Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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04 Mar 2008

Audibles at the Free Agency Newswire

compiled by Doug Farrar

Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing.

Each off-season weekend, the FO staff doesn't generally send around e-mails, but we thought it might be interesting to put together the first Audibles for free agency. We've listed some of the bigger free agent and trade acquisitions below. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might show up later on in other columns, or in comments for PFP 2008, or in some other place.

...And they're off!

Mike Tanier: This has been one of the most active first weekends that I have seen in years. Usually, there are one or two splashy moves, a few minor moves, and lots of guys flying from city to city getting wined and dined. This year, general managers left the gates fast and kept the pace up for a few days. There have been more trades and more big-name releases than I'm used to.

Vince Verhei: The last two years have seen the development of the Hutchinson/Clements Theory of free agency: If a player signs a contract that seems exorbitant for his position, that dollar amount will be commonplace by the next off-season. In 2006 the Seahawks refused to franchise Steve Hutchinson because they did not want to commit a big chunk of their cap space to a guard. Hutchinson ended up signing with Minnesota for about $7 million a year, which seemed outrageous -- until the 2007 offseason, when it seems like every guard with experience was getting that kind of money. In hindsight, the Seahawks would have gotten a bargain for Hutchinson at the franchise rate.

Last off-season, Nate Clements signed a gigantic $10 million per year contract with San Francisco. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth -- until this year, when Oakland wasted no time in franchising Nnamdi Asomugha, and Seattle didn't hesitate to franchise Marcus Trufant. When the Patriots couldn't franchise Asante Samuel again, the Eagles were more than happy to sign him to a big-money deal. Now next year, DeAngelo Hall will certainly be wanting a $10 million per year contract. That's made him trade bait in Atlanta, but nobody wants to make the trade. They know that if they don't give him the money he wants, someone else will, and they'll lose him after his first year.

Anytime anyone says, "You can't pay X million dollars for position Y," well, yes, you can. And in the long run, you're probably better off doing that, rather than trying to find a cheap replacement.

Ben Riley: Boy, if that doesn't sound like a statement/theory to be explored in the upcoming PFP 2008, then I don't look like the guy from "Flight of the Conchords." I think Vince is definitely on to something here -- and salary inflation may be even more acute this year, with the specter of an uncapped year looming large in the not-too-distant future.

Bill Barnwell: I just want to confirm that Ben is, in fact, a dead ringer for Jumaine.

We see the same thing in baseball, too, with regards to wild salaries becoming the norm by the time the contract's up -- Manny Ramirez and A.J. Burnett come to mind as guys whose contracts seemed absurd at the time and even at the beginning of their deals, but at the end, became seemingly worth the money they were paid relative to the rest of the field. It's the advantage of having new revenue streams come into the respective leagues and theoretically wiser general managers. The NFL cap has risen dramatically the last two years. I don't think it can continue to do so, although I'm not an economist. If its growth rate flattens out with a new CBA, you're going to have guys being paid in the tail ends of these 2007 and 2008 free agency deals who just aren't worth it, or you'll see guys who are being cut and we'll have years where teams will have 20 percent of their caps tied up in dead money.

Doug Farrar: I'm just remembering all those GMs at the Combine who went up to the podiums and talked about the increase in the salary cap, and how the draft would become more and more important very soon as free agency sort of faded away as a real difference-maker. Three days and something like $750 million in total signed or exchanged contract value since the opening bell, I think the status quo is pretty safe. People are going to spend that money, even if it involves Tommy Kelly somehow receiving the gross national product of Uzbekistan.

Atlanta Falcons

RB Michael Turner (Six years, $34.5 million, $15 million guaranteed)

Doug Farrar: At least two things make this strange to me: First, why would you throw that much coin on a running back when you have needs literally everywhere and you're going to be running a two-back rotation? Are they planning to trade Jerious Norwood? Second, why would you do it in a year that has a running back draft class so stacked, you've got virtual locks to produce in the NFL through the second round?

Marshall Faulk made an interesting point during the NFL Network's Combine coverage when he was talking about Felix Jones. He said that sometimes, when a good back is running behind a great one on the roster, defenses tend to soften up a bit -- when a LaDainian Tomlinson or Darren McFadden leaves the game, a Michael Turner or Felix Jones might benefit from defenses feeling like they can exhale a bit. He called it the "breather effect," and without knowing too much about Turner specifically, I wonder if that's been a factor in his career.

Sean McCormick: But your second question answers your first. It's also a tremendous draft for the lines, and while there are good backs to be had, it would represent a tremendous opportunity cost for Atlanta to pass on quality bodies in the trenches to take a back. If the Falcons want to take Glenn Dorsey at three, they could still get a franchise-caliber left tackle prospect in the second round. Alternately, they may feel that they need to add a quarterback, either Matt Ryan early or Brian Brohm or Chad Henne in the second, and that they can't afford to add both a running back and a quarterback early in the draft at the expense of the lines. Either way, I think there's a strong argument for taking Turner, who is a) somewhat of a proven commodity, and b) doesn't have a lot of tread on his tires.

It does mean that we can definitively cross Darren McFadden off as an option to Atlanta.

Vince Verhei: I just charted the Falcons game against Indianapolis. That team does, in fact, need help everywhere -- which is why signing Turner makes sense. Like Sean said, now that the running back position is taken care of, they're free to take the best lineman available, on either side of the ball. Had they taken McFadden, that investment in draft picks and cash would have been wasted; by the time they rebuilt the offensive line into something reasonable, his career would be on the downswing. Now they can take a year or two to build up a line first, then recruit skill position guys to function behind them. Unless they think Matt Ryan is a particularly great prospect, better than the top quarterback in a typical draft.

Now they can run Norwood and Turner behind a rebuilt line to sell a ticket or two this year, and they'll be a better team in 2009 and beyond.

Doug Farrar: I'm just not sold. We've talked a bit about the fact that in football, value is systemic as much as it is positional; unlike in baseball, where a center fielder is pretty much worth in Cincinnati what he is in Baltimore. He's here or there with all the five tools, but the value of the skill-set is pretty much transferable. The Braves don't swap out their third basemen in specific situations; the Falcons do with their running backs.

There don't seem to be trends in other sports in which specific positions can be filled depending on schematic concerns -- at least not as much as it seems to be with running backs in specific blocking schemes or cornerbacks in certain zone schemes. Yes, I know I'm really oversimplifying to make a point, and I know someone's going to come up with an example of how you can use players differently in a triangle offense or something, but you get my meaning.

Ted Thompson recently talked about how instructive it was that as soon as the Packers built their line back up to a certain standard with the Gibbs/Boston College system, a guy like Ryan Grant, who was acquired with the anticipation that he would be a key role-player on special teams, could thrive. We don't know that the running back position is taken care of in Atlanta. We know that the Falcons have signed a really good running back in small sample size to add to the one they already had in a larger sample size. If new line coach Paul Boudreau is able to undo what Bobby Petrino did with his line scheme, maybe the running game is solved. The ALY/10+yard numbers would seem to lead one to that conclusion, but we don't know just yet.

What really stuns me is that this is a contract for a one-back team with a bunch of needs already filled. I'm not able to make the leap that "because X is taken care of, Y is easier to solve." I tend to think the other way in that if Y isn't addressed to some degree before the fact, you can do whatever you want with X and it won't matter nearly as much. I know it's a totally dysfunctional team under extreme construction and they have to start somewhere. I just don't understand how they thought this was the place.

Mike Tanier: I am not high on the Turner deal, because I think of running backs as the final piece of a rebuilding puzzle, not a main piece. But of course, we're critiquing one move in what could be a series of moves for the Falcons. Any time a bad team acquires a real blue chip at any position is a good thing, even if it isn't a "need" position for them. I am just not sure Turner is a blue chip.

David Lewin: I like the Turner signing. Turner is a quality back who will be a nice compliment to Norwood. He's not a franchise player, but they got him for very reasonable money. People don't seem to realize that 6 years/$35 million (probably 5 years/$26 million that he'll ever see) is not a lot of money anymore. A lot of teams are going to end up with cap space. The Falcons had to spend it somewhere.

Sean McCormick: I like the Turner signing, too. I'll like it less if Atlanta takes Matt Ryan at three instead of Jake Long or Glenn Dorsey, but I would echo everything David said.

Buffalo Bills

DT Marcus Stroud (Acquired from Jacksonville for third- and fifth-round draft picks)

Bill Barnwell: I love, love, love the Bills getting Marcus Stroud at the low end of his value. How much would Stroud have cost this time last year? A first? Now, they can put Stroud and McCargo on the interior of their line and actually allow guys like Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel to rush the passer without being engulfed by guards.

Chicago Bears

LB Lance Briggs (Six years, $36 million, $13 million guaranteed)

Sean McCormick: Well, after losing Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad, Chicago has two tight ends who can catch the ball, and if they can generate a consistent running game, they don't necessarily need to trot out a bunch of high-caliber receivers. They certainly don't need Berrian for the contract he ended up signing. They can wait until the market calms down, sign someone like D.J. Hackett or Bryant Johnson, draft a receiver (this draft has no No. 1 receivers, but it has a plethora of No. 2 guys) and take it from there. They won't be threatening Indianapolis or anything, but they could get by.

Bill Barnwell: Lance Briggs overplayed his leverage and the Bears, if they really didn't think he was that special, did the same thing. In the end, Chicago got to keep him at what looks like a bargain rate, but it just doesn't look like teams feel the need to shell out all that much for linebackers at the moment.

Cleveland Browns

DT Shaun Rogers (Traded to Cleveland for CB and FO binky Leigh Bodden and a 2008 third-round draft choice)
WR Donte' Stallworth (Seven years, $35 million, $10 million guaranteed)
QB Derek Anderson (Three years, $24 million, $14.5 million guaranteed)

Mike Tanier: Hey MDS, thoughts on the Rogers deal in Detroit?

Michael David Smith: I like Rogers and am sorry to see him go, but I also like Bodden and a third-round pick, so I'm cool with the trade. If Bodden returns to his old form and the Lions get someone good with the third-rounder, we'll be able to say that Millen has made two good moves in his Detroit tenure, and both of them were trades with the Browns.

