Monthly Archives: March 2010

FR: March signings

As we continue our coverage of free agency, we’ll compare signings from March using Football Relativity. This post includes signings beginning March 11; for signings from the first week of free agency, check out this elongated post.

10 – Jets (added RB LaDainian Tomlinson, S Brodney Pool, and LB Lance Laury; kept FB Tony Richardson) – Tomlinson had a great career in San Diego, but he showed serious signs of slowing down in recent years, with his yards-per-carry average dropping to 3.3 in ’09. So the Chargers eventually had little choice but to release him and move on. With the Jets, Tomlinson should know that he’s taking a subservient role to emerging youngster Shonn Greene, and with Leon Washington returning from an ACL injury, Tomlinson could find carries hard to come by. The positive of that is that Tomlinson will stay fresher, but he’ll have to show a little more patience than he did in San Diego. If Tomlinson knows what he’s signing up for and is willing to be a 10-touch-a-game back, he could help because he provides more contrast to Greene than the departed Thomas Jones would have given. If not, Tomlinson will fade away in a strange-looking uniform, and the two-year, $5.1 million deal the Jets gave him will be wasted. Unfortunately, our hunch points toward the latter scenario. Meanwhile, Pool is a promising player who wasn’t tendered as a restricted free agent in Cleveland. He’ll get $1.3 million in a one-year deal with the Jets, where he’ll have a chance to replace the traded Kerry Rhodes in the starting lineup. Richardson is a solid blocking fullback who knows his role and plays it well. Laury, who was not tendered by the Seahawks, is a backup linebacker and special-teams ace.

10 (con’t) – Cardinals (added OLB Joey Porter, QB Derek Anderson, UFA OG Rex Hadnot and UFA LB Paris Lenon; kept UFA OT Jeremy Bridges, UFA LB Monty Biesel, and C Ben Claxton) – Porter, who was released by the Dolphins, is still a quality pass rusher who can make an impact in a  3-4 defense. At age 33, Porter has a lot of miles on his tires, but with 26.5 sacks in the last two years he hasn’t shown signs of major slippage. He helps to replace Bertrand Berry, who said he is retiring, for an Arizona defense that needs playmakers badly after losing Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle in the offseason. Porter isn’t the athlete the departed are, but he can help. While $17.5 million over three years (with a potential $7 million more in incentives) seems rich for a 33-year-old, Arizona was in a spot where it needed a defensive jolt. Porter can still provide that. Anderson, who had one good year out of four in Cleveland, got a two-year, $7.25 million contract in Arizona to back up or even challenge Matt Leinart. Anderson is not consistent, but he has a strong arm, and he’s fearless enought to go for the big play. That has too often led to interceptions, but in the run-first, big-play offense Arizona is moving toward, he could actually be a fit. The fact that Arizona has such a talented corps of receivers makes Anderson a better chance. At the least, he’ll challenge Leinart and force the former first-rounder to step up in order to seize the starting job, and if Anderson does that he’ll be worth the freight the Cards are paying. Hadnot got a three-year, $9 million deal to move over from Cleveland. He’s a physical guard who can also play center and figures to become a starter for Arizona. Bridges, who started several games last year, is a talented tackle who has gotten into trouble off the field. Lenon started for the Rams last year and now moves over to provide a veteran to help fill the gaping hole left by Karlos Dansby. Biesel provides depth but will help more on special teams.

9 – none

8 – Bills (added UFA DE Dwan Edwards and ILB Andra Davis; kept UFA TE Joe Klopfenstein) – As they move to a 3-4 defense, the Bills brought in reinforcements. Davis had a pretty good year as an inside ‘backer for Denver last year and was a nice addition on a two-year deal. Edwards, who got a four-year, $18 million deal to move over from the Ravens, is a sturdy end who can shine in the 3-4. Both are quality additions for a team that desperately needs them.

