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» Week 2 DVOA Ratings

Stomping the Jags leaves Washington No. 2 behind only Denver. But what can we really learn from one big win early in the season, before we are applying opponent adjustments?

14 Feb 2006

Four Downs: AFC North

by Ryan Wilson

Baltimore Ravens

What Happened Last Year?

Heading into the 2005 season, the Baltimore Ravens had replaced much-maligned offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh with Jim Fassel, bolstered their decidedly weak receiving corps by signing Derrick Mason, and added cornerback Samari Rolle, giving new defensive coordinator Rex Ryan the flexibility to run the 46 defense like he was Buddy Ryan and it was 1985. Many analysts pegged the Ravens as division champs, and some even gave this team a legitimate shot to win the whole thing.

12 months and six wins later, Baltimore wrapped up its worst season since 1998, when Ted Marchibroda was the head coach and Jim Harbaugh led the team in passing. Injuries to Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, along with uneven play from the offensive line, Jamal Lewis, and the quarterback position, all conspired to sink the 2005 season. When you include Brian Billick's stint on the hot seat starting around Week 8, it's really no surprise the Ravens struggled.

Jim Fassel's first order of business was to shore up the passing game, and in particular, Kyle Boller's progress. Boller missed seven games due to a toe injury, and other than two outstanding efforts late in the season against Green Bay and Minnesota, he struggled with many of the things that plagued him during his young career: poor decision making and untimely turnovers. But unlike seasons past, the running game was unable to make up for his mistakes. According to the innovative DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) ratings from FootballOutsiders.com (click here for a further explanation), Baltimore finished last in the league in rushing, after ranking 20th in both 2003 and 2004). In 2003, Jamal Lewis rushed 387 times for 2,066 yards. The following season, because of a suspension and an injured ankle, he totaled 235 carries for 1,006 yards. Last season was his worst as a professional; Lewis finished 52nd in DPAR, behind the likes of Travis Henry and Kevan Barlow, and he was so ineffective that the Ravens might let him test the free agency waters instead of franchising him. At this point, a long-term deal seems out of the question.

If there was a bright spot, it was the addition of Derrick Mason. He finished ranked 19th in DPAR, which is about where he ranked in 2004 with Steve McNair throwing him the ball in Tennessee. By way of comparison, the highest-ranking Ravens wideout in 2004 was Kevin Johnson, who finished 69th. After an injury-plagued 2004, tight end Todd Heap also returned to form, racking up 855 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.

As much progress as the offense made with Mason and Heap, it regressed just as much along offensive line. This unit gave up 42 sacks, good for just 19th in the league. Heading into free agency and the draft, finding serviceable replacements at center, right guard, and right tackle will be a priority.

Who's Leaving?

The Ravens have 15 unrestricted free agents. The good news is that some of them are either well past their prime (Dale Carter and Deion Sanders) or underperformed in 2005 and aren't worth re-signing (Chad Williams, Anthony Wright, Patrick Johnson).

Baltimore may choose to let starting free safety Will Demps walk, even though he was an integral part of the secondary -- especially after Ed Reed went down with an ankle injury and missed a large part of the season recovering. It's also worth noting that Reed, one of the best safeties in the NFL, is looking for a big salary bump, even though he's under contract for one more year. The Ravens are currently in pretty good salary cap shape, but Reed's demands coupled with Ray Lewis's desire for a new deal (or, as the Baltimore Sun reported last week, a trade) could make it more difficult to re-sign players that were quite competent in Reed's and Lewis's absence: linebackers Tommy Polley and Bart Scott, as well as defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu.

There are also murmurs that Chris McAlister has worn out his welcome and Baltimore may try to trade him. This could be difficult given his prohibitive contract (just ask Charles Woodson and the Raiders about that) and the little issue that he often took plays off. Still, McAlister is one of the most physical cornerbacks in the game, and if there's a market for Terrell Owens, there is also probably a market for a player like McAlister.

Who Should They Sign?

After being the Ravens' quarterback of the future for the last three seasons, Kyle Boller, for the first time in his career, will face competition for the starting nod. Brian Billick has been a Boller supporter since Baltimore drafted him in 2003, but Boller will not be handed the job this off-season. Names like Daunte Culpepper, Steve McNair and Kerry Collins have been mentioned as potential targets, but the Vikings have denied they will trade Culpepper, McNair is 33 with a history of injuries, and Collins is 34 with a history of poor decision making, something Baltimore already has in abundance. A more realistic short-term option might be a player like Jon Kitna or Charlie Batch.

It's also no secret that Baltimore needs to upgrade the offensive line. Center Mike Flynn was often overmatched, right guard Keydrick Vincent was injured for parts of the season, and right tackle Orlando Brown's prime is no longer visible in his rear view mirror. (All he can see now are images of defensive ends dismantling his quarterback)

The Ravens traded up to take right tackle Adam Terry in the 2005 draft, and it's not clear if he'll be ready in time for the 2006 season. LeCharles Bentley, of the Saints, is an unrestricted free agent and is dominating at the center and guard positions. Unfortunately for Baltimore, he can't play both at the same time, and because he is one of the top offensive linemen available, he won't come cheap.

Depending on what happens with Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor, Baltimore could also be looking to replace two running backs. And with Dale Carter and Deion Sanders calling it a career, the secondary suddenly becomes very thin. Big names like Shaun Alexander, DeShaun Foster and Ahman Green are all unrestricted free agents, but re-signing Taylor and/or franchising Lewis is more economical. The Ravens may also look to restock the backfield through the draft instead of trying to shore up the running game through free agency.

This might also be the same strategy for adding depth to the defensive backfield. One intriguing name is free safety Chris Hope, whose contract is up with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's coming off his rookie deal, so he's looking for a big payday, but his presence could free up Ed Reed and make him even more dangerous than he already is. Ryan Clark was adequate during his stint with the Redskins, and could provide a relatively cheap upgrade to Demps, who often struggled in coverage.

Cincinnati Bengals

What Happened Last Year?

The Bengals won the AFC North for the first time ever, and had their first winning season since 1990. After starting 11-3, they were outplayed at home by a fading Bills team and then lost on the road to the Chiefs in a meaningless Week 17 contest. In the Wild Card playoff game, Cincinnati lost Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer, along with its Super Bowl hopes, on its second offensive play.

Going into the 2005 season, head coach Marvin Lewis wanted to shore up the Bengals' run defense, which ranked 22nd in DVOA in 2004. The Bengals signed defensive tackle Bryan Robinson and drafted linebackers David Pollack and Odell Thurman with their first two picks. The good news was that the pass defense improved from 15th in 2004 to 10th in 2005, although by the end of the season, with an injury to safety Madieu Williams, teams were having more success throwing the ball than early on. The bad news was that despite upgrading three members of the front seven, the run defense slipped two spots to 24th last season.

Heading into the 2006 off-season, Lewis's plan remains the same: upgrade the run defense, bolster the pass defense, and make sure Carson Palmer has all the weapons he needs to remain one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.

Who's Leaving?

Although he's under contract, and had a solid rookie season, second-year wideout Chris Henry may not be with the team come training camp. Henry had two run-ins with the law in as many months, and depending on how the trial unfolds, his best chance to get back on the field might come with the Ron LeFlore All-Stars.

Other than Henry, the Bengals are in pretty good shape free agency-wise. Running back Rudi Johnson signed his new deal last off-season and Carson Palmer will be in Cincinnati until the end of the decade. His backup, Jon Kitna, is an unrestricted free agent, and his days in Cincinnati might be numbered. The fact that the Bengals signed perennial backup Doug Johnson, the only player to have Football Outsiders name a phenomenon after him, only reinforces the point that Kitna could be playing elsewhere in 2006.

Tight end Matt Schobel may also get a chance to test free agency. The Bengals haven't had an impact player at the position in some time, and they may look to the draft to give Palmer yet another weapon in an offense that finished sixth in the league in DVOA in 2005.

Who Should They Sign?