Bill Barnwell: The move that really puzzled me was Donte' Stallworth to the Browns. They've already got a downfield target in Braylon Edwards, who catches 52 percent of the passes thrown to him. They have Kellen Winslow, a downfield target who caught 55 percent of the passes thrown to him. They have an aging possession receiver in Joe Jurevicius who, at 33, seems like the more obvious candidate to be replaced.

Instead, they've brought in Stallworth, who -- ignore his catch rate in the greatest pass offense of the DVOA era -- is a downfield receiver who catches 52 to 55 percent of the passes thrown to him. Either he's moving into a possession role, which is a poor fit for his skill-set, or Edwards is moving into a possession role, which is also a poor fit for his skill-set, or the Browns just paid a receiver a whole lot to do the same things that their current guys already do.

Will Carroll: Isn't this the copycatting nature of the NFL? The Pats did it and dominated, so everyone will be trying to find their four-wide offense? I don't know much about Derek Anderson -- is he clearly a better downfield passer? Is this an Indy-type scheme where you can't double both Edwards and Stallworth AND have a defensive back on Winslow?

Bill Barnwell: That works when you have a couple other things that are more important to the equation, namely someone with the accuracy of Tom Brady (which Anderson does not) and with possession receivers the quality of Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk (which the Browns might have in Jurevicius, but because of age and performance degradation, I don't think they will). Otherwise, you have an offense that picks up 20 yards at a time but stalls out too often as opposed to the Patriots, who could go down 30 yards at a time but then also pick up eight yards with their underneath patterns.

Doug Farrar: Agreed. The Seahawks were able to save their season with a spike in their late-season pass/run ratio and spread formations (essentially giving up on their running game), and without a tight end of note, because Matt Hasselbeck can throw those slants and outs in his sleep and Bobby Engram had his best season to date. The Packers are seen as having this explosive downfield offense, but they led the league in yards after catch. And with all that talk about Randy Moss and the deep pass nobody could stop, Welker would have been the Super Bowl MVP had the Pats won.

Bill Moore: I think that Stallworth last year proved he is much more than a vertical threat. He had his best plays running short routes (slants, curls and screens) and then gaining yards after catch. Last year was Stallworth's best DVOA of the last three. Part of that was the quality of the receiving corps, but I think part of it was how he was used. Last year, he caught 74 passes (62 percent catch rate) for 697 yards, 3 touchdowns, 15.9 DPAR, and 16.2% DVOA. In Philly caught an equal number of passes (or a greater number of attempts) and yards, but was considered much less effective. He was used more predominantly in New Orleans, catching 129 passes for 945 yards and seven touchdowns -- mostly as a vertical threat. However, his DPAR was only modestly better 16.2, and his DVOA was notably worse at 3.8%. With Braylon Edwards being the main target and Jurevicius playing the Welker role and less competition for the No. 2 receiver slot (remember that Jabar Gaffney took a lot of touches away), Stallworth could be a very good fit.

Bill Barnwell: I keep getting the feeling like the Browns should have dealt Derek Anderson when he was at the peak of his value (or, I should say, should deal). We've got 650 or so attempts at the NFL that show him to be a passer who's not particularly accurate, and it's not like he's got the talent of a Donovan McNabb that make him stand out. He was freely available talent this time last year. Does anyone see Anderson being worth more next year at this time than he is this year?

Stuart Fraser: Cleveland's moves don't surprise me, and feel in hindsight like something I should have predicted (I get the feeling I'll be thinking that a lot as the years go by). Savage is an inside-out kind of guy, it's pretty clear he thinks that the offensive and defensive lines are the key to building a winning team, and only once those are sorted do you worry about elsewhere. Hence trading a cornerback (whose long-term fitness he knows an awful lot more about than we do) for a defensive tackle.

He also apparently thinks (and I agree) that this draft is pretty thin on defensive linemen -- the top guys all look great, but once you get down to where the Browns would have been picking, they clearly didn't like the look of who was projected to be left. And thus it was decided to basically skip the draft this year and load up on veteran talent instead - much like New England did last year, only taken to even greater extremes.

The Browns may as well be in "win now" mode. I had them pencilled in as predicted AFC North division champions prior to the start of free agency (because the difference in talent between their roster and Pittsburgh's is much less than the difference between playing the Bills and Broncos as opposed to Patriots and Chargers). I think recent years have shown that anybody who gets into the playoffs has a chance at striking form and winning the Super Bowl, so the gamble is probably worth it.

Like Bill, I think that the Browns might have been better off long-term trading Anderson at what is probably going to be the peak of his value (I don't think he's that good, though some of what's been said about the second half of the season is overstated, because it overlooks things like the blizzard he was playing in in Buffalo), but I doubt this would ever have happened. NFL general managers are pretty conservative, and Savage knows (and has even said) that Anderson's emergence saved his and Romeo Crennel's jobs last year. He also knows that he's not going to be fired for sticking with Anderson, but that if he jettisons Anderson and Quinn stinks, he's back on the hot seat.

Houston Texans

CB Jacques Reeves (Five years, $20 million, $8 million guaranteed)

Bill Barnwell: Here's a weird one. Jacques Reeves: Five years, $20 million from the Texans, who expect him to start and replace an injured Dunta Robinson. I mean, Reeves was slightly better this year, sure. But in all the Cowboys games I saw this year, I saw a replacement-level cornerback. No better, no worse.

Aaron Schatz: Jacques Reeves isn't that bad. He's not a replacement-level cornerback, he's an average-level cornerback. That's higher than replacement level. He was The Human Target because teams felt confident that he was not as good as Terrance Newman, but his charting numbers are pretty middle-of-the-pack.

Bill Barnwell: Middle of the pack with an awesome pass rush.

Aaron Schatz: In fact, I think Reeves is exactly the kind of player the Texans need, although I'm not sure I would pay the going price for experienced average cornerbacks. They have four burgeoning defensive superstars: Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Amobi Okoye, and Dunta Robinson once he gets healthy. Like I wrote in the Houston chapter last year, this could definitely be one of those defenses that suddenly takes a colossal leap forward as soon as the young guns get some experience and the Texans upgrade the other defenders from poor to average. Reeves is the kind of player who helps do that.

Ben Riley: I'm with those who think Jacques Reeves was a good signing for Houston. And I think at some point we all need to sit down and discuss what constitutes a "shutdown" corner in the NFL. Apart from Champ Bailey a couple of years ago, who would people put on the list? Asante Samuel, Rashead Mathis, Marcus Trufant, DeAngelo Hall -- seems like we (myself included) are always describing these guys as "gamblers," so either there's a list of true "shutdown corners" that I'm not privy to, or else we need to rethink our expectations for the position.

Bill Barnwell: Whoa, whoa, whoa, Hiphopopotamus. There's a big difference between Jacques Reeves and a guy who is good, but not a shutdown corner. I see Jacques Reeves being a guy teams will specifically gear their offenses to go after this year, all year. There's a difference between having a solid starter and being that guy. The only true shutdown corner I can think of in the league at the moment is Nnamdi Asomugha.

Aaron Schatz: ...and Champ Bailey, when Denver quits playing so much zone.

Minnesota Vikings

WR Bernard Berrian (Six years, $42 million, $16 million guaranteed)

Mike Tanier: The Berrian deal seems like a bad move. He's a sidelines-to-hashmarks deep threat, and the Vikings had guys (like Sidney Rice) who could develop into the same type of player. He doesn't fit as a No. 1 receiver in their system. I guess the logic is that they are going to run the ball 30 times per game and want receivers who can block (Berrian is an OK blocker) and get deep twice per game.

By far the biggest move so far has been the Thomas Tapeh signing in Minnesota. It really changed the balance of power in the NFC North.

Aaron Schatz: The thing about the Berrian deal is what MDS pointed out at Fanhouse -- who is left to catch passes in Chicago? You really have to wonder about the management of that team at this point. Yes, the defense is good, and the defense improved significantly over the course of the season; I believe they were second in WEI DVOA by the end. So that defense is going to go out with an offense that features Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton handing off to Cedric Benson and throwing to Devin Hester and fill in the blank? And I thought Jim Schwartz and the Titans defense had it bad.

Come to think of it, the Titans and Bears play this season. Has there ever been a game in NFL history where both offenses had negative net yardage?

Ben Riley: I don't think Bernard Berrian is worth what he's been paid, but I disagree that the Vikings should wait for Sydney Rice or any other receiver to "develop." The poor fans in Minnesota have been waiting for a receiver to emerge from the shadow of Moss for most of the 21st century, and I think Berrian will be a good fit in the offense. Remember, Berrian is the reason that Rex Grossman could look like an effective NFL starter at times. Somewhere, Tarvaris Jackson is rubbing his hands together and murmuring, "Oh, goody."

New Orleans Saints

DB Randall Gay (Four years, $17.6 million, $6.4 million guaranteed)

Bill Barnwell: I am amused by the Saints. Can't get Asante Samuel? How about Randall Gay? He's just as good, right?

Bill Moore: I wouldn't say Gay is "just as good," but he is a quality second cornerback.

Bill Barnwell: I was being facetious. Then again, Gay > Hole in Zone > Jason David, so there are worse decisions they could've made. Personally, I'd be concerned about Gay's ability to stay healthy, since he didn't in New England.

New York Giants

DB Sammy Knight (Three years, $5.15 million, $1.25 million guaranteed, signed after this discussion took place)

Bill Barnwell: Of the Giants' losses, I would best describe Kawika Mitchell as "eminently replaceable." The guy looked like he was about to cry in Week 2 against Green Bay, and although he looked pretty stout against the run come playoff time, the fact that no linemen were getting to the second level to take him on is a huge part of that equation. That's Gerris Wilkinson's spot to lose next year, although I really would've liked to have seen the Giants make a run for Briggs, who's exactly what they need on defense -- a linebacker who can form some semblance of coverage.

Losing Gibril Wilson hurts more, especially in a draft that's pretty thin on safeties. It always seemed like he was hurt or not 100 percent, so the Giants will probably find at least a healthier player to replace him, but I think talent-wise, they're dropping off some.

