NFL Nation: 2014 Free Agency Week 1 Recap NFC

Free-agency review: Cowboys

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
10:56
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» NFC Free-Agency Review | AFC Free-Agency Review

Most significant signing: It has been a slow start to free agency, but defensive end Jeremy Mincey offers the most hope for at least right now as the Cowboys negotiate with Henry Melton and Jared Allen. He signed a two-year deal worth a maximum of $4.5 million and has the ability to play all across the defensive line in passing situations. It’s hard to call the additions of defensive tackle Terrell McClain and quarterback Brandon Weeden significant additions.

[+] EnlargeCowboys' DeMarcus Ware
AP Photo/LM OteroDeMarcus Ware is the Dallas Cowboys' all-time leader in sacks.
Most significant loss: DeMarcus Ware had only six sacks in 2013 and Jason Hatcher led the Cowboys with 11. Both are now gone. The Cowboys released Ware, who has since signed with the Denver Broncos, and Hatcher signed a four-year, $27.5 million deal with the Washington Redskins. Because of what Ware meant to the team for so long -- he is the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks -- he is the more significant loss. Hatcher had one year with more than 4.5 sacks. In a down year, Ware had six. The Broncos are betting Ware has plenty left in the tank by guaranteeing him $20 million over the next three years.

Biggest surprise: It is not really a surprise the Cowboys lost Hatcher, even if it is to a division rival. What is a surprise -- at least so far -- is that the Cowboys have maintained the discipline financially. They were not going to pay Ware or Hatcher the kind of money they received on the market. They were not going to pay Julius Peppers what he got from the Green Bay Packers. What in the name of Jerry Jones is going on around here? Of course, all that could change if they shell out big cash for Melton or Allen.

What’s next? The Cowboys know they must address their defensive line, but it looks as if they will do it at their price. It might cost them in the short run, but help in them in the long run when it comes to being in good shape in the future against the cap. They would like Melton and/or Allen, but if they were not going to go crazy for Ware and Hatcher, they can’t go crazy for those two. As free agency wears on they could look for help at wide receiver or safety, but they will spend most of their time getting ready for the draft.

Free-agency review: Eagles

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
10:55
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Jenkins
Most significant signing: Considering the struggles at safety the past couple of seasons, Malcolm Jenkins has to be the most significant signing. Jenkins is coming off a strong season, but has been inconsistent in the past. He might not be a Pro Bowler, but he's a definite upgrade over what Philadelphia has had of late. His versatility -- he's a former college corner -- is a big plus.

Most significant loss: The Eagles haven't had a significant loss. One free agent who left was backup defensive end Clifton Geathers, who signed with Washington. But that's hardly significant -- for either team. Quarterback Michael Vick hasn't drawn a lot of attention in free agency, which suggests many teams agree with the Eagles that his career is at, or very near, the end.

Sproles
Biggest surprise: The trade for running back Darren Sproles. Had New Orleans just cut Sproles, it's possible the Eagles would have lost out on him. And it's not as if he was a strong need. But Sproles was a terrific weapon to add for this offense because of his versatility -- he can line up anywhere and catch passes. His presence also means the Eagles could be creative in how they deal with other players -- a trade to recoup some draft picks perhaps? Or it could just mean they have another player defenses must worry about. He might not be the same as he was three years ago, but the Eagles don't need Sproles to be that dynamic given who else they have on the roster.

What's next? The Eagles still need more help on defense, even after also signing cornerback Nolan Carroll. The secondary in particular could be strengthened more -- perhaps with strong safety Calvin Pryor in the draft? The Eagles have added depth and key special teams players. They need to find a few players to develop into starters in the draft.

Free-agency review: Redskins

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:35
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Hatcher
Hatcher
Most significant signing: Defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. A major issue for Washington’s defense last season was the lack of an interior pass rush, which is something Hatcher did exceptionally well last season in Dallas. The Redskins could not push the pocket and the rush too often relied on blitzes or pressure from outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. It wasn’t enough. Hatcher doesn’t need to duplicate his 11-sack season, but he does need to provide a constant threat inside to diversify the Redskins' rush.

