New Faces, New Places
By Guest Writer PJ Moran:
The first few weeks of NFL free agency is one of the craziest times of the year. Year after year, teams will empty the bank on a player that they think is capable of turning them into a winner. Most of the time, these purchases do not work out very well. However, there is always the select bunch of free agents who fit in well with their new team and bring them to the next level. Here is a list of the top five players who swapped uniforms during this offseason:
5. Elvis Dumervil – Baltimore Ravens
If everything went according to plan, then Elvis Dumervil wouldn’t even be eligible for this list. He planned on restructuring his contract with the Denver Broncos, but his agent was too late on faxing the necessary paperwork so Dumervil was released. But regardless of how it happened, Dumervil is now a member of the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The once-vaunted Ravens defense will have an entirely new look this season now that both Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have left Baltimore. Still, I think the Ravens defense will remain top-tier, and Dumervil is a big reason why. The Ravens run a 3-4 defense, and Dumervil is built to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. When Denver ran the 3-4 back in 2009, Dumervil led the league with 17 sacks. With Dumervil on one side and Terrell Suggs on the other, the Ravens defense should still be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.
From the guy who joined the Ravens defense to the guy who left it. After 11 years in Baltimore, this future first-ballot Hall of Famer joined the Texans this offseason and will likely end his career in Houston. While Reed is not the player that he once was, he is still as much of a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball as anyone in the entire league. To put it simply, as long as Reed is on the field, then quarterbacks should be afraid. With J.J. Watt and the rest of the defense forcing constant pressure, Reed should have a field day baiting quarterbacks into throwing interceptions. If Reed can stay healthy (yes, this is a big if), then he should once again finish among the league-leaders in interceptions and will take the Texans defense to the next level.
3. Wes Welker – Denver Broncos
The Broncos already had two great receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker before the offseason began, but then they stole Welker from New England to form the most potent receiving corps in the NFL. Preparing for this offense will surely create headaches for defensive coordinators, as Peyton Manning will now have someone open to throw to on every play. Welker holds the NFL record of five seasons with 100+ receptions, and there is a good chance that this season will be number six. Even if he does not reach that plateau, Welker will put up some big numbers and help the Broncos in their quest for a Super Bowl title.
2. Steven Jackson – Atlanta Falcons
Steven Jackson may be a little past his prime, but if any free agent signing turned a great team in a Super Bowl contender, it was the Falcons’ acquisition of Jackson. Because he has played on bad Rams teams for his entire career, Jackson has become one of the most underrated players in NFL history. He has rushed for at least 1,000 yards every year since he became a starter, and he is already 26th in all-time rushing yards. With a much-improved offensive line and less pressure to carry the offense, Jackson should once again rush for over 1,000 yards and carry the Falcons to new heights.
1. Jake Long – St. Louis Rams
While Long doesn’t play as “sexy” of a position as any of the previous 4 listed players, he will make the biggest impact on his new team in the long run. Long, the former #1 overall pick, is already one of the best left tackles in the league and will remain one for years to come. Poor blocking is always the excuse for Sam Bradford’s subpar performance thus far in St. Louis, but with Long now anchoring the line, it’s time for Bradford to play up to his contract. The Rams’ signing of Jake Long won’t turn them into championship contenders immediately, but it undoubtedly turned them into a better team in both the short term and the long term.