NFL Draft 2014: Updated Projections for Biggest Free-Agency Spenders

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIMarch 21, 2014

TAMPA, FL -  JANUARY 6:  Lovie Smith speaks as he is introduced as the new coach of Tampa Bay Buccaneers at a press conference January 6, 2014 at at the team training center in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The 2014 NFL free-agency period featured spending extravaganzas for multiple franchises. Big-money contracts were handed out to many of the league's top free agents within minutes of the start. Some teams didn't stop there.

Continuous spending by certain teams makes their 2014 NFL draft scenarios very different than before. Now, as many positions have already been bolstered, their draft needs have changed in a drastic way.

Let's take a look at some of the NFL's biggest spenders in this year's free-agency period and project their likely first-round draft acquisitions based on their adjusted needs.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Top FA Signing: DE Michael Johnson

Contact Terms: Five years, $43.75 million

Draft Position: Round 1, No. 7

Projected Draft Pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson


What a free-agency period for new head coach Lovie Smith's Buccaneers. Smith and Co. made some early, decisive moves that will bolster this team for a long time. After signing Johnson, the team remained hard at work, inking defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, cornerback Alterraun Verner, left tackle Anthony Collins and others.

With so many new pieces in place for this team, the draftable options at No. 7 overall become increasingly limited. The Buccaneers could continue to bolster the defense with another linebacker. They could also go for an offensive tackle to complement Collins. However, those are not the team's best bets.

What Tampa Bay needs now are more playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Surrounding Mike Glennon with additional weapons is crucial for the continued improvement of the young signal-caller.

Enter Sammy Watkins.

The most highly regarded wide receiver in this year's draft class, Watkins would be an amazing complement to Vincent Jackson. Finally, the Buccaneers would have two legitimate weapons to evenly distribute the pressure from the defense.

If the Buccaneers are to keep pace with the high-octane offenses of the NFC South, Watkins' addition is necessary should he be on the board at No. 7 overall on draft day.

Onlookers of a Jackson-Watkins duo should get their popcorn ready.


Atlanta Falcons

Top FA Signing: DT Paul Soliai

Contract Terms: Five years, $32 million

Draft Position: Round 1, No. 6

Projected Draft Pick: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M


The Falcons went on a huge spending spree early in the 2014 free-agency period. According to NFLPA documents, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionAtlanta has spent a total of $98.36 million this offseason.

That money was relatively well spent, as the team bolstered the defense in a big way. Grabbing Soliai, defensive end Tyson Jackson and cornerback Javier Arenas were nicely calculated moves to upgrade a defense that was rather porous in 2013.

The Falcons also added right guard Jon Asamoah and re-signed right tackle Mike Johnson, but the offensive line can still use a big upgrade—especially at the left tackle position.

This is where former Texas A&M standout Matthews comes in.

At 6'5" and 308 pounds, Matthews looks every bit the part of an NFL-caliber starting left tackle. He has tremendous size and a big frame but possesses an elite level of athleticism for his build.

He has extensive experience as a starter and has the versatility to slide into any position along the offensive line. After Auburn's Greg Robinson put up dazzling combine numbers, Matthews figures to be the second offensive tackle taken.

That puts him right in Atlanta's crosshairs when the team picks at No. 6 overall.


Denver Broncos

Top FA Signing: Aqib Talib

Contract Terms: Six years, $57 million

Draft Position: Round 1, No. 31

Projected Draft Pick: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State


The Broncos had one of the best free-agency periods of any NFL team. They threw money all over the place, but it was for very good reason—this team desperately needed several upgrades to ensure another run at the Super Bowl.

Most of these upgrades came on the defensive side of the ball, and rightly so. Denver had trouble stopping almost anyone in 2013 and needed some immediate help—after all, Peyton Manning won't be under center forever.

Bringing in Talib, safety T.J. Ward and defensive end DeMarcus Ware were brilliant (and costly) moves. However, this team is now poised for success once again after upgrading in a big way.

Despite all of the defensive additions, cornerback still remains a high priority. Denver lost both of its starters from a year ago and only acquired one in free agency.

Roby would be a perfect candidate from this year's draft to bolster the secondary.

At 5'11" and 194 pounds, he isn't the tallest corner out there; although, his 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the combine highlighted his blazing speed.

It's that speed that allows him to shadow faster receivers and come up with big plays on the outside. He will be in good company, learning Talib's tricks of the trade, and should be able to produce in a decent capacity in 2014.


All player measurements and combine results courtesy of's results tracker, and contract figures courtesy of