Free agency hasn’t even started yet and this past week was the most eventful and interesting offseason week ever that didn’t involve free agency of the draft. Between Peyton Manning, the Redskins-Rams draft pick trade, Randy Moss’ comeback tour, and Mark Sanchez getting a contract extension, it’s been a fun week. I know I said I’d cover the remaining team offseason previews/needs, then when I started my research this past week I realized that I was only about halfway through. I thought about it a little and I realized no one is going to want to read 15 or so things like look like this:
Key Free Agents
Gibberish that is still better than free agency ranking lists
Seriously though, why do people care if Pete Prisco considers a WR to be a better free agent than a DE? It’s lazy journalism that doesn’t take into account scheme, need, and value like this that drives me nuts. There are very few players than can excel in any system. Heck, there might be none. Would Wes Welker have 100+ catches on a team like the Texans who have a dominant running game and don’t use short passes to replace it? Could Arian Foster win rushing titles in Pittsburgh without zone blocking? What about value? If you’re New England and your options are Brandon Lloyd for $4 million per year or Vincent Jackson for $9 million, is Jackson really worth more than double what Lloyd will get to them? Who “won” in this scenario?
Sorry about the tangent, but I decided to do a few more small previews, but not for every missing team. Journalists are inundating readers with useless lists and I don’t want to be a part of that trend. Why provide you with the same garbage you can get everywhere else when I can provide you with a different pile of garbage? Obviously this column is still a work in progress and the offseason presents unique challenges that the regular season doesn’t. I have a good formula worked out for the regular season and playoffs but the offseason presents new challenges. Here’s hoping I don’t bore you all to death before we get back to the season!
I want to start off with the fallout of what will happen if Peyton signs with any of his top 3 suitors: Broncos, Cardinals, and Dolphins. I’m very sad the Seahawks were immediately eliminated but Peyton seems to want a staff he has some kind of established relationship with and/or thorough knowledge of and I’m guessing he had a negative experience or no experience with Seattle’s staff. I was correct when I stated he’s focused much more on fit than money. I’m sure he wants fair market value but if you gave him the option of any of his top 3 or the Jets at $5 million more per season, he’d take his top 3.
What happens in Denver if Peyton signs there? The biggest question of course is Tim Tebowmania. Do you trade him? Do you keep him around for 2 or 3 years and let him develop more as a passer behind one of the best the game has ever seen? I think the only option that’s fair to Tebow is to trade him. Where to is a complicated matter. New Jaguars owner Shahid Khan has gone on record stating that the Jaguars should have drafted Tim Tebow when they had the chance. Would he be a destination? I doubt it because of last year’s first round pick Blaine Gabbert but Gabbert wasn’t exactly impressive as a rookie. Other than Jacksonville, I have no other ideas. There are a few teams who will need a QB if they don’t get Manning or Flynn like Seattle, Miami, or Cleveland. Of those, I think Seattle would be the only team interested.
How would the Broncos offense look? Pretty good. I’m a huge fan of Demaryius Thomas at WR. Anyone who saw the Broncos-Steelers Wild Card game saw what Thomas can do to an opposing secondary. He’s big (6’3 235 pounds) and he has great speed and hands. Thomas’ biggest downside is route running which he’s still a little raw at. Something tells me Peyton Manning can work with him on that. Eric Decker would be a good WR opposite of him but imagine if Reggie Wayne stepped in opposite of Thomas? That’s a scary duo. Willis McGahee even at this point in his career is the best RB Manning has had since Edgerrin James. Ryan Clady would be protecting his blindside and Clady is one of the better LTs in the game. Insert Manning to this team as it was late last season and they could have made a Super Bowl run. Add a CB, a good backup RB to take some pressure off of McGahee, and solidify the DL and this team could be dominant in 2012.
The Cardinals also have a tricky QB situation. They just gave up a 2nd round pick (in this year’s draft) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a good starting CB, for Kevin Kolb. Then they handed Kolb an 8 figure check. If they sign Manning, they pretty much have to cut and/or trade Kolb. If my knowledge of Kolb’s contract is correct, he is due a $7 million roster bonus on March 17th. This effectively means that if the Cardinals do sign Peyton, they need to do it before Saturday in order to avoid a $7 million payout. Issue 2 is that the Cardinals are currently over the salary cap and have until tomorrow to get under.
