While the 2013 NFL draft was all about making dreams come true for 254 young men, the conclusion of the festivities at Radio City Music Hall is almost equally as important to the old fogies hanging around on the free-agent market.
By now, nearly every surefire contributor has a new home or a new contract with his former team. The Cincinnati Bengals made their new three-year, $18 million pact with right tackle Andre Smith official this week, taking the only Pro Bowl-level player remaining off the market. Smith's contract negotiation was an anomaly, with Cincinnati management and his representation doing a strange standoff when everyone knew what was coming.
Smith wasn't leaving—not when the money well around the NFL has gone completely dry.
The dearth of free-agent bucks available around the league is a pinch many notable veterans are still feeling. Brian Urlacher probably wishes he could go back in time and take the Bears' offer to stay, while safety Charles Woodson is slowly coming to grips with his mortality. The NFL is a cold world even for future Hall of Famers, and the remaining players will find it's a difficult path to walk.
That being said, the draft opens up the market for some players every year. Some top names were already in negotiations with teams whose backup plans fell out at Radio City Music Hall while others will see veteran presence is needed to bolster depth. Either way, there will be some heavy movement over the next couple of weeks for notable names—at least relatively speaking.
With that in mind, here is a breakdown of a few veterans that should find new homes relatively soon after the draft.
LB Karlos Dansby
Unlike many of his contemporaries on the open market, former Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby is not well beyond his prime. At 31 years old and having played in all 16 games in four of his past five seasons, Dansby is a relative peach among the bottom-of-the-barrel market.
So it wasn't surprising to see the 10-year veteran's tires had been kicked more than once prior to the festivities at Radio City Music Hall. Dansby and the Buffalo Bills reportedly met with each other Tuesday, and the team said the meeting went well.
“He had a good visit,” said Bills general manager Buddy Nix said (via the team's official website). “We liked him. It’s still ongoing. It’s not dead, but it’s not done either.”
No move was made and the two sides remained in dialogue heading into the draft, something that should heat up again in the coming days. Buffalo did address its need at middle linebacker by taking Kiko Alonso in the second round (No. 46 overall), and the former Oregon standout should compete immediately. Though Alonso has only middling top-end speed, he became known for making big plays in Eugene with a high motor and insatiable aggressiveness.
That being said, the Bills have no one on their roster to mentor Alonso. Their defensive schemes often switch mid-game, with flashes of 4-3, 3-4 and 46 looks all being thrown at opposing offenses. Even if Dansby is brought in simply to bide time until Alonso is fully ready to step in, Buffalo could do a whole lot worse in the meantime.
Dansby still managed to record a career-high 134 total tackles in 2012, showing he's still strong against the run even if his pass coverage skills have waned. And even if the Bills ultimately pass, Dansby is too productive to be on the open market much longer.
G Brandon Moore
Perhaps more than any other available player, Moore's ultimate destination was contingent on how this draft played out. Though it was lacking in star power at the skill positions, offensive line was burgeoning at talent—especially at guard.
Jonathan Cooper (No. 7 to the Arizona Cardinals) and Chance Warmack (No. 10 to the Tennessee Titans) both went inside the top 10 on Thursday, a historical anomaly for guards. If you factor in D.J. Fluker (No. 12 to the San Diego Chargers) and Justin Pugh (No. 19 to the New York Giants), both of whom could wind up at guard at the next level, then interior linemen comprised no less than five times the number of quarterbacks and running backs taken in Round 1.
As such, Moore might as well cross all those teams off his list. Teams aren't going to invest a one or two-year deal in a veteran guard when they already have a youngster in tow who could arguably be more effective.
Luckily for the aging guard, none of the teams previously mentioned were in the running. Back when we last heard about Moor's potential suitors, the favorites included the Dolphins, Lions and Cowboys, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.
Though Miami took Dallas Thomas of Tennessee and Detroit took Larry Warford of Kentucky in the third round, neither player is a guaranteed Week 1 start. Thomas and Warford are more project players, with the former barely having any collegiate experience at the position. With both teams looking to make a move back into playoff contention next season, it's questionable whether they would want to take a risk.
Adding Moore—especially on a short-term contract—is the opposite of a risk. He has not missed a game in any of the past five seasons, becoming a bastion of consistency on a team ripe with turmoil. While it became clear that his best days were certainly in the past in 2012, Moore can still play at a very high level.
If it's not Miami and it's not Detroit, another team will pounce—and soon.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Much like Moore, the draft was some cause for hand-wringing for Ahmad Bradshaw. While there was no Trent Richardson in this class—as evidenced by the first round going by without a halfback being taken for the first time in nearly 50 years—there were a bevy of solid mid-round players who went off the board.
Guys like Eddie Lacy (Green Bay), Le'Veon Bell (Pittsburgh) and Montee Ball (Denver) came off the board in the second round. They all went to run-needy teams. The Packers, Steelers and Broncos were the three teams previously mentioned as being in play for Bradshaw. Cincinnati, also considered in need of help at running back, landed Giovani Bernard in the second round as well.
On the surface, that looks bad news bears for the two-time Super Bowl champion. Nearly every team that needed a running back for depth or for starter snaps snatched one up early and took advantage of the surplus of good, not great talent.
And we all should know how bearish the market is for free-agent running backs. Teams have no qualms about casting a former star aside when he's still active and productive, as the position increasingly lends itself to youth.
Could Bradshaw share that fate? Not likely. The hesitance with signing the still-in-his-prime back came not from concerns about his production but about his health. Bradshaw rushed for 1,015 yards last season despite dealing with foot and ankle problems, eventually needing a screw replaced in his right foot in January.
With teams always wary about foot issues, nothing seemed imminent until he was cleared to return. As ESPN's Adam Schefter reported earlier this week, that clearance has finally come—and just in time.
While the market for running backs has dwindled, Bradshaw still has plenty left in his 27-year-old body. Don't be surprised if he has plenty of visits in the coming weeks with a clean bill of health in hand.
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