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

Rising Stock: Thaddeus Gibson

Some of the most sought after players on draft day are 3-4 outside linebackers. Teams routinely reach for players who project well in that scheme due to the fact that there are only so many athletes out there with the size/speed combination to excel at a high level in the NFL.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl Texas vs Ohio State JAN 5Players such as Larry English (Chargers ’09), Bobby Carpenter (Cowboys ’06) and Jason Babin (Texans ’04) are often drafted in the 1st round based purely on potential, despite limited experience at the position. As a result, the players frequently fail to live up to their 1st-round status.

This year, however, the draft is filled with ‘tweeners and teams may still find great value at the position later in the draft. One player which could draw significant attention in the 2nd or 3rd round is Ohio State’s Thaddeus Gibson.

Gibson, who played defensive end with the Buckeyes, was impressive at the combine and further helped his stock on Ohio State’s Pro Day on Friday.

He was timed somewhere in the 4.5 range in the 40-yard dash, but take that with a grain of salt – OSU’s turf is notorious for churning out some ridiculous times. Even so, his 4.72 at the combine was more than enough to convince teams that he has the athleticism to play standing up at the next level.

Regardless of the legitimacy of the time, a 4.5 from a man who weighs in at 243 pounds is sure to catch the eye of NFL decision makers.

Among those decision makers watching Gibson in person were Steelers’ GM Kevin Colbert and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. The Steelers are known for addressing needs before they develop, and may be in the market for an outside linebacker to backup and eventually replace 31-year-old James Harrison.

As previously mentioned, its a deep class, so its hard to imagine Gibson coming off the board any earlier than the mid 2nd round. However, he’s certainly made an impression and should have solidified his place within the top 75 picks today.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Steelers Comments Off

Falling Stock: Anthony Davis

I can’t say that Anthony Davis‘ stock is really falling in my mind (it wasn’t high enough to begin with), but his consensus stock is certainly slipping after deciding not to work out at Rutgers’ Pro Day on Wednesday.

Apparently Davis was expected to be a full participant but pulled out after showing up for interviews on Wednesday morning. His agent stated that Davis wasn’t feeling well and was suffering from tweaked hamstring.

There’s no denying Davis’ potential. He’s a physically imposing figure and a projects as a left tackle in the pros. But scouts who were in attendance on Wednesday came away less than impressed with the way he handled the situation.

A scout speaking to the New Jersey Star-Ledger had this to say about Davis:

“He ticked off a lot of NFL people today. I don’t know what his agent was thinking. People came here specifically to see him and he wasn’t here. They didn’t even send out a memo telling us he wouldn’t be doing any drills. Apparently, they decided [Tuesday] night and that was it.

Ouch. Not exactly words you want to hear if you’re hoping to sneak into the top 10.

Its a very deep class for offensive tackles, with as many as six potentially receiving 1st-round grades. Davis is in the mix to be the second offensive lineman off the board, but his actions Wednesday may not knocked him down the rankings in the eyes of some teams.

Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams, Charles Brown and even Bruce Campbell have had nothing but positive buzz surrounding their offseason performances and Davis may have cost himself a large sum of money on Wednesday.

If his agent is doing his job, he’ll scramble to put together an individual workout for Davis later this month in an effort to swing momentum back in his favor.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Falling Stock: Dez Bryant

I’ve referenced Dez Bryant’s slipping draft stock in a few recent posts and decided I should take the time to address the issue on its own.

NCAA Football: Pacific Life Holiday Bowl DEC 30Bryant entered the offseason with some red flags attached to his name due to his suspension in 2009. However, most were willing to give Bryant the benefit of the doubt as it looked like he didn’t actually violate any rules. Had he been honest with the NCAA regarding his interactions with Deion Sanders it is likely that he would not have been suspended.

Teams showed up at the combine ready to hear his explanation and apology and put the story to bed. But it never happened.

