Tag Archives: NFL Contracts

Quoth the Ravens: Second chance

Wednedsay was a day for second chances in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens extended a second chance to WR Donte Stallworth, signing the wideout to a one-year contract. Meanwhile, Carolina signed DT Ed Johnson, cut twice by the Colts for off-field errors. Here are some thoughts on those second-chance moves (and on the retirement of Titans P Craig Hentrich, which was also announced Wednesday).

In Baltimore, Stallworth, who sat out the 2009 season under league suspension, will get his second chance 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.

In Charlotte, 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.

In Nashville, Hentrich hung up his cleats after an injury-plagued 2009 season that capped off his 17-year career. But on the whole, it was a good run for Hentrich, who punted for the Packers and then Tennessee in his career. He won a Super Bowl with Green Bay and then went to Tennessee as a free agent. He made two Pro Bowls as a Titan and won Pro Football Weekly’s Golden Toe award in 1999 (I actually wrote the story on that award). Tennessee found a solid replacement for Hentrich during the season in Brett Kern, and that makes this a good time for a good guy to end a really good career.

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Commitment to excellence? You bet

The Raiders have long proclaimed their commitment to excellence, and while the on-field results haven’t been strong lately, the motto rings true in one area – the kicking game. The Raiders proved it once again by signing PK Sebastian Janikowski, a potential unrestricted free agent, to a long-term contract Tuesday. Below are some thoughts on the deal, which we’ll compare to others in our upcoming February signings post. And as a little kicker bonus, we’ve included nuggets on the Bengals and Redskins kicking games as well.

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.

In Cincinnati, the Bengals signed PK Dave Rayner. 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.

In Washington, the Redskins signed 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.

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In the trenches – Franklin tagged, Amano signed

The NFL news on Monday was in the trenches Monday, as the Titans re-signed starting left guard Eugene Amano and as reports emerged that the 49ers were going to use one of their franchise tags on NT Aubrayo Franklin. Below are thoughts on both moves. We’ll compare them to other February signings and franchise tags in upcoming posts.

In Tennessee, 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. 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). 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.

In San Francisco, Franklin doesn’t get the pub that other 3-4 nose tackles do, but he’s developed into a solid player at that position since joining the 49ers from Baltimore three seasons ago. After four seasons as a backup in Baltimore, Franklin has been a full-time starter in San Francisco, and his ability to take on blocks has helped Patrick Willis and the rest of the Niners’ defense fly around. That makes Franklin a core player in San Francisco, which makes it no surprise that the Niners decided it was worth a guaranteed $7 million in 2010 to keep him. Franklin may not be quite the impact player that fellow NT Vince Wilfork is for New England, but he’s better than a declining Casey Hampton of Pittsburgh and is a guy San Francisco just can’t afford to lose. This is good use of the tag by the 49ers, especially in an uncapped year, because Franklin is a big reason their defense is emerging as a force.

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Wild Wideout Wednesday

Two huge news items regarding NFL wide receivers Wednesday. San Francisco and first-round draft pick Michael Crabtree finally agreed to a contract, ending the last holdout from this year’s NFL draft. Then the Browns traded WR Braylon Edwards to the Jets for WR Chansi Stuckey, LB Jason Trusnick, and third- and fifth-round draft picks. Here are some thoughts on both moves, both from an on-field perspective and a fantasy football perspective

On-field perspective

Many observers and analysts considered Crabtree the best receiver in this year’s draft (including Crabtree himself), but the Raiders took Darrius Heyward-Bey over Crabtree with the seventh pick. Crabtree went 10th the 49ers but continued to insist he deserved to be paid as the top receiver entering the league this year. That led to a stalemate between the Niners and Crabtree, with the would-be rookie threatening to sit out the entire season. But with the Niners coming on, Crabtree came on board and signed a six-year contract in which the final year is voidable. It will take Crabtree time to learn the offense, but later this season he could be an impactful addition to the Niners’ playoff push. His route-running and run-after-the-catch ability meshes well with QB Shaun Hill’s accuracy, and that could create more big plays than the Niners’ offense is currently capable of. It remains to be seen how long it will take Crabtree to become a good pro, but it seems safe to say that he will become a good NFL player at some point.

