Projecting 2013 Stats for the NFL Top 25 Offseason Acquisitions
We are smack in the middle of the 2013 NFL preseason. We are now less than 30 days away from the start of the regular season.
Ain’t it fun?
It certainly will be as the National Football League prepares for another thrilling and unpredictable season. So why not take an early look at what teams benefitted the most from their offseason shopping expeditions?
For the purposes of this piece, acquisitions means free agent signings or a player obtained via trade. This list does not include any 2013 draft choices.
In terms of full disclosure, we did do some projected stats for running backs in mid-July and won’t stray too far from those numbers. And in the process of pointing out some of the top moves by teams, we’ll also rank the top pickups from good to best.
Finally, thanks to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) for their statistical assist.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars DT Roy Miller (from Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Forced Fumbles: 2
Analysis: What exactly happened to the Jacksonville Jaguars last season?
The offense has been an issue as of late. But a once-promising defensive unit came apart in 2012. Only five teams in the league gave up fewer yards than the Jaguars the previous season and the team ranked in the Top 10 against both the run and the pass.
But a year ago, only the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants gave up more total yards than this club, which also ranked 30th in run defense.
Meanwhile, for any number of reasons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave up the fewest rushing yards in the league in 2012 and defensive tackle Roy Miller was a big part of that. And he should be a major component in head coach Gus Bradley’s rebuilding plan.
24. Chicago Bears TE Martellus Bennett (from New York Giants)
Receiving: 68 receptions, 802 yards, 6 touchdowns
Analysis: The Brandon Marshall plan worked very well in Chicago last season.
Just not good enough.
The 2012 Bears’ passing attack was mainly a pitch-and-catch exercise between Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler. The Pro Bowl wide receiver caught 118 passes, and the rest of the team totaled 169 receptions. Marshall totaled 11 touchdown receptions, and the remainder of the Bears caught 10 passes for scores.
While second-year wideout Alshon Jeffery needs to step up this season, new head coach Marc Trestman is also counting on help from free agent pickup Martellus Bennett. The promising tight end caught a career-high 55 passes for the New York Giants last season, and his five touchdown receptions were one more than he totaled his first four years in the league.
Look for Bennett to surpass those figures in 2013.
23. Philadelphia Eagles OLB Connor Barwin (from Houston Texans)
Passes Defensed: 4
Forced Fumbles: 3
Analysis: There was very little brotherly love for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012.
The perennial contender got off to a 3-1 start and then proceeded to lose 11 of its last 12 games. The 4-12 finish was the team’s worst since 1998, when the Birds finished 3-13 the year prior to the arrival of head coach Andy Reid.
Now Reid is gone and with new head coach Chip Kelly, all eyes have been focused on the Philadelphia offense and who will be the starting quarterback.
But what about the defense? The Eagles will switch to a 3-4 under new coordinator Billy Davis, and the addition of outside linebacker Connor Barwin hopes to make that transition easier. The former Houston Texans defender totaled only 3.5 sacks in 2012 after amassing 11.5 sacks the previous season. Of course, Barwin’s personal numbers dwindled a bit because of the impact of defensive end J.J. Watt.
In any case, look for Barwin to rebound this season and his sack total to wind up somewhere in between.
22. Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith (from San Francisco 49ers)
Completion Pct.: 63.5
Passing Yards: 3,341
Touchdown Passes: 20
Analysis: It’s time for more change for quarterback Alex Smith.
The former first overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers, Smith went through his share of head coaches and numerous offensive coordinators throughout his days with the team.
That all changed in terms of stability with the hiring of head coach Jim Harbaugh in 2011, and Smith began developing into an effective quarterback. Those who used the word “game manager” like it was a four-letter word had to marvel at his performance in the 2011 divisional playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, where he played an outstanding fourth quarter in the 36-32 comeback win.
Now, less than two years later, Smith once again has a new head coach and this time a new team. He was dealt to the Kansas City Chiefs back in March as the Colin Kaepernick era is alive and well in the Bay Area.
Smith should thrive under Andy Reid and it is worth pointing out that he completed 70.2 percent of his passes in his final season with the Niners. And you can look for him to set a new career-high with 20 touchdown passes in 2013.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Darrelle Revis (from New York Jets)
Passes Defensed: 19
Forced Fumbles: 1
Analysis: When you give up the most passing yards in the league last season, there’s obviously a need for assistance.
