After the first three days of free agency, it is apparent that a handful of teams have given themselves tremendous flexibility heading into the draft.
Although these franchises have been reconstructed on the premise of building through the draft, their decision makers have bolstered their chances of properly addressing their needs by being active players in the free agent market.
Whether signing unrestricted free agents to robust contracts or prying all stars away from their respective teams, front office executives are pulling out all of the stops to fill their biggest holes.
With some of those voids being addressed via free agency or trades, teams are starting to alter their draft strategies based on the flurry of activity that took place over the weekend.
Let's take a look at how the most active players during the free-agent frenzy will likely attack the draft:
Some positions are more stacked with talent than others on the free-agent market. With veterans such as Brian Westbrook available, Pat Kirwan sees running back as one of the deepest. **More ...**
Signed: DE Julius Peppers, RB Chester Taylor and TE Brandon Manumaleuna
Draft effect: The Bears lack a draft pick in the first two rounds, so their best opportunity to improve their roster was through free agency. With their defense experiencing a dramatic fall in recent years, the Bears coughed up a a lot of cash to land Peppers. While the Pro Bowler addresses the team's mediocre pass rush, the Bears must fortify their woeful secondary with the majority of their picks. Fortunately, the draft is brimming with cornerbacks and safeties with immense potential, and the team may be able to come away with a starter or two with their mid-round picks. Although the Bears will likely fail to address their No. 1-receiver woes during the draft, the team will look to add a few more offensive weapons in the mold of Johnny Knox.
Signed: DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, WR Nate Burleson and DT Corey Williams (acquired via trade with the Browns)
Draft effect: The Lions actively pursued a pair of veterans to add some leadership to a young locker room. Though their invaluable experience in the league will allow them to mentor their teammates, the duo must show that they can still play at a high level to have a legitimate impact. Vanden Bosch, in particular, must show that he can regain his Pro Bowl form after registering only three sacks last season. While the Williams trade flew under the radar, it is the one transaction that may have a significant impact on the Lions' draft plans. The seventh-year pro was viewed as an "up-and-comer" prior to signing with the Browns two seasons ago, and his presence could allow the Lions to go after an offensive tackle at the No. 2 overall pick. If the team decides to stick with a defensive pick, the Lions could pair the veteran with Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh to form a dynamic tandem in the middle.
New York Giants
Signed: S Antrel Rolle
Draft effect: The Giants opened up the vault to make Rolle the highest paid safety in the league, and the money may be well spent considering the team's woes at the position. Rolle will team with Kenny Phillips to give the Giants one of the top safety tandems in the NFC. With their problematic safety position properly addressed, the Giants will turn their attention to adding more speed and quickness to their linebacker corps. While recently departed MLB Antonio Pierce brought a sense of toughness to the position, his lack of athleticism hurt the team at critical moments and the team could find an athletic playmaker at pick No. 15 to fill the void in the middle.
Signed: CB Dunta Robinson
Draft effect: The Falcons signed Robinson to shore up a leaky pass defense that ranked 28th in the league. Though Robinson is coming off a season where he registered only one interception, his solid cover skills are a vast improvement Atlanta's starters last year. With a prime pick in the middle of the first round (No. 19), the Falcons can continue to address their secondary with the selection of another cornerback or seek to improve their pass rush by adding one of the athletic defensive ends still on the board at this point. In addition, the team has the option of picking up a swift outside linebacker to plug in at the WILL linebacker spot in Mike Smith's defense. Regardless of their eventual decision, the Falcons will continue to address their defensive woes with their early round picks.
Signed: WR Anquan Boldin (acquired via trade with the Arizona Cardinals)
Draft effect: The Ravens have desperately needed a legitimate No. 1 receiver to balance out their offensive attack, and the move to acquire Boldin gives them a dependable weapon in the passing game. With their receiver needs properly addressed with the acquisition of a three-time Pro Bowler, the team can use their first round pick to address their cornerback situation. Although the draft doesn't have a host of elite talents at the position, the Ravens can get a solid cover man at their pick (No. 25) to fortify their back end.
New York Jets
Signed:Antonio Cromartie (acquired via trade with the San Diego Chargers)
Draft effect: The Jets realized during the AFC Championship game that they need a legitimate corner opposite Darrelle Revis to fully execute Rex Ryan's exotic schemes. Though Cromartie's sub-par play and litany of off-field issues raise red flags, he is only two seasons removed from a Pro Bowl season. With the team willing to gamble that he can recapture his all-star form, the Jets can set their sights on adding a ball-hawking nickel corner or safety to fill out their secondary with their first round pick. Adding another weapon in the passing game is also an option, but the enormous sum used to acquire Braylon Edwards makes it unlikely that the team would spend a top pick on a wide receiver.