Most significant loss: The Redskins haven't lost anyone significant thus far and the players they’ve wanted to keep they have. But perhaps the biggest loss came when safety Mike Mitchell opted to sign with Pittsburgh at an affordable price. The Redskins were deeply interested in him, making him their first call in the legal tampering window, and then again early on the first day of free agency. But they lost out on him and free safety remains a hole.

Meriweather
Biggest surprise: The inability to add a safety and the lack of pursuit for the big-name inside linebackers. The Redskins didn't want to overspend at either position -- and at safety, they didn't see many options better than Brandon Meriweather, whom they re-signed. As far as inside linebacker, it’s not a position as important to them as pass-rusher. Still, they did not bring in any of the so-called big names at this position. They're hoping newly signed Darryl Sharpton can stay healthy or that Keenan Robinson can do the same and show that, despite missing most of his first two seasons, he might be able to help. Sharpton received only a one-year deal.

What's next? The Redskins have shown a methodical approach to free agency, and that won’t change. They’re not taking on bad contracts and should be set up nicely in terms of cap space for some big contracts in coming seasons. As far as remaining holes, the draft is considered deep at receiver, so there’s a good chance that position is addressed in the first several rounds. Inside linebacker and safety also could be early targets based on what they haven't done in free agency.

Free-agency review: Seahawks

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
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Here's a look at where things stand with the Seattle Seahawks after the first week of free agency:

Bennett
Most significant signing: Keeping Michael Bennett, the team's best defensive lineman last season, meant the Seahawks accomplished their No. 1 goal among all their free agents. Bennett had said he wouldn't give the Seahawks a hometown discount, but he signed for a reasonable sum of $28.5 over four years. Bennett agreed to the deal because the Seahawks were willing to give him $16 million in guaranteed money. Re-signing kicker Steve Hauschka on Monday to a three-year, $9.1 million deal was also a key move.

Most significant loss: It was fairly obvious before free agency began that the Seahawks wouldn't be able to keep both Bennett and wide receiver Golden Tate. That proved true when Tate signed a five-year deal with the Detroit Lions for $31 million, including $13.2 million in guaranteed money. The Seahawks were offering Tate about $10 million less.

Biggest surprise: No huge surprises, but the Seahawks really wanted to keep defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who had a breakout season in 2013 with 5.5 sacks. But Seattle felt they couldn't afford to match the offer McDonald received from Tampa Bay of $12 million for four years.

What's next?: Seven Seattle free agents signed elsewhere in the first week of free agency, which shows how difficult it is to keep together a Super Bowl-winning team. However, Tate and McDonald are the only two the Seahawks seriously considered keeping. It's possible Seattle could still sign defensive end Jared Allen or defensive tackle Henry Melton, but the team has to look to the future when big-money deals are coming for safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson, which could cost as much as $35 million in 2015.

Free-agency review: Saints

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
Byrd
Most significant signing: This one is obvious. The New Orleans Saints landed one of the top free agents on the market when they signed former Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd to a six-year, $54 million contract. The Saints defense was already outstanding last year, but Byrd is a three-time Pro Bowler who specializes in creating turnovers from the center field position. That's the one element the Saints were really missing on defense last year. Their secondary has become one of the strongest units in the league -- following the blueprint of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

Most significant loss: New Orleans parted ways with several longtime veterans in a calculated effort to invest in younger players. But the decision to trade Darren Sproles to the Philadelphia Eagles was the most unexpected. Sproles has been a huge part of the Saints offense as a dynamic runner and receiver out of the backfield. However, it wasn't a complete shock since the Saints backfield is still very deep. And Sproles, 30, has seen his production start to dip a bit the past two years. The Saints received a fifth-round draft pick and cleared $3.5 million in cap space.

Biggest surprise: Byrd and Sproles were both a bit unexpected. But in general, the biggest surprise is that the Saints spent money so aggressively despite being slammed against the cap. They signed Byrd, re-signed right tackle Zach Strief (five years, $20.5 million) and kept running back Pierre Thomas with a two-year extension. All of those deals were cap-friendly in 2014, as the Saints continue with their win-now approach.

What's next? The Saints still have some holes to fill at center, receiver and cornerback. They may consider bringing back center Brian De La Puente or receiver Robert Meachem or finding a bargain-priced veteran at those spots in free agency. Or they could try to add depth through the draft. If they add any more free agents, they will need to carve out more cap space through restructured deals or player releases. The biggest issue this offseason will be working out a long-term contract for tight end Jimmy Graham, who is currently locked up by the franchise tag. That debate could linger well into the summer. But the Saints are already being charged more than $7 million against the cap for Graham's tag, so cap space won't be an issue.

