1 Free-Agent Decision Every NFL Team Will Come to Regret

Russell S. BaxterContributor IApril 10, 2014

1 Free-Agent Decision Every NFL Team Will Come to Regret

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    The next time you see wide receiver Steve Smith he will be in Baltimore Ravens uniform.
    The next time you see wide receiver Steve Smith he will be in Baltimore Ravens uniform.USA TODAY Sports

    It’s getting closer.

    On Wednesday afternoon (March 9), the league released its 2014 preseason schedule. Now comes Thursday morning at which we are 28 days away from the NFL draft.

    Those are the good things for football fans everywhere.

    Then there is the reality. Building a championship football team in the NFL is a tough business.

    Face it, each of the 32 organizations attempt to do what is best for its club, and often and those moves can come with a great deal of angst. Decisions often times must trump sentimentality. There are the economics of a salary cap and the dynamics of a locker room.

    There’s also that “man…that just doesn’t feel right.”

    We will be taking all of the aforementioned factors into account, but that latter aspect is what we will be dealing with for the most part. We will take a look at one free-agent decision made by each of the 32 teams and why they could be second-guessing that move sometime in the future.

    Be it a big-time signing or a key departure, we’ll pinpoint one potential move that might come back to bite a team in the proverbial backfield.

    Regrets? Every team will have a few. But to be frank, they have to do it their way.

Arizona Cardinals: Losing ILB Karlos Dansby

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    Stephen Brashear

    Apparently, inside linebacker Karlos Dansby wasn’t seeing red this offseason.

    Last month, Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic reported that the Arizona Cardinals offered the veteran defender a two-year contract worth between $10 million to $12 million to remain with the team.

    Instead, Dansby opted for browner pastures and signed with Cleveland to the tune of four years and $24 million.

    Dansby had a huge year in his second stint with the Cards. He led Arizona with 112 tackles, plus added 6.5 sacks, four interceptions and 19 passes defensed. The team finished sixth in the league in total defense and first in the NFL against the run.

    Now we’ll see how the Cardinals, a surprising 10-6 in 2013, finish without the productive linebacker.

Atlanta Falcons: Releasing FS Thomas DeCoud

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    “That was my guy off the field and a heck of a player. In his time here, he showed me a lot basically because he's done so many great things here in the red and black.”

    Last month, those were the words of Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com when speaking of free safety Thomas DeCoud. The duo was teammates for five seasons before the Atlanta Falcons released the latter on March 11.

    A third-round pick in 2008, DeCoud started 78 games from 2009-13. Over that span, he totaled 14 interceptions and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2012.

    How are the Falcons doing in their search to replace the six-year pro? McClure recounts the recent news of the team’s failed effort to secure New Orleans Saints defender and restricted free agent Rafael Bush, while Atlanta did sign veteran safety Dwight Lowery this week.

Baltimore Ravens: Losing CB Corey Graham

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Call us crackers.

    The Baltimore Ravens, off an 8-8 season and out of the playoffs for the first time under head coach John Harbaugh, could certainly use all the help they can get.

    Unfortunately, that assistance in 2014 won’t include veteran cornerback Corey Graham, who opted to sign with the Buffalo Bills in March.

    The former fifth-round pick of the Chicago Bears (2007) has totaled nine interceptions the last three seasons with Chicago (three) and Ravens (six). Graham joined Baltimore in 2012 and that season started eight games. The seven-year performer totaled 60 tackles and a pair of interceptions.

    During Baltimore’s Super Bowl XLVII run, he picked off Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning twice, returning one for a score in the team’s epic 38-35 double overtime win in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.

    This past season, he again came up big for the Ravens despite starting just five games. Graham amassed a team-high four interceptions, finished tied for fifth on the club with 74 tackles, recorded one sack and totaled 12 passes defensed.

    Replacing that kind of production simply won’t be easy.