7 – Browns (added UFA TE Benjamin Watson and QB Jake Delhomme; kept UFA OL Billy Yates) – Watson was an inconsistent talent in New England, but he had some production, and he’s a better tight end than what the Browns had. Tight end is a crucial receiver in the West Coast offense, which is what Cleveland is moving toward, and so making an addition at that position is sensible. Watson got a three-year deal worth $12 million with $6.35 million guaranteed. Delhomme got $7 million over two years while still getting $19 million guaranteed from the Panthers deal he was released from. Delhomme is a terrific locker-room leader, and he has shown a knack for performing well under pressure earlier in his career. But his interception and fumble problems have been stark since his meltdown in a playoff game against Arizona in the 2008 season, and at this point it’s hard to see him breaking that year-long trend soon. Still, Delhomme may be a better answer than Seneca Wallace, who doesn’t have the pedigree of performance Delhomme has over his career. The Browns are getting a little bit of a discount on Delhomme because of his sweetheart Carolina deal, and at those numbers he’s worth a shot. We just don’t expect that shot to come in. Yates is a backup lineman who helps add depth now that Rex Hadnot and Hank Fraley are gone.

6 – Redskins (added UFA RB Larry Johnson, UFA QB Rex Grossman, P Josh Bidwill, and CB Philip Buchanon) – Johnson was released in Kansas City midseason last year as his production waned and his complaints persisted.  Johnson landed in Cincinnati as a backup to Cedric Benson, and he looked a little better, averaging 4.4 yards per carry in Cincy versus 2.9 in K.C. Now Johnson moves to Washington, where he will either work with Clinton Portis or replace him, depending on what the ‘Skins decide to do with their incumbent veteran back. Since Portis’ contract is basically guaranteed, we figure he’ll be back. That’s just as well, because Johnson is no longer a starting-caliber NFL back. He’s better in the role he had in Cincinnati at the end of last year, and spot duty will allow him to keep the limited pop he has left in his legs. The three-year, $3.5 million deal Johnson got indicates that’s the role he’ll have – but the potential of making up to $12 million in incentives indicates that more malcontent behavior could be in the offing if Johnson doesn’t get the ball as much as he wants. Grossman, a former Bears starter, was solid as a Texans backup last year and now moves with ex-Houston offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to Washington. Chances are that Grossman, who got a one-year deal, will back up Jason Campbell. Bidwill was released by the Buccaneers in a cost-saving move after missing the ’09 season, but if healthy he is solid. Incumbent Hunter the Punter Smith is a free-agent, so the Redskins need a fallback option. Buchanon got a one-year, $1.5 million deal to provide help at corner. Buchanon’s a marginal starter but he’s worth that price for depth purposes if nothing else.

5 – none

4 – Chiefs (added OG Ryan Lilja; kept C Casey Wiegmann) – Wiegmann made a Pro Bowl with the Chiefs two years ago and now returns after being cut earlier this offseason. His veteran wiles help a young offensive line. Lilja, who started for the Colts over the past few years before being released this offseason, got a three-year, $7.5 million deal to come to K.C. and help to stabilize the offensive line as well. He’s not an elite guard, but Lilja will be a big upgrade for a Chiefs team that needs solid starters up front.

3 – Packers (kept UFA OT Mark Tauscher, franchise NT Ryan Pickett, and RFA S Nick Collins; added P Chris Bryan) – The Packers rarely get too involved in the free-agent market, instead preferring to develop through the draft. So it’s no surprise that their big strategy has been to re-sign their players. Tauscher, who the Packers brought back at midseason last year to help a horrible offensive line, got a two-year deal to remain at right tackle. He’s a veteran who provides stability until T.J. Lang is ready to seize a starting job. Pickett, the Pack’s franchise player, went from a $7 million tender to a four-year, $28 million deal. He’s done a great job for the Pack after bombing as a first-rounder in St. Louis, and he became even more valuable when he moved to the nose when Green Bay implemented the 3-4 defense last year. Collins, who had been angling for a new contract for two years, got a four-year, $23.4 million deal. He’s a playmaking safety who really adds to the Packers’ defense. Bryan is an Australian Rules Football player whom the Pack hopes can become a solid NFL punter a la Sav Rocca, Mat McBriar, or Darren Bennett. That strategy has actually been pretty successful for NFL teams.

3 (con’t) – Rams (added C Hank Fraley, CB Kevin Dockery, and TE Darcy Johnson; kept LS Chris Massey) – Fraley, who was released by the Browns, isn’t physically gifted, but he’s a rugged center who can help an offensive line that really struggled last year. Dockery and Johnson are former Giants who know now-Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo from days in the Meadowlands. Neither is more than a role player, but they could help a roster bereft of talent. Massey got a four-year deal for being a dependable long snapper.