Free-agency review: Falcons

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
Asamoah
Soliai
Most significant signings: It's a tossup between nose tackle Paul Soliai and offensive guard Jon Asamoah. With the Falcons moving to a 3-4-based defensive scheme, it's important to have an anchor up front, and the 6-foot-4-inch, 340-pound Soliai is quite an anchor and will open lanes for others to make plays. But the offensive line is the biggest issue that needed to be fixed, and inserting a stout pass protector like Asamoah is one positive step in the process.

Most significant loss: The Falcons didn't necessarily lose any player to another team and had only a handful of free agents to begin with, but Tony Gonzalez is now technically a free agent after being released by the team before a $3 million bonus was due. Gonzalez claims to be retired anyway, but his retirement paperwork hasn't been filed yet. If another team somehow talks him out of retirement, that no doubt wouldn't sit well with the Falcons.

Jackson
Biggest surprise: Awarding defensive end Tyson Jackson a five-year, $25 million contract was somewhat of a shocker, considering Jackson never really stood out in Kansas City after coming in as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2009 draft. But if Jackson stuffs the run and provides toughness up front, his past won't matter. His impact won't be based on sacks; he had only nine of them over his first five seasons.

What's next? The Falcons are obviously looking for help in the return game after inquiring about Devin Hester and bringing in Trindon Holliday for a visit, although neither has signed. Safety and tight end are still areas of concern with the market dwindling. As far as tight ends, Jermichael Finley's status is worth monitoring coming off spinal surgery. It will be interesting to see if the Falcons look into any restricted free agents.

Free-agency review: Packers

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
Peppers
Most significant signing: Re-signing perhaps their top three defensive free agents -- cornerback Sam Shields, defensive tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal -- was important, but that didn't necessarily make the Green Bay Packers' 25th-ranked defense better. They hope the addition of defensive end Julius Peppers does that. Peppers had seven sacks in a down season last year for the Chicago Bears, yet that was more than any of the Packers' defensive linemen had last season. Even at age 34, expect Peppers to be motivated to bounce back and energized playing for a team he considers a Super Bowl contender.

Most significant loss: When Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, it ensured that quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take snaps for a fourth starting center in as many seasons. It also broke up an offensive line group that started all but two games together last season. The most likely internal replacement is second-year pro JC Tretter, but he was a college tackle at Cornell who did not play a single snap last year as a rookie.

Jones
Jones
Biggest surprise: Apparently 24 touchdown catches over the last three seasons doesn't count for much on the free-agent market. How else to explain why it took a week for anyone to sign former Packers receiver James Jones, who finally landed a three-year deal with the Oakland Raiders on Monday? Maybe it's that Jones will turn 30 on March 31. While Jones caught only three touchdowns last season, he had 14 in 2012 and seven in 2011. Last season, he caught 59 passes for a career-best 817 yards despite missing nearly three full games.

What’s next? Even after Jones signed, the Packers still have 10 of their own free agents still unsigned. Among them are quarterback Matt Flynn, fullback John Kuhn, tight end Jermichael Finley (visited the Seattle Seahawks), tackle Marshall Newhouse (scheduled to visit the Cincinnati Bengals) plus defensive tackles Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett.

Free-agency review: Vikings

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
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Munnerlyn
Most significant signing: The Vikings filled two major holes on defense last week, adding former New York Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph and former Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. As important as both will be to the roster, Munnerlyn should help solve one of the Vikings' biggest problems from last season. He can line up at slot cornerback on third downs, where teams routinely targeted Josh Robinson last season. Munnerlyn also gives the Vikings the kind of scrappy tackler against the run they had for years in Antoine Winfield.

Most significant loss: Jared Allen will be the Vikings' most high-profile departure, but it's difficult to tell yet how much that will affect the team. New coach Mike Zimmer's system wouldn't have featured Allen the way he'd been used over the past six years in Minnesota, and the Vikings should have their starting defensive line in place with Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Joseph and Brian Robison. Still, it will be strange not to see Allen lining up at right end in a Vikings uniform this fall.

