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» OFI: SEC Surprises

In an opening week where even the elite teams in college football looked mortal, the SEC had two big surprises in Texas A&M and Georgia defeating their South Carolinian opponents by big scores.

09 Mar 2006

Four Downs: AFC East

by Aaron Schatz

(Note: Sorry for releasing this so late. I was waiting for the CBA decision to be decided so I didn't have to constantly write "if a new CBA, if not a new CBA." Then the CBA negotiations dragged on ... and on ... and on ... Anyway, we'll start the second round of Four Downs in a couple of weeks once we have free agent movement to write about.)

Buffalo Bills

Adventures in Self-Delusion

There is a little-known NFL rule stating that teams must waive a veteran starter for each year a newly-hired general manager has been collecting Social Security. So please welcome 80-year-old Marv Levy back to Buffalo, and say goodbye to defensive tackle Sam Adams, tight end Mark Campbell, and safety Lawyer Milloy.

What about veteran wide receiver Eric Moulds? Moulds did not see eye-to-eye with the previous Bills regime, even getting suspended for a game during the 2005 season. His numbers have dropped in recent years and he has an absurdly high cap figure of $10.85 million. The team asked him to take a pay cut, and he refused. The team planned on releasing him and moving on. But the new CBA changes things, and the team could theoretically keep Moulds under the new, higher cap. But why would they want to?

Moulds' "personal advisor," Greg Johnson, told the Buffalo News that "We believe Eric is a top-10 talent at his position and he should be paid that way." Two question: what is a "personal advisor" anyway, and who is this guy trying to fool? Our advanced stats at Football Outsiders have ranked Moulds as a below-average receiver for three straight seasons; check out the 2005 numbers, and you'll find Moulds way down, ranked 56th in DPAR (Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement) out of 89 receivers thrown at least 40 passes. Moulds is no longer the best receiver on his team, let alone one of the top 10 in the entire NFL or even the AFC. (For fun, here's a list of 10 AFC receivers who are clearly better than Moulds, in random order: Hines Ward, Marvin Harrison, Deion Branch, Chad Johnson, Rod Smith, Randy Moss, Chris Chambers, Reggie Wayne, Eddie Kennison, and teammate Lee Evans.)

This team needs to make decisions with the long-term goal of making a Super Bowl, not the short-term goal of patching over the holes and going 8-8. The return of Moulds would be a good sign that the Bills are headed in the wrong direction. The quarterback competition between J.P. Losman and Kelly Holcomb is emblematic of this problem. Losman struggled in his first season, so if the goal is to win now, Holcomb is the clear choice. But it seems ridiculous to spend a first-round pick on a quarterback only to give up on him after half a season, and Losman has to play in order to improve.

Another issue is the offensive line, where the Bills need to find some young linemen and teach them to play together rather than bringing in retreads like Mike Gandy and Bennie Anderson. (The pulling guard is supposed to hit the hole before the running back, Bennie.) The best signings that the Bills could make in free agency would be young offensive linemen with just three or four years of experience who still might have their best years ahead of them. Atlanta free agent left tackle Kevin Shaffer is proven and still just 25 years old. Tackle Tom Ashworth and guard Stephen Neal are slightly older, but both have Super Bowl experience with the rival Patriots. The Bills could also try to steal a restricted free agent like Jacksonville guard Vince Manuwai.

Miami Dolphins

Saban of Miami, meet Pyrrhus of Epiris

When Nick Saban took over as head coach of the Dolphins a year ago, most people expected that it would take two or three years to make the Dolphins winners again. But Saban did not want to wait that long, so while he drafted a lot of young talent to build the team for the future, he also signed a number of veterans to strengthen the team in the short term. It took a while, but in the end Saban got the results he wanted. Six straight wins to end the season gave Miami a 9-7 record and set the Dolphins up as a sleeper Super Bowl contender for 2006.

But those six wins came with a three-million dollar price tag. The Dolphins felt that journeyman quarterback Gus Frerotte gave them the best chance to win those games, and they kept him in the lineup. That didn't just keep the Dolphins from giving experience to younger quarterbacks like Cleo Lemon. It also meant that Frerotte earned $3 million in playing time incentives, giving him a $7 million salary cap number for 2006.

Luckily, San Diego general manager A.J. Smith was nice enough to drop a solution right in Saban's lap. San Diego's misguided decision to let Drew Brees leave as a free agent means that Miami could end up signing one of the league's best young quarterbacks and dropping him right into the team's biggest hole. Brees' shoulder injury requires much less rehabilitation than the knee injuries suffered by Daunte Culpepper and Carson Palmer, and Dr. James Andrews says Brees should be back to full strength by training camp. Minnesota, headed for an acrimonious divorce from Culpepper, will be the strongest competition for Brees. If the Dolphins can convince him to come to Miami, they will dramatically upgrade their offense and be free to divest themselves of Frerotte's killer $7 million cap number. If Brees goes elsewhere, the Dolphins could sign Culpepper or Patrick Ramsey, or grab a quarterback in the second or third round of the draft, but they would probably have to keep Frerotte around as insurance. 

Never Trust Anyone over 30

Conventional wisdom says Miami is a young and hungry team on the way up, but there's one problem with that assessment: this team is not young. This was a team with a veteran defense and a 34-year-old journeyman veteran at quarterback. And talented veterans become declining veterans, and then salary cap casualties. The Dolphins had to get rid of cornerbacks Sam Madison and Reggie Howard, safety Tebucky Jones, and linebacker Junior Seau in order to get under the salary cap.

The good news for the Dolphins is that Madison was the only defensive starter cut, and the team already has a replacement for him in Will Poole, who was supposed to start opposite Madison last year until he lost his sophomore campaign to an ACL injury. The bad news? Athletes usually do not return to full strength until two years after an ACL injury, and the Dolphins have no cornerback depth behind Poole and Travis Daniels. And while the cornerbacks are young, the front seven is old. Yes, players like Jason Taylor and Kevin Carter are still playing well, but talented older players are eventually going to decline. Every member of the projected starting front seven will be over 30 years old when the 2006 season begins except one, second-year linebacker Channing Crowder.

The Dolphins also need to find a new left tackle, since last year's starter Damion McIntosh was also part of the recent cap purge. The Dolphins could stay local by taking Eric Winston out of "The U" with the 16th overall selection in this year's draft, and they are also said to be interested in Cleveland free agent L.J. Shelton.

Or, maybe Saban will just keep adding old guys. Early reports say the Dolphins are talking to 33-year-old ex-Bills defensive tackle Sam Adams and 35-year-old ex-Jets center Kevin Mawae.

New England Patriots

Clutch Frequency

The biggest move made by the Patriots since the season ended was the decision not to place the franchise tag on kicker Adam Vinatieri for a second straight season. The Patriots have offered Vinatieri a contract worth over $2 million annually that would keep him the highest-paid kicker in the NFL, but they were unwilling to pay Vinatieri the one-year, $3 million contract that would have come with the franchise tag.

How much will the Patriots lose if they let Vinatieri go? Vinatieri is one of the better kickers in the league, but he's subject to the same year-to-year inconsistency as other kickers. In fact, Vinatieri has only hit 80 percent of his field goals in two of the past five years. He was worth just 1.7 points more than an average field goal kicker this season, which ranked him below such luminaries as Mike Nugent and Phil Dawson. Our estimates say field position from Vinatieri's kickoffs were worth an additional 5.3 points to the Patriots this year, which ranked seventh in the NFL. But this was the best season of Vinatieri's career for kickoffs, and he's not likely to improve in this area.

Of course, Adam Vinatieri isn't considered the most valuable kicker in the league because of kickoffs or run-of-the-mill field goals. He is considered the most valuable kicker in the league because of his legendary clutch field goals in the 2001 and 2003 postseasons. We can debate whether "clutch field goal kicking ability" exists, but for now, let's assume it does, and Vinatieri is the best clutch field goal kicker in NFL history. How often does this actually matter to the Patriots?

A good definition for a clutch field goal would be a kick to tie the game or give a team the lead near the end of the game, or in overtime. During the 2005 regular season, there were 73 such field goal attempts, either in the final ten minutes of the fourth quarter or in overtime. Did Vinatieri face an abnormal number of clutch field goal opportunities? Actually, no, he had just two such opportunities, both in the final 20 seconds of a tied game: a 43-yard field goal to beat Pittsburgh in Week 3, and a 29-yard field goal to beat Atlanta in Week 5.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Vinatieri's clutch kicking ability makes it impossible for him to miss these kicks. An average kicker will hit a 29-yarder 90 percent of the time and a 43-yarder 70 percent of the time. But a missed kick doesn't lead to a loss in these cases; it leads to overtime, where the Patriots still have a 50-50 shot at a win. So with an average kicker, the Patriots beat Atlanta 95 percent of the time, and beat Pittsburgh 85 percent of the time. They still win both games 81 percent of the time. Is one-fifth of a win worth paying Vinatieri $3 million instead of paying a league-average kicker $1 million and spending the rest of the money on a veteran wide receiver or a veteran backup for defensive tackle Vince Wilfork?

What about the years prior to 2005? Believe it or not, Vinatieri didn't face a single clutch field goal opportunity in 2004. In 2003, he faced only two during the regular season, both against Houston and both in overtime. Yes, that means he missed one of them, so actually Vinatieri isn't perfect in clutch field goal situations. In the Super Bowl, of course, Vinatieri got one more clutch opportunity and hit a field goal at the end of the game to win the Patriots their second championship.

Who will the Patriots sign to replace Vinatieri if he does go elsewhere? It's impossible to imagine Mike Vanderjagt signing with New England, but Ryan Longwell would make a lot of sense as Vinatieri's replacement. He certainly has experience kicking in a winter environment, and while he is coming off his worst season since 2001, there's no reason to believe that this represents an actual change in his ability rather than just the usual random inconsistency of a kicker's career. By the way, based on the definition above, Longwell has faced nine "clutch" field goal opportunities over the past three seasons, and every single one of those nine kicks sailed through the uprights. Todd Peterson of Atlanta might also be a reasonable replacement.

Actually, a divorce between Vinatieri and the Patriots is worse for Vinatieri than it is for the team. There are not a lot of NFL kickers who enjoy endorsement contracts, and certainly there are none with as many local endorsements as Vinatieri. If he retires as a New England Patriot, he can earn money from endorsements and appearance fees not just for the rest of his career but for the rest of his life. He is unlikely to have endorsement deals in Dallas or Minnesota, and while he could still return to New England after retirement, his popularity will be diminished.

Does This Mean Snoop Dogg Won't Hang Around with Us Anymore?