With Henry's future uncertain, the Bengals signed former Patriots wideout P.K. Sam. There is no guarantee he'll make the team, but with Kelley Washington, Tab Perry and Kevin Walters battling for the third spot, Sam will at least provide depth.

Backup defensive end Carl Powell is the only member of the defensive line whose contract is up, but don't look for the Bengals to replace him through free agency. As has been the case during Marvin Lewis's tenure, Cincinnati will use the draft to stockpile the roster, opting for long-term solutions over quick-fixes that also have the added disadvantage of potentially wrecking the salary cap.

It seems like almost every team is looking for a safety, and Cincinnati is no different. They may lose Anthony Mitchell to free agency, but they expect to have Madieu Williams, the 2005 opening day starter, ready to go by training camp. There is still the issue of who will man the other safety spot. During the playoffs, Kevin Kaesviharn and Ifeanyi Ohalete were the starters. Kaesviharn is often mistaken for Keanu Reeves, and Ohalete is best remembered as the guy who sued Clinton Portis for non-payment after he sold him his #26 jersey while with the Redskins. Both players are adequate backups but are liabilities as full-time players. Part of the reason opponents had late season success in the passing game was that Kaesviharn and Ohalete were on the field.

The Bengals could choose to go after a big name like Adam Archuleta or Corey Chavous (as Football Outsiders writer Al Bogdan wrote last week, Chavous isn't great against the run, but solid in coverage, and a very heady player), or choose a second tier player like Idrees Bashir, Ryan Clark, or Will Demps. Or, as the organization has been wont to do under Marvin Lewis, they may use the draft to fill the position.

Cleveland Browns

What Happened Last Year?

On the surface, the 2005 version of the Cleveland Browns looked like the same hapless bunch that limped to a 4-12 record in 2004. The team DVOA for 2005 was nearly identical to that of a season ago, as the Browns finished with the 22nd passing offense and the 26th rushing offense. Only special teams improved (up from 12th in 2004 to fifth last season), thanks in part to the success of kicker Phil Dawson and the emergence of return man Joshua Cribbs.

But unlike 2004, the Browns have a plan going forward. Head coach Romeo Crennel is going into his second season, and he'll build his offense around quarterback Charlie Frye, wideout Braylon Edwards, tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., and running back Reuben Droughns, who have combined to start a whopping 52 professional games in 10 seasons (and Droughns has started 38 all by himself). Cleveland will also head into 2006 with a year's experience running the 3-4, and Crennel can use free agency and the draft to stockpile players who best fit the schemes he likes to run.

Undrafted free agent Leigh Bodden was a pleasant surprise in 2005. He's a big, physical cornerback who was overlooked coming out of college because he played at tiny Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He was a restricted free agent heading into the season, but the Browns signed him to a four-year deal in October. With Gary Baxter returning from injury, Cleveland could have two of the top corners in the AFC for the foreseeable future.

Safety Chris Crocker won the starting job last season, but Sean Jones (2nd round 2004 draft) and Brodney Pool (2nd round 2005 draft) will be looking for more playing time in 2006. Both are more athletic than Crocker, but need to become more comfortable in the defense instead of relying on their athleticism.

Who's Leaving?

With 2005 first round pick Braylon Edwards missing parts of the season because of injury, Antonio Bryant registered his first 1,000-yard season. Unfortunately, Bryant is an unrestricted free agent and it's not clear he'll be back in Cleveland for the 2006 season. If he leaves, the Browns will be looking at a receiving corps that includes Edwards, Dennis Northcutt and potentially Frisman Jackson as the third option. Northcutt is more effective in the slot, and occasionally suffers from the dropsies, so if the Browns can not convince Bryant to re-sign, they might have to look to free agency or the draft for his replacement.

Defensive tackle Orpheus Roye had a solid season, and the Browns will try to re-sign him. Linebacker Kenard Lang is still under contract, but his productivity has dropped off in recent seasons. His switch from defensive end to outside linebacker was a rocky one, and he saw his sack totals drop from eight in 2003 and seven in 2004 to two last season. His pass coverage ability was also questionable and Cleveland would like to get younger and more athletic at the position.

The 2002 first round pick, running back William Green, was all but invisible last season. He played in eight games, and rushed for 78 yards on 20 carries. Depending on whether Lee Suggs can stay healthy, Green might be on his way out of town, even though he's still under contract.

Who Should They Sign?

The Browns are in a great cap situation, but the organization may look to the draft to build their team. The defensive front seven and the offensive line could stand immediate upgrades at certain positions, but Cleveland is not likely to overpay for a stopgap if those needs can be addressed through the draft, even if that means a few steps back in the short-term in anticipation of long-term success.

Still, names like linebacker Julian Peterson and guard Stephen Neal would offer immediate upgrades to currently mediocre units. Peterson is as athletic as they come at outside linebacker, is a good edge rusher, has the ability to drop into coverage, and has experience in the 3-4. He'll also single-handedly break the bank with his next contract.

Offensively, the Browns ranked last in the league in power success (power success is the percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown), and were 26th in the league in adjusted sack rate. Veteran Joe Andruzzi has chronic knee problems, and hasn't been as effective in recent seasons as he was early in his career. Center Jeff Faine will only be 25 years old when the season starts, but he's battled injuries during his three-year career and has missed 11 games as a result. Neal would be a welcome addition to this unit, and Crennel knows Neal very well from his days as New England's defensive coordinator.

If the Browns are unable to re-sign Bryant, they'll also need to find his replacement – either within the organization or through the draft or free agency. The draft is pretty weak at the wideout position, and Crennel would love to lure Patriots' free agent David Givens to Cleveland. Givens will command more than Bryant on the free agent market, but he is also a more accomplished player.

Pittsburgh Steelers

What Happened Last Year?

Last fall Ben Roethlisberger said that this team might not have another 15-win campaign, but could be better than the 2004 version. The Steelers suffered a three-game losing streak during the middle of the season, finished second in the AFC North, and had to reel off four straight regular season victories just to make the playoffs. They won four more in the postseason and are now the Super Bowl champs.

The thing is, Roethlisberger was still wrong. According to DVOA, the Steelers were a more complete team in 2004 (they ranked fifth in total DVOA in 2005 and second in 2004). Of course, mitigating factors played a big role in Pittsburgh's slide -- factors such as games started by Tommy Maddox, and injuries not only to Roethlisberger but also to players like Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis, Duce Staley, James Farrior, and Joey Porter.

Whatever the numbers might say, there is no denying that Roethlisberger was much more accomplished during his sophomore season. As a rookie, he sputtered into the playoffs and played like he was both anxious and exhausted against the Jets and Patriots. During the 2005 postseason, he was just the opposite, at least until he got his team to the Super Bowl. Interestingly, in Pro Football Prospectus 2005 we predicted Roethlisberger would be slightly less productive in 2005, and then take a big leap forward in 2006. He must not have gotten the memo.

Defensively, the emergence of strong safety Troy Polamalu allowed defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to get even more creative in his zone blitz schemes. Often overlooked among all the controlled chaos was free safety Chris Hope. Hope served as Polamalu's safety blanket, made many of the secondary calls, and allowed Polamalu more freedom to make plays near the line of scrimmage.

Who's Leaving?

Because of their postseason success, several Pittsburgh free agents could land big contracts in 2006. Unfortunately for the Steelers, these contracts could be with other teams. WR/PR/QB/RB Antwaan Randle El will be at the top of a lot of team's list. Chicago is his hometown, Washington needs a #2 receiver opposite Santana Moss, and even the Patriots have been mentioned as potential suitors. Randle El is one of the best punt returners in football, but he's not a number two receiver. He ranked 75th in WR DPAR in 2005, and that was down from his 42nd place finish when he was the slot receiver the year before. Obviously, these rankings don't account for the fact that Randle El had a perfect passer rating and threw a regular season touchdown, but then again, most #2 receivers weren't prolific big-time college quarterbacks, either.

