2010 NFL Draft

Will someone please sign Jared Gaither

I’ve asked this before, but he remains unsigned, so I’ll ask it again: Why doesn’t anyone want Jared Gaither?

WI: Baltimore Ravens v Green Bay PackersIn his third year in the league in ’09, Gaither blossomed into a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle, more than adequately filling the shoes of his predecessor Jonathan Ogden. He ultimately wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl, primarily due to the fact that he missed five games last season, but the honor is surely in his future.

If you don’t know much about Gaither its probably due to the fact that he skipped the April draft process, entering the 2007 Supplemental Draft instead. In July ’07 Gaither was ruled academically ineligible for the upcoming season, which prompted the decision. As a result, the Ravens landed themselves a 1st-round talent with a 5th-round selection.

After backing up Ogden in ’07, Gaither took over in 2008. He was impressive as a sophomore, but reached elite status in 2009. Despite his performance, the Ravens only tendered him at the 1st-round level, leaving them susceptible to Gaither signing elsewhere.

Personally, I would rather spend my 1st-round pick on a proven 24-year-old than take a chance on anyone in the draft, even this year’s top prospect, Russell Okung.

ProFootballFocus grades Gaither very favorably, ranking him 6th overall among offensive tackles. However, their ratings are accumulated throughout the season, favoring the players who appeared in all 16 games. Given the fact that he only played 11 games in 2009 I decided to take their ratings and adjust them based on number of snaps played to see where Gaither would rank. Taking the overall rating and dividing by snaps played you get this list “per snap” rating list:

It should be noted that Gaither’s injuries are part of the equation as to why teams may not be interested, but if you simply look at his production on the field there’s no denying his status as an elite left tackle.

Applying this to the draft, how could any team targeting an offensive tackle not give serious consideration to Gaither?

Teams like the Redskins, Seahawks, Raiders, Bills, 49ers, Cardinals and Cowboys are all in the market for an upgrade at left tackle. Would they honestly rather take a risk on Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams or Anthony Davis instead of Gaither?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Cardinals, Cowboys, Free Agency, Raiders, Ravens, Redskins, Seahawks 2 Comments

A Mid-Offseason Grade for Mike Holmgren

On one hand, you have to give Mike Holmgren credit for putting his stamp on this team. On the other, you have to wonder: were this many changes necessary?

We’re still a month away from the draft and Holmgren has made an entire offseason’s worth of moves. With the recent flurry of transaction now complete, I think its time to breakdown the Browns moves and give Holmgren his mid-offseason grade.

Jan. 7 – Browns decide to keep Mangini
Mangini’s first season in Cleveland was nothing short of a complete disaster. True, he turned things around down the stretch, but any progress he made in those final weeks has now been undone by Holmgren’s dismantling of the franchise. You have to wonder if Holmgren isn’t keeping Mangini around just to keep the seat warm for himself.
Grade: D

Feb. 18 – Browns release Jamal Lewis
Everyone could see this move coming a mile away. Lewis wasn’t performing, and he wasn’t happy. He was due to earn $3.9M in 2010 and he just isn’t worth it anymore. It created a gaping hole at running back, which the undersized Jerome Harrison can’t fill on his own, but it was a necessary decision.
Grade: A

March 4Browns don’t offer tender to Brodney Pool; becomes free agent
Not bringing back an injury-prone safety who’s coming off a concussion walk can’t be viewed as a terrible decision, but it certainly couldn’t have hurt to offer him his 2nd-round tender and then attempt to pull off a trade. When healthy, Pool is a quality starting free safety and it looks as though he’ll get an opportunity to prove himself with the Jets.
Grade: C

March 4Browns trade Corey Williams to Lions for 5th-round pick
Aside from Shaun Rogers, Williams was easily the Browns next most productive defensive lineman over the past two seasons. He adjusted nicely to playing defensive end in their 3-4 scheme and was an anchor on the defensive line. ProFootbalFocus’ grading system rated him the 3rd best 3-4 defensive end in 2009. And all they could get in return was a 5th-round choice? Assuming that really was all that was being offered for Williams, the smart move would have been to keep him around. The Browns aren’t exactly bursting at the seams with talented defensive players, so why dump one for a 5th-round pick?
Grade: F

