Matt Williamson is a former scout for the Cleveland Browns, and spent the last 10 years at ESPN as a scout and co-host of the podcast “Football Today.”
Free agency can be a risky endeavor when assembling a roster in the NFL.
More often than not, a rival team that knows much more about a player chooses not to bring that player back and allows him to hit the open market. You can see why many free agent deals don’t go as planned, especially when factoring in the gobs of money these free agents are receiving on the open market.
Here are several players that just changed teams that could pay off very well.
Prince Amukamara, Bears
Amukamara is a former first round pick with excellent size and good movement skills that now joins his third NFL team in Chicago. He isn’t a number one cornerback or in the class of other free agent corners such as A.J. Bouye or Stephon Gilmore. However, he is clearly better than anyone the Bears had in the position and Chicago got him on a one-year deal at an extremely reasonable rate at just $7 million.
Amukamara is unlikely to end up in the Pro Bowl, but he will log quality snaps this upcoming season. With their front seven in very good shape and their secondary still in much need of repair, Chicago should still select a cornerback high in the draft. If that player works out, they will have a strong starting pair of corners for the first time in quite a while.
Chris Baker, Buccaneers
Baker is another defender that switched teams and didn’t demand a ton of money to do so. He is the ideal complement on the defensive interior to Gerald McCoy and is the type of player Tampa Bay has been looking for for some time now.
Baker is built like a nose tackle and can handle those duties. He should line up shaded over the center’s shoulder a great deal of the time in his new home. But Baker also can handle himself quite well further out from the formation and has some pass-rush to him as well. He was far and away Washington’s best defensive lineman and should be one of the final pieces in completing what looks to be a much improved Bucs’ defense.
Martellus Bennett, Packers
Receiving threats at the tight end position are very important in Green Bay’s offense. Jared Cook was very important in this role last year and Jermichael Finley was pretty much exactly what this franchise looks for at the position. Bennett is a little bigger, more physical, and a better inline blocker than Cook or Finley, but he is a fine receiver in his own right.
The Packers love to split their tight end to one side with three wide receivers on the opposite side of the formation. That isn’t an effective strategy with a non-threatening tight end. Although he battled an ankle injury for much of his lone season in New England, Bennett is extremely threatening. He is in for a big year with Green Bay.
Tony Jefferson, Ravens
While they could still use pass-rush help, the Ravens were very difficult to run on last year. In 2017, that might be even more difficult. Brandon Williams was retained and Jefferson, who is coming off a spectacular season in Arizona, was added. Jefferson does a lot of things for this defense and is only 25 years old.
First off, he will be much more of the traditional strong safety, which then allows Eric Weddle to have more free safety duties. That’s what Weddle does best. The Ravens also lost Zach Orr to a very early retirement, leaving a big hole next to C.J. Mosley on the second level.
In some packages, expect Jefferson to take on those duties. Known as a downhill traditional thumper, Jefferson can also play man coverage with tight ends and running backs as well as provide a strong presence as a blitzer. This one signing made the Ravens defense better in several key areas.
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