Skip to main content

Major free-agent signings impacting teams' draft priorities

The wheeling and the dealing of the past few days in free agency has resulted in a nearly unprecedented amount of money handed out and significant player movement. Such is life in the NFL in 2014.

As clubs fill holes and adjust two-deeps, they're rearranging their draft boards, too. Here's a look at the draft ripples created by the first wave of free-agent moves.

Browns are looking for a quarterback

Draft impact: Goodbye Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, hello (another) quarterback of the future. The Browns probably will sign a low-cost veteran free agent to bolster the roster, but it's pretty clear by their moves that one of their two first-rounders will be a quarterback. The question is will they grab a signal-caller at No. 4, No. 26 or somewhere else? Count NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah as somebody who thinks it will be Fresno State's Derek Carrwith their second first-round pick.

Jaguars, Buccaneers primed for quick turnarounds

Draft impact: There's not exactly tanking in the NFL, but if you want to talk about picking the right time to be bad on the field, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay might just have played their cards right. The Jaguars own the No. 3 pick and added Zane Beadles, Chris Clemons, Ziggy Hood, Toby Gerhart plus kept Jason Babin and Chad Henne. Nobody is predicting they'll be great right away, but Gus Bradley's aiming for a quick turnaround starting in 2014. The same can be said in Tampa, where Lovie Smith and GM Jason Licht are quickly making the team into an NFC South contender. They've signed Josh McCown, Alterraun Verner, Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson among others, and own the No. 7 overall pick. Add in a Sammy Watkins, Anthony Barr or Khalil Mack and there's finally some positive for Buccaneers fans to get excited about. Heck, who knows, maybe even Johnny Football is an option.

Play safety kids, not running back

Draft impact: What has the value of a running back been this year? Zilch, and that might be a bit high. Case in point is when the Philadelphia Eagles can steal Darren Sproles, consistently found near the top of the all-purpose charts every season, for a fifth-rounder. Only three backs signed free-agent deals with more than $4 million in guaranteed money this year and just five unrestricted free-agent backs signed with a new team in the first few days of the 2014 signing period. Even teams that could use another guy in the backfield (Cleveland, Miami, among others) figure to wait for a cheap option in the second or third wave of free agency or fill their need in the draft. Maybe somebody takes a chance on Carlos Hyde in the first-round this year, but even being highly regarded as a running back doesn't mean you'll go early this draft.


Draft impact:The Raiders reminded everybody they were the Raiders early on by letting Jared Veldheer walk to Arizona while signing Rodger Saffold to a huge five-year deal. That caused plenty of head-scratching, but it soon turned to disbelief when the team announced the deal was off after Saffold failed his physical. He eventually made his way back to the Rams but not before leaving a big need along the offensive line for the Silver and Black. Talk should heat up that the Raiders will go after Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews at No. 5 as a result. As for the Rams, they're in an even better position to find help in the draft as owners of the Nos. 2 and 13 picks in the first round.

Deep WR market not changing draft strategies yet

Draft impact: While a few notable names changed teams (Eric Decker to the Jets, Golden Tate to the Lions), teams overwhelmingly locked up their own guys at reasonable terms while letting high-priced veterans go. That means there's names like Julian Edelman, Steve Smith, Santonio Holmes and Miles Austin still looking for a home. Despite some bargains to be had, nobody is budging from having some teams (the Jets, Chiefs and Panthers among them) go after a receiver in the first round. We even got a strong indication that Rex Ryan and company would target Marqise Lee at No. 18 to complement the freshly signed Decker.

Patriots looking for Wilfork's replacement

Draft impact: If you thought signing Darrelle Revis was New England's only way of generating a big move for its defense, you thought wrong. The Patriots figured to make the tough decision on longtime leader Vince Wilfork because of his contract and lack of production in 2013, but that doesn't make it any less shocking to potentially see his name hit the open market. Wilfork's potential release means Bill Belichick could be in the market for a replacement, and it would shock no one if the Pats elect to go after one at No. 29 (or at least the first round, given their propensity to trade picks). The question is who would they target, and there are plenty of candidates, but Notre Dame's Louis Nix III could be atop the list.

Smart teams will wait for the draft for tackle help

Draft impact: Arizona appeared to get a solid bargain when it grabbed Jared Veldheer at a reasonable rate (if he's healthy), and everybody expected the Ravens to lock up Eugene Monroe. Despite some good offensive line pickups around the league, you can't help but think some smart teams sat free agency out at the position with an eye toward the draft. That may have been an extra smart move because, as Chase Goodbread detailed recently, the upcoming draft class could be much better than the free agents available.

Lions might still go WR at No. 10

Draft impact: Yes, Detroit grabbed the sure-handed Golden Tate as a running mate to Calvin Johnson. Yes, they also need help at corner. But how intriguing would it be for the front office to pick Mike Evans to terrify everybody but Seattle's secondary? Who knows, maybe even the dynamic Sammy Watkins inexplicably falls to them -- or they'll trade up to get him.

What do the Cowboys do?

Draft impact: Following the DeMarcus Ware saga, the team suffered another blow to an already bad defense by seeing underrated defensive lineman Jason Hatchersign with the rival Redskins. Making matters worse -- and not striking fear into anybody -- the team has only added Will Herring, Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain. Yeah. That places a huge emphasis on the draft and plenty of needs to fill. Having too many holes on your team isn't a great sign with a pick in the middle of every round.

We're not done yet

Draft impact: Most of the big deals have probably been handed out at this point in free agency, but that doesn't mean teams are done adding players. There are still names like Jared Allen and Henry Melton out there that could help teams contend. It might not alter teams' draft strategy too much by adding this type of veteran, but it could result in them looking for additional depth on the third day of the draft instead of the first.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content