March 9 – Browns release Derek Anderson
This was an unfortunate, but necessary, move. It’s not easy to release a 26-year-old former Pro Bowl quarterback, but Anderson simply hasn’t lived up to expectations the past two seasons. He was due a $2M roster bonus on March 19, and it didn’t look like anyone was going to be interested in pulling the trigger on a trade for an overpriced backup.
Grade: A-

March 14 – Browns trade Brady Quinn to Broncos
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You cannot judge a quarterback based on 12 starts. And you certainly can’t judge him based on 12 starts during which he was surrounded by absolutely no talent. I’m not saying Quinn will become the next John Elway in Denver, but he deserved another shot with the Browns. In return the Browns received Peyton Hillis (a backup FB/RB), a 2011 6th-round draft pick and a conditional pick in 2012.
Grade: F

March 14 – Browns trade Kamerion Wimbley to Raiders for 3rd-round pick
While trading your best pass-rusher is rarely a good idea, this won’t be a crippling move for the Browns defense. Matt Roth and David Bowens are capable starting linebackers and the coaching staff is also high on Marcus Benard. The addition of the 3rd-round pick give the Browns five in the top 100, which will help them retool a roster which is depleted of talent.
Grade: B

Clearly Holmgren’s strategy here is to make the Browns “his” team. If owner Randy Lerner is willing to be patient it could work out in the end, afterall Holmgren has been to three Super Bowls. However, he went to those Super Bowls as a coach. As a GM in Seattle he struggled and was eventually demoted. At this point he’s committed himself to a 3-year rebuilding project, if not longer. Its too early to give him a failing grade across the board, but its certainly possible that he’ll leave the Browns worse off than when he took over. As the roster stands today on March 15, its hard to imagine the Browns winning more than one or two games, with the distinct possibility that they go 0-16.

Overall Mid-Offseason Grade: C-

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Browns, Free Agency Comments Off

Who’s going to sign Jared Gaither?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore RavensJared Gaither may be the most under-appreciated offensive lineman in the game, even by his own team.

Despite an impressive 2009 season the Ravens only placed a 1st-round tender on Gaither, making him an intriguing option for someone else to sign to an offer sheet.

The folks at ProFootballFocus have been pleading for someone to sign Gaither via Twitter, and I couldn’t agree more with their sentiments. Why waste time developing a draft pick when you can get a Pro Bowl-caliber 24-year-old for the same price?

Gaither wasn’t just good in 2009, he was among the game’s elite. He allowed just four sacks in in the 430 pass plays in which he was on the field for, an impressively low percentage. According to ProFootballFocus’ grading system Gaither ranked 3rd among left tackles who played at least 10 games last season, trailing only the two best young tackles in the game, Joe Thomas and Jake Long.

Numerous teams own mid-to-late 1st-round picks and are in the market for a left tackle. The 49ers, Cardinals, Cowboys and Packers are just a few of the teams that would benefit from bringing Gaither aboard rather than trying their luck with Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams or Anthony Davis.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Cardinals, Cowboys, Free Agency, Packers, Ravens 2 Comments

Broncos offseason moves reshaping draft plans

Within the past 24 hours the Broncos have released two key members of their defense.

Yesterday they released defensive end Kenny Peterson. The move didn’t come as much surprise considering Peterson struggled in 2009 and the Broncos have signed three new defensive linemen this offseason. However, Peterson did start 14 games for the Broncos and could have been valuable in a reserve role this upcoming season.

This afternoon the Broncos released Andra Davis, who started 13 games at inside linebacker and was arguably the most productive member of the Broncos front seven, particularly in run support. After a slow start to his career in Cleveland, Davis has excelled at inside linebacker since the Browns made the transition under Romeo Crennel. He was signed by the Broncos prior to the 2009 season.

Davis immediately becomes one of the more intriguing names on the free agent market.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are left without an obvious choice at the strong-side middle linebacker position. Davis took nearly every snap at the position in 2009 and they don’t currently have a strong option on the roster to fill his slot.

The moves, likely financially motivated, could change their draft plans. There is a strong possibility that the consensus No. 1 inside linebacker Rolando McClain will be on the board when the Broncos are on the clock at No. 11. McClain is a big, physical linebacker with great instincts – all the same qualities that made Davis so productive for the Broncos this past season. He is perfectly suited for the Broncos 3-4 system and the selection would seem like a no-brainer if they’re unable to fill the void through free agency.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Broncos, Free Agency Comments Off

Could the Seahawks land Marshall for less than the 6th pick?