Buffalo Bills: Not Giving Franchise Tag to FS Jairus Byrd

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Yes, we are very aware of the rules (as colleague Ty Schalter reminded us in February) when it comes to giving a player the franchise tag for a second straight year.

    That would have been the case when it came to the Buffalo Bills and free safety Jairus Byrd, who enjoyed a solid 2013 despite missing basically one-third of the season. The veteran ball hawk is now a member of the New Orleans Saints secondary.

    The fact is, when your defense remains an issue for as long as the Bills have, it’s hard to watch good players walk away.

    A year ago, Byrd was the team’s designated franchise player. The talented ball hawk eventually signed his one-year franchise tender last summer and then proceeded to miss the season’s first five games with plantar fasciitis. Still, he would return and tie for the team lead with four interceptions in 2013.

    In five NFL seasons, three culminating in Pro Bowl invitations, the former second-round pick has totaled 27 takeaways in 73 contests. Add in 11 forced fumbles and three sacks and regardless of the cost, it may have been wise to not led this Byrd fly south this winter.

Carolina Panthers: Releasing WR Steve Smith

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    USA TODAY Sports

    You could make a case that veteran wide receiver Steve Smith was the greatest player in the brief 19-year history of the Carolina Panthers.

    In March, the organization made him history.

    After 13 seasons, 836 catches, 12,197 receiving yards (19th in NFL history) and a franchise-record 75 total touchdowns, the five-time Pro Bowler was released by the club this offseason. Smith has since found a landing place, signing with the Baltimore Ravens.

    This offseason, the Carolina Panthers have seen their wide receiving corps dismantled with the departure of Smith, as well as the free-agent defections of Ted Ginn, Brandon LaFell and Domenik Hixon. While Smith comes off a season in which he scored four touchdowns, a knee injury hampered the productive pro late in the season.

    Still, the veteran wideout was around for the team’s first postseason appearance since 2008. He caught four passes for 74 yards and Carolina’s only touchdown in the team’s 23-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

    Rest assured, the Panthers haven’t seen the last of Smith. The team will face the Ravens during the regular season in Baltimore.

Chicago Bears: Releasing DE Julius Peppers

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    Paul Sancya

    Retaining the services of a 12-year veteran making a ton of money isn’t very realistic these days in the NFL.

    But consider that defensive end Julius Peppers, released by the Chicago Bears in March, started all 64 games during his tenure with the Chicago Bears and was one of the team’s most reliable performers over that span. He totaled 37.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

    Peppers’ 12-year NFL resume with the Carolina Panthers and Bears includes 119 sacks, nine interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries. He’ll now toil at outside linebacker and defensive end for the Green Bay Packers, a team the Bears have had a lot of trouble beating in recent seasons. Including the teams’ NFC title encounter in 2010, Chicago has dropped seven of its last eight games versus Green Bay.

    Perhaps the biggest regret for the Bears is the fact that they will have to face their former teammate, who signed with the Green Bay Packers, at least twice a season for the foreseeable future.

Cincinnati Bengals: Signing T Marshall Newhouse

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    Associated Press

    In this day and age of free agency, building depth is a little difficult.

    The Cincinnati Bengals have managed to do that, at least on the defensive side of the football.

    This season, their depth on the offensive line will be tested.

    Tackle Anthony Collins spent six seasons with the Bengals and never played all 16 games. But this past season, he started eight games for Marvin Lewis’ club and earned high praise from Pro Football Focus. Last month, Collins signed a five-year, $30 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Cincinnati signed former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse this offseason and he certainly had ups and downs with his former team. It will be interesting to see what happens should Newhouse be pressed into starting duty.

Cleveland Browns: Putting Transition Tag on C Alex Mack

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    David Richard

    Talk about fluid?

    As reported by Jason La Canfora and summarized by CBS Sports colleague Josh Katzowitz, the Jacksonville Jaguars are busy dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s on a five-year offer sheet to Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, given the transition tag by the organization this offseason.