Vinatieri was one of four players left on the Patriots from the Bill Parcells era and Super Bowl XXXI, but he's not the only one who might be finally leaving town. Although the new CBA came with a larger salary cap, the Patriots still chose to waive 12-year veteran linebacker Willie McGinest. The move saved the team $6.8 million for next year's cap, but also cost the Patriots a team leader who is still playing at a high level. McGinest is the all-time NFL leader in postseason sacks and set a new postseason record with 4.5 sacks against the Jaguars in January. He also has a history of making his biggest plays against one of New England's archrivals, the Indianapolis Colts; he stuffed Edgerrin James at the goal line to preserve a New England victory in the 2003 regular season and sacked Peyton Manning in the final seconds of the 2004 season opener, turning an easy game-tying field goal into a longer, failed field goal. The Patriots will try to re-sign McGinest but Cleveland, Dallas, and San Diego are all interested in his services.

Linebacker Tedy Bruschi could be the last remaining link to the 1996 Patriots should Vinatieri, McGinest, and wide receiver Troy Brown all decide to sign elsewhere. However, it's very difficult to see why Brown would leave. He was a free agent last year as well, and made the decision to return to the Patriots rather than go to New Orleans for a larger contract. It's a lesson for Vinatieri: Brown's local endorsement revenue made up the difference between the two salaries, and his family wanted to stay in New England.

The Patriots will want to re-sign Brown not only because he knows the offense and can still play, but also because they need wide receivers badly. Starting wideout David Givens is a free agent and if he wants a big payday, he won't get it from the Patriots. New England has not paid big money to wide receivers during the Belichick era, and the player who may break that trend is not Givens but the other starting receiver, Deion Branch, who is a year away from his own free agency. Branch is the only Patriots wide receiver with at least five 2005 receptions who will still be on the roster when free agency starts, with Givens, Brown, Tim Dwight, and Andre' Davis all becoming free agents. You can expect the Patriots to pick up at least one veteran wideout in free agency. While the name Joe Jurevicius has been linked to the Patriots by many, a similar but cheaper free agent alternative might be Brian Finneran, who has been by far the best receiver in Atlanta for the past three seasons.

The other position the Patriots must address in free agency is linebacker. This is the oldest unit on the team, and needs depth. That is hard to address in the draft, because so few college linebackers have the skills to come into the NFL and play in a 3-4 defensive system. Over the past five years, the Patriots have only drafted one linebacker before the seventh round: Ryan Claridge from UNLV, one of the few colleges to primarily play a 3-4 scheme. The good news for New England is that there are plenty of quality linebackers available in free agency this year, and plenty of veteran depth. Two names to watch for: ILB Jamie Sharper and OLB Ben Leber. Both are veterans with 3-4 experience who will likely come at a lower price because of recent injuries.

The other major free agents for New England are two of the offensive line "metaphors," guard Stephen Neal and right tackle Tom Ashworth. The return of left tackle Matt Light from injury means that second-year lineman Nick Kaczur can shift over to replace either Neal or Ashworth, but the Patriots would prefer to keep at least one of the linemen.

Don't expect the Patriots to make a huge signing this spring, because the team is concerned with its 2007 budget as much as its 2006 budget. Many of the team's cornerstone young players have just one year remaining on their original rookie contracts and will need extensions soon, including Branch, defensive lineman Richard Seymour, center Dan Koppen, and cornerback Asante Samuel.

New York Jets

Remember the (2004) Titans

A year ago, the Jets infamously entered the off-season with the belief that they were a kicker away from the Super Bowl. Instead, they ran into a familiar pattern for the NFL, where a successful veteran team is hit by the effects of aging and the salary cap all at once. A few players get injured and lose effectiveness, and suddenly the team's budget can't swallow the contracts of those players and fit in replacements at the same time.

Last year's debacle was not a one-year aberration, and the Jets are about to enter the same dismal situation that San Francisco and Tennessee have endured over the past two seasons. The Jets began the off-season $26 million over the projected 2006 salary cap, second only to Oakland. They've already had to jettison cornerback Ty Law, backup quarterback Jay Fiedler, and steady fullback Jerald Sowell.

Nowhere will the Jets suffer more than the offensive line, where tackle Jason Fabini and center Kevin Mawae have both been cut. This is an even bigger problem than you might think because the Jets have this year's fourth overall NFL draft selection, and most observers believe they will use it on a quarterback like Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler. Stripping the offensive line of veterans will leave blockers with less talent and less experience. As David Carr and the Houston Texans have learned, this is not really the best situation for the development of a young passer.

The Jets would be better off solidifying their line for years to come with left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, particularly since they are already committed to giving Chad Pennington one more shot at saving a once-promising career derailed by injuries. Pennington and the Jets came to a mutual agreement this week where Pennington forfeited a $3 million roster bonus and dropped his salary from $6 million to $3 million. In return, the Jets guaranteed that lower salary instead of waiving him, and built incentives into his contract that could replace the $6 million he gave up -- if Pennington can come all the way back.

Those incentives mean that the Jets benefit more than most teams from the last-minute CBA and prevention of the uncapped year. Rules of the uncapped year meant that incentives earned in 2006 would count against the 2006 cap, not the 2007 cap, so if Pennington did come back, the Jets would have been forced to continually waive players during the season to keep under the salary cap as Pennington earned each incentive clause.

The other question of the off-season is what will happen to defensive end John Abraham. The Jets placed the franchise tag on Abraham, and recent salary cuts mean they could keep him for another year, even at the franchise tender of $8.33 million. But this seems to be a marriage ready for divorce, and reports say both Washington and Denver have talked with the Jets about their pass-rushing specialist.

Parade of Needs

What don't the Jets need? The team needs a quarterback to compete with Pennington for the starting job, and will likely deal a lower-round draft pick to Washington for Patrick Ramsey. The offensive line only has three starters left. Sowell's departure leaves B.J. Askew, a fullback with one career start. Jason Ferguson left a big hole at defensive tackle when he signed with Dallas a year ago, and that still needs to be filled. There's no depth at wide receiver, linebacker, or defensive end. The current starting cornerbacks are sophomore Justin Miller and glorified nickel back David Barrett.

The Jets could get by with their current running back committee for another year. The Jets locked Derrick Blaylock in the basement last year and when they finally let him outside for some air, he was quickly injured and lost for the year. He'll combine with the broken-down Curtis Martin and unproven Cedric Houston.

At least the Jets know they're solid at kicker.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 09 Mar 2006

114 comments, Last at 30 Mar 2006, 10:46pm by Mr Shush

Comments

1
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 5:54pm

What, a mid-first round quarterback that the team traded up to get isn't a certain sign of Buffalo's arrogance and ego after an ineffectual first (half-)season?

The only difference between Losman's first year and Kyle Boller's is that Losman lost his job to rotten play, not injury. Sounds like Buffalo is in a damned either way situation. That is, if these judgments were made on a rational basis instead of sportswriter's grievances.

2
by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 6:19pm

He was worth just 1.7 points more than an average field goal kicker this season, which ranked him below such luminaries as Mike Nugent

And Terry Bradway is validated!

On a more serious note, we’ll have to agree to disagree on Ferguson—there is scant evidence to show that there is a correlation between elite left tackle play and overall offensive performance, while there is a ton of evidence showing the correlation between quarterback play and overall offensive performance. The team would be better served using free agency to patch up the line with a few decent players (Schaffer is an obvious target, as are Ashworth and Neal) and securing an elite prospect at quarterback.

And the Jets salary cap woes seem a bit overstated to me (a lot overstated, actually). Once the Jets trade John Abraham, which should happen in the next week or so, the team is actually somewhere between 25 and 30 million under the cap this year (they are supposedly down to around $90 million now, and that’s with Abraham’s $8 million counting against the cap), and they’ll have two first rounders to work with, to boot.

3
by Bill (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 6:24pm

Damien McIntosh was actually really good last year. The Dolphins were 6th in ALY at runs to left end, 1st to left tackle, and protected Frerotte's blind side on a team that was 5th in adjusted sack rate. He was one of my two votes for Offensive Lineman of the Year. A lot of teams could do worse than him for a left tackle.

4
by Israel (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 6:29pm

If Gus Frerotte earned three million dollars in 2005 incentives, how will cutting him save that in 2006 cap space? Aren't the Dolphins stuck with that no matter what?

5
by Playit (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 6:38pm

How many of the starting Patriots Linebackers were actually Linebackers in College? I was under the impression that it's not really that hard to fill out a 3-4 back 4. You just pick up all of the DEs that don't have NFL size but do have some speed. The number of College Defensive Ends that measure in around 6-3 250 pounds is never a short list.

6
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 6:55pm

#1:

Compare Losman's numbers through 9 games (not all of them starts) and Eli Manning's numbers through 9 games and get back to me.

7
by Luz (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 7:00pm

the fact that the patriots section is only twice as long as the other teams sections is a sure sign of disrespect. therefore, i predict the patriots will be 2006 superbowl champions.

(genuflect)

8
by the fumble (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 7:03pm

Who actually wants John Abraham on their team? I'm putting that question out there in the spirit of curiosity. The Jets really seem to be banking on someone trading for him. But trading for a selfish, overpriced pass rusher with no heart does not seem to be a move that a winning team would make.

9
by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 7:10pm

Ah, only in the NFL can someone who decides not to risk destroying his career so he can play at 65% on a frozen field qualify you as having no heart.

Abraham has been to the Pro Bowl three times in five years, and he's one of the best pass rushers in football. Which is why at least three teams have shown interest in giving up a first round pick to acquire him (Denver, Atlanta, Detroit).

10
by KSR (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 7:20pm

re: 5

Vrabel, Bruschi, Beisel and McGinest are converted DE's. The problem is that they tend to take a while to pick up on the new position and schemes. I think Bruschi needed 2 years to really get into the position, and Beisel is still figuring it out. I'm kind of surprised the Pats didn't draft a smaller DE a couple years ago and try to slowly work him in to avoid the need they have now.

11
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 7:22pm

Sophandros,

We may be talking past each other here. Yes, Losman was better than Eli, but the point is is that neither of them get the crap that Boller got after his first season, and neither of them were injured, which does affect the learning curve.

You could argue that starting Eli cost the Giants a playoff spot that season, which seems to fit with Aaron's point about Holcomb as well. The 2005 Bills and 2004 Giants were not serious contenders with their veteran quartterbacks, where you could make the case that the 2003 Ravens would have been even more serious (they did host a playoff game) with a Warner or Holcomb instead of Anthony Wright.

But did/do either Eli or Losman get the same level of vitriol that Boller did? Nope. If Losman progresses slowly, or Eli continues to be scattershot, we'll see if they get to Kyle-bashing levels, but I doubt it.