Sean McCormick: I'd love to know what the Giants plan to do at safety, as their depth chart looks like a wasteland at the moment. Maybe they think they can slide R.W. McQuarters over? Barring that, I don't see a way they have a competent safety, much less two, by the time the season rolls around. They'll probably be in position to draft Kenny Phillips if they want him, but Phillips won't be the best player on their board by a long shot. I would be inclined to dial the Raiders up and see if they're still interested in moving Michael Huff.

New York Jets

G Alan Faneca (Five years, $40 million, $21 million guaranteed)
G Damien Woody (Five years, $25 million, $11 million guaranteed)
LB Calvin Pace (Six years, $42 million, $22 million guaranteed)
DT Kris Jenkins (Acquired from Caroline for third- and fifth-round draft picks)

Sean McCormick: The Jets have basically gone out and done exactly what their fan base wanted them to do, and I'm still trying to decide if that's a good thing or not. Look, there is no question that the Jets needed to upgrade their left guard spot, as it was the single biggest factor in their offensive collapse this year. But there is upgrade and then there is signing the best -- and most expensive -- left guard on the market in order to fix your problem. It's very difficult to find statistics to quantify the impact an offensive lineman is having, but with that caveat, Pittsburgh only averaged 3.73 ALY on their runs between the guards, which was significantly worse than the Jets' 4.12 mark. I know Faneca pulls effectively, but the Steelers were only marginally better at running to the right side than New York was, and they were one of only two offensive lines with a higher adjusted sack rate than the Jets. So whatever Faneca's presence was doing to improve the Steeler line isn't coming through in the statistics. There was also some concern that he mailed it in last season in response to Russ Grimm not being given a shot at the head coaching job.

But let's assume for the moment that he will play at a high level for, at a bare minimum, two or three years. Is he worth the money? Probably. The key is the impact that he's going to have on D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. Both players have shown flashes of elite talent in their first two years in the league, but they've also struggled to compensate for subpar play around them. So paying Faneca could result in the team getting their money's worth out of the left tackle and center spots as well. At the end of the day, this strikes me as the kind of luxury signing you can make when you de-emphasize the financial importance of the quarterback position. By passing on Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler two years ago in favor of Kellen Clemens, it meant that the team would be committing second-round dollars to the quarterback spot, which opens up a lot of money to make upgrades elsewhere.

More generally, I'd note that there seems to be a real talent influx headed into the AFC East -- or rather, everywhere save New England. The Dolphins and Jets have been the two headliners, and I don't think either team is done adding players yet, but Marcus Stroud is a top talent, and adding him to a Bills defense that will have a lot of guys returning from injury could make for a much better unit. I'm not saying the Patriots are in trouble just yet -- until someone from the Trent Edwards/John Beck/Kellen Clemens group emerges (or Chad Pennington returns to form), the Patriots have a decided advantage over the rest of the division. But it seems unlikely that the AFC East is going to continue to be a cakewalk.

Aaron Schatz: OK now, explain to me again why Pete Kendall was so anxious to get the hell out of dodge a year ago? The Jets wouldn't pay a declining veteran guard, lost him, and so now they've made up for it by ... paying a declining veteran guard even more than they would have paid the first declining veteran guard? Sean quoted the ALY numbers, and I can tell you from watching Steelers games that, subjectively, I don't think Faneca is still playing at a Pro Bowl level. Good, sure, but the Pro Bowl selections are getting a bit silly.

Sean McCormick: It looks like the Jets traded Dewayne Robertson to the Bengals for fourth- and fifth-round picks. It should open up a ton more cap room, as Robertson was due $11 million this year, but it's somewhat less than the market had established for defensive tackles. I like this move for the Bengals. Robertson is a solid citizen, he comes to camp in shape and he plays hard. He would be better off with a run stuffer along side him to free him up to penetrate, but it's a start.

Bill Barnwell: I don't really get the Jets dealing Robertson for a 4 and a 5. I mean, the book on Robertson is that he's too small to play the nose in a 3-4, but that he could probably be an effective end. Now that you have Kris Jenkins, why deal Robertson?

Sean McCormick: The Jets thinking was pretty simple: They wanted to free up $11 million in cap space and recoup the picks they lost in trading for Jenkins. As much as Robertson was out of place as a nose-tackle, at 6-feet-1 he is also less than ideal as a 3-4 end. He had no incentive to renegotiate his cap number down because he's going to make more as a 4-3 tackle than he would have as a 3-4 end, anyway.

They could have made it work, but I suspect the team will be happier allocating that money towards guys who fit the system better (think Calvin Pace) and towards extending Kerry Rhodes, who is due for a monster contract.

Philadelphia Eagles

CB Asante Samuel (Six years, $57 million, $32 million in the first three years)
DE Chris Clemons (Six years, financial terms unavailable)

Mike Tanier: As an Eagles fan, I am thrilled about Asante. I like the idea of moving Sheldon Brown to safety better than I like the idea of flipping Lito Sheppard for a draft pick or a player. Clemons is a nice little pickup for the pass rush package. If this is a push to get back into contention in a short window (sure looks like that), then I want to see more, more, more. If not a big-name receiver, then how about some special teams professionals to make that unit a strength again?

Bill Barnwell: The Eagles bringing in Chris Clemons is a nice depth move, like Tanier said. They need to bring in an end or two and they'll spot him properly so that he gets to try and run around Flozell Adams and Chris Samuels when Trent Cole is being double-teamed on third downs next year.

Bill Moore: Mike, I've watched Samuel since his rookie year. Be prepared, because he needs safety support. He is a gambler. Frankly, his interceptions have clouded the fact that he is NOT a shutdown corner. He is a route jumper. He showed a lot of potential in his second year, but really regressed in his third season (a season that I thought he would break out). When the season was over, I tried to figure out why he struggled. I concluded that it was weak safety help. Both Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson (back when Wilson was actually a stud safety) were out a significant portion of the year.

Mike Tanier: The Eagles could use a good gambler, and he's a great gambler. I really liked what I saw of him the past two years.

Bill Moore: Yes, don't get me wrong, he is good –- just not as good as he thinks he is. Brian Dawkins can be his Rodney Harrison, but with better coverage skills.

Mike Tanier: Dawkins has one foot in retirement. If Sheldon moves to free safety, Dawkins slides into a nickel linebacker type role.

San Francisco 49ers

DE Justin Smith (Six years, $45 million, $20 million guaranteed)
Lots of other guys cheap

Ben Riley: There are some confusing moves being made by new 49ers GM Scot McCloughan. On the offensive line, Justin Smiley is gone and Larry Allen has retired (or seems to have, anyway), so who is going to block for Frank Gore and, er, DeShaun Foster? McCloughan used to work for the Seahawks and I'm starting to wonder if Steve Hutchinson's blood is on his hands rather than Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell. (Editor's note: Actually, that blunder has the name of Mike Reinfeldt, former Seahawks cap guru and current Titans GM, all over it.) Also, the Niners starting wide receivers as of this moment appear to be Isaac Bruce and Darrell Jackson. That sounds great if you're playing fantasy football circa 2001 but not so great if you are playing real football in 2008. And Lance Briggs just resigned with the Bears. Not an impressive start to the McCloughan regime.

Bill Moore: I don't know if your "er" comment was a knock against Foster or the blocking for him. DeShaun Foster in a backup/change of pace role is a shrewd move especially since he was pretty cheap. As for blocking for him, you don't need a lead blocker since nobody knows where he is exactly running. I say that with tongue in cheek, but it's partly true. You might as well employ another decoy on the field, because a lead blocker for him is a wasted body.

Bill Barnwell: I'm actually very high on the 49ers bringing in DeShaun Foster for little money as a backup. Now they just need to knock him out, tear his ACL, and get him ready for 2009, and we'll have a north-south runner who follows his blockers to team up with Frank Gore. Oh, wait, we can't do that? Take that back.

Mike Tanier: The Niners just seem like they are making bulk signings so far. NFL Network put up a graphic listing all of the signings and it just looked like a 6-for-1 sale at your local Safeway, or when you buy six records for a quarter from Columbia Warehouse. Yeah, Justin Smith can be very good and Ike Bruce has some mileage left, but Allen Rossum and J.T. O'Sullivan are spare parts. Dontarrious Thomas and Foster can play some, but do any of these guys move the Niners around the standings?

Bill Barnwell: What does J.T. O'Sullivan do that makes him so appetizing to teams as their third quarterback? The 49ers are his eighth team. What does his agent put in the J.T. O'Sullivan PowerPoint presentation he sends to teams? "Never dropped a clipboard. Cleans up after himself. Excellent hair. Will not try and have sex with the starting quarterback's wife."?!?

Mike Tanier: Regarding J.T. O'Sullivan, many teams look for a No. 3 who can prepare for Sunday without taking many practice reps, can be a kind of camp arm in the summertime, and is a good coach's guy. I would bet word of mouth spreads on guys like him, which is why you sometimes see veteran third stringers hang around for nine years and throw ten passes, like Todd Collins.

Speaking of Collins, I think re-signing him to back up Rodgers was a smart move. The Derek Anderson re-signing I am of two minds on, but he earned the right to enter 2008 as a starter, another year on the bench won't hurt Quinn, and the Browns are making a serious bid for contention. I don't think he's outstanding, but he's the right quarterback for them for this year.

Tennessee Titans

TE Alge Crumpler (Twoyears, $5 million, $1 million guaranteed)

Mike Tanier: The Titans just signed Alge Crumpler. Guess they are going to a four-TE, no-WR offense.

Doug Farrar: And the Falcons signed Ben Hartsock. So, I guess the formation call is "U Crumpler" now?

Vince Verhei: I do love that Hartsock-Crumpler "trade." Falcons lose Crumpler, who is probably atop the second tier of tight ends in the league, and replace him with Hartsock, who set career highs against New England in 2006 with 2 catches for 28 yards. In 23 career games, he has yet to score a touchdown. Yeah, that's a slight downgrade.

Aaron Schatz: No, no, no four-TE offense. The Titans tight ends suck. Ben Troupe is gone and the only person who is really high on Bo Scaife is Vince Young himself, because they are Longhorn buddies. Crumpler is the starter there, and Scaife will be in for two-TE sets, and that's all.

