Free agency moves helping teams set NFL Draft boards

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

How will NFL teams adjust their draft strategy after a busy week in free agency?

Drew Stanton believes he can be the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. His head coach Bruce Arians, who had him with the Indianapolis Colts last season, may think the same.

"They need to find an answer at this position," Kolb told the media Wednesday. "I want to be that answer. I’m going to do everything in my power to be that answer, and given that opportunity, I feel like I can."

With Brian Hoyer, Ryan Lindley and John Skelton on the roster, Stanton will surely get an opportunity. The Cardinals gave Stanton $8.2 million over three years. It's not veteran starter money, but it may be enough to keep the Cardinals from reaching for a signal caller with the seventh pick if the one they like isn't there or have value.

That wasn't the only move in free agency to impact the quarterback class in this year's draft. The Buffalo Bills' release of Ryan Fitzpatrick has been noted. The Minnesota Vikings signed Matt Cassel quickly after he was dumped by Kansas City. He'll provide competition for starter Christian Ponder. Finally, despite signing David Garrard, the New York Jets could be after Kevin Kolb.

But really, is anyone excited about any of those players? It may lessen the immediacy of taking a quarterback in the draft, but moving forward it won't totally stop a team from looking. Those haven't been the only moves affecting a team's draft board. Here are a few more.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos have had a flurry of activity, most notably signing wide receiver Wes Welker. But it was the signing of defensive lineman Terrance Knighton that has the bigger draft impact. Although it's only a two-year deal, Knighton can fill an open spot on the line and allow the Broncos to go after the best linebacker available in the first round. That could be someone like Alec Ogletree of Georgia or Arthur Brown of Kansas State. Although it will be worth monitoring what happens with Elvis Dumervil. If he's cut, a pass rusher should be pushed to the top of Denver's need list.

Detroit Lions

It wasn't a free agency move, but Lions left tackle Jeff Backus quietly retired on Thursday. Combined with the loss of Gosder Cherilus, the Lions suddenly have a big-time need at offensive tackle. With the fifth pick in the first round, the Lions will now most likely be after either Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson. The catch is that Fisher may not be around.

Seattle Seahawks

In free agency, the Seahawks have now pulled in both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Pete Carroll said after the season he wanted to add talent on the defensive line, and that's certainly the case. Now the Seahawks don't have to address the unit in the draft. Instead, with their second- or third-round pick, the Seahawks can grab a cornerback that slides (perhaps a risk on Tyrann Mathieu) or a rangy backup safety.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have added several pieces to their defense this week. Although many of them are questionable contracts, adding linebacker Erik Walden, defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois and safety LaRon Landry fills some holes. All told, the Colts have added seven players. Those moves will allow the Colts to truly draft the best player available in the first round.

Atlanta Falcons

So much for any talk of the Falcons targeting Alabama running back Eddie Lacy in the first round of the draft. After signing Steven Jackson, the Falcons appear set to take a defensive player in the first round. Now it'll be up to general manager Thomas Dimitroff and his scouting department to do its due diligence on the pass rushers that will be available.

Philadelphia Eagles

Does the signing of Connor Barwin stop the Eagles from going after a player like Dion Jordan or Barkevious Mingo with the fourth overall pick in the draft? Don't forget that two years ago Barwin had 11.5 sacks and could bounce back in Chip Kelly's defense. The addition of cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams may eliminate Dee Milliner from the discussion as well. These moves could be leaving the Eagles to drafting an offensive tackle fourth overall. Or, perhaps more radically, could the Eagles be in the market for Geno Smith?

More in the NFL:

NFL mock draft: Free agency shakes things up

NFL free agency: Where has all the money gone?

NY attorney general wants answers from NFL

The Daily Win: NFL free agency in 100 seconds

Wes Welker spurns Patriots for Broncos

Bears go all-in for Jay Cutler with free agent signings

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