1: WR Percy Harvin to Seattle Seahawks
There’s really no question that Harvin makes the Seahawks better, he’d make any team better. The only thing missing from Seattle’s offense was a true down-field threat at wide-out. Not only did they get the down-field option, but they also added an even more explosive kick returner than Leon Washington and a multiple use weapon all in the same package. Harvin isn’t just the biggest pickup in the West, he’s the biggest pickup of the offseason, period.
2: OT Jake Long to St. Louis Rams
If there’s one thing the St. Louis Rams couldn’t do last season, it was protect their franchise quarterback. Sam Bradford has been officially labeled St. Louis’ present and future, but there’s no telling how long (no pun intended) he will last if he continues to get hit the way he has over the past three seasons. People are worried about the health of Long, but he’s an elite Pro Bowl talent and he really wasn’t as bad off as people are making it seem. The ex-Michigan star has only missed 6 starts in his four seasons and has made the Pro Bowl in each of those seasons.
3: WR Anquan Boldin to San Francisco 49ers
Anquan Boldin was a total piece of thievery by the 49ers, with an undisclosed mid-round pick, which quite realistically means nothing to them this season, as the only compensation for the veteran wide receiver. Boldin can become a highly improved second option behind the blossoming Michael Crabtree, which is a huge bonus for Boldin in that he will be in the exact same situation as he was in Baltimore. Then you have to consider that Crabtree will see less double coverage and over-the-top cover-2 defense per capita. When Mario Manningham gets fully healthy and as A.J. Jenkins grows into his role, Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers are going to be as dangerous as it gets.
4: DE Cliff Avril to Seattle Seahawks
There’s no doubt the Seahawks missed Chris Clemons in Atlanta, but they weren’t going to go the first half or more of the 2013 season without a veteran pass rusher that could replace at least most of the production that Clemons gave them. Avril is only one of two additions to fill that role, so the real value for Avril isn’t while Clemons is off the field, but rather when he gets back on it. With Avril in a possible rush-linebacker role in 3rd down, Clemons on one side and Irvin on the other, the Seahawks bring a very explosive front 5 to rush the passer. That means they should be able to drop 7 into coverage and get maximum pressure at the same time, AKA San Francisco with Aldon Smith. Avril is a big time pickup.
5: RB Rashard Mendenhall to Arizona Cardinals
Ok, so the Cardinals let go of Beanie Wells who had injury and fumble issues. While it seems like bringing in Mendenhall just replaces those issues, there’s a key difference between the two players that makes it a really good move for Arizona. Mendenhall is much more explosive from the running back position and when he is healthy is a much more consistent back than Wells. Sure, he’ll fumble the ball from time to time but if you can get him healthy, Rashard is a 1,000 to 1,500 yard back. Wells was not that guy.
6: QB Drew Stanton to Arizona Cardinals
This may seem like the worst (major) pickup of free agency for Arizona, a team who is answering a lot of questions with more questions in the signing period. New head coach Bruce Arians has faith in Stanton, which many won’t understand but here’s the deal. Stanton must have impressed Arians while he was the offensive coordinator at Indianapolis. In an interview this past week, Arians mentioned that he was very, very comfortable with Stanton coming in as the starter. If not for Andrew Luck, you get the feeling that Arians would’ve been happy with Drew Stanton as the Colts’ quarterback. To have a knowledgeable guy in your system at that position while switching jobs is quite a luxury and Arians is going to feel that cushion because of this move.
7: DT Glenn Dorsey to San Francisco 49ers
Dorsey was a beast coming out of college from LSU, but he has woefully under-performed relative to expectations. So a lot of 49ers fans are a bit miffed at the pickup, but he comes to a perfect situation for himself and here’s why. It seems San Francisco is playing off of some great experiments in the conference, learning from Seattle’s success in the past couple years with their run defense. With the already stacked interior, expect Dorsey to move to an outside 2-gap player like Red Bryant occupies with the Seahawks. Dorsey has the perfect body and is quick enough at his size to be a great run stopper down the line at that (DE) position. His job will be to take on double teams and free up that nasty linebacker group to make a lot of plays around the line of scrimmage.
8: TE Jared Cook to St. Louis Rams
Cook adds another reliable option at tight end for St. Louis. Bradford really started looking for his comfortable tight end target Lance Kendricks towards the end of last season as he continued to get smacked around by teams that blitzed the crap out of that weak offensive line. Tight ends are generally an easy find in the passing game because they end up in the middle of the field fairly often and are a great “save me” option for the quarterback. To have two reliable targets is a blessing and each can also stretch the field and take away the safties, which will really open up the receivers to more 1-on-1 play.
9: LB Jasper Brinkley to Arizona Cardinals
Brinkley will be an undersold commodity in the desert. He brings with him great play recognition abilities and a real nose for the ball, recording 117 tackles (74 solo) and 3 forced fumbles in 15 starts last season. He will be especially helpful to the Cards in the running game, where they have fallen off over the past couple years.
10: CB Antoine Cason to Arizona Cardinals
Cason will go under the radar as a free agent singing for the Cardinals, only to start opposite Patrick Peterson opening day. As of now, Cason would make Arizona the second biggest starting tandem of corners in the West, both he and Peterson are 6’1″. You have to think everybody but Seattle will look for at least one corner, maybe two in the draft, so that particular stat is fluid right now depending on availability.