LeSean McCoy and NFL free agency is but an appetizer.
As exciting as things are—such as the Philadelphia Eagles shipping Shady to Buffalo, per ESPN's Adam Schefter—it's all just a buildup to the main course, the 2015 NFL draft.
So it goes every year. Trades, while perhaps not as noteworthy, change the complexion of the league. Then the market opens, when teams decide whether a veteran stopgap is a better decision than an impressionable rookie.
It all leads up to what is arguably the most popular event in the sporting world, one this year that is strong in key areas such as defenders who can rush the passer and wideouts who can change games on their own.
The next few weeks and change will provide an interesting case study as to how free agency affects the first round of the draft. For now, things stand like so.
2015 NFL Mock Draft
|1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State|
|2||Tennessee Titans||Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska|
|4||Oakland Raiders||Leonard Williams, DL, USC|
|5||Washington Redskins||Alvin Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky|
|6||New York Jets||Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama|
|7||Chicago Bears||Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida|
|8||Atlanta Falcons||Shane Ray, DE, Missouri|
|9||New York Giants||La'el Collins, OL, LSU|
|10||St. Louis Rams||Marcus Peters, CB, Washington|
|11||Minnesota Vikings||Kevin White, WR, West Virginia|
|12||Cleveland Browns||DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville|
|13||New Orleans Saints||Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson|
|14||Miami Dolphins||Danny Shelton, DT, Washington|
|15||San Francisco 49ers||Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State|
|16||Houston Texans||Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa|
|17||San Diego Chargers||A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina|
|18||Kansas City Chiefs||Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma|
|19||Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo)||Arik Armstead, DE/OLB, Oregon|
|20||Philadelphia Eagles||Landon Collins, SS, Alabama|
|21||Cincinnati Bengals||Malcom Brown, DT, Texas|
|22||Pittsburgh Steelers||Owamagbe Odighizuwa, OLB, UCLA|
|23||Detroit Lions||Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State|
|24||Arizona Cardinals||Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia|
|25||Carolina Panthers||Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford|
|26||Baltimore Ravens||Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State|
|27||Dallas Cowboys||Jalen Collins, CB, LSU|
|28||Denver Broncos||Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami|
|29||Indianapolis Colts||Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington|
|30||Green Bay Packers||Carl Davis, DL, Iowa|
|31||Seattle Seahawks||Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma|
|32||New England Patriots||Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota|
Where Free Agency Most Impacts 1st Round
Washington's Need for Defense
Were it not for a strong season by Ryan Kerrigan (13.5 sacks), Washington would have been one of the worst teams in the league in terms of rushing the passer.
To make matters worse, even he could not prevent the defense as a whole from ranking 24th against the pass, something that will only get worse in a pass-happy division that includes many elite offensive weapons.
Now it sounds as if Jay Gruden's team will also lose veteran pass-rusher Brian Orakpo to free agency, too, as Dianna Marie Russini of NBC4 details:
Orakpo registered just half a sack over the course of seven games this past season, but the fact Washington is still in negotiations for the veteran speaks volumes as to how the front office views the situation.
In short, Washington wants to keep a complement to Kerrigan on board.
If it's not Orakpo, it may need to be a rookie such as Alvin Dupree at No. 5 overall. Now, there's nothing wrong with grabbing a freak athlete who measured in at 6'4" and 269 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine before running a 4.56 40-yard dash and recording a 42-inch vertical and 138-inch broad jump.
But being forced into selecting a defender in that area means Washington will miss out on a potential top offensive target or perhaps an elite interior defender, not to mention Dupree's high selection would have a serious ripple effect on the rest of the round.
Plugging Holes in Miami
Pop quiz time—name the defenders on the interior of the Miami Dolphins' line.
Exactly. The Dolphins have one of the more obvious free agency and draft needs this year, especially with Jared Odrick on the way to free agency.
Know who else is on the way to free agency? Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, after the team elected not to slap him with the franchise tag before Monday's deadline.
Wildly enough, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network suggests Miami as a potential suitor for Suh:
The proverbial shoe certainly fits. Miami is not afraid to blow cash on the market (Mike Wallace, anyone?) and not only does adding Suh improve the rest of the defense, it might give the front office more wiggle room at No. 14 overall.
The thing is Miami will be far from alone in its potential pursuit of Suh, not to mention other big names such as Denver's Terrance Knighton.
If the Dolphins learned anything from the Wallace debacle, it's that winning free agency does not necessarily produce wins elsewhere. Instead, the team could use a relatively high pick on a prospect such as Washington's Danny Shelton, who proved his size (6'2", 339 pounds) and athleticism recently at the combine.
Keep a close eye on the Dolphins. A 24th-ranked rush defense that loses players to free agency needs addressed, and if it's not free agency, it'll be at No. 14 overall.
Weapons in Baltimore
While a 23rd-ranked pass defense demands action this offseason, the Baltimore Ravens will need to keep focus on a leakage of talent on the opposite side of the football, too.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith is on the way to free agency, and while he wasn't the No. 1 receiver in town last year, his 49 catches for 767 yards and 11 scores, as well as his ability to stretch defenses deep and open up things for others, will be missed.
Smith is not gone just yet, but owner Steve Bisciotti sure makes it sound like he will be, while bringing up the aforementioned Wallace contract, as captured by ESPN's Jamison Hensley:
The difference between what we can pay Torrey and what he gets on the open market ... Mike Wallace got $10 million [actually, $11 million signing bonus from the Miami Dolphins] and I don't think anybody thinks that was a good deal. There's always a team that has lots of money that wants to bring in playmakers. Those guys are going to get those deals. I think we're going to have to take it on the chin and move on.
It's a great point, and the Ravens cannot exactly throw all of their weight for the future behind 35-year-old Steve Smith.
With that in mind, it is important to point out that the Ravens will be in range for a quality wideout in what is a very deep class.
Arizona State's Jaelen Strong is the first name that comes to mind in that range. Strong is a great deep threat at 6'2" and 217 pounds who can go up and high-point passes (a 42-inch vertical at the combine says as much) and just last year caught 82 for 1,165 yards and 10 scores.
Should Baltimore fail to compete for Smith on the open market and not make another significant add, look for the front office to build for the future with a name such as Strong.