Current rules regarding restricted free agents state that if a team signs a player to an offer sheet and the offer is not matched by the team, then they must surrender their original pick in the round at which the player was tendered. For the Seahawks to sign Brandon Marshall, that means giving up the the 6th pick in the draft, rather than the 14th pick which they acquired from the Broncos in a draft-day trade last year.

But the folks at ProFootballTalk may have found a loophole:

[the Seahawks] should offer the 14th overall pick to any team that is able to finagle Marshall for a selection in the bottom half of round one.

More specifically, the Seahawks should offer the opportunity to the Chargers, who hold the 28th pick in the first round.

The steps are simple.¬† San Diego would sign Marshall to an offer sheet containing terms to which the Seahawks know Marshall will agree…

The offer sheet would include a provision that defers for five days or after the deal becomes effective the payment of any money, so that the Chargers never have to actually cut a check to Marshall.

Then, after the offer sheet isn’t matched and Marshall becomes a Charger and the 28th overall pick flows from San Diego to Denver, the Chargers would send Marshall to Seattle for the 14th overall pick.

Its a potentially brilliant idea. The Seahawks get Marshall, keep the 6th overall selection and the Chargers could move up to N0. 14 where they would likely target C.J. Spiller or perhaps Dan Williams.

It almost makes too much sense not to happen (assuming the Seahawks even want Marshall, that is).

Denver Broncos v San Diego ChargersBut while its a great idea on paper, we have to wonder if it’s even legal. It would seem as though this would qualify as collusion. However, most steps taken to prevent collusion do so to prevent owners from conspiring against players. In this case, Marshall benefits as much as anyone. Its actually owners colluding against other owners – a rare scenario which may have slipped through the cracks of any agreement currently in place to prevent similar actions.

ProFootballTalk has stated that they are inquiring about the legality of the move.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Broncos, Chargers, Free Agency, Seahawks 1 Comment

Where will Brady Quinn land?

Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs

Is Quinn done in Cleveland?

The Browns are reportedly shopping Brady Quinn. And while I personally think its ludicrous to trade a former 1st-round pick after just 12 career starts, its looks like he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2010.

Any team acquiring a 25-year-old quarterback with just 12 starts under his belt would be doing so with the intention of making him the starter and developing him as the franchise quarterback. Quinn has sat on the bench long enough, its time to give him a chance to play.

Unfortunately for the Browns, the list of teams capable of committing to a new starting quarterback is fairly small. And his trade value is further hurt by the fact that the teams that may be interested in a 25-year-old quarterback are also in position to potentially land Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen in the draft.

Let’s take a look at the teams that may show an interest in Quinn:

St. Louis Rams
The Rams are obviously in the market for a new franchise quarterback. Marc Bulger is likely to be released, creating an opening for someone to step in and start from day one. This would be an ideal scenario for Quinn, but the Rams also own the No. 1 overall pick and appear to be leaning towards selecting Bradford.

Washington Redskins
Jason Campbell was tendered at a 1st-round value, meaning he’ll likely be back in Washington unless the ‘Skins can find a trading partner. If he’s traded, they would certainly become a potential landing spot for Quinn, but a lot has to happen first. They would also have to decide to pass on Clausen and/or Bradford in the draft, as at least one of the two should be on the board at No. 4.

Buffalo Bills
The Bills may be the most likely suitor for Quinn. They’re in the market for a new franchise quarterback, but aren’t in position to guarantee themselves a shot at Bradford or Clausen in the draft. That uncertainty may lead them to address the need via trade. There have been whispers that they may be interested in Jason Campbell, but Quinn is younger and certainly has more upside at this stage in his career.

Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars don’t need a new quarterback for 2010. But Jack Del Rio hasn’t exactly expressed confidence in David Garrard this offseason. If they could get Quinn at a discounted price due to a lack of interest from others (3rd or 4th round pick perhaps) they may be willing to bring him aboard.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Browns, Free Agency, Jaguars, Rams, Redskins Comments Off

10 Best Offseason Moves (So Far)

10. Giants sign Antrel Rolle
Yes, the Giants overpaid for Rolle. The thought of him being the highest-paid safety in the league is comical. But the fact remains that he’s a significant upgrade over Michael Johnson and will give the Giants a very solid duo at safety between him and fellow Hurricane Kenny Phillips. The Giants are taking a “win now” approach and you have to give them credit for addressing a need with the best player on the market.