    Compared to the franchise tag in which a club would receive a pair of first-round picks for not equaling an offer sheet, the Browns would be due no compensation should they not match Jacksonville’s offer for Mack’s services.

    Which begs the question as to why Cleveland did not give their two-time Pro Bowl center the more expensive label when it came to playing tag?

    It will be interesting to see if there indeed will be a return of the Mack to the Browns.

Dallas Cowboys: Releasing DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware

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    Layne Murdoch

    During the vast majority of his career, outside linebacker/defensive end DeMarcus Ware epitomized reliability.

    Now the seven-time Pro Bowler is not where most Dallas Cowboys fans hoped he would. That would be no longer with the Cowboys.

    Unable to agree on a pay cut, the franchise cut loose the nine-year veteran last month. In nine years in Dallas, Ware totaled 117 sacks and was named to seven Pro Bowls. Until this past season, he had never missed a game. But injuries in 2013 shelved him for three contests and when it was all said and done, he wound up with a career-low six sacks.

    For a team that has been mediocre at best for nearly two decades, the decision to part ways with Ware remains more of a why.

Denver Broncos: Losing G Zane Beadles

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    Ed Zurga

    For a team that just went to the Super Bowl, the times are a-changing for the Denver Broncos.

    How so? Take a look at the starting lineup from the team’s 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks a little over two months ago at MetLife Stadium.

    Gone to other teams are running back Knowshon Moreno, wide receiver Eric Decker, cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey and defensive end Shaun Phillips. Free safety Mike Adams and middle linebacker Paris Lenon have not been re-signed.

    Also gone is left guard Zane Beadles, who took the long and winding road via free agency to Jacksonville in March. The one-time Pro Bowler started 62 out of 64 regular-season games with the Broncos. After an up-and-down 2013 season, Beadles was playing his best football late in the year.

    Keep in mind that Denver allowed a league-low 20 sacks and played most of the season without left tackle Ryan Clady.

    This departure may be the biggest one of all for the defending AFC champions.

    Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Detroit Lions: Releasing FS Louis Delmas

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    It is somewhat ironic that the only season that free safety Louis Delmas played all 16 games for the Detroit Lions proved to be his last with the organization.

    True, Delmas seemed to spend as much time on the sidelines as he did on the field. The fact is that he missed 15 games in his five seasons in the Motor City. The former second-round pick from 2009 totaled 10 takeaways and knocked down 24 passes in his tenure with the Lions.

    Delmas was released back in February, saving the team a reported $6 million in cap space, according to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com.

    Yes, it’s another new regime for the Lions with the hiring of head coach Jim Caldwell. Delmas is now a member of the Miami Dolphins. But was the release of the five-year pro the wisest of moves for a team that has reached the playoffs just once in the last 14 seasons?

Green Bay Packers: Losing C Evan Dietrich-Smith

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    Center Evan Dietrich-Smith was big factor in not only helping running back Eddie Lacy earn NFL Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, but was busy snapping the ball to four different Green Bay Packers starting quarterbacks this past season.

    Dietrich-Smith started all 16 games as well as the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. He will now be the starting center for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014.

    For numerous reasons, continuity along the Packers’ offensive front has been a problem area, and the numbers in terms of pass protection are hard to ignore.

    Dating back to 2009, the Packers have allowed a combined 216 sacks in 80 regular-season games. Minus Dietrich-Smith, protecting Aaron Rodgers just got a little harder for Mike McCarthy’s team.

Houston Texans: Releasing TE Owen Daniels

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It’s start-over time for the Houston Texans.

    Following consecutive AFC South titles and a 2-0 start this past season, the team brings a 14-game losing streak into 2014.

    It also brings new head coach Bill O’Brien and the first overall pick in May’s draft. Quarterback Matt Schaub was dealt to the Oakland Raiders and players such as running back Ben Tate and safety Danieal Manning are elsewhere as well.

