Bears

Where will Julius Peppers play in 2010?

The Panthers have decided not to place the franchise tag on Julius Peppers, which likely means his time in Carolina is over.

Its an interesting decision for the Panthers. As a team they totaled just 31 sacks this past season, 10.5 of which came from Peppers. In an era where teams are paying big money for elite pass rushers such as Peppers and Jared Allen, it makes you wonder what they think of Peppers off the field. Rumors have swirled that his work ethic and desire to succeed are lacking, and this decision certainly gives teams reason to look further into those claims.

So with that in mind, where could Peppers land this offseason. Here are the top five most likely destinations:

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers5. Jaguars
The Jaguars have to make a tough decision this offseason regarding 2008 1st and 2nd round picks Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. Both struggled immensely this past season and the Jags ranked dead last in the NFL with just 14 sacks. Popular opinion right now is that the Jaguars will target a defensive end in the draft, but adding a veteran like Peppers would be a much safer route to take.

4. Falcons
The Falcons may hesitate to add another aging lineman to pair with John Abraham, but their pass rush is in need of an upgrade. 2007 1st-round pick Jamaal Anderson has struggled to live up to expectations and the Falcons may be ready to move on. If the Falcons want to make a splash this offseason, stealing Peppers from a division rival would certainly be one way to make that happen.

3. Packers
If Peppers is prepared to make the transition to outside linebacker, Green Bay would be an ideal landing place. They’re likely parting ways with Aaron Kampman who struggled to transition from down-lineman to outside lineback in Dom Capers new 3-4 defense. Pepers may also have size to play defensive end in a 3-4 defense, but that would really be a waste of his pass-rush ability.

2. Patriots
The Patriots reportedly have a strong interest in Peppers. They desperately need to upgrade their pass rush, so the interest makes sense. However, I’m not sure he’s a great fit. Peppers appears to be a little oversized to stand up and play outside linebacker in the Patriots 3-4 scheme. I’m not sure he’s athletic enough to handle the coverage responsibilities that come with playing linebacker which he hasn’t encountered in Carolina.

1. Bears
This looks like the perfect match for both sides. The Bears have a veteran defense and they’re clearly taking a “win now” approach over the past few offseasons. Adewale Ogunleye is an unrestricted free agent and the Bears should jump at the chance replace him with Peppers.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Falcons, Free Agency, Jaguars, Packers, Panthers, Patriots 1 Comment

Five Things the Patriots Must to do Rebound in 2010

patriotsBill Belichick has always been quick to jettison aging veterans. Perhaps his most high-profile move was the mid-season release of fan-favorite Bernie Kosar during his time with the Browns. This past season he was up to his old tricks again trading Mike Vrable and Richard Seymour.

In theory, parting ways with players at the first sign that they’re slowing down is a shrewd business move. In practice, it only works when an adequate replacement is waiting in the wings.

Instead of getting younger and more athletic, the Patriots just got worse. The problem was Belichick didn’t have young players ready to step into starting roles. Instead, they had slightly younger and less talented veterans to fill in.

So where do the Patriots go from here? From our point of view, here are five things the Patriots need to do this offseason to return to glory in 2010:

patriotsFA1. Re-sign Vince Wilfork
Just slapping Wilfork (in the face) with the franchise tag isn’t good enough. He’ll be disgruntled and potentially hold out for a significant amount of time. The Patriots can’t afford to enter 2010 without a motivated Wilfork anchoring the defense at nose tackle. 2009 2nd-round pick Ron Brace was a non-factor in limited playing time this past season and isn’t ready to take over for Wilfork. The only reasonable replacement for Wilfork out there is the Steelers Casey Hampton. He too is an unrestricted free agent but is expected to also receive the franchise tag.

2. Upgrade the pass-rush
Patriots outside linebackers managed just 10 sacks in 2009, with seven of them coming from UFA Tully Banta-Cain who isn’t expected to be re-signed. The dominant Patriots defenses of the early-to-mid 2000s were anchored by elite pass-rushing linebackers such as Willie McGinest and Vrabel. Adalius Thomas was a huge disappointment this season and is expected to be a cap casualty. If Thomas and Banta-Cain depart, that could potentially leave Rob Ninkovich and Pierre Woods as the most accomplished outside linebackers on the roster. This could be a position addressed in the 1st round with a player such as Michigan’s Brandon Graham.

New York Jets v New England Patriots3. Upgrade the secondary
Re-signing Leigh Bodden has to be a top priority. He isn’t an elite cornerback, but he was easily the best the Patriots had in 2009 and there aren’t many better options on the free agent market. Keeping him around could be key to their 2010 success. But it doesn’t end there. The Patriots need to find an adequate free safety. Former Bears backup Brandon McGowan opened the season as the starter but eventually lost the job to James Sanders, who was only a marginal upgrade.

4. Find a starting running back
Running back by committee doesn’t work in this league unless you have defined roles for each running back to match their skill set. The Patriots don’t seem to know when the best time to use their running backs are, they just throw Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney and Fred Taylor out there in any order and hope for good things to happen. Due to the lack of options in free agency, this may be something that needs to be addressed in the 1st or 2nd round of the draft. A powerful downhill runner such as Jonathan Dwyer or Ryan Mathews would be the ideal choice.

5. Find a replacement for Richard Seymour
Jarvis Green was an above average backup, but he isn’t starter material. Additionally, moving him into the starting lineup weakened their depth at the position. Upgrading the defensive end position will, in turn, improve the pass rushing capability of the linebackers.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Patriots 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