Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Catch Radius: Best of the NFC

Part I of our catch radius season finale spotlights the NFC kings of double coverage (Calvin Johnson), the sideline (Jordy Nelson), the drag route (DeSean Jackson) and the red zone (Dez Bryant).

25 Mar 2008

Four Downs: AFC South

by Vince Verhei

Houston Texans

Houston: Where Backup Quarterbacks Matter!

It's been a quiet couple of weeks at Reliant Stadium. The Texans have lost some linebackers here, gained a center there, but there's been nothing earth-shattering. In fact, it has been so peaceful that the biggest subject of discussion among Texans fans has been the acquisition of a new third-string quarterback.

The reason? The quarterback in question is Quinn Gray, formerly of the Jaguars. On the surface, this looks like a great pickup. Gray threw 10 touchdowns and only five interceptions in relief of David Garrard last year, and ranked 12th in the league in DVOA last season. Look a little deeper though, and he loses some of his luster. He finished the season with 20.4 DPAR, but most of that came in garbage time, or in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Texans when he threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns. And that was playing for Jacksonville. Now he's in Houston, where he'll likely have a stronger receiving corps, but he'll have worse protection in front of him, worse running backs that will leave him in third-and-long, and a worse defense that will usually have him playing from behind.

Regardless, the Texans had enough faith in him to sign him to a one-year deal to back up Matt Schaub and Sage Rosenfels. That's three quarterbacks with starting experience, which seems like a lot of value to have sitting on the bench collecting dust, particularly on a flawed team like Houston, and that's what has people talking. People like the folks at Battle Red Blog, who speculate that the Texans might be able to get a second-rounder from the Vikings in exchange for Rosenfels. That would be a huge boost to the Texans, earning them back the second-rounder they lost in the Schaub trade.

Either way, it's clear the team is not putting all their eggs in the Schaub basket. They're prepared in case he struggles or is injured in any way. That's an important lesson in the NFL -- just ask Schaub's former team.

Free Agency Recap

The Texans lost only one regular starter: cornerback Von Hutchins, who left one terrible secondary in Houston to join another in Atlanta. His departure may be addition by subtraction for the Texans.

The biggest addition to the team may be center Chris Myers, acquired from the Broncos for a sixth-round draft pick. Myers will turn 27 in September, and he started all 16 games for the Broncos last year. They also signed former Titan running back Chris Brown. Brown's 14.6 DPAR in 2007 would have led all Houston runners. He upgrades the position, but he's missed 15 games in the past two seasons, so it's still likely the team will draft a running back.

Finally, the Texans signed cornerback Jacques "The Human Target" Reeves, formerly the whipping boy of the Dallas secondary. Similar to Brown, Reeves is a more or less average talent who represents an enormous upgrade for Houston.

Draft Needs

Cornerback, cornerback, cornerback; running back, running back, running back. Cornerback takes priority because as long as Andre Johnson is healthy, the Texans can score plenty of points with passing offense alone. Their pass coverage, though, needs immediate help; they ranked 27th in DVOA last year, which is actually an improvement from 2005 (30th) and 2006 (31st).

With the 18th pick, the Texans will likely miss out on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Leodis McKelvin. They're more likely to take Arizona's Antoine Cason or Mike Jenkins out of South Florida.

Indianapolis Colts

No Place Like Dome

The Hoosier Dome opened in 1984. In the ensuing 24 years, the building changed its name to the RCA Dome, and hosted every home game in Indianapolis Colts history, plus high school basketball championships and four Final Fours. Hall of Famers like Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison have played there. Larry played basketball there. (Not in high school, obviously, but in a 1984 game pitting the U.S. Olympic team against an all-star NBA squad.) Peyton played football there. Lil Ronnie rapped there. After all that, on March 2, the stadium hosted its final sporting event: A dirtbike race. After the Indianapolis RV Super Show (March 28-30) and the Fire Department Instructors Conference (April 7-12), they'll start to tear down the dome.

Are you going to miss the dome? Well, why not visit buythedome.com and pick up a piece of Indiana sports history? Who wouldn't want to sit around the house in a pair of uncomfortable plastic stadium seats for the low, low price of $450 (Cupholders included!)? Every house should have six square feet of sideline turf ($100). And home just isn't a home without a plastic sign reading "AISLE 346" ($195).