    So is former Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels, released by the Texans and recently joining the Baltimore Ravens. The eight-year pro totaled 385 catches and 29 for scores in his days with Houston.

    And you might have figured if healthy in 2014 (Daniels missed 11 games this past season), he could have been a reliable target for whoever winds up playing quarterback for the club.

Indianapolis Colts: Signing ILB D’Qwell Jackson

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Are we nit-picking? At least hear us out.

    One of the first players released this offseason was inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, cut loose by the Cleveland Browns. He was also one of the first players signed this offseason as the Indianapolis Colts grabbed the veteran defender.

    But will Jackson cure what has surely ailed the Colts seemingly forever? This past season, Chuck Pagano’s club finished 26th in the league versus the run. Add in 384 yards rushing in the playoffs split with the Kansas City Chiefs (150 yards) and New England Patriots (234) and the “Help Wanted” sign is certainly out.

    As for Jackson, Pro Football Focus ranked 125 inside linebackers in 2013 and the veteran defender ranked 119 when it came to stopping the run. Was that all his fault? Was it due to the performance of the players up front? Was it a lot of both?

    We will find out soon enough if the addition of Jackson will be that much-needed solution.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Signing DE Ziggy Hood

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    Vincent Pugliese/Getty Images

    It was the right place but perhaps the wrong time.

    Defensive end Ziggy Hood was the final pick in the first round of the 2009 draft by the then-defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. He played every game for Mike Tomlin’s team each of the last five seasons but totaled only 11.5 sacks and, surprisingly, was never credited with a forced fumble.

    Admittedly, Hood joined a defensive front in Pittsburgh loaded with quality and experience. In fact, it’s almost deja vu for the five-year pro, as he will now call veterans such as Tyson Alualu, Jason Babin and fellow newcomers Chris Clemons and Red Bryant teammates with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Let’s see if Hood takes advantage of the talent around him this time around.

Kansas City Chiefs: Losing WR/PR Dexter McCluster

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Following a season in which they won two games and scored a league-low 211 points, the Kansas City Chiefs were a playoff team at 11-5 and more than doubled their point total (430).

    However, it is also worth mentioning that Andy Reid’s club scored 52 touchdowns in 2013 and 11 of those scores came via the defense or special teams.

    The Chiefs are going to miss versatile Dexter McCluster more than they may think. The four-year pro signed with the Tennessee Titans in March and figures to be a bigger part of a team’s running game than in year’s past.

    In four seasons with the Chiefs, he caught 172 passes for 1,500 yards but just five touchdowns. McCluster rushed for only 662 yards, 516 of those yards in 2011, but scored just one touchdown.

    In 2013, the former second-round selection ranked third on the Chiefs with a career-best 53 catches. McCluster also led the league in punt returns (58) and punt-return yardage (686), taking two kicks back for scores, and was named to the Pro Bowl.

    Be it as a threat on offense as well as special teams, don’t be shocked if new Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt gets plenty from McCluster in 2014.

Miami Dolphins: Signing CB Cortland Finnegan

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    Michael Thomas/Getty Images

    And now is the end near for veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan?

    The Miami Dolphins are certainly hoping not.

    The former Pro Bowl defender comes off a 2013 campaign cut short by injury. The St. Louis Rams placed Finnegan on injured reserve last November. And as NFL writer Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports discusses, the cornerback was having his issues performance-wise before going down to injury, a fact he acknowledged as well.

    When it was all said and done, you will find Finnegan ranked next-to-last in the league in terms of cornerback play in Pro Football Focus’ rankings from 2013.

    Was this past season just a hiccup for Finnegan? Dolphins fans may be holding their breath.

Minnesota Vikings: Losing DE Jared Allen

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Somehow it’s only fitting that veteran defensive end Jared Allen will get more opportunities to once again chase quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford at least twice a season.

    Unfortunately for the Minnesota Vikings, the 10-year pro will also be pursuing their signal-callers in 2014 as well.