12
by Playit (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 7:29pm

Re: 10

Seems like the pats could play another year or two without major LB additions. I'd say they are better off drafting some more DE projects and eventually getting better players down the road.

Seems like undersized (sub 240) Linebackers have a short shelf-life in the 3-4.

13
by Jeff (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 7:36pm

"On a more serious note, we’ll have to agree to disagree on Ferguson—there is scant evidence to show that there is a correlation between elite left tackle play and overall offensive performance, while there is a ton of evidence showing the correlation between quarterback play and overall offensive performance."

Is there? Good quarterback play is defined as... what? Throwing for a lot of yards and TDs? Good offensive performance is defined as... what? Gaining a lot of yards and scoring a lot of TDs?

Really, if you have evidence, I would like to see it. Would Peyton Manning be PEYTON MANNING if he was playing with the Texans or Niners offense? Would David Carr be DAVID CARR if he was playing with the Colts offense?

14
by the fumble (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 7:39pm

9- I'll agree that my assessment of Abraham's character may be a bit harsh. But, it just doesn't seem to me to be a very wise idea to take on someone else's headaches at above market value. If they can get a first round pick for him, more power to the Jets.

15
by Theo (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 7:54pm

At least the Jets know they’re solid at kicker.

Aaron, you just had to do that, right?

16
by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 8:03pm

The thing I find odd about the Dolphins is this. If we ignore the 2004 melt down. 2005 seems a lot like 2003 and 2003. The Dolphins drafted a lot of players that spent a lot of time on the bench. The players that did play didn't appear to be future pro bowlers. The Dolphins failed to address their QB position. The Dolphins (I know this is a hard one to believe) once again lost their offensive coordinator. The Dolphins finished once again a game out of the playoffs. Was 2005 really any different than 2002 or 2003. Those seasons really turned fans off the last coach? The team isn't stocked with more younger hungry players than before. Really why should a Dolfan feel any better about 2005 than they did in 2003? It's going to be an interesting off season. Saban could go younger and lose more this season and actually do a better job running the team. If he does he will almost certainly start seeing a souring of the fan base. So I'm betting he will try yet another vet QB and hope to get a little more production from this draft. Last years draft could look better if he can find a place for Roth and if Brown can stop fumbling and stay healthy through 300 NFL carries.

17
by Lindsay (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 8:17pm

Re: #9
Actually, Atlanta has not shown any interest at all in Abraham. You see, there is this a**-hole writer at the Atlanta Journal-Constituiton that makes up stories/headlines that are sensationalized to get attention. All of the rumors out there cite his article as the "evidence" that Atlanta really wants Abraham. GM McKay and Coach Mora the Younger have both said we are looking for a run-stopping end (like Aaron Kampman from GB) and not a pass-rusher, b/c without DE Brady Smith, our run defense sucked.

18
by the K (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 8:30pm

Re: Losman and Manning The Younger vs. Boller

Actually, my theory on this is the fact that Losman was projected by the pundits as one of the top QBs in his draft class, and of course Eli was just about the consensus #1 overall. Boller, many pundits argued, didn't have the tools to be an NFL quarterback. Thus, the numbers don't matter, and the sportswriters validate their earlier predictions by being harsh on the players they didn't like, and easing up demands on the players they did. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also, Boller's numbers were in the crapper at the time the Ravens were ostensibly the Best Defense In The National Football League (TM) so that caused more hard reflections on him. Anyway, thanks for all the Patriots coverage Aaron, I'm going to go lock myself in the garage and breathe fumes now.

19
by Led (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 8:30pm

"At least the Jets know they’re solid at kicker."

This joke is more stale than the Tom Brady genuflect joke (genuflect), which at least had the benefit of being funny in the first place. It was a bad pick, but having a second round rookie tackle last year instead of Nugent would not have made that much of difference last year or this year. In any event, the broken record aspect of this joke is a bit much from a guy that gets all bitchy anytime someone mentions Kevin Jones.

20
by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 8:37pm

Jeff- Yes, there is. And in this case, good offensive performance is defined as a team having a high offensive DVOA rating. You can go and track the offensive DVOAs for the top performing quarterbacks over the years, and the numbers will overwhelmingly support the idea that if you are getting elite quarterback play, your offense is going to perform at a high level.

Does that mean you can afford to field an incompetent line, as Houston has? No, it does not. But it also doesn’t mean that you need to spend the #4 pick in the draft on a tackle. There is a reason why certain positions get favored at the top of the draft (quarterback, running back, defensive end) and certain positions do not (guard, safety, tight end). It’s because the difference between having great players and good players at the former positions will do more for your football team as a whole than having great players instead of good players at the latter positions.

That’s why the Patriots are paying Tom Brady $14.5 million this year and his entire offensive line is making $7 million combined. You allocate your resources to prioritize the most important positions and then you do everything you can to make sure the less important positions are giving you the best bang for your buck.

21
by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 8:39pm

Re 17: Fair enough. For what it's worth, Abraham was a far better runstuffer last year than Shaun Ellis was. He's a complete player, and I always thought he would be the best fit in that Falcons scheme. But maybe they're not interested.

22
by Jeff (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 9:02pm

Sean - I still think this is circular. If you get elite quarterback play, your offense is going to perform at a high level. But isn't elite quarterback play defined by the offense performing well? Plummer was the #5 QB by DVOA last year. Is he really the 5th-best QB in the league, or did his offense boost his numbers?

As for drafting high, and salary, Orlando Pace was a #1 pick. Gallery was top-5. It costs more to franchise an OL than RBs or WRs. (OL are 4th behind QB, DE and LB.)

If you don't think D'Brickshaw is in the class of Pace, Gallery, Ogden, etc. that is understandable. But it's not unreasonable to want to draft a top OL over a top QB.

23
by RCH (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 9:03pm

RE: 10, Actually Tully Banta-Cain was a DE who the Pats have moved to OLB. He has mostly been a special teamer up to this point. I've kept an eye on him as he was one of Mel Kiper's favorite sleepers that year. I think that Kiper projected him in about the 3rd round and the Pats got him late.

24
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 10:03pm

Tom,

I agree with you that Boller has received a bit too much criticism from certain corners, and I think that he should be given more than the short evaluation period that many people have given him. I've mentioned it before on this site that too many people seem to enjoy dragging people down and/or being the one to say "I told you so" rather than giving a player a chance to prove himself.

Billick may be Boller's biggest problem.

25
by Barnas (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 10:38pm

RE: 16.

I really have to disagree.

Ronnie Brown looked good. It's hard to judge a back when they share carries and arn't used effectively- see predictable playcalling, lack of use of fullback. However, especially during the middle of the season, he was an effective weapon. I don't know where your fumbling comment comes from. I can think of a fumble that shouldn't have been a fumble- the Herald got a picture of his knee down, ball still held, and a goal line fumble. Either way, he certainly didn't seem to have too much trouble holding onto the football. After one year sharing time, I don't think he was a bad pick. (And as for the 300 carries comment, unless you're talking him as back in fantasy football, it's definately better to have a pair of solid backs like Brown and Ricky sharing time, to ease the wear and tear on both of them. I'm happy that he wasn't given 300-400 carries in his rookie season, and beaten into a pulp with 45 carry games, like Cadillac was.)

Roth was an odd pick. He just doesn't seem to fit with what Saban's trying to do, and I don't recall him getting the playtime which he'd really need to develop. Too early to call "bust", but not to early to say it's a dodgy pick.

Channing Crowder could /well/ be a future Pro Bowler. His standard of play was excellent in every game I saw. No concerns about him at all- other than his knees. If they hold up, he'll be solid.

Travis Daniels proved a very capable player. He won't be going to any pro bowls, but he was a capable starter. He'll either be a reasonable starter or an excellent nickel corner in the future- very good for a 4th round pick.

Alabi didn't exactly see the field very much, but I've heard rumors- not sure where I read it, or I'd link- that Houck thinks he'll be able to start at one of the OT spots next season. If that's so, he's an absolute steal in the 5th round.

Manny Wright, "this year's" 5th rounder, really seemed to come on later in the season when he saw the field, and could well prove to be a very good pick- or even an absolute steal, given that he only cost a 5th rounder.

Kevin Vickerson didn't do anything that I saw, which is about what you'd expect from a 6th round pick.

Again, it's only one year. However, especially given all the picks we traded away under WanSpiel, I think that it looks like a fairly solid rookie draft for Saban /at this point/.

There's no question that the team needs to get younger- especially on the D-line and at Linebacker. We also likely need 3-4 new starters in the secondary.

However, it's precisely because the team has so many needs that filling in with veterans who have one or two good years in them makes sense, so long as they come cheaply.

The Dolphins don't have a roster which means that a good draft or a couple of free agents will really fix things. They have a lot of needs. Therefore, band-aid solutions combined with sensible spending in free agency and solid drafting have to be the way to go. I think that, based on last year alone, that's what's been done. As a Dolfan, I'll say it's a good start. A long way to go to really fix the team, but a good start.

As for the QB... we really do need to get an answer there soon. It's one area that I just can't see "Nearly done veteran" as an answer again, even for 1 year. Though, drafting at #16 means that we'll probably be surveying the field in free agency... and staring down our #1 option, Brees.

Uh... end ramble.

And an apology- I can't get the site to accept any paragraph breaks or blank lines, which is really odd. So this just keeps coming out as a solid chunk of text. Sorry. It's almost unreadable, but I don't want to just loose it having typed it out.

26
by Barnas (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 10:39pm

Ah. Maybe I can, they just don't show in the preview window. *facepalm*...

27
by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 10:43pm

Jeff- The exception doesn’t prove the rule. In 2003, Steve McNair was the #3 DVOA quarterback in football, the same year his offensive line was 30th in adjusted line yards, 31st in power rankings and 32nd in stuffs. The Titans overall offensive ranking? Fifth best in the league. You can readily find instances where quarterback play clearly and directly lifted the offensive execution of the team as a whole. You absolutely cannot find the same information for any particular offensive lineman. Jonathan Ogden has been playing at a Pro Bowl level his entire career, and according to DVOA he’s never been on an offense that has even managed to be average. Orlando Pace has been playing at a Hall of Fame level his entire career. If you look at the Rams offensive DVOA as a whole, it’s very straightforward. Before Kurt Warner Warner showed up, they were terrible. For three years with Kurt Warner, they were the best offense in the league. Kurt Warner left, and they’ve been mediocre or worse ever since. Pace is playing at the same level the whole time and that’s not showing up as so much as a blip in the overall team performance. But when you look at the numbers, you really can’t miss when Kurt Warner showed up (or when he exited stage left).