Free safety Chris Hope is one of the most underrated players at his position and is also a free agent. Defensive end Brett Keisel isn't well known outside of Pittsburgh, but he's emerged as a special player who not only excels on special teams, but on defense his size, strength, and speed create matchup problems for offensive linemen. With 35-year-old Kimo Von Oelhoffen also entering free agency, Keisel is a priority for the Steelers. Cornerback Deshea Townsend is the graybeard of the secondary, but he's still the best cover corner on the team, and it was his sack of Matt Hasselbeck that sealed the Super Bowl victory a few weeks ago.

If the Steelers lose Randle El, they will have to decide whether to re-sign Quincy Morgan or look to either free agency or the draft for his replacement. Similarly, with Jerome Bettis puttering off into the sunset, Duce Staley could serve as the minibus for 2006, but Pittsburgh will have to decide if third down back, Verron Haynes, should be re-signed for a similar role next season.

Who Should They Sign?

The free agent market might be too expensive for the Steelers. Without much wiggle room under the cap, Pittsburgh might look to promote from within. In 2004, Duce Staley was the big free agent signing. He missed most of last season with an injury, but at 31 years old could take over Jerome Bettis's role as the short yardage back. Last off-season, receiver Cedrick Wilson was signed to replace Plaxico Burress. With Staley and Wilson around, expect the Steelers to fill their offensive holes with in-house solutions.

Thursday: NFC North by Michael David Smith

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 14 Feb 2006

109 comments, Last at 19 Feb 2006, 6:30pm by tinselburn

Comments

1
by Craig B (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 10:37am

The Bengals could also use Kim Herring at S. I think he's a FA, but he was supposed to be a starter this year. He ended up on IR before the season began.

2
by J (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 10:52am

Nice work.

The Steelers will do what they do every off-season, or should I say don't do...they will not sign any big FAs.

Ironically, someone I thought the Steeler's would be interested in, Rock Cartwright, was mentioned last week in Al's Four Downs:NFC East.

Cartwright should get some attention, but should be reasonably priced.

3
by Spike (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 11:23am

The Bangles are my favorite post-development project here, but can they really afford to lean on someone like Doug Johnson as a backup? Or do they just not have the money for anything better?

Trick plays aside, Pittsburgh should be better off without Randle El. Unless Heath Miller regresses and Staley can't play the big back role, their offense will be robust enough with Ward, Wilson, and Miller catching passes. Watching the playoffs, Cedric Wilson seemed to have the biggest "hey, who's that guy?" effect on the people around me. (Ex-49ers probably get that a lot these days.) If Randle goes El-sewhere, look for Wilson to sneak onto FFL late-round draft boards.

4
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 11:28am

The Browns have already resigned Bodden and Davis. They should resign Roye unless his salary expectations are ridiculous. There's plenty of money for Bryant but I'm not sure how much they really think he's worth.

Bentley or Neal would be nice adds. They really need to get some Dline help, especially on the nose.

There's no reason to let Lang linger. That will free up several more million in cap $$.

Net, the Browns have $$ to spend and there is no benefit to not spending it. I would expect two starters to be acquired in FA (ideally both interior players).

5
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 11:34am

Didn't Andra Davis sign an extension during the season?

6
by Sam B (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 11:42am

Slightly dodgy on the Browns' contractal situations. Bodden, Davis and Roye have already been resigned. Regarding potential FA pickups: LeCharles Bentley would be a good fit in Cleveland, and Jurevicus is fancied by a lot of Browns fans.

7
by Sam B (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 11:44am

Whoops, not Roye. I wasn't quite sure. They're certainly keen to get him though.

8
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 11:45am

Re: 3

I think the Bengals have the money for a more accomplished back-up than Johnson. Just not sure who is available and willing to go to a spot where they have (barring injury) no shot at being the starter. That's the issue with Kitna.

BTW, if Kitna can't find a spot where he has a really good chance of being the starter, I wouldn't be surprised if he returns to Cincy.

9
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 11:49am

Yes, but Kitna stands at least a better than average chance to start in Baltimore, New Orleans, Detroit, Arizona (pending), Oakland (pending), Miami, Green Bay (pending), off the top of my head.

10
by P. Ryan Wilson :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 12:04pm

Fixed the Bodden and Davis contract issues above. Bodden signed for four years in Oct., and Davis signed a five-year deal in Mid-December. The site I was using to track free agents decided those two bits of information weren't important. My bad.

11
by Steve Z (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 12:48pm

If Hope and Randle-El are the two big ticket Steeler signs this off season and if the team can afford to sign only one of the two, which seems likely, it would be my wish that they sign Hope instead of Randle-El. He’s the glue that holds the secondary together. I actually believe they will make signing Hope a priority. The Steelers’ way seems to have the team grooming a player for the Free Safety spot and to keep him around once they trust him. More importantly, the Steelers really have no one to replace Hope, which is not true of Randle-El. I would be very surprised if Hope leaves. Another team would need to really overpay Hope in order to take him from the Steelers.

12
by Israel (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 1:03pm

If the Steelers cannot renegotiate Jeff Hartings' huge salary (it's his last year under contract), I'm not sold on Chukky Okobe as a long term replacement. I know he'd be expensive, but LeCharles Bentley would look grand in black & gold. Bentley is actually younger than Chukky, who has been a backup for too long for my taste.

And as I have said before - here and elsewhere - there is no way Randle El will stick around if someone else offers even a remote chance to play quarterback.

13
by Eric (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 1:06pm

As far as the Steelers first priority is Hartings, negotiate a reconstruction maybe try retirement, he is the biggest cap hit and second is restructure Ike Taylor to make him top tier RFA so no one can put us in a bid war and we lose him. We lose Hartings we will lose depth at the OL, still have Okabi though. Need to resign Hope, Kiesel, Haynes...if we dont resign Morgan I will be suprised, he was a kick return gem, if not shoot for Antonio Bryant. Release ARE, Townsend, KVO...you have to make a attempt on ARE but we cannot give him the money he can get, Townsend...we have the youth and depth that this will not be a big hit, Haynes...we lost the one back that was looking to replace him in Herring, now that he is gone we have to keep VH. KVO can retire with his ring and kiesel is a decent replacement, we wont have the depth we had this year but will still be pretty solid. In the draft I see us mainly looking defense, LB's are getting aged, need another project or two there as with the DL. Might pick a WR or two if anyone decent falls our way.

14
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 1:06pm

(as Football Outsiders writer Al Bogden wrote last week

I hate to be picky, but isn't Al's last name "Bogdan"?

15
by P. Ryan Wilson :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 1:11pm

Pat,

Why yes, yes it is (and it's fixed).

Sincerely,

Ryan Dilson

16
by perrin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 1:18pm

"Ken Walters" s/b "Kevin Walter."

17
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 1:33pm

Re: 9

I'd agree that Kitna would have a good shot at starting at those spots (with the pendings noted). But there are other QB options out there that he has to compete against. For example, I think it's very likely that NO will pick a QB at the top of the draft. Not only will this probably eliminate NO as an option for Kitna, but it may result in Brooks being available to fill a spot somewhere else.

Net, there will be a bunch of QB movement in the months ahead. It's possible Kitna lands somewhere else as the likely starter. But I also think there a fair chance (call it 1 in 3) that he gets shut out and goes back to Cincy.

18
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 1:33pm

Poor Ryan. He should change his byline to Ryan "He Hate Me" Wilson.

19
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 1:39pm

Israel,

Does ARE really have even a remote chance to play QB anywhere?

20
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 1:43pm

Re: 13

Can't see the Steeler's paying enough to get Bryant. I do think Morgan is likely to stay though.

Why wouldn't the Steeler's (attempt to) resign KVO? He's not that old, is he? I thought he had a pretty good year.

21
by Michael David Smith :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 1:44pm

Absolutely no chance Randle El plays quarterback in anything other than a trick play or a team that gets totally devastated by injuries.

22
by bleyle (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 1:49pm

Kimo had a great year actually. They may attempt to sign at below-market. He's the kind of guy who might take a deal like that. He is 35, but keeping the younger (and talented) Keisel has to be the priority. Keeping Kimo is for depth, but Keisel's future is now. The Steelers are still stinging over letting Mike Vrabel slip away to the Pats. I'd be surprised if they let the same happen to Keisel.

