Ranking the 10 Most Underrated Moves of the 2013 NFL Offseason
Hype rarely matches substance in today's media landscape of the NFL.
Consider that maxim for a moment. Think back to the numerous times a veritable parade has been held in the preseason for a move that ends up fizzling out after the team was already planning its Super Bowl celebration.
Even the moves that work out and improve teams usually pale in comparison to the cacophony of "buzz" that surrounds almost every big name on the move or a big-name team that makes a deal the media cares about.
Take Tim Tebow. Case closed.
Then consider the correlative. Think back to the championship teams near and dear to your heart. Without fail, each of those teams made a move that flew under the radar. Yet, the substance to those moves probably outweighed the hype (or lack thereof).
No one cared when the Baltimore Ravens signed Jacoby Jones before the 2012 season. Then he proceeded to make the Pro Bowl as a kick returner and became one of the franchise's all-time playoff heroes.
These are the moves that can impact a franchise—the signings that get tacked on via blurb at the end of a "more important" column, the trades that get lost in the offseason shuffle.
New England Patriots Re-Sign Sebastian Vollmer
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With all of the upheaval in New England this offseason, things could be much worse without the familiar presence of offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer on Tom Brady's strong side.
The Patriots have heavily emphasized scheme on pass-blocking along their offensive front and have favored bigger bodies with long arms who can keep pass-rushers at bay. To make up for the mechanical issues that some taller tackles have, the Patriots have been known to utilize the two-point stance to maximize their tackles' strengths.
All of this screams the 6'8'' Vollmer and made it imperative for the team to re-sign him, even though the presence of some other bodies on the roster may have made him look expendable.
Could someone like tackle Will Svitek or guard Marcus Cannon have stepped in for Vollmer? Probably, but with so much else up in the air, Vollmer's return is a much-needed breath of familiarity.
His leaving would have made things that much more pressure-packed for an offense that already has many question marks heading into this season.
Minnesota Vikings Receive Draft Pick Haul for Percy Harvin
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Our culture loves winners and losers. Yet, sometimes a rare trade comes along which manages to help both teams reach their goals.
As much as I believe the addition of Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks' receiving corps will help them get over the proverbial hump in 2013, the fact remains that the Vikings did not need Harvin moving forward.
In 2012, the Vikings were without Harvin for the last couple months of the season. During that time, running back Adrian Peterson hit full MVP stride and Minnesota reeled off four straight victories to end the regular season.
Meanwhile, the addition of receivers Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson should help make up for Harvin's departure.
After years of injuries and behind-the-scenes chicanery, the Vikings didn't trust Harvin any longer and didn't want him around their football team. Instead of simply jettisoning him, they turned him into draft capital that added cornerback Xavier Rhodes, lineman Travis Bond and a mid-round pick next season.
Again, that package of players probably won't equal Harvin's total talent level, but in terms of a divorce settlement, the Vikings got a pretty good haul.
Baltimore Ravens Sign Daryl Smith
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Baltimore's signing of linebacker Daryl Smith has flown so far under the radar that even I had forgotten about it.
Part of the reason Smith's presence has been overlooked is the groin injury that hampered him last season. The other reason has to do with the draft selection of linebacker Arthur Brown, who will likely insert himself into starting position sooner rather than later. So, that may leave Smith on the bench in a reserve role or as part of the rotation.
Smith, however, is used to outperforming expectations and will find a role in the Ravens defense. Do not be surprised if next winter rolls around and Smith has everyone talking about how his veteran leadership helped lead the Ravens through the most difficult parts of the 2013 season en route to another deep playoff run.
San Francisco 49ers Sign Glenn Dorsey
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Glenn Dorsey was a huge disappointment with the Kansas City Chiefs, but this defensive lineman could find his new surroundings awfully comfortable with the 49ers.
So much in the NFL is about expectations, and Dorsey will become a fan favorite in San Francisco if he is able to play up to his potential without being saddled with the pressure that comes with being a high draft pick.
An odd fit for the 3-4 defensive end position that the Chiefs tried to shoehorn him into, Dorsey didn't look comfortable under former coach Romeo Crennel. Now, he'll get to rotate in at a number of positions and will be used primarily as a pass-rusher and to collapse the pocket, which is the skill set that got him to the first round of the NFL draft in the first place.
He probably won't be a starter, but expect Dorsey to play a big role on the Niners' defense and to receive more snaps as the season goes on as San Francisco looks to make a return to the Super Bowl.
San Diego Chargers Sign Derek Cox
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Last year, Pro Football Focus had Derek Cox rated as the 71st best cornerback (paid link) in football.
Yes, that number doesn't seem too impressive, but in a league with 32 teams having two starting cornerbacks plus plenty of subpackage backs who play a lot of snaps, it isn't exactly the bottom of the barrel either.
