It's been an eventful free agency period and it could have particular consequence on the top five picks. Yesterday, the St Louis Rams completed a deal with one of the most high profile agents on the market - Jason Brown. Elsewhere, the Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a bumper trade for Mike Vrabel and Matt Cassel. The team picking first overall, Detroit, traded veteran quarter back and previous starter Jon Kitna to the Cowboys in exchange for defensive back Anthony Henry.
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The Rams' $37.5m deal with Brown shows an intent to improve their offensive line. This is crucial in St Louis as their top two commodity's are running back Steven Jackson and quarter back Marc Bulger. The former Ravens linemen will likely play center in St Louis, but it's a good sign for Rams' fans that their front office are targeting an improvement in the trenches. This could be just the start - they are heavily tipped to take Jason Smith (OT, Baylor) or Eugene Monroe (OT, Virginia) with the 2nd overall pick. Whether they cut veteran left tackle Orlando Pace will be the determining factor here, but it's been reported for some time that this is a possibility.
If Pace remains on the roster, there are alternatives. It's not a stretch to suggest the Rams may see Brown as 'enough' of an improvement. By trusting in Pace and tagging Richie Incognito, they may be prepared to look elsewhere. If that is the case, they could look at Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree. That would also depend on the future of a veteran - Torry Holt is another tipped to depart. It would be stretch to expect Holt, Donnie Avery and Crabtree would all feature in 2009.
Perhaps more realistic would be to draft Aaron Curry (LB, Wake Forest). Steve Spagnuolo built an excellent defense in New York and Curry would represent the blue print for a similar rebuild in St Louis. So what indication has free agency given to the Rams line of thinking?
Conclusion: Rams know they need to improve the offensive line
Prediction: They will draft an offensive tackle 2nd overall
The Chiefs pulled off one of the more eye catching trades in recent years, bagging Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel for a 2nd round pick. Cassel was franchised by the Patriots not long ago and stands to earn over $14m this year heading into a potentially cap free season in 2010. A long term deal is paramount and will likely secure Cassel as the team's franchise quarter back. Vrabel adds experience and leadership to the defense but he's not the on field presence he once was. However, Kansas City only registered 10 sacks in 2008 and they need all the help they can get.
So how does this deal affect the draft? A lot of people predicted the Chiefs would target Matt Stafford (Georgia) or Mark Sanchez (USC) with the third overall pick. Scratch that. So what direction do they go now?
I've said for some time now that Aaron Curry could be the pick. Kansas City have invested a lot into their offense. They have a new quarter back, they took a left tackle (Brendan Albert) in the first round last year. Add to that the fact they already have Dwayne Bowe, Tony Gonzalez, Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles. The defense on the other hand, is in need of some attention. Glenn Dorsey (5th overall from LSU in 2008) stands to be something of an issue in the future with the team switching to a 3-4. He suits a 4-3 defense to a tee, and doesn't come across as an ideal fit at nose tackle or 3-4 end. Simply put - they need a pass rush and they need an identity.
Aaron Curry would be perfect. He can set the tone on defense, he can offer a pass rush and could play ILB. If they really want to improve that defense, what better way than to add the best defensive prospect in the draft?
The alternatives? It would be a reach, but they could look at NT B.J. Raji (Boston College). Scott Pioli helped build New England from the defensive line up. They could also check out the DE/LB hybrids such as Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown and Aaron Maybin - although it seems unrealistic to expect any to be taken 3rd overall. There's no doubting the Chiefs would like to shop the pick and move down, but it will be difficult selecting third overall.
Could they go offense? As mentioned previously, it would be a surprise considering the obvious need to improve the defense and the basis of talent they already have on offense. However, if they really want to make it easy for Matt Cassel, what better way than to give him Gonzalez, Bowe and Michael Crabtree to throw to?
Conclusion: The Chiefs need a defensive focus switching to a 3-4
Prediction: Likely to be Aaron Curry if available
Detroit have been saying for a few weeks now that they expect Daunte Culpepper to start in 2009. But when Jim Schwartz was appointed head coach, he also spoke of finding a long term option at franchise quarter back. Many expected Jon Kitna to be cut so the fact the Lions managed to get some compensation in the form of DB Anthony Henry is credit to them. This creates some space behind Culpepper and all the signs indicate that Matt Stafford will be taken first overall.
Stafford could sit behind Culpepper in order to avoid a 'baptism of fire'. It would be wise, Stafford has all the tools but is unlikely to have the same quickfire success that Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco enjoyed. Unlike the Chiefs, the Lions have not done anything to suggest they will look away from QB in the draft. By actually clearing out some of the dead wood, they appear to be preparing themselves for the future.
Conclusion: Lions could start Culpepper but need a franchise QB
Prediction: Detroit selects Matt Stafford first overall
Of course whoever goes in the first three picks will hugely affect the options available to Seattle. It's early days in free agency and perhaps more indicative of the Seahawks draft will be who they actually sign themselves. However, after the first weekend of signings, we're already starting to see teams shape their rosters going into the 2009 draft.