23
by Eric (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 2:12pm

One other thing, we need to drop Maddsux and resaign Batch who is also a UFA. Need to get a late round QB also, the concept of this year is saveing cap space, Ben resigning is nearing and we will need the space to keep him and keep him happy.

24
by Eric (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 2:17pm

Response to 20

KVO is 35 and in his 13th season, he has a great year nearly every year he played for us, it is debateable that he is the backbone of the steelers D. he realibilty of KVO is nearly unprecedented in the NFL, I will miss him but this is the business end that nobody likes.

25
by Dired (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 2:18pm

Whenever I read Samari Rolle's name, without fail, I want sushi. Yeah, it's obvious, but for some reason, it still works.

26
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 2:53pm

Absolutely no chance Randle El plays quarterback in anything other than a trick play or a team that gets totally devastated by injuries.

Does anyone really think that Randle El would be that bad on a team as a 3rd QB? Yes, having a WR be your 3rd QB doesn't save your active roster any space, but it does free up a spot on the full roster.

Didn't the Steelers list Randle El as 3rd string QB for portions this year? Or was that totally made up?

27
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 2:59pm

Any thoughts on the Ravens? Some terrific talent on the roster but unless their OL and QB play improve dramatically it might be time to start rebuilding.

28
by calig23 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 3:09pm

Re:#26

That was mostly out of necessity, due to the injuries to both Ben and Batch.

29
by Israel (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 3:24pm

James (19) - Does ARE really have even a remote chance to play QB anywhere?

Of course not. But he believes he does and will undoubtedly choose among offers that hold out that illusion.

the realibilty (sic) of KVO is nearly unprecedented

Why would any commentor skip over such a great name as Kimo and use initials? (If offered a chance to start, he will go and take it. If not, he will stay as a backup.)

30
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 3:59pm

I am worried that the Bears are going to overpay for ARE. I agree with this article's assessment that he is not a #2 WR. I think his role in PIT was ideal for his capabilities. When he goes to a franchise where the OC isn't designing any trick plays for him, his role will be more as a special teams guy (i.e., KR/PR) and #3 WR than starter.

31
by Eric (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 4:01pm

Israel

I have no doubt that Kimo could start if he wanted to, but like I said ideally we need to conserve cap space as much as we can, unless he will take a HUGE paycut to play minimally we NEED TO LET HIM GO!!! he key to this year was depth, particualry on the DL, somewhat LB also, but what allowed us to obtain that depth was never haveing a franchise QB, they demand huge money now and to keep Ben we need to start getting under the cutoff as much as possible. We will more then likely offer him something next season to get the best price on him, so the cutting of cap space is now, no need to pay for a minmally playing guy.

32
by Israel (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 4:05pm

Eric (31). That was what I meant. If someone offers him a chance to start, fine. If not then any backup offers will be not much over minimum, so he may as well stay here.

33
by Ryan carney (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 4:13pm

Anyone looking for an old, broken down runner who was blatantly outshined by the best back in football last year? If so, please inquire at PriestHolmesneedsajob.com. Teams with mediocre to bad offensive lines need not apply. (side note) called this two years ago, Johnson is just getting started, seems like Alexander 2.0, shame he's already 26 or 27. Chiefs should have ditched Holmes for D last year, now their screwed. (side note #2) I'm not arrogant, just excited, because this is the only thing I have ever been right about.

34
by JMM (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 4:42pm

Israel,
The last comment I saw from ARE was that he was satisfied (if not happy) with being a WR. Are you basing your comments on recent comments of his? Even when there was speculation on him being a starter when the QB ranks at Pitt were thin this year, his interest seemed like a flirtation more than a serious interest.

35
by Luz (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 5:07pm

#34

i had thought he'd given up on his QB dreams but he did make some comments recently about wanting to give it a shot.

RE: multiple posts

kimo attributes his high level of play at the age of 35 to having never played football in college. i think he was a walk on, maybe at boise state, but i'm not interested enough to look it up.

RE: townsend/kimo

of course neither player is worth a big pay day but the steelers would be utterly foolish not to resign proven veterans if the price is right.

are there any raven's fans out there? starshatter, perhaps? i didn't pay much attention to the ravens this year and was wondering what their fans were thinking about next season.

36
by Luz (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 5:07pm

doh!

i meant kimo had never played football BEFORE college.

37
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 5:10pm

Why the Ravens would want a walking turnover like Jon Kitna is a source of wonder. Kitna's best years have come as a compliment, not as the crux of the offense. In Baltimore, he would be at least equivalent with whatever running back pops out of the carousel.

Top FA target should be Bentley, who would also ease pressure on Mulitalo and Vincent. Draft RB and S (please, please PLEASE let it be LenDale White), and wait for the QB's to drop after the June cap cuts.

Hope that answers you, mawbrew!

38
by Israel (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 5:21pm

34 - I think it was just last summer that he said that he would really like to play QB and that he feels he can do it at the NFL level. Maybe it was the summer before.

He has also spoken recently about how excited he gets whenever he gets the chance. Even if he has "given it up," he would jump if offered.

And 36 - Kimo lettered in his junior and senior years at Boise State.

39
by the K (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 5:30pm

Re: MDS #21

Or in Chicago? C'mon, throw us a bone here. Randle-El vs. Rex "Brittle" Grossman vs. The Kyle Orton Experience would be the best sports story ever.

40
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 6:07pm

Re: 37

It certainly does and thank you. Just curious, if you don't like Kitna, what potentially available QB do you think would fit with the Ravens?

Oh, and BTW thanks to the earlier post (Eric) that supplied KVO's age. He's at least three years older than I figured. Retirement isn't unreasonable.

41
by Eric (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 6:12pm

(32)

I don't like the upside of the transaction you are talking about...league minimum with the upside of getting valuable playing experience in the system versus paying over league minimum and the down side of ageing....you are not takeing this into account. Plus factor in that KVO was already seeing less playing time then in past years due to depth at his postion, he played running downs only, and was even still getting spelled on some of those later in the game. I love KVO but that is not a move I want to see taken at all.

(35)

Kimo/Townsend...there is no upside to keeping KVO (see above)
Look at the bind Chad Scott had us in when we Were in the same postion with him, we had no experience then, this time we do...this is about getting a franchise QB, something the Steelers never had deal with before. Look at what McFadden has done when he has played this year, yes DT will give us experience but the downside is we are dealing with precious money right now with Ben and the minmal depth at OL and LB. Remeber we cut Jackson who we thought we give us more QUALITY depth at LB.

42
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 6:33pm

Of the QB's being mentioned right now, mawbrew, I would prefer McNair or Volek (whichever one the Titans decide not to keep). Both of them have good relationships with Mason, and have shown the ability to produce with an iffy running game. My preference would be McNair, but if the Titans decide to go with Vince Young, it will probably be Volek that becomes available.

43
by Luz (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 6:35pm

Eric,

ryan mentioned the doug johnson effect, did you look it up? it says, "Beware of high expectation for a part-time players who had a very good performance the previous season in only one or two games"

i think kiesel and mcfadden COULD be starters but that doesn't mean they WILL be. your arguement for townsend makes even less sense since every team in the league plays a lot of nickel and dime coverages. you don't think having townsend around will be helpful when playing the bengals? you'd really like riccardo out there covering chris henry (if he isn't jail bait by then)? ask new england how important cornerback depth is. ike and mcfadden look like good starting corners but if townsend goes who is behind them? not willie williams, he'll be cut. you're left with colclough and.... and... chidi iwuoma?

by all means, tell me again why you don't want townsend resigned.

44
by ClevelandFan (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 6:56pm

LeCharles Bentley might end up in brown and orange next year. He's a native son, he's said to be interested and I believe Cleveland has more room under the cap this year than anyone. If Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel aren't interested in making that kind of improvement to the interior OL then they must be crazy.