Griffen
Biggest surprise: It's been clear for some time that the Vikings wanted to re-sign Griffen, but the value of his contract -- which puts him among the highest-paid pass-rushers in the league -- was something of an eye-opener. Griffen will get $20 million guaranteed as part of his deal, though the Vikings put all that guaranteed money in the first two years of the deal. Griffen's best year in the NFL came in 2012, when he posted eight sacks in a part-time role, and he's yet to become the kind of dominant force the Vikings are paying him to be. The contract is a gamble on potential, but the Vikings are obviously confident in Griffen's ability to fulfill it.

What's next: The Vikings still need help at linebacker, though general manager Rick Spielman sounded confident in his young linebackers last week. They remain in contact with former Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton after hosting him on a visit last week, and they will bring in Jets offensive lineman Vlad Ducasse for a visit this week. It's also possible the Vikings look at a corner, and they'll still be in the hunt for a young quarterback come draft time.

Free-agency review: 49ers

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
Boldin
Most significant signing: Receiver Anquan Boldin. Fans may not like it when a team's most significant move is keeping one of its current players, but imagine if Boldin had walked. In his first season with the 49ers, Boldin became a critical part of the offense. Receiver was one of the team's biggest need areas. Re-signing Boldin helps keep this offense dangerous. The team's plan was to try to keep its best players, and Boldin was the top priority. That alone makes free agency a success.

Most significant loss: Cornerback Tarell Brown. I think safety Donte Whitner is a better player than Brown. But unlike Whitner, the 49ers have yet to replace Brown, who signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the crosstown Oakland Raiders. Brown is a solid player. His departure leaves a hole at the position.

Biggest surprise: The signing of former Indianapolis safety Antoine Bethea. About four hours before the start of free agency, word filtered out that Whitner was going to agree to a deal with his hometown Cleveland Browns. Shortly after free agency officially began, the 49ers had a deal done with Bethea. It was surprising in both swiftness and quality. The thought was that if Whitner were to leave, the 49ers would have to scramble to find a replacement. But Bethea is a comparable player to Whitner and a good fit for the defense.

What’s next? The 49ers are concentrating on adding players at cornerback and receiver. They took some looks at both spots in recent days, but nothing materialized. There are some pieces remaining on the market at both spots, but fit and price could be issues. The 49ers are fully expected to use early-round picks to address both positions in the draft.

Free-agency review: Buccaneers

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
Johnson
Most significant signing: The signing of former Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson has been the team's biggest move by far. The Bucs came into free agency looking to improve their pass rush and they accomplished that by signing Johnson. He had only 3.5 sacks last year, but had 11.5 in 2012. The hope is that Johnson can give the Bucs double-digit sacks.

Most significant loss: The beauty of this free-agency period is the Bucs didn't really have any significant free agents of their own. They did lose Dekoda Watson (Jacksonville) and Adam Hayward (Washington). Those losses took away some of their depth at linebacker. More significantly, Watson and Hayward were regulars on special teams, and the Bucs have to find players to fill their roles.

Biggest surprise: It was no surprise the Bucs released cornerback Darrelle Revis and his $16 million salary. But it was surprising that the Bucs replaced him with Alterraun Verner at such a reasonable rate (four years, $26.5 million). Verner is not on the same level as Revis, but he should fit very nicely in the Tampa 2 scheme.

What's next? The Bucs have made a lot of moves, but there is still more work to be done. That's what happens when you're coming off a 4-12 season. They need to add some speed at wide receiver and continue to solidify their offensive line.

Free-agency review: Panthers

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
Harper
Most significant signing: TBA. So far the most significant thing the Carolina Panthers have done in free agency is cut their all-time leading receiver, Steve Smith, who wasn't a free agent until he was released. Their only signing of any significance is former New Orleans safety Roman Harper, a replacement for free safety Mike Mitchell. But his signing is borderline in the significance column. Significant will come when Carolina finally signs a wide receiver, since at the moment quarterback Cam Newton has none with an NFL catch on the roster.

Most significant loss: Now this I can talk about, since that's what free agency has been all about for Carolina. The biggest loss among Carolina's free agents was Mitchell. The Panthers wanted to keep him, but Pittsburgh wanted him more (five years, $25 million). There have been two big losses among free agents from other teams that Carolina offered. The first was Cincinnati left tackle Anthony Collins, who went to NFC South rival Tampa Bay. The other was New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who went to Indianapolis. Of the two, I'll say Collins was the biggest loss because it will be tougher to replace the retired Jordan Gross than a receiver.

