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Collateral benefits: Veterans who benefited from draft

  • By Chris Wesseling and Gregg Rosenthal NFL.com
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The NFL draft isn't bad news for all veterans. After listing 15 players that could lose their jobs to incoming rookies on Monday, let's take a look at what players -- and coaches -- benefitted the most on draft weekend.

We'll start with the quarterbacks that had to be smiling the most after the draft was over.

Surviving the Johnny Football scare


Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs were viewed as the front-runners for Johnny Manziel, which would have put McCown out of a starting job in short order. Rather than reducing the journeyman quarterback to a nonfactor, general manager Jason Licht borrowed the Bears' blueprint that helped McCown to a late-career renaissance. Already boasting Vincent Jackson as Brandon Marshall's comparable, Licht went on to draft his versions of Alshon Jeffrey (Mike Evans), Martellus Bennett (Austin Seferian-Jenkins) and Matt Forte on passing downs (Charles Sims). If McCown fails in Tampa, it won't be for lack of surrounding talent.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones equated Manziel's popularity to that of Elvis Presley and conceded the Texas A&M star topped the Cowboys' draft board at the 16th spot. Jones remains committed to Romo as the franchise quarterback, however. With the drafting of Zack Martin, Dallas has completed the overhaul of an offensive line that now has potential for dominance. Romo's offense will have to carry the defense this season.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: When the Rams drafted Aaron Donald at No. 13, Manziel turned to his agent and said, "E.B., we're screwed." He thought St. Louis was his next home. The Rams opted to stand behind Bradford, owner of an 18-30-1 record and subpar passing metrics after four NFL seasons. Even better, the team bolstered the offensive line with Greg Robinson and added versatility in running back Tre Mason.

Other narrow misses


Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans: It's almost hard to believe that the Texans could go into Week 1 with Fitzpatrick, fourth-round compensatory pick Tom Savage, T.J. Yates and Case Keenum as their quarterbacks. A potential trade for Ryan Mallett could still happen, but Fitzpatrick has to be happy regardless. He won't face a challenge from a rookie ready to play, and he's playing on a team with plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.

We've heard buzz from Houston that Andre Johnson isn't happy with the setup, and we can't blame him.

Andy Dalton and Alex Smith: The agents for both men should be smiling. The Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns both tried to trade up to spot No. 22 because they believed the Chiefs or Bengals could draft Johnny Manziel. (The Browns, of course, completed the deal.) Instead of facing legitimate competition, Dalton and Smith only have to face fifth-round picks.

This isn't about playing time. It's about money. Dalton and Smith are both trying to get long-term contracts this offseason before the Bengals and Chiefs even get a meaningful look at AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray, the teams' respective fifth-round picks at quarterback. Late-in-the-draft rookies are not going to change large contract negotiations. Smith and Dalton should take that long money while they can.

Offenses reloading


Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Sean Payton's offense was in jeopardy of growing stale with an aging and ineffective wide receiving corps. Enter Brandin Cooks, the draft's fastest wide receiver and most dangerous college playmaker. With the upgrades in Rob Ryan's secondary, Brees should be backed by the best defense of his New Orleans career.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: The game film suggested Ryan was the same quarterback last season as he was during a career-year in 2012. The difference in numbers was due to Julio Jones' prolonged absence, Roddy White's season-long injuries and an overwhelmed, patchwork offensive line. All three of those problems have been fixed, the latter by the signing of Jon Asamoah and the drafting of No. 6 overall pick Jake Matthews. Throw in a major dose of physicality on the defensive line and Ryan could have his team back in contention after one down season.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: There's an argument to be made that Golden Tate is a primary beneficiary because the Lions didn't trade up for Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans, but we never believed that was a realistic scenario. Tate was signed to be the No. 2 receiver. In addition to Tate, Stafford now has highly athletic "move" tight end Eric Ebron -- the Lions' version of Vernon Davis or Jimmy Graham. It's welcome news for a quarterback who watched his receivers and tight ends drop more passes than those on any other team last season.

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers: Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin caught 20 of Kaepernick's 21 touchdowns last season. There were times last season -- such as the Week 10 loss to the Panthers -- when Kaepernick seemed to have only one option in the passing game. Now that Michael Crabtree is healthy and Stevie Johnson has been acquired from Buffalo in a draft weekend trade, Kaepernick has his best collections of weapons since taking over the starting job.

Eli Manning, New York Giants: The Giants opted against offering Manning a contract extension, while reportedly discussing whether their franchise quarterback has reached his decline phase. After leading the NFL in interceptions last season, Manning will get welcome relief from a revamped offensive line, the presence of playmaker Odell Beckham at wide receiver and a healthier backfield that now includes fourth-round bruiser Andre Williams.

EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills: Talk is cheap. The Bills have shown their support for Manuel with their actions. They didn't bring in quarterback competition, and they loaded up the Bills' offense with Sammy Watkins and solid reserve running back Bryce Brown. Second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio should improve the Buffalo offensive line. We aren't sure that Manuel can deliver, but he's being given every possible chance to succeed.

Saving jobs on defense


Dom Capers, Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator: Capers entered the offseason under fire after his defenses finished 25th and 32nd in two of the past three seasons. Since then, the Packers have signed eight-time Pro Bowler Julius Peppers, welcomed five key defensive players back from injury and drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to patch up the secondary. Capers should be leading the NFL's most improved defense in 2014.

Mel Tucker, Chicago Bears defensive coordinator: Faced with a once-proud defense on its last legs, general manager Phil Emery bolstered Mel Tucker's troops with draft picks in each of the first four rounds, including a pair of "hog mollies" to shore up a historically poor run defense. This comes on the heels of adding free-agent pass rushers Jared Allen, LaMarr Houston and Willie Young. If Tucker doesn't turn the defense around, he's going to be out of a job.

No category can hold them


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Jimmy Haslam, Cleveland Browns owner: The early embarrassments of this offseason feel like a long time ago. General manager Ray Farmer validated Haslam's belief in him by landing Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, and Buffalo's 2015 first-round pick. Manziel gives this franchise life in a way we haven't seen since it returned to Cleveland.

Greg Little, Browns wide receiver: He went from "roster bubble" to "potential No. 1 receiver" in an otherwise happy weekend for the Browns. Josh Gordon's potential suspension, Nate Burleson's broken arm, and Farmer's decision to avoid wideouts in the draft all combine to make Little safe to be a big factor despite all his drops.

Whitney Mercilus, Houston Texans outside linebacker: He's the Texans pass rusher not named J.J. Watt or Jadeveon Clowney. Mercilus should be in position to clean up, especially if Brooks Reed moves to inside linebacker.

The "Around The League Podcast" wrapped up the draft by picking our winners and losers.

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