45
by Eric (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 6:58pm

Logan, I say convert him over to nickel back. More physical type of player, the kind I like espically in that slot when they like to go deep down the seam. I would not pass on resigning DT for the right money, but be realistic, you think he will stay for what we will offer him when someone is likely to out bid us on him, HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE STEELERS OVER PAY A PLAYER VERY OFTEN????? We are one of the few teams that ones a true system type organaztion.

46
by Luz (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 6:59pm

is it just me or do 29 of 32 NFL teams fans want bentley? if the teams feel the same way this guy is going to be one rich son of a...

47
by Eric (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:01pm

Just something I forgot, the pass rush will be a lot better with Smith, Hoke, Kiesel, and Porter when in that nickel then the fronts we played this year....which was mainly just 2 down linemen.

48
by steelersin06 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:09pm

RE:45

Steelers overpay: the obvious answer is Duce Staley.

BTW, I am a huge Steelers fan on cloud nine. Had Super Bowl tickets and it was awesome! Beyond words! I feared posting on this site the two weeks leading up to the game for fear of the FOMB curse. This may be the least insightful thing ever said on this board, but if you ever have the chance to go to the Super Bowl, TAKE IT. It was amazing, and the Steelers winning the game was just icing on the cake.

49
by Vince (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:11pm

I think Randle El would be a perfect fit for Washington, and could make them very dangerous.

50
by Eric (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:16pm

(48)

I have to agree on that, but they will try and squeeze every penny out of him now. I think there is still a possibility that he might be worth the money in the grand total of the scheme, but we dont really know that yet. It was not as apperent last year as this year but there was no major need to rush him back from injury wuth the depth we had at that postion. We are stuck with him now, no trade value and we cannot just release him without takeing a big cap hit.

51
by SteelerBill (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:30pm

I would love to have everyone back of course (as a Steeler fan) but I believe what we are going to see is that certain players fit well into 'systems' that know how best to utilize their talents - the Steelers did a great job of that with El this year - could Ron Turner and the Bears? More likely the Pats would better utilize his talent...

52
by steelersin06 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:30pm

(50)

True, although I am not sure that the cap hit on Duce's contract is that great. But I don't want to look it up right now and you could very well be right. My opinion is based on some half-remembered conversation about Steeler cap space so it could easily be wrong. I am hopeful that because of the time off and the rest Duce will be rejuvenated, and form a dynamic combination with Willie Parker. However, Duce could be done, which leaves the Steelers with a glaring weakness at running back. I like V. Haynes but he strikes me as Amoz Z. redux, a valuable contributor, but not worth paying big money.

53
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:36pm

ARE to Chicago just makes too much sense. He's one player who immediately helps the teams three biggest weaknesses - QB depth, WR, and a return man who doesn't drop the ball everytime it hits him.

He might not perform better at WR then what they currently have, but it never hurts to have a speedy slot guy who can fill in those other two roles as well - and if ARE wants a QB starting chance and doesn't get offered one, he might want the situation with the weakest QB situation.

54
by J.S. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:36pm

Watching the playoffs, Cedric Wilson seemed to have the biggest “hey, who’s that guy?� effect on the people around me. (Ex-49ers probably get that a lot these days.) If Randle goes El-sewhere, look for Wilson to sneak onto FFL late-round draft boards.

If Randel El does leave then that would make him the 2nd reciver about 60 % of the time for Pittsburgh so I think I will drfat him sooner for my FFL :-)

55
by J.S. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:39pm

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE STEELERS OVER PAY A PLAYER VERY OFTEN?????

Yea his nickname was "Slash"

56
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:39pm

..., and Collins is 34 with a history of poor decision making, something Baltimore already has in abundance. A more realistic short-term option might be a player like Jon Kitna or Charlie Batch.

Charlie Batch = better decision making? (by implication) Huh? Did something change once he moved to Pittsburgh?

57
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:49pm

One thing about the Steelers is that they rarely seem to wade too far into the free agent pool. They have a long history of promoting from within, rebuilding on the go through the draft, and hanging on to very good, but not superior, players. They actually remind me a lot of the Eagles in this way (they let a lot of players walk away - particularly on defense - once they're in their 30s and just keep on promoting from within.) Except, I'd say, the Steelers are historically even less active in free agency. There's no reason that this pattern should stop now. I don't expect them to make any big free agent signings.

58
by J.S. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:50pm

re: 56

I don't know they are blaming the losses on tommy maddux so maybe they are saying at least he does not loose games now.

In all fairness to Kerry Collins, the raiders could not establish the run very often or very consistantly so he had no options but to throw. all of us here knows what happens when a QB is forced to throw at a rate of over 60%, their numbers get real pathectic real quick.

any who, the most obvvious choice for the Ravens is try to go up a few num,bers in the draft and pull down a Decent QB from there. we all know that Matt and Quincy are going to go in the top ten of the draft so why not try and get one of these guys. I think with thier offensive mind sent Matt Leinhart would fit in quite nicley, Also means I would not have to worry about him in my division :-)

59
by Eric (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 7:59pm

(52) All we can be is hopeful, ;)...when he has played espically last year he looked good, take into account that I am hopeful that there was also rust from the lack of play time, as far as injuries, i think that is the key question everyone of us wants answered.

(55) Thanks for makeing me spit my pop all over the place. If you ever get the chance look at slashes winning percentage as a starter compared to the other recent and not so recent pitt starters, it might suprise you.

60
by Theo (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 8:16pm

Look for the Steelers come draft time, when they get some depth at the Dline. Washington is going to be an OK receiver. With Ward, Morgan, Wilson, Washington and Miller, BenRo will have enough weapons.

I'm more worried about the running game.

61
by Luz (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 8:20pm

#45

converting logan is a stretch. he played safety for a reason - namely he's not that fast. i never said that kimo and townsend should be signed at all costs, just that letting quality players go without attempting to sign them is very stupid. if they agree to a decent contract they should be signed, period. roethlisberger's contract is not up next year but polamalu's is. signing townsend and kimo won't impact the ability to resign either player, however. of course the steelers won't overpay but giving either of them a 2 year deal with a small signing bonus won't be a problem.

i'll say it again. the only other corners on the steelers roster after ike and mcfadden are colclough and iwouma. if ike or mcfadden go down the steelers would be screwed, let alone the problems they'd have in nickel or dime. they could spend yet another high draft pick on a player but that doesn't mean that a rookie will be ready to contribute (see taylor, ike and colclough, riccardo). i think resigning townsend is very important. not over spend important but important none the less.

again, we don't know how kiesel would fair full time at DE. he is certainly a higher priority than resigning kimo. however, having a proven, quality player on your roster is never a bad thing.

also, i completely disagree that alonzo jackson provided depth at LB. it became pretty apparent, pretty quickly that he wasn't going to transition into the LB role very well. the steelers kept him around in hopes the light would go on. it didn't. they got lucky with harrison, who was about to give up on playing football, and i'm very glad they did.

62
by Luz (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 8:22pm

does anyone know off hand when chad johnson's contract is up? i seem to remember him angling for a raise before the season started. am i imagining that?

63
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 9:01pm

Newsome and Billick would have to be drunk to franchise Lewis, assuming the franchise tag is not immediately eliminated in the current cba negotiations (I heard today on the radio that the start of the free agent period may be pushed out from March 1 to April 1, due to progress made at the bargaining table). Devoting about 9% of 2006 cap space to a running back approaching 30, who performed as Lewis did in 2005, as opposed to drafting a running back in the first round, or even a later round, would be nuts.

Writing this column with a new CBA being ngotiated, with all the immediate implications it may have on cap space, and how bonuses are pro-rated, to say nothing of the possibility of a new rookie pay structure, is kinda' tough.

64
by NFC Central Freak (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 9:04pm

What I find mildly interesting about Randle-El is that he hasn't changed his style of play from his collegiate days. Every so often an exciting play, but erratic, and he can't seem to hold onto the ball consistently. At least by my experience he seems to put the ball on the ground more frequently then others.

And not because of big hits. He just drops the ball. He did that at Indiana but because they didn't really have anyone else they lived with it. And in college his elusiveness would sometimes result in big plays.