3 (con’t) – Steelers (added UFA ILB Larry Foote; kept UFA QB Charlie Batch) – Foote was a long-time Steeler who was cut before last season and went to Detroit, where he played well. Now he returns to Pittsburgh on a decent deal that’s worth $3.9 million in year one and potentially worth $9.3 million over three years. He should return to the starting lineup for Pittsburgh. Batch provides stability at quarterback, which is vital given Ben Roethlisberger’s legal problems and Dennis Dixon’s inexperience.

2 – Titans (kept UFA CB Rod Hood; added UFA DE Jason Babin and CB Tye Hill) – Hood started for the Cardinals in the Super Bowl two years ago and then went on an odyssey through Cleveland and Chicago before he found a home in Tennessee at midseason. The Titans brought him back because he fit their defense and can provide depth at a position that has been troublesome for them. Babin was an unrestricted free agent who had given the Eagles right to match any contract offer he got, but Philly opted to let Babin leave on a one-year, $1 million deal. Babin has never realized his potential as a first-round pass-rusher, but Tennessee’s defensive line coach Jim Washburn is one of the best, which makes taking a shot on a talented player reasonable, especially at the price Tennessee is paying. Hill, a bust with the Rams, never found a role with the Falcons last year and was released. But he’s fast, and given the Titans’ struggles last year in the secondary he’s worth a shot to see if he can help.

2 (con’t) – Chargers (added CBs Donald Strickland and Nathan Vasher; kept UFA DT Ian Scott) – Scott did a solid job as a fill-in starter at nose tackle for the Chargers last year, and he fits in as at least a backup this season. Strickland, who was released by the Jets, now gets a chance to replace Antonio Cromartie, who was traded to the Jets. Strickland isn’t great, but he’s good enough to be a third corner on a good team or maybe even a starter, so he’s a nice addition for the Bolts. Vasher hasn’t played well in recent years, in large part because of injury, but he performed admirably for Bolts defensive coordinator Ron Rivera back in Chicago, and that led to this chance in San Diego. Vasher, a cover-two specialist, got a two-year, $4.5 million deal

2 (con’t) – Patriots (added UFA TE Alge Crumpler) – After cutting Chris Baker and letting Ben Watson leave via free agency, the Patriots had no experience at tight end. They now have some in Crumpler, who proved in Tennessee that he is no longer the receiving threat he was in Atlanta. But Crumpler is big, and he’s a good blocker, which could make him a fit in the Patriots’ offense. New England should still look for a young tight end, but Crumpler will fit in at least some sets.

2 (con’t) – Dolphins (added C Richie Incognito) – Incognito is a talent who is tempermental on the field and off, and that act wore thin on the Rams, who cut him. But his talent, physical play, and aggressiveness merits a second chance if he can get with the program in Miami. He’s good enough to start if everything falls in line.

1 – Seahawks (added UFA TE Chris Baker, UFA WR Sean Morey, LB Matt McCoy, WR Ruvell Martin, and RB Quinton Ganther) – Baker is a versatile tight end who isn’t great but who fits well as a backup to John Carlson for the Seahawks. Baker got a two-year, $4.75 million deal. Morey is a special-teams dynamo who will make a big difference in that area moving over from Arizona. McCoy played for new Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley in Tampa Bay the last two seasons. Martin and Ganther were non-tendered as restricted free agents by the Rams and Redskins, respectively.

1 (con’t) – Buccaneers (added UFA S Sean Jones and LB Jon Alston; kept UFA LB Angelo Crowell and WR Mark Bradley) – Jones was once a great prospect for the Browns, but he left Cleveland and then spent one mediocre year in Philly. Jones has talent to help the Bucs at a problem position, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll actually live up to the promise. Still, he’s worth a look for a Bucs team that needs a ton of help. Alston was not tendered by the Raiders in the offseason despite starting eight games over the past two years. He adds depth to the Bucs’ linebacking corps. Crowell missed last season with an injury, but if he can return to his Buffalo form, he could help the Bucs. Bradley showed some potential in Kansas City, and that led the Bucs to bring him back even though he wasn’t tendered a restricted free-agent offer.

