Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

20 Jul 2011

ESPN: Five Teams in Danger in Free Agency

The five teams that have the most to lose in free agency. Who has a lot to do after the lockout is over?

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 20 Jul 2011

18 comments, Last at 25 Jul 2011, 4:53pm by tuluse

Comments

1
by QQ (not verified) :: Wed, 07/20/2011 - 7:46pm

Not really sure the Panthers have much to lose considering they are already the worst team in football, hard to do worse than that

2
by trill :: Thu, 07/21/2011 - 10:59am

Having the worst record =/= having the worst team. BUF, DET, STL have a lot less talent/depth on their roster than CAR.

3
by Tim R :: Thu, 07/21/2011 - 12:38pm

I think I'd rather have the Lions or Rams rosters than the Panthers at the moment. Arizona and Buffalo maybe not.

4
by trill :: Thu, 07/21/2011 - 1:16pm

Probably depends on your opinion of the most recent draft class. IMO Panthers are a lot closer to contention than people realize; there was serious malaise last year because Fox and his staff knew they were goners. Still, they've got a very good offensive line and J. Stewart is a top-15 RB; if they can get even slightly below-average production out of the passing game and re-sign all their contributors on D, I could see them getting 6-8 wins.

Seriously.

5
by Dean :: Thu, 07/21/2011 - 3:20pm

That may be so, but it still wouldn't put them as more talented than the Rams.

6
by trill :: Thu, 07/21/2011 - 3:36pm

I dunno. The Rams have a very promising QB, a little depth at DL, and... what, exactly? Secondary and LB's are totally bereft of talent aside from Laurinitas, who I'd rate as a league-average LB whose stats benefit from the fact that someone has to make tackles. WR and RB are just as depleted as the defensive secondary, and though they've got decent bookends on OL they're soft in the middle.

Long and Hall had a really good year last year, Bradford is a lead-pipe lock to succeed assuming he stays healthy, but Jackson is out of gas, there's nobody behind him on the depth chart, and they've got a seriously motley crew at WR. QB is the hardest position to fill and they've done that, and I think they're a really well-coached squad on the way up. 6-10, with six games against NFCW and four against AFCW? They're in the right division to win with their roster, that's for sure.

9
by justanothersteve :: Sat, 07/23/2011 - 12:50am

The Rams have Bradford, two very good young OTs, and Stephen Jackson, who probably has about 2-3 productive years left but isn't out of gas yet. They also have several average WRs and all the best ones got hurt last year. On defense, they have a couple very good DLs, their #1 pick is a boom-or-bust pick as much as Cam Newton, and two decent corners. Their safeties suck and their LBs save Laurinitis aren't much better. But that's why they're still not a .500 team (though they could win the division because the NFC West may be the worst division in major pro sports). Even without Bradford, I'd say the Rams have more talent than the Panthers. I'd still put them in the bottom 25% of talent, but they are closer to making that next 25% than the Panthers or Bills.

10
by Dean :: Mon, 07/25/2011 - 11:00am

In an average division, the Rams would be around .500. In the West, I can see them going 10-6.

They're not without holes, but those holes are a lot fewere than you realize. Certainly few enough that they could fill the overwhelming majority of them in free agency without crippling their future.

The Panthers, on the other hand, if they played in an average division, have the look of a 6-10 team. Add in having to play New Orleans and Atlanta (and to a lesser extent, Tampa), and lets just say I'll stay away from the kool aid.

7
by tuluse :: Thu, 07/21/2011 - 4:39pm

I only saw one game of the Panthers and it was against the Bears. They couldn't stop an offense that consisted entirely of Todd Collins missing receivers and Matt Forte running to the outside. They somehow let Forte run for 166 yards on 22 attempts.

if they can get even slightly below-average production out of the passing game

I don't see that happening.

11
by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2011 - 2:01pm

"J. Stewart is a top-15 RB"

Not to rain on the parade, but that assessment would make him squarely average in league with 32 teams. When having somebody worthy of a C grade is cause for optimism, you know there will be plenty of empty seats on the bandwagon.

12
by trill :: Mon, 07/25/2011 - 2:30pm

Er, your math is kinda fuzzy there. You're assuming that the top 32 RBs happen to be the starting RB for each team. Which is not the case, as we can see from teams like Dallas, New Orleans, San Diego, and New York - some teams have two starting-caliber RB's, while others (Arizona and Denver, for example) have none.

Top 15 is decidedly better than "league average" or C-grade. All I'm saying is that if you made a list of all NFL backs who get significant carries (minimum 10-15 touches a game), you'd have more than 32 backs and Stew Beef would be in the top 15, or right below the elite guys (AP, MJD, CJ etc). With Carolina's line blocking for him, that's half of a good offense right there.

14
by tuluse :: Mon, 07/25/2011 - 2:58pm

With Carolina's line blocking for him, that's half of a good offense right there.

If you consider the running game to be half an offense in the modern NFL. I have to disagree with that.

15
by trill :: Mon, 07/25/2011 - 3:48pm

Whether it's half or 25% or whatever, it's certainly a valuable asset, especially to a team with a rookie QB. Plenty of teams in the recent past have succeeded with great defense, good run game and a limited QB.

16
by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2011 - 4:01pm

Too bad they don't have a great defense. They were 18th in total defense last year. They could improve significantly and be nowhere close to great.

13
by tuluse :: Mon, 07/25/2011 - 2:57pm

There are about 96 running backs in the NFL, not 32.

17
by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2011 - 4:06pm

32 start at tailback. You can argue with some validity that there backups better than Stewart...but that won't exactly help the argument that he's a top 15 back. Regardless, that's a very slim ray of sunshine for a team stuck under a cloud.

18
by tuluse :: Mon, 07/25/2011 - 4:53pm

Last year there were 47 running backs who got 100 or more carries. Does it really matter who "starts" if another player is getting just as much playing time?

Further, my point was that there are 96 running backs (give or take) in the NFL, so if you are giving the 15th best one a "C" you are an especially hard grader.

8
by trill :: Fri, 07/22/2011 - 8:37pm

One team that's not on the list but probably should be is ATL. A couple of their OL starters and Brent Grimes are scheduled to hit free agency. No doubt they'll re-sign Grimes, who was quite effective last year, but how's the right side of their line gonna look without Tyson Clabo or Harvey Dahl? Not a large number of guys, but important ones nonetheless.

New Orleans also has Carl Nicks, Jonathan Goodwin, and Jermon Bushrod to consider retaining. Hopefully they let Charles Brown step into the LT role and keep the two inside guys.

San Diego should be more worried about A.J. Smith's dickish reputation than any particular guys they might lose, though going into 2011 without Eric Weddle, Mike Tolbert, Darren Sproles, Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Jacques Cesaire, or a combination thereof sounds rather daunting.