Sean McCormick: With Tennessee adding nothing but tight ends, you think it would have behooved them to hang onto Norm Chow, who used the tight end a lot in his offense, no? Instead they sacked him for disparaging Vince Young and replaced him with Mike Heimerdinger, who's more of a four-wide type. I guess that's the kind of pressure that having a struggling young franchise quarterback will put on an organization.

Who else could help?

Bill Barnwell: Some targets left in free agency I think are going to end up being good deals for whoever nabs them:

  • C John Wade: He was pretty competent in Tampa all year, and he's going to be 33, but there are way worse guys to have as your center/sixth lineman in the way that the Giants use Grey Ruegamer.
  • DT Larry Tripplett: Tripplett was the starting defensive tackle or at least a heavy rotation guy for a team that was second in power runs defensively and 11th in stuffs despite having a tiny defensive line surrounding him. I bet Indy goes back after him to replace Booger McFarland and rotate in with Ed Johnson.
  • S Gerald Sensabaugh: Not sure what he was tendered at (second round?), but for a team that needs a safety, he's 24, he's coming off of a labrum injury that I can't imagine is going to be chronic, and he had beat out Donovin Darius for the starting job when he got hurt. He's also a beast on special teams.
  • RB Mewelde Moore: Now that Moore's finally free from the Minnesota depth chart, shouldn't one of the teams that was desperate to trade for him actually go out and sign him? I get the feeling that the difference between Moore's ability and Michael Turner's isn't anywhere near what the difference in price between the two is going to be. (Ed. Note: Moore signed a three-year deal with the Steelers.)
  • QB Byron Leftwich: Sign him. Put him out there in a situation where he's healthy and knows the playbook. If you don't think he's a starter, fine, but are there really 32 better backups in the league than him? No way.
  • LB Niko Koutouvides: He seems like an obvious Patriots guy to me, a special teams player who can fill in here and there as a linebacker as long as you use him properly. Seattle is a team that's actually up against the cap, so even a decent offer for him would seem to work. (Ed. Note: Signed with the Broncos, and he really is a great special-teams guy.)
  • DT William Joseph: Joseph had this really weird up-and-down career with the Giants where he was a bust, then he was a stud defensive tackle, then he was a bust again, and then he was competent and had really good numbers in our system, and then he was a bust again and couldn't get on the field. At worst, he's a rotation guy for most teams. I think he could start somewhere and surprise people if anyone actually had enough faith in him.
  • WR D.J. Hackett: Obvious.
  • LB Rosevelt Colvin: Again, another "buy low" guy. Sure, he's coming off his second big injury in four years, but he's only 30 and broke his foot last year. That's not really a chronic injury.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 04 Mar 2008

96 comments, Last at 20 Mar 2008, 9:23am by Cosmos

Comments

1
by dbt (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 2:53pm

Oh god please let the Bears pick up DJ Hackett.

2
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 3:04pm

Folks, you can't evaluate free agent signings without considering how much of the guaranteed cash will likely be written off in the first year of the deal, thus meaning there will be little to no impact on roster flexibility in future years. Unless you think it is important to be concerned about how large an estate a billionaire will leave to his heirs, a team doesn't deserve kudos for not using cap room this year, because it doesn't necessarily carry over to future years. A player will either be a definite improvement over what was previously on the roster, or he will not. His guaranteed cash will either significantly impinge future roster flexibility, or it will not. There was either a player(s) available for similar guaranteed cash who would have improved the roster more, or there was not. Those are the only questions that matter when considering whether a free agent signing was good or not. Saying "player x isn't worth the money" is a meaningless statement, unless it is specifically adressing those three considerations.

3
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 3:15pm

To add on, that is what was obviously wrong with the "You can't pay Hutchinson that much money" school of thought, even if one did not think it likely that the cap would be going up significantly in future years. The Vikings cap situation was such that that Hutchinson's guaranteed money would have little to no impact on future roster flexibility, because most of the bonus money was a one year write-off, Hutchinson was an obivious significant upgrade over what had become a real problem for the team, and there weren't obviously better ways to spend the money. It truly was a no-brainer. Would that the Vikings had been as aggressive last year with Jeff Garcia or Patrick Kearney, but they probably had hopes that Erasmus James would contribute at de. I still can't figure out why they didn't show any interest in Garcia, unless Garcia quietly informed them that it would not be reciprocated.

4
by Daunte Culpepper (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 3:31pm

Guys? I'm available.... I insisted on a one year deal in Oakland so I could capitalize on the demand....

5
by Stereochemistry (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 3:34pm

Comments on the Bucs signing Jeff Faine to replace John Wade? I always come here for my relatively unbiased "big picture" commentary.

6
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 3:49pm

5: It's a great move for them, because they have oodles of cap space and Faine is a very solid player.

7
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:05pm

I didn't think Reeves would even be drafted out of Purdue, and I certainly didn't envision him being given a contract with $8 million guaranteed. Good for him, I suppose, but I don't think the Texans are going to like what they get for that money.

8
by MilkmanDanimal (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:12pm

As someone who lives in the Twin Cities and therefore has to listen to Vikings fans complain a lot, I really don't like the Berrian signing. So they traded a fast guy who dropped a lot of balls (Williamson) and replaced him with a fast guy who doesn't drop quite as many balls?

9
by Ryan (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:21pm

Re: Samuel being a gambler

That's what Lito Sheppard is, too. I consider Brown the consistent one, and Sheppard the one who shows flashes of being better and yet will occasionally completely blow it.

10
by johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:22pm

What no comment on the Dolphins deciding to sign one of the few QBs that manage to under perform their previous QBs from 2007 Or their rather odd decision to trade 2 6th round picks for a 34 year old nose tackle that was injured all last season?

11
by Ted Kerwin (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:22pm

Gerald Sensabaugh, Does he fit for the Giants? William Joseph is solid but not spectacular.

12
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:27pm

Milkman, Berrian had 70 catches. Williamson would need 50 drops to get to 70 catches.

13
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:30pm

Put me in the camp that says that the "shutdown cornerback" is a beast that had been rendered extinct a few years ago with the "point of emphasis" rules that greatly favor receivers. Every CB in the league seems to get beat pretty regularly, and if one CB is largely avoided, it's because the other CB just sucks. Bailey, Samuel, Clements, Mathis, Asomugha, the Green Bay pair, Cromartie, whatever. They all perform admirably in the context of the current rules, but no corner can shut down a receiver on a good offense.

14
by Sean McCormick :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:30pm

Considering the going rate for defensive tackles and Miami's need for bodies, I think the Ferguson trade was a good one. Nose tackles can be at least marginally effective at Ferguson's age, and he comes cheaper than the big name guys that were available- I wouldn't be surprised if he's more effective in the short term than at least one of the bigger name DTs that changed teams. It's the very definition of a stopgap move, but that doesn't make it a bad one.

Signing Josh McCown over Byron Leftwich is a bit more perplexing, though.

15
by andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:32pm

Apparently Marty Booker wants to return to Chicago.

16
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:36pm

Byron Leftwich is a statue with a long wind up. Absent a truly great offensive line, that sort of qb is nonviable in today's NFL.

17
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:51pm

Also, Parcells recently had an experience in trying to get by with a completely immobile qb with a big windup, and it didn't work out with Drew Bledsoe. I think Leftwich's delivery is slower than Bledsoe's was.

Frankly, the Cowboys are nuts if they try to get by with Brad Johnson as Romo's backup for another year.

18
by Sean McCormick :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:56pm

Leftwich put up a DPAR/DVOA rating of 43.5/19.3% in 2005, which isn't very long ago. I think saying he's nonviable overstates things. Put him in Minnesota and I think he would do very well. On the other hand, you can legitimately ask if Lefwtich ends up taking so many hits as a result of his slow release that his performance will inevitably degrade due to the nagging injuries he picks up.

19
by crack (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 4:57pm

I liked the vikes signing Madieu Williams. You have any take on that Will?

20
by AlexSmithJoe (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 5:14pm

Regarding the 49ers' moves: no, none of the moves themselves will move them up in the standings. Having an offensive coordinator who has a clue how to use his personnel just may though. It doesn't matter what else they do; Mike Martz was the team's most notable acquisition this offseason. Whether or not they move up the standings is a question of whether or not you believe he can get significant improvements out of the existing talent on the roster than his predecessor did. I believe he can, so I don't feel the need to be overly critical of the moves themselves.

21
by panthersnbraves (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 5:19pm

The Panthers turn over almost a third of their roster and can only get a left-handed mention about the Kris Jenkins trade?

Then again, since they appear to be intent on signing everyone's Practice squad...

22
by rageon (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 5:32pm

I'm pleased to hear something positive about Niko Koutouvides, as I was completely unfamiliar with him prior to him signing with Denver. The Broncos certainly need plenty of help on special teams. Although I'm really not sure what the problem is at this point, given how terrible they've been for so long. My assumption is that there's an organizational philosophy in place that for some reason prevents decent players from being available for special teams. I don't necessarily think it's coaching, given they've been terrible despite coaching changes on special teams. Here's to hoping this signing helps.

23
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 5:40pm

Regarding Stallworth, I think Bill Moore has it right. Based on the Pats games I saw this year, he seemed to be much more interchangeable with Welker (the possession guy) than with Moss (the downfield guy).

Concerning Anderson, downfield passing is by far the strength of his game. Will he be worth more next year than this year? Well, if he is, it's unlikely they trade him. The Browns figured it was worth the money to improve their certainty about his ultimate performance level.

If Rogers plays to his 2004-2005 form the Bowns will be very happy with that deal. If he plays to his 2006-2007 form the Lions probably got the better end.

24
by Penrose 10,000 (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 5:44pm

Derek Anderson was brilliant in that blizzard game. You could almost smell the swagger.

If real life were Madden, I'd want him on my team.

