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Best free-agent signings so far

  • By Around The League staff
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It didn't take long for our top 101 players available in free agency to be decimated. Fewer than 50 remain on our best-available player list after just three days, with our original top 15 all accounted for.

It's not too early to start picking our favorite deals. We discussed the best, worst and most surprising on the latest "Around The League Podcast." So we asked the guys to add to their 250,000 words this week by writing some of their picks, with a few extra below.

Here are our favorite signings thus far:

Julius Peppers to the Packers


There's a lot to like here. Peppers is flexible enough to play multiple positions on the defensive line, giving Green Bay greater flexibility. You can line him up as a 3-4 defensive end, a 4-3 defensive end or tackle or stand him up as a linebacker. Peppers will reportedly make $8.5 million in 2013, a reasonable gamble for a Packers defense that needs help.

It's also nice to see general manager Ted Thompson taking a swing at finding a free-agent value. His moves to get Ryan Pickett and Charles Woodson last decade were key in establishing the Packers' eventual championship run.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

Brandon Spikes to Buffalo


This is a two-part move. Kiko Alonso moves to weakside linebacker, where his speed will shine. Spikes takes over in the middle, where he is one of the most violent run-stoppers in the league. He wants to prove he can play all three downs, but he's worth a one-year try for $3.5 million just for his skills on clear running downs.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

Ben Tate to the Browns for cheap


Widely criticized for overpaying Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby in free agency, Cleveland's front office crafted a shrewd, two-year deal worth about $7 million for Ben Tate. Ranked as our No. 1 running back on the open market, Tate has the ideal blend of youth and potential for a team that sorely needed an upgrade on the ground. The concern was that new general manager Ray Farmer might pay too steeply for a player with two trips to the injured reserve in four seasons, but the low-money deal is a bargain. We still expect the Browns to add a back in the draft, but if Tate's career is destined to take off -- it's happening in C-Town.

-- Marc Sessler

Chicago's push for pass rushers


I love the Bears grabbing Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. Both players are entering the sweet spot of their careers at a position that Chicago desperately needed to upgrade. Houston, 26, grabbed big money, but Young looks like a value signing. He's fresh-legged and didn't assume starting duties until last season, when Young's 48 quarterback hurries ranked behind only Brian Robison and Robert Quinn. Houston, meanwhile, gives coordinator Mel Tucker a scheme-versatile edge rusher who finished as the league's No. 11 4-3 defensive end in 2013, per Pro Football Focus. He operated at a Pro Bowl level last season -- the perfect medicine for Chicago's train wreck of a defense.

-- Marc Sessler

Byrd flies to New Orleans


This one isn't about value. It's about scheme fit. Rob Ryan will love working with Jairus Byrd like Rex Ryan once worked with Ed Reed. The combination of Byrd and Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro will give the Saints' defensive coordinator a ridiculous amount of flexibility. They will make it very difficult to decipher what the Saints are going to do before the snap.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

Jumpin' on the Lovie Train


The Buccaneers are filling the Lovie Train with the coach's type of players. Cornerback Alterraun Verner -- signed for relatively cheap -- and defensive end Michael Johnson fit Lovie Smith's defense perfectly. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald played well in limited time last season and could be a superb rotation player. Offensive tackle Anthony Collins flew under the national radar, but he was fantastic down the stretch for Cincinnati last year. The Josh McCown signing feels a little bit too Chicago Bears-era Lovie, but the other additions outweigh that sickening feeling.

-- Kevin Patra

Jared Veldheer to Arizona


Veldheer is back where he belongs -- protecting Carson Palmer's blindside that was left wide open by the latest trail of swinging gates in Arizona. Much like a league-average Palmer gave the Cardinals a dramatic upgrade at quarterback in 2013, Veldheer's impact will be felt even this season if he doesn't reach his Pro Bowl potential. If he does make good on his upper-echelon talent, the Cardinals might just be a serious threat to the Seahawks and 49ers in the NFC West.

-- Chris Wesseling

Darrelle Revis to New England


Revis is the ultimate one-year contract player on the ultimate year-to-year team in the ultimate year-to-year league. Bill Belichick has been looking for a cornerback like this since Ty Law came to town. Revis will allow Belichick to get more creative on defense, which has been lacking in recent years. Revis should be better one season removed from ACL surgery. If he's not, he'll wind up changing teams again in 2015. It's worth the risk for a team running out of Tom Brady years.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

Denver's defensive haul


John Elway isn't using the offseason to lick his Super Bowl wounds because he understands the goal is to hoist Lombardi Trophies rather than finding the most bargains. Elway has added physicality and high-level talent to a defense that was the team's Achilles' heel for the majority of last season. After adding T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware, the Broncos are going to be the heavy favorites to repeat as AFC champions.

-- Chris Wesseling

Golden Tate to the Lions


Detroit finally did it. After years of trying, the franchise finally has found the perfect running mate for Calvin Johnson. Golden Tate made one of the wisest decisions of any player in free agency, stepping into a dream situation that should set him up well for his next contract negotiation. Titus Young had the same opportunity and let it slip away. Nate Burleson got old. Now it's Tate's turn. Don't be surprised if he's a 1,000-yard receiver this time next year. Call it the Megatron Effect.

-- Dan Hanzus

Andre Roberts to the Redskins


The Redskins plan to play Roberts all over the formation as a foil to Pierre Garcon. A fully healthy Robert Griffin III is primed for a bounce-back campaign in a Jay Gruden-led offense that will attack defenses with Roberts, Garcon and electric tight end Jordan Reed. Roberts might be undersized, but he's a much better fit at No. 2 than Aldrick Robinson. While his production fell off last season in Arizona, where he operated as the No. 3, he shows good concentration making grabs and we trust his hands. He's ready for a bigger role.

-- Marc Sessler

Jaguars taking advantage of pipeline from Seattle


While other teams try to emulate the Seattle Seahawks, the Jacksonville Jaguars are content to just gobble up the Super Bowl champion's leftovers. The additions of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons were solid signings. Mix in the potential Ziggy Hood brings, and the Jags quickly have remade their defensive line. Bringing back Jason Babin cheaper helps too. Clearly there is still a long way to go -- and a young quarterback to add -- but general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have the Jaguars pointed in the right direction.

-- Kevin Patra

Falcons sign every lineman available


The Falcons are changing to a 3-4 defense, at least if Roddy White's Twitter account is to be believed. Their free agency moves back up the assessment.

Paul Soliai is the rarest of NFL commodities: a 3-4 nose tackle. Tyson Jackson is a great run stopper that can take up blockers. Jonathan Babineaux has been underrated for years, and was a great re-signing. The Falcons also brought in guard Jon Asamoah and re-signed center Joe Hawley. General manager Thomas Dimitroff said that he wanted to improve his line play on both sides of the ball, and the Falcons accomplished that quickly.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

The "Around The League Podcast" breaks down all the free-agency moves and hands out a fleet of high-octane sandwiches.

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