The hoopla surrounding incoming rookies often overshadows the impact made on players already in the fold. FOX Sports Senior NFL Writer Alex Marvez looks at 13 veterans whose futures may have been affected by choices made in the first two days of the 2015 NFL draft.
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Tennessee Titans QB Zach Mettenberger
Maybe they just were saying the politically correct thing, but the current and former Titans players I spoke with this offseason — guard Chance Warmack, defensive lineman Mike Martin and recently retired tackle Michael Roos — all said Mettenberger showed earmarks of being a franchise quarterback during his rookie season. Titans brass obviously didn’t feel the same way. Mettenberger now drops to second-string status with Tennessee’s selection of Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, whom head coach Ken Whisenhunt already has named his starter. This means the practice snaps needed to accelerate a young passer’s NFL development will now be given to Mariota instead of Mettenberger.
Getty ImagesScott Halleran
Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford
Multiple media reports claim Eagles head coach Chip Kelly unsuccessfully dangled Bradford as trade bait in hopes of landing Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Kelly denied that ever happened. Either way, Bradford finds himself on much more solid footing for the 2015 season knowing he is almost certainly staying put with the Eagles. Bradford also is in a great spot contractually entering the last year of his rookie deal. Bradford was beginning to emerge as a quality passer in St. Louis until suffering two knee injuries that have sidelined him for the past 1½ seasons. If he can regain that form in Philadelphia, Bradford would become a coveted free agent in the 2016 offseason or the recipient of an Eagles franchise tag that will bring a one-year base salary of roughly $19 million.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY SportsJake Roth
New York Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson
New York’s draft stratagem of "taking the best player available regardless of need" resulted in an excellent defensive line getting better when Southern Cal’s Leonard Williams was chosen at No. 6 overall. This also has a potential trickle-down effect on whether Wilkerson will stay with the Jets long-term. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Wilkerson is skipping the team’s offseason program while seeking a lucrative new deal. If the Jets don’t want to pay, Wilkerson could become attractive trade bait with New York now having the security of knowing its front should remain stout with Williams on the roster.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
Washington Redskins OT Morgan Moses
The Redskins drafted Moses in the third round last year in hopes he would become a fixture at right tackle. But Moses started only one game as a rookie before suffering a season-ending foot injury during practice. The Redskins already saw enough to choose Iowa’s Brandon Scherff with the No. 5 overall pick and immediately install him as their new starting right tackle. The Redskins may now look at making Moses a swing backup behind Scherff and left tackle Trent Williams. Redskins coach Jay Gruden acknowledged earlier this offseason that Moses’ transition to right tackle “wasn’t as smooth as we’d like” after he played left tackle exclusively at the University of Virginia. Washington no longer has to force that move with Scherff being picked.
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St. Louis Rams RB Zac Stacy
Shortly after the Rams selected Georgia running back Todd Gurley with the No. 10 overall pick, Stacy went on Twitter to post the response “Yikes.” NFL Network later reported that Stacy has requested a trade. It’s hard to blame him. Stacy is now buried as a third-stringer behind Gurley and Tre Mason. However, Stacy probably doesn’t carry much trade value. He logged only 15 rushes in the final 11 games last season after losing his starting spot to Mason.
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New Orleans Saints OT Zach Strief
Saints head coach Sean Payton said that first-round pick Anrdus Peat immediately will compete for playing time at tackle rather than shift inside to guard. That puts left tackle Terron Armstead and Strief on notice. Strief signed a five-year contract extension in 2014. But according to overthecap.com, the Saints could create $1.2 million in cap savings by releasing him later this month. Even if he isn’t dealt, Strief turns 32 in September and Armstead is just scratching the surface of his potential at age 23.
Getty ImagesSean Gardner
Cleveland Browns C Alex Mack
Florida State’s Cameron Erving was announced as a guard when chosen by Cleveland with the No. 19 overall pick. That position could be changing in 2016. Mack, who was one of the NFL’s premier centers before breaking his leg last season, can void his contract after this year. If he does so, the Browns may let Mack walk and tap Erving as his replacement. Erving played center his final five games with the Seminoles after shifting from left tackle. Installing him at guard now allows the Browns to get their five best linemen on the field in 2015.
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Pittsburgh Steelers LB Jarvis Jones
The Steelers were going to be in the market for an edge rusher after pending free agent Jason Worilds decided to retire in the offseason. But the selection of Kentucky’s Bud Dupree with the No. 22 overall pick should put Jones on notice that more is expected out of him after two disappointing seasons as a 2013 first-round choice. Dupree, Jones and 36-year-old James Harrison all will be competing for snaps at outside linebacker.
Getty ImagesGeorge Gojkovich
Denver Broncos LB DeMarcus Ware
The Broncos waited to address needs on the offensive line when trading up to select Missouri outside linebacker Shane Ray with the No. 23 overall pick. The choice does more than bolster an already formidable pass rush. Ray also is the likely heir apparent to Ware, who could be playing his final season in Denver barring a contract restructure. Ware is set to earn $10 million in 2016 at the age of 34, and the Broncos will need to clear cash for fellow Broncos OLB Von Miller, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal.
USA TODAY SportsChris Humphreys
Carolina Panthers LB Thomas Davis
Even though Shaq Thompson was selected in the first round and Davis is entering the final year of his contract doesn’t mean the torch is being passed after this season. Davis is playing at an elite level at age 32. The Panthers also have approached Davis about a contract extension this offseason and said he remains in their plans after the Thompson pick, which makes sense considering his standing as a locker-room leader and off-field role model. Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers will try to utilize linebacker packages featuring Davis, Thompson and Luke Keuchly because all three possess strong coverage skills as well as being strong against the run. Thompson, though, eventually will assume the weak-side role that Davis holds. The biggest question is when.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsBob Donnan
San Diego Chargers LB Donald Butler
The second-round selection of University of Miami inside linebacker Denzel Perryman speaks volumes after Butler was signed to a seven-year, $51.8 million contract extension during the 2014 offseason. Butler saw his playing time slashed to appearances only in the base defense last year before landing on injured reserve. Butler now will be competing with Perryman and run-stuffer Kavell Conner for playing time with Manti Te’o entrenched as one of San Diego’s two starting ILBs.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY SportsChris Humphreys
Cincinnati Bengals OT Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith
With the Bengals selecting tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the first two rounds, the handwriting is on the wall in Cincinnati for Whitworth and Smith. Both veterans are set to become unrestricted free agents in 2016, and the Bengals will need salary cap space to re-sign star wide receiver A.J. Green, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal.
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees
Just because a team uses a second-day draft pick on a quarterback doesn’t mean he will replace a future Hall of Famer like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Ryan Mallett and Brock Osweiler are proof. But the clock may now be ticking on Brees with the Saints choosing Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson in the third round Friday. New Orleans had drafted only one quarterback since Brees’ arrival in 2006. That was a 2010 seventh-round flier on Sean Canfield, who spent two years bouncing between the 53-man roster and practice squad before finally being cut for good. The Saints have made a far bigger draft investment in Grayson to groom behind Brees, who is 36 years old and under contract through the 2016 season.