Do I think that Ferguson is as good a prospect as Pace or Gallery? Yes. But that’s not the point- he could be Pace, Gallery and Ogden all rolled up into one, and if the next Carson Palmer is available, taking Ferguson would be a crushingly stupid thing to do. Not only would you suffer the opportunity cost of taking a player who is going to do more to elevate the offensive production as a whole than anyone else on the team, but you would be investing the kind of money that a top pick demands into a position that doesn’t have enough demonstrable impact to warrant it.

What confuses the issue is that left tackle is the easier position to project—top left tackle prospects have historically panned out with greater frequency than top quarterback prospects. But if you could guarantee the success of the top player at each position, so that Ferguson was a guarantee to be the next Orlando Pace and Matt Leinart was a guarantee to be the next Peyton Manning, 32 franchises would take Matt Leinart, and they would trip over themselves trying to get the card in to the podium.

28
by deadmeadow (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 11:05pm

re.16

Roth saw limited playing time because he had established vets playing well ahead of him. Apart from that Ronnie Brown, Travis Daniels and Channing Crowder saw extensive playing time as starters. Manuel Wright saw action late in the year as a fifth round pick and looks like a future starter. Vickerson in the seventh looks to be a solid rotational guy. The fins also added a H-back that saw plenty of time, and a long snapper, in post draft free agency. The amount of playing time the rookies got was to a certain extent due to a lack of depth, but still, all the signs are the Fins had a great draft last year.

The Dolphins also hired former head coaches to both co-ordinator posts. They were projected to finish by most people a long way below where they actually finished. And their underlying cap position is actually pretty good, but in 2006 they've been hit by a $9.5m NLTBE incentive charge that is going to hamstring them somewhat.

Still, I guess you're right, and nobody has any reason to be optimistic, including Brees and Mawae, who've scheduled their first (and in Mawae's case the only) visit to Miami. And Arrington, who's publicly stated that he would like to play in Miami.

p.s. Saban has stated that a priority in the offseason is to get younger on D.

29
by deadmeadow (not verified) :: Thu, 03/09/2006 - 11:38pm

re.3

Bill, how many games did you watch the Fins play last year? Because McIntosh wasn't the best offensive lineman on the team, let alone the league. He's a good drive blocker who can't handle speed ends. The gameplans were clearly set up to compensate for his and the offensive line's inadequacy. In fact, McIntosh was rotated with Carey and McDougle for part of the season. Do you think that and the fact he was cut suggests he's one of the two best OL in the league?

30
by are-tee (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 12:13am

"... will likely deal a lower-round draft pick to Washington for Patrick Ramsey."

Maybe Lavernues Coles will offer to take a $2 million pay cut to keep Ramsey away from the Jets.

31
by jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 12:20am

Sean - The Titans couldn't run block to save their lives in 2003, but they were 7th in adjusted sack rate, so they could pass block fairly well. But trading specific instances back and forth isn't going to settle anything.

As for the projection issue, this more than just clouds the issue, this is the issue. A top QB is worth more than a top OL, I agree. But drafting a QB is like russian roullette. Starting in 2002, in the first two rounds of the draft, you get: David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey. 2001: Vick, Brees, Quincy Carter, Tuiasosopo. 2000: just Pennington. 1999: Couch, McNabb, Smith, Culpepper, McCown, Shaun King. 1998: Manning, Leaf, Batch.

If you include Pennington and Carr (both debatable), that's 7 out of 17 that panned out.

32
by Sean (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 12:34am

Jeff- I wouldn't lump in guys who go in round two, or even in the back end of round one, with those who were taken at the top of the draft. Going back to 1998, quarterbacks taken in the top third of the round:

Peyton Manning, Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith.

Once you are looking at the guys who were genuinely elite prospects, the hit rate goes up quite a bit, well over the 50% mark.

During that same time, the following tackles came off in the top third:

Kyle Turley, Tra Thomas, Chris Samuels, Leonard Davis, Mike Williams, Bryant McKinnie, Levi Jones, Jordan Gross, Robert Gallery.

There are some good players in that group, but I can't say it's jumping out at me as a compelling reason to forgo the option of drafting Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger et al.

33
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 12:58am

I think another thing which complicates the issue is passing up on a glammer position guy who then becomes successful tends to be a lot more noticeable than passing up on a blocker who becomes a standout.

I think this is why Tony Mandarich (OL the Packers took #2 in 1989) was considered such a bust. Not only was he in fact a bust, but the guys drafted on either side of him were Troy Aikman and Barry Sanders. Ouch! (Numbers 4 and 5 were Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders, meaning it's quite possible that Mandarich might end up the only one of the first five picks not to end up in the HOF)

34
by someone (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 1:13am

re. 31 & 32

Of course, if you ignored the completely arbitrary cut off date of 1998 and went back another three years, you'd have Tony Boselli, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace and Walter Jones in your tackle sample as well.

35
by Rex (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 1:25am

I know I might be struck down my lightning for saying this but I agree with much of the truth behind Vinateri's role in the Pats success.

He is a great kicker, but I have to believe that kicking during a tie game is much different than kicking when you are losing.

I want the Pats to resign him at all costs. It will be good for everyone: Pats players confidence, Vinateri's endorsements, fan support of BB, etc.

Yet what is lost in the argument about Vinateri is that his clutch kicks have happened during decent situations (outside of the first snow game kick, the greatest kick ever). Most kicks if he misses, the Pats go to overtime.

In my opinion, his biggest kick in the past years is 48 yarder against Tennessee that gave them the lead, 4th quarter during below zero degree weather. Another one was the 1st quarter kick to open the scoring in the AFC championship game at Pittsburgh in 2004.

I know Vinateri is awesome, but even a fanatical Pats fan, like myself, must admit there is some over-hyping going on here.

36
by Sean (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 2:07am

34: I know. I picked 98 because it was the Manning draft. I could have moved it back to 1983 if I wanted to load up on quarterbacks. It's all pretty irrelevant to my basic position, which is that even if you hit on a tackle prospect, you wasted the pick if there were prospects at more important positions who you could have taken.

37
by jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 3:20am

In '96, Ogden was picked 4th, Will Anderson 10th. The best non-tackles in the top-10 that year were Keyshawn, Kevin Hardy, Simeon Rice. In '97, Pace was #1, Walter Jones #6. The best non-tackle in the top-10 was ... Shawn Springs maybe? In '98, Kyle Turley was #7. Manning was #1, Woodson was #4 and Fred Taylor was #9. But you also had Leaf, Wadsworth and Curtis Enis. In '99, John Tait was the highest T at #14. The top-10 had McNabb, Edge, Rickey, Holt and Champ, but also Couch and Akili. In 2000, Chris Samuels was #3 with Arrington, Jamal Lewis and Urlacher the best of the rest.

Are Leinart, Young and Jay Cutler more of a sure thing than Leaf or Akili Smith or Curtis Enis or Thomas Jones coming out of college? In contrast, top-10 offensive tackles almost never fail.

38
by Bill (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 3:24am

I got served!

I only watched a handful. I would certainly defer to someone who watched more but in my observation he looked fine. If the gameplan revolved around that, well, not only was it good gameplanning but excellent execution.

I was under the impression his release was cap-related as opposed to performance-related. I must be mistaken.

39
by MdM (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 4:40am

Okay, Sean, maybe our sample sizes are too small here. I'm asking someone to do a comparison of QBs and OLs in the first two rounds, for all football history! :)

40
by Sean (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 5:16am

Top tackles do indeed fail. Leonard Davis has not been worth the pick. Mike Williams just finished getting cut. Robert Gallery hasn't played especially well in his two seasons (which isn't to say he won't be a good player, but he isn't making Oakland's decision to pass over Roethlisberger look particularly good). Chris Samuels has been good but not great. Bryant McKinnie has been erratic. But again, the question is, even if the pick succeeds, how much does it improve the offense? Does it improve the offense enough to justify passing over a quarterback, even if it's a safer pick? Maybe, but I don't think it's a given. (And I don't want it to sound like I am advocating passing over the best player on the board if that player happens to be a tackle, because I'm not. But when you have prospects with similar grades at the top of the draft and one of them is a tackle and one of them is a quarterback or even a defensive end, I'm not convinced that the high floor for the tackle is enough to outweigh the heigher ceilings that you get for the other positions. I'm honestly not sure.

41
by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 9:18am

At least the Jets know they’re solid at kicker.

Not really. They wasted a high 2nd rounder on a guy who can't kick off. Amazing. It's dumb enough to waste that high a pick on a kicker, but at least if you're going to do it, make sure he's a very good all-around kicker. What they got is Mike Vanderjagt all over again (sort of).

42
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 10:22am

there is scant evidence to show that there is a correlation between elite left tackle play and overall offensive performance

This isn't true. There's a good correlation between quarterback performance and adjusted sack rate, and it looks like sack rate depends on the offensive line as well as the quarterback.

If an elite LT will take your adjusted sack rate from, say, 10% (Houston!) to, like, 3-4% (Indianapolis), it's something like a 30-40% boost in average QB DVOA between those two sack rates.

And that correlates well to offensive performance.

43
by Falco (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 10:47am

Link in my name is to previous discussion on what Houston should do with #1 pick. #36 is my post on comparison of OL vs RB drafted top 5. Problem here is we don't have stats for lineman, compared to quarterbacks and running backs. I looked at how teams drafting RB's vs OT's in top 5 fared in the 5 seasons that followed the draft, only including as a success if the player was a contributing part of reaching the playoffs. (as best I could).

I would suspect, even with busts like Akili Smith and Tim Couch, the Top 5 QB teams would also outperform the Top 5 OT teams in terms of performance, just going off some names that come to mind like Elway, Aikman, Manning, McNabb, and Bledsoe and knowing those guys got to multiple playoffs or superbowls in the first 5 years.

In light of comments above, I would add:

--Yes, there are in fact OL Busts, just like other positions, I'll throw some more names you may not remember, Mark Addickes and Dean Steinkuhler.

--QB appears to be boom or bust, but the upside is much better

--the question here should be, not whether QB and offensive performance are correlated, but whether the top offenses have a) high drafted OT, or b) high drafted QB (or (c) neither, see New England or Denver). Mixed results there. Seattle vs Indy. Cincy with both, but Palmer being highest drafted.

--I would draft the player, not the position. If I had player A ranked higher, I would not reach for player B because he played a perceived safer position.

--I like the Pyrrhus reference.

44
by admin :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 11:52am

Well, I never would have expected all the discussion to be about the Jets section ... just so people understand, the Patriots section isn't longer because I like the Patriots, it's longer because I had the research idea on clutch field goals.

45
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 12:07pm

Liked the article. BTW, it's Pyrrhus of Epirus, not Epiris.

