Top 10 impactful NFL free agents

Wallace should have a major impact in Miami. (USATSI)
Mike Wallace should have a major impact in Miami. (USATSI)

Though the free-agent market wasn’t quite as financially fruitful as many players would have liked (*shakes fist at CBA*), there will still be plenty of players who make big impacts for their new teams.

The key for the owners (aside from counting the money that they saved by presiding over a relatively tepid free-agent market) and front offices is to make sure they’ve found the right free agents. The ones who will fill a key hole on a certain unit. The ones who are older but still have a few productive years left in their cleats. The younger, talented ones who just needed a change of scenery.

Below, we list 10 whom we expect to have big impacts on their squads. We’ve avoided the players who re-signed with their old teams (Joe Flacco, for instance), and we’ve focused on those who are playing with new teammates in a new city but can still bring the old skills that were the reason their new teams signed them in the first place.

And, just so you know, here are some players whom I purposely left off (either because their skills have fallen off or because the guys on the list are simply better fits with their new teams): Paul Kruger , Sean Smith , Greg Jennings , Jake Long , Danny Amendola , Desmond Bryant , Gosder Cherilus , Osi Umenyiora , Nnamdi Asomugha , Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie , Dustin Keller , Ed Reed , Shonn Greene , Dunta Robinson , James Harrison .

10. LB Connor Barwin , to the Philadelphia Eagles from the Texans: The big question surrounding Barwin is whether he’s the player who scored 11.5 sacks in 2011 or the one who accumulated only three sacks last season. Perhaps in Philadelphia, Barwin can be the star of the front seven -- which J.J. Watt would not have allowed in Houston.

9. RB Steven Jackson , to the Atlanta Falcons from the Rams: Atlanta is perhaps only a player or two away from the Super Bowl. And though Jackson will be 30 by the beginning of next season, he very well could be the kind of player whom the Falcons need to put themselves over the top. A quick reminder: Jackson has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons, and he is an upgrade over the departed Michael Turner.

8. S Dashon Goldson , to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the 49ers: Tampa Bay needed to make this move because of how much its secondary struggled last season. Goldson is 28 years old and is a solid (though not spectacular) safety. With the Buccaneers completing a trade for Darrelle Revis and with the addition of Goldson, suddenly their secondary has become a strength.

7. CB Brent Grimes , to the Miami Dolphins from the Falcons: There are still questions about the health of Grimes and how well he’ll recover from Achilles surgery, but he’s not far removed from his breakout 2009-10 seasons (11 combined interceptions). If he’s healthy, I’d rather have Grimes playing cornerback than the recently departed Sean Smith.

6. G Andy Levitre , to the Tennessee Titans from the Bills: Casual fans might not know much about Levitre, the almost 27-year-old who could become the best guard in the league, but his presence in Tennessee certainly will aid a Titans squad that will continue to focus much of its offensive attention on the run game. Frankly, I’m not sure how much that free-agent Shonn Greene will contribute this year, but No. 1 running back Chris Johnson and quarterback Jake Locker have to be happy.

5. WR Wes Welker , to the Denver Broncos from the Patriots: Though he just turned 32, Welker clearly can still play the game. I can understand why New England wouldn’t want to give him a long-term deal at this point, but letting him go so he can play with one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Peyton Manning on a team that resides in the same conference doesn’t seem all that smart to me. Welker very easily could make the Patriots regret this move.

4. RB Reggie Bush , to the Detroit Lions from the Dolphins: Considering I thought he did very well during his two seasons in Miami, basically resurrecting his career after his experience in New Orleans, Bush didn’t get much interest on the free-agent market. But because it’s unknown whether Jahvid Best ever will return and because Mikel Leshoure has been up and down in his career, Bush will have the chance to become a major contributor for the Lions' offense.

3. LB Elvis Dumervil , to the Baltimore Ravens from the Broncos: Though he never should have been on the free-agent market in the first place -- blame outdated technology for the snafu -- Dumervil should continue his strong play. He might not return to his 17-sack ways of 2010, but his presence will make a solid Ravens linebacker group even scarier.

2. DE Cliff Avril , to the Seattle Seahawks from the Lions: He’s coming off a down year while playing the 2012 season under Detroit’s franchise tag, but kudos to Seattle for getting the 27-year-old playmaker relatively cheap and improving its already-strong defensive line even more. By the way, Avril’s down year wasn’t that much worse than his career year of 2011 (9.5 sacks in 2012 to 11 sacks in 2011, 35 combined tackles in 2011 to 36 combined tackles in 2012).

1. WR Mike Wallace , to the Dolphins from the Steelers: I thought Wallace might have hurt himself financially with the way that he played last season, but his talent and potential clearly outweigh a sub-par season in a contract year. Wallace could be one of the top deep receivers in the NFL; it’ll be Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s job to help get Wallace there.

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