Edwards, a former top-3 draft pick, only had one season in which he fully lived up to his potential in Cleveland. In that season, 2007, he was a big-time receiving threat with 80 catches for 1,239 yards and 16 TDs. He has great size and speed, but his hands are sometimes questionable. That was certainly the case last year, when he fell to 55 catches for 873 yards and three scores. Edwards also was reportedly unhappy in Cleveland, and Chris Mortenson tweeted that Edwards was the source behind many of the “problems” and “grievances” that had been filed against head coach Eric Mangini. Because Edwards wasn’t on board, Mangini and the Browns dealt him away – just as they dealt away their other top offensive playmaker, Kellen Winslow, in the offseason. With Edwards gone, the Browns will have to rely on rookies Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi to step up as receivers. Chansi Stuckey, the third or fourth receiver with the Jets who came over in the trade, could help, but he’s not a long-term answer. In addition to Stuckey, the Browns got special-teams stalwart Jason Trusnick and third- and fifth-round picks. That’s not great return for Edwards, who might have drawn a first-rounder from the Giants or Titans before the draft if Cleveland had traded him then. This is another example of Mangini assigning more value to guys he previously coached and getting inadequate value in a trade – just as he did in the Mark Sanchez draft-day deal. For the Jets, this deal could answer their biggest question – an outside receiving threat. Jerricho Cotchery has been good, but he’s more of a possession guy than a gamebreaker. Having Edwards and Cotchery, along with TE Dustin Keller, gives the Jets a chance to build a passing game around rookie QB Sanchez. Edwards longed for the spotlight of a big city like New York, but we’ll have to see if he can perform at a level to make that spotlight shine instead of glare. If he continues dropping passes frequently, he could get run out of the Meadowlands in an ugly scene. But at this price, the trade is a no-brainer for the Jets, who have a chance to build a special offense.

Fantasy Football perspective

Crabtree is not a great prospect for this year, because it will take him at least a month or two to adjust to the offense. If you’re in a keeper league, he’s worth a speculative claim. His presence also bumps Shaun Hill’s value up just a bit.

The Edwards deal has many more fantasy football ripples. Edwards has about the same value with the Jets as he had in Cleveland, although it would be no surprise if his numbers jumped a bit because he’s happier in the system. He’s still a marginal starting receiver in 10- or 12-team leagues. Cotchery, who had become a solid fantasy starter, will likely take a step back to being a No. 3 fantasy receiver, because Edwards will take away some targets. Sanchez’s value increases a bit, but he’s still a fantasy backup, not a starter. In Cleveland, whatever sleeper value Derek Anderson had takes a hit, simply because he doesn’t have many good options to throw to. The best might be Massaquoi, who had 8 catches for 148 yards last week after Anderson entered the lineup. He and Robiskie are the upside guys who are probably worth claiming this week as the receiving corps sorts itself out. Josh Cribbs, the returner extraordinare, could find a few more plays as well, which could make him an emergency fill-in. Stuckey, like Mike Furrey, is an OK receiver on the field who doesn’t have real fantasy value.

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FR: Rookie signings

With the news that the Jets have signed first-round pick Mark Sanchez to a five-year contract, we thought it would be interesting to compare which rookies most need to get their deals signed, sealed, and delivered so that they can report to training camp on time.

In this relativity poll, we’ll compare this year’s first-rounders (along with a key second-rounder) in terms of who most needs to sign in time for camp, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. Of course, all rookies need practice time, so this is an exercise of degrees. But it’s still interesting.

10 – QB Matthew Stafford, Lions; QB Mark Sanchez, Jets – It’s obvious that, if rookie quarterbacks want to play in their inaugural seasons, they need as many practice reps as possible. Thankfully for Detroit and New York, both of the marquee quarterbacks have now signed. Sanchez is probably a little more likely to start right away than Stafford, if for no other reason than that the Lions have a veteran in Daunte Culpepper who could start for a few games as Stafford adjusts to the pros. But props to these players and organizations for getting signed right away.

