NFL Free Agents 2013: Projecting New Homes for Best Available Playmakers
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NFL free agency remains in full swing, as a plethora of talent still exists on the market.
It's important that teams begin to move quickly, though, because the 2013 NFL draft sits on the horizon. And addressing specific weaknesses with key playmakers now allows an organization to field a complete team.
Plus, it helps fulfill other needs during the draft.
The league is run by high-powered offenses and electrifying plays. Naturally, acquiring an established athlete simply enhances one's odds of making a run at January, as well as at the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Note: Updated salary cap space courtesy of Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
Charles Woodson, Safety
"I thought there would be a little more interest," Woodson, 36, said on the NFL Network. "I think that, looking back, this is my second time in free agency and I've kind a been shunned both times. I guess this time around I'm a little more patient with it, and just waiting around to see what happens."
Woodson still possesses irreplaceable instincts when it comes to locating the ball. Although 2012 was a year to forget, Woodson completely locked opponents down in the years prior.
From 2008 through 2011, he defended 65 passes, forced 11 fumbles and took seven interceptions back for touchdowns.
Prediction: Denver Broncos
Not only do the Broncos have the space for a short-term deal, but Denver needs a safety capable of changing the field position. The Broncos only managed 16 picks last season, so landing Woodson certainly generates more turnovers and complements the front seven.
Shaun Phillips, LB
Expect the market to steer toward Shaun Phillips as we near the draft.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, there will be some gravitation toward him:
The group of free-agent pass rushers on the wrong side of 30 contains a veteran whose name hasn’t been mentioned much in free agency, but who quietly is generating interest.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Phillips remains on the radar screen of some of the teams currently looking for pass rushers.
There's an abundance of pass-rushing talent in the draft, but Phillips' proven play gives him the nod over the prospective rookies.
Last season was also one of the better years for the veteran, as Phillips recorded 9.5 sacks, forced two fumbles (recovered three) and logged 50 tackles.
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts managed only 32 sacks in 2012 and gave up an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Pursuing Phillips quickly upgrades the pass rush and creates more turnover opportunities: Indianapolis only recorded 12 picks and forced a mere six fumbles last fall.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB
In mid-March, the Packers and Steelers reportedly had glanced toward Ahmad Bradshaw (via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Bradshaw also visited Pittsburgh, but left without a contract, as Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote:
It came as no surprise that Ahmad Bradshaw left the Steelers without a contract Thursday.
Bradshaw had surgery on his right foot late in January and it was estimated that it would take 10 weeks to heal. The Steelers do not need running backs with injuries, not matter their resume.
There's also a major disparity in the offensive philosophies of Green Bay and Pittsburgh. The Packers rely heavily on Aaron Rodgers and the passing attack, whereas the Steelers punish the trenches to maintain balance.
Although Bradshaw is a physical back, Pittsburgh can't afford to feed him the rock 25 times a game with durability concerns.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
Bradshaw's style of play suits Titletown perfectly. The Packers desperately need a back capable of making a quick cut between the tackles, not to mention helping with pass protection. Factor in his dual-threat talent (1,033 receiving yards since 2009) and Green Bay gets a dependable bulldozer.
Plus, Bradshaw won't be overused, and the Cheese's aerial assault will keep defenses from stacking the box.
Josh Cribbs, KR/PR/WR
Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Cribbs' free-agent signing with the Arizona Cardinals is on hold until he fully recovers from offseason arthroscopic knee surgery, agent JR Rickert told The Plain Dealer today.
Does he expect the Cardinals to sign Cribbs after the five weeks?
"Yes, I'm assuming that,'' he said.
Given Cribbs' impact as a return specialist, his versatility is undeniably appealing. He averaged 27.3 yards per kickoff and 12 yards per punt return in 2012. Supplying the ability to change the field position and help the offense is an extreme advantage with him back deep.
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals
Arizona's offense needs all the help it can get.
After ranking last in rushing offense and allowing 58 sacks a year ago, seeing better field position will increase the overall efficiency—regardless of how minimal.
Cribbs pulling double-duty on returns also allows Patrick Peterson to narrow his contributions to defense. As a result, the special teams impact of Cribbs keeps Arizona in the fight for field position, while Peterson locks down more defensively.
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