Over the last five seasons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have fallen and never seem to get up when it comes to stopping teams through the air. The lack of a consistent pass rush has been perhaps the biggest issue, and it’s hard to tell if that’s been rectified.
So why not get one of the best cornerbacks in the league, even if he is coming off a season in which he missed the final 13 games with a knee injury?
So Tampa Bay now has a new island…as in Revis Island. The former Pro Bowler was picked up from the Jets in a trade in April. He and free agent free safety Dashon Goldson come to a team that has totaled 133 sacks while allowing 134 touchdown passes over the last five seasons.
There’s no doubt Revis will be busy in 2013, especially when it comes to facing a steady diet of quarterbacks such as Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Cam Newton. And we’ll find out soon enough if he’s still the same old Revis.
20. Detroit Lions SS Glover Quin (from Houston Texans)
Passes Defensed: 9
Forced Fumbles: 4
Analysis: In four seasons with the Houston Texans, defensive back Glover Quin played in all but one game for the team. And that was during his rookie year in 2009.
The Detroit Lions would be ecstatic with that kind of consistency. In recent seasons, the team has had trouble keeping their secondary healthy. From cornerback Chris Houston to free safety Louis Delmas, injuries have been a big part of the team’s defensive woes.
And that’s why Quin figures to be such an asset, that and the fact that the former cornerback turned safety gives head coach Jim Schwartz some versatility.
With question marks surrounding the Lions pass rush, Schwartz will need all the help he can get from the defensive backfield.
19. Atlanta Falcons DE Osi Umenyiora (from New York Giants)
Passes Defensed: 5
Forced Fumbles: 3
Analysis: Last season, the Atlanta Falcons were co-owners of the best record in the NFL.
But they also fell short of getting to the Super Bowl. And many blame the defense for the team’s failure to win a championship.
One factor last season was the lack of a pass rush. The Falcons totaled a mere 29 sacks, and 10 of them were courtesy of defensive end John Abraham. But the team parted ways with the veteran defender, who recently signed with the Arizona Cardinals.
Enter former New York Giants Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora, who will duplicate Abraham’s performance of a year ago in 2013.
But will that be enough this season? It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Mike Nolan decides to play this.
18. Miami Dolphins WR Mike Wallace (from Pittsburgh Steelers)
Receiving: 64 receptions, 1,188 yards, 8 touchdowns
Analysis: Following a Pro Bowl campaign in 2011 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, wide receiver Mike Wallace’s play slid a bit in 2012.
Now he’s opted to slide all the way down to the state of Florida. Wallace signed a big ticket contract with the Miami Dolphins this offseason and hopes to bring his big-play act to a team that hasn’t enjoyed a winning campaign or playoff appearance since 2008.
A year ago, Wallace caught eight touchdown passes for the second straight season and totaled only eight fewer receptions. But his yards per reception dipped from 16.6 in 2011 to just 13.1 in 2012.
But it’s a new season and a new team. And look for Wallace in part to remedy what ails the Dolphins 26th-ranked passing attack from a year ago and for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be a very happy camper.
17. Kansas City Chiefs CB Sean Smith (from Miami Dolphins)
Passes Defensed: 15
Forced Fumbles: 2
Analysis: In four seasons with the Miami Dolphins, cornerback Sean Smith showed that he could cover his share of talented receivers.
Smith also showed that when it came to catching the football, there was a reason he became a defensive back and not a wideout.
While Smith averaged roughly 10 passes defensed per season, he totaled a mere five interceptions in four seasons with his old club. Now he comes to the Kansas City Chiefs, which totaled only seven interceptions as a team in 2012.
Smith will once again get his hands on his share of passes in 2013. Only this season, he will be hanging on to them.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers RB/KR LaRod Stephens-Howling (Arizona Cardinals)
Rushing: 21 attempts, 112 yards, 0 touchdowns
Receiving: 12 receptions, 143 yards, 1 touchdown
Kickoff Returns: 37 attempts, 977 yards, 2 touchdowns
Analysis: An under-the-radar addition?