1 (con’t) – Vikings (kept UFA DT Jimmy Kennedy) – Kennedy, like Ryan Pickett a former Rams first-round bust, found a home as the third defensive tackle in Minnesota, and he opted for a two-year, $6 million contract to stay with the Vikings. He’s a key player for the Vikes who may be even more key if the StarCaps case goes against starting DTs Kevin and Pat Williams.

1 (con’t) – Panthers (kept UFA DE Tyler Brayton and OT Rob Pettiti; added CB Marcus Hudson) – Brayton, a former Raider first-round pick, became a sturdy run-stopping end for the Panthers, and they brought him back on a three-year deal to add experience to a defensive line that averaged 23.8 years of age before he was re-signed, according to Darin Gantt. Brayton doesn’t produce a huge pass rush, but he is a legitimate presence who keeps opponents from cheating in their blocking assignments. The Panthers didn’t tender Pettiti, whom they signed out of the UFL, as a restricted free agent, but they brought him back anyway. They signed Hudson, who was not tendered by the 49ers, to add depth at corner.

1 (con’t) – 49ers (added UFA CB Karl Paymah; kept UFA OT Barry Sims) – Sims is a good swing tackle who’s acceptable as a starter in a pinch, and that made him worth $2.1 million in 2010 to the Niners. Paymah is a fourth corner who can plug into the third spot in a pinch. He has good size, but his cover skills are spotty.

1 (con’t) – Bengals (kept UFA S Roy Williams; added WR Chris Davis) – Williams started for the Bengals last year before an injury sidelined him. He no longer has great range or coverage skills, but he’s still an asset against the run.

1 (con’t) – Colts (added OT Adam Terry) – The Colts, who added OG Andy Alleman previously, brought in Terry to continue the project of adding size to their offensive line. Terry, a five-year veteran who was not tendered a contract by the Ravens, missed the ’09 season with injury. He’s more of a third tackle who can fill in on both sides than a starting candidate, but he’ll help provide depth.

1 (con’t) – Eagles (added WRs Hank Baskett and Chad Hall) – Baskett (aka Mr. Kendra) comes back to Philly after a year in Indy marred by his gaffe on the onsides kick in the Super Bowl that proved devastating for the Colts. He’s a big receiver who won’t play much on offense but could help on special teams. Hall, a former Air Force player, is eligible to play now after completing his service requirement. He could end up being an under-the-radar prospect.

1 (con’t)- Lions (added LB Landon Johnson; kept DE Copeland Bryan and UFA S Marquand Manuel) – Manuel and Bryan (who was non-tendered as a restricted free agent) are depth players for Detroit. Johnson was released as a backup in Carolina, but he’s versatile and can provide depth at all three linebacker positions.

1 (con’t) – Bears (added CB Tim Jennings) – Jennings, a former second-round pick, never became a rotation corner in Indianapolis, and he wasn’t tendered a restricted-free-agent offer. But he could find a role as a third or fourth corner in the Bears’ cover-2 system, especially now that Nathan Vasher is out of Chicago.

1 (con’t) – Falcons (added S Matt Giordano) – Giordano was released by the Packers in the offseason, but he could find a home and a role with Atlanta, given the Falcons’ lack of depth in the secondary. Giordano is also an asset on special teams.

1 (con’t) – Saints (kept UFA LS Jason Kyle) – Kyle, a long-time Seahawk and Panther, got a Super Bowl ring as the Saints’ long-snapper last year. Now he gets a return engagement for another year. You don’t notice him, which is the ultimate compliment for a snapper.

1 (con’t) – Giants (added P Jy Bond) – Bond is another Australian Rules Football player trying to make the move to the NFL as a punter. He’s insurance in case the Giants can’t agree to a deal with long-time punter Jeff Feagles.

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The Clausen conundrum

As we turn our attention here on Football Relativity to the NFL draft, we begin by focusing on quarterbacks. We’ve already broken down Tim Tebow and the value of intangibles, and now we turn our attention to a first-round prospect: Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen. And as we do, we soon discover that Clausen is one of the toughest quarterbacks to assess in the NFL in quite a while. While we have no doubt that Sam Bradford will be and should be the first overall pick in this year’s draft, Clausen is tougher to slot.

Clausen comes from an impressive pedigree. His brothers played quarterback at Tennessee, and Clausen entered Notre Dame as the top quarterback in his class and as Charlie Weis’ prized recruit. And over his career, Clausen performed well, improving every year so that in 2009 he completed 68 percent of his passes and threw 28 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Clausen isn’t the most gifted quarterback, a la Sam Bradford this year or Matthew Stafford last year, but he has the tools a QB needs to succeed. Clausen is full of positives as a prospect.

