Tag Archives: matt jones

Rise/Sink/Float – WRs in new places

As we continue our fantasy football preparation for 2010, we’re going to analyze players with new teams and predict whether their 2010 numbers will rise above, sink below, or float alongside their 2009 production. In this post, we cover running backs. We covered quarterbacks and running backs, and we’ll cover tight ends in a subsequent post.

WR Brandon Marshall, Dolphins – Marshall has been a 100-catch receiver in each of the last three seasons, and despite his problems with Broncos despot Josh McDaniels Marshall notched 1,120 yards and a career-best 10 touchdowns. Now he moves to Miami to become the Dolphins’ unquestioned No. 1 receiver. While Miami isn’t the pass-happy offense that Denver has had over the past few years, Marshall will get enough chances to notch at least 80 catches, and his yards-per-catch average should go up in Miami’s offense. Plus, emerging QB Chad Henne is more talented than Denver’s Kyle Orton, which bodes well for Marshall’s future. We continue to view Marshall as a top-10 fantasy wideout whose stock won’t suffer in his new home. Verdict: Float

WR Anquan Boldin, Ravens – Boldin has won fans for his toughness (especially after playing with a broken face) and also for his production. He’s averaged a whopping 6.17 catches per game over his career, so even in seasons when he’s missed a handful of games he’s been productive. Boldin’s never been a huge yards-per-catch guy, nor has he been a consistent touchdown machine, but the fact that Larry Fitzgerald was the bigger big-play threat of the former Cardinals duo may play a role in that. In Baltimore, Boldin pairs with Derrick Mason, a solid receiver who isn’t nearly the threat that Fitzgerald is. That may mean Boldin gets more attention, but it should also mean that the Ravens look to Boldin for more big plays and more in the end zone. Our guess is that Boldin’s fantasy stock makes him only a borderline No. 1 fantasy receiver somewhere between 12 and 15 at the position, which is where he has been in recent years. But now there’s upside that Boldin could move into the top 6 at the position. For that reason, we sense an ever-so-slight rise. Verdict: Rise

WR Antonio Bryant, Bengals – Bryant came out of nowhere as a No. 1 receiver in Tampa Bay in 2008, but last year as a franchise player he missed three games, fell out of favor, and finished with just 600 receiving yards and four touchdowns. After the season, he moved as a free agent to Cincinnati, where the Bengals hope he will do better than Laveranues Coles did last year in replaced T.J. Houshmandzadeh as Chad Ochocinco’s running mate. Bryant, who averaged 15 yards a catch last year, could also replace some of the vertical plays that the Bengals missed after the late Chris Henry’s injury last season. That’s traditionally been a pretty productive spot, and even though the Bengals have focused more on the running game, we see Bryant’s stock ticking upward this year. He should be a borderline No. 3 receiver in normal-sized leagues, which makes him a better buy than he ended up being last year. Verdict: Rise

WR Nate Burleson, Lions – Burleson didn’t get a ton of pub in Seattle, but he had a nice season last year. Despite missing three games, he totaled 63 catches for 812 yards with three scores. Now Burleson moves to Detroit on a big-time contract to provide a second option behind Calvin Johnson for young QB Matthew Stafford. But before you get too high on Burleson, note a couple of things. First, Burleson’s only surpassed 50 catches twice in his career, and he’s not traditionally a big-play receiver. So Burleson becomes a nice fill-in who’s a decent No. 4 fantasy wideout, but his stock isn’t much more than that. Our sense is that’s about what Burleson was at the end of last season, which means his stock is merely floating. Verdict: Float

WR Santonio Holmes, Jets – First things first: Holmes will have to serve a four-game suspension to start the season. That depresses his stock for fantasy owners. But on the field, Holmes emerged as a legitimate No. 2 fantasy receiver over the past two years, as his 79-catch, 1,248-yard 2009 campaign demonstrates. By moving to New York, Holmes moves to a more inexperienced quarterback in Mark Sanchez, and that could limit his per-game numbers to some degree. But in a contract year, we believe Holmes will perform at a similar level to his ’09 numbers once the second half of the season dawns. We put far more fantasy stock in Holmes than in fellow contract-year wideout Braylon Edwards among Jets wideouts. Holmes’ value falls from last year’s levels because of the suspension, but keep him on your draft board in search of midseason value. (FYI: We’ll have a post later this summer on how to deal with suspended players on your draft board.) Verdict: Sink

WR Ted Ginn, 49ers – Ginn never emerged as the big-play threat the Dolphins hoped he would after he was a first-round pick in the ’07 draft, and so now he looks for a fresh start in San Francisco. The 49ers aren’t known for their passing game, but with Alex Smith returning and Michael Crabtree emerging, that could be changing. If so, Ginn fits in as a big-play threat who can fill in as a No. 5 fantasy receiver. His stock isn’t what it was last year, but he’s worth leaving on your draft board as a late-round upside play. Verdict: Sink