The talk in Pittsburgh Steelers’ camp these days, in terms of the running game, surrounds the performance of rookie Le’Veon Bell. The second-round pick in April has been a standout and could be the opening-day starter when the team faces the Tennessee Titans.
Veteran running back LaRod Stephens-Howling led the Arizona Cardinals in rushing in 2012, hardly anything to get excited about considering he totaled only 356 yards for the league’s worst-ranked ground game. But the one-time University of Pittsburgh product’s return to the Steel City will be a productive one because of what he can do on kickoff returns.
Look for head coach Mike Tomlin to utilize Stephens-Howlings on all aspects of the special teams and for his impact to be significant.
15. Chicago Bears T Jermon Bushrod (from New Orleans Saints)
Sacks Allowed: 5
Analysis: General manager Phil Emery and new head coach Marc Trestman are bound and determined to get the Chicago Bears back on track in terms of the playoffs.
And that’s why the emphasis this season was placed very highly on protecting quarterback Jay Cutler, who has been injured and not started all 16 games each of the last three seasons.
Two-time Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod is a big part of that movement. The former New Orleans Saints left tackle got better as time wore on. He allowed just four sacks in 2012 and a total of 11 sacks over the last three seasons. As a rookie in 2009, Bushrod gave up nine sacks during the team’s Super Bowl season.
Along with fellow newcomers free-agent guard Matt Slauson and rookie guard Kyle Long, Bushrod and a new-look front hope to keep Cutler out of harm’s way. And that’s easier said than done against the pass-rushers in the NFC North.
14. Denver Broncos WR Wes Welker (from New England Patriots)
Receiving: 81 receptions, 1,003 yards, 7 touchdowns
Analysis: What more can you say about the league’s most prolific pass-catcher over the last six seasons?
Welcome to the Denver Broncos.
In his half-dozen campaigns with the New England Patriots, Wes Welker totaled 672 receptions, an average of 112 catches per season. He totaled 100-plus receptions in five of those years and is the only player in NFL history to reach the c-note in catches in a season that many times.
Now paired with quarterback Peyton Manning, you have to figure Welker is good for another 100-catch season. With receivers such as Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker at his disposal, Manning has plenty of options and don’t be surprised if Thomas or Decker gets to 100 catches and not Welker.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s not another 1,000-yard campaign in Welker’s immediate future.
13. Arizona Cardinals RB Rashard Mendenhall (from Pittsburgh Steelers)
Rushing: 239 attempts, 892 yards, 7 touchdowns
Receiving: 33 receptions, 301 yards, 2 touchdowns
Analysis: It’s not only a new start for the Arizona Cardinals, but it’s a fresh start for a former first-round draft pick.
Rashard Mendenhall was the Pittsburgh Steelers initial pick in 2008 and after a shoulder injury cut short his rookie season, he made his mark the next two years with a pair of 1,000-yard showing. And he looked like he would get there again in 2011 before a knee injury in the season finale shelved him for the playoffs and limited him severely in 2012.
But Mendenhall is now more than a year removed from that injury and also removed from the Steel City, signing with the Cardinals this offseason. And with new head coach Bruce Arians at the helm (the duo were in Pittsburgh together), it is second-chance time for the former Steelers runner.
It’s almost tempting to predict that Mendenhall will rush for 1,205 yards this season, one more yard than the Cardinals had as a team in 2012.
But you have to walk before you can…run.
12. Cleveland Browns OLB Paul Kruger (from Baltimore Ravens)
Passes Defensed: 3
Forced Fumbles: 2
Analysis: Very quietly, the Cleveland Browns defense comes off an effective 2012 campaign.
With some key additions, most notably the arrival of coordinator Ray Horton, this could be an outstanding unit in 2013.
He and the addition of outside linebacker Paul Kruger. The former Baltimore Ravens defender led the team with 9.0 sacks in the regular season and 4.5 sacks in the playoffs.
Now he takes his act to Cleveland, where the Browns still need some help. Cleveland did total 38 sacks and forced 29 turnovers in 2012, but Kruger can help Horton bolster those totals.
And we just may be hearing from this team this season.
11. Indianapolis Colts WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (from Oakland Raiders)
Receiving: 65 receptions, 1,221 yards, 7 touchdowns
Analysis: In 2009, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was the seventh overall pick in the draft and caught nine passes in 11 games for the Oakland Raiders.
