Top 10 impacts in free agency

NFL teams were busy in the first few weeks of free agency, with some teams making major moves and major rebirths in their rosters.

NFL teams dished out nearly $2 billion in contracts in the first two weeks of free agency. Now, almost three weeks into free agency, more than 100 unrestricted free agents have signed with new teams.

In the first two weeks, there were 153 signings that represented more than $788 million in guaranteed money. With 89 percent of the salary cap required to be spent from 2013-16, some teams had to make up spending ground while others were relatively quiet.

Who were the teams and signings that made the biggest impacts in free agency? Here is a look at 10 team themes or individual signings that stood out in the first three weeks of free agency:

1. Revis leads Jets’ cornerback comeback
Over the past two seasons the Jets had the worst collection of cornerbacks and one of the worst receiving corps in football. But in just one offseason new GM Mike Maccagnan has turned two of the team’s biggest weaknesses into strengths.

Trading for Brandon Marshall to join Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley will give the Jets a receiving corps that will actually put pressure on opposing secondaries. On defense, the big move was bringing back Darrelle Revis, the man Jets players once dubbed “Revis Christ.” The Jets didn’t stop there, as they also brought back Antonio Cromartie and signed slot corner Buster Skrine. Now all of last year’s starting corners will be purely backups, giving the Jets the best and deepest cornerback collection in the NFL.
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2. Bills take care of business
Buffalo showed a lot of aggressiveness this offseason in an attempt to fill holes in their roster and upgrade at other positions. Their first signing wasn’t popular, but Richie Incognito is a talented guard. Buffalo also explored the trade market by sending Kiko Alonso for LeSean McCoy, and a fifth-round pick for Matt Cassel. In doing so, the Bills added a true No. 1 running back and a quarterback that’s played a part in winning 10-plus games twice. In free agency, Buffalo re-signed their top free agent in Jerry Hughes, as well as adding defensive line depth in Jarius Wynn and special teams standout Marcus Easley. As for other free agent signings, Buffalo added one of the top blocking fullbacks in Jerome Felton and a playmaking receiver/kick returner in Percy Harvin. Last, Tyrod Taylor, an intriguing quarterback, was added and promised a chance to win the starting QB job. Buffalo looks like a team that can legitimately compete for a playoff spot in 2015.
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3. Miami breaks the bank for Suh
Much was made of Revis signing with the New York Jets, for good reason, but defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh took the biggest free-agent pot of the offseason. Suh signed a six-year deal that could be worth just over $114 million with almost $60 million in guarantees, including a $25.5 million signing bonus. The Dolphins had an average defense last year, but they were 24th against the run, so adding a disruptive presence in the middle as a run stuffer and pass rusher was an important, expensive move that made headlines at the outset of free agency.
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4. Philadelphia overhauls outlook
Perhaps no team overhauled its roster more than the Philadelphia Eagles with head coach Chip Kelly given more power over personnel moves. Other teams signed more free agents, but the Eagles were especially busy with the upper-echelon free agents. They signed five-star free agents at running back (DeMarco Murray) and cornerback (Byron Maxwell), with Murray replacing LeSean McCoy, who was traded to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso. They also re-signed four-star linebacker Brandon Graham and added Brad Jones for depth at the position. They also signed running back Ryan Matthews and cornerback Walter Thurmond. The losses were significant, too, as they lost McCoy to the Bills, WR Jeremy Maclin to the Chiefs, CBs Bradley Fletcher to the Patriots and Cary Williams to the Seahawks, LBs Trent Cole to the Colts and Casey Matthews to the Vikings, and S Nate Allen to the Raiders. The Eagles will have a significantly different look in 2015, but will all the changes make them a playoff team?
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5. Graham gives Seattle a passing boost
In an era when most clubs are looking to pass the ball more, the Seahawks qualified for a second consecutive Super Bowl despite starting two undrafted free agents at wide receiver in Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin. Rather than enhance at receiver, John Schneider and Pete Carroll added arguably the league’s best tight end with a trade for former New Orleans Saints’ star Jimmy Graham. The All-Pro gives Seattle the seam threat to keep defenses from crowding the line of scrimmage in an effort to stop Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson and the league’s most lethal running game. Losing Pro Bowl center Max Unger (and the No. 31 overall pick in 2015) hurts, but Seattle has 11 draft picks and a history of discovering gold in the draft’s middle and later rounds.
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6. San Fran’s retirement community
A drastic shift with the 49ers’ roster was inevitable at some point. But having Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Chris Borland and perhaps Justin Smith - who continues to mull retirement - leave provided San Francisco a jarring shift in a span of eight days. The core group that led the 49ers to three straight conference title games is now mostly gone, leaving voids in the locker room for new head coach Jim Tomsula to deal with after Jim Harbaugh’s unprecedented run of success. With the front office clearly in charge after Harbaugh’s dismissal, they’re hoping to revitalize an offense that failed to develop in Harbaugh’s fourth season as head coach.
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7. Colts turn to aging veterans for upgrades
Critics question the Colts adding 30-somethings in wide receiver Andre Johnson (33), running back Frank Gore (31), outside linebacker Trent Cole (32) and offensive guard Todd Herremans (32), but general manager Ryan Grigson didn’t extend himself as much as it might appear. None of the players received more than a three-year contract, and all are front-weighted, which means the Colts are counting on production early on and if it doesn’t happen Grigson can cut his losses and regain cap space. This team needed a wide receiver with size, a seasoned running back, a pass rusher and help on the O-line, so each area was addressed, as well as signing defensive end Kendall Langford and inside linebacker Nate Irving to bolster a rushing defense that has been run over by New England in the past two postseasons.
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8. Cowboys take a Hard(y) risk
Dallas entered free agency intent on second-tier bargains, achieved that goal and yet, in its mind, somehow still made a Jerry Jonesian “splash” with the acquisitions of pass-rusher Greg Hardy and running back Darren McFadden and the retention of receiver Cole Beasley and right tackle Doug Free.

