We often talk about free agent winners and losers, but sometimes we forget to address just how the teams go about life after that.
Some of the biggest free-agent departures have set the stage for veterans and rookies to take on bigger roles in their respective offenses and defenses.
Here are the six biggest holes that need to be filled on NFL rosters on the offensive side of the ball.
Carolina drafted a project in Kelvin Benjamin and signed veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant in free agency to help fill the void left by Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. If they can’t step up, expect Newton to regress.
The Chiefs lost three starters from their offensive line in free agency — their right tackle, right guard, and center. That’s nothing that should be looked over.
Albert, Asamoah, and Schwartz are now with Miami, the Jets, and Giants, respectively, leaving a handful of inexperienced players to take over one of the Chiefs’ strongest units from a season ago. It’s bound to impact Alex Smith‘s pass protection and the run game.
The Saints traded away their most dangerous weapon in Sproles to the Eagles in the offseason. Now, the team will try and use a committee of players to try and replace Drew Brees‘ most talented pass-catching back.
Youngsters Cadet and Cooks, the team’s first-round pick, will both see action as a pass-catcher in Sproles’ spot, as well as Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. Those are some big (little) shoes to fill.
Sanders switched allegiances to the Broncos this offseason to replace one of their big losses in Eric Decker. Now the Steelers will look to some young, unproven talent to replace him.
Last year the Steelers drafted Wheaton with high hopes, and now he’ll have a chance to prove them right. Also, the team signed Lance Moore and drafted Martavis Bryant to help fill the void.
Bishop Sankey for Chris Johnson
Though Johnson is on the down-side of his career, he’s still managed to produce a 1,000-yard season year in and year out. Now that he’s with the Jets, the Titans drafted Sankey to succeed him.
The rookie isn’t the most talented or dynamic offensive player, but offensive-minded Ken Whisenhunt will try and find a way to use him to help replace Johnson’s steady production. In addition, Shonn Greene may be involved to form a backfield by committee.
The Packers have long had issues protecting Aaron Rodgers, but the unit started to figure it all out last year with Newhouse at left tackle and Dietrich-Smith at center.
Both were positively graded out by Pro Football Focus and both left via free agency, leaving a 2013 fourth-rounder Tretter to fill in at center and another second-year player, Bakhtiari to protect Rodgers’ blindside. Should be a challenge, to say the least.