They aren’t going to cut Kolb unless they are 100% certain they’re getting Peyton and they aren’t going to get that today. This means before they can even sign Peyton, they have to get under the cap enough in order to submit his contract to the NFL. The NFL will reject any contract that will put a team over the salary cap. If the Cardinals are serious about Peyton, they probably have a couple dozen number crunchers sitting in a dark, cold, and dusty room with the task of giving Peyton a good contract, staying under the cap, and a little bit of room for Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark too. I’m sure their instructions are “you can see the sun again when you come up with a plan. Now crunch!” *insert whip sound*
If I’m an NFL coach and I see Peyton Manning throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, I’m waking up at night in cold sweats. Call me biased, but for my money Fitz is the best WR in the game right now (Ed. note – Megatron would like to have a word with you). He’s always open. Even when covered, he’s open. His ability to attack the ball at its highest point is untouchable by anyone else in the NFL (Ed. note – Megatron would still like to have a word with you). The Arizona OL isn’t very good, but Peyton’s quick release will minimize that issue. Beanie Wells had a rough start to his career but he really came on last season and a QB like Peyton will certainly open up the running game. I don’t really need to talk about anything else on how this offense would look because to be blunt, Manning to Fitz is on a level that can only be topped by Montana to Rice. Granted, I put both Montana and Rice a notch above Manning and Fitz, but if there’s a WR in the NFL capable of catching any of Rice’s career numbers, it’s Fitz. It’s even more amazing to think Rice had 2 Hall of Fame QBs throwing him the ball. Fitz at best had a borderline Hall of Fame QB at the twilight of his career. Rice had 2 of them at their peaks for a majority of his career.
How would Peyton look in Miami? If the media frenzy has been any indication, he wouldn’t look like much because the second he left practice he will be hiding. I know Peyton is the kind of guy who can’t go anywhere without being recognized but a helicopter flying over his plane after he landed? I agree with anyone who is saying that may have scared him off from Miami, but let’s assume they’re still in the running.
Miami has a franchise LT in Jake Long and a decent OL across the board. Brandon Marshall is a great WR when he wants to be and Reggie Bush/Daniel Thomas is a very good 1-2 punch at RB. Peyton would have fun with a weapon like Reggie Bush in the backfield. There wouldn’t be any type of QB fiasco because long time punching bag/starting QB Chad Henne is a free agent and the starter for the majority of last season, Matt Moore, isn’t a player Miami has really invested much in. In that sense, the Dolphins have very little to lose. If Peyton doesn’t pan out, they aren’t sacrificing a young, talented QB like Arizona or Denver. Yes, I did just call Tebow talented.
I think of the alleged top 3 teams, Miami does make the most sense. All signs point to Denver as the current leader and I see them as the team who makes the least sense due to the presence of Tebow. No matter what the winner will get an instant upgrade at the QB position. There are only maybe 5 or 6 NFL teams that wouldn’t get a QB upgrade with Peyton.
While on the topic of QB upgrades, the Redskins just made one heck of a trade to make sure they get one in 2012. The Redskins sent this year’s first round pick (#6 overall), their 2013 and 2014 first round picks, and their 2012 2nd round pick for the 2nd overall pick, owned by the St. Louis Rams. While the cost may seem steep, what would an NFL team pay right now for Aaron Rodgers? If I’m the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay says “You can have Aaron for 3 1st round picks and a 2nd” I charter the fastest jet available and take that to Commissioner personally. That or fax it, one of the two. If you value some one as a true franchise QB that can lead your team for the next decade, the Redskins are not overpaying.
This puts a ton of pressure on the Redskins’ draft pick to be a franchise QB for the next decade. I see even more pressure on Jeff Fisher and Sam Bradford. If Bradford doesn’t turn out to be a franchise QB and RG3/Luck does, the Rams will look foolish for the trade. They’re being given the ammo to make one hell of a team. In the next 3 drafts, the Rams will have at least 5 first round picks. Those picks become even more valuable with the rookie wage scale that will prevent them from spending $40 million on those players before they play a single down in the NFL. If they manage to hit on solid starters with 4 of those 5 draft picks and 1 of those 4 is elite, they’ll be perennial playoff contenders if Bradford is a franchise QB. If they miss and Bradford doesn’t pan out, Jeff Fisher will go down in flames for failing to produce a great team with all the talent he will receive the next 3 years.
