How Broncos muscled up to help Manning

With the hoopla surrounding Peyton Manning's decision and the subsequent trade of Tim Tebow, it may have been easy to overlook some of the lower profile free-agent signings.

ESPN Stats and Information took notice, collecting the best tidbits on how some these low profile signings can make a big impact.

TE Joel Dreessen and TE Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos

Dreessen has made catches on 72 percent of the passes targeted for him the last three seasons. Among tight ends with 100 attempts, Dreessen’s reception percentage ranks tied for second with Antonio Gates and trails only Jason Witten. Together, Dreessen and Tamme have 93 more receptions, 1,055 more yards and 12 more touchdowns than all Broncos tight ends over the past two seasons.

WR Brandon Lloyd, New England Patriots

Over the last two seasons, tight end Rob Gronkowski and 5-foot 9-inch wide receiver Wes Welker have been the Patriots’ top two targets on throws that traveled more than 20 yards in the air.

Receiving Last 2 Seasons
More Than 20 Air Yards Downfield

Not only does Lloyd have the most receptions (27) on such throws the past two seasons, he has almost single-handedly out-produced the entire Patriots receiving corps (see chart).

WR Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers

Royal will bring a new dimension to the Chargers' offense. Over the last four seasons he has 158 receptions within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, twice as many as the top Chargers wide receiver over that time (Vincent Jackson, 74). In 2009, Jackson had 28 such receptions, the most in a season by a Chargers wide receiver since 2008. Royal has averaged nearly 40 such receptions per season, with a single-season high of 69 in 2008.

FB Lawrence Vickers, Dallas Cowboys

The Houston Texans picked up 5.2 yards per rush last season when Vickers was the fullback, compared to 3.0 yards per rush with James Casey at fullback. Only Ryan D'Imperio of the Vikings (5.8) and former Cowboys fullback Tony Fiammetta (5.6) had more yards per rush behind them last season.

RB Michael Bush, Chicago Bears

The Bears picked up 28 rushing first downs when needing 3 yards or less last season, the second-fewest in the NFL. Bush picked up 34 first downs in such situations last season, second-most in the NFL.

RB Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers

Tolbert may have been acquired to give Cam Newton a rest. Last season, Newton had 39 rushes inside the red zone, three times as many as the next highest quarterback. Tolbert is one of nine runners with 20 or more rushing touchdowns in the red zone over the last three seasons.

OL Adam Snyder, Arizona CardinalsAdam Snyder


Snyder took on full-time duty at right guard for the 49ers in Week 3 last season, replacing Chilo Rachal. Snyder’s impact on the line turned out to be a big one. With Snyder in the lineup, the 49ers averaged 4.6 yards per rush and allowed a sack about 8 percent of the time. With Richal in the lineup, the 49ers averaged 3.2 yards per play and allowed a sack almost 13 percent of the time.