But the good teams could control him. You just had to stay in your lanes on the pass rush (play pattycake with the O-linemen) and cover decently. Which is what teams should do against Vick of course. They help him out by running past him and opening up the field.

It really is pretty dumb when you consider it. I know others will insist it's not that simple, blah, blah, blah. But when a guy's best chance comes by you whizzing past him so he can run upfield with defenders already trailing why wouldn't you just keep yourself between him and the open space?

I will now expect the required mocking tones from those who insist this is stupid and that players like Mike Vick just cannot be contained.

Yawn.......

65
by rk (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 9:41pm

NFCCF,
Randle El does indeed still have a big tendency to fumble the ball. I'm pretty sure it is because he carries the football by palming it in one hand often. None of his fumbles this season were very damaging to the game (except the failed lateral against NE), so people may overlook that aspect of his game. But I know that on every one of his punt returns for the last 2 years I have prayed to the football gods for him to avoid a fumble (and attempt to gain yards instead of dancing and spinning backward).
The playoffs showcased everything that he does well, but Steeler fans should know from his regular season performance and occasional disappearance that anyone that lays down big bucks for the guy is overpaying, and the fans will be disappointed. Also, all of this talk about the guy possibly playing QB is ludicrous.

66
by calig23 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 11:15pm

I don’t know they are blaming the losses on tommy maddux so maybe they are saying at least he does not loose games now.

The Steelers won both of Batch's starts, and lost both of Maddox's, so I'm not sure what your point here is. Batch was shaky in the Green Bay game, but wasn't the disaster that Maddox was in both of his games. And considering it was his first real appearance in 4 years, it wasn't really that bad. Batch did quite well in his start against Cleveland, though he played only one half due to injury.

With regards to Kimo and DeShea, if they can be resigned to reasonable contracts, the Steelers should do it without question. Especially DeShea. Secondary depth is of vital importance, as we have seen with New England. You can't keep calling guys in off the street and not expect it to have an effect. Heck, when the Patriots are trying to get production out of former Steelers castoffs like Chad Scott and Hank Poteat, you know they're desperate. I don't want to see the Steelers in that position.
The problem with Townsend is that he can likely earn a starting job with starting money from another team. If so, he's not going to want take less money to be the nickle back for the Steelers. In my opinion Townsend would be a great fit for a team that already has a top corner, but is shaky on the other side. I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, though.
As for Kimo, I'm not as desirous of keeping him as I am of DT, but if he wants to play another year or so, and would resign for a reasonable amount, he would provide very nice depth and insurance for Kiesel. Otherwise... See you later, Kimo, and thanks for the memories!

And regarding Randle El... ARE as a #2 would be a mistake for any team that didn't either have an elite #1, or a well-rounded group(think Seattle or New England). Chicago does not fit either of those two categories, at least, in my opinion, and I think it would likely be an "Az Hakim" kind of mistake for them. It wouldn't necessarily be a disaster, but I don't think it would be the right move for them. As for his punt return skills, I like to think of ARE as the "Barry Sanders of punt returners." Only less reliable. He'll break those big ones every now and then, but 90% of the time he wastes so much time and yardage dancing around accomplishing nothing. And that's not to mention the random fumbles and laterals.
What you see is what you get with ARE. Unless he gets signed by somebody looking for a #3 WR, whoever signs him will overpay. They may still get solid production, but they will be overpaying nevertheless.

67
by MdM (not verified) :: Tue, 02/14/2006 - 11:16pm

NFC Central,
I liked your post until you did the "yawn" thing. That's obnoxious.

68
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 12:08am

Does anyone really think that Randle El would be that bad on a team as a 3rd QB? Yes, having a WR be your 3rd QB doesn’t save your active roster any space, but it does free up a spot on the full roster.

If Randel El were designated a 3rd QB, by NFL rules he could only enter the game if the first two quarterbacks left the game and didn't return. So he couldn't be used as a WR.

69
by Ben Morgan (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 12:16am

I think a lot of Steelers fans are resigned to losing Randle-El to free agency. He's a great guy to have around for the big play potential he has but his production on the other 90% of our offensive plays says he's not a genuine number 2 WR, at least not for us anyway. I'm sure he could probably work his way to a number 1 position in the right offense, he's similar in a lot of ways to Steve Smith, or at least he flashes that sort of ability anyway. Point is the Steelers rarely overpay their free agents in order to keep them. I don't see them matching the sort of offers ARE will get. The one exception may be for Hope who's probably more valuable to us than to other teams, likewise Kiesel so I think we may retain those two. Ike Taylor's restricted and I see them putting him at least at the middle tier and negotiating a long term deal with him in training camp. Townsend will most likely be gone, he's a very good little cover corner who will start for a lot of teams but the Steelers like McFadden and Taylor for next year. If no-one comes in for him (unlikely) Townsend could come back as a nickel DB and backup.

Haynes has apparently said he'd like a chance to get the ball more often and if we keep Staley that's not going to happen in Pittsburgh. Assuming he goes, as someone else mentioned Rock Cartwright would be a perfect fit to be a number 3RB, 3rd down guy and backup Fullback. Should be pretty cheap too. If the Steelers do make a raid on a top level free agent it's not going to be a skill position guy, there is one guy out there who screams Steeler and it is as mentioned LeCharles Bentley. Personally I was shocked when we drafted Kendall Simmons ahead of Bentley... it could be time to right a draft wrong. The Steelers will actually make a net cap saving if they let both Hartings and Okobi go and sign Bentley to be their next long term Center. There's a ton of cap cash tied up in Hartings/Okobi in 2006. I'd like to see them get Hartings back for one more year and put out a starting OL of Smith/Faneca/Hartings/Bentley/Starks but I may be in dream world there.

Call me crazy but I can see Quincy Morgan developing into a good starter opposite Ward with a year in the system under his belt. Between him and Wilson I think we'd have a decent set of 3 and an intriguing prospect in Nate Washington but I expect early draft picks to be used on a WR and a LB or 2...

70
by KillerB (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 1:01am

I still say the best deal would be ARE to Miami. On that team he'd be a #2 wideout, and they could get him for cheaper by dangling the possibility of getting to play QB.

Everyone says he's got no chance, but who knows - didn't he have the NCAA combined yards record? He might not be a great or even very good QB at the NFL level, but certainly he could be better than Gus Frerotte or Sage Rosenfels, right? And if it turns out he sucks, well, hey, you still have a pretty darn good slot man.

71
by Daniel (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 1:14am

The Steelers are prepared to cut ties with Randle El, Von Olehoffen, and Townsend. That is why they signed Wilson and Morgan, kept Kirschke, and drafted Ike Taylor, Ricardo Colclough, and Bryant McFadden. They have a guys on the team they believe are ready to assume the responsibilities for those players, so don't be suprised if they let them all walk. I think they will keep Staley (at a renegotiated lower cap number) and use he and Fast Willie to hammer opponents. Throughout his tenure Cowher has always favored using a fast, slashing runner and a big bruiser together (Bam Morris & Eric Peagram, Bettis & Zeroue, Bettis & Parker).

72
by J (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 1:41am

Steelers.

I do not think Morgan will resign with the Steelers.

I think the Steelers will make him an offer, but at this time any offer he will see from any team will be relatively small.

Won't he want to sign another one year contract with a more pass friendly team in hopes of putting-up good numbers, and then try to get a bigger contract the following year?

Even if he does leave, I think the Steelers will be fine with their receivers. Ward, Wilson, Washington, and Miller will be good enough.

As far as Washington, I think he will have a good year....500-600 yards.

73
by Israel (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 1:51am

Luz (43) you’d really like riccardo out there covering chris henry (if he isn’t jail bait by then)? ask new england how important cornerback depth is. ike and mcfadden look like good starting corners but if townsend goes who is behind

I must be old or something. Last I knew, "jail bait" was an underaged girl.

And you are spot on regarding the positive role for DeShea.

Scott de B (68) If Randel El were designated a 3rd QB, by NFL rules he could only enter the game if the first two quarterbacks left the game and didn’t return. So he couldn’t be used as a WR.