But there are warning flags on Clausen too. His attitude is confident, but unlike Mark Sanchez last year, that confidence has an edge that turns it to feel more like cockiness. So when we hear tales of Clausen getting sucker-punched in a restaurant, for some reason we feel like he deserves it. Clausen will need confidence to bounce back from the struggles that a young quarterback will undoubtedly experience, but he also needs to avoid cockiness in order to win over his teammates enough that they will support him.

Clausen’s ties to Weis are also nettlesome. Weis’ previous big-time quarterback, Brady Quinn, hasn’t set the league on fire. While it can easily and perhaps fairly be argued that Quinn hasn’t yet gotten a full shot at starting, you can also argue that Quinn isn’t going to pan out. That reflects poorly for Clausen. Weis probably gave better-than-average quarterback coaching for the college level, which is a plus now but makes you wonder whether Clausen still has massive room for improvement. This is another factor that makes evaluation tricky.

Given these red flags, it’s no surprise that Clausen has elicited big-time differences among draft analysts. And this year’s draft order makes these differences even more pronounced. Most of the QB-needy teams – Washington, Cleveland, Buffalo, Jacksonville – are in the top-10, and it’s hard to stomach Clausen as a top-10 prospect. But if he slips in the first round, Clausen could plummet a la Quinn or Aaron Rodgers into the 20s, given the fact that most of the teams picking in the teens are set for the forseeable future at quarterback.

The bottom line is that Clausen will be either underdrafted in the 20s or below, or overdrafted in the top 10. It’s hard to see a middle ground for him. And that’s the conundrum for anyone trying to analyze the draft or simply come up with a mock draft. 

So where should Clausen go? I wouldn’t take him in the top 10. I don’t see him as a special prospect. He could be a Chad Henne type pro, which is an asset to a team, but Henne was rightly a second-round pick. At the same time, a team that drafted Clausen at pick 24, as Green Bay did with Rodgers, would get a steal.

But we get the sense that before a team can steal Clausen, someone will reach on him. And that reach for Clausen will end up being a mistake. He will go higher than he should and will be off the board by pick 10.

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FR: March cuts

This post compares releases in the NFL during March. For cuts in February through the first week of the new league year (i.e. March 10), check out this post. We’ll update this post through the end of March. The 10 level marks the team that cut the most significant players; the 1 level is for teams whose cuts are merely worth mentioning.

10 – Eagles (cut OT Shawn Andrews, DE Darren Howard, and WR Kevin Curtis) – Andrews, who once was a first-team all-pro with the Eagles, missed the 2008 training camp with depression and then missed most of the last two seasons with back injuries. The Eagles tried everything they could to make Andrews at home, including signing his brother Stacy, but it just wasn’t going to work for him in Philly. It’s a shame that Andrews, whom Ross Tucker said was once the best guard in football, couldn’t return to prominence with the Eagles. We can only hope that he is healthy and happy in the future, with football or without it. Howard, a long-time Saint, spent the last four years with the Eagles, the last three as a reserve pass rusher. He had 10 sacks in 2008 and 6.5 last year, which will be attractive to teams looking for pass-rush punch. But the Eagles, who just acquired Darryl Tapp as a younger option in the featured pass-rusher role, got younger at this position as they have at so many. Still, Howard will get a shot somewhere as a 4-3 outside pass rusher. Curtis, another over-30 player, missed 13 games last year with a sports hernia and finished the year with just six catches. He’s just two years removed from a 77-catch, 1100-yard season, and his ability to play outside or in the slot will add to his appeal for receiving-poor teams. But Curtis will have to prove he’s healthy before he gets anything above a minimum deal. Still, a receiver-poor team like Carolina or Tennessee or Tampa Bay or St. Louis could do worse than taking a shot at Curtis. The release is no surprise since the Eagles are set with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant as their top three wideouts.

9 – none

8 – none

7 – none

6 – Raiders (cut DT Gerard Warren) – Warren was a bust as the No. 2 overall pick in Cleveland, but he emerged as a decent starting-level tackle in Oakland the last couple of seasons. But he wasn’t worth the hefty $5.9 million roster bonus that he was due in Oakland this year. Warren will hook on elsewhere at a more limited price, because defensive tackles who are even decent are hard to find, but he’s not an impact guy no matter where he lands.