Smith
Biggest surprise: After the release of Smith, which I still believe was a mistake, nothing has been a huge surprise. It's not big, but not finding a way to re-sign No. 2 receiver Brandon LaFell (Patriots) or No. 3 Ted Ginn Jr. (Cardinals) to give Newton at least some sort of continuity from last season was at least mildly interesting. But maybe this was for the best. As I said repeatedly last season, LaFell was a disappointment as the No. 2. He was a No. 3 at best, although with Tom Brady now throwing to him, that could change. With no bona fide No. 1 available, maybe Carolina is thinking three bona fide No. 2s and a flashy draft pick will be better than a 1, 2 and 3.

What's next? General manager Dave Gettleman said all along he was looking for bargains in free agency, so letting the first wave pass with no fanfare doesn't come as a surprise. I suspected all along the Panthers would wait for the second and third wave to fill out their roster. They waited eight days before signing the majority of their free agents a year ago. Right now, they're targeting wide receivers. Pittsburgh's Jerricho Cotchery arrived for a visit Monday. They had interest in Green Bay's James Jones until he signed with Oakland late Monday afternoon. Carolina also is looking for a starting cornerback. A player like Arizona's Antoine Cason, who played for Carolina coach Ron Rivera at San Diego, could draw interest.

Free-agency review: Bears

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
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Most significant signing: The Bears made Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston their most expensive acquisition ($15 million guaranteed), but the price could actually turn out to be a bargain if he can replace some of the production lost with the release of Julius Peppers. Houston is a young, ascending player who has a reputation for physicality, which is exactly what Chicago wanted. Houston also provides the Bears versatility in the scheme because of his ability to be impactful as a pass-rusher from defensive end or defensive tackle. As well as Houston played in Oakland, it’s expected he’ll play his best ball in Chicago.

[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJosh McCown threw for 1,829 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
Most significant loss: Even though Josh McCown was serving as the backup quarterback, his departure to Tampa Bay was significant because of all he did behind the scenes with starter Jay Cutler and the team’s skill-position players. It’s also worth noting that Cutler hasn’t played a full 16-game schedule since 2009. So the chances of the Bears needing the backup to play in 2014 would seem fairly reasonable. The Bears have expressed confidence in Jordan Palmer’s ability to fill McCown’s shoes as the No. 2 quarterback, but they’ll continue to see if they can upgrade at that position.

Biggest surprise: Chicago’s judicious handling of free agency to this point is somewhat of a surprise. Despite several needs on defense, the Bears have resisted the temptation to overspend just for the sake of filling spots. The front office has identified the types of players it would like to add to the defense, and it hasn’t waffled. The club is also staying patient, knowing there are still bargains to be had in the later stages of free agency.

What’s next? It’s difficult at this point to say how free agency will affect Chicago’s draft because free agency for the Bears will likely go all the way until May as the team continues to exercise restraint in its search for impact players. The Bears will still be active in the second and third wave of free agency, and it’s likely the club will land at least one more defensive starter. Even with that, Chicago’s draft will still be focused on defense because it’s time to start looking toward the future. Defensive tackle would appear to be the main target in the draft, and that could still be the case, even if the Bears managed to bring back free agent Henry Melton.

Free-agency review: Rams

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
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A look at what the St. Louis Rams have done through the first week of free agency.

Most significant signing: There's not much to choose from, but the obvious pick is offensive lineman Rodger Saffold's five-year deal with the team. He was the Rams' No. 1 priority and they were able to land him after one of the most dramatic and bizarre free-agent situations in recent memory.

[+] EnlargeRodger Saffold
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceRodger Saffold's versatility has paid off for the St. Louis Rams.
Most significant loss: It's a tossup between backup quarterback Kellen Clemens and left guard Chris Williams, but we'll go with Williams based solely on the fact that he started all 16 games for the team in 2013. Losing Williams is far from a damaging blow, but that's one starting spot the Rams now have to fill.

