The Eagles have a new No. 1 receiver. The Jaguars beefed up their defensive line and secondary. The Patriots brought back their defensive captain.

NFL Nation reporters choose the free-agent pickup or re-signing who will have the biggest impact for each team in 2017.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

AFC East

Safety Micah Hyde

The Bills gave Hyde by far the biggest deal of their free-agent class, guaranteeing $14 million over a five-year, $30.5 million deal. Hyde was not a full-time starter for Green Bay, but he projects to play almost every defensive snap for new coach Sean McDermott, either at safety or cornerback. Those positions were problem areas for Rex Ryan last season. If Hyde can deliver for McDermott, the Bills’ secondary will be less leaky in 2017. — Mike Rodak

Middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons

The Dolphins needed to get bigger and stronger up the middle after finishing 30th against the run last season. Timmons, who signed a two-year, $12 million contract, is the type of physical and durable middle linebacker Miami needs. The 30-year-old has posted more than 100 tackles in five straight seasons and hasn’t missed a game since 2009. — James Walker

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower

This was a toss-up between Hightower and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but given Hightower’s presence as the defensive signal-caller and captain, he gets the nod because his presence has a trickle-down effect on the other 10 defenders. Hightower is a big-game player, and the Patriots play in a lot of big games, so it’s a good match. — Mike Reiss

Quarterback Josh McCown

It’s a thin free-agent class, but McCown gets an edge because he could emerge as the opening day quarterback. He’s the ultimate bridge quarterback, and there’s a good chance that he will cede the position to Christian Hackenberg at some point, but McCown has strong intangibles and will be a positive influence in the locker room even if he isn’t playing. — Rich Cimini

AFC North

Nose tackle Brandon Williams

The Ravens sent a message by making him their highest-paid player not named Joe Flacco. Baltimore made it clear that it places a premium on stopping the run. Does that make sense in an era in which the emphasis is on the pass? The past four Super Bowl champions ranked in the top 10 in run defense, including the Patriots at No. 3 last season. Defense (including run defense) still wins championships. — Jamison Hensley

Linebacker Kevin Minter

The Bengals are revamping their linebacker group, releasing longtimer Rey Maualuga and letting Karlos Dansby walk in free agency. The Bengals are getting younger and faster, and with Minter and Vontaze Burfict poised to be the core pieces in 2017, the group already looks different. The Bengals could add a linebacker in the draft, but with two players over the age of 30 now gone, it’s a significant change. — Katherine Terrell

Wide receiver Kenny Britt

Not because he will be, but because he has to be. Britt is the only experienced receiver on the Cleveland roster, and if he doesn’t pan out, the Browns will have to trust a group of second-year players who played like rookies in 2016. The Browns desperately have to hope that Britt is worth the money they gave him ($32.5 million over four years, with $17 million guaranteed). — Pat McManamon

Defensive lineman Tyson Alualu

The former top-10 pick is the closest thing to a free-agent “splash” for the prudent Steelers, but the signing should pay off. The Steelers need a capable third end behind Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, and Alualu is capable of starting games at end or nose tackle. The Steelers can enter the draft feeling good about their defensive line, allowing them to focus on other areas. — Jeremy Fowler

AFC South

Kicker Nick Novak

There are only three options for this answer, so I’m going to pick one of the Texans’ most important offensive players last season. Houston probably would not have made the playoffs last season without the leg of Novak, given the team’s extensive struggles in the red zone. Novak made 35 of 41 field goals in 2016, including all 24 from fewer than 40 yards. — Sarah Barshop

Cornerback Darius Butler

Re-signing Darius Butler was at the top of the list for the Colts. He’ll make the transition from being a cornerback his whole career to having the inside track to starting at safety with Clayton Geathers. Butler, who has led the Colts in interceptions in three of his five seasons, takes over the role of Mike Adams as the veteran leader of the team’s secondary. — Mike Wells

Defensive end Calais Campbell

The Jaguars ranked sixth in total defense last season, but their weaknesses were the pass rush and a lack of turnovers. Campbell has 56.5 sacks in his nine seasons and has recorded at least five sacks in the past eight seasons, including a career-high nine in 2013 and eight last season. The Jaguars’ pass rush was hit-and-miss in 2016, and Campbell brings some much-needed consistency. A better pass rush usually means more chances to create turnovers, which is something the Jaguars have struggled to do. — Mike DiRocco

Cornerback Logan Ryan

General manager Jon Robinson scouted Ryan for the Patriots when the defensive back was coming out of Rutgers and has great insight into how he will fit the Titans’ secondary. Tennessee is sure to address cornerback further in the draft, but Ryan will be a key, veritable piece in a secondary that is being revamped. — Paul Kuharsky

