2010 NFL Draft

Clausen sweepstakes narrowed to 5 teams

Notre Dame v Stanford

Does anyone want this guy?

This offseason has been filled with nothing but bad news for Jimmy Clausen.

Its tough to say his stock is actually falling, because he hasn’t done anything wrong. But the teams potentially interested in him are falling off fast. First the Seahawks traded for Charlie Whitehurst, then the Browns said they flat-out weren’t interested.

I have yet to hear about a single team who has requested a private workout with Clausen. And to the best of our knowledge, he only met privately with two teams at the combine, the Bills and Redskins.

Its not uncommon for players not to meet with teams prior to their pro day. Teams often want to see a player workout once before using up one of their 30 pre-draft visits. However, quarterbacks are a different beast. The Rams have already met with Bradford and have set up a date for him to visit in April, despite the fact that he won’t workout until March 29. Since Clausen won’t workout until April 9, it seems odd that no one (to our knowledge) has scheduled him for a private workout yet. Presumably there are multiple teams that will have an interest in him in the 1st round, regardless of how he looks on April 9. Or maybe we’re just way off base in our assumption that he’s viewed as a premier prospect. [update: Clausen has visit scheduled with Bills; date is unknown]

Whatever the case may be, there now appears to be only five teams in the Clausen sweepstakes:

4. Redskins
The ‘Skins placed a 1st-round tender on restricted free agent Jason Campbell, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still interested in Clausen. They spoke to Clausen at the combine, indicating some interest. However, is sounds as though Mike Shanahan in genuine in his plans to bring Campbell back and giving him a legitimate shot to turn things around. If that’s the case it would make more sense to select a left tackle with the 4th pick to give Campbell the best opportunity to succeed.

9. Bills
The Bills also showed an initial interest in Clausen. And unlike the Redskins, they don’t have a viable option on their roster if they don’t land a quarterback in the draft. They could survive the next season with Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Brohm, but they’d much rather find their quarterback of the future in this draft. The Bills are probably the most likely landing spot, however, they have also showed a strong interest in Tim Tebow. Its possible that the Bills would either trade this pick to move back in the 1st round, or trade their next year’s 1st-round back pick to move back into the 1st round in an effort to land Tebow there.

13/17. 49ers
If the 49ers want Clausen, they can have him. Their two 1st-round picks would be enough to move into the top 10 to select him if he’s their guy. However, they’ve given no indication that they’re interested in making such a move. That said, if he falls down the board and he’s sitting there are No. 13 or 17, he may be too good to pass up. They want to give Alex Smith another shot, but they aren’t expecting him to turn into a future star at this point. Clausen’s upside is far greater than Smith’s at this point in their careers.

14. Seahawks
The trade for Whitehurst likely takes the Seahawks out of the running for Clausen with the 6th pick. However, they may reconsider their stance if he’s still on the board with the 14th selection. The dropoff in money from No. 6 to No. 14 is significant, which may make them more comfortable with the selection. It’s probably a long shot, but it can’t be ruled out.

30. Vikings
If Clausen gets past the Seahawks and 49ers the most likely scenario is that someone who already passed on him (Bills? Redskins?) trades back into the 1st round to select him. It would be a similar scenario to what the Browns did to acquire Brady Quinn in 2007. But assuming everyone stays put, his next most likely landing spot would be Minnesota. It certainly sounds like Brett Favre will be back in 2010, but he obviously can’t be counted on beyond this season. If Clausen is on the board at No. 30 it would be very difficult to pass him up. He could sit and learn behind one of the all-time greats for a season while learning the offense before taking over in 2011.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Redskins, Seahawks, Vikings 1 Comment

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

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

Where will Brian Westbrook land?

The Eagles announced that they will part ways with veteran running back Brian Westbrook earlier this week. The move doesn’t come as a surprise, but it should make teams extremely hesitant to acquire the 30-year-old running back.

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins

Whoever signs Westbrook should be prepared for this scene to repeat itself

LeSean McCoy will be the feature back in Philly, but the Eagles lack a reliable backup. Behind McCoy on the current depth chart are Eldra Buckley, Dwayne Wright and Martell Mallett. The fact that the Eagles are willing to part with a veteran like Westbrook means they obviously don’t believe he can stay healthy and produce over the course of a season.

