By Steve Silverman
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When looking at NFL free agency, we have a tendency to take the team’s perspective. The Giants benefitted greatly last season by signing Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison as their defense transformed from one of the worst in the league to one of the most impactful.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye), Detroit Lions (Rick Wagner) and New England Patriots (Stephon Gilmore) appear to have all taken solid steps in free agency that should help them in 2017.
(That’s just what the rest of the AFC East needs, the Patriots to be even stronger)
But free agency obviously means a lot to individual players. Productive players who get a chance to see what they are worth on the open market obviously benefit financially from their status, but it also means getting a fresh start with a new team.
Here’s a look at five individual players who have decided to move on to new teams and will have the opportunity to create new chapters to their respective careers.
DT Dontari Poe, Atlanta Falcons: Poe was a solid contributor to the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense and even made a big splash on offense when he threw a jump pass for a touchdown in a late-season game.
Poe knows he has a chance to get to the Super Bowl now that he has signed with the defending NFC champions. It may be difficult for this team to get over the hangover of losing the Super Bowl to the Patriots in such painful and dramatic fashion, but Poe is a nasty run crusher who can dominate on the interior of the defensive line.
At 6-foot-3 and 346 pounds, Poe is monster. But in addition to his bulk, he has tremendous athleticism for a man his size.
Poe was a good player in Kansas City and while his numbers don’t jump off the board — 27 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three passes defensed and a forced fumble — he is almost impossible to move and can destroy opposing guards and centers.
Poe has a chance to take the step up to superstar with the Falcons, and he could very well end up in the Super Bowl sooner rather than later.
OLT Matt Kalil, Carolina Panthers: A number of NFL scouts and observers were scratching their heads at this move because Kalil played just two games with the Minnesota Vikings last season after enduring hip surgery.
Since having a strong rookie season in 2012, Kalil has been seen as a disappointment. He will get to play with his brother, Ryan, the Panthers’ starting center, and that should help his mindset.
However, the big thing that should help Matt Kalil is the escapability of quarterback Cam Newton. If he can do a good job and give the athletic quarterback just a bit of security and protection, that should be good enough. He doesn’t have to protect the quarterback for four full seconds. Two-plus seconds should do it and that will help Kalil resurrect his career.
WR Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles: Jeffery showed off his talent with the Chicago Bears, but the former South Carolina receiver could not see any upside in remaining in the Windy City. The Bears have won just nine games over the last two years, and head coach John Fox could be on his last legs.
Jeffery excels at coming down with jump balls because of his long arms and ability to position himself properly. The Eagles have a fine, young quarterback in Carson Wentz, and Jeffery is banking on building an immediate rapport with the second-year signal-caller now that he has signed a one-year deal with the Eagles.
Jeffery is betting on himself to have a huge season so he can get a sizable payoff in free agency next winter. He will try to get back to his 2013 form — 89 catches, 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns. If he can stay in the lineup for 16 games, there’s no reason why he can’t re-establish himself with the Birds.
QB Mike Glennon, Chicago Bears: Whether or not Glennon can help turn around the sad-sack Bears doesn’t really matter. He will have a chance to play again after spending the last two years on the bench in Tampa Bay.
Glennon played regularly for the Buccaneers in 2013 and 2014, but when they drafted Jameis Winston in 2015, Glennon became an afterthought.
The Bears may draft a quarterback early — first or second round — but Glennon should get a chance to start this season. He has a powerful arm and he is not Jay Cutler, and those are both positive characteristics that should help him give the Bears improved quarterback play.
DT Chris Baker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Redskins are a team in disarray, so any place outside of Washington is an upgrade for a player. Baker moves on to a Tampa Bay, which is climbing in the standings and appears to have as good a chance as any of pushing Atlanta for the NFC South title.
The Bucs have a strong defensive line with Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers, so Baker does not have to dominate by himself. He should be able to take advantage of the one-on-one blocking he will receive.
The 29-year-old Baker has 10.5 sacks over the last two seasons, and he can be very destructive on the interior.
It was a big move for the Bucs and potentially just as good for Baker.
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