46
by GaryS (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 1:25pm

As a Bills fan, I would hate to see Moulds get cut, but the fact is he is way over paid for what he produces. Add to that his opposition to/dislike of Lossman, and it only makes sense to say good bye.

If Lossman is to have any chance to succeed, the OL needs to be improved, and a TE has to be found. I would think one FA of the likes of Shaffer, Ashworth or Neal would be a good start.

Pickett should be targeted at DT, as at present there is no one on the roster who has shown the ability to succeed at DT. McCree at SS would be an upgrade over Malloy, and if Moulds goes, I would add Finneran at WR, who would make a dependable target for Lossman.

In the draft, there are plenty of OT to choose from. I think Eric Winston would be able to start day 1 at LT, and would pair nicely with Jason Peters. No. 8 may be too high for Winston, perhaps they could trade down a few spots and pick up another 3rd.

In the second, Jesse Mahelona would be my choice, and given the lack of veteran talent at that spot on the roster, he too might be able to start day 1. In the third, the Bills have 2 picks, their own and Tennessee's. If available Fasano the TE from ND could be a sleeper, and give Everitt, who didn't play at all last year, a challenge at TE. With the other choice, I would go OL with either of the 2 Minnesotans, Setterstrom or Eslinger. In the 4th, if Kevin Boothe from Cornell is still there, I'd grab him or maybe Vickers from CU, who looks like he would be at least an effective 3rd down back.

47
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 1:48pm

I think Falco has it right in #43. If you have a need for both OL and QB, you draft the player you have ranked higher based on that ranking, not because of a perceived "saftey" in the pick.

That being said, if you have both an OL a QB rated as a potential All-Pros, I would tend to err on that side of the QB... Elite OL folks are occassionally cap casualties and can be picked up in FA (Roaf, Zimmerman, etc.)... with the exception of Brees this year (what is SD thinking!), I can't think of any established topshelf QBs hitting the free agent market.

48
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 1:52pm

Problem here is we don’t have stats for lineman, compared to quarterbacks and running backs.

Games played is probably the best statistic, to be honest. Problem with that is that you don't know whether or not a player's good until 10+ years down the line.

Combine that with "games played/possible games played" and that'd probably be a good statistic.

QB appears to be boom or bust, but the upside is much better

It's tough to say. Controlling for the team's effect on the player's ability is tough.

Just as an example, we all would agree that Manning is definitely a top-shelf QB, but he's also never played on a team that had a high sack rate. Part of that is him, but if you plugged Manning into, say, Houston, I think he'd look like a slightly-above average quarterback.

Which immediately raises the question of "is David Carr a bust or a boom?" which we've been asking for a while.

–I would draft the player, not the position.

And that's the best statement I've heard for a while. There's absolutely no way San Francisco should've drafted Alex Smith last year, for instance, which also makes me wonder whether or not a lot of the QB busts are because they "floated" upwards in poor QB draft years.

The Jets definitely need offensive line help, but they should draft the best player available. If they don't want Cutler, and they think Ferguson is a reach at 4, trade down.

49
by Tim Gerheim :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 2:33pm

I don't know how much this enlightens the OL-QB discussion, but I look at the offensive line as necessary but not sufficient. It's essentially an enabler. If a team had a hypothetical "perfect" offensive line, then that would enable all the skill players to achieve success up to their ability. Less than a perfect line constrains the ability of the offensive players to actually perform up to the limit of what they could.

So I think in evaluating between an offensive lineman and a quarterback, it's a matter of the marginal offense that each position would create. Replace a bad lineman with a good lineman and you raise the ceiling on what your current quarterback can achieve. Sure, a better quarterback than the one you have would be more effective even behind the same bad line, but the question is whether that quarterback change would make more difference than a change along the line.

I kind of think of it in percentages: if an offensive line upgrade improves quarterback utilization from 60% to 70%, say, then it's a matter of whether 60% of the new better quarterback produces more offense than 70% of the old worse quarterback. And then, separately, there is the salary cap question -- which is more cost-effective, the 70% of the worse quarterback and the new, better offensive lineman, or 60% of the better quarterback and the old, worse offensive lineman? I don't even know how to start thinking about that question. But it's a hell of an interesting question.

50
by Playit (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 3:52pm

Maybe the debate with regards to QB or OL would be a nice idea for an article. There seems to be several problems in what I've seen above. For instance, using the teams performance the year after the draft as an indicator of success. LT and QB are probably the two positions least likely to play at the highest level in their first year. It would also be nice to see the cost of replacement. How likely it is to find a suitable replacement in either Free Agency or lower draft rounds. I'd also like to see a comparison between high and low picks drop in performance. Someone like the ones done for fantasy players... what is the drop in performance between a 1rst and 20th pick QB compared to the same for LT. Just looking at DVOA might be deceptive by the way. I don't think it's reasonable to compare overall line performance by just looking at LT. You would need to consider the entire line changes.

51
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 5:34pm

I think another factor worth bearing in mind in the QB-OL discussion is the comparative difficulties of upgrading each position. It is virtually impossible to acquire an elite quarterback other than through the draft, and difficult to acquire even a good one. Offensive line play, however, can be upgraded substantially in any number of ways, and in particular by upgrading the coaching, for which there is no cap or opportunity cost whatever. For a couldn't-be-clearer case in point, just look at Houck's impact on the 'Fins last year.

On another note, to further complicate Tim's point, I think there are clearly some players (within a position) whose abilities are limited by offensive line play more than others. For example, I would submit that indifferent protection will affect a Kurt Warner or a Drew Bledsoe - older players who were never that mobile in the first place - more than a young or young-ish quarterback with running ability - say McNabb. I firmly believe that if you put Warner behind the Seahawks' line he would perform at a pro-bowl level, while if he signed in Houston it would be better to start Carr. McNabb, on the other hand, would probably be a pro-bowler on either team.

52
by Playit (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 6:32pm

Seems to be a lot of good QBs playing for teams that didn't draft them. Not sure I agree with your assessment there.

53
by ABW (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 9:09pm

Re: 52

Good(top 15 DVOA) QBs playing for the team that drafted them as of last year:
Manning
Brady
Roethlisberger
Palmer
Brees
McNair
Leftwich
Other notables in this group: Eli Manning, Culpepper, McNabb, Vick

Good QBs not playing for the team that drafted them:
Hasselbeck
Green
Plummer
Delhomme
Collins
Brunell
Bledsoe
Favre
Other notables in this group: Brad Johnson, Warner

Notice how even though the top 15 in DVOA was split almost down the middle between the first group and the second, the second list is heavily weighted towards guys you would describe as journeymen, veterans or less charitably, old. H-beck, Plummer, Delhomme, Favre and Green are the only guys on the second list that a team has been able to "build around", whereas every single QB on the first list with the exception of Brees has or will be "built around." And you could argue that Denver didn't really build around Plummer, that Favre of course cost a draft pick, and that SD should build around Brees.

If you see QB as the foundation of a team, and you want to set your foundation for the next 6-10 years, you pretty much have to draft a QB. Free agency for QBs is as much if not more of a crap shoot than the draft. That's not to say that you can't have success trying to build around another part of your team and plug in a QB, a la KC with their O-line and Denver with their running game. But if your aim is to build around a franchise QB, you need to draft one.

54
by football (not verified) :: Fri, 03/10/2006 - 11:17pm

All I know is that Tom Brady has won three superbowls with bottom of the barrel, undrafted offensive linemen and very limited overall talent on offense.
I really get a laugh hearing people mention Neal and Ashworth as interesting free agents. I mean, Ashworth has minimal talent and a bad back and Neal only this year seemed able to pass block at all. He gave up a huge play in almost every game in 2004, or at least got Brady pancaked consistently. And then there is Brandon Gorin, who literally looks like he is wearing roller skates in pass protection. Linebackers overpower him! And of course, the great Russ Hochstein.
You guys can have all our linemen, including Matt Light, who can't block speed rushers!
Maybe Neal will work out in another system, but he is not anything special so far.

55
by MRH (not verified) :: Sat, 03/11/2006 - 12:54am

It would be interesting to see Moulds and Evans DVOA/DPAR with Holcomb and Losman. I know Moulds was a very valuable fantasy wr this year when Holcomb started but don't know how he did as a real-life player.

As for acquiring elite qbs, for the years in which DPAR/DVOA is available, about 40% of the top 5 qbs in DPR or DVOA any given year were not with teams that drafted them, including Trent Green, Hasselbeck, Garcia, Warner, Favre, Collins (yes, Kerry Collins had some top 5 finishes w/the Giants), Gannon, and Plummer. Who in that group you consider elite depends on your definition. Also, Brady and Bulger have had multiple appearances and they didn't cost high picks. The high draft pick guy include PManning, Culpepper, McNair, and Palmer.

56
by rk (not verified) :: Sat, 03/11/2006 - 2:20am

Re: 53
You've got Eli Manning on the wrong list; he was drafted by San Diego.

57
by James (not verified) :: Sat, 03/11/2006 - 9:08am

Losman struggled last year but to compare him to Boller isn't fair. Boller has been down right awful over several years and has shown know signs that he is an NFL quaterback.I don't know about "numbers" but Losman played alot better when he came back in for Holcomb during the K.C. game and had a few moments during the season.

And as far as Vinateri the Pats would be nuts to let this guy go. Kickers are like closers. If we went by just pure numbers Vanderjagdt would be better then Viniatari. Who would you rather have in a "clutch"' I.E. Pittsburgh game; situation.

58
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sat, 03/11/2006 - 11:01am

James (#57 )--

Didn't Aaron demonstrate, by his examples above, that Ryan Longwell could be effective for the Patriots?

As a Patriot fan, I want Vinatieri back. As a Vinatieri fan, I want him to stay. (It can only improve his chances at the Hall of Fame, and kickers need all the help they can get.)

As a realist, I'm certain that if some other team offers him $5 million guaranteed and $2 million a year over three years, the Patriots will thank him for his years of service, wish him well in any game he doesn't play against them, and use the money to sign more low-to-mid-price free agents. Guys like Don Davis and Artrell Hawkins may only rate headlines in the Globe, but it takes a lot of solid building blocks in the foundation before you can aspire to building to the heights.

59
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Sat, 03/11/2006 - 6:22pm

The list in #53 kind of confirms my point that "established" good QBs don't typically hit the FA market...

I'd argue that the best five QBs in the NFL are:
P.Manning, Brady, Big Ben, McNabb & Palmer (if they recover)... all on the 1st list.

Hasselbeck, Plummer, Warner, Farve, Delomme, Green, Brunell, Collins, and (now) Culpepper/Brees all either were:
1) young backups who hadn't played much (basically unknowns like a draft choice - and usually aquired via trade),
2) had actually looked bad without supporting talent (and likely would look bad with bad support again), or
3) come with significant risk due to incurred injury.