25
by Boesy (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 5:45pm

To will's note in #2:
It will be interesting to see if that is how the Vikings manage the cap with their [so far 2] big guaranteed money free agents. This has been their method of managing the cap for the last several years [eg. $10MM roster bonus for Winfield vs. signing bonus prorated], however with the state of the collective bargaining agreement, and the inability to recover bonuses, unless they are signing bonuses in the case of bad behaviour, it will be interesting to see if the trend continues. [note: I do understand that Berrian and Williams are viewed as 'high character' guys, and unlikely to require recovery of bonuses]

26
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 5:47pm

Well, sure, Sean that's part of it; if Leftwich isn't playing behind very, very, good pass protection, he's going to get the hell beat out of him. Frankly, I thought Del Rio's decision to go with Garrard over Leftwich was a pretty easy one, and can understand why a personnel guy would be very leery of him, especially if Leftwich has expectations of being a starter. As for Leftwich with the Vikings, I don't think he delivers the ball quickly enough to excel in an offense such as Chidress', nor does he have the mobility to fully use the playbook. Leftwich was better suited for the old Denny Green offense, especially, of course, if Randy Moss was splitting out wide.

Crack, I haven't seen Williams play enough to have an opinion on him. It wouldn't take a lot to be significantly better in pass coverage than the guy he is replacing. Lions fans should be scared that Dwight Smith is seen as an upgrade for their defense.

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 6:06pm

Boesy, a guy with very poor impulse control is unlikely to modify his behavior in response to the abstract prospect of having to give back his bonus at some time in the future. I think a team needs to pay their bonuses out in the manner that best frees cap space in the future, and take that risk. By writing off most of the guaranteed cash in year one, if a guy pulls a Pacman, you can cut the strings with less unexpected bonus acceleration.

28
by Quentin (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 6:19pm

Bill Moore: I don’t know if your “er” comment was a knock against Foster or the blocking for him.

I'd like to be the first to welcome Bill Moore to the sight.

29
by crack (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 6:30pm

What Will speaks of as far as roster bonuses has been around for a while. When the Browns were reborn they wanted to pay as much money as they could as roster bonuses in the first year since they would have a lot of cap space to work with. I think players were wary of it then, not trusting the teams. Now I think they are more likely to take them, since once its earned it is impossible to tie to any other metric. If the person is on the roster they get the money, if they are scheduled soon after signing the risk is non-existent to the player. It also gives the teams flexibility.

I think Arthur Blank would rather have written off Vick's money and been able to cut him without concern for the cap than having to deal with the mess of getting some of the bonus repaid to reduce the cap hit.

30
by andrew a (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 6:42pm

19 - Personnel-wise, I don't know if Madieu Williams is an upgrade over Dwight Smith. Smith had a pretty good year, with a highlight being the game vs the Giants where he got two picks, including the 93 yarder to seal it.

I understand the main reason they ditched Smith was off-field character stuff. It seems ironic that you'd seek to improve in that regards by hiring a Bengal, but I don't know of anything specific with Williams...

31
by Vendark (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 6:48pm

Re: the 49ers and JT O'Sullivan, O'Sullivan was with the Lions last year. He already knows Martz' system. It's not a hard move to figure out.

32
by Arson55 (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 7:02pm

Even though I'm largely a Cowboy fan, I used to have some interest in the Bengals. I always thought Madieu Williams should be in the argument for their best defensive player. I think he'll help out the Vikings a lot. He's a good safety. And I'm pleased that he's joining the Vikings because he goes to another of my favorite non-Cowboy teams (I'm really only a Viking fan because I like the two Williamses. Now I can be an even happier Viking fan because of the three Williamses).

Now, back to my true fanhood. Damn you, Steelers! Damn you, Mewelde Moore! Damn you Cowboys for probably not even trying to sign the guy! He should have been Barber's back-up next year. And he can return punts better than damned Patrick Crayton. Mewelde Moore would have been a great fit. He was a guy I had my eye on since the beginning of the offseason. But, as always, it is not to be (except the Hamlin signing last year; I think that was the only time they signed someone I wanted).

Oh, and as for Jacque Reeves. I'm glad to see someone else state that he is average. So many of my fellow Cowboys fans think he's awful, but I know it isn't the case.

33
by Tom D (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 7:19pm

On Berrian, it sure looked last year like Berrian was trying to save himself for free agency. He was giving up on routes, he wasn't fighting for jump balls, and worst of all he was pathetic in blocking last year. That was after I defended after the 2006 season that he is a really good blocker for his size, which he is, when he tries. Now that he has his deal, he might go back to giving 100%, as a Bears fan I sure hope he doesn't.

Re 15:
I would love Marty Booker to come back, I'm sure he's still good enough to be a #2.

34
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 7:22pm

Actually, if you have salary cap space you can tie it up in LTBE bonuses and save it for next year. The Vikings did that last year and have the most cap space in the NFL this year. The article detailing this is in my name.

35
by Quentin (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 7:35pm

#34

Right, but players aren't going to sign a contract that doesn't include guaranteed money. If you can afford to pay most of it upfront, it's better to do so so that you have plenty of space going in the future. It also might make it more likely that you'll be able to keep the player for the entirety of their contract, rather than being forced to cut him before the last year or two. Of course, it might also work against you. That signing bonus might be a distant memory by year 4 or so, and the player might become unhappy by what he perceives as being underpaid.

36
by elisha (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 7:40pm

William Joseph put up good number in "our system"?! Barnwell, you went from not even watching Giants games to being part of the organization and all it took was a super bowl win.

James Butler and Michael Johnson will be the starting safeties by the middle of next season and the Giants D will be fine.

37
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 7:40pm

Yeah, I misspoke mactbone, but at some point you need to use it, and unless a team is substantially harming flexibility in future years, or the guy they are adding isn't really better than what they had, or could have had, it's hard to say that they have spent too much on a guy.

38
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 7:46pm

andrew, I would disagree that Dwight Smith had a good year in pass defense, although he was good in run support.

39
by johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 7:59pm

Thx Sean. Interesting take. With the Dolphins stop gapping the interior line, line backer and may be QB I'm starting to lean towards OT being their top draft pick. It's the clear whole on the present roster.

40
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 8:05pm

Completely with Bill about Derek Anderson. I really thought the Browns should have tried to deal him, replace him with Quinn, and maybe nab a first rounder for him. I think Quinn with the Browns offensive talent (One of the best O-lines in the league, a top TE, a top WR), would have done just as well.

I think Anderson still has accuracy issues, and it'll just become a larger issue for the Browns, especially as Anderson's value diminishes. Snag a good draft pick while he's on the up and reinforce that team.

I'm not a fan of any of these teams, but I kind of wanted to see Barber + First Rounder to Miami for #1 overall, and Barber from Miami for Derek Anderson, with the browns opening next year with Marion Barber, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, Donte Stallworth, and Quinn.

41
by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 8:21pm

Adam Schefter of the NFL Network is reporting that the Seahawks and RB T.J. Duckett have agreed on a contract (5-year deal).

Just thought I'd mention it here. I love this signing. This could also mean the end of Alexander.

Solid move by Ruskell and the Hawks FO.

42
by the original sam (sam!) (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 8:56pm

Jacksonville trades for Troy Williamson, trades away Marcus Stroud, signs Cleo Lemon, Drayton Florence and Jerry Porter and... nothing? $26M in guaranteed money paid out by Jax, and nothing, but the Titans get a few paragraphs for Alge Crumpler? *WHINE*

43
by BDC (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 9:46pm

40:

The problem with this is it assumes that the rest of the NFL hasn't spotted his weaknesses, and that we have some sort of unique insight. I think if we can spot that he isn't perhaps as good as he appeared to be, then probably the NFL teams can see that as well. So perhaps his trade value isn't as high as people think it might be.

44
by KnickerBlogger (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 10:35pm

"There don’t seem to be trends in other sports in which specific positions can be filled depending on schematic concerns — at least not as much as it seems to be with running backs in specific blocking schemes or cornerbacks in certain zone schemes. Yes, I know I’m really oversimplifying to make a point, and I know someone’s going to come up with an example of how you can use players differently in a triangle offense or something, but you get my meaning."

Not so much the triangle offense, but certainly the NBA has it's player X is worth more to team A than team B. Larry Hughes in Cleveland and Ben Wallace in Chicago are two prime examples. You could also look at a team like the Warriors where a guy like Matt Barnes is a contributor on a team that features the spread offense and zone defense. Previous to that stop he was released by the Knicks and the Sixers.

But yes your analogy involving the CF was perfect - in baseball there is little drop or affect on team to a player's worth. In the NFL (and the NBA) there is.

45
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 10:38pm

This is the second time Doug Farrar has mentioned the wonderfulness of the RBs in this year's draft. All due respect, but I just don't see it.

46
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 11:06pm

#26
Lions fans are hoping that he is mostly a back-up type with the young guys Alexander and Bullocks starting....if that is Marinelli's plan I do not know, though we still have Kenoy Kennedy to figure out (likely to be cut).

Bodden trade looks good on paper-he just needs to stay healthy and Rogers-though our best DLmen played his way out favor. Of course we now have a big hole at DT to fill (with guys like Chatric Darby and Wyms it looks like right now...ugh).

#45
You don't think its a good RB class? McFadden, Mendenhall, and Stewart are legitimate top 15 guys (everyone's favorite GM Bill Polian I do believe said they are all top 10 talent and said they are four overall who are top 10 talents)...then you got Ray Rice, Felix Jones, Kevin Smith, Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Mike Hart, Steve Slaton-not all of them will be good, but they are solid prospects.

47
by Iknowwhatthatis (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 11:08pm

Um, the real important point here is that Michael Turner is on my keeper league team and he just signed with a team with the worst offensive line in the NFL. This sucks. If anyone can cheer me up please do.

Note that I also have Ryan Grant as a potential keeper--go Aaron Rodgers!

Oh, yeah, I have Laurenace Maroney too. Maybe the Pats will run the ball more next year now that they are paying Randy Moss $9M/year.

48
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 11:16pm

McFadden will likely go too high thanks to Adrian Peterson's rookie seasons, since the two are comparable. I see D-Mac as Top 10, but not Top 5.

