They haven't gone public with it yet, but it's an open secret the Philadelphia Eagles will switch to a 3-4 defense under new head coach Chip Kelly. Their early free agency signings show how that 3-4 defense is taking shape.
Compared with recent seasons, the Eagles have been low-key in free agency. That's certainly a wise policy after being burned by the big spending that produced the so-called "dream team." However, staying below the radar, doesn't means the Eagles haven't been active and Smart.
So far they have added four new pieces to their secondary. Safeties Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips will compete to start right away. As will new cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. However, it is up front where the Eagles have made their best moves and have been most revealing about their choice of defensive scheme.
One of Philly's first deals was to secure former San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga. His arrival was the first major hint at a move to a 3-4 front. Sopoaga is a hulking nose tackle, the kind of run-stuffing force every 3-4 needs in the middle.
Signing Steven Jackson gives the Atlanta Falcons the best offense in the NFL. The Falcons have agreed the signing of the star free agent running back, according to NFL.com.
Jackson expands the repertoire and scoring potential of the Falcons attack. He will provide the perfect complement to the league's most dangerous passing game.
Quarterback Matt Ryan already has the perfect blend of pass-catchers. At wide receiver, Julio Jones stretches the field vertically, while Roddy White works the outside.
Veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez, who recently confirmed he will 'return' for another season, works underneath. The only element missing is a dynamic and versatile weapon in the backfield.
Jackson is exactly that. The stellar veteran offers the same level of bruising, power-running that the departed Michael Turner did.
The New England Patriots wasted no time finding a younger model, after Wes Welker departed for the Denver Broncos in free agency. The Patriots moved quickly to sign youthful Welker-clone Danny Amendola.
NFL.com reported that the Patriots gave Amendola a five-year $31 million contract, to come and do the same things Welker did for years in the New England offense. These things primarily include attacking defenses from the slot and exploiting the underneath zones.
Like Welker, Amendola has established a niche in these areas. In many ways, the former St. Louis Rams star is simply a younger version of Welker. Short and quick, Amendola is a tricky matchup for any coverage scheme.
His route-running is precise and crafty and he has a natural flair for getting open. If there is one worry with Amendola, it concerns his durability. He has missed 20 games since 2010.
Peyton Manning has stolen Tom Brady's favourite target, after the Denver Broncos signed wide receiver Wes Welker in free agency. The news of the deal has been confirmed by NFL.com.
Manning hasn't had enjoyed many victories over his great rival. However, now he'll spend 2013 combining with the man who caught over 100 passes in four different seasons from Brady. That has to be satisfying.
More than a morale victoy in a lengthy rivalry, signing Welker boosts the Broncos chances of dominating the AFC. Although the 31-year-old isn't quite the force he was, Welker is still a master at getting open from the slot.
He is still sure-handed and nimle-footed and few receivers can match Welker's precise, intelligent route running. His very specific skills are exactly what Manning and his passing game needs.
The veteran quarterback already has a host of weapons able to stretch the field vertically. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are both capable deep threats. Tight ends Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme proved to be useful goal-line targets.
San Francisco 49ers News: Trading For Anquan Boldin Gives Colin Kaepernick The Tools To Succeed In 2013
The San Francisco 49ers have traded a sixth round draft pick to their Super Bowl conquerors, the Baltimore Ravens, for wide receiver Anquan Boldin. That's according to a report from NFL.com's Chris Wesseling, citing a tweet from The Baltimore Sun.
The 49ers were clearly thinking of their young quarterback when they made this deal. The trade gives Colin Kaepernick all the tools he needs to succeed in 2013. Boldin may be ageing, but he is the ultimate quarterback-friendly receiver. He will quickly become the dependable target Kaepernick won't be able to live without.
The youthful and athletic passer took teams by surprise when he replaced Alex Smith for the final seven games of the 2012 season. However, pro defenses have now had ample time to scout the fleet-footed quarterback, particularly thanks to the extra attention Kaepernick garnered taking the Niners to the Super Bowl.