Not so. He can be the third qb without being designated as such. The desginated rule says that you can bring him in as thrid qb even if he is one of the eight non-actives. It does mean, however, that if the third qb is actually playing say WR, there are eight really inactive guys, not seven.

74
by rk (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 2:14am

When Kendrell Bell gets released by KC, I think the Steelers should offer him a 1-year league minimum contract. His value is at an all-time low, Pittsburgh's system is the only one that ever got anything out of him, LB depth is important, and Clint Kriewaldt is a FA. Maybe he's got nothing left, so they could just cut him in training camp. Assuming no one else offers him above the minimum, I think it's a worthwhile venture for both sides.

75
by Israel (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 3:37am

74 - Kendrell Bell spends too much time injured. As a backup, his main role would be to play well when needed, which has been precisely the problem - you cannot depend on him.

He cannot replace Kriewaldt on special teams.

... know when to walk away, know when to run...

76
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 4:26am

Re: 58
I don't think the Ravens will be moving up in the draft, the last time they did that with Boller it didn't turn out so well. They are not going to put all their eggs in one basket again, besides, they want someone to compete with Boller for the starting job, not a franchise QB.
What will be interesting is seeing how Fassil runs the offense, last year he was co-ordinating Billick's scheme, but apparently next year he will pretty much have full reign with the system. All the Ravens need to make the playoffs is an average offense for crying out loud. Every year I pray for a mediocre offense, every year I'm disappointed.
And Tom K., I too am hoping for LenDale. Powerful and fast, just like Jamal Lewis used to be. Chester Taylor is a good 3rd down back but I'm not sure he would survive a full season.

77
by PDBIP (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 4:54am

MdM (67) - Would you prefer he used an emoticon? ;)

78
by Matt (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 11:01am

Randle El is gone, probably to the Bears - a home-town guy, he'd rather play in Chicago than in DC. Look for the Steelers to stick with Cedrick Wilson as the #2 guy, and have a three-way competition for the #3 spot: Quincy Morgan, Nate Washington, and their #3 draft pick in this year's 2006 draft: Jeremy Bloom. (A WR/PR/KR just like Morgan, except he doesn't drop balls or lose focus. Check him out in the moguls competition this week, by the way.)

79
by bartleby (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 12:09pm

What is the difference between "upgrade" and "bolster"?

80
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 12:32pm

Bartleby (#79 )--

In context, "upgrade" means replace underperforming starters with better players, "bolster" means add some depth.

Cincinatti's pass defense was decent when all the starters were in (and playing pass); their run defense was suspect.

81
by MdM (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 12:33pm

PDPIP

Yes, please!

82
by TJ Jackson (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 1:09pm

In the review of the Bengals, you say that the Bengals might lose Reggie Myles. Actually, he was cut in mid season after a locker room scuffle with a defensive lineman, and as far as I know never re-signed with another team.

You might want to revise your article :-)

Also, given the depth of the FA class at DT, I consider it likely that the Bengals will seek on in FA this year. Particularly since the FA draft class isn't all that great, with significant issues attached to each prospect liekly available during day 1. Even moreso since the Bengqals are in a "win now" mode, rather than their usual yearly rebuilding.

83
by Eric (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 2:01pm

(61)
Luz

I agree that the Logan concept is a stretch but there is a method to my madness here. DT is not known for his speed and as a side note was that not him that got burned for 60 in our playoff game with cincy by none other the the WR you mentioned??? DT is not fast but he knows the coverage and sytem and that is why he was a solid DB all year, he knows to take away where he is not going to get help first, of all the guys sitting on the bench he is the most experinced if we lose DT, can he play like DT did this year....I dont know but the law of probability says that he is the most likely that can do what DT did. We play a lot of cover 3 type defenses with a cb playing a deep safety role in nickel and dime anyways so his role would not be that far out of what we picked him up to do anyways, this is without any injuries. As far as injuries they can always hurt a team and there is not a whole lot you can do about it, when cb's go down you have to convert a safety or two over anyways, so your point there is moot. I just do not want to see us get in a bid war over DT, which I think can happen because a lot of teams are looking for a sound cb, heck who isn't looking for one, we got a couple but the likely hood that keeping all of them is not good, time to promote, see response 71.

As far as Jackson...I said he was suppose to provide quality depth, nearly everybody thought he was going to do something, the two seasons of the deer caught in the headlites was enough.

If we do resign Kimo/Townsend to the 2 year deal like you state, I am not opposed to it but you do not give higher salary then bonuses, bonuses can be prorated over years salary cannot, less cap hit to give and pro rate bonuses.

84
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 2:03pm

What's the "depth of the FA class" at DT? DE, sure - there's Abraham, Darren Howard, Anthony Weaver, Vanden Bosch and others, but I don't really see that same depth there at DT.

85
by Eric (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 2:10pm

(69)

I think the reason why we need to resign Haynes is that he has shown that he can come in and take carries, he knows our system and he has steadily improved in his time here. With the question mark on taley injury wise i think this is something we need to do. If DS did go down we would lose less production then if we lost Haynes and picked up a rookie.

The Bentley deal would be sweet, but I don't like the lack of depth in the long run.

86
by Joel Dias-Porter (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 2:12pm

#68 You're confusing two different things, 1) is 'designating' a player as the 3rd QB, and 2) is 'using' a player as the 3rd QB. You are right about players 'designated' as the 3rd QB, they are not activated for the game and can only play under certain conditions. But any team is free to 'use' a player already activated for the game as their 3rd QB, this player, since he was activated at the start of the game can come in and out at any position or positions his team wants. If the first two QBs go down this player could move to QB, and one of the injured guys could still come back. #26 isn't talking about him being designated 3rd QB, but rather just being used that way, which could allow a team to carry only two QBs on their full roster.

87
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 3:29pm

#86 good point. I believe that's how the Broncos use Rod Smith. Jake Plummer and Bradlee van Pelt are the QBs, and Smith would play QB if there was an emergency. Doesn't stop him from starting the game at WR though. Essentially, the Broncos do not have anybody officially designated the emergency QB.

88
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 5:15pm

Overall though if you sit and think about everything a GM has to think about. (Cap Space, Cap hits from current contracts, performance of the player this past year, injuries, actions off the field, etc.) I think that the Steelers and the Bengals are in the best spot to retain most of thier team this year. The Ravens need some offense (has anything changed?) and the Browns are in rebuilding mode. I do not think that Coach Crunell will sacrifce the future for the present so I expect to see some minor upgrades this year, perhaps a good backup QB like Kinta or maybe even a Rattay. Pittsburgh has always proven to be good at Salary Caps figures and Cincinati is following the same path. I revise my earlier statement about the ravens going after a QB in the Draft(#58), #76 has made me see my eroor but think about this there are multiple possible PREMIERE running backs in the Draft,so why not try and up yourself in the draft and go after a Reggie Bush All purpose kinda guy or a hard hitting Lendale White? If they could up themselves in the Draft high enough to get Reggie Bush 3 things would happen almost instantanously:
1. Thier Special Teams would go improve by a factor of at least 45%, Reggie can return the ball.
2. Defenses would have to scheme for him being in the back field giving precious more time to Kyle Boller to get the ball down field.
3. they SHOULD have a decent replacement for Jamal Lewis (who I do not see being on thier team prior to the Draft, perhaps as trade bait to move up in the draft).

Anyway these are my thoughts
Besides I really do not know the AFC North that well.
Just wait til they get to the NFC north and then I will have plenty to say ( I am a HUGE Green Bay fan)

89
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 5:22pm

I will now expect the required mocking tones from those who insist this is stupid and that players like Mike Vick just cannot be contained.

But NFC Central Freak is is that easy if you shut down the "running" lanes that a Qb has open to him then keep the outside lane where they have a tendency to scramble closed off and you have the makings of a "shut shut down Michael Vick" defense, this however requires a very calm and collected Defensive Line along with a couple of quick Line Backers, but it can be done.

90
by Luz (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 6:40pm

in case anyone is interested the steelers made some practice squad moves yesterday (info from KFFL):

-The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed free agent DT Kyle Andrews to a future contract. It was a one-year, $235,000 contract.