5 – Bears (cut CB Nathan Vasher and FB Jason McKie) – In the Bears’ Super Bowl run a few seasons ago, Vasher and Charles Tillman were a terrific tandem of cover-2 corners. But Vasher has been banged up in recent years, and when he returned in 2009 his performance relegated him to the bench. If he’s healthy, Vasher would be a good fit for one of the few cover-2 teams left in the league, but that health is a big question. McKie is a solid blocking fullback who doesn’t fit new offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s plan, and so the Bears saved a roster spot and let McKie try to hook on elsewhere. McKie is good enough to play in the league for a team that wants to use a traditional fullback.

4 – Broncos (cut LB Andra Davis, DE J’Vonne Parker, and QB Chris Simms) – The Broncos, who started strong on defense last year but dropped off precipitously as the season progressed, made changes by cutting Parker and Kenny Peterson off their defensive line and Davis out of their linebacking corps. Davis is a solid tackler who doesn’t make much of an impact, but his veteran presence could be missed in Denver and prized in his new home in Buffalo. Parker’s a backup and nothing more. Simms lost the backup QB job in Denver when the Broncos were able to steal Brady Quinn from the Browns.

3 – Seahawks (cut S Deon Grant) – Grant, who suffered one of the most gruesome injuries I ever covered, has started every game since 2001 for Carolina, Jacksonville, and Seattle. He’s not a game-changing free safety, but he’s solid and still has decent range. His price tag was inflated, but he’s still good enough to be a low-cost starter for a safety-poor team that misses out on a Darren Sharper-type.

2 – none

1 – Falcons (cut CB Tye Hill) – Hill, a former first-round pick in St. Louis, went to Atlanta in exchange for a seventh-round pick last year, and he didn’t pan out. With Dunta Robinson coming in, Hill wasn’t going to get any playing time, and so releasing him was the only move the Falcons could make.

1 (con’t) – Browns (cut TE Steve Heiden) – When the Browns signed Ben Watson, Heiden got replaced. The long-time Brown was a solid role player for Cleveland since 2002 and has played in the league since ’99. He still might have enough left to be a third tight end somewhere.

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Porter imported

The Cardinals have been one of the biggest losers in free agency over the past few weeks, but over the past few weeks they’ve started looking for reinforcements. Here are some thoughts on their addition of linebackers Joey Porter and Paris Lenon as reinforcements on the defensive side. We’ll compare all recent March signings in a post coming next week.

Porter, who was released by the Dolphins, is still a quality pass rusher who can make an impact in a  3-4 defense. At age 33, Porter has a lot of miles on his tires, but with 26.5 sacks in the last two years he hasn’t shown signs of major slippage. He helps to replace Bertrand Berry, who said he is retiring, for an Arizona defense that needs playmakers badly after losing Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle in the offseason. Porter isn’t the athlete the departed are, but he can help. While $17.5 million over three years (with a potential $7 million more in incentives) seems rich for a 33-year-old, Arizona was in a spot where it needed a defensive jolt. Lenon started for the Rams last year and now moves over to provide a veteran to help fill the gaping hole left by Dansby.

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86ed 49er

It’s unclear why San Francisco general manager Scot McCloughan was let go by the team, but regardless are some thoughts on the Niners’ fluctuating front-office situation. You can compare it to other major front-office moves this offseason in this accumulated Football Relativity post.

It’s unclear why McCloughan was relieved of his duties, and the timing 5 weeks before the draft seems troublesome. But at that juncture in the offseason, the 49ers knew their free-agency plan and had their draft board basically organized, which makes McCloughan’s absence more feasible. McCloughan was GM in San Francisco for two years, after three seasons as director of player personnel, and during that time the 49ers have moved back toward relevance, primarily by drafting players such as Patrick Willis and Michael Crabtree. McCloughan’s evaluation skills will be missed, but the 49ers seem to have a good plan in that area, and so giving Baalke and his team more responsibility makes sense.

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Bye Bye Birdies

We’re not usually one team-centric here on the blog, but two days after discussing how the Eagles hit the restricted free agent market, they made three very notable cuts that merit mention. Here are some thoughts on the releases of OT Shawn Andrews, DE Darren Howard, and WR Kevin Curtis and the futures of all three players.