WR Donte Stallworth, Ravens – Stallworth, who missed the entire ’09 season as result of a deadly traffic accident, returns to play for his fifth team. Stallworth has talent and speed, but he’s never put all his skills together. That has led to him being consistently overrated by fantasy owners. This year, Stallworth is fighting for the Ravens’ No. 3 receiver job, which would put him behind Boldin and Mason. That’s actually a role he can thrive in, because Stallworth has deep-ball skills. His upside is probably a stat line like he had in Philly in 2006 (38 catches, 725 yards, 19.1 yards per catch average, five touchdowns). That’s enough to make him worth a flier as a No. 5 fantasy receiver. Since he has fantasy value once again, we’re categorizing him as a riser. Verdict: Rise

WRs Mike Furrey and Bobby Wade, Redskins – Furrey hasn’t had much offensive production since his Mike Martz Detroit days in ’06 and ’07, but in Washington he at least has a chance of becoming a possessions receiver. Wade, who’s had at least 33 catches in each of the last four seasons despite playing for three teams, has that chance as well. Our guess is that one of them becomes a secondary option for the Redskins and gains some value. That means they both float as waiver-wire pickups in fantasy leagues. Verdict: Float

WR Kassim Osgood, Jaguars – Osgood was a special-teams dynamo in San Diego who always longed for an offensive role. But he had just five catches over the past five years with the Bolts. Now in Jacksonville, Osgood structured a contract with incentives if he emerges as a receiver. Chances are he won’t, but the Jaguars’ receiving corps is soft enough that there’s room for Osgood to emerge. He’s nothing more than a late-round supersleeper, but that’s at least worth mentioning. Verdict: Rise

Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle of the Steelers, Matt Jones of the Bengals, and David Patten of the Patriots are veterans with little to no fantasy value this year who had equivalent value last year.

6 Comments

Filed under Fantasy Football, Football Relativity, Rise/Sink/Float

Who’s rebuilding, who’s reloading? AFC edition

As the NFL draft wound down, and I tried to get Mel Kiper’s voice out of my head, I had an idea – let’s evaluate which NFL teams are rebuilding and which are reloading, and whether each team is taking the right approach. Here’s the AFC edition; the NFC edition is available here.

AFC East

Buffalo is reloading – This isn’t the wisest approach, because the Bills didn’t have enough premium talent and haven’t been contenders. But instead of churning the roster in search of better players in the first year of Chan Gailey’s tenure as head coach, the Bills have largely stuck to the status quo this offseason. Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Brian Brohm are still the quarterback options, and the Bills haven’t rebuilt an offensive line that struggled last year. The main additions – DE Dwan Edwards and ILB Andra Davis – were designed to help the Bills move from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. And the first round of the draft yielded a specialty player in C.J. Spiller whose best role is as a featured gamebreaker, not an every-down back. The Bills seem to be in denial about how lacking in talent they truly are, especially on offense. Verdict: Wrong approach

Miami is reloading – The Dolphins are closer to the surface than the Bills are, and so their decision to reload makes more sense. Trading for WR Brandon Marshall and signing OLB Karlos Dansby are the kinds of big strikes that teams close to the playoffs make to try to get over the top. The Marshall acquisition makes sense, since Chad Henne shows a ton of promise at quarterback and the offensive line is good enough to provide time for Henne-to-Marshall to become an elite combo. Dansby doesn’t make up for the loss of veteran pass rushers Jason Taylor and Joey Porter, but he is a playmaker who perfectly fits the Bill Parcells prototype. It’s hard to say whether these moves will put the Dolphins over the top, but we are comfortable asserting that the arrow is pointed in the right direction. Verdict: Right approach

New England is rebuilding – There’s a stigma to the word rebuilding, because often teams use it as a synonym for giving up. But it’s possible to rebuild without giving up, and that’s the Pats’ approach right now. While they’ve added veterans like Torry Holt, Gerard Warren, and Damione Lewis to fill bit roles, the larger picture shows that New England is trying to infuse youth into its defense with guys like Devin McCourty, Jermaine Cunningham, and Brandon Spikes, and into its offense with guys like Rob Gronkowski and Taylor Price. These are the players that will determine whether Bill Belichick’s second decade in New England gets off to a good start. But given the age of New England’s offensive and defensive fronts, rebuilding on the fly in the past two offseasons has been the right call. Verdict: Right approach

New York Jets are reloading – There’s not a team in the NFL headed in a win-now direction more than the Jets are right now. Their offseason additions are littered with veterans like Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Jason Taylor, all of whom are proven vets who should step in a lot quicker than draft picks would have. While draft picks Kyle Wilson, Vladimir Ducasse, and Joe McKnight should find roles quickly, it’s the veterans that will determine whether the Jets can get one step further and into the Super Bowl this season. Verdict: Right approach