You would almost hope that those numbers were a lie.
The speedy wideout has progressed since that rookie season and over the last two seasons he totaled a combined 105 receptions, nine for touchdowns. Still, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie deemed him expendable.
But look for Oakland’s loss to be the Indianapolis Colts gain. And all it will take is a lot of skill from quarterback Andrew Luck to turn Heyward-Bey into a 1,000-yard receiver.
And unless the Colts defense makes major strides this year, Luck and company are going to need all the help that they can get.
10. Houston Texans P Shane Lechler (from Oakland Raiders)
Punting: 48.1 average, 23 kicks inside-the-20
Analysis: The Houston Texans weren’t very busy during free agency because they didn’t have to be. But the opportunity to pick up one of the game’s great specialist was a no-brainer.
In 13 seasons with the Oakland Raiders, Shane Lechler totaled 1,014 punts and averaged 47.5 yards per kick. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro in 13 seasons with the Silver and Black and now returns to the Lone Star State. Lechler was a fifth-round draft choice in 2000 from Texas A&M.
It figures to be a very happy homecoming in 2013.
9. Atlanta Falcons RB Steven Jackson (from St. Louis Rams)
Rushing: 230 attempts, 945 yards, 5 touchdowns
Receiving: 41 receptions, 401 yards, 3 touchdowns
Analysis: Look for Steven Jackson to be a big part of the Atlanta Falcons passing attack this season.
Yes, the defending NFC South champions signed the St. Louis Rams workhorse to replace Michael Turner. But Jackson’s receiving skills are part of the reason he’s landed in Atlanta. Led by quarterback Matt Ryan, the pass has become a bigger factor in the team’s offense.
And when you consider that Turner totaled only one touchdown reception in nine seasons with the Falcons and San Diego Chargers, Jackson was a logical replacement. Still, look for the former Pro Bowl runner to see his streak of consecutive seasons with 1,000-plus yards rushing end at eight.
8. Miami Dolphins TE Dustin Keller (from New York Jets)
Receiving: 71 receptions, 734 yards, 5 touchdowns
Analysis: Last season, not much went right for the New York Jets.
Ditto tight end Dustin Keller.
The former first-round draft choice caught a career-low 28 passes for New York in 2012. That’s because Keller played in a career-low eight games last season. Prior to that, the tight end was indeed reliable, playing in all 16 games each of this first four years.
From 2008-11, Keller averaged better than 50 catches per season, including a career-high 65 grabs in 2011.
Second-year Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will take full advantage of his newest toy and he received a number of them this offseason with the additions of wide receivers Mike Wallace, and Brandon Gibson.
But look for Keller to lead the Dolphins in catches and establish a new career-high in receptions in the process.
7. Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (from Miami Dolphins)
Rushing: 198 attempts, 864 yards, 6 touchdowns
Receiving: 55 receptions, 612 yards, 4 touchdowns
Analysis: Running back Reggie Bush was part of a Super Bowl championship team when he was with the New Orleans Saints.
But the last two seasons with the Miami Dolphins may prove to be even more beneficial in the long run.
In his five seasons with the Saints, Bush was more known for his big-play ability as a pass-catcher and punt returner. However, he ran for more than 1,000 yards in his first season with the Dolphins in 2011 and just missed that figure last season.
Now Bush teams with running backs Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell and gives quarterback Matthew Stafford another weapon capable of the big play every time he touches the ball. And that may be early and often for the Detroit Lions in 2013.
6. Tennessee Titans G Andy Levitre (from Buffalo Bills)
Team Rushing: 141.6 yards per game, 17 rushing touchdowns
Analysis: The Tennessee Titans showed plenty of promise under first-year head coach Mike Munchak in 2011.
Unfortunately, they were anything but promising in 2012.
The team fell to 6-10 and allowed the most points in a season in team history. And there seemed to be something missing from a club traditionally known for its physical play.
So it’s back-to-basics time for Munchak and his club. And what better way for the Pro Football Hall of Fame guard to be on his guard(s). The signing of Andy Levitre, a steady force on the Buffalo Bills’ offensive fronts, and the drafting of Chance Warmack in the first round in April should add a lot of oomph to the Tennessee ground attack.
