Free Agency Difference Makers: NFC
With Free Agency well in to its second week, there have been plenty of player movements to digest and dissect.
Having looked at all 16 teams in the AFC, it’s time to turn the spotlight on to the NFC and which players I think will be making an impact for their new team in 2017.
As with the AFC, we’ll start in the East.
Nolan Carroll CB
The signing of Nolan Carroll from Philadelphia addresses a significant need for the Cowboys and opens up options for them moving through free agency and in to the draft. After a disappointing 2016 campaign, Carroll will need to have a bounce back year to really be a difference maker, but playing the best often brings out the best, and he’ll see plenty of quality receiving talent in the 6 games against division rivals alone.
He may be relatively old at 30, but he’s a good scheme fit for Dallas and still has the speed to compete with the best of them.
New York Giants
Brandon Marshall WR
Compared to the rock concert of last year, free agency has been a veritable library for the Giants in 2017. Brandon Marshall is a significant addition however to an offense lacking a genuine big target and will give Eli Manning a safe pair of hands as well as the opportunity for completions other receivers just can’t snag.
It isn’t the best fit in terms of McAdoo’s scheme and has the potential to go horribly wrong, but if they play it right, it could be a very good move for the Big Blue.
Alshon Jeffrey WR
No surprises here. One of the biggest free agents of 2017, Alshon Jeffrey instantly becomes Carson Wentz’s go-to guy on a receiving corps beset with drops throughout last year. He’s a legitimate No.1 receiver with outstanding ball skills and will be a reliable set of hands for the sophomore QB.
The Eagles have been trying to find their big receiving threat for a couple of years now and, in Jeffrey, they finally have him.
D.J Swearinger S
Whilst the Redskins were busy making headlines for many other reasons the addition of Swearinger is a definite upgrade to their secondary unit. Much improved in his time with Arizona, he will bring his hard-hitting style to the middle of the Washington defense and will no doubt quickly become a fan favourite.
Whilst other areas of the franchise seemingly fall apart, Swearinger’s arrival ensures the secondary won’t be one of them.
Quintin Demps S
The Bears managed to whiff on a lot of names you would have maybe expected them to sign throughout free agency, and Quintin Demps likely wasn’t on their board at the start, but I like the addition of the 31 year old. He’s a young veteran having had limited playing time throughout his career, so likely still has plenty in the tank to offer Vic Fangio.
On a roster that is rebuilding its secondary (including maybe a 1st Rounder after the Draft) he will bring not only proven ability but also leadership to the group.
Cornelius Washington DE
Whist Washington didn’t do much in Chicago, Detroit could be his Nirvana. It’s a very good fit for the 27 year old pass rusher and could well be the move he needs to flourish. He has the ability to play along the line but I think the Lions will use him as an out and out pass rusher. That should see him in the rotation but plays to his strengths.
It’s probably one of the less glamorous free agency signings across these lists, but I think it has the potential to be one of the most impactful of all the teams.
Green Bay Packers
Lance Kendricks TE
I know. Not the Tight End you were expecting to be listed here. With Jared Cook out of favour, the Packers broke their usual abstinence from free agency to make not one, but two signings at TE. The obvious pick up is Martellus Bennett but I think with him likely drawing a lot of the attention from opposing teams, there is scope for Kendricks to have a truly break out year in Green Bay.
He had a career year last year in Los Angeles with Case Keenum and Jared Goff throwing him the ball. I expect him to have an even better year with Aaron Rodgers on his team.
Riley Reiff OT
It’s difficult to see any of the Vikings’ free agency acquisitions as “impactful” in my opinion, but Reiff does at least offer the biggest upgrade in relation to last year on a position by position basis.
He is coming off possibly his worst season so far in terms of pass blocking, but his run blocking is still sound and the Vikings will hope a new regime will help him regain his form.
Jack Crawford DE
When you’ve just got back from the Super Bowl, it’s generally hard to find big areas of weakness or need, but I think the addition of Crawford brings something to the table. He’s a veritable bargain at just $3M guaranteed over the course of his $8.8M three-year deal but he is a tireless competitor and will bring added steel to a Dan Quinn defense that is improving year on year.
Whilst their biggest problems may be the losses on the coaching staff, Jack Crawford brings some added steel to an already impressive defense.
Mike Adams S
In a free agency that saw the Panthers get older across the board, the addition of Mike Adams is not an exception to that rule, but it brings in a veteran safety playing some of his best football. It also brings added benefits in allowing Kurt Coleman to return to free safety and adds some veteran knowledge for little expenditure.
At 36, Adams is close to the cliff in terms of performance, but it is a low risk move for the Panthers that I think could bring big rewards.
New Orleans Saints
Larry Warford G
By the time you read this, Malcolm Butler may be a Saint (in which case it’s him!) but, at the time of writing, Warford is by far the best addition for the Saints to date. Having been on a strong up curve in Detroit in 2016, Warford offers a big upgrade on the interior of the offensive line as replacement for Jahri Evans.
It’s not as glamorous a signing as the Butler deal if it happens, but it is every bit as important to the Saints for the coming year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DeSean Jackson WR
Tampa Bay did a great job of improving both sides of the ball through free agency and it was almost Chris Baker that got the nod from me, but I think the speed and talent of DeSean Jackson takes their offense to the next level. The perfect accompaniment for Mike Evans, he will give Jameis Winston another weapon to use his arm on and makes that offense a whole lot harder to deal with.
The Buccaneers are most definitely on an upward trajectory and I think the addition of DeSean Jackson only accelerates that.
Phil Dawson K
Seriously? A kicker?! Hear me out here. Chandler Catanzaro was the model of inconsistency last year for the Cardinals (21 of 28 for FGs and 43-47 in PATs) and cost the Cardinals at least two close ones last season.
In a League where the margins between victory and defeat are becoming ever smaller, having a reliable foot to take points when you can is vital. Phil Dawson, although 42, is far more consistent and reliable, especially indoors. I think he’ll make a difference in several games next year.
Los Angeles Rams
Andrew Whitworth OT
The addition of Whitworth on the outside of the Rams offensive line brings with it several benefits, not least the addition of a Pro Bowl caliber tackle to protect the franchise QB’s blind side. IT allows the Rams to move Greg Robinson, who has so far failed to impress on the end, inside and play alongside veteran experience and talent.
It came at a hefty price for the Rams but they are at least getting what they paid for in Whitworth. I expect he’ll be a key part of the overall improvement in the Rams offence under McVay.
San Francisco 49ers
Jeremy Zuttah C
This was a tough one. On a roster so bereft of talent, it’s harder to say who wouldn’t have an impact, but one of the may areas of woe for the 49ers last year (and for several before) was their offensive line. For me, the pick up of Zuttah is not only a steal (the 49ers moved back 12 places in the 6th Round of the Draft for a Pro Bowl Center), it sets the tone across the line.
A key piece in the middle of the line, Zuttah will compete with oft-injured Daniel Kilgore for the starting job. I don’t think it will be a hard fought competition.
Luke Joeckel OT
Given their relative lack of activity in free agency, this was a 50/50 choice between Joeckel and Eddie Lacy. With the offiensive line still a problem area for the otherwise talent rich Seahawks, the addition of Joeckel is something of a gamble, but has a potentially high upside.
He spent a large part of 2016 injured and struggled in his 6 games at tackle for the Jaguars. The Seahawks may choose to slide him inside to Guard instead, but either way, if he can stay on the field, he should make a big difference to that line.
So that’s my take on the best signings for each of the NFC teams to date. Agree? Disagree? Hit us up on Twitter and let me know what you think.