9 – OT Jason Smith, Rams; WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders – Smith is supposed to be a cornerstone for the Rams, and they need him to be ready to play right away. He should enter training camp as a starter. Heyward-Bey is a bit rawer than other receivers, and so he needs reps too. But if he does, he could be at least an impact deep threat pretty early on.

8 – DE Tyson Jackson, Chiefs; WR Michael Crabtree, 49ers – Jackson is moving from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, and the Chiefs will need him right away, so they need to get his deal done on time. Crabtree figures to play pretty soon as well, and receivers in general need all the adjust time they can get.

7 – LB Aaron Curry, Seahawks; OT Eugene Monroe, Jaguars; DB Malcolm Jenkins, Saints; QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers; WR Percy Harvin, Vikings – Curry is a little more ready made as a player, so he’s below other top 5 picks on this chart. But no matter who it is, teams need to get top-5 guys in ASAP. Monroe should be a starter, so the Jaguars can’t afford the kind of fiasco they had with Derrick Harvey last year. The Saints need to figure out whether to start Jenkins at cornerback or safety, and so they need as many looks at him as possible. Even though Freeman likely isn’t going to play this year, it seems as though quarterbacks who hold out see their long-term development impeded, and so he needs to be ready to go when camp opens. Harvin is fighting the receiver adjustment that is steeper than many other positions, and he’s also going to be Minnesota’s Wildcat option, and so he moves up this list for those reasons.

6 – NT B.J. Raji, Packers; OLB Aaron Maybin, Bills; DE-OLB Brian Orakpo, Redskins – Raji should start right away, and a nose tackle’s role isn’t that tough to pick up, so he falls lower in this comparison than other top-10 picks. Maybin and Orakpo both could play either defensive end or outside linebacker, and both could actually find a role at both spots. With that versatility comes more learning, so the more reps they get, the better.

5 – LB Brian Cushing, Texans; OLB Larry English, Chargers; OLB Robert Ayers, Broncos; WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles – Cushing faces the easiest adjustment of this bunch, as linebackers are often able to contribute as tackling machines in their rookie years. English and Ayers both look to be more niche pass rushers to begin, and that’s a role that can be picked up. They may need more technique work to adjust to the pros than actual system work. Maclin faces the receiver uphill battle, but the Eagles’ success with DeSean Jackson last year seems to indicate they’re ready to integrate Maclin this year.

 4- TE Brandon Pettigrew, Lions; C Alex Mack, Browns; WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants; WR Kenny Britt, Titans; DE Everette Brown, Panthers – Pettigrew needs to play right away, but tight end isn’t as tough an adjustment as receiver. He can contribute at least as a blocker right away. Mack needs to get in camp early if he is to start at center and make all the line calls for Cleveland. Nicks and Britt could contribute right away given the depth charts they’re facing, so they need to take advantage of every rep they can get. Brown is vital because he’s the fallback in case Julius Peppers holds out in Carolina. The Panthers need him to be ready to go right away.

3 – OT Michael Oher, Ravens; DT Peria Jerry, Falcons; CB Vontae Davis, Dolphins – Oher probably should start right away after Willie Anderson’s retirement, but right tackle isn’t as scheme-specific as other line spots. Jerry has been banged up in minicamps, but his positional adjustment shouldn’t be too rough. Davis will have a bit of an adjustment to the Dolphins’ coverage scheme, but the basics of coverage carry over, so he’s not that high on this list.

2 – RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos; OLB Clay Matthews, Packers; RB Donald Brown, Colts – Running backs adapt most easily of all rookies, so they are all near the bottom of this list. Moreno isn’t a 1 just because Josh McDaniels could hold a grudge were he to hold out. Brown isn’t a 1 because the Colts’ offense and audible system is more complex than most because of Peyton Manning’s acumen. Matthews is moving into a system much like his college game plan, so he should have a pretty natural move up to the pros.

1 – OG Eric Wood, Bills; RB Beanie Wells, Cardinals; DE Ziggy Hood, Steelers – Wood is moving up to play guard, which isn’t that stark a transition. Wells has the advantage of being a running back. Hood probably fits in as a backup his first year, so reps aren’t as crucial to him as they are at other positions.

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