AFC North

Baltimore is reloading – The Ravens always do a good job in the draft, and that steady talent infusion over the years has put the franchise in position to keep things pointed in the right direction. But this year, the Ravens put the reloading into overdrive by trading for WR Anquan Boldin, who provides the No. 1 receiver the team has been missing since its move to Baltimore. While rookies Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, and Arthur Jones add depth on defense, the Boldin move is the one that sets the tone that this franchise is going for glory now. We can’t blame the Ravens for taking that tack. Verdict: Right approach

Cincinnati is reloading – Coming off the second division title of Marvin Lewis’ tenure, the Bengals are looking to fill in holes and keep positive momentum. Antonio Bryant is supposed to be the complement to Chad Ochocinco that Cincy was missing without T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and if he can’t perhaps Matt Jones or rookie Jordan Shipley or even first-round TE Jermaine Gresham can. In the draft, the Bengals continued to take talented guys with question marks in Carlos Dunlap and Brandon Ghee, and both are good enough to fill roles right away. And taking a shot on the talented but troubled Pacman Jones is the ultimate win-now move. The Bengals know they have something going, and so they’re going for it. Verdict: Right approach

Cleveland is rebuilding – The Browns know they’re in need of serious changes, as the hiring of Mike Holmgren in the offseason proved. So the team has made wholesale changes, not just at quarterback where Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, and Colt McCoy arrive, but across the roster. Veterans CB Sheldon Brown, LBs Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong, and OT Tony Pashos will help stabilize problem areas, but the team knows they’re not long-term solutions. Instead, the Browns are looking to build around youngsters like Joe Thomas and first-rounder Joe Haden as they try to start a new era in Cleveland. Verdict: Right approach

Pittsburgh is reloading – The Steelers have had a tumultous offseason, but the roster moves they’ve made are a sign that they still consider themselves contenders. Bringing back WR Antwaan Randle El, ILB Larry Foote, CB Bryant McFadden, and QB Byron Leftwich shows that they don’t want much of a learning curve at work in training camp, and drafting C Maurkice Pouncey shows that they wanted immediate help in the first round. The approach is risky, but given how recently the Steelers won the Super Bowl, you can’t blame them for getting the band back together for one last hurrah. They can only hope that the Ben Roethlisberger issues don’t break up the band. Verdict: Right approach

AFC South

Houston is reloading – The Texans are coming off their first winning season, and their offseason approach demonstrates that they think more is in the offing. Unhappy CB Dunta Robinson left via free agency, but first-rounder Kareem Jackson can step in and start. He used the same terminology in college that he will in Houston, and that will ease his transition. The Texans kept WR Kevin Walter and added rookie Ben Tate to a RB group that was problematic at times last year. These moves preserve the status quo and give the Texans a chance to build on their modest ’09 success. Now it’s up to the players and coaches to make the status quo scenario work. Verdict: Right approach

Indianapolis is reloading – The Colts made a few more changes than normal, letting DE Raheem Brock, CBs Marlin Jackson and Tim Jennings, and OG Ryan Lilja go, but in terms of additions they continued to do what they usually do and build through the draft. Sometimes Indy’s rookies contribute immediately, but more often it’s the second- and third-year players who start to flourish the longer they’re in the system. When a team gets that approach going, the smartest thing to do is to keep the train rolling. And since Peyton Manning and Bill Polian are such good conductors, the train continues to roll along. Verdict: Right approach

Jacksonville is reloading – The Jaguars have a long cut list this offseason, but aside from DT John Henderson none of them were core players. Meanwhile, the Jaguars signed veteran DE Aaron Kampman and traded for MLB Kirk Morrison to add veteran experience to the front seven. On offense, it’s status quo, as the Jags rely on David Garrard, Maurice Jones-Drew, and a young corps of receivers and linemen. This team was barely on the cusp of contention last year, so reloading seems like a strange course, and the success depends on whether Garrard can be a top-10 NFL quarterback or just a league average starter. We’re skeptical, and so we disagree. Verdict: Wrong approach

Tennessee is rebuilding – The Titans embarked on a rebuilding project by saying goodbye to stalwarts like Keith Bulluck and Kyle Vanden Bosch. They also seem to be willing to let Kevin Mawae go. That means youngsters like Derrick Morgan and Rennie Curran will need to take on bigger roles. With Vince Young at the helm and Chris Johnson on the run, the Titans now have a young offensive corps, and they’re trying to move the same way on defense. That makes sense, even though holes in the secondary make it appear like the rebuilding project isn’t yet done. Verdict: Right approach

AFC West

Denver is rebuilding – The Broncos continue to chase away the vestiges of Mike Shanahan’s era and move to Josh McDaniels’ desired future. So at wide receiver, Brandon Marshall is out and Demaryius Thomas is in. At quarterback, Jay Cutler is long gone, and Tim Tebow is on the horizon. On the offensive line, Ben Hamilton is gone and Zane Beadles and J.D. Walton are in. Meanwhile, the defensive overhaul continues as the Broncos tried to supplement the new 3-4 defense that fell apart in the second half of last year with NT Jamal Williams, DE Jarvis Green, and ILB Akin Ayodele. At some point, Denver will have to spend its highest draft picks on defense to make the rebuilding project stick. But at this point, McDaniels has changed so much that there’s nothing the Broncos can do but go all out on their rebuild. Verdict: Right approach

