Despite a limited number of quality unrestricted free agents, the start of the 2010 free agent season was as fast and furious as any in recent memory including a surprising number of trades.
Evaluating all of these moves in one article is likely a fool-hardy effort, but taking a different slant, let's take a look at how the early days of free agency have affected the NFL Draft landscape. (My apologies in advance for missing a particular signing or trade.)
Additions: S Kerry Rhodes (trade)
Draft Effect: The Cardinals suffered a rough start to the offseason with the departures of LB Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle on the heels of QB Kurt Warner's retirement. The Cardinals did well replacing Rolle with S Kerry Rhodes who could be considered an upgrade if Rhodes plays up to his potential. Losing Dansby was expected and creates needs both inside and outside at linebacker.
Additions: CB Dunta Robinson
Draft Effect: By signing Robinson, the Falcons can now focus its attention on upgrade the defensive front seven in the early rounds. The trade of CB Chris Houston was a mild surprise given that the Falcons hardly have depth at the cornerback position.
Addition: WR Anquan Boldin (trade)
Draft Effect: Acquiring Boldin takes wide receiver from a first round to a day three need and increases the likelihood of drafting a defensive lineman or cornerback with their first (and second) round picks. Tight end also becomes the primary position of need among the offensive skill positions.
Additions: None (but the departures were significant)
Draft Effect: Already without a first round pick, the Panthers need increased. You can argue they prepared for Peppers departure by drafting Everette Brown last year, but his departure leaves a big hole. The Panthers also cut Maake Kemoeatu and Jake Delhomme. Of the two cuttings, Kemoeatu will have the biggest impact and expect defensive tackle to be a day two focus for Carolina.
Additions: LB Scott Fujita, OT Tony Pashos
Draft Effect: Adding Fujita and Pashos fills needs at inside linebacker and right tackle, albeit with questionable personnel, shifting the Browns focus to rush linebacker, wide receiver, and the secondary. The moves could also indicate they are considering making a push for a quarterback either in the draft or via trade.
Additions: DE Julius Peppers, RB Chester Taylor, TE Brandon Manumaleuna
Draft Effect: The Bears made a splash early because they don't have any picks until the third round and needed to fill immediate needs via free agency as a result. The biggest draft effect is how the signing of Manumaleuna could indicate TE Greg Olsen could be available for a second or even third round pick. Also, by a few needs early they have freed up the draft to shore up the offensive line and safety positions.
Additions: DT Justin Bannen, CB Nate Jones
Draft Effect: Bannen is an under the radar pickup, which could provide good value at NT or DE in their 3-4 scheme and turns the draft focus to linebacker, wide receiver, and offensive line. Ultimately, the biggest draft impact for the Broncos will be what pick(s) they are able to acquire for WR Brandon Marshall.
Additions: WR Nate Burleson, DE Kyle Vandenbosch, DT Corey Williams (trade), CB Chris Houston (likely trade)
Draft Effect: By shoring up weaknesses at wideout, defensive line, and cornerback, the Lions have positioned themselves to take the best player available on draft day and won't be forced into selections based on need. This is a philosophy that served them well in 2009. That said, the trade for Corey Williams would appear to indicate the No. 2 pick is between DT Ndamukong Suh or OT Russell Okung and could eliminate Gerald McCoy from consideration considering he is an under tackle much like Williams.
Additions: DE Aaron Kampman, WR Kassim Osgood
Draft Effect: The signing of Kampman fills the Jaguars need for a pass rusher and will shift the team's focus to upgrading at safety (Earl Thomas ?) or possibly wide receiver or quarterback with the tenth overall pick. The addition of Kampman will not preclude the Jags from adding a pass rusher in the middle rounds however. Osgood is a special teamer/fourth receiver (at best) and is not expected to affect the team's draft plans.
Additions: LB Karlos Dansby
Draft Effect: The Dolphins filled one of their top offseason needs by adding Dansby into the middle of the defense, and his addition allows Miami to focus on nose tackle (Dan Williams ?) and rush linebacker in the draft's early rounds. The signing of Dansby does not increase the team's chances of drafting a wide receiver in round one (not likely on Parcells' watch).
Additions: S Antrel Rolle
Draft Effect: Vastly improves the backend of the Giants defense and allows the Giants to turn their attention to defensive tackle, linebacker, and the offensive line in the early rounds.
Additions: CB Antonio Cromartie
Draft Effect: Continues the Jets' trend of trading early round picks in future years but fills their need at corner, allowing them to focus on rush linebacker, wide receiver, or possibly nose tackle with their first and second round picks (do not have a third rounder).
St. Louis Rams:
Additions: QB AJ Feeley
Draft Effect: This may be reaching, but by going after a journeyman backup rather than a starting caliber quarterback, the Rams may be indicating a preference for taking a quarterback at No. 1 overall. Of course, until Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen both still need to prove they are healthy and worthy of the monetary investment at their pro days.