While we know that many free agents (at least, on the offensive side of the ball) base their free agency decisions on questions about the quarterback and scheme fit, the presence of non-QB elite players can also prove a draw to pulling in lucrative free agents (as can ability to pay ridiculous amounts of money, but I digress).
Former 49ers RB Frank Gore and former Texan WR Andre Johnson both cited the presence of Andrew Luck in Indianapolis as reasons for signing with the Clots, while Aaron Rodgers' presence has kept Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb sporting green and yellow through multiple contracts. Peyton Manning can (and should) be credited with getting Eric Decker his Jests contract, and Tom Brady in New England got Wes Welker millions in Denver.
Unfortunately, (as those of us who are Texans fans know all too well), elite QBs are thin on the ground in the NFL, so how do other teams lure and retain players? Well, they depend on elite players in other positions. Some of those players, like Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson, are essentially the offense of their respective teams, the Seahawks and Vikings, while others, like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are strong enough to continue winning regardless of what QB is under center (because, let's face it, no one is signing with Detroit or Arizona to play with Matthew Stafford or Carson Palmer).
So who are the other guys whose mere presence can lure free agents to possibly turn down more money for a chance at winning and playing alongside them? Well, our own J.J. Watt is one, as evidenced by Vince Wilfork's recent sit-down interview at the Mothership.
According to Chris Burke over at SI:
Watt is hands down the most dominant defender in the league. He ran neck and neck with Rodgers in last season's MVP discussion ... and probably should have won it.
The Seahawks' Earl Thomas is another player who makes his fellow teammates better by his mere presence. Despite Richard Sherman's obvious skill, Burke notes that it's "Thomas' otherworldly play on the back end frees up Sherman and his counterparts to take chances." Other defensive stars that make for great teammates include the Ravens' Terrell Suggs, Jets' Darrelle Revis (provided he's being paid, of course), Panthers' Luke Kuechly, and the Dolphins' shiny new toy, Ndamukong Suh who was praised by former Lions teammate Nick Fairley as "a great leader."
While having an elite QB makes everything easier, having J.J. Watt isn't a bad consolation prize when it comes to establishing a place where other players want to be.