Posted by Frazier
We're unleashing our next mock draft on the world tomorrow. But before we do so, it's time to pay attention to some of the impact that signings in NFL free agency will have on teams draft needs. These changes will be reflected in the new mock, but we decided to take a moment and break them down a little bit first. We're listing free agents (and trades) that will have an impact, not every single guy who changed teams. In no particular order (except the Pats go first, obviously):
New England Patriots:
Who they added: Adalius Thomas LB, Wes Welker WR
The impact: Pretty immense. The Pats were in desperate need of some youth in their linebacking corps, and a reliable option at wide receiver. These were easily their two biggest "need" areas, and they took care of them. The Thomas signing in particular is huge. He is a great fit for that defense, and means that the Pats won't reach on anyone they don't love at the position. The guess here is that a lack of attractive options in the draft drove the Pats to aggressively pursue Thomas. The Welker signing is less sexy, but 25 year old wideouts with Welker's versatility and toughness don't exactly grow on trees. Welker fits best as a slot man, and as the heir apparent to Troy Brown, which means the Pats may still be tempted by one of a bevy of talented WR in the draft to play with Chad Jackson and Reche Caldwell on the outside. These signings mean that New England will continue with their long-held draft strategy of picking whoever is highest on their board, regardless of position.
Who they added: Dre Bly CB, Dan Wilkinson DT, Travis Henry RB
The impact: The Bly trade is really the big one. After the tragic death of Darrent Williams, the Broncos were in desperate need of a starting CB. The signing of Bly definitely fills that gap. With him and Bailey, it pretty much precludes the Broncos from drafting another CB in the first round. So that's a huge change. Signing Wilkinson is another signal that Shannahan and company still believe that they can plug in a rotation of re-treads on the D-line and be effective. They want a number of bodies that they can keep fresh with frequent substitutions, so probably won't pay a premium for a high draft choice at the selection. The Henry signing has less of an impact since Denver believes they can plug anyone in at that spot and succeed, but it is notable that Henry presents a nearly identical skill set to incumbent Mike Bell. This may indicate that Shanahan is moving on from Bell, and may be in the draft market to use a mid-late round pick on a third down type back (a la Quentin Griffin a few seasons ago).
Who they added: Eric Steinbach OG
The impact: The Browns really had some issues on their o-line last year, and there was some thought that they might be looking that direction early and often in the draft. This signing adds a significant piece for them, while not precluding the addition of a lineman. It just becomes less of a dire need, so they may go elsewhere, or they may complete the overhaul. With the news that LeCharles Bentley's career may be over, the Browns could certainly use a player like Ryan Kalil early in rd. 2, but with Steinbach aboard there is virtually no chance they use their first and second round picks on the OL.
San Francisco 49ers:
Who they added: Ashley Lelie WR
The impact: The Niners actually showed a lot of life last year. They have a good young TE, RB and a QB who looks like he's on the right track. Adding a solid WR to the mix was definitely a need for this team. Now, the draft is still stacked at the position, so they may bite if they fall in love with a player, but this is probably a signal that they will be addressing a need on the other side of the ball with their first pick.
Who they added: Fred Smoot, CB
The impact: With Adam Archuleta proving to everyone that he just isn't very good, and Shawn Springs not being able to cover anyone with a giant fork sticking out of his back, this position was a definite need area. The Redskins have so few draft choices that who knows how they plan on spending them. It's also no surprise that Snyder went for the biggest name around, despite the fact that Smoot was jettisoned by the team a few seasons ago. With Smoot on board, it is nearly certain that the Skins will go with one of the top defensive ends at #6.
Who they added: Dewayne White DE, Tatum Bell RB, George Foster OT
The impact: It's a big one. Possibly a huge one. This team has about a million needs, and they started to fill a number of them. The addition of Bell will certainly help fill the void vacated by the injured Kevin Jones, while the addition of White (along with the resigning of Corey Redding) provides the defensive line with a level of stability coach Marinelli (White's former DL coach in Tampa) desperately craves. The addition of Foster, however, may in fact, be the largest. The offensive line is an obsession for coach Marinelli, and Foster will fits in perfectly as the starting right tackle. While Joe Thomas would still look outstanding on the left side, people can now speculate that the Lions will at least attempt to trade down, and stockpile some picks to fill other needs.
San Diego Chargers:
Who they added: Kris Dielman OG
The impact: The Chargers are the team that has everything, and re-signing Dielman means that they filled a void before it became one. The end of the first round is often a prime area to pick a guard, but the Chargers will certainly be looking a different direction now. The rich may be getting richer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Who they added: Jake Plummer QB, Jeff Garcia QB, Kevin Carter DL
The impact: Another big one. If they had added one of these guys, maybe you could still see them picking Quinn (who Gruden must love). But adding both of them, plus the fact that Chris Simms is still on the table, basically precludes any thought of adding the Golden Domer. So the Bucs are definitely not going in that direction unless Gruden wants an even dozen signal callers. The early call here is that the Bucs give Simms another chance in 2007 and if he doesn't win the starting job they hope their pick is high enough to grab Brian Brohm (who is genetically engineered to run Gruden's west coast attack) in the 2008 draft. Kevin Carter is over the hill, but at least he buys them time to draft an end after the first couple rounds and develop him.
Who they added: Leonard Davis OT
The impact: Well, they overpaid so much for Davis to start on their line that it probably precludes them from drafting another O-lineman with their first round pick. Davis, however, will almost certainly be miscast as a tackle in Dallas, so the Boys still need at least one more interior lineman. Still, Davis is better than what they had so they'll probably switch their draft thinking to a defense that scuffled down the stretch last year.
Who they added: Ahman Green RB
The impact: They are no longer in the Adrian Peterson derby, which is probably as much an indication that drafting Peterson would be tantamount to admitting error in passing on Bush than it is confidence in Ahman Green. There were thoughts they would trade up, or sit tight and hope that Peterson fell, but now they have an overpaid veteran at the position. Needless to say they are going in another direction. The Green signing still seems incredibly odd to us though. There was a legit chance that Peterson would fall to them at #8 which would have filled a need and represented outstanding value. Now their most glaring need is at offensive tackle, and there is no prospect worthy of the #8 pick. Unless they trade up to get Thomas, or down to get more picks this could be a disastrous month for the Texans.