By all accounts Bryant came across as immature and unwilling to take responsibility for his actions.

And then the stories of his work ethic began to leak out to the public. He reportedly has a long history of showing up late to meetings, practices and even games. In a story on Yahoo! Sports, Jason Cole quoted an unnamed source as saying, “I wouldn’t draft that kid unless I had someone to wake him up in the morning to get to meetings, someone to wake him up for practice and someone to wake him up for games.”

Cole quoted a second source on the subject who said “We’re not just talking about being a little late for warmups, but like being late for the actual game… When you start to hear some of the stories of there, you go, ‘He did what?’ ”

And yet a third source was quoted as saying “it does make you think, ‘If he’s like this in college, what’s it going to be like when he gets paid?’ ”

Bryant hasn’t exactly helped himself on the field either. He declined to workout at the combine, citing a pulled hamstring. He also elected not to work out at Oklahoma State’s Pro Day. Instead, he will hold a private workout in late March.

Physically, there’s no denying Bryant’s ability. He has the tools to be a truly elite receiver in the NFL. But whoever drafts him can expect him to be a handful.

What further hurts his stock is the fact that Brandon Marshall is sitting out there with nothing more than a 1st-round pick price tag on him. Teams are asking themselves: would I rather have an immature rookie or an immature Pro Bowler?

The answer to that one should be easy.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

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

Making sense of the Giants draft plans

The hardest teams to figure out each offseason are the teams that underachieved the previous year. This year the Giants certainly fall into that category.

Coughlin announced as Giants head coach

Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese are in a tough position in this year's draft

As GM Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin try to sort out which players are permanently on the decline and which players are due for a bounce-back season in 2010, we’re left with nothing but pure guesses as to their draft strategy.

The one obvious need for the Giants is at inside linebacker. The release of Antonio Pierce opened up a gaping hole. If its filled from within, 2008 5th-round pick Jonathan Goff would be the one. However, Goff has been unimpressive in limited playing time so far. He started the final three games of 2009 for the injured Pierce which just so happened to coincide with the worst display of defense in recent Giants history.

In a perfect world Rolando McClain would fall to the Giants at No. 15. Its a scenario that looks more likely now that the Dolphins have signed Karlos Dansby, but the Chiefs, Browns and 49ers all remain potential landing spots for McClain before the Giants are on the clock.

Assuming he’s gone, they’ll be left with a difficult decision.

If they’re dead set on filling the hole at linebacker Sean Weatherspoon would be an option, but it would be a reach. He seems to have a consensus late-1st-round grade, but does have the ability to play inside in the 4-3 defense.

The alternative strategy would be to address another lesser area of need. Safety was an option (Earl Thomas, Taylor Mays) until they signed Antrel Rolle, which leaves strong-side linebacker as the only reasonable hole to attempt to fill. 2009 2nd-round pick Clint Sintim and 2008 4th-round pick Bryan Kehl are set to compete for the starting job as of now. But someone such as Sergio Kindle could be an option.

The final, and perhaps the most likely, option is to simply take the best available player. Given the strengths of this year’s draft class and Coughlin’s love for stockpiling players at the position, a defensive lineman would seem like a safe bet. Players such as Derrick Morgan, Dan Williams, Brian Price and Carlos Dunlap all look like reasonable options.

None of them would be guaranteed a starting job from day one, but the defensive line was filled with underachievers in 2009. Mathias Kiwanuka, Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty were all major disappointments and bounced in and out of the starting lineup throughout the season. Coughlin and Reese may view a selection of a young defensive lineman as a good way to push their current lineman to live up to expectations and provide insurance if they continue to falter.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Giants Comments Off

Rolando McClain has Crohn’s Disease, pulled hamstring

Rarely does significant new information come out regarding a prospect at this time of year. The folks at the combine generally do a good job poking and prodding until every stone has been overturned. But Rolando McClain revealed some surprising information at Alabama’s pro day.