Andrews, who once was a first-team all-pro with the Eagles, missed the 2008 training camp with depression and then missed most of the last two seasons with back injuries. The Eagles tried everything they could to make Andrews at home, including signing his brother Stacy, but it just wasn’t going to work for him in Philly. It’s a shame that Andrews, whom Ross Tucker said was once the best guard in football, couldn’t return to prominence with the Eagles. We can only hope that he is healthy and happy in the future, with football or without it. Howard, a long-time Saint, spent the last four years with the Eagles, the last three as a reserve pass rusher. He had 10 sacks in 2008 and 6.5 last year, which will be attractive to teams looking for pass-rush punch. But the Eagles, who just acquired Darryl Tapp as a younger option in the featured pass-rusher role, got younger at this position as they have at so many. Still, Howard will get a shot somewhere as a 4-3 outside pass rusher. Curtis, another over-30 player, missed 13 games last year with a sports hernia and finished the year with just six catches. He’s just two years removed from a 77-catch, 1100-yard season, and his ability to play outside or in the slot will add to his appeal for receiving-poor teams. But Curtis will have to prove he’s healthy before he gets anything above a minimum deal. Still, a receiver-poor team like Carolina or Tennessee or Tampa Bay or St. Louis could do worse than taking a shot at Curtis. The release is no surprise since the Eagles are set with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant as their top three wideouts.

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Quarterback carousel

Going into the offseason, we didn’t expect much of a quarterback carousel, but it has started to spin over the past week or so with Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace going to Cleveland, Derek Anderson going to Arizona, and Charlie Whitehurst shockingly becoming the QB of the future in Seattle. Below are some thoughts on the moves. For more on the Browns’ situation, check out this post. For a comparison of all offseason trades, check out this post. And check later this month for analysis of the March signings since the first week of free agency.

In Arizona, Anderson, who had one good year out of four in Cleveland, got a two-year, $7.25 million contract  to back up or even challenge Matt Leinart. Anderson is not consistent, but he has a strong arm, and he’s fearless enought to go for the big play. That has too often led to interceptions, but in the run-first, big-play offense Arizona is moving toward, he could actually be a fit. The fact that Arizona has such a talented corps of receivers makes Anderson a better chance. At the least, he’ll challenge Leinart and force the former first-rounder to step up in order to seize the starting job, and if Anderson does that he’ll be worth the freight the Cards are paying.

In Cleveland, Delhomme got $7 million over two years while still getting $19 million guaranteed from the Panthers deal he was released from. Delhomme is a terrific locker-room leader, and he has shown a knack for performing well under pressure earlier in his career. But his interception and fumble problems have been stark since his meltdown in a playoff game against Arizona in the 2008 season, and at this point it’s hard to see him breaking that year-long trend soon. Still, Delhomme may be a better answer than Seneca Wallace, who doesn’t have the pedigree of performance Delhomme has over his career. The Browns are getting a little bit of a discount on Delhomme because of his sweetheart Carolina deal, and at those numbers he’s worth a shot. We just don’t expect that shot to come in.

In Seattle, the Seahawks are paying handsomely to take a shot on Whitehurst, the former Clemson quarterback who hasn’t thrown a pass in four NFL seasons. Granted, Whitehurst has been behind a top-flight starter in Philip Rivers and a solid backup in Billy Volek, but with no NFL results it’s hard to imagine giving up 20 spots in the second round and a third-rounder in 2011. Having to pay Whitehurst $10 million over two years makes the price even harder to swallow. Still, that’s what the Seahawks have done for the 6-foot-4 Whitehurst. Having covered Whitehurst in college a little, I’ve seen his reputation for toughness, and I’ve seen his physical skills. But quarterback in the NFL is such a mental deal that’s it’s nearly impossible to project whether or not this will work. But say this for the Seahawks – they paid handsomely for Matt Hasselbeck when he had thrown just 29 passes in his career, and Hasselbeck has been well worth the investment for Seattle. It’s hard to predict that lightning will strike twice, but for a team that didn’t have a quarterback of the future before this trade, the chance that lightning will strike twice is worth the price. It seems like a reckless gamble for Seattle, but it still could turn out well for them.

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