Kansas City is rebuilding – The Chiefs still have a long way to go in the rebuilding project that began last offseason and that now continues this offseason. S Eric Berry is the prize of this year’s crew, with fellow SEC products Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas also slated to become key contributors. Most of the veteran additions, notably Ryan Lilja and Thomas Jones, are designed to keep the Chiefs from being abysmal as the talent infusion takes effect. There’s still a long way to go in Chiefs land, but at least they’re on the right path. Verdict: Right approach

Oakland is reloading – The Raiders never admit that they’re in the doldrums, but it actually makes some sense this offseason. The defense has a lot of good pieces, and adding Rolando McClain and Lamarr Houston in the draft and Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves via trades should help the front seven’s performance go up a level. But the biggest change is on offense, where Jason Campbell gives the Silver and Black a qualified pro quarterback who will prepare and take advantage of the talent outside. Campbell’s not great, but he’s better than average, and that should allow Oakland to make the most of its other talents. A run at the playoffs isn’t out of the question, and that makes just win, baby, the right approach – finally – for the Raiders. Verdict: Right approach

San Diego is reloading – The Chargers know that they have talent, and so they once again used the offseason to get pieces that will push them over the top. Paying a ransom for first-round RB Ryan Mathews demonstrates this approach, and the Chargers also added cornerback depth with Nathan Vasher, who knows coordinator Ron Rivera’s system. Is it enough for a team that’s been on the cusp a painfully long time? Reloading as the Chargers are is the only way they’re going to find out. Verdict: Right approach

Leave a comment

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL draft, NFL Free Agency, NFL front offices, NFL trades

FR: February signings

Here’s a compendium of the major NFL re-signings and additions of street free agents during February, before the official free-agent market opens. Since there weren’t many major moves, we’re simply commenting instead of comparing. We’ll compare signings using Football Relativity once the free agent market opens.

Steelers (kept NT Casey Hampton) – Hampton has long been a stalwart of the Steelers’ 3-4 defense as the nose tackle, as he has started every game he has played since his second season in 2002. At age 32, he has moved from being a penetrating player to being more of a Pat Williams-style stopper in the middle, but he still has significant value in that role. The Steelers were going to follow the trend and franchise-tag Hampton, like so many other teams did with their nose tackles, but instead they signed him to a three-year, $21 million deal with $11 million in guaranteed money. This way, Hampton gets a little more guaranteed dough, while the Steelers get Hampton at a reasonable per-year rate.

Raiders (kept PK Sebastian Janikowski) –  Janikowski, the only kicker in two generations to be a first-round draft pick, signed the biggest contract ever given to a kicker. He’ll get $9 million guaranteed in a four-year deal scheduled to pay him $16 million total. That’s the same amount the Raiders gave All-Pro punter Shane Lechler last offseason. Janikowski isn’t the clear best at his position like Lechler is, but the kicker known as Sea-Bass had a career year in 2009, making 26-of-29 field goals, including a 61-yarder that’s one of the longest in league history. He has one of the strongest legs in the league and is one of a dying breed of placekickers who thrive on kickoffs as well. So he’s clearly a top-5 kicker, if not the very best in the league. While you can argue the wisdom of committing so many resources to one area of the team, the Raiders have ensured continued excellence in the kicking game. At least they’re paying for quality.

Titans (kept OLG Eugene Amano and S Donnie Nickey) –  Amano was ready to become an unrestricted free agent whether or not 2010 was an uncapped year, and so the Titans were in danger of losing him. Instead, they inked him to a new five-year contract worth up to $26.5 million with $10.5 million in guaranteed money. Amano has emerged as a left guard starter over the last two seasons, and he also is able to play center, which is a key because Titans starter Kevin Mawae is a free agent who has already logged 16 seasons in the NFL. Amano’s versatility, and the paucity of starting-caliber offensive linemen who will hit the open market, made him a priority for the Titans (with good reason, according to Daniel Jeremiah of MovetheSticks.com). That’s why Amano got above-average starter money. Tennessee, which has terrific OTs David Stewart and Michael Roos locked up long term, now knows that they’ll have a good measure of continuity on the line with or without Mawae. Amano, meanwhile, gets some financial security and the chance to stay in the same city where he has played his whole career. It takes that kind of win-win to get a deal done this far before the free-agent market opens. Nickey, a key special-teams player as well as a backup safety, took a one-year deal to stay in Nashville as well.