AFC West

Guard Ronald Leary

Certainly, signing a guard doesn’t often move the needle on the meter of public excitement, but if Leary plays to the level he showed with the Dallas Cowboys, — or perhaps even a little better as an ascending player — he will have significant impact at a position group on the offensive line in which the Broncos had the biggest need. The Broncos made their offensive line the priority in free agency — they also signed tackle Menelik Watson — and Leary is a significant upgrade. He has said he can play either guard spot, but he played left guard in Dallas and projects to that position, at least initially, with the Broncos. — Jeff Legwold

Safety Eric Berry

Maybe the Chiefs would have survived and even thrived without Berry at the back end of their defense, but they were in no mood to find out. Shortly before the start of free agency, the Chiefs signed Berry to a long-term contract that makes him the highest-paid safety in the league. He’s that important to the Chiefs — not just for his play on the field but for his leadership. He’s the one voice in the locker room that all of his teammates listen to. — Adam Teicher

Offensive tackle Russell Okung

The Chargers struggled to keep Philip Rivers upright and consistently clear running lanes for running back Melvin Gordon last season. The addition of Okung should help them improve on both fronts. The 29-year-old Oklahoma State product plays with an edge and is considered a road grader in the running game, but he should also serve as an upgrade as a blindside protector for Rivers. — Eric D. Williams

Kick returner/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson

The Raiders played wait-and-see early in free agency but immediately improved their return game by signing the best kick returner in the game in the second wave. After all, Patterson, a two-time All-Pro whose career return average of 30.4 yards is second to Hall of Famer Gale Sayers’ 30.6 average since 1941, averaged 11.2 yards more than the Raiders did as a team last season, with a league-leading 31.7 yards per return to 20.5. He has five career returns for a touchdown, while Oakland’s last kick return for a score came in 2011. Throw in Patterson’s 4.42 40-yard dash speed, and he is more than an intriguing receiving target for Derek Carr. The Raiders’ willingness to use Patterson as a receiver is what sold him on Oakland. — Paul Gutierrez

NFC East

Cornerback Nolan Carroll

The Cowboys’ biggest free-agent move was keeping wide receiver Terrance Williams on a four-year, $17 million deal, but with the team letting cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne walk away, the most important signing will be Carroll. Carroll, who received a three-year, $10 million deal, has to be a productive starter. For the first time in his career, he started every game last season with the Eagles and had one interception and 10 pass breakups. Carroll offers the Cowboys some scheme flexibility that Carr and Claiborne, who were mostly man-to-man corners, didn’t. — Todd Archer

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall

Just two years ago, Marshall had 1,500 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. Although he won’t do that at age 33 playing alongside Odell Beckham Jr., Marshall can still be productive, especially in the red zone. The Giants were 19th in red zone offense and 26th in points scored. Marshall’s size, strength and ability to make catches in tight spaces will help immensely. — Jordan Raanan

Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery

The Eagles had one of the least productive receiving corps in the NFL last season. Now Carson Wentz has a legitimate No. 1 option in Jeffery, who should make life much easier on the offense, particularly on third down and in the red zone. — Tim McManus

Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor

Pryor is still a raw receiver, having played the position full time for just one year. But the Redskins lost DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency, and one of their replacements, Josh Doctson, played only two games as a rookie because of Achilles issues. Pryor gives Washington someone capable of big plays — he caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards from five quarterbacks last season in Cleveland. Pryor lacks Jackson’s deep speed, but his size (6-foot-4) and jumping ability make him a threat. — John Keim

NFC North

Quarterback Mike Glennon

Chicago’s fortunes on offense largely will depend on Glennon, who signed a three-year deal with $16 million guaranteed for 2017. Glennon’s former coaches in Tampa rave about him, but Glennon hasn’t started a game in more than two years. A key for the Bears is protecting Glennon inside the pocket. At 6-foot-6, Glennon isn’t the nimblest quarterback, but he can deliver the ball downfield if the pass protection is adequate. There’ll be lots of pressure on Chicago’s tackles — Charles Leno and Bobby Massie — to keep Glennon upright. Everything hinges on Glennon, whom the Bears bid against themselves to acquire in free agency. — Jeff Dickerson

Offensive tackle Rick Wagner

Detroit needed to improve its offensive line and did so by signing the best right tackle on the market. Wagner was the Lions’ most lucrative signing and also their most valuable for 2017. He, along with right guard T.J. Lang and tight end Darren Fells, will be part of a new group protecting Matthew Stafford and opening holes for a running game that is looking to improve in 2017. Wagner is the bookend to all of that. — Michael Rothstein