McClain announced that he has been suffering from Crohn’s Disease since he was a freshman in high school, a disease that causes inflation of the intestines and can result in a variety of symptoms. The disease is treatable and it shouldn’t hurt his draft stock, but its a key piece of information for teams to be made aware of before handing him millions of dollars.

McClain also revealed that he suffered a torn hamstring during Alabama’s game on October 24 against Tennessee. He apparently kept the injury from his teammates and played through the pain.

Hamstring injuries usually hurt player’s draft stock, but this may be a rare situation where it actually helps. Some scouts had questioned McClain’s efforts down the stretch last season, sighting plays on which he was clearly not running at full speed after the ball carrier. The hamstring injury gives McClain a logical excuse, so long as it can be verified by Alabama’s medical staff.

Along with giving him a reasonable excuse for what was perceived as a lack of effort, it demonstrates his willingness and ability to play through pain at a high level.

Other notes from Alabama’s pro day:
- DT Terrence Cody weighed in at 349 pounds. That’s down from 370 at the Senior Bowl and 354 at the combine. While teams would love to see him lose even more weight, they have to be encouraged by the effort he’s put in so far. His stock is certainly on the rise as a result and he could sneak into the late 1st round.

- CB Javier Arenas was unable to work out due to the pulled hamstring he suffered at the combine.

- OG Mike Johnson took some snaps at center and reportedly looked good. The ability to play multiple positions is key for linemen who aren’t viewed as locks to earn starting roles in the NFL.

- All 32 teams were represented. Glad to see the Raiders decided to show up after they inexplicably decided to skip Oklahoma’s pro day earlier this week.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Raiders Comments Off

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

Could the Browns trade up for Sam Bradford?

Now that Seneca Wallace is on board, Mike Holmgren has decided its time to part ways with his incumbent quarterbacks. Derek Anderson was released yesterday and now Brady Quinn is aggressively being shopped around the league.

Trading Quinn seems like an odd decision. Holmgren is clearly comfortably with Seneca Wallace, but he’s apparently the only one. The Browns only gave up a 2011 7th-round pick to land him, which is a shockingly low price tag for a guy who appears to be entering 2010 as a starting quarterback.

The move begs the question: what the hell does Mike Holmgren have planned?

Surely he can’t envision Seneca Wallace as his starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. Wallace has been an adequate backup to Matt Hasselbeck for a number of years, but in years past no one has even gone sniffing around Seattle to inquire about trading for Wallace to fill a starting role elsewhere.

Could this mean Holmgren has more moves planned?

2010 NFL Combine - Day Two

Could Bradford land in Cleveland?

There has been speculation this offseason that the Browns may show interest in Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford in the draft. However, it appears unlikely the either will fall to them with the 7th pick. The Rams, Redskins and Seahawks all have shown an interest in landing a new franchise quarterback and own picks ahead of the Browns.

The only way to land a quarterback in the 1st round may be to trade up. The best case scenario for the Browns would be for the Rams to select Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy. That would leave the 2nd and 3rd picks (owned by the Lions and Bucs, respectively) as potential slots to trade into as neither team is in the market for a quarterback.

The Browns currently own 11 picks in this year’s draft and could offer an intriguing package to either the Lions or Bucs who are both in a full-fledged rebuilding mode and could use the extra selections.

Another option would be to package some picks and defensive tackle Shaun Rogers who has been rumored to be on the trading block. Both the Lions and Bucs are expected to target defensive tackles Suh and McCoy in the 1st round. Thus, the option of landing a proven Pro Bowl tackle plus plus some extra picks would seem like an intriguing offer for either team.

Should the Browns pull off one of these trades and land Bradford or Clausen, then the trade for Wallace would start to make sense. Wallace, who has started a handful of games in his career, could keep the seat warm as the Browns groom their new franchise quarterback.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Buccaneers, Lions 26 Comments