Bengals (added WR Matt Jones and PK Dave Rayner) – Jones got a contract just above the league minimum to return to the NFL after missing the entire 2009 season due to suspension and being released by the Jaguars. Jones was largely disappointing in his time in Jacksonville, although his best season was his last one. But he can provide a big and fast option across from Chad Ochocinco, replacing what the Bengals lost when Chris Henry died. It’s a low-risk, high-reward gamble which makes sense from a football perspective. However, given the off-field problems the Bengals have had, if this blows up in their face it will cause much more scrutiny. So the Bengals are relying on Jones to behave even more than they are relying on his production. Rayner, who has kicked for five teams, looks to be the replacement for Shayne Graham, whom the Bengals don’t plan to re-sign after his playoff failings. Rayner’s no great shakes, but he’s at least worth a shot in a training-camp battle with someone.

Ravens (add WR Donte Stallworth) – Stallworth, who sat out the 2009 season under league suspension, will get his second chance in Baltimore on a one-year deal worth $900,000 and potentially $300,000 more in incentives. That’s not much to pay for a guy with speed and potential. But even before his suspension, Stallworth bounced around to four teams in four years because he never really lived up to his billing. He’s the ultimate workout warrior who hasn’t found a way to really translate his numbers onto the field. Still, Baltimore isn’t paying much to give him a chance, and the Ravens have such a dearth of offensive playmakers that gambling on Stallworth as a third or fourth receiver makes sense. It would be a mistake, though, to rely on Stallworth in a starting role. Meanwhile, from a character standpoint, Stallworth has shown maturity in making up for his mistake over the past year, and perhaps that will help him resurrect a career that is disappointing at this point.

Jaguars (kept WR Troy Williamson and TE Ernest Wilford) – Williamson was a bust as a first-round pick in Minnesota, but he’s shown a bit of promise in Jacksonville despite injuries. The Jags chose to bring Williamson back as a speedy complement to Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas. By signing Williamson now, the Jaguars also get him at less money than the restricted free agent tender, while Williamson gets a $100,000 signing bonus he wouldn’t have gotten by signing the tender. So that’s a small win-win for both sides for a guy who could be a backup but not much more. Wilford, a former wide receiver, played OK in his move to tight end last year, and he took a one-year contract at the veteran minimum to remain in Jacksonville again. He’s played five of his six career seasons in Jax.

Falcons (kept WR Brian Finneran) – Finneran has been around forever, and he’s been in Atlanta since 2000. He’s a special-teamer and possession receiver, and while he’s not a big part of the offense, he’s a nice safety net for Matt Ryan and the Dirty Birds. So keeping him makes sense, especially at a team-friendly price.

Panthers (add DT Ed Johnson) – Johnson started 20 games over the past three seasons in Indianapolis after joining the Colts as an undrafted free agent, but he was also cut twice for repeated off-the-field transgressions. He gets another chance in Carolina now with Ron Meeks, his former Colts defensive coordinator who’s now in Charlotte. Given how many injuries the Panthers sustained at defensive tackle last year (Maake Kemeoatu, Corvey Ivy, Louis Leonard), you can understand them looking under every possible rock for help, but Johnson’s off-the-field history doesn’t match the Panthers’ normal m.o. You have to wonder if Johnson signed knowing he’s on an incredibly short leash.

Vikings (kept WR Greg Lewis) – Lewis isn’t more than a fourth receiver, but he can make the occasional play – as he did on the final play of Minnesota’s miraculous win over San Francisco this year. The Vikings keep him around as a nice insurance policy who knows the Brad Childress/Andy Reid style of offense well.

Patriots (add WR David Patten) – Patten didn’t play last year, but his history with the Patriots and New England’s lack of depth at wideout makes him worth a look as a fourth receiver. We’ll see through the offseason whether Patten still has the ability to contribute at age 35.

Seahawks (add LB Ricky Foley and LS Pat McDonald) – Foley, who played collegiately in Canada, didn’t hook on in his first NFL shot in 2006, but the four-year CFL vet had 12 sacks for the B.C. Lions last year and is worth a look. The Hawks hope he can become a situational pass rusher like Canadian import Cameron Wake was for the Dolphins in ’09. Seattle also added long snapper Pat McDonald from the CFL.

Steelers (add CB David Pittman and LB Renauld Williams) – Pittman, who hasn’t played in the NFL in two years, was a third-round pick by the Ravens in 2006. The Steelers will try to see if his draftable talent still exists. Williams played seven games for the Dolphins and 49ers from ’04 to ’06 and then became a starter for Saskatchewan in the CFL over the past two years. He’s a long shot to make the team, but the Steelers do have a knack for finding linebackers who contribute in all sorts of strange places.

Jets (add PK Nick Folk) – Folk showed great promise in Dallas in his first two seasons, but his 2009 season was marked by inconsistency, and he was finally released by the team. Still, he has a strong leg and some experience, which is a virtue. The Jets face free agency with Jay Feely, and so adding Folk is a nice insurance policy at this point in the offseason. They could do worse than entering the 2010 season with Folk as their placekicker.

Chiefs (kept RB Kolby Smith and QB Matt Gutierrez) – Both Smith and Gutierrez are backups whom the Chiefs re-signed as potential restricted free agents, most likely at rates below the usual tender amounts.

