Free agents who will transforms new teams

In ESPN The Magazine, Nathan Jahnke writes that a whopping 279 free agents switched squads this offseason. Here are five -- led by Eric Decker -- who will most dramatically transform their new teams.

ESPN the Magazine / PLAYBOOK / 07.11.14
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by Nathan Jahnke / Illustrations by Dave Merrell

Anyone remember the travesty that was the Saints' safeties last season? The Seahawks certainly do: They outscored New Orleans 57-22 in two games. That's why ball hawk Jairus Byrd got $28 million guaranteed to relocate to the Big Easy. Here's a statistical skinny on Byrd and four other big-ticket, must-have free agents who will reinvent their units.


Branden Albert

LT, Dolphins - 5 years, $47 Million

Between Jonathan Martin and Bryant McKinnie, Miami's left tackles were a mess in 2013. Martin allowed, on average, one sack, one hit and two hurries per game. And McKinnie gave up four or more pressures in seven of his 10 starts for the Fins. Enter Albert, a 29-year-old former Chief who was the No. 15 pick in 2008. He's been one of the best pass-blocking left tackles since 2011 (see chart).

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Jairus Byrd

S, Saints - 6 years, $54 Million

Even last year's additions of CB Keenan Lewis and S Kenny Vaccaro, coupled with CB Corey White's emergence, couldn't cover for Malcolm Jenkins, who allowed 486 passing yards, the second most among NFL safeties. Byrd, 27, allowed just 0.23 yards per coverage snap in Buffalo last season, third best in the league. Plus, as the chart at bottom shows, the three-time Pro Bowler has a penchant for INTs.

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Eric Decker

WR, Jets - 5 years, $36.2 Million

Think the Jets needed a new No. 1 receiver? Consider this: Of the 94 WRs who garnered at least 25 percent of their team's targets last season, Stephen Hill ranked 83rd in yards per route run (1.02). Meanwhile, Decker has averaged 86 catches and 1,176 yards in Denver since 2012. His numbers will certainly decline without Peyton Manning, but count on Decker, 27, to create his share of big plays in the Meadowlands (see chart).

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Michael Johnson

DE, Bucs - 5 years, $43.7 Million

Tampa Bay hasn't had a player rack up double-digit sacks since Simeon Rice had 14 in 2005. Last season the Bucs' top ends -- Adrian Clayborn, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Da'Quan Bowers -- combined for just 10 sacks. With the Bengals, the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Johnson, 27, ranked among the league's top pass-rushing 4-3 DEs (see chart). Plus, in 2013, his 8.4 percent stop rate on run plays ranked fifth best among 4-3 ends. No wonder Cincinnati tagged him as a franchise player last season.

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Karlos Dansby

LB, Browns - 4 years, $24 Million

Cleveland wouldn't have needed a new inside linebacker if D'Qwell Jackson were still playing like it was 2011. But last season, Jackson's 5.9 percent stop rate on run plays was fourth worst among all ILBs. Although he's 32, Dansby is still one of the most complete 'backers in the game: He led all LBs in passes defended in each of the past two seasons (see chart) and ranked seventh in the league with a 10.8 percent stop rate on run plays.

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