NFL Free Agency 2011: 5 Teams That Minimized Free Agency Needs Through Draft
With the lockout gripping the NFL for an indefinite period of time, the 2011 draft took on greater importance for the future of many teams.
No one knows exactly when and how long free agency will happen. And uncertainty breeds panic among many organizations (yes Washington Redskins, I mean you).
It's not a smart move to count on signing free agents during this lockout-shortened offseason. The shrewd move was to address needs as much as possible during the only sure thing in the NFL since the Super Bowl: the draft.
So with the draft behind us, let's take a look at the teams who did the most to minimize their needs in free agency by hitting in the draft. Most of the teams that made the list were the ones who drafted players I think can contribute, if not immediately, then very soon.
Clearly the Carson Palmer situation puts a need at quarterback, and there stands a fair chance that Cincinnati will still have to pluck a signal caller from free agency.
That said, they did get one of the most playable rookie quarterbacks in the draft with Andy Dalton from TCU. He's intelligent and will probably see time this season, though maybe not immediately.
On top of that, they filled a need at receiver since they were likely to part ways with TO and Chad Ochocinco, adding Georgia standout A.J. Green with the fourth overall pick and former Andrew Luck target Ryan Whalen in the sixth round.
The Bengals offensive line was supplemented with the Clint Boling pick, who could turn into a capable player protecting whoever the starting quarterback is.
Cinci also boosted their defense by snagging Dontay Moch who destroyed the combine and Korey Lindsey might potentially be a contributor down the road.
The problem for Houston has not been their offense, especially after last season's emergence of Arian Foster.
The issue has undoubtedly been the defense, where the Texans leaked touchdowns last season to the extent that it sunk their season even when they had a quarterback who threw for more than 4000 yards and a running back who gained 1600 yards.
To remedy that, they addressed many of their needs by acquiring help at all levels.
J.J. Watt will bolster an already formidable defensive line and Brooks Reed will fly off the edge at the quarterback.
And three defensive backs (Brandon Harris, Rashad Carmichael and Shiloh Keo) will add toughness and athleticism to a secondary that struggled like few others in the NFL in the 2010 season.
Let's be honest, the Indianapolis Colts pretty much know what they have right now.
With Peyton Manning calling the signals, they have a surefire meal-ticket and guarantor for the playoffs until No. 18 retires.
The obvious caveat is whether or not Peyton can still healthy.
Which brings us to their number one priority that they would have filled via free agency: offensive line.
While they could have waited for free agency and the possibility of over-spending on a mediocre veteran, the Colts hierarchy didn't whiff on this one in the draft, taking Anthony Castonzo and Benjamin Ijalana to protect the living personification of their franchise.
It wasn't rocket science. Well played Indy, well played.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs addressed a myriad of needs by picking a different position with virtually every selection they had in the draft.
Jonathan Baldwin may have the ability to contribute right away, which would mitigate the need for K.C. to overpay for a more experienced wide receiver (a position which has one of the highest rates of "free agent busts" of any in the game).
Adding guys like Justin Houston and Allen Bailey makes their defense younger and faster.
Heck, they even filled out their quarterback roster by taking Ricky Stanzi from Iowa in the fifth round.
New York Jets
I debated adding them to the list, if only because they still have a need at the safety position. Then again, what team doesn't have a need going into free agency?
The fact is the Jets added literally a ton of talent on defense with their first two picks. Ok, maybe they don't collectively weigh a ton, but they are big guys there's no doubt.
And they can play too, whether rushing the passer (which will instantly endear them too Rex Ryan) or simply plugging up space in the middle (which Kenrick Ellis is very proficient at).
On top of that, adding reliable runner Bilal Powell and sneaky good receiver Jeremy Kerley will ease whatever worries they had about holding onto all of their skill players.
Basically, it turns the table in the negotiations with guys like Tomlinson and Brad Smith, who are now much more superfluous than they were before the draft.