-The Vikings have 3 glaring holes (not saying they don’t have others) on their team: LT, CB, and WR. Well aren’t they lucky, the next 3 players on most draft boards after the 2 QBs are a LT (Kalil), CB (Claiborne), and WR (Blackmon). A simple solution: sign a WR and CB in free agency and draft Kalil. That was easy. Coach Frazier and GM Spielman, hit me up on twitter, @NFLGimpy, if you need any help.
-The Patriots lack of a vertical threat in the passing game was exposed in the Super Bowl. Welker is great at underneath routes, Gronk and Hernandez dominate the middle of the field, but Deion Branch was incapable of forcing safeties to drop back. Without that threat, safeties can play up a little bit to keep receivers in front of them. I’ll continue to push Mike Wallace to New Enlgand, it just makes sense. Give Brady the best deep threat since Randy Moss in 2007 and suddenly their offense has no holes. I’m actually a big fan of their RB corps and a good fantasy sleeper could be Stevan Ridley.
-The Bengals really need a playmaker at RB. They have their QB-WR duo, they have a solid defense(#1 overall pass defense), but a playmaker at RB will open that offense up. If Trent Richardson is available without spending too much on a trade up, it’s definitely worth it.
-The Lions really, really, really need to upgrade their secondary. Their 22nd ranked pass defense got torched in the playoffs by the Saints to the tune of 466 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 40+ yard pass plays. Sure, Drew Brees and company had a great season, but 466 yards was his season high by 37 yards at that point.
-The Eagles have a tough situation at WR. If they decide to extend DeSean Jackson, that solves it for the most part. If they don’t, they need a high draft pick (top 50, which they have 3 of) or a good free agent signing to counter losing DeSean this year or the next. A massive upgrade at LB is needed at 2 of the 3 LB spots. Starting OG Evan Mathis is a free agent looking for a big payday and could price himself out of Philadelphia if the right offer comes.
-Free agency starts tomorrow at 4pm. I’m very thankful it doesn’t start at midnight anymore. I’m too old to stay up until 3am hoping at least one marquee player signs a deal.
-Randy Moss tried out for the Saints and will also be working out with the 49ers. The reports out of the Saints camp said that he looks like the old Randy again. Moss is at his best when he has something to prove. I think a team like New Orleans or San Francisco could get a good year out of him if he’s getting the ball and they’re winning. If not, he won’t make it the whole season.
-I will continue to believe that Mark Sanchez is the most overrated QB in the NFL because anyone who thinks he’s a starter is waaay overrating him. He has good physical skills, but nothing numerous backups don’t have. He doesn’t’ have killer accuracy, a cannon for an arm, or great leadership. When you’re average at everything how can you be anything more than an average QB? Not an average starter, an average QB. What does Sanchez really offer that Matt Moore, Jason Campbell, or Chad Henne can’t? I’m not sure and that’s why I think his extension, cap savings or not, was stupid.
-The NHL is getting good. Really, really good. If you’re sick of hearing about Peyton Manning, Bountygate, and the Redskins-Rams trade, pay attention to the NHL more. There are tons of stories that are going to become more interesting as time goes on. Will the Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin turn it around enough to make the playoffs? Will Ilya Bryzgalov keep up his recent, dominant play? Will Detroit’s dominance on their own ice (winning 23 straight, a new NHL record) continue in the playoffs? Can Sidney Crosby actually play for an extended period of time again? (Ed. note – why no discussion on the greatness of Stan Smyl?)
-My Final Four? I do numerous brackets and pools, but I’ll go with Baylor, Mizzou, Cuse, and UNC. Nothing crazy. I’m more pumped for the CBI tournament. The best teams go there. Yes, that was sarcasm.
NFL Gimpy is a longtime football fan who offers his take on the NFL each week. He isn’t a scout. He isn’t an X’s and O’s guy (although he can spell that). Gimpy offers a fan’s perspective on things. ScoutsNotebook is at its best when you hear from a variety of people and can see things from different perspectives. Gimpy is part of that.