9. Falcons sign Dunta Robinson
The Falcons may have overpaid for a player who’s effort comes as goes throughout the season, but there’s no denying that Robinson has the talent to be an elite cornerback. Robinson will give you headaches, but ultimately when it matters most he’ll step up his game. He was playing at an elite level down the stretch this past season as Houston climbed back into the wild card race and he’ll do the same in Atlanta as they figure to be in the playoff hunt once again.

8. Patriots re-sign Vince Wilfork
Its not a sexy pick to have a player re-signing on this list, I know, but this is one of the most important moves nonetheless. Wilfork is the anchor of the Patriots defense. They’re in a mini rebuilding mode on that side of the ball this offseason and losing Wilfork would have set them back even further.

7. Chiefs sign Thomas Jones
If the Chiefs were expected to be a contender in 2010 this move would have ranked even higher. Jones isn’t capable of carrying the load throughout the season, but he can still be effective in spurts. Jones and Jamaal Charles give the Chiefs an impressive duo at running back which should allow them to control the ball and help open things up in the passing game for Matt Cassel.

6. Broncos sign Jamal Williams, Justin Bannan, Jarvis Green
None of these three players alone would have made the list, but collectively they’ve reshaped the Broncos defense. Williams will likely start at nose tackle with Green starting at one of the defensive end spots. Bannan can play nose tackle or end and may rotate between the two.

5. Cardinals trade for Kerry Rhodes
Rhodes fell out of favor with Rex Ryan in New York, but he is still a top-flight safety in this league. He’s just 27 and has plenty of good years ahead of him. Antrel Rolle was a fine starting free safety, but Rhodes is an upgrade and he comes at a cheaper price tag. It was a great trade any way you look at it from the Cardinals point of view.

4. Lions sign Kyle Vanden Bosch; trade for Corey Williams
Last offseason Jim Schwartz pledged to make the Lions bigger and stronger on defense. That’s proven to be easier said than done as the previous regime believed “smaller and faster” was the way to go. They struggled through the 2009 season, but Vanden Bosch and Williams gives their line two proven defenders who will likely team up with Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy.

3. Bears sign Julius Peppers
Peppers was the biggest name to change teams but I can’t put him at number one because I don’t know that he’s a significant upgrade in Chicago. The Bears had other needs (mainly receiver) which they could have spent the money on, but they do deserve credit for landing the biggest name on the market.

2. Dolphins sign Karlos Dansby
Dansby has quietly been one of the most productive linebackers in the league during his time in Arizona, despite not being surrounded by much talent. In Miami he could develop into a star. He’s an ideal fit for their defensive scheme which is similar to Arizona’s. He’ll be a difference maker from day one for the Dolphins.

1. Ravens trade for Anquan Boldin
The Ravens have needed to make a move like this for years. Boldin is an elite possession receiver and will instantly become Joe Flacco’s favorite weapon. If he can stay healthy, a 100-catch season isn’t an unreachable goal for 2010. The acquisition of Boldin makes the Ravens the team to beat in the AFC North for 2010.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Broncos, Cardinals, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Free Agency, Giants, Lions, Patriots 16 Comments

Browns release Derek Anderson

Its not everyday that 26-year old former Pro Bowl quarterbacks get released.Then again, its also not every day that 26-year old former Pro Bowl quarterbacks complete just under 45 percent of their passes.

Green Bay Packers v Cleveland BrownsDerek Anderson went from the biggest surprise of 2007 to the biggest disappointment of 2008 and 2009 and now finds himself without a job. It won’t be for long though, as a number of teams figure to give him the opportunity to compete for a starting job. Arizona would make the most sense, but Oakland, Buffalo and Carolina could also be interested.

The more interesting question, however, is: where do the Browns go from here? They acquired Seneca Wallace on Monday, so they still have two quarterbacks with starting experience and not a whole lot of confidence in either one.

Well, I should say they shouldn’t have confidence in either one. But the fact that Mike Holmgren was willing to trade Wallace, whom he coached in Seattle, may mean he’s already decided who he’s going to force Eric Mangini to start in 2010.

For whatever its worth, I’d stick with Brady Quinn. He’s only made 12 career starts. Is that really enough time to evaluate a former 1st-round pick? Quinn has the basic tools to succeed in the NFL, but he’s struggled with his decision making. Just a guess here, but maybe that’s because Eric Mangini hasn’t allowed him to start more than six consecutive games.