-The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed practice squad OG Ulish Booker to a future contract. It was a two-year contract with base salaries of $235,000 (2006) and $310,000 (2007).

-The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed practice squad OL Tim Brown to a future contract. It was a two-year contract with base salaries of $235,000 (2006) and $310,000 (2007).

-The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed free agent RB Mike Jemison (Giants) to a future contract. It was a one-year, $235,000 contract.

-The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed practice squad RB John Kuhn to a future contract. It was a one-year, $235,000 contract.

-The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed LB Malcolm Postel to a future contract. It is a one-year, $235,000 contract.

-The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed QB Rod Rutherford to a future contract. It is a two-year deal with base salaries of $235,000 (2006) and $310,000 (2007).

-The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed free agent LB Ronald Stanley (49ers) to a future contract. It is a one-year, $235,000 contract.

91
by Craigo (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 6:47pm

90 - Rod Rutherford as the Steelers #3 QB? I hope not, actually - he was decent at Pitt, but then again he was throwing to Larry Fitzgerald.

92
by Craigo (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 6:54pm

Actually, looking at his states he had an NFL rating of about 90 while at Pitt. Not as mediocre as I made him out to be.

93
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 8:20pm

Tommy Maddox's career is over (one hopes), and the Steelers are apparently planning to re-sign Batch only if they can get him for next to nothing, and seem comfortable with Rod Rutherford being their #2 QB. This is probably a mistake because Roethlisberger is not very durable. The Steelers could stand to pay Batch a little bit or to sign a decent career-backup type like Todd Collins or somebody.

94
by rk (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 9:10pm

Re:93
How do you figure that the Steelers are comfortable w/ Rutherford as their #2? Free agency hasn't even started yet.

95
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 9:29pm

Essentially, the Broncos do not have anybody officially designated the emergency QB.

Which doesn't save them any active roster space - but it does save them space on the 53-man roster - they only have 2 QBs on the 53-man roster. Which gives them slightly more injury depth.

Honestly, if you lose both your #1 and #2 QB in one game, why wouldn't you want a QB like Randle El as your #3? Your passing game is going to be shot to hell, and c'mon, your #3 QB isn't worth that much. Just have him hand the ball off, and occasionally run. Hell, stick in an option run or two, it's not like he's worth that much. :)

Would've been more fun than watching the Brooks Bollinger Experience.

96
by E Street (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 12:14am

The Steelers do not have a set pattern - except that they will not let huge holes develop and they will move to fill gaping holes. They have made big moves in the past

-- trading for Jerome Bettis in '96
-- signing James Farrior
-- moving up in the draft for Polamalu when Dexter Jackson backed out of a deal (thank God)

Even signing Staley was a pretty big deal because he was signed and played half a season as the starting, feature back.

This is why they won't let Hope go, and they will let Randle El go. They won't let big holes develop and they never will.

97
by Stevie (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 12:23am

#46 you are spot on. Every team could use Bentley and he will be the premier interior lineman available. With that said I cant imagine the Saints would be dumb enought to just let him walk away for nothing. Hes going to be franchised and traded since he is reportedly "desperate" to get out of NO. I can see more then one team giving up a 1st day pick for the chance to sign him to a long term deal. I mean the Saints have been using their tag on Darren Howard and now theve got someone other teams actually want.

98
by Israel (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 1:38am

Luz (90) - Do you have a link for us? What is a futures contract and who on earth ties up practice squad guys before the draft?

I don't know about Rutherford as #2 or even #3, but the Steelers play Atlanta this year and he can do the scout team left-handed.

99
by rk (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 2:23am

I'm not sure what a future contract is, but every team makes these kind of moves between the end of its season and the draft. The guys that no one has ever heard of that get cut after 2 weeks of training camp often come from this round of signing. They are guys who were either on someone's practice squad or got cut in training camp but never caught on. Some of them might be allocated to NFL Europe.

100
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 10:18am

Re: 97

I think a lot of the interest in Bentley is based on uncertainty regarding what sort of $$ it will take to sign him. Is he going to get the sort of contract that D. Woody got from the Lions (generally considered a bad deal for the Lions) or something more reasonable.

Bentley has never made the Pro Bowl, has he?

I'd have to believe he would make the biggest difference (to teams in the AFC North) to the Ravens. So assuming they have cap space I would expect them to have the most interest.

Mike

101
by Luz (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 12:55pm

israel, i pulled it off of KFFL.com. they have a very detailed wire service. i'm not sure what a future contract is but if i were to speculate (talk out of my ass) i'd guess it is one that doesn't count against the cap unless the player makes the team.

102
by Yellowknifer (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 8:55pm

A few things I don't agree with here.

Julian Peterson was NOT GOOD last year. Maybe he'll be better the 2nd year after his major injury, but he was horrible at times last year for the Niners. He's always been a bit of a liability against the run, but it was even more evident this year. He's a mediocre passrusher now & his coverage skills have declined significantly. He started to play better as the season wore on (outside of the first week when I think the Rams o-line fell asleep for half the game), but overall he wasn't that great. Maybe another year after his injury will be what he needs. I wouldn't risk big bucks on him if I'm a GM after watching gamefilm of him last year.

Also I think the Browns will use the draft to address the o-line. They could use a tackle, but overall their line actually wasn't that bad last year. Much better than in years past.

Also I disagree that Baxter is a top corner in the AFC. He's always been better suited to saftey because of his hips. He struggles against fluid speedsters whenever I watch him unless he's playing zone.

103
by AHBM (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 8:58pm

I really hope that Rutherford never actually makes it to the Steelers gameday roster. Despite all that time throwing to Fitzgerald at Pitt, he consistently failed to demonstrate that he could actually win a game with his passing arm when given the chance. It was highly aggravating to watch him throw incomplete into the end zone from 10 yards out four times in a row against Miami and WVU.

104
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 6:57am

"1. Thier Special Teams would go improve by a factor of at least 45%, Reggie can return the ball."

Surely, surely, no team is insane enough to use a guy they've just taken in the top three - and probably first overall - as a return man? That just seems like an impossibly stupid risk to take with all that money and cap space. And yes, I know Steve Smith returns punts, but as the Carolina offense basically consists of "give Steve the ball and hope he scores", maybe they figure they might as well give him one extra shot to do it every series. Then again, the equivalent might turn out to be the principle content of a be-Bushèd Baltimore offense too, so it could be that's a fair analogy.

105
by PDBIP (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 7:42pm

Brooks Bollinger was an "experience?" I thought that was reserved for Kyle Orton. I'd say Brooks Bollinger was more of a debacle.

106
by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 9:12pm

Bollinger was an experience back when Orton was just a game manager.

107
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 9:53pm

As a Bengals fan, every night I wish upon a star that Kitna winds up in Bal'more. Two easy wins for the Bengals

108
by Joel Dias-Porter (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 2:38am

#104 It's fairly rare for a player with punt return skills to be taken in the first three picks but in the last 10 or so years there have been several plyers taken in the top 6 who returned punts or kicks. Among them are Pac Man Jones, Peter Warrick, and Desmond Howard.

109
by tinselburn (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 6:30pm

#69
I completely agree. The only way the steelers keep him if he decides that he wants to play there long term on the cheap. Kimo is probably headed back to cincy as a tackle or rotation end on running downs. (god that'll be an awkward locker room at first...)

I will say the only reason they get rid of okobi is if they replace hartings... as hartings is in his what 12th season and his knees are made of paper mache and you need a reliable backup/special teamer which okobi definately is. They are already going to be in need of another solid s.t. player to replace keisel who will conceivably become the starter.

Im pretty afraid of losing hope, as people overpay dbs anyway let alone dbs on a super bowl team and as you said thats not really in pittsburghs style... just ask rod woodson. I see townsend in a similiar situation. I dont think pittsburgh drafted cbs on the first day in the last three drafts for nothing. and I dont see him staying around. He'll go for the money and unless whichever team takes him plays a lot of zone he'll probably struggle.

im done now.