Me thinks Stewart will always struggle with injuries, but will be good when healthy. Mendenhall looks like a top 20 guy- good prospect.

then you got Ray Rice, Felix Jones, Kevin Smith, Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Mike Hart, Steve Slaton

Those are big names, but I'm not sold. Hart and Slaton's stocks have plummeted- we're talking second day for both of them. Chris Johnson had a nice career at ECU, fast as hell and could be a nice second rounder, but he's small. Not sold on Jones as a first.

Not a *BAD* batch of RBs, but to me the 2008 Class just doesn't stand out.

49
by langsty (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 11:17pm

really? mendenhall, stewart and mcfadden don't do anything for you?

anyway... re: derek anderson. it's kind of an embarassment of riches situation for Cleveland. i think the agonizing about not getting max value for derek anderson RIGHT NOW is a bit short-sighted - there WILL be an opportunity to trade one of them, and they'll get good-if-not-ideal value for him (whoever it is). but in the long-term, having two promising young QBs on the team for as long as you can keep them is the best scenario for Cleveland, and i think that's exactly what they're gonna try and do. DA is a third year player and is only 24 years old - the book isn't written on him yet, just as it obviously isn't with Quinn.

50
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 03/04/2008 - 11:34pm

49- The 2008 RB Class doesn't strike me as being all that much better than the 2007, 2006, 2005, etc classes. That doesn't mean I don't like McFadden, Stewart, etc.

And Ray Rice is WAY overrated. Big market, big hype guy that does not have NFL speed.

51
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 12:06am

I also must respectfully take issue with:

We see the same thing in baseball, too, with regards to wild salaries becoming the norm by the time the contract’s up — Manny Ramirez and A.J. Burnett come to mind as guys whose contracts seemed absurd at the time and even at the beginning of their deals, but at the end, became seemingly worth the money they were paid relative to the rest of the field.

Well, yeah. Ramirez and Burkett continued to play at a high level.

In Manny's case, the Red Sox got what they paid for with no unfortunate surprises- as in, a sharp decline in productivity into Manny's 30's.

Unless you include last year when Manny was not a $20 M player. Still, that contract was a boom for Boston.

52
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 12:41am

Nothing screams big market like Rutgers (I know, the New York area, but Rice is a legitimate good player and I thought his speed question was answered in the combines).

The thing is that the RB classes are going to be loaded every year it looks like-the next McFadden/Peterson can be Beanie Wells or Knowshon Moreno or Joe McKnight or insert whatever other college RB who looks to be top 10 NFL draft material.

and it can be worse-you can be a Raiders fan (holy cow the Javon Walker deal is insane!!!)

53
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 1:52am

I've been arguing throughout this thread that it is really hard to credibly assert that a team has overpaid a free agent, without detailed knowledge of the team's cap situation, plus present and future opportunity costs. Having said that, 16 million guaranteed, and 27 million over three years, to a guy with large question marks pertaining to the health of his knees seems just a bit much. Who knows? Maybe the Raiders were close enough to the salary floor that they may as well have blown the dough on somebody, but I'd think they would rather do so on a guy who didn't have a significant history of knee problems. Then again, Al Davis may be having trouble attracting people even with big checks these days.

54
by mrh (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 1:53am

A lot is made of Anderson's comp %. That's fine and all, but doesn't account for Y/A, another significant stat, and opponent. What about DVOA?

He's 24. Let's compare 4 QBs:

QB A, age 26: DVOA 5.6%, Y/A 6.9, cmp 63.9%
QB B, age 25: DVOA 6.8%, Y/A 6.3, cmp 62.1%
QB C, age 24: DVOA -0.4%, Y/A 6.9, cmp 60.2%
QB D, age 24: DVOA 15.5%, Y/A 7.2, cmp 56.5%

DPAR tells about the same tale as DVOA.

Why would you think QB D is less likely to develop into a top QB than those other guys? Is there Lewin-type research that NFL cmp % at age 24 is a better indicator of future performance than Y/A or DVOA or DPAR? If there is, please point it out. Otherwise, I think these young-ish QBs all look about the same and I'll tell you QBs A-C turned out pretty good.

QB D is Anderson. QBs A-C are actually all the same player as he aged, some other 6th rd pick in his 1st three seasons as a starter.

55
by mrh (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 2:04am

The Walker deal strikes me as Davis wanting to stick it to Shanahan even though that makes no sense.

Is raiderjoe actually Al Davis? Have you ever seen the two of them together?

55
by Jon (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 2:04am

Sean, NY's safeties don't look that bad. Michael Johnson looked pretty strong in a small sample size. James Butler did NOT look well, but he was playing hurt most of the year.

I actually agree with Bill about Joseph, which doesn't happen too often. He was phenomenal in 2005. Hasn't done all that much otherwise, but it can't hurt taking a chance on him for the veteran minimum. He needed a change of scenery for sure.

#45 is really off base about Rice. He's not a super burner, but he did run a 4.44. He does basically everything else you want well. IF you think Rice is overrated because he plays in Piscataway, you need a major reality check.

And this IS a great RB class - McFadden, Stewart, Mendenhall, Jones, Rice, Smith, Chris Johnson, Slaton, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte. Good lord. My personal favorites are Johnson and Forte, even though I've cheered for Rice the past 3 years.

57
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 3:36am

I'm surprised that people don't think more of Michael Johnson as a starting safety for the Giants. As a rookie, he was already the fastest and best tackler among their safeties. Experience and recognition are the only questions about him. However, I'm not sure Butler or Johnson can play (or is well suited to do so) the free safety position.

I've seen Sammy Knight get burnt enough the past few years to know I don't want him starting even ONE game for the Giants.

Mitchell is easily replaceable (IMO) with the very fast Gerris Wilkinson moving into his spot. Wilkinson has played very well in his few opportunities. Torbor is really nothing.

58
by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 3:49am

I should point out that "our system" is referring to the advanced metrics that appear in FO's book, not the Giants defensive system. Feel free to find a different way to say I'm a bandwagon fan, though. Thanks!

59
by iapetus (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 5:41am

"QB Byron Leftwich: Sign him. Put him out there in a situation WHERE HE'S HEALTHY and knows the playbook."

I think I have identified the one fatal flaw in your scheme, Mr Barnwell.

60
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 6:09am

I'm with you sam.
What saddens me is to lose Wilford. I would have prefer to keep him instead of Matt Jones.
It's going to be a battle royal in trainnig camps this summer for the Jags at the WR position :
Jerry Porter, Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, Dennis Northcutt, Troy Williamson, Mike Walker (if healthy), John Broussard and Charles Sharon. And any new draftee...

61
by fyo (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 7:42am

Rex Hadnot is looking for a job.

62
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 9:56am

Re: 54

The most common and perhaps most compelling argument you hear against Anderson is that the quality of the offensive players around him inflated his numbers/performance. The fact that the Browns offense couldn't find the end zone with a GPS (for at least two years) prior to Anderson becoming the starter certainly works against this.

I'm not sure the Browns are any more certain of Anderson's ultimate performance than the rest of us. But they really didn't want to run the risk of letting him go and seeing him become a star for someone else. It appears likely the best they would have been able to get for Anderson was late 1st and late 3rd round picks. Any interested team that had an earlier draft slot would have worked a deal with someone drafting near the bottom.

63
by shake n bake (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 10:15am

Reggie Nelson is unimpressed by Kevin 11's unimpressedness.

(link in name if you don't get it)

64
by Alex (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 10:24am

Is there Lewin-type research that NFL cmp % at age 24 is a better indicator of future performance than Y/A or DVOA or DPAR?

Not that I know of, but there is the original Lewin research regarding college completion %. While Anderson started plenty of games in college, he only completed 50.7% of his passes. That's bad. That's very bad. That's worse-than-Tavaris-Jackson bad. Add in the fact that he wasn't even drafted in the first 2 rounds, despite NFL scouts having plenty of gametape to see whether he was really an NFL talent, and it's not looking good.

Think about it this way, how many QBs can you find that had a college completion % as low as his who succeeded in the NFL? How many QBs had 35+ college starts, weren't taken in the first two rounds of the draft, and still had successful NFL careers? It's a very short list.

65
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 10:52am

"The most common and perhaps most compelling argument you hear against Anderson is that the quality of the offensive players around him inflated his numbers/performance. The fact that the Browns offense couldn’t find the end zone with a GPS (for at least two years) prior to Anderson becoming the starter certainly works against this."

Hang on a minute. It's hardly as if Anderson was the only notable personnel change that pressaged the turnaround. The Browns added two elite offensive linemen, including a left tackle, and made a major upgrade at running back. Also, 1st round wide receivers often break out in their third seasons (KUBIAK has a special boost for it, I believe), so substantial improvement from Braylon Edwards regardless of who was throwing him the ball should have been expected. Boy, Charlie Frye must really suck.

Also, I believe (though I don't have my PFPs with me to check) that one of Lewin's ancillary findings was that it really is pretty rare for a player's completion percentage to improve markedly over the course of his career, other than in cases where he changed system to one that emphasised shorter, higher percentage passes. Accuracy is a major determiner of completion percentage, and I think it's quite possible that it's just not something that can be taught/learned.

66
by Feagles - King of Punts (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 11:41am

Somewhat unrelated, but it's so weird to see Niko Koutouvides come up on stuff like this. He grew up near my hometown, we're around the same age, and he dated one of my friends. I never thought a football player in my area would be in the NFL, let alone doing reasonably well.

67
by mrh (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 11:53am

Not that I know of, but there is the original Lewin research regarding college completion %. While Anderson started plenty of games in college, he only completed 50.7% of his passes. That’s bad. That’s very bad. That’s worse-than-Tavaris-Jackson bad. Add in the fact that he wasn’t even drafted in the first 2 rounds, despite NFL scouts having plenty of gametape to see whether he was really an NFL talent, and it’s not looking good.

Yes, I'm aware of the Lewin college research, that's why I said "Lewin-type" NFL research. Since Anderson was a late-round pick, he doesn't fit the system regardless of his comp %. Anderson's comp % in college did improve all four years, although it was never great.