Compare that to the good, established OL's that have come out in Free Agency the past few years: Roaf, Hutchinson, Bentley, etc. etc.

Due to the relative unlikeliness of being able to find a franchise QB on the market vs. good, established (aka low risk) OLinemen, I'd say if you have 2 draft prospects that grade out EQUALLY, you have to take the QB. Elite QBs just don't leave their teams unless something bad/goofy happens. OL's sometimes do.

That being said, if the OL grades higher, take the OL... don't reach for an average or super risky QB if you can get a great OL.

For example, Young has potential to be great, but he's REALLY risky (goofy mechanics, potential dumbnut), so I think you'd be an idiot to skip D'Brickshaw for him... yes, you may look dumb ten years down the line if he becomes a HOFer, but you'll look even dumber if you take Young and he sucks. I don't know enough about Cutler to make an evaluation.

60
by Sean (not verified) :: Sat, 03/11/2006 - 11:00pm

cj- I'm pretty much in agreement with that assessment.

61
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sun, 03/12/2006 - 12:46pm

Not much there, but the Patriots website is reporting that David Givens has re-signed.

The initial report is a throwaway line in a free-agent article from the Houston Chronicle (linked), so we'll see if it actually pans out.

62
by CA (not verified) :: Sun, 03/12/2006 - 1:42pm

We can debate whether "clutch field goal kicking ability" exists, but for now, let’s assume it does, and Vinatieri is the best clutch field goal kicker in NFL history.

Let's get into this issue. Is anyone willing to make the argument that "clutch field goal kicking ability" does in fact exist? It looks as though James (#57) does. Please, James, go ahead. In answer it your question, James, I would prefer Vanderjagt.

63
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Sun, 03/12/2006 - 3:13pm

Re: #61

Reiss contradicts that:
Informed of a story in the Houston Chronicle that indicated receiver David Givens had agreed to re-sign with the Patriots, agent Brad Blank said the report was erroneous and that Givens was still flying to Houston on Sunday morning.

64
by Phil (not verified) :: Sun, 03/12/2006 - 4:09pm

RE #62: Sure you would...if you were a Pittsburg fan, that is.

65
by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 03/12/2006 - 8:34pm

Or on drugs. Lots, and lots of drugs.

Seriously, Vanderjagt is not a good kicker. His "traditional" stats are seriously inflated due to the number of short field goals the Colts kicked. He had one good year, and has been average since then.

Oh, and beyond abysmal at kickoffs.

66
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sun, 03/12/2006 - 9:19pm

PatsFan (#63 )--

And Patriots.com has pulled the news piece. Givens will keep interviewing. Nothing to see here, move along.

Regarding Vanderjagt -- remember that "average" is an improvement for any team with a genuinely bad kicker. Reliably hitting short figgies is a valuable skill -- not as valuable as Vanderjagt thinks, but he'll likely make a roster somewhere.

Personally, this Patriot fan is hoping that Vinatieri and Vanderjagt both stay with their current teams. ;-)

67
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 12:05am

Just in -- "Fall Down" Fauria will be taking his zero-YAC act from the Pats to the Redskins.

68
by Tim Gerheim :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 2:14am

Re 59

That begs the question, why do teams let elite, low-risk offensive linemen reach free agency? You know there's going to be hot competition for them, so why not pony up and sign them to an extension when they have a year left on their contracts? Very good offensive linemen seem (in my anecdotal recollection) to have fairly long careers, so they're not big risks with long-term deals. Maybe they're harder to evaluate mid-career than QBs? But I don't think that's true, given persistent big names like Willie Roaf, Larry Allen, Walter Jones, Orlando Pace, etc. People liked Hutchinson and Bentley prior to last season, so their teams should have known what would happen this off-season. Also, my sense is that offensive linemen take a couple years to really round into form, similarly to quarterbacks, so they're not easily replaced in the draft like running backs. This just seems like one more reason to extend the contracts of your top linemen. I don't get it.

69
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 1:52pm

OK time for my 2 cents worth on QB vs OL.

I happen to be very Biased because I played OL (Left Guard) in both High School and in college. I FEEL like when you say that an elite QB is an Elite QB and his line does not mean anything and those players are easily replaced then I have a problem with that statement.

I worked hard both in High School and in college to protect my QB at all costs to me. I worked by butt off to keep him from going flat on his back or open a little hole so the RB could get a few yards or maybe even a 1st down.

I don't know, it just feels like a slap in the face when someone says that those that were drafted high are not worth it even though the OL does a crap load to help the offense out and they rarely if ever get full credit for it from the public.

70
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 1:54pm

RE 68

On average, for the NFL, it takes 5 full seasons for an OL to gel with the cuts and pulls and everything they have to learn to do in a coordinated fashion.

71
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 2:28pm

" hey were projected to finish by most people a long way below where they actually finished. "

The Dolphins won a lot of games in the second half of last year using a lot of players that simply had no long term value to the team. I think the point of Aarons Dolphin section and my post is that the Dolphins could play better this coming year and still finish with an equal record to this season or worse. To me it's not a good sign when it's your second season as coach and your talking about addressing the same areas your were talking about addressing in year 1.

72
by Ima Pseudonym (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 2:42pm

RE 66: "I don’t know, it just feels like a slap in the face when someone says that those that were drafted high are not worth it even though the OL does a crap load to help the offense out and they rarely if ever get full credit for it from the public."

Welcome to the realities of the capitalist market place. Value is more a matter of how easily one can be replaced by someone else who will perform comparably, than a matter of how hard one works. If it really is a reach to take linemen in the first round, or pay them huge salaries, that would be because the difference between elite/bargain linemen is smaller than the difference between, e.g. elite/bargain qb's.

73
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 2:54pm

RE 72
it was actually comment 69. But I know it just seems that everyone belives that you plug someone into that spot and the team will not suffer. I happen to disagree with that reamrk so I know it is a capaitalist market, I just wish that some credit would be acknowledged to the people that stunt, push, pull, open up holes and in general provide about 80% of both the run and pass protection.

Now don't get me wrong, I know that just like in every postion the OL can also have people that really suck at thier postion like Vanderjadgt. :-)

74
by football (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 3:46pm

I will refer you all back to post#54.
Why is it that Brady can set all kinds of winning streak records with absolutely stinking nobody blocking for him worth a darn? I mean maybe Matt Light if you don't mind giving up a sack every game or two at that postion. Do any of you see the credentials of his O-Line since 2001? One or two draft picks at the most on average.
Yet you guys insist on arguing about whether one out of five offensive linemen is more important to draft than a possibly great Q.B. Its enough to make my head spin, where is your common sense. And to the Green Bay dude, its nothing personal but I would rather have Brady or Favre in his prime than John Ogden blocking an idiot.

75
by Jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 4:13pm

"Do any of you see the credentials of his O-Line since 2001? One or two draft picks at the most on average. Yet you guys insist on arguing about whether one out of five offensive linemen is more important to draft than a possibly great Q.B. Its enough to make my head spin, where is your common sense."

We all know that Tom Brady was a 6th round draft pick right? We're not talking about selecting Tom Brady in the draft. We're talking about selecting Leinart, Young or Cutler. Past history indicates only one of those three will come close to becoming Brady. And one of those three will be Tim Couch.

76
by deadmeadow (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 4:37pm

re.71

I don't which positions you are specifically referring to but there is a fair enough point - a lot of the important players on the Dolphins D are +30 like Carter, Taylor and Thomas, or stopgap measures like Traylor and Schulters. The defense definitely needs to be refreshed and there are holes at NT, SLB, CB and S. You can turn it the other way though and say Saban showed a talent for identifying players that slipped through the cracks, just as the Pats did pre-the 2001 season. As for QB, he had to wait for the right guy to come along. I think he's slightly lucky that two potential top ten QBs in Culpepper and Brees are available.

As for the same positions problem, I don't agree with you. I'm not really sure how you can expect the guy to walk in from a college position and immediately have all the answers in one offseason to every problem position. He showed the ability to band-aid problem areas with smart signings and the team overachieved as a result. Now he has to do it again or upgrade those positions with long term players. Can you actually point out a move the Dolphins have made that you think is really going to hurt them long term under Saban? If one third of the roster gets turned over on average every offseason, he has two more to get it done, so as of the season after next, the Fins should be legit contenders and in a healthy long term competitive position.

I agree that the Dolphins might not improve on last year's record, and may even appear to regress despite playing better. The major factors in that in my opinion is the $9.5m in incentives hitting the 2006 cap that hamstring the ability to build this year, and missing Ricky Williams if he's gone for the year. I would also point out however the Dolphins' underlying cap shape was in a lot worse state last offseason than it is this offseason. Its actually looking pretty clean and relatively expansionary, particularly as of next offseason as the incentives are masking the true position.

I'm pretty confident in Saban's ability to make the Fins a legit playoff contender, but as for going all the way, his reign is going to come down to the QB decision. When you pay one guy $10m per year of your cap at the most important position, its pretty obvious that its the most important factor of all.

77
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 5:30pm

re74

Football, brady was a late round pick. Every time you argue for him, you argue that taking a QB in the high rounds is dumb, which seems to be against what you want. He is evidence that QBs ARE easy to replace, and that its something else that makes him succeed.

THe pats are 6th in adjusted sack rate. That means brady IS getting protected, and means you're full of crap.

78
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 5:33pm

RE 74

Ok I will give you that to have either Favre back in his prime or Brady when he first came out yo now I would take. But many of these teams that are up for the first 10 picks or so have invested money either in High drafted QB in the past 3-5 years or have a decent enough QB in the postion (Drew Brees is possibly going to New Orleans? What the hell is he thinking Go to Maimi Drew, go to Miami.) I just think that the top 5 or 6 teams could adress alot more problems and gaps they have to fill if they were to give up those draft spots and take a few lower ones. I am not saying not ot Draft Leinhart, Young or Bush. Heck if he is still there by pick number 6 I would pray for Green Bay to take him. But I think these teams that are at the top this year could improve drasticly if they would fill holes instaed of trying to get the next possible 100 million dollar man

79
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 6:45pm

I would say the success of the Patriots' O-line is that, while they lack any truly great players, they have no truly weak player, either. Even their backups play pretty well.

This is what Carl (who else misses Carl?) was talking about last year: rather than one or two elite players, it's better to have five or more above-average-to-good players on the offensive line. If you have a smart quarterback who reads the field well and can release the ball quickly, that's a pretty effective combination, even without a top-notch running game.