Westbrook’s career may very well be over, but because of his past success, there will undoubtedly be some teams that pick up the phone and give him a call. So where might Westbrook land? Assuming he’s healthy, here are some options:

5. Rams
The Rams probably aren’t Westbrook’s first choice, but given the serious concerns about his health he may not be sought after by the serious contenders. The Rams would like to limit Steven Jackson’s carries, but they don’t currently have an adequate backup. Westbrook’s ability as a blocker and receiver would make him a perfect fit.

4. 49ers
The 49ers are in the market for a change-of-pace back to pair with Frank Gore. They’re more likely to address this need in the draft, but Westbrook could be brought in for his veteran leadership on a team that’s trying to take the next step towards the playoffs.

3. Packers
The Packers are a legitimate title contender, which would be appealing to Westbrook. From the Packers standpoint, they would love to add a backup to share the load with Ryan Grant who has been workhorse over the past two seasons.

2. Steelers
Westbrook is a similar player to Willie Parker who is an unrestricted free agent and appears unlikely to return. The Steelers may decide this would be too much of a lateral move, but a healthy Westbrook would be the perfect compliment to Rashard Mendenhall.

1. Vikings
The Vikings may take themselves out of the running by re-signing Chester Taylor, but if Taylor departs Westbrook would be the perfect replacement. Brad Childress is familiar with Westbrook from his days in Philadelphia, which would give both of them a comfort level from day one. Westbrook’s ability as a receiver would make him the perfect compliment to Adrian Peterson.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Eagles, Free Agency, Packers, Rams, Steelers, Vikings Comments Off

Franchise Tags Start Today

Starting today teams can place franchise tags on players up until February 25. Any player receiving the franchise tag must be paid the average of the five highest-paid players at his position, or 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary (whichever is greater). Any player given the franchise tag may not negotiate with any other team.

As an alternative to the franchise tag, teams may use a transition tag. The transition tag carries the value of the average of the top 10 salaries at his position, but it allows the player to negotiate with other teams. If a transition player agrees to a contract with another team his original team has the right match he offer.

Given the incredibly small pool of unrestricted free agents due to the lack of a renewal of the collective bargaining agreement, there likely won’t be many franchise tags handed out. But here’s a few of our best guesses as to who may receive the tag:

2010franchisetagsJulius Peppers, Panthers – Peppers is already among the highest paid at his position, so the 120% increase applies in his situation. He would earn somewhere in the range $20 next season if the Panthers placed the franchise tag on him. A possible scenario would be for the Panthers to place the tag on Peppers and then trade him to a team where Peppers would then sign a long-term deal.

Vince Wilfork, Patriots - Wilfork won’t be happy if the Patriots place the franchise tag on him, but it may be coming anyway. Their defense took a significant step backwards this past season, and losing Wilfork would set them back even further. If they do place the tag on Wilfork, don’t be shocked if it sparks a lengthy holdout.

Karlos Dansby, Cardinals – The Cards have placed the franchise tag on Dansby for two straight years and would owe him roughly $12M should they place the tag on him again. Its a large figure, but the state of the Cardinals defense may necessitate the spending.

Casey Hampton, Steelers – Hampton is the unheralded anchor of the Steelers defense and they’re not about to let him get away. They’d love to negotiate a long-term deal, but they’ll hand him the franchise tag if necessary.

Aubrayo Franklin, 49ers – Franklin was one of the biggest breakout stars of the past two seasons, emerging as a dominant nose tackle in the 49ers 3-4 defense. He is a key reason for the success of inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes and the Niners cannot let him get away. He’s got a lot of money coming his way one way or another this offseason.

Ryan Pickett, Packers – Pickett had a very solid season at nose tackle in the Packers new 3-4 defense. The decision to franchise Pickett may hinge on whether or not they see 2009 1st-round pick B.J. Raji as a defensive end or nose tackle. If Raji can take over, it would make Pickett expendable.