Still, I'm not here to convince anyone that taking a fringe starter and putting him in a starting lineup is proof positive of an improving team. Dig a little deeper into Cox's play and it becomes more evident that the minimal gamble the Chargers took with his four-year, $20 million deal could pay huge dividends down the road.
Cornerbacks tend to take longer than other positions to truly acclimate to the NFL, and Cox could be in for a big season if he follows that trend. He's big, physical and has been successful in the past with what the Chargers want to do on defense, so odds are he'll likely outplay that 71st rating in 2013.
San Diego Chargers Hire Mike McCoy
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Speaking of the Chargers, their hire of former Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator Mike McCoy as head coach is one of the most underrated coaching hires of the season.
As fans try to project how college coaches like Philadelphia's Chip Kelly and Buffalo's Doug Marrone will do in the pros, McCoy is a proven offensive mind who has spent a lot of time around the most potent offenses in the league. Perhaps more importantly, McCoy has coached in a number of varied offensive schemes.
McCoy will look to bring balance and innovation to a Chargers team that seemed to beat its own head into the wall most weeks under Norv Turner's watch. With McCoy teaming alongside defensive coordinator John Pagano, the Chargers should be absolutely maddening to game-plan against week in and week out.
It will be tough for San Diego to contend this season with a rebuilding roster, a Peyton Manning-led Denver team and a quickly improving squad in Kansas City, but the Chargers should be contenders sooner rather than later under McCoy's watch.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Trade for Gabe Carimi
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Like some of the other players on this list such as Derek Cox and Glenn Dorsey, this move is about untapped potential.
As terrible as offensive lineman Gabe Carimi was on the Chicago Bears last season, it's important to remember that he was a second-year player in essentially his rookie season. His rookie year was punctuated by both an offseason lockout and a massive injury in his second game.
Any talk of Carimi would be remiss if it didn't mention that the Bears don't exactly have a great track record of polishing lineman prospects. Tampa Bay offensive line coach Bob Bostad does have a reputation for developing up-and-comers on the line—notably with Wisconsin Badgers alumni, which is where Carimi played his college ball.
Carimi is only a few years removed from being one of the better lineman prospects in the 2011 draft class. While the Bears pretended the book was already written on him, he'll be on a mission to prove his time in the Windy City was just the prologue to what could be a great career with the Buccaneers.
Cleveland Browns Trade for Davone Bess
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It's impossible to discuss the Browns these days without using the words "vertical offense," which makes sense after the hire of Rob Chudzinski as head coach and Norv Turner as offensive coordinator.
Their system also ostensibly plays to quarterback Brandon Weeden's strengths, though asking him to make high-risk/high-reward decisions on the fly may not be for the best.
When running a vertical offense, it's always important to have two counter-punches in the arsenal. The first weapon—a powerful running back to keep teams honest and out of subpackages—the Browns have in spades, thanks to Trent Richardson.
Bess adds the other wrinkle to the offense as a crafty slot receiver who can do most of his damage between the hash marks and between five to 10 yards down the field.
He will help mitigate a lot of the bigger risks the offense might otherwise ask Weeden to take, thereby eliminating mistakes, becoming a favorite target and increasing the chances of Weeden finding a much-needed rhythm in his second year.
Arizona Cardinals Sign Karlos Dansby
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The Cardinals are about as far outside the NFL "buzz circle" as any team could be these days.
Karlos Dansby's signing flies even more under the radar, as the team enters the 2013 season with a new general manager, head coach and quarterback.
Dansby adds a veteran defensive presence to the Cardinals' defense, as well as a physical style of play against both the run and the pass. In an NFC West that is continually looking more and more like one of the better divisions in football, he'll be asked to wear a lot of hats and help track down mobile quarterbacks like San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and Seattle's Russell Wilson.
Moreover, with Arizona linebacker Daryl Washington facing a four-game suspension to begin the season, the Cardinals will need an impact player in his absence. Dansby fits that description. Once the two play together and gain chemistry, the Cardinals' defense could be truly special.
Jacksonville Jaguars Hire Gus Bradley and David Caldwell
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As much as I applaud the Chargers' aforementioned hire of Mike McCoy and am impressed by all of the underrated moves on this list, none have as much potential impact as the Jaguars' hire of former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
The hiring of general manager David Caldwell took a while to win me over, but any concerns were assuaged by the end of draft weekend, where the Jaguars had arguably one of the league's best performances.
Take one look at the Jaguars' 2013 draft class, and it's clear that the emphasis is going to be physical, athletic football and turning this team into "Seahawks South" over the next couple of seasons.
Jacksonville may not succeed in the win-loss column as much as fans hope in 2013, but it's clear this rebuilding process is going in the right direction.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.