Several NFL franchises took advantage of free agency to bring in some names that should drastically alter their seasons in 2014.
For some, the ability to fill a desperate need at their position will prove crucial to their respective team’s chances for success. For others, their athletic ability and talent alone makes them worth the price tag.
Needless to say, these are some of the newcomers to NFL rosters you will want to keep an eye on in 2014.
Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets
The Jets’ quarterbacks have been the laughingstock of the NFL over the years. But to their credit, Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley aren’t exactly the wide receivers who can guarantee results.
That’s something Decker can bring to New York in 2014.
The 26-year-old signed a five-year, $36.25-million dollar deal with New York on Wednesday, per NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling. Of the contract, a whopping $15 million is guaranteed.
But Decker is certainly well worth the money, topping the century mark in each of the last two seasons with the Denver Broncos while finding the end zone 24 times.
While it’s important to keep in mind he had Peyton Manning throwing him the ball in those two years, Decker is certainly capable of producing in any environment. In just his second season in the league in 2011, Decker led the Broncos in receiving with 44 receptions for 612 yards and eight touchdowns, catching passes from the likes of Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton.
No matter who the quarterback for the Jets is during the 2014 season, they will have a reliable go-to guy in Decker.
Darrelle Revis, CB, New England Patriots
Say what you will about the Patriots’ tendency to let top players walk, but there’s no doubt the team went out and snatched up an absolute difference-maker in the secondary with Revis.
Following news that New England had let cornerback Aqib Talib walk, many were left baffled as to how the team could let one of its centerpieces on defense leave so easily. Talib practically held the secondary together, and when he was out, the unit crumbled—see the AFC championship games against the Baltimore Ravens (2012) and Denver Broncos (2013).
Now, we all have the answer, as it was announced the Patriots had agreed to a deal with the eight-year veteran, via ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Throughout his career, Revis has been recognized as the NFL’s top corner for his accomplishments on the field. He’s a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time NFL All-Pro.
There will be concerns about the knee surgery Revis underwent in 2012, but he proved there was nothing to worry about with his play last season. In just one year, he helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers improve from No. 32 against the pass in 2012 to No. 17 in 2013.
New England certainly has a winner on its hands with this one.
Josh McCown, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s not rocket science: The Buccaneers need help at the quarterback position.
Last season, whether it was Mike Glennon or Josh Freeman, the team simply didn’t get any meaningful production under center. In fact, Tampa Bay ranked dead last in the NFL in terms of passing last season (176.0 YPG).
Fortunately, McCown offers some help.
In eight games for the Chicago Bears in 2013, the 12-year veteran threw for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception on 66.5 percent passing. Furthermore, he had a quarterback rating of 109.0—No. 3 in the league.
As Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Perloff notes, the formula for success doesn’t have to be that much different with the Buccaneers:
Even with the mess at quarterback, wide receiver Vincent Jackson thrived. He caught 78 passes for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns. Just imagine what he could do with someone who knows how to get him the ball.
McCown should be poised to help Tampa Bay reestablish itself as a contender in the NFC South.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats, rankings and other information is courtesy of ESPN.com.