Gary Brackett, Colts – While Dwight Freeney gets all the attention in Indy, Brackett is arguably the true leader of the Colts defense. President Bill Polian has stated that re-signing Brackett is a priority. That may mean placing the franchise tag on him, and then negotiating a long-term deal if Brackett feels inclined to do so.

Richard Seymour, Raiders – It would be difficult to imagine Seymour re-signing with the Raiders willingly, so if they want him back the franchise tag may be their only option. Seymour could also be a prime candidate to be tagged and then traded.

Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders - In all likelihood Janikowski will re-sign for a long-term deal. But if they can’t come to an agreement, Al Davis isn’t about to let one of the game’s best kickers just walk away.

Shayne Graham, Bengals – The Bengals placed the franchise tag on Graham a year ago and may decide to do so again.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Cardinals, Colts, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Steelers Comments Off

10 Teams that Need a Quarterback

It isn’t always the deepest position in the draft. And it doesn’t always have the top prospects. But regardless of the current class, the one position that always gets the most attention is quarterback. Aside from the teams selecting in the top 10, its too early to really gauge who’s interested in who. But what we can do is analyze which teams actually need a quarterback the most.

Below are the 10 teams we’ve identified as having the greatest need for a new franchise signal caller:

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders1. Oakland Raiders - We’re now three years into the JaMarcus Russell era and he’s shown absolutely no improvement. For some quarterbacks it takes longer to develop, but at this point in time Russell isn’t anywhere close to being an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. It’s just about time to mark him down as one of the biggest busts of all time. That said, I’m not sure Al Davis feels the same way. I’d be fairly surprised to see the Raiders bring in another quarterback within the first three rounds in this year’s draft.

2. St. Louis Rams – Marc Bulger will likely return for 2010 and, if healthy, could lead the Rams back to respectability. But he clearly isn’t the long-term answer and the Rams will strongly consider drafting Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford with the 1st-overall selection.

3. Buffalo Bills – Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick all started for the Bills this season and all three were equally mediocre. The Bills could trudge through 2010 with one of them as the starter, but they are clearly in the market for a new franchise quarterback.

4. Washington Redskins - As I’ve stated before, I don’t actually think Redskins need a new quarterback. Jason Campbell is capable of being a starter in this league. That said, his career in Washington certainly appears to be over. Given that they don’t have an adequate replacement on the current roster, all signs point to the Redskins selecting Clausen or Bradford the 1st round.

5. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck will be back for at least another year, but the Seahawks are already looking for his replacement. Clausen and Bradford are both options in the 1st round. However, Carroll doesn’t appear to be taking a rebuilding approach this offseason. He may prefer to select an impact player in the 1st round and grab someone like Sean Canfield in the 3rd or 4th round to develop behind Hasselbeck.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars - David Garrard made the Pro Bowl this year, but Jack Del Rio doesn’t exactly sound like he’s sold on Garrard’s long-term future with the team.

7. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton was great for half the season, but stumbled down the stretch. He’s an unrestricted free agent and the Broncos may have no choice but to keep him around if they want to compete in 2010. That doesn’t mean, however, that he’s a long-term solution.

8. Carolina Panthers – Matt Moore played well in relief of Jake Delhomme late in the year, but he’s a restricted free agent. The Panthers have a big decision on their hands: do they pay Moore and cut ties with Delhomme or give their former Super Bowl quarterback another shot?

9. San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith didn’t exactly look like a former No. 1 overall pick this season, but he didn’t look like the complete bust that we saw through the first four seasons of his career either. He’ll be back in 2010, but the Niners should consider taking a flier on someone in the 3rd or 4th round.

10. Cleveland Browns – The Browns are proof that having two quarterbacks causes nothing but problems. Neither Anderson nor Quinn has been able to stay on the field more than a few games at a time over the last two seasons, leaving the Browns with no real clear idea as to what they have at the position. Quinn deserves another shot, but the Browns will certainly entertain the idea of trading both and starting over.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Jaguars, Panthers, Raiders, Rams, Redskins, Seahawks 29 Comments