Redskins (add PK Justin Medlock) – The Redskins, who cut Shaun Suisham midway through the ’09 season, are taking a look at Medlock, a former Chiefs draft choice who lasted just one regular-season game with the Chiefs in ’07. Medlock went to Canada in ’09 and thrived with Toronto, leading to another shot with the Redskins. Graham Gano (a UFL import) did a decent job with the ‘Skins at the end of the ’09 season, but Medlock provides competition that should allow Washington to end up with a young kicker with upside.

Leave a comment

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL Free Agency

A Friday in February

The Super Bowl isn’t yet a week past, and Valentine’s Day isn’t till Sunday, but we’re already starting to see some roster movement in the NFL. Here are some thoughts on a few key cuts and signings. We’ll compare all February signings in an upcoming post and the most impactful cutbacks before the new league year opens the free-agent doors.

Dolphins cut OLB Joey Porter – Porter, who had nine sacks last season and 32 in three Miami seasons, asked for his release, hoping for one more payday before his career ends. That cut is forthcoming, though it will be March before it’s official. The mouthy 11-year veteran can still get around the corner on the pass rush, and that gives him value to 3-4 teams. But Porter’s opinion of himself now outrates his actual performance, and that may deter some teams. Still, for a 3-4 team on the edge of contention like San Francisco or Denver, or a contender like Green Bay, Porter could become a nice third-down option at a medium-range price.

Giants cut MLB Antonio Pierce – Pierce came over to the Giants as a high-dollar free agent five years ago, and he delivered on that contract by serving as a team leader and a big-time tackler during his tenure, which included a Super Bowl title. But Pierce missed the second half of the ’09 season with a bulging disc in his neck, and with a contract calling for him to make $4.75 million in cash this year, the Giants decided there were cheaper and healthier options. While the Giants don’t have a successor in place, they’ll likely look for a cheaper alternative or perhaps even draft a middle linebacker. Pierce, meanwhile, will look to latch on somewhere as a veteran hand and a locker-room leader, but he won’t come close to his scheduled salary. Instead, he’ll be a veteran minimum guy who becomes a stopgap option for a team looking for MLB or ILB help but not part of the long-term plan.

Jaguars cut WR Torry Holt, OT Tra Thomas, and DT Rob Meier – The Jaguars started another youth movement by sending Holt, Thomas, and Meier packing. Holt and Thomas were free-agent signees last year who were meant to bridge the gap to a group of youngsters. With the development of OTs Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, Thomas became expendable, while Mike Thomas and Mike Sims-Walker surpassed Holt by the end of the season. Both vets are probably still good enough to be backups in the NFL, but they’ll have to do so at prices even more reduced than what they played for last year. Meier, who has been a Jag since 2000, missed all of last season due to injury and might be at the end of the line.

Bengals sign WR Matt Jones – Jones got a contract just above the league minimum to return to the NFL after missing the entire 2009 season due to suspension and being released by the Jaguars. Jones was largely disappointing in his time in Jacksonville, although his best season was his last one. But he can provide a big and fast option across from Chad Ochocinco, replacing what the Bengals lost when Chris Henry died. It’s a low-risk, high-reward gamble which makes sense from a football perspective. However, given the off-field problems the Bengals have had, if this blows up in their face it will cause much more scrutiny. So the Bengals are relying on Jones to behave even more than they are relying on his production.

Falcons re-sign WR Brian Finneran – Finneran has been around forever, and he’s been in Atlanta since 2000. He’s a special-teamer and possession receiver, and while he’s not a big part of the offense, he’s a nice safety net for Matt Ryan and the Dirty Birds. So keeping him makes sense, especially at a team-friendly price.

Leave a comment

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL Free Agency, NFL Suspensions

FR: Cutbacks update

As the league year ended, we compiled a list comparing the cuts teams made  in this post. But in the time that’s followed, there have been several more high-profile cuts that we need to address. So we’ve started a new relativity poll to address the cuts between Feb. 27 and the beginning of the draft. 10 is the most impactful cut; 1 is a cut that just doesn’t matter. (Note: After the release of Torry Holt, the Rams replaced the Cowboys on the top rung of this comparison.)

10 – Rams (cut OT Orlando Pace, WR Torry Holt, and TE Anthony Becht) – Pace played 12 years with the Rams, and was at a high level for most of those. He made 7 Pro Bowls and was a top 5 left tackle for quite a while. (I always considered him behind Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden but on par with anyone else in the league.) But Pace was hurt much of ’06 and ’07, and he wasn’t the same player when he came back last year. The Rams don’t yet have an adequate replacement, but they figure to take one at No. 2 overall in the draft next month. As for Pace, at this point he’s a marginal starter who would probably fit best as a veteran backup for a contender than as a starter somewhere. He’s also big enough to move to the right side if he’s willing to do so. Becht started 11 games last year but has never lived up to his hype as a first-round pick back in 2000.
Holt spent 10 years in St. Louis and played at a high level throughout. He’s made 7 Pro Bowls and compiled numbers that will put him on a Hall of Fame short list when his career is done. While he’s no longer the unstoppable force he was in the Greatest Show on Turf days, he still is an above-average receiver who would be a boon to a contender like Tennessee, Philadelphia, the Giants, or his hometown Panthers (if they ever clear adequate cap space). I’d take Holt over Marvin Harrison in a heartbeat. As for the Rams, they’ve now lost two of the stalwarts of their Super Bowl teams in Holt and Pace. That has to be a huge blow to their fans, who must now hope that these moves will expedite the rebuilding process. The Pace move might, but losing Holt isn’t worth saving what was a fair price ($8M) against the cap.