Give Quinn the keys to the offense for 2010 and see how he does. If he fails, you’re no worse off than you are now, but at least you know what you have. Then take Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett in the 2011 draft and rebuild from there.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Free Agency 2 Comments

Offseason moves shouldn’t change Lions draft plans

The Lions have been one of the more active teams so far this offseason, and are starting to look like they may be one of the most improved teams for 2010.

The signing of Kyle Vanden Bosch and the trade for Corey Williams have given their defensive line a significant upgrade already, and its called into question whether they will still target Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy with the 2nd pick.

Numerous mock drafts have started popping up with Russell Okung in the No. 2 slot, but I think its premature to assume that Jim Schwartz is content with his defensive line. Williams is certainly a quality starting defensive tackle. But is he really the type of player that makes you pass on the consensus top two available prospects in the draft?

Detroit Lions Minicamp

Hill stretches before a practice during his rookie year

Perhaps this is the better question, since Williams already has one starting spot locked up: is Sammie Lee Hill the type of player that makes you pass on the consensus top two available prospects in the draft?

Hill, a 2009 4th-round pick, started all but one game in which he played last season. He’s an intriguing player due to his massive size (6’4, 329) but he wasn’t exactly productive as rookie. ProFootballFocus rated him 83rd out of 87 qualifying defensive tackles in ’09. To be fair, he was a rookie from Stillman College trying to compete in the NFL, but the fact remains that he has a long way to go.

The other issue with them selecting Okung is the fact that there may not be room for him in the starting lineup from day one. Schwartz has been extremely supportive of Jeff Backus (perhaps too supportive) and even endorsed him as a Pro Bowl candidate in 2009. At right tackle, 2008 1st-round pick Gosder Cherilus is starting to look like a bust but it would be prudent to give him a third year in a starting role before throwing in the towel.

To accommodate Okung the Lions would need to move either Backus or Cherilus (more likely Cherilus) to guard. In theory it actually sounds like a smart move, but you have to factor in how much money would then be invested in a mediocre offensive line featuring three former 1st-round selections. A rebuilding team like the Lions would be wise not to invest too much money in any one unit.

While the Lions are sure to explore the option of selecting Okung, ultimately I can’t envision them passing on Suh or McCoy. Jim Schwartz had pledged to build a bigger, stronger, more physical defense in the Detroit – a complete 180 from the previous regime’s defensive philosophy – and a change like that doesn’t happen with just one or two moves. Plugging in a player like Suh or McCoy would instantly give the Lions a defensive front seven that could compete within the NFC North.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Free Agency, Lions 1 Comment

Analyzing the Bears free agency moves

No matter what happens this season, you have to give the Bears credit for trying. Last season they went out and acquired what they believed to be a franchise quarterback. This season they grabbed the biggest name on the free agent market.

Carolina Panthers v San Diego ChargersThe Julius Peppers signing came as no surprise, and is clearly a smart move. The Bears pass rush has been good but not great in recent seasons and Peppers should put their defensive line over the top and make them one of the better units in the league.

With Peppers and Alex Brown teaming up the Bears now have an impressive combination at defensive end. Peppers excels as a pass rusher, while Brown rates as one of the games best run stoppers. Its a nice combination in a division that will require a balanced defense to compete with the Packers and Vikings.

I actually really like the signings of Brandon Manumaleuna and Chester Taylor. Neither one figures to make a significant impact, but they each fill specific needs which the Bears may not have been able to fill in the draft since they don’t own a draft pick until 3rd round.

The signing of Manumaleuna may spell the end of the road for Greg Olsen. Mike Martz refuses to use tight ends in the passing game, which essentially renders Olsen useless. He’ll more than likely be traded, which hopefully lands the Bears a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

Chester Taylor will backup Matt Forte, who struggled to carry the load in 2009. The only questionable part of the signing is that Taylor is most effective as a receiver, which also is a strong-suit of Forte’s game. Taylor’s impact figures to be less than it was in Minnesota, but nonetheless he’s a significant upgrade over Kevin Jones as Forte’s backup.

As far as the draft is concerned, these moves can allow the Bears to relax on draft day. Aside from receiver, they really don’t have a glaring need that needs to be addressed. They won’t be on the clock until the 75th pick, so Bears fans shouldn’t expect much, but they can now select the best available player without feeling the pressure to find an impact player at a spot where it can be difficult to find one.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Bears, Free Agency Comments Off