Tight end Martellus Bennett

If 2016 proved anything about the Packers’ offense, it’s that it functions much better with a dynamic tight end. It was Jared Cook then, and it will be Bennett now. Before that, the Packers had a three-year gap between Jermichael Finley and Cook without a major playmaker at the position. The Packers still have a solid group of receivers led by Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, but they had to make sure they didn’t take a step backward at tight end. With Bennett, it appears they avoided that fate. — Rob Demovsky

Offensive tackle Riley Reiff

The Vikings’ dire need to upgrade both tackle positions led them to commit more than $36 million in guaranteed money to Reiff and Mike Remmers, and they’ll count on Reiff to protect Sam Bradford‘s blind side in 2017. It might be even more important for them to open holes for their 31st-ranked run game, given how much they struggled to create a push at the line of scrimmage last season. Even if Reiff is competent at left tackle, he’ll give the Vikings a major upgrade over the rotating cast of players they used last season. — Ben Goessling

NFC South

Defensive tackle Dontari Poe

The massive defensive lineman and two-time Pro Bowler is expected to help the defense shut down the run as well as put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Poe is likely to draw some double teams, which will open up space for speedy linebackers such as Deion Jones to make plays. Poe’s ability to push the pocket will contribute to the pass rush and give guys such as NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley Jr. more one-on-one opportunities off the edge. The Falcons want Poe to keep his weight down to about 330 pounds, which is 16 pounds lighter than what he is listed. If Poe keeps his weight where it’s supposed to be, he’ll be better equipped to play the attacking style coach Dan Quinn expects him to play. — Vaughn McClure

Nickelback Captain Munnerlyn

The Panthers have been shuffling parts to find a nickel as good as Munnerlyn since he left for Minnesota after the 2013 season. He also can play outside if second-year player Daryl Worley struggles or there is an injury. Nickel is a key position in Carolina’s 4-3 scheme, so having a dependable player there will make the entire secondary stronger. — David Newton

Guard Larry Warford

Surprisingly, there is no clear answer to this question, even though the Saints have been active in free agency, adding five newcomers so far. Warford doesn’t play a position that makes an obvious impact — and it’s tough to quantify how much better he can make an offense that led the NFL in yardage last season. But New Orleans has always valued guards more than most teams, the 25-year-old is just entering his prime, and he was the highest-rated and most expensive newcomer the Saints added in free agency. If they wind up trading for Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, this answer becomes much easier. — Mike Triplett

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson

Coach Dirk Koetter said the offense needs to produce more explosive plays, something the Bucs define as passing plays of 16 yards or more. Bucs receivers accounted for 64 of those plays last season. Jackson accounted for more than one-third of that amount when he was with the Redskins in 2016. Jackson also has more 20-plus-yard catches since 2008 than any other active player in the league and is second to only Calvin Johnson during that span. Considering the Bucs have averaged 20 points per game on offense the past two seasons, he should help quarterback Jameis Winston take it to the next level. — Jenna Laine

NFC West

Outside linebacker Chandler Jones

Jones single-handedly improved the Cardinals’ pass rush in 2016 and will bolster it even more in 2017. He had 11 sacks in his first season with Arizona, which he said was spent learning the defense. Give him another year in the Cards’ scheme, and he could be even better. But maybe most importantly, Jones’ impact on the rest of the Cards’ defense might be his most valuable asset. — Josh Weinfuss

Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth

By signing Whitworth, the Rams went from one of the worst to one of the best at one of the most important positions. Whitworth, who got a three-year, $33.75 million contract, remains one of the NFL’s premier pass-blockers, even at age 35. Adding Whitworth means Greg Robinson, the former No. 2 overall pick who has struggled mightily at left tackle in his first three seasons, can move to the right side. It should do wonders for franchise quarterback Jared Goff, who was sacked 25 times during the last six games last season. — Alden Gonzalez

Wide receiver Pierre Garcon

The Niners signed Garcon not only because of his productivity and familiarity with coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, but also for his ability to help instill the culture Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are trying to build. Garcon became the best and most accomplished receiver on the roster the moment he signed with the Niners, and he’ll be the primary target in the passing game and a focal point for the offense immediately. — Nick Wagoner

Running back Eddie Lacy

One of the Seahawks’ obvious goals this offseason was to regain their identity as a physical rushing team. Seattle suffered many injuries in 2016, and 18 players carried the ball at least once. Lacy is a back who can pick up positive yards even when the blocking isn’t perfect. Since he entered the league, he has averaged 2.15 yards after contact, which ranks sixth in that span. Given that he’s only 27 and is on a one-year contract, Lacy should be motivated. The Seahawks still have Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise on the roster, but Lacy is the clear favorite to carry the load. — Sheil Kapadia

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