All four signed highly cap-friendly deals with Dallas, though Hardy could eventually be paid like the first-tier talent he is (minus the domestic-violence involvement). His one-year contract is being billed as a “$13-million deal,” but its immediate cap impact is just $3.2 million, with no guarantees. That allows the Cowboys to follow the lead of COO Stephen Jones and avoid being hamstrung financially, and allows the team to part ways with Hardy if he becomes a problem. They retained Free at a fraction of what Jacksonville paid to hire his backup Jermey Parnell, saved $400,000 by tendering the trusted slot-receiver Beasley, and view McFadden not so much as the replacement for departed star DeMarco Murray but rather as a possible replacement for the untrustworthy backup Joseph Randle.

Dallas isn’t interested in spending much on bringing back the enigmatic Rolando McClain and has signed ex-Viking Jasper Brinkley to possibly play middle linebacker. There are still holes in the linebacking corps and the draft can help there, as well as with a first-team running back. But the biggest coup will be reaching a “Cowboys For Life” agreement with receiver Dez Bryant by the July 15 deadline to lift his franchise tag, a move that will both free up cap room and provide Dallas with one of the sport’s most dangerous weapons.
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9. Texans take to second-level signings
The Houston Texans played their free agency plan close the vest early in free agency and opened up cap space by releasing Andre Johnson and Chris Myers. With those cap savings, the Texans added Rahim Moore, Cecil Shorts III, Vince Wilfork, and one of their own in Derek Newton. All four should be starting week one of the 2015 season. The Texans are taking educated risks by practically handing out two-year deals with only the first year guaranteed. When you add in the signings of Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, the quarterback competition appears to be set for training camp. Key team free agents Kareem Jackson and Akeem Dent were brought back to help out a defense that took some big steps under Romeo Crennel his first season in Houston.

The Texans, for the second year in a row, have exercised patience in free agency, waiting for value free agents that will help the team on paper but who will not break the bank. Taking care of their own in Newton and Jackson, the Texans took advantage of the second wave of free agency to improve their team.
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10. Titans build on back seven
The Tennessee Titans needed a lot of help in multiple areas, and they got some of that, particularly on defense with their free agent additions. Linebacker Brian Orakpo should add a much-improved element to the pass rush if he can stay healthy, while re-signing Derrick Morgan will provide a solid pairing with Orakpo on the outside.

The secondary also got a boost with the additions of conrnerback Perrish Cox, who is an immediate upgrade at that position and with safety Da’Norris Searcy, who appears to have his best football in front of him. By improving the secondary and adding a pass rusher of Orakpo’s ability, the defense should make a major jump forward in 2015.
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