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Free-agent signings changing NFL teams' draft boards by the day

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David DeCastro helped anchor a line that made Andrew Luck the No. 1 prospect in the '12 draft. (US Presswire)  
David DeCastro helped anchor a line that made Andrew Luck the No. 1 prospect in the '12 draft. (US Presswire)  

Don't let anyone tell you free agency isn't tied to the draft. Front office executives have to look at both pools of talent to build a better team, limit personnel losses they might incur and deal with the reality that a bird in the hand may be better than two in the bush.

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With that concept in mind, we witnessed a few signings this weekend that will change how the first-round talent may come off the board.

 Eric Winston, former starting right tackle of the Texans, signs a four-year, $22 million deal to join the Kansas City Chiefs, which probably means the Chiefs will pass on first-round tackles Reilly Reiff and Jonathan Martin. The Chiefs could now turn their interest to a nose tackle or a move down and take a guard. A team like the New York Jets at No. 16 probably expected Reiff to be gone by time they selected, but it's possible he will still be available.

 Brandon Lloyd finally joined the Patriots and rejoined offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. It appears the Pats will not go after Mike Wallace in restricted free agency, and now they could be thinking about packaging up their two first-round picks and moving up for a solid pass-rusher or top-flight corner. Not sure what direction Belichick will go, but the Lloyd signing gives him flexibility.

 Wide receiver Mario Manningham signed with the 49ers and joins recently signed Randy Moss, so you can forget the Niners surrendering their first-round pick for Mike Wallace. They would probably love to see guard David DeCastro fall to them, which is possible with eight guards getting real money in free agency. A solid defensive end could be on their radar screen if DeCastro is gone.

With 12 wide receivers signed or re-signed in free agency, you have to wonder how far a talented young rookie receiver like Kendall Wright might side in the draft. Hopefully, all the way to the Texans at No. 26.

 There have been seven corners to sign for real money, and it seems like a guy like Janoris Jenkins and his off-the-field problems could slip down the draft boards. Teams like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Denver down in the bottom third of the first round may now be staring at Jenkins if he's even on their draft boards.

 A great young player like Boston College's middle linebacker, Luke Kuechly, is still waiting for the free-agent market at linebacker to clear up to determine how high he will go in the first round. Where Curtis Lofton, Stephen Tulloch, London Fletcher and even David Hawthorne wind up will play a role in Kuechly's spot. If Philadelphia, Detroit, and Seattle sign free agents, that will affect the team that drafts the Boston College star. I suspect the linebacker puzzle will come together this week.

By next Sunday, the free-agent class will change the draft class even more, but in the end, the best players should come off the board quickly, just to different teams than we expected a week ago.


Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.
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