Also, I believe (though I don’t have my PFPs with me to check) that one of Lewin’s ancillary findings was that it really is pretty rare for a player’s completion percentage to improve markedly over the course of his career, other than in cases where he changed system to one that emphasised shorter, higher percentage passes. Accuracy is a major determiner of completion percentage, and I think it’s quite possible that it’s just not something that can be taught/learned.

Yeah, I don't have PFP w/me either. That's credible. Here's a cherry-picked list of 24 year old qbs who had a 56.5% +/- 2% comp % in significant playing time (300+ att).

Aikman, 1990, 56.6% - career 61.5%
Brees, 2003, 57.6% - career 63.7%
Cunningham, 1987, 54.9% - career 56.6%
Elway, 1984, 56.3% - career 56.9%
Esiason, 1985, 58.2% - career 57.0%
McNabb, 2000, 58.0% - career 58.7%

Brees and Aikman had good imporvmeent on their accuracy over the next seveal seasons (Aikman's declined again at the end of his career). The other guys all stayed relatively low in completion percentage. So it may be there is limited scope to improve Anderson's accuracy. But these QBs all had good to great careers - which is my point. High comp % is not the only path to the HoF or at least a very good career as an NFL QB.

Here's the entire list of 24 year olds who fit the 56.5% +/- 2% and 300+ attempt criteria:

Aikman, Troy; Anderson, Derek; Batch, Charlie; Brees, Drew; Brown, Dave; Collins, Kerry; Cunningham, Randall; Dilfer, Trent; Elway, John; Esiason, Boomer; Griese, Brian; Klingler, David; Kramer, Tommy; Long, Chuck; McNabb, Donovan; Pelleur, Steve; Vick, Michael; Whitehurst, David

There's plent of ugly comparisons in there too. My point is not that Anderson is the next Brees or the next Whitehurst or even Trent Dilfer. My point is that he could be any of those players. I don't think a three-year contract for $24M is that great a risk to keep a guy like that.

68
by Ugly Mark Rypien (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 12:52pm

Stallworth was a giant tease. In the second fourth of the season he showed signs of becoming the John Taylor to Randy's Jerry Rice, but in the end he couldn't hold off Jabar Gaffney. I think Stallworth is great after the catch, but he doesn't run great routes and he doesn't make adjustments to the holes in the zone. That's why he is best used as a chuck-it-deep guy. The Pats already had that dude in Moss, so Stallworth became redundant. I think the same thing will happen to him in Cleveland. I think he would be better off being the deep guy on a team whose number one receiver is a possession guy.

69
by pete (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 1:15pm

Does it bother anyone that the Jets paid 40 million dollars this season to clean up a mistake that last year would have cost them 1 million dollars (the raise Kendall wanted)?

70
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 1:17pm

Interesting. I do think it's worth noting that with the exceptions of Brees and McNabb, those players are not exactly what you'd call recent. Last year, 61.2% of all NFL pass attempts were completed. In 1990 it was 56%. 54.8% in 1987, same in 1985, 56.4 in 1984. In other words, Aikman, Cunningham, Elway and Esiason were all league average or better in terms of completion percentage for the seasons you mentioned, where Anderson was almost 5 points below it. Even in 2000 it was 58.2% - only 0.2% better than McNabb. Brees in 2003 was a full 1.2% below the league average of 58.8%.

It may be that we should discount the league average for 2007 a little, as it was 1.4% higher than that for any other year I can find, and that may have been somewhat fueled by the Patriots, but then again the trend is upwards and there were no great defenses in 2007.

Regardless, the point is that I'm not sure any of those cases are great comparisons for Anderson, and I am sure that the older guys are bad ones. McNabb's low completion percentage may be more indicative of the lousiness of his receiving corps than of inaccuracy on his part: in 2004, his one full year playing with a quality target, he completed 64% of his passes. Brees's improvement may give some cause for hope, but his college career suggested it was possible in the first place in a way that Anderson's does not, and again it was precipitated by the addition (well, emergence) of a hall of fame calibre pass-catcher, not to mention substantial offensive line improvement.

Anderson already has a great supporting cast, so any improvement in his accuracy will likely have to come from within. I'd be willing to bet that it won't, and that Anderson neither is nor ever will be anything more than a competent NFL starter in a terrific situation. That's still not bad going for a 6th round pick, but it's not worth $8m a year. The best thing the Browns can realistically hope he turns into, in my opinion, is Jake Plummer. I think Quinn may very well have the ability to be significantly better than that.

71
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 1:49pm

Re; 65

No, Anderson certainly wasn't the only change in the Browns offense (you didn't include what I regard as the biggest change - at OC). And it's easy in hindsight to attribute much of his production to those other changes. But before the 2007 season I don't recall many folks staking their reputations on the Browns being an offensive powerhouse. Lewis was widely regarded as the waste of a roster spot. Edwards 2007 PFP projections were certainly less than what he actually achieved. It's also reasonable to speculate that Anderson helped the OL and the running game look as good as they did. Of course, it's impossible to sort out completely.

Net I'm saying the same thing that mrh says in #67. It's not unreasonable to spend what Cleveland spent to get a bit greater certainty on this guy's career trajectory.

By the way, although he was younger than 24, you can certainly include P Manning in that list of guys whose accuracy improved from his first year. His rookie year completion % was 56.7% in 575 attempts. Claiming we know with certainty what Anderson is capable of because he's throw 600 NFL passes seems overly confident to me.

72
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 3:07pm

But again, that probably makes Manning's era-adjusted completion percentage significantly better than Anderson's, and he was playing on a very bad team (as evidenced by his ludicrous attempts total) as a rookie. It's just not analagous.

73
by lagfish (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 3:19pm

69
It doesn't bother me but I am a dolphins fan. I am not crying about the Pace signing either, kind of glad he didn't choose to play in Mia.

74
by JKL (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 3:39pm

Last year, 61.2% of all NFL pass attempts were completed. In 1990 it was 56%. 54.8% in 1987, same in 1985, 56.4 in 1984. In other words, Aikman, Cunningham, Elway and Esiason were all league average or better in terms of completion percentage for the seasons you mentioned, where Anderson was almost 5 points below it. Even in 2000 it was 58.2% - only 0.2% better than McNabb. Brees in 2003 was a full 1.2% below the league average of 58.8%.

I pulled every season by a 24 year old who entered the league since 1978, who met the following criteria:

1) he ended up throwing at least 150 pass attempts in 6 or more seasons in his career (plus, added E. Manning); and
2) he threw 150+ pass attempts at age 24, and it was either his first or second season doing so (this excludes guys like Marino, Roethlisberger, and Peyton, who were well into their careers by age 24).

The resulting list has 37 players, ranging from hall of famers like Favre and Brady, to journeymen like Peete and Tomczak, and all points in between. I think a pretty good comp group for Anderson. 6 of them completed more than 60% at age 24 (Brady, Favre, George, Culpepper, Bulger, Montana, and we will be adding Cutler to this list). Those 6 were as likely to regress as improve the next year, mainly because of well, regression to the mean.

The other 31, some of whom are listed by mrh in post 67, averaged a completion percentage of 53.5% at age 24. If you want to make era adjustments, you can say that Anderson is about average to slightly above average compared to this group as a whole. That same group averaged a completion percentage of 57.0% the next season, so a 3.5% increase. I'd put that as my over/under on Anderson's change in comp% next year.

Among guys who had below average comp % at age 24 (but were better in other areas) and would have pretty good careers--Doug Williams, Testaverde, Beuerlein, Everett, Chris Miller, McNair, Cunningham, and we can probably add Eli Manning.

So, I cannot agree that QBs tend to not improve in comp% as their careers go on. Most of them I am looking at did. If he is still below league average at age 27, then yeah, he's probably the next Jay Schroeder. I would put him at a career path in line with Jim Everett, Drew Bledsoe, and Eli Manning--other moderate comp% guys, who had high td% and decent YPA.

Here are some posts I have written on related topics:

In Search of the Next Brady or Bulger
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=347

Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=413

Similarity Scores for the New 2007 Quarterbacks
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=467

Anderson fits the profile of the late round QB successes of the last 25 years, height of 6'3" or taller, perhaps a little on the skinny side, from a BCS caliber school that was bowl caliber and that ran a pro style offense, and most importantly, like all the others, was at least average in his first true opportunity to start.

Now, if I had my choice, I would take the high comp%, high YPA, decent td% guy (check out Cutler's comps). But secondarily, Anderson, who we might classify as a moderate to below average comp%, good YPA, high TD%, above average int%, has lots of good comps. Based on my research, it is highly unlikely that Anderson is a fluke that we don't hear from by 2010. Is he the next Schroeder or Brooks, or the next Everett, Esiason, Bledsoe or Eli, well, that we will find out.

75
by Joseph (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 4:52pm

To add to the NO Saints signings:
Bobby McCray, DE (from Jax)
Jonathan Vilma, LB (trade from Jets)
They resigned the following FA:
WR Devery Henderson, LB Mark Simoneau, RB Aaron Stecker, WR David Patton,
G Jamar Nesbit, C Jonathan Goodwin,
DT Brain Young. As a John Clayton article on ESPN stated, sometimes the best move is to resign your own players. None of the players they resigned is earth-shattering (say like the Pats resigning Moss), but Goodwin is the only one who did not start (as far as I know) last year at some point. It is likely that a couple of these will become back-ups, but that is a good indicator of overall team depth--your back-ups have been starters before.
Their only FA loss of note is C Jeff Faine--who was given a monster contract by TB--the Saints were not going to match it.
My point--the Saints are back in playoff contention for next year.

76
by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 4:58pm

Well, I'm intrigued to see how Anderson turns out. I wasn't implying -- or at least I wasn't trying to -- imply that he's a bust, but simply that his value wouldn't get any higher than it is right now. If he has another year similar to what he did this year, would his value really be much higher than it is now? On the flipside, if you decide to keep Anderson and deal Quinn, would he be more valuable after spending another year on the bench?

Also, I didn't notice it until now, but man, is that a breakable Browns receiving corps.

77
by mrh (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 5:19pm

Thanks for the work JKL. I've read those PFR blog posts, and although I wasn't thinking of them when I wrote my posts above, they may have influenced my comments so you deserve a footnote credit.

