team's success.
The Titans went 13-3 back in 2008 largely behind their stellar backfield of Chris Johnson and LenDale White. The aptly named "Smash and Dash" bulldozed opponents with maddening consistency, and the two fed off of each other perfectly.
In the CJ2K era, Johnson has not had any backfield help since White's demise. No other running back on the Titans ran for more than 33 yards in a game all last season. Coupled with the Titans abysmal offensive line, it is miraculous that Johnson has managed to stay so healthy.
General Manager Ruston Webster decided to turn back the clock and bring in the bruising Shonn Greene from the Jets on a three-year deal.
Greene has amassed over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons with 14 total touchdowns.
Greene's power-running style will allow the Titans to use him in short-yardage situations. Greene is also much more adept at pass blocking and will assist in keeping Jake Locker on his feet in 2013.
Far too often last year the Titans would go three-and-out after someone busted through the line to stop Johnson in the backfield and force a second-and-long.
Drives were over before they even began.
Greene and Johnson both have a lot of miles on their legs but will be able to complement each other perfectly, maximizing each other's abilities.
Smash and Dash 2.0 is in full effect.
There is not a more perfect player in the entire NFL that the Patriots could have replaced Welker with. Welker was merely an average receiver before Tom Brady made him the first player ever with 110 receptions a year over a five-year span.
Amendola is four years younger than Welker and slightly bigger. He is more athletic and will fill in seamlessly. He will greatly benefit from having Brady throwing him the pigskin as opposed to being Sam Bradford's favorite target (and just about his only target).
He is even a Texas Tech alum and worked with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in 2011, giving him a taste of what the Patriots offense is like.
The main issue with Amendola living up to his five-year, $31 million contract is whether he can stay on the field. Last year he missed five games with a broken collarbone after playing in only one game in 2011 due to a dislocated elbow he suffered in the season opener.
If Amendola can stay on the field, then there is no question that he will put up numbers similar to Welker's. He will quickly make New England fans forget about the guy who left them for Peyton Manning.
That competition contributed to Tampa Bay having the worst pass defense in the NFL this past season. Starting corner and perennial headache Aqib Talib was shipped off to New England before last season's trade deadline, and fellow corner Eric Wright was inexplicably given a $37.5 million dollar deal last offseason.
At safety, Ronde Barber may appear to be immortal, but his days are numbered, as Tampa Bay is uncertain about whether or not Barber will return for 17th season. Rookie first-round pick Mark Barron had a solid rookie season at strong safety, but that still left a glaring hole.
He is an All-Pro safety who has been a stalwart in San Francisco's punishing defense over the past few years.
Not only is Goldson a bruising physical safety with no fear of creeping up and mauling players at the line, but he also has 14 interceptions over the past four seasons, a testament to his great play-making ability.
Goldson will immediately pair with Barron to form one of the most menacing safety duos in the NFL. What was a glaring hole last season immediately has been upgraded to a strength for this team.
If Barber does indeed return, then the league's worst pass defense will be markedly better than last season.
The Colts made a huge signing when they brought in Landry on a four-year deal.
As Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said in a statement released by the team,
We're ecstatic about this signing. We feel LaRon is an absolute game changer and a true impact player. We're talking about a 220-pound safety that runs 4.3 and plays to that speed. His approach to the game and his style of play are lights out and embody the culture we're building on the defense and this team in general.
After two injury-plagued seasons with the Redskins, Landry took a one-year deal with the Jets last year to rebuild his value. He was a dominant force with four forced fumbles and two picks. Landry used his supreme athleticism all year to become a bright spot amidst the terrible season in New York.
Indy was 21st in the NFL in opposing passing yards and 29th in stopping the run last season. The team played a very easy schedule for the most part, so they knew they had to make a couple strong moves in the offseason to bolster up that defense.
Landry brings an air of power that will impose fear in anyone testing him over the middle of the field. He will line up at strong safety next to Antoine Bethea and form a very nice safety duo. The Colts run a similar 3-4 defense to the one Rex Ryan ran with the Jets, so the transition should be smooth.
In the Colts' five losses last year, they gave up an average of 37.2 points per contest. Tightening up that pass defense was paramount.
They filled that void in a big way.
Instead of going after the biggest names on the free-agent front, Philly appears to have learned their lesson.
Picking up Sopoaga to anchor the middle of their new 3-4 defense was a below-the-radar move that will prove to be a phenomenal pickup. The former 49ers nose tackle is a beast on the interior and will help solidify the Eagles' 23rd ranked run defense.
The Eagles moved quickly and locked up Sopoaga in the early hours of free agency. During the assembling of their self-proclaimed Dream Team, interior defensive line was an area they did not focus on.
They paid for it.
Sopoaga said he and his Eagles are ready to "shock the world" this season. He will bring a winning attitude coming off a Super Bowl appearance with San Francisco and do a great job changing the culture in a franchise that has fallen upon tough times these past couple of seasons.