    Allen’s career resume is impressive enough. The former Kansas City Chiefs and now ex-Vikings standout has totaled 128.5 career sacks, with 11 or more sacks in eight of those campaigns.

    More impressive was the five-time Pro Bowler’s six seasons with Minnesota. Allen never missed a game over that span and amassed 85.5 sacks in 96 regular-season appearances.

    As if rebounding from a 5-10-1 campaign isn’t enough, the Vikings will now have to deal with the pass-rushing terror more often than they possibly anticipated.

New England Patriots: Signing SS Patrick Chung

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Can you truly come home again?

    In all honesty, you seem to see this more and more around the NFL. A player leaves a team for supposedly greener pastures only to be released by that club. He then winds up returning to his former employer.

    Such is the case here for safety Patrick Chung, who took that greener pastures thing literally. A year after inking a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Birds cut him loose.  Chung totaled 59 tackles, knocked down three passes and recovered a fumble with Philadelphia in 2013.

    Notice there is no mention of any interceptions.

    Still, Chung is once again a member of the Patriots. New England ranked 26th in total defense last season (18th versus the pass), but a new-look secondary will eventually include new cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, the latter suspended for the first four games of 2014.

    Is Chung the answer at strong safety? He certainly knows the system. But one can’t help but think this is a short-term solution for the Pats.

New Orleans Saints: Not Re-Signing C Brian de la Puente

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Think playing quarterback in the NFL is a snap. It’s certainly made somewhat easier when you’ve gotten used to the guy giving you the ball on every play.

    That has basically been the case for veteran signal-caller Drew Brees the past three seasons. But the prolific passer will now have to get used to a new pivot now that Brian de la Puente is a member of the Chicago Bears. The former University of California product has been a 16-game starter each of the last two seasons, has started 44 of 48 games since 2011 and graded out pretty high by Pro Football Focus in 2013.

    The name atop the depth chart these days for Sean Payton’s club is Tim Lelito, who joined the team as an undrafted free agent a year ago via Grand Valley State.

    Is this the right move? Losing De la Puente can’t be a good thing. And we will see just how much that affects Brees in 2014.

New York Giants: Signing WR/KR Trindon Holliday

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    When it comes to excitement, few can match the play of kick return specialist Trindon Holliday, now a member of the New York Giants.

    Of course, it also depends on your definition of excitement.

    During the 2013 regular season with the Denver Broncos, the speedy specialist returned both a punt and kickoff for a score. Holliday also fumbled five times and turned it over twice during the season.

    So is that what Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was truly looking for? The veteran head coach can tell you something when it comes to special teams and how they can affect a game. Coughlin can also tell you something about turnovers. His team coughed it up 44 times the past season, the second time in four years the Giants have led the league in that dubious category.

    Holliday may prove to be no picnic for Big Blue in 2014.

New York Jets: Signing T Breno Giacomini

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offensive tackle Breno Giacomini earned a championship ring with the Seattle Seahawks just over two months ago when his Seattle Seahawks crushed the Denver Broncos, 43-8, in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium.

    Now can No. 68 be part of a team looking for its first league title since 1968?

    A fifth-round draft choice by the Green Bay Packers in 2008, Giacomini spent the last three seasons with the Seahawks, as in current New York Jets general manager John Idzik’s former employer. Giacomini started all 16 games just once over that span and missed seven games due to injury in 2013. His performance in Seattle was inconsistent at best, as noted by Pro Football Focus.

    With a dozen picks in May’s draft, is Giacomini nothing more than a stop-gap solution. A four-year, $18 million contract wouldn’t seem to indicate so. But his play will have to improve in 2014.

Oakland Raiders: Signing G/T Austin Howard

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The Oakland Raiders are still searching for their first winning season since 2002. When it comes to achieving that goal in 2014, it certainly won’t be for a lack of trying.