(That's also the Colts' key to offensive success -- a good-enough line, with a smart quarterback who reads the field well and can release the ball quickly. Up until this year, they also had a top-notch runing game; we'll have to see how effective their plan to replace Edgerrin James is.)

It's worth noting that the Patriots have had an extraordinary piece of luck: they've had the only consistently good quarterback in their division over the past three seasons. Out of their 34 regular-season wins in that span, 15 have come from within their division. A combination of terrible injury luck and questionable coaching decisions affecting the quarterbacks of the other three teams has helped the Patriots mantain their stranglehold on the AFC East, and only Miami looks to have a shot to threaten that trend this year.

80
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 7:17pm

Starshatterer:

You don't think the J-E-T-S, Jets,Jets,Jets or the Buffalo Bills have a chance at beating the Pats, come on man they are all 0-0 right now so they have to be feeling pretty good right now about thier chances!!!! :-)

81
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 7:18pm

RE 77
and Favre was picked up as the first QB in the 2nd round.

82
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 8:36pm

Re 77: No, he's arguing that it is more important to get top play out of the quarterback position than out of the line. Yes, Brady was selected in the 6th round, which just means that new England hit the lottery, not that ergo all you need is your average sixth round quarterback. Most top quarterbacks come from the top of the draft; Brady was the exception that proves the rule. New England made a commitment to lock up Brady and pay him like one of the best players in the game, and they did so while letting lineman after lineman walk.

Green Bay- I'm sorry if you're offended by the proposition that quarterbacks are more important than linemen, but there it is. Obviously a team needs to have competent play at offensive line or its going to prevent the offense from functioning effectively. But a team with a pick at the top of the draft is choosing which positions it wants to have elite play from. And elite play at quarterback versus competent play at quarterback is more valuable than elite play from an offensive lineman versus competent play from an offensive lineman. That's just how the game works.

83
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 8:41pm

RE 75

so the thrid one would be a ryan leaf?

or hopefully an Arron Rodgers/Phillip Rivers.

84
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 8:52pm

RE 82

All I am saying is the Draft like FA is a God#$%^ Crap shoot. you roll the dice. I feel if I were a Gm in Houston, NO, and Tennesee I would look to FA to help me out there. Houston has already committed to a roster bonus for David Carr this year so how do they protect him? IF I were the GM I would get rid of that top draft pick and go after something that could fill holes, gaps, and needs. I feel that if you have so many areas that need attetion, try and work that situation first. does anyone really want to see a repeat of what happend to Alex Smith last year. Now with that #1 overall pick I could probably get one middle 1st and middle 2nd and plug a couple of holes maybe. like I said in the begining Draft day like FA is all a crap shoot. I guess I just do not have the balls to pull the trigger for 50+ million on unproven talent . :-)

85
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 03/13/2006 - 9:46pm

GBfL (#80 )--

It's possible that the Jets or Bills could win the division, but a substantial number of events would have to go their way, starting with getting something consistently average or better from their quarterbacks. All while breaking in new coaching staffs. First year coaches can do well, but that happens rarely, and (AFAIR) only when they inherit an already-successful program.

The Dolphins needs fewer things to go well. They were close to the Patriots last year, in both DVOA and overall record. They also have a realistic shot at having a good QB next year (if they sign Drew Brees, and if Brees's injured shoulder is not a long-term problem), whereas the Jets need to hit the jackpot in the draft (or have Pennington have a miraculous, injury-free season), and the Bills need somebody (probably Losman) to sign a pact with the devil and start playing well.

Bear in mind: all the Patriots need to do, is not regress from last year. (In fact, last year was something of a regression for them, so they can be reasonably expected to bounce back.) I still think they have the best shot to win the division.

86
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 2:03am

Re 84: Yes, but there is no reason to take what happened to Alex Smith as indicative of what will happen to someone like Matt Leinart. Alex Smith was considered a reach at the time of his selection.

Here would be my argument about Leinart- he's a much safer prospect than most of the other quarterbacks who have come out, and he would have been selected above most of those players, so it doesn't make sense to hold him to that lower standard. Would anyone argue that Curtis Enis is a reason not to take Reggie Bush at the top of the draft? No, because Enis, while a top 5 pick, wasn't close to the prospect that Bush is. You judge Bush by comparing him to prospects of similar quality, and that leaves you with a very short list.

Of all the quarterbacks mentioned, all the first round guys taken in the last six or seven years, how many of them played at as consistently high a level as Leinart for as long a period of time? How many of them experienced as much success while playing in a pro style offense? How many of them were coached by NFL coaches and spent three years going up against an NFL style defense in practice?

None of them. Peyton Manning comes the closest (assuming we substitute the brain trust of Archie Manning for Phil Fulmer), but even he didn't have the kind of college career that Leinart had. With most of the other prospects, there is no comparison- was David Carr playing at Matt Leinart's level? Alex Smith? Eli Manning? Akili Smith? No, not even close. Would any of them been drafted ahead of Leinart if they both come out at the same time? No. Maybe Manning, and that would be because of his last name. But Leinart is a surer thing than most of the quarterbacks whose failures he is now being downgraded for. It doesn't make sense.

87
by Tim Gerheim :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 3:08am

86
Carson Palmer? I don't know how long he was the starter at USC, but aside from longevity everything else you said about Leinart applies equally to Palmer. Of course, he appears to be an elite quarterback, so all that does is prove your point. But I thought I'd mention it.

88
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 3:43am

Precisely. It's not an exact match, as Palmer has a better arm, but then again, it took a few years for the light to go on, and he wasn't a dominant player until his final season at USC. Leinart has been a dominant player for three full seasons.

It's intellectually lazy to make assumptions about position groups that carry from draft to draft rather than than taking the time to evaluate each player as an individual. Leinart is coming from a completely different place than many of the previous quarterback prospects. He doesn't strike me as being a risky pick- if anything, I would consider him a safer pick than Mario Williams (motor issues, didn't produce to his ability level) or Reggie Bush (size/durability questions). Of the elite players in the draft, he has the best combination of risk factor and potential impact, and really he should be the #1 pick, although obviously circumstances dictate that he won't be.

89
by Playit (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 5:15am

I don't understand the comments above about the long list of FA linemen that are available. I thought the issue was lineman drafted at the top of the board. In that regard you are talking about LT only. How many Top 5 picked LTs are out there? Compare that to Top 5 Picked QBs? To just say that if you draft high you will get Carson Palmer while ignoring all of the Ryan Leafs is idiotic. The whole equation is your likelyhood of success against your oppertunity cost (likelyhood of success at what you would have drafted). Much of the attraction of drafting a LT instead of a QB is that it's usually a safer pick. Further, even if they guy can't play LT they can usually play above average at RT or Gaurd. What can a bust QB do? A team can trade down from that first round pick and probably get 10 7th Rounders. I'd say on average at least one good QB comes out of the late rounds each year or every other year. So you could corner the market on late round prospects and get your good QB that way too. Of course that's stupid, but the point remains. Can you do the same for LT? How many 7th rounders are elite LTs in this league?

90
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 12:55pm

RE 84

I feel that Leinart and Bush are probably the two best prospects coming out of the draft no question. Especially since Leinart took that extra year to come back for one more attempt at the title. so we are then going to call him our Brady. I will concede that. then it boils down to out of the last two wich one will turn out like Tim Couch and the last like Ryan Leaf?

listen all I was trying to point out is that teams like the Texans, Saints, and Titans have a lot of gaps to fill and I feel that especially since the Texans are going to pay David Carr the roster bonus, and the Saints are pretty close to signing Drew Brees (Please go to Miami Drew you will rot and die under the saints ownership) if all this pans out then the top two teams in the draft will not need Matt Leinart and where does he go. I would IF I was the Saints GM trade with either the Jets or Oakland to get the DE in the draft and let them have Leinart or else if the saints do get Brees and do decide to get Leinart then we have the Phillip Rivers Scenario all over again. Of course if they want the OL lineman projected to go in the top five then they could trade thier draft pick exclusively with the jets to get him. I don't know like i said before roll the dice and see what happens.

On a differnet note is there going to be a post or extra points page about all the rumors around TO since he in fact becomes a FA today?

91
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 1:25pm

Rumors flying that the Titans will be announcing within the hour that they've signed Givens.

92
by Jeff (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 1:39pm

"so the thrid one would be a ryan leaf? or hopefully an Arron Rodgers/Phillip Rivers."

It's a little too early to tell on Rodgers and Rivers. In my (very small) survey, about a third of top-10 QBs become pro-bowlers (Manning, McNabb, Vick, etc.) about a third are busts (Leaf, Akili, Couch) and about a third fall in the middle (Carr, Harrington, Leftwich).

"Of all the quarterbacks mentioned, all the first round guys taken in the last six or seven years, how many of them played at as consistently high a level as Leinart for as long a period of time? How many of them experienced as much success while playing in a pro style offense? How many of them were coached by NFL coaches and spent three years going up against an NFL style defense in practice?"

Ken Dorsey? Ok, I'm being facetious. The original debate was Cutler vs. D'Brick-a-house. Most people believe that Leinart is clearly above Cutler as a prospect. Three QBs with Leinart's resume would likely all rate higher than D'Brick. But how often does a QB like Leinart come out? Manning and Palmer are the only two over the last ten years to be close.

93
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 1:46pm

So now that we have moved on and I have relented to the majority that drafting a QB higher than an OL could help the team im more ways. any takers on who will have No. 1 overall pick next year and were Brady Quinn from ND wil go?

I say SF/NO/DET will have No.1 overall and Brady Quinn will go to Clevland.

94
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 2:09pm

The Givens signing is official.

95
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 4:17pm

re82,

My point is, there are plenty of QBs who are considered Elite, and then go to a different team, and are AWFUL. And there are qbs who go from AWFUL to good.

Look at Rich Gannon for example. Awesome the year the raiders went to the superbowl,awful the next year.

Bledsoe, phenominal in NE, awful in buffalo.

The list goes on and on. Thats my point, sometimes QB talent does not correlate with QB performance. Its more of how the QB fits the team, than how good the QB is.

You put Peyton behind houston's line, and hes going to look like David Carr. You put him behind SFs line, and he'll look like Alex Smith.

If a QB doesnt have time, he cant make reads, and he cant play well. You can't win without an offensive line.

Now the question is, players like Eli, etc, given more chances. If Brady comes out that first year, and isnt phenominal, does he ever play again? No, probably not. Yes Eli/Alex Smith/Harrington,etc get to play multiple bad years because theyre high picks.

How many phenominal QBs dont play because they never get a chance. How many of them COULD develope into franchise QBs, but never have the starter get hurt long enough.

Whos to say that if some random other 6th rounder was given the 16+ games Alex smith has been give, he wouldnt be a Franchise player.