78
by billvv (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 5:20pm

#69. No, I'd dump any whinners, including the one whinning now. And, I'd take the hit just to make the point!

79
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 5:53pm

Re: 74

That's an impressive amount of work.

Re: 76

I think you can make a good argument that the trade value of the guy you don't keep long term is at it's peak now. It's tougher to make the argument that you know right now (with confidence) which guy you want to trade. The deal with Anderson allows them to collect more data upon which to make that decision.

Making the right call on which guy to keep is more important than maxing the trade value of the guy you dump.

80
by Alex (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 5:54pm

Yes, I’m aware of the Lewin college research, that’s why I said “Lewin-type” NFL research. Since Anderson was a late-round pick, he doesn’t fit the system regardless of his comp %.

While Lewin's system only gives specific projections for QBs drafted in the first 2 rounds, it can help us reach more general conclusions about late round picks. Specifically, the fact that college starts are so highly correlated with NFL success shows us that NFL scouts make more accurate evaluations of QBs when they have more game film to analyze. So, they usually won't pick a bad QB in the first 2 rounds if he's started a lot of games in college, and they almost never completely miss a good QB who has started a lot of games in college. Unless you can find a late-round QB that started 35+ games in college and had a successful NFL career, I think my point stands in that respect. Scouts had plenty of film of Anderson to analyze, so if he were really a good QB, he probably would've been drafted in the first two rounds. Note that of all the recent late round QBs to be successful in the NFL, Marc Bulger (IIRC) had the most starts in college, with 30.

As for completion %, it really isn't necessary to use Lewin's system in this case. Anderson's completion % was terrible in college. 50.7%. I don't know if there's ever been a successful NFL QB with a completion % that low, at least not in the modern era, and there have been plenty who tried. I think Jake Plummer is about the closest it gets, and he had a 55.4% completion % in college, which is significantly better than Anderson's. Maybe I'm missing a few, but honestly, can you find one?

81
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 6:04pm

I think a big concern for me is that Anderson followed the Grossman path of excelling against bad defenses and then being average (or worse) against good defenses. Since he faces the NFC East and AFC South next year, and since I consider all 8 teams to have average or above average defenses, I expect him to really show us how good he is-- which is to say, I expect him to be completely average.

Breakdown of Anderson last year...

Bad defense, Comp/Att, %, TD:INT
CIN, 20/33, 60.6, 5:1
MIA, 18/25, 72, 3:1
STL, 18/25, 72, 3:0
HOU, 24/35, 68.6, 2:1
NYJ, 16/29, 55.2, 2:1
CIN, 29/48, 60.4, 2:4
SF, 11/20, 55, 1:1
Total, 136/215, 63, 18:9

Decent defense
BAL, 10/18, 55.6, 2:1
SEA, 29/48, 60.4, 0:1
BAL, 24/38, 63.2, 0:1
ARI, 21/41, 51.2, 2:2
BUF, SNOW GAME
Total, 84/135, 58, 4:5

Good defense
PIT, 13/28, 46.4, 1:1
OAK, 18/37, 48.6, 1:2
NE, 22/43, 51.2, 2:3
PIT, 16/35, 45.7, 3:0
Total, 69/143, 48, 7:6

82
by Riceloft (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 6:13pm

Anyone who watched Anderson knows he has a few shortcomings that he hasn't been able to shake. They were obvious during his 3.5 starts in 2006, they were obvious last year, and judging by his college numbers, I'd wager they were obvious then.

1. His short game sucks. I can't tell you how many slants, RB swings and other short routes that he just completely missed on.

2. He thinks he's Brett Favre, and every so often thinks he can throw into a downfield window between 3 defenders without getting it picked. Well, he can't.

3. This is related to #1, but his accuracy is poor. While Edwards and Winslow each had their share of dumbfounding drops on good throws(Winslow's mostly came after he hurt his shoulder), Anderson often put the ball in terrible places, or just missed the receiver all together. This was most obvious during the 2nd Cinnci game, where he threw 4 INTs. Don't give me BS about the wind, at least 2 I recall were short throws that went nowhere near the receiver. I try to block that game out, so I dont remember the other 2 that well.

Is it possible that Anderson will overcome these issues? Sure, anything is. Given what I've seen, which includes 18 full starts and at least 4 other quarters of play (not including preseason), I dont believe he will.

This doesn't mean Quinn will be better, but you dont trade a 1st and 2nd rounder to never find out.

83
by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 9:49pm

Is it possible that Lewin's projection system also creates a Lewin Paradox? The system assumes that a QB picked in rounds 1 & 2 based on scouting & workouts; in other words, the system depends on the system not existing (or, at least, not being known). But what if a clever GM out-clevers himself, and adjusts his scouting report based partly on a Lewin projection?

Suppose a team has 8 QBs on its draft board, and 2 remain when its turn comes late in the 2nd round. QB A is the higher-rated based on scouting, but he doesn't project well under Lewin's system. QB B was rated lower, but projects better under Lewin's system if he's picked in the 2nd round. In this scenario, the prospect goes from being a high 3rd round pick instead of a low 2nd round pick - not because his stock went up, but because someone else's stock correctly goes down under the projection.

84
by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 9:51pm

Or, in keeping with the theme of another thread...

No fair! You changed the outcome by observing it!

85
by panthersnbraves (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 10:00pm

Will there be an overall review on how teams did?

One of the needs the Panthers had was a DE - well they went out and got one. Someone who avarages a sack a year, and can't even start for the Raiders. Someone explain this to me....

86
by Tom D (not verified) :: Wed, 03/05/2008 - 10:05pm

Re 83:

Perhaps, or maybe there are just no more QB busts?

87
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 1:16am

#83: If you buy the theory that Lewin's observables (completion percentage/games started) are due to selection bias, then yes, that's exactly what would happen.

I'm not sure it's entirely true, though. The games started correlation is almost certainly selection bias. I don't know about completion percentage. That seems like a talent selector.

88
by Shawn (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 9:00am

Calling Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow deep threats because of their 2007 catch rate probably doesn't do justice to the FO disclaimer that at present it is not possible to separate WR performance from that of the QB.

Winslow had a 75% catch rate in '06 which makes him look more like a possession receiver (which makes sense considering his position). Edwards may have had a lower-than-ideal catch rate, but his overall game matches more the Larry Fitzgerald model (a WR with occasional route-running or concentration lapses, but with the physical talent to dominate all over the field).

If Edwards and Winslow are defined more as what I believe they truly are, elite all around receivers, then adding Stallworth as a deep threat rounds out the equation with Jurevicius as the possession guy. The real question with Stallworth is not if he's redundant with parts the Browns already have, but if he can be any good when not thrown to by McNabb or Brady.

89
by mrh (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 12:34pm

I think a big concern for me is that Anderson followed the Grossman path of excelling against bad defenses and then being average (or worse) against good defenses.

Thanks for the breakdown of Anderson vs. various defenses. I know Grossman had a similar pattern in 2006. However, DPAR and DVOA should take that into account.

Grossman 2006: 4.1 DPAR and -11.5% DVOA, 31st and 33rd respectively. By definition, a below average, replacement level qb. One of the worst starters in the league.

Anderson 2007: 65.3 DPAR and 15.5% DVOA, 11th and 15th. Roughly an average to above average QB by those measures despite a low comp %.

Assuming a tougher schedule in 2008, Anderson's conventional stats may take a hit. Again, we'd expect DPAR/DVOA to give us a better picture than that.

I think it's interesting that Anderson had a higher completion % in his 1st full year starting in the NFL than he did any year in college. That can be interpreted as he can be expected to regress to his mean ability reflected in his college comp %; that he has improved; or that better coaching/surrounding talent has elevated his game. I lean toward "improved" and think comp % is being weighted too much in some of the critcisms. But there is plenty of good evidence against my position.

90
by Jim (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 3:05pm

Ben Riley likes to rock the party!

91
by *Legion* (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 7:10am

There's a reason the Jaguars traded Marcus Stroud despite having more than enough cap room to keep him. His ankle problems aren't going away. He was so great because he was an incredibly athletic big man. He can't move anymore. He violated the league's steroid policy in trying to rehab, and even after the midseason 4 game "time out" for that, he still came back, couldn't play, and finished the season on IR. The microfracture surgery didn't fix the problem. It's an awful turn for a great career, but it is what it is.

The Jags got a steal by offloading Stroud and taking home 2 draft picks in return.

92
by JJthetraveler (not verified) :: Sun, 03/09/2008 - 12:10am

I am pleasantly surprised by the Seahawks signing of free agents. Any comments?

93
by ian (not verified) :: Sun, 03/09/2008 - 5:51pm

re 69:

it does bother me to some degree how petty the management was in the kendall dispute.

but at the same time, you're point distorts the situation a bit. first, faneca is younger and a better player than kendall. second, it didn't cost 40 mil instead of 1 million. i don't know all the exact figures, but the actual cost is simply the difference in the guaranteed money that kendall would have gotten and what faneca will get. to say that kendall would have only been paid 1 million during the time the jets will pay faneca 40 million is ridiculous.

still, i agree with the overall tenor of your point, and what's worse than the monetary loss is the loss of the 2007 season.

94
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 03/10/2008 - 1:50pm

I think the Browns should have and should still trade Anderson (first big payment is in April, I think), because he's really not that good in my opinion. He's not by any means an elite QB or even a good one. Maybe above average.

What's crazy is he's making very close to what Moss is making, even though Moss was the most valuable player last year, in my opinion. Moss makes good QBs look great.

Mike Tanier:

Speaking of Collins, I think re-signing him to back up Rodgers was a smart move.

I think you mean backing up Campbell.

95
by Phil (not verified) :: Sun, 03/16/2008 - 12:23pm

The Hutchinson-Clements theory is a silly name for what is going on in FA. "The dumb ass explosion of FA dollars due to expanding capsize and owners acting like 15 year old boys in a porno shop" is much more accurate.

96
by Cosmos (not verified) :: Thu, 03/20/2008 - 9:23am

Could Doug post a link to this "Ted Thompson Gibbs/Boston College system" he spoke of. What is this system?