Just over three weeks into free agency and just about three weeks away from the 2013 NFL Draft, we're in a perfect sweet spot to assess how the former can affect the latter.
Amid rampant roster turnover across the NFL since the start of the league year on March 12, some notable holes have developed for particular teams. Below you will find five such holes, as well as a draft prospect who could fill the void.
Out with the old, in with the new. Let the matchmaking begin!
Kelly started all 16 games for Oakland in each of the last five seasons. But with the defensive tackle set to make $6.5 million in 2013, the organization made the decision to release Kelly last week. Now the Raiders are desperate for help along the interior of their defensive line. Floyd would be a perfect fit to fill that void. The Florida product is explosive and capable of making a ton of plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He would give the Raiders an excellent building block in the middle of their defense.
The Dolphins have been ultra-aggressive during the offseason. They've added marquee players at key positions on both sides of the ball. However, they did lose their starting left tackle to the Rams. Three left tackles in this draft are surefire, Day 1 starters. The Dolphins can't sit back and hope one of the three (Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher or Johnson) falls to their spot at No. 12. They have plenty of extra picks to aggressively move up the board and land one of those three bookends. I believe Johnson is the best fit for Miami. He can play either right or left tackle, which will allow Jonathan Martin to play where he's most comfortable. Johnson has the most upside of any offensive lineman in this entire draft class. He'd be the ideal candidate to replace Long.
St. Louis Rams
Amendola only played in all 16 games once during his four-year stay in St. Louis. However, when he was healthy, he was a very productive weapon for quarterback Sam Bradford. Amendola is an excellent slot receiver who displays awareness, toughness and strong hands. Austin possesses those same traits, as well as a few others. He is much faster than Amendola, he's more elusive/dynamic after the catch and he's capable of carrying the ball as a running back in a limited capacity. I'm not certain Austin will be there when the Rams' initial first-round pick (No. 16) rolls around, but if the team were to reel him in, he would make everyone in St. Louis (including Bradford) forget about Amendola's departure.
It's going to be very odd watching the Steelers take the field without No. 92 in the upcoming season. Harrison has been a fixture on Pittsburgh's defense over the last nine seasons, racking up 64 sacks and 29 forced fumbles during that time period. Jones was unlikely to be an option for the Steelers prior to his poor pro day performance. But after the Georgia product checked in smaller and slower than expected, it's a very real possibility that the SEC's leading sack artist will be available when Pittsburgh goes on the clock with the No. 17 pick. Jones lacks ideal testing numbers, but he is a gifted pass rusher with violent hands and the ability to finish -- two of the traits that made Harrison such a special player during his Steelers career.
San Francisco 49ers
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After eight seasons in San Francisco, Sopoaga departed via free agency and landed with the Eagles. The 49ers' run defense has been dominant of late (top six in rushing yards allowed during each of the last four seasons), and Sopoaga deserves his share of credit. He didn't post big tackle numbers, but he played very stout at the point of attack and kept opposing blockers from getting to the second level. Williams excelled in the same role on Alabama's defense. He plays with a similar power base to Sopoaga, but he offers more as a run defender because of his quickness and range to make plays outside of the tackle box. He also has more upside as a pass rusher. Sopoaga is a solid player, but Williams would be an upgrade at nose tackle for the 49ers.