96
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 5:52pm

Jeff- I'm not comparing Leinart to Cutler, I'm comparing him to all the quarterbacks who were drafted high and didn't work out, players that supposedly demonstrate that it's risky to pick a quarterback high. That's a principle that doesn't necessarily stand up to scrutiny, and the fact that Akili Smith, with his skill set and college experience went on to bomb spectacularly has little to no bearing on whether or not Leinart succeeds at the next level. There doesn't have to be a Tim Couch/Donovan McNabb/Akili Smith dynamic, and even if some of this year's quarterback class doesn't pan out, it doesn't mean that it's simply a question of chance and that it's not possible to figure out which guy is going to do well from looking at his skill set and his body of work.

Rich- I promise you, Peyton Manning behind the Houston Texans line looks nothing like David Carr. The truth of the matter is that the Indianapolis line isn't a very strong unit. They grade out well because they are in a great scheme and because their skill position players elevate them, but they consistently get beaten by good front sevens. They're not awful, but they're not great, either. And the reason why the Colts have such low sack numbers is because Manning reads the field quickly, makes good decisions with the ball and does everything he can to avoid sacks. Tom Brady hasn't played behind so much as a marginal line. It hasn't prevented him from playing at a very high level. The reality is that it works both ways, and good skill position players can make an offensive line look better than they are just as easily as an offensive line can make skill position players look better than they are. And again, you need to have a minimal level of execution at all positions for a unit to function. For some reason, the OL proponents assume that valuing the quarterback position over the OL means that you're saying it's okay to have a terrible line. It's not. But it's preferable to have an okay line with a great quarterback than a great line with an okay quarterback.

97
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 7:19pm

RE 95

When Peyton was first drafted back in 1998 he did look like Alex Smith, in fact I think he had a worse W/L record with Indy then Smith did with SF. However he did have a better TD/% pass comp/Passer rating than smith did and that line was horrible. I belive Sean has it right, and so do you rich. To compare everyone with Peyon Manning and Carso Palmer in insane as well. The reason Peyton is good is becuase the Colts developed the team around him, the reason the Bengals did so well was while Palmer was the backup they were slowly buliding the team around his strenghts so that when he did paly his first full year the system fit the player and his skill set. I think for Alex Smith/ Arron Rodgers/Phillip Rivers to suceed the TEAM has to develop around them and their skill set. That is why I am resigned to not seeing my beloved Packers in the playoffs for at least 3 years. they need to (shedding tears) deconstruct the franchise they built around our wild gunslinger Brett Favre and build around him. the same goes for SD and SF. The only way you become a franchise QB is if they build a team around your particluar skills and talents.

98
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 8:41pm

But it’s preferable to have an okay line with a great quarterback than a great line with an okay quarterback.

Amen to that.

But I still hope the Pats are saving up some of their cap to get at least a little better in the O-line department. Brady got killed last year, although the Adjusted Sack Rate doesn't show it. Here's hoping the FO game charting project can come up with stats for how often a QB gets hit even when he gets the ball off.

99
by football (not verified) :: Tue, 03/14/2006 - 10:59pm

Geez, Sean, you're alright for a Jets fan!
Rich, on the other hand......

100
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 03/15/2006 - 12:35am

When Peyton was first drafted back in 1998 he did look like Alex Smith, in fact I think he had a worse W/L record with Indy then Smith did with SF.

C'mon. You judge teams by win/loss record. Craig Krenzel is not a good NFL quarterback, but his W/L record sure looked good for a while.

However he did have a better TD/% pass comp/Passer rating than smith did

I think that says more about Smith than it does about the line. It's pretty inhumanly bad to have a 1/11 TD/INT ratio.

And the reason why the Colts have such low sack numbers is because Manning reads the field quickly, makes good decisions with the ball and does everything he can to avoid sacks.

Apparently, when Manning doesn't get sacked, it's because of him, and when Manning does get sacked, it's because of "protection problems".

It's the line. Would Manning in Houston look like Carr? Seriously, Carr got sacked so often in 2004 I didn't think it was possible for him to survive, and he still had a decent year. Manning might look better than Carr would, but he'd still get sacked often. And he would very likely look much worse.

Some of the low sack rate is due to Manning. Absolutely. But if Manning can blame getting sacked on the line, then we really should give credit to the line when he doesn't get sacked. Even if Manning helps by being quick.

Incidentally, the player who really throws off the "you don't need good protection" thing isn't Manning. It's Ben Roethlisberger. He far and away posted the highest "naively sack-corrected DVOA" for a QB in the entire history of this site's stats. No other QB has ever come close to doing that well while being sacked as much as he has.

101
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Wed, 03/15/2006 - 1:09pm

RE 100

All I was trying to point out in that post pat is that almost ALL 1st year QB's go through a rough adjustment period. Even Matt Leinart will have to go through it. I was just trying to point out that Alex Smith COULD be as good as any one of the greats (Marino,Elway,Young,Montana, Aikman, and Favre) IF the SF 49ers would put some people around him that can:

1.) minimize the ability of the defense to get to him.

and

2.) can actually catch the balls that he throws.

Now in the case of no 2 I realize that Alex Smith himself has to learn to throw at the WR/TE/RB he is trowing at instead of at thier feet or 20 ft over their head. But I do not ever recall seeing an offense drop so many catchable balls as I saw the WR core of SF drop last year.

102
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Wed, 03/15/2006 - 3:34pm

The Givens loss will not be fully appreciated outside of NE, where we're currently hemorrhaging talent and character at an alarming rate. Where have you gone Christian...Willie...Adam? I'm trying so hard to maintain my trust in Bill, but I can hardly put my head on my pillow at night. I need a trade. A draft pick. A signing. TO, baby! That's the ticket. Maybe this going to be the Pats' Queer Eye for a Straight Guy season--a total makeover.

103
by J. Fat Paws (not verified) :: Wed, 03/15/2006 - 5:23pm

re:102

Fear not. I think we'll see Keyshawn catching the damn ball with the Pats in no time. Keyshawn might be a better version of what they are looking for out of Givens, and more importatnly less of a finacial commitment.

BB hasn't let us down yet and historically speaking he's not the type to be active in the first couple of weeks in free ageny. The man won't over pay and most of the over paying is done early. Aside from Rosy Colvin they haven't made a splash with a big name FA to date. Three Super Bowls as a result.

Rest well my friend. Rest Well.

104
by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 03/15/2006 - 6:32pm

I'm pretty sure Keyshawn is looking for the same kind of money that Givens got, although I doubt he'll receive it.

Len P is reporting that Cleveland has signed Willie McGinest. I didn't particularly want to see him come to the Jets, but I'm glad the Pats have taken another hit.

105
by Malene, cph, dk (not verified) :: Wed, 03/15/2006 - 6:58pm

AAAARRRGGHHH!!!

Simmons just wrote the most ill-informed article (click my name) about free agency of all time, saying that's the league's faulty cap structure is to blame for the Pats having to cut McGinest... He wants a Bird rule in the NFL, so a team can exceed the cap to keep its veterans...

uhm.... Simmons? the Pats are 17 Mill under the cap-- they could pay Willie the world!! - they. just. don't. think. he's. worth. it.

Blame Pioli and Belichick if you think it's a mistake, not the NFL.

That article is just ridiculous.

106
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 03/15/2006 - 7:19pm

Re: #104

Reiss confirms it. Cleveland signed McGinest to a 3-year, $12mil contract, with $6mil in guaranteed money (bonuses, etc).

107
by J. Fat Paws (not verified) :: Wed, 03/15/2006 - 8:14pm

Sean, with all the issues the Jets have I wouldn't think you would have time enough to wish ill on the Pats.

All time greatest Jets coaching staff.

Rich Kotite- head coach (you know..cause he's the best)

Paul Hackett - O-coordinator. So you can center the offense around 2 yrd passes to the FB.

Pete Carroll as D-Coordinator. But only on goal line plays against the Dolphins. That's a special kind of indignation. God Bless Marino for that one and only play. I'm going to send him some isotoners.

108
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Wed, 03/15/2006 - 8:24pm

Best of luck to McGinest. He's been better than I expected and for longer than I expected.

109
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 2:58pm

The Patriots have shed 3 linebackers (McGinest, Chad Brown, Matt Chatham) and signed none from another team. (They did re-sign Don Davis, for the veteran minimum.)

I wonder if they could be moving to a 4-3: Ty Warren, Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, and Jarvis Green starting up front, with Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, and Rosevelt Colvin at LB -- but they'd need more D-linemen for rotation. Of course, D-linemen seem to fit better than linebackers as rookies in Belichick's defenses --maybe they're looking to the draft for that.

Any draft afficionados know what sort of D-line prospects might be available to the Patriots with the #21 pick?

110
by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 2:17pm

Throw out the stats for just one second...I know that's hard to do here. But lets just say for argument that regardless of position, guys drafted in the top ten have a chance to be great and a chance to be a bust. That's not too much of a stretch. So why take the risk on a QB instead of an OL?

It's a crapshoot, but if you hit on the QB, you are set for years. There is nothing better than being a Pats fan, coming into the draft, and thinking "well at least we don't have to roll the dice on one of these QBs". If you have a great QB, you have options. Take the really great QBs...Elway, Marino, Montanna, Farve in his prime...with these guys, even in bad years...their teams always were just a couple pieces away from going deep into the playoffs. Did they win every year? Of course not, but did you always think they had at least a chance to be competitive? Definitely.

Now go the other way. Pick your top 5 offensive tackles of the last 20 years. I don't care who you pick. Did you ever feel that "hey, we've got "x" at Left Tackle...just one or two more pieces and we're going all the way!" Of course not. Can a great tackle help a team? Sure. But a great tackle doesn't even mean you have a great line, let alone a great offense.

Here's another way to look at it...if you drop from a 7 mil a year tackle to a 2 mil a year tackle, do you drop off as much as dropping from a 10 mil a year QB to a 5 mil a year QB?

111
by Miguel (not verified) :: Wed, 03/22/2006 - 12:24pm

Question - you wrote that "During the 2005 regular season, there were 73 such field goal attempts, either in the final ten minutes of the fourth quarter or in overtime."

How many of the 73 were made??

112
by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 03/23/2006 - 9:52am

Regarding your last question in #110 Mike, ask any NFL RB to answer that.
Shaun Alexander, Larry Johnson, and Emmitt Smith will probably answer differently than you may think.

113
by Mike (not verified) :: Thu, 03/23/2006 - 12:53pm

So you think that a great QB throwing the ball doesn't help open up running opportunities?

114
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Thu, 03/30/2006 - 10:46pm

Even if it doesn't (and it does), do you think the perspective of a running back who's played behind a great tackle is likely to be objective?