9- Cowboys (cut WR Terrell Owens, S Roy Williams) — Owens’ release has been huge news this week because he is still one of the best known players in the entire league. He’s a true No. 1 receiver, even though his dominance is starting to wane just a bit. (He’s behind Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, and maybe a couple of others on the wide receiver hierarchy now.) But the idea that Roy Williams (receiver edition) can replace what Owens did is farfetched. The Cowboys will undoubtedly miss Owens’ talents. But few players in the last decade have made the waves Owens has, and that’s something the Cowboys won’t miss. The question is whether the absence of T.O.-related hullaballoo will help Dallas in the end. The Cowboys still have weapons, and they have the talent and the offensive line personnel to be a dominant running team. That’s the approach that will make this cut work. If the Cowboys try to fling the ball around as much as they did last year, the offense will start to sputter because of T.O.’s absence.
As for Roy Williams (the safety edition), that move doesn’t hurt nearly as much. Williams was a top-10 draft pick, but he is a safety who plays the run really well and plays the pass unbelievably poorly. Ever since the Cowboys moved to a 3-4 scheme under Bill Parcells several years ago, Williams has been a bad fit for the defense. So moving on is better for him and for the Cowboys. Dallas still needs safety help, but Williams’ tenure had gone so far south that he was never going to be able to provide it there.

8 – Giants (cut WR Plaxico Burress) –  Burress delivered on his big salary with the Giants until last year, when he was suspended for chronic disregard for team meetings and then shut down following his hyper-publicized gun incident. He can still play at a high level, but his problems make his ‘09 availability a question. Still, some team will take a flier – for 2010 if not next season.

7 – Redskins (cut DE Jason Taylor) – Taylor battled injuries and only had 3.5 sacks in his year in Washington, and he agreed to be released instead of staying in D.C. in the offseason for the team’s training program. The best analysis I’ve heard on this is that it might have been because he was so misused by the Redskins. For some reason, the Redskins left Andre Carter in the prime pass-rushing position and used Taylor more as a run-stopper. Taylor can still help a team in a pass-rush role, especially if he can save his dancing legs for somewhat limited duty. Washington wasn’t going to use him correctly, but someone will figure out how to.

6 – Panthers (cut CB Ken Lucas) – Lucas was a solid starter in Carolina for four years after arriving as a big-ticket free agent from Seattle. In fact, in his first year as a Panther, Lucas was a top-5 corner league-wide. His physical style fit well in Carolina’s off coverage system. But Lucas has slipped a bit over the past couple of years, and Carolina was ready to move Richard Marshall into the starting lineup across from Chris Gamble. Lucas is still good enough to be at least a starter somewhere else, but given the Panthers’ roster and ultra-tight salary cap situation, the move makes sense. Still, it’s going to be a loss for the Panthers.

6 (con’t) – Ravens (cut CB Samari Rolle and LB Nick Griesen) – Rolle had been with the Ravens for four years, and when he started in Baltimore he was still among the elite corners in the league. But last year was not a good one for Samari (or Doorknob, as I still like to call him). He missed six games because of injury and never was able to get healthy enough to play at an elite level. He wasn’t going to start for Baltimore, so he requested his release. The Ravens also cut Rolle’s fellow starting CB Chris McAlister, and so their secondary is in major upheaval. Baltimore has signed Dominique Foxworth, who will definitely start even though he’s probably not even above average as an NFL starter. The other starting spot goes to Fabian Washington, at least for now. The Ravens tried to do right by Rolle by letting him go as he wanted, but they might have done wrong by themselves in the process. Griesen signed a 3-year deal last year to be an inside linebacker and special-teamer, but he never could make an impact in the defensive 11 last year. He could be a decent backup for someone but not much more.

5 – Jaguars (cut WR Matt Jones) – Jones, a former college quarterback turned first-round pick at receiver, is coming off his best season (65 catches, 761 yards, 2 TD) of four in Jacksonville. But off-the-field problems led to his release. Jones missed three games last year on a league-mandated substance-abuse suspension after a cocaine-related arrest last summer. But recently, he spent a week in jail for violating the plea agreement that resolved that charge by drinking alcohol. It seems that Jones was given an ultimatim and didn’t abide by it. It’s a loss for the Jaguars, who have also cut WR Jerry Porter and let former first-rounder Reggie Williams enter free agency as well. They need to find some wide receiver help and may be hoping that Michael Crabtree falls to them at No. 8 overall in the draft.

