Free agency is a dream come true for the players who get life-changing contracts. But it can also change the fortunes of the players who stay put.
After Marc Sessler looked at the players who suffered collateral damage during free agency, let's pick out some who enjoyed collateral benefits over the past month.
1-2. Adrian Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings running back, quarterback:Minnesota's offensive line got pushed around last season, and the team was aggressive this month trying to make them tougher. Guard Alex Boone and right tackle Andre Smith should help matters, and the return of offensive tackle Phil Loadholt adds depth.
"I feel like every other position group on our football team has a tough-minded personality. I don't know that our offensive line did," coach Mike Zimmer said this week, via the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Teddy was running for his life half the time, (and) we had a whole bunch of 1-yard runs. I just felt we needed to make some changes."
Releasing wide receiver Mike Wallace could also be addition by subtraction for Bridgewater, who never got on the same page with the speedster.
3. Jordan Hicks, Eagles linebacker: The new Eagles regime doesn't want to delete all of Chip Kelly's acquisitions. Hicks, a third-round pick last year, is the team's new starting middle linebacker after the departures of DeMeco Ryans and Kiko Alonso. Coach Doug Pederson confirmed this week that Hicks is going to take over in the middle for coordinator Jim Schwartz's 4-3 defense. Mychal Kendricks will be on the weak side with free-agent pickup Nigel Bradham on the strong side. It's an intriguing group and Hicks has a chance to be a breakout star.
4. Giovani Bernard, Bengals running back: The Bengals were reportedly "stunned" when Marvin Jones left for Detroit. The team was prepared to pay him like a high-level starter. With Mohamed Sanu gone, the Bengals' current No. 2 and No. 3 receivers are Brandon Tate and ... James Wright? The Bengals will address the position in the draft, probably with multiple picks. But they are going to have to manufacture passing yards like they did in 2013 when Andrew Hawkins was their second leading wideout with 533 yards.
Into the void steps Giovani Bernard. The Bengals don't have a slot receiver, so why not use Bernard there more than ever? We can imagine Bernard being on the field at the same time as Jeremy Hill more often. Bernard has averaged 49 catches per season as a pro, and we could see that number hitting 70.
6. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins running back: Miami has tried to find a partner for Ajayi in the Dolphins' backfield without success. The offer sheet for C.J. Anderson was matched by the Broncos. Chris Johnson turned down Miami's offer to go back to Arizona. Now the Dolphins reportedly are seeking trade partners for a running back. Miami clearly doesn't see Ajayi as a workhorse back, but at least he'll be sharing carries with Miami's third choice at best. We like Ajayi's potential, so hopefully Dolphins show-runner Mike Tannenbaum will join us in the #FreeAjayi movement.
7. Jeremy Langford, Bears running back:Dolphins coach Adam Gase's old team in Chicago is ready to make Langford a starting running back after letting Matt Forte walk away. Fantasy owners have already taken notice, drafting him in the top 20 (!) of way-too-early mock drafts. That sounds too aggressive; Ka'Deem Carey also figures to be a factor in a rotation. The Bears also tried to sign C.J. Anderson, so they could add more help in the draft. Still, Langford is undoubtedly moving up a spot on the depth chart and has shown he can handle three-down work.
8. Derek Carr, Raiders quarterback: The Raiders brought back Donald Penn at left tackle and made a big upgrade with guard Kelechi Osemele. They have depth on what could be the best offensive line in football. General manager Reggie McKenzie also added Sean Smith and Bruce Irvin to an improved defense, which should help Carr from needing to score 30 points to win each week.
9. Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants defensive end: Pierre-Paul re-signed before ever hitting free agency, and then got a truckload of good news when his team signed nose tackle Damon "Snacks" Harrison and defensive end Olivier Vernon. Their presence should only help JPP, who was the best player on the Giants' defense last year despite the club on his hand. A recent surgery means that Pierre-Paul will play the upcoming season without that club, which should help greatly.