Dec 16, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts free safety Antoine Bethea (41) plays against the Houston Texans during the second quarter at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Which NFL Free Agency Signings Were the Biggest Steals?

Everybody knows where the big names went in NFL free agency but it is almost always the overlooked signings that yield the most impact.  Where were those steals?

Linval Joseph to the Minnesota Vikings

It’s amazing how quietly this signing went down considering Linval Joseph ranked among the best defensive tackles available on the market.  Suddenly the Minnesota Vikings have a stout run stuffer next to promising 2013 first round pick Sharrif Floyd as they revamp their defensive line.

Geoff Schwartz to the New York Giants

Normally they aren’t very aggressive in NFL free agency but the New York Giants knew they needed work in a lot of areas and they didn’t hesitate to attack a big one when they signed Geoff Schwartz to bolster their guard position.  Probably the best run blocker on the market, the former Chief should help revitalize the Giants dormant running game and give Eli Manning a better pocket.

Antoine Bethea to the San Francisco 49ers

It’s not every day the signing of a two-time Pro Bowler goes virtually unnoticed but that is what the San Francisco 49ers pulled off when they added Antoine Bethea.  The 30-year old has loads of experience playing in both a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense.  He’s tough, reliable, tackles well and does his part in coverage.  Putting him next to Eric Reid is a major win.

Jared Veldheer to the Arizona Cardinals

Bruce Arians said tackle wasn’t a priority for the Arizona Cardinals in the draft.  It’s clear now why he said that.  The team acted swiftly and added one of the best available on the market.  His injury last season probably hurt his stock but Jared Veldheer is still young and is a very reliable blind side blocker when healthy.  Putting him next to Jonathan Cooper could lead to big things.

Lamarr Houston to the Chicago Bears

Phil Emery could’ve easily freed up loads of cap space to spend wildly in NFL free agency for the Chicago Bears.  Instead, as has become typical of him, he’s taken a measured and researched approach.  A perfect case and point is the signing of defensive end Lamarr Houston.  On the surface he looks like a poor replacement for Julius Peppers.  However, the young man is only 26, is built to play almost anywhere on the defensive line, is stout against the run and has shown constant improvement in his pass rush.  Best of all, he comes at a fraction of the price Peppers did.

Corey Graham to the Buffalo Bills

It took a few years for Corey Graham to prove he could play defense at the pro level but he finally did when he joined the Baltimore Ravens.  Yet that belies the fact he’s always been an outstanding special teams player.  Such versatility is highly coveted by coaches and the Buffalo Bills were smart to recognize that.  Graham is still only 29-years old.  He has experience in both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses and brings knowledge of what it takes to reach the playoffs and win a championship.

Hakeem Nicks to the Indianapolis Colts

Having no first round pick in the draft made it quite clear the Indianapolis Colts were going to have to solve several of their needs in NFL free agency.  Even though they have plenty of space, the team was very careful with its money, waiting for the bargain players that could pay off big.  Perhaps their best find of the off-season was inking Hakeem Nicks on a one-year deal for Andrew Luck to throw to.  He’s still young, fast and brings championship experience, something the Colts are looking for.

Tags: Antoine Bethea Arizona Cardinals Buffalo Bills Chicago Bears Corey Graham Geoff Schwartz Hakeem Nicks Indianapolis Colts Jared Veldheer LaMarr Houston Linval Joseph Minnesota Vikings New York Giants San Francisco 49ers

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