5 (con’t) – Dolphins (cut DE Vonnie Holliday) – Holliday is a long-time veteran defensive end who is still an acceptable part of a rotation. But he’s no longer an impact starter, and his Dolphins contract paid him as one. Holliday would actually be a pretty good fit as Taylor’s replacement in Washington or in a similar role where he’s looked at more as a run-stuffer than a pass rusher.

5 (con’t) – Saints (cut FB Mike Karney, CB Mike McKenzie and S Kevin Kaesviharn) – Karney is a good, old-fashioned fullback. He’s not much of a runner outside of short-yardage sets, and he doesn’t catch many passes, but he can block. The Saints replaced him with Heath Evans, who has more skills with the ball in his hands. But Karney has a place as a blocker somewhere. (That somewhere will be St. Louis.) McKenzie used to be a big, physical corner, but he has missed most of the last two years with two separate knee injuries. It makes sense for the Saints to release him and save $4.5 million, especially once they added CB Jabari Greer. McKenzie might have trouble finding work because of his physical situation, but he’s worth noting because his 11-year career was quality. Kaesviharn was let go after the Saints signed safeties Darren Sharper and Pierson Prioleau. He’s an average safety, or maybe a little below that level, and so no great loss. Still, he could hook on elsewhere.

4 – Browns (cut OT Kevin Shaffer) – Shaffer started all but one game over the past three years, playing one season at left tackle before moving to the right side after Cleveland drafted Joe Thomas. He’s probably still good enough to start, and his ability to play both sides makes him even more valuable. He should be able to find a new gig relatively quickly.

4 (con’t) – 49ers (cut OT Jonas Jennings) – Jennings was a big-money signing in San Francisco a couple of years back, but injuries kept him from full effectiveness in San Francisco. He was released to make room for Marvel Smith, who will likely take over Jennings’ ORT spot.

3 –  Bears (cut OL Terrance Metcalf) – Metcalf spent 7 years with the Bears after joining the team as a third-round pick, but he never panned out as a starter – getting just 25 starts during his Chicago tenure. Metcalf should have seized a starting guard last year to replace Ruben Brown, but he couldn’t. That’s why he’s gone. He could fit in as a backup elsewhere, but if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t be a shock.

2 –  Broncos (cut LS Mike Leach, RB Cory Boyd, and QB Darrell Hackney) – Good long snappers can work forever, and so Leach won’t have trouble getting a new gig. The Broncos decided he was expendable after new head coach Josh McDaniels imported his former New England snapper Lonnie Paxton and paid him a million bucks a year. Leach won’t get that kind of coin (no longer snapper should), but he’ll find work somewhere. (That somewhere will be Arizona.)

2 (con’t) – Bengals (cut S Dexter Jackson) – Cincy let Jackson, a former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, go after three seasons. Jackson had started 25 total games for the Bengals in 2006 and ’07 but only three last season. Jackson might be close to being done, but he could also be a solid veteran reserve for a team with playoff aspirations — kind of a “break glass in case of emergency” guy.

2 (con’t) – Browns (cut WR Joe Jurevicius) – Jurevicius has had some productive seasons over his 11-year career, but a staph infection cost him the entire ’08 season. If he can get healthy, he could still step in somewhere as a No. 4 receiver and possession specialist. But health is still a huge question.

2 (con’t) – Steelers (cut RB Gary Russell) – Russell got to play in some short-yardage situations last year because rookie Rashard Mendenhall was hurt, and Russell scored three regular-season touchdowns and one in the Super Bowl, but he didn’t really distinguish himself. He could fit in as a third or fourth tailback for someone, but he’s not really a rotation-quality runner.

1- Chiefs (cut QB Quinn Gray, WR Will Franklin, and LS Jean-Phillippe Darche) – The six-year vet still could be a decent No. 2 quarterback, but with Matt Cassel joining Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle in K.C., Gray wasn’t going to make that roster. But with many other talented quarterbacks still on the market (J.P. Losman, Rex Grossman, Kyle Boller, Byron Leftwich, etc.), Gray will have a hard time finding work anytime soon.

1 (con’t) – Colts (cut RB Clifton Dawson) – Dawson had a moment or two, but a numbers crunch knocked him out of Indy. He could be a backup elsewhere.

1 (con’t) – Vikings (cut LB Vinny Ciurciu) – This move made me laugh because it reminded me of a story. Ciurciu is a decent backup linebacker and special teamer who got his first real NFL action in Carolina when I was covering the team. The writers on the beat with me always laughed about an interview in which one of Ciurciu’s teammates was talking about him and kept calling him “Choo-Choo” (instead of the proper Chur-choo). So I hope that Choo-Choo gets another job, because a name that good needs to stick around.

9 Comments

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL Free Agency