Biggest surprise: The crazy saga that was Saffold's near departure to Oakland followed by the quick turnaround and new contract with the Rams is the runaway winner here. The Rams had already moved on to other targets and were in the middle of hosting one replacement (guard Davin Joseph) and had another possibility (guard Daryn Colledge) on the way to St. Louis when the news broke that Saffold's deal in Oakland fell apart. In a matter of hours, the Rams went from scrambling for replacements to landing their top target.

What's next? There's not much to be found on the market after the usual waves of free agency came and went in the first six days. The Rams will continue to explore the bargain bin for depth on the offensive and defensive lines, for a backup quarterback and possibly for help at wide receiver and in the secondary.

Free-agency review: Cardinals

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
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Most significant signing: Arizona vastly upgraded its offensive line when it signed left tackle Jared Veldheer. He gives the Cardinals an anchor on the left side, a position that hasn’t been solidified -- nor sturdy -- for the past 10 years. At 6-foot-8 and 320 pounds, Veldheer changed the complexion of how Arizona’s offense can work. The Cards now have an answer for the tough defensive ends and outside linebackers in the NFC West, putting one a few steps closer to becoming a playoff team.

Dansby
Most significant loss: Without a doubt, Arizona’s biggest loss is inside linebacker Karlos Dansby. He provided a bridge between the secondary and defensive line, and was able to cross it seamlessly and often. Dansby’s loss will impact the defense because of his ability to go sideline to sideline. He had a career season in 2013 after shedding weight. Dansby was also the conductor of the defense and was held in high regard throughout the locker room.

Biggest surprise: The one name that’s stood out from the Cardinals’ haul thus far is Ted Ginn Jr. The speedy receiver is a perfect fit for Bruce Arians’ offense but his addition wasn’t expected. Like Veldheer’s signing, the idea of signing Ginn became a reality when the Carolina Panthers didn’t make a strong push to re-sign him. By landing Ginn, Arizona has a dual-purpose player -- Ginn can assume the kick returner role, while being a solid backup for Patrick Peterson on punt returns -- and will be Arizona’s third receiver, the one whose speed can take the top off defenses.

What’s next? The Cardinals solved a lot of their problems that plagued them throughout 2013, but there are still some areas left to be fixed. Arizona will target a right tackle, safety, cornerback and tight end during the second wave of free agency as well as in the draft. Of those, the Cards will most likely aim for a safety and tight end in the draft while trying to snag another offensive lineman or two and a cornerback in free agency. With that being said, the draft could yield a talented corner who would come at a cheaper price than some of the veterans on the team. General manager Steve Keim will still approach the second wave of free agency like he did the first: looking for instant-impact players. However the second wave may yield more veterans, who Arizona has utilized in the past, as well as a slew of backups.

Free-agency review: Lions

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
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A week in, here's a quick review of the free-agency period for the Detroit Lions:

Tate
Tate
Most significant signing: Considering that Detroit has mostly signed depth or re-signed its own free agents, the obvious choice is receiver Golden Tate. The former Seattle Seahawk will complement Calvin Johnson and should take pressure and attention off of the Lions' top receiver. He can also spread the field, has elite hands and can block extremely well for a 5-foot-10 receiver. He plays taller than he is and should be a good addition to Detroit.

Most significant loss: Defensive end Willie Young was a productive player who often became overlooked because of the star power in the middle (Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley) and the emergence of Ziggy Ansah at the other end. But Young is a long, rangy end who was good against the run and showed improvement. That he went to one of Detroit's top rivals, Chicago, adds to the significance because the Lions will see him at least twice a year.

Biggest surprise: That the Lions didn't make a bigger play earlier in the safety market. Like receiver on offense, safety is Detroit's biggest need on defense after the release of Louis Delmas. The team looked like it was interested in Chris Clemons and had reportedly expressed interest in T.J. Ward, but so far the only safety the team has brought in is James Ihedigbo. While Ihedigbo could fill a need if he signs, Detroit could have tried to make a bigger play here considering the market and the need. Unless the Lions draft one.

What's next: Solving the backup quarterback issue. The Lions need to have a veteran behind Matthew Stafford, and Kellen Moore just is not going to be a viable option there right now. Detroit, be it through re-signing Shaun Hill or signing someone like Luke McCown or Ryan Fitzpatrick, has to have a player with some experience ready to come in if Stafford were to get hurt. Detroit has too many other pieces to let that be an actual issue.

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