Often in sports, we say that a middle-of-the-road teams are just 1 or 2 players away from being a legitimate contender. The NFL is notorious for taking players who have either plateau’d on their current team or one who’s stuck on the depth chart. The New England Patriots, for example, are a team that somehow consistently take a no-name guy and turn him into a player who performs weekly.
Here are some of the free agent moves that have effected their new team’s win shares right away.
This might be the best offseason signing of the year. Golden Tate wasn’t bad in Seattle. However, their offense is primarily anchored by Marshawn Lynch. The Lions is a pass-heavy offense. They also haven’t had a consistently good or healthy #2 option to complement Calvin Johnson. They’ve had a hodge-podge of guys like Titus Young, Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson, and end zone favorite Joseph Fauria. Een with Tate being undersized (5’11, 195), he’s been a spark and emerged in that Lions’ offense; especially when Megatron is out. In his 4 years with the Seahawks, he had 2195 receiving yards. In his 1st season with the Lions, he’s already reached 1000+ receiving. Despite only netting 3 touchdowns on the season, he’s ahead of Denver’s Demaryius Thomas in yards after the catch. The Megatron/Tate duo is one that’ll be very exciting for Lions fans for the next few seasons.
Malcolm Jenkins: Much of the Saints’ success as a 2-way threat was because their defense stayed pretty good year to year. Their secondary has been abysmal and the exit of safety Malcolm Jenkins is a big reason why.
(Signing Jairus Byrd didn’t help either). The Eagles defense are in the middle of the pack. But if you’ve watched an Eagles game, you have to admit they do look the best they have looked in a few years. On the season, Jenkins has 3 picks and ran one of them back for a touchdown. The Eagles secondary unit upgraded with Jenkins addition.
Last year, it was Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. This season, it’s former Carolina Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell. He was never a star on his former team because Cam Newton has legs. Plus, there was a target share won mostly by Steve Smith (Sr.). and tight end Greg Olsen. With the Patriots, part of the reason why they’re able to win is because they go out and sign guys that most teams wouldn’t touch. Tom Brady can make any receiver look better in-game than he appears on film. It’s The Patriots Way.
The Denver Broncos: When you have an opportunity to play for a Hall of Fame receiver and coach, it’s hard to consider anywhere else. Aqib Talib, TJ Ward, DeMarcus Ware, and Emmanuel Sanders all suited up for the Broncos and have made them look prime to repeat out of the AFC. 32 year old Ware was an interesting free agent pick up. He’s one of the best pass-rushers of all time, alongside Michael Strahan and Reggie White. I was surprised the Cowboys cut him. Now, in Denver, the front 4 of Ware, Terrance Knighton, Derek Wolfe, and Sylvester Williams, are #2 in the league allowing only an average of 73 rushing yards per game. Ware alone has 10 sacks.
Emmanuel Sanders move didn’t make total sense at first. He left a #2 spot with the Steelers to essentially take Eric Decker’s spot. What works to his benefit is that Manning spreads the ball around week to week. Demaryius Thomas attracts a lot of double, at times, triple coverage, leaving Sanders as the open option up the field. Sanders has had 7 games of 100+ yards , including his 3 TD performance vs. Chargers. Both of these signings were smart moves on behalf of the Broncos because both players provide extra insurance at their position.
Notice, I only focused on teams that are winning. There were some other acquisitions that sounded good back in the spring/summer. But now? Not so much. Those names include Geoff Schwartz, Rashad Jennings, Lamarr Houston, Ben Tate, and Toby Gerhart.