Vince Wilfork

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

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