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Brock Osweiler, Matt Forte among free agents to have biggest 2016 impact

Free agency officially opened at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, but thanks to the "legal tampering" period, many of the top free agents had already agreed to deals earlier in the week.

Long story short, guys are flying off the open market. And many of the biggest names in Around The NFL's Top 99 Free Agents of 2016 have found new homes, including ...

» Quarterback Brock Osweiler, who agreed to a four-year, $72 million deal with the Houston Texans.

» Running back Matt Forte, who is headed to the New York Jets.

Simple question: Out of all the players who've landed new deals in this initial wave of free agency, who will have the biggest impact in 2016?

The player with the potential to do that is new Texans QB Brock Osweiler. Houston won the AFC South in 2015 with a group of lesser signal callers ( Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden). The defense is strong. Besides Osweiler, running back Lamar Miller has been added to improve the ground attack of an offense that already included standout receiver DeAndre Hopkins. And the Texans still have their first-round pick (No. 22 overall). Matt Forte will make the biggest impact of all the free agents, because he's going into a situation with Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey where the offense will play to his strengths. As a running receiver, Forte is one of the best in the game, and the Jets will isolate him on linebackers and throw him the ball. Gailey will also make it a point to use him often in the run game.

Based on the production that he's consistently put out throughout his career, I believe Forte can get back to the top of the league in total yards from scrimmage. Few expected Osweiler to leave Denver, because it was a good situation. The Texans' quarterbacks have struggled for the last few years, and they've been trying to find the right guy. I think Osweiler has a lot of potential and talent, and he definitely has the makeup that coach Bill O'Brien likes, but at the end of the day, he has to go out and perform. The quarterback is the biggest position on the field, because he touches the ball on every single play, which is why he'll have the biggest impact this season -- good or bad. Houston is a very good defensive team that made the playoffs in 2015 without great quarterback play, and I think Osweiler has just enough experience to give the Texans a serious boost. Plus, his teammates will hold him in high esteem, simply because of his being part of a Super Bowl-winning squad in Denver. And adding Lamar Miller can only help Osweiler.

Olivier Vernon is going to be a close second with the 
Giants. He's a really good pass rusher, and that's something the 
Giants needed. New York has a pretty good offense; the team just couldn't stop anyone. Now, they've added Vernon 
and Damon Harrison to their line 
and Janoris Jenkins to their secondary, in addition to 
retaining Jason Pierre-Paul. 

Last year, the Houston Texans won games because of a great defense. With Osweiler only having a sample size of eight games (seven starts), there's a big question mark: Namely, what kind of quarterback will he be for them? He'll be impactful because of the success, or lack thereof, he has in 2016.

I also think Bruce Irvin will have a big impact. He'll bring eight to 12 sacks to the Oakland Raiders this season. With the departures of Osweiler and Peyton Manning in Denver, I think that opens up the AFC West, and the Raiders can do some damage, with the roster they have. Osweiler's decision to leave Denver for Houston was the most stunning move on the first day of free agency. It also was a smart play. Osweiler joins a Texans team that already has a great defense and a Pro Bowl receiver ( DeAndre Hopkins), and just added running back Lamar Miller to the mix. That means he enters into a similar role he had in Denver, where he knew he didn't have to carry a franchise to glory. Quarterback issues have plagued the Texans over the last three years. Osweiler's arrival means that franchise can feel much better about what it has under center. Osweiler will hopefully provide the quarterback stability the Texans were searching for. With his height (6-foot-8), his ability to see the field and deliver the ball will be a strength he brings. With his field vision, Osweiler and DeAndre Hopkins will turn out to be one of the best quarterback-wide receiver duos of 2016.

And on the flip side, consider the impact his loss is going to have on the Broncos. All of a sudden, this team, which had a chance of repeating as Super Bowl champions, is looking very unstable. The one position that you have to have is quarterback. Right now, that is completely up in the air for Denver. I'm already slipping into dangerous levels of offseason optimism. Last year the Bills stole my heart; this year it's the Texans.

Brock Osweiler is getting all the attention, but 
Lamar Miller eventually will command the spotlight. He's young, healthy and largely an untapped resource, thanks to the 
Dolphins. Plus, Houston loves a good rushing attack -- 
only four other teams ran the ball more than the Texans last year. Part of that was out of necessity because of their unstable quarterback situation. They upgraded both positions, but the new running back was the team's best offseason buy. 

Osweiler had eight games' worth of opportunities to make mistakes last season. We didn't see him make a lot of them, and I thought he improved, despite the unspectacular numbers (61.8 percent completion rate, 10 touchdowns against six picks, 86.4 passer rating). On everything from arm strength to mental ability to seeing the field, I think I've seen enough to validate the monster contract, especially with the coaching he's going to get. The quarterback was the one missing piece in Houston, and I think the Texans have found theirs.

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