    General manager Reggie McKenzie has been very busy trading for quarterback Matt Schaub and adding familiar names in running back Maurice Jones-Drew, defensive end Justin Tuck and wide receiver James Jones to name a few.

    The Raiders also added talent up front in the form of tackle Donald Penn and guard Kevin Boothe, as well as former New York Jets right tackle Austin Howard.

    But apparently the plan is to start Howard at guard, according to Vic Tafur of SFGate.com. At right tackle this past season for the Jets, Howard had his ups and downs, and many of the downs came later in the season, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Perhaps the Raiders should be on guard when it comes to this somewhat-surprising move.

Philadelphia Eagles: Signing FS Malcolm Jenkins

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The final numbers show that the Philadelphia Eagles gave up the most passing yards in the league and surrendered 25 touchdown passes in 2013.

    This past season, free safety Malcolm Jenkins totaled 68 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a pair of interceptions, two forced fumbles and six passes defensed for the New Orleans Saints, the league’s second-ranked pass defense.

    By season’s end, it appeared both parties were headed in different directions. That turned out to be literally for Jenkins. The former first-round pick left the Crescent City for the City of Brotherly Love this offseason.

    Will Jenkins, who had his struggles with the Saints, prove to be a big-time pickup for Chip Kelly and Co.? Given the passing attacks of the NFC East, we will be finding out sooner than later. And will the five-year veteran wind up with more sacks than interceptions once again? Stay tuned.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Losing WR Jerricho Cotchery

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    USA TODAY Sports

    During the course of both the 2013 and 2014 offseasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a pair of their own when it came to homegrown wideouts.

    Both Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders were one-time third-round draft choices. Now they’re both one-time Steelers, the former signing with the Miami Dolphins a year ago and the latter inking a deal with the Denver Broncos in March.

    Head coach Mike Tomlin and his team has very high hopes for another third-round pick in wideout Markus Wheaton, who was limited as a rookie this past season due to injury.

    However, losing veteran Jerricho Cotchery could be a bigger blow than one might think. The savvy receiver had made a habit of making the tough catch look easy. This past season with the Steelers, he totaled 46 catches for 602 yards and a team-high 10 scores.

    Replacing that kind of end-zone production won’t be easy as well.

St. Louis Rams: Signing WR Kenny Britt

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    Wade Payne

    Will a familiar face get the most out of a former first-round disappointment?

    One-time Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt is going to get that chance thanks to current St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.

    Britt recently signed a one-year, $1.4 million contract with a club that, like his Titans, finished 7-9 in 2013. And it’s a chance for the former Rutgers University product to save some face. The 30th overall selection in the 2009 NFL draft played in all 16 games in his rookie campaign and totaled 42 catches for 701 yards and three scores.

    He was even better a season later despite missing four games. Britt once again totaled 42 catches but totaled 775 yards and nine touchdowns, both career highs to this day. However, the talented receiver missed most of 2011 with a knee injury. Britt has played in just 29 games the past three seasons, including just 12 contests this past season. In 2013, he caught only 11 passes.

    Britt is hoping he gives the Titans something to remember in 2014. And this time, for all of the right reasons.

San Diego Chargers: Signing TE David Johnson

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Don't get us wrong. It’s hard not to like what the San Diego Chargers have done as of late.

    That would be late as in dating back to December. After a 5-7 start in 2013, the Bolts went a little nuts in terms of winning. Mike McCoy’s club ran the table the final four weeks of the regular season, grabbed a Wild Card berth and won a road playoff game at Cincinnati before falling to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.

    The team’s game plan helped keep opposing offenses off the field while quarterback Philip Rivers limited his mistakes.

    Was it a mistake to sign former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end David Johnson? He fits the mold in terms of being a physical player that epitomizes San Diego’s offense but has had trouble staying on the field each of the last two seasons. Johnson missed all of 2012 due to injury, as Ricky Henne of Chargers.com spells out.

San Francisco 49ers: Signing CB Chris Cook

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    USA TODAY Sports

    A second-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2010, cornerback Chris Cook will be looking for his first NFL interception as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 2014.