That and a big year from running back Chris Johnson, as well as new backfield mate Shonn Greene. Johnson ran for 2,006 yards in 2009 but the Titans haven’t totaled that as a team in each of the last three seasons.
5. San Diego Chargers RB Danny Woodhead (from New England Patriots)
Rushing: 62 attempts, 243 yards, 3 touchdowns
Receiving: 60 receptions, 536 yards, 3 touchdowns
Analysis: It’s been a rough two seasons for the San Diego Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers.
The Bolts have failed to post a winning campaign each of the last two years. The former Pro Bowl quarterback has also struggled with ball security over that time. Rivers has committed 47 of the team’s 54 turnovers since 2011.
It also now doesn’t help that he will be without wide receiver Danario Alexander, who tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions last season (seven) despite playing in only 10 games.
Enter running back Danny Woodhead, who will wind up being an excellent option for Rivers. And when you consider he will be playing behind a new-look offensive line this season (Rivers was sacked 49 times in 2012), getting the ball to the former New England Patriots running back will be essential.
4. Minnesota Vikings WR Greg Jennings (from Green Bay Packers)
Receiving: 65 receptions, 1,134 yards, 6 touchdowns
Analysis: You don’t have to be brainwashed to realize that the Minnesota Vikings needed to improve their passing game this season.
Only the Kansas City Chiefs ranked lower in passing offense this past season, and quarterback Christian Ponder has taken his lumps after an erratic 2012 season.
But the addition of wide receiver Greg Jennings should go a long way to rectifying that situation. The team dealt versatile Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks this offseason, but Jennings is the better outright wide receiver. His rapport in recent years with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was evident.
And now he hopes to establish the same kind of relationship with Ponder.
3. Tennessee Titans SS Bernard Pollard (from Baltimore Ravens)
Passes Defensed: 6
Forced Fumbles: 3
Analysis: If it wasn’t the biggest hit in the NFL in 2012, then there is a very short list.
Then-Baltimore Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard knocked out New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley in January’s AFC title at Foxborough. The Ravens were on their way to a 28-13 win and en route to a victory in Super Bowl XLVII.
While Pollard is known for his physicality, he’s also a highly productive performer. He led Baltimore in tackles last season and now brings his hard-hitting style to Nashville. The Tennessee Titans come off a 6-10 record and allowed the most points in the NFL last season.
That latter fact should change significantly with Pollard in the secondary.
2. Baltimore Ravens OLB Elvis Dumervil (from Denver Broncos)
Passes Defensed: 6
Forced Fumbles: 6
Analysis: Somehow the Denver Broncos allowed Pro Bowler Elvis Dumervil to leave the building.
Those are the “fax.”
That’s the past. Now the standout defender is hoping to assist the Baltimore Ravens in their attempt to defend their Super Bowl title. In six seasons on the field, Dumervil has totaled 63.5 sacks and his versatility is a big plus. In 2009, he led the NFL with 17.0 sacks playing right outside linebacker for the Broncos.
That’s the role he will assume with the Ravens, where he’ll now pair with 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs. And Dumervil will live up to billing, giving John Harbaugh’s club some much-needed defensive leadership on a unit now missing some of its most storied stars.
1. San Francisco 49ers WR Anquan Boldin (from Baltimore Ravens)
Receiving: 78 receptions, 943 yards, 7 touchdowns
Analysis: Well, if you can beat them, join them.
Then again, it wasn’t like wide receiver Anquan Boldin had much of a choice.
On the way to being a salary cap casualty with the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, the productive wideout was dealt to the San Francisco 49ers this offseason for a sixth-round draft choice.
Boldin led the Ravens in receiving during both the regular season and postseason in 2012. That latter total included six catches for 104 yards and a score in the team’s 34-31 win over the Niners in Super Bowl XLVII.
Now Boldin hopes to do for one Harbaugh (Jim) what he did for another (John): win a championship. And with quarterback Colin Kaepernick now minus his favorite receiver in Michael Crabtree indefinitely due to injury, Boldin’s presence is even more significant.
In his return to the NFC West, where he began his career with the Arizona Cardinals, Boldin will not disappoint. And wouldn’t a Super Bowl clash with the Ravens make things even more interesting in 2013?