While most of the NFL players past and present were shillin’ and chillin’ in Miami for the Super Bowl, a few newsworthy nuggets emerged around the rest of the league. Here are some thoughts on them:
*Texans pay QB Matt Schaub a $10 million option bonus – Schaub finally stayed healthy all season for the first time in his Texans tenure, and the results were 4,770 passing yards and 29 touchdowns, along with the franchise’s first-ever winning record. So the Texans eliminated any doubt about Schaub’s future by cutting him a big check. By picking up this option, the Texans have Schaub under contract for three years at about $38 million, which is a reasonable rate for an above-average NFL quarterback. (This offseason we’ll do our annual comparison of the league’s starters to see just how Schaub compares.) And that’s what Schaub is at this point. He’s not Peyton Manning or Drew Brees in terms of efficiency, but he can put up numbers that keep up with guys like Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Aaron Rodgers, and thus Schaub deserves to be paid as such. Injuries will always be a concern with Schaub, but if he can stay healthy he can in fact be a franchise cornerstone. That requires an investment, and Houston should be patted on the back for being willing to make it.
*Bears hire Mike Martz as offensive coordinator – Last week in our loose ends post we discussed how the Bears seemingly couldn’t get anyone to come to town as a coordinator. Well, they finally landed a guy in Martz who has quite an impressive resume – a Super Bowl title as a coordinator, a Super Bowl appearance as a head coach, and success calling plays in San Francisco and Detroit as well. Martz was out of the league last year, and many observers cited his often prickly personality as the reason he had trouble getting a gig. But Martz knows offense, and he knows head coach Lovie Smith, who was Martz’s defensive coordinator for a time with the Rams. So Lovie (who needs to improve his record to save his job) is willing to take the risk of spirited coaching discussions for the sake of offensive success. At his best, Martz will unleash Jay Cutler in the passing game and turn him into a huge threat. Martz had success with Kurt Warner, Trent Green, and Jon Kitna, and it’s arguable that Cutler has more natural talent than any of that crop. But Martz’s disdain for extra blockers could create a problem given how porous the Bears’ offensive line is. This is a swing for the fences, but given how tenuous Smith’s job is (not to mention GM Jerry Angelo’s), now is the time to take such a swing. It will work, or the Bears will go down fighting, but either way it will be interesting to watch.
*Bills hire George Edwards as defensive coordinator and will install the 3-4 defense – New Bills head coach Chan Gailey is making a switch on defense from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4, and he’s bringing in Edwards, a former Dolphins assistant, to install it. Edwards has been a coordinator in the NFL before, and he seems to be a very solid hire. The question is whether the Bills have the personnel to thrive in the new defense. The good news is that ’09 first-rounder Aaron Maybin fits in better as a 3-4 rush outside linebacker than he did as a defensive end in his rookie year. Also, defensive ends Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay are big enough to move inside and become 3-4 ends if they’re willing to see their sack numbers diminish. And in Marcus Stroud, the Bills have a guy who can play on the nose in the defense as well. Paul Posluszny should fit in well as a 3-4 inside ‘backer. That’s a pretty good personnel fit for a team switching defenses. Buffalo will need to look at linebackers in this year’s draft, but if Maybin can make an impact a la Clay Matthews in Green Bay this year, the Bills’ first year in a 3-4 could be a really pleasant surprise.