    The Niners are certainly hoping so. They may need him more than they perhaps anticipated.

    Cook played in just 34 games in four seasons with the Vikings and totaled only 13 passes defensed. In 2013, he played in a career-high 12 games, totaled 47 tackles and knocked down two passes.

    While a one-year, $730,000 contract wont’ break the Niners’ bank, the amount of playing time perhaps expected by Cook may have changed.

    With the release of veteran Carlos Rogers and the free-agent departure of Tarell Brown, both now with the Oakland Raiders, along with Chris Culliver’s off-the-field issues (the latest from Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee), we'll soon find out if Cook was the right choice or if this is simply a recipe for disaster.

Seattle Seahawks: Losing DT Clinton McDonald

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks have a few nooks and crannies to fill if free safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman and the league’s top-ranked defensive unit is to once again look the part in 2014.

    Seattle finished tied for seventh in the league in rushing defense, allowing 101.6 yards per game on the ground. However, that number is somewhat deceptive considering seven of the Seahawks’ opponents ran for at least 130 yards in 2013.

    That being said, it was surprising that the champs didn’t do more to retain defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, especially after the Seahawks had already parted ways with run-stopping defensive end Red Bryant. The former signed a four-year, $12 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while Bryant joined the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Is Pete Carroll’s team stout enough up front to overcome the loss of McDonald as well as Bryant? The rest of the NFC West will certainly be testing that theory.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Releasing CB Darrelle Revis

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Roughly a year ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave up a first-round pick in 2013 and what would amount to a fourth-round selection next month for New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.

    Little did the team know at that time that Revis’ tenure in Tampa would equal one of John Calipari’s star basketball players at the University of Kentucky.

    Due $16 million in 2014 and with a new regime, it was seemingly a slam dunk that these Bucs wouldn’t be giving the Pro Bowler those bucks. Now the New England Patriots and skipper Bill Belichick are the owners of “Revis Island” courtesy of a one-year, $12 million deal.

    The Buccaneers have been busier than any team in the league this offseason, adding cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins to a team that has allowed exactly 30 scoring passes each of the last three seasons. Still, the decision to part ways with a proven Pro Bowler could come back and cost Lovie Smith and the club, who opted to let go of the multi-millionaire.

Tennessee Titans: Signing T Michael Oher

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    USA TODAY Sports

    This offseason, the Tennessee Titans released longtime right tackle David Stewart.

    This season, they are counting on a former first-round pick to fill his cleats.

    But can tackle Michael Oher recapture the form that once made him a very promising performer.

    With new head coach Ken Whisenhunt at the helm, the power running game will be a big part of the Tennessee offense. Oher knows a little something about stressing the ground attack having played with the Baltimore Ravens and running back Ray Rice the previous five seasons.

    Was last season's erratic performance a sign of things to come? Oher is Michael in for a bounce back season? Not sure if the massive tackle gets the benefit of the doubt at the moment.

Washington Redskins: Releasing C Will Montgomery

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    Michael Perez

    Between quarterback Robert Griffin III and newly-arrived wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the Washington Redskins aren’t hurting when it comes to performers that will be the center of attention.

    They are hurting, per se, when it comes to finding a center these days. And that certainly has some people’s attention.

    The Redskins opted to release center Will Montgomery this offseason. According to Pro Football Focus, he played 1,172 snaps this past season and graded out as the league’s 15th-ranked center in 2013. Now he’s out and the Denver Broncos wasted little time scooping him up.

    So what’s the solution? Is it moving guard Kory Lichtensteiger? Is recently-signed swingman Mike McGlynn the answer? Is Wes Unseld available?

    It’s just one more thing on new head coach Jay Gruden’s plate in 2014.

     

    All available free-agent information as well as contract terms are provided by Spotrac (subscription required). Statistical support comes via Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and ESPN.com.