Every spring, NFL teams have a chance to revamp their rosters, from free agency or the draft. Draft picks are usually much cheaper, so most teams usually resign their own important players and build through the draft, like the Patriots. There are other teams who decide to go the opposite direction and like to build through free agency, like the Redskins.
However, there are always exceptions, even for those draft loving teams, when a free agent is such a perfect fit that they cannot resist and forsake their beloved draft boards. For journalists, this causes a repeated cycle of redoing their mock drafts, while fans try to guess what their team will do next, which is one of the beautiful things about the NFL off-season.
There has been several moves that have had an effect on the draft, which is now only a month away. The most notable being the Chiefs trade for Alex Smith and the signing of Dunta Robinson, which takes Geno Smith and Dee Milliner off of their draft board. There will be multiple instances of this over the next month and here are teams with the first ten picks in the draft and how signing one free agent could change their draft strategy.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Target: Arthur Jones- 3-4 DE- Baltimore Ravens
Reason: The Chiefs basically have two options when it comes to the first overall pick, grabbing a left tackle, either Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher, or going after 3-4 defensive end in either Star Lotulelei or Sharrif Floyd. Left tackle is a much bigger long-term need and if the Chiefs re-sign Glen Dorsey, then defensive end will not be an issue, but he is most likely moving on. They could use a solid run stuffer and occasional pass rusher and a big body to take on blockers, opening up sacking lanes for Tamba Hali and their other pass rushers. Jones would be a solid fit, as he is young, still has untapped potential and would not break the bank. This would allow them to take their preferred left tackle.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
Target: Michael Bennett- DE- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Reason: In almost every mock draft, experts have the Jaguars taking either help for their defensive or offensive line. They were last in the NFL in sacks last season and Bennett is one of the best pure 4-3 pass rushers in the NFL. If they were able to sign him to a contract, they could go after whatever left tackle Kansas City doesn't take, most likely Eric Fisher and they could move Eugene Monroe to right tackle, improving two areas on their poor offensive line.
3. Oakland Raiders
Target: Connor Barwin- OLB- Houston Texans
Reason: The Raiders have so many needs, chief among them a pass rusher and instead of taking a risk on a player like Dion Jordan, they could bring in a proven commodity who would not be too expensive, as they are on a real tight budget. This would allow them to take one of the two best defensive linemen in the draft, Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd or shift gears to the best corner in the draft and take Dee Milliner.
Target: James Harrison- OLB- Pittsburgh Steelers
Reason: The Eagles are moving to a 3-4 defense and need a pass rusher, so why not go after one of the best 3-4 rush linebackers of the past decade, in the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year? He may be costly, but he would give the Eagles a needed mean streak. This would allow them to take one of the two elite LT's or cornerback in the draft, as at least one of them will be available by their selection and all would fill a need. (Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher or Dee Milliner )
5. Detroit Lions
Target: Keenan Lewis-CB-Pittsburgh Steelers
Reason: Keenan Lewis is a big and physical cornerback, which is needed with the Lions facing Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson four times a year. They should also resign Chris Houston, which would give them a very solid cornerback duo and would improve their awful secondary. This would allow them to take the best available pass rusher, most likely Ziggy Ansah, which is their other major need.
* Original pick Chris Gamble, but about him announcing his retirement
6. Cleveland Browns
Target: Paul Kruger- OLB- Baltimore Ravens
Reason: The Browns are moving to a 3-4, are in desperate need of a top-notch pass rusher, have money to spend and would steal a key player from a rival. For all of those reasons, signing Kruger makes perfect sense.Cleveland could go after much need cornerback, like Dee Milliner if still available or the best available wide receiver.
7. Arizona Cardinals
Target: Sam Baker- OT- Atlanta Falcons
Reason: The Cards need a left tackle badly, signing one would allow them to take the top quarterback on their board, which would solidify the two most important positions on their team, which happen to be their two biggest needs.
Baker is arguably the safest of all of the left tackle prospects, as you know what you will get from him and he will not be as expensive as Jake Long . This pick up would allow the Cardinals to selectbetween Geno Smith and Matt Barkley as their future quarterback, depending on who they prefer, as no other team before they will take a QB, unless the Raiders shock everyone and go after Smith.
8. Buffalo Bills
Target: Greg Jennings- WR- Green Bay Packers
Reason: Whoever their quarterback is, they need more weapons on offense and with money to spend, they should go after one of the best receivers on the market, with Jennings, who would create a fantastic one-two receiving punch with Stevie Johnson.
* Mike Wallace was originally the pick, but he has signed with the Miami Dolphins.
This would free up the Bills to take Geno Smith or Matt Barkley if they are available or the team could fill one of their many other needs, like strengthening their offensive line with Lane Johnson or Chance Warmack.
9. New York Jets
Target: Julian Edelman- WR- New England Patriots
Reason: They have very little cap space to deal with and must improve their offense, so why not go with a versatile Edelman who can do a little bit of everything? This would not be the huge splash they need at receiver, but they do not have the money to after a big money receiver. The pickup would allow New York the opportunity to take the best pass rusher available like Bjorn Werner or Barkevious Mingo
10. Tennessee Titans
Target: Sean Smith- CB- Miami Dolphins.
Reason: The Titans need a cornerback desperately and Smith may be the best one in free agency. He is smart, athletic and physical and would fill a huge need. This would allow the Titans to take care of enough glaring need in the draft by selecting one the elite guards, Chance Warmack or Jonathon Cooper.