Those items can be purchased right now by anyone with a credit card and a blue horseshoe tattooed somewhere on their body. The real good stuff, however, is being put up for auction and will go to the highest bidder. You can bid right now on the lockers of Marvin Harrison, Anthony Gonzalez and Antoine Bethea. Pictures show that these lockers all look exactly the same: tall wooden boxes with smaller partitions and a blue comfy chair that is not included in the transaction.

If you're looking for something larger, how about some end zone field art? Bids will be taken on the AFC logo, the NFL logo, and the "C" in "COLTS."

The Colt-de-grace, however, is a shiny, glimmering package of white and chrome. That's right, up for auction will be -- this is true -- an actual urinal from the Colts locker room. Could there be a better decoration for a Man Cave than an apparatus designed to function specifically for the male anatomy? Just think: You'd have the same device that offered relief to Peyton Manning at some of his most urgent moments.

On second thought, don't think about that. It's gross.

Free Agency Recap

It would be inaccurate to say that nothing happened to the Colts in free agency. That's only half-right; there were goings, but no comings. Really. The Colts signed a few of their own free agents -- guard Ryan Lilja, defensive end Josh Thomas -- but they did not acquire any new players.

So let's move on to the losses -- which won't take much longer. Defensive lineman Dan Klecko signed with the Eagles (who, in a unique experiment, are going to try the 275-pounder at fullback). The Eagles also raided the Colts for linebacker Rocky Boiman. That's much more significant; Boiman set a career high last year with 54 tackles.

On offense, the team lost tight end Ben Utecht to the Bengals. While that is not good news, Utecht was usually the fourth or fifth option after Wayne, Gonzalez, Clark, Addai, etc. The most disconcerting loss was guard Jake Scott, who joined the division rival Titans. Scott had started every game for the Colts since 2005, and that continuity will be missed.

Draft Needs

The Colts don't have a first-round draft pick; they traded it to the 49ers last year for the chance to draft Tony Ugoh (which turned out to be a season-saving move when Tarik Glenn retired). The Falcons have four of the first 48 selections; the Colts have none of the first 58 and only one of the first 92. In short, do not expect a big return on the 2008 draft from the Colts. They'll likely look for depth along the offensive line and front seven, but if they pick even one player who makes an impact this season, they'll have done a tremendous job.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Help Still Wanted

About two months ago in Four Downs, I noted that the Jaguars' top goal in free agency was the acquisition of an elite wide receiver. The team apparently agreed, trading for one receiver and signing another, although they and I clearly differ on the meaning of the term "elite."

First, they sent a sixth-round draft choice to the Vikings in exchange for Troy Williamson. Those of you familiar with the Vikings will note that their receiving corps is actually worse than the the Jaguars', and won't be sad to see Williamson in black and teal. Still, Williamson undoubtedly has talent, and the chance that a change of scenery will encourage him to develop that talent may be worth risking a late draft choice.

The same day, the Jaguars signed Jerry Porter away from the Raiders. Porter was a pretty good player at his peak, nearing 1,000 yards receiving in both 2004 and 2005 on terrible Raiders teams, but that peak was two years ago. He barely played in 2006, feuding with Art Shell and catching just one pass. He bounced back somewhat last season. At his best, he was mediocre (below average in DVOA but above replacement in 2004, 2005, and 2007). Now he is 29 and very likely to decline, yet the Jaguars signed him to a six-year, $30 million contract.

In other news, Chad Johnson stillwants out of Cincinnati.

Free Agency Recap

While the Jags were signing draft busts and malcontents to save their receiving corps, their defensive line snuck out the back door. Actually, you can't even say that. Tackle Marcus Stroud was kicked out the back door, traded to Buffalo for third- and fifth-round draft picks. Meanwhile, defensive end Bobby McCray signed with the Saints, and the pass defense was further weakened when journeyman safety Sammy Knight signed with the Giants.

With the acquisitions of Williamson and Porter came the loss of Earnest Wilford, their leading receiver last year, now with the Dolphins. Speaking of the Dolphins, the Jaguars were quick to squeeze Cleo Lemon, signing him at backup quarterback to replace Gray. They also lost running back LaBrandon Toefield to the Panthers, but with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, they're clearly not hurting at the position.

Draft Needs

For better or worse, the team has cast their lot at wide receiver and now desperately needs defensive linemen, particularly pass rushers. The team was knocked out of the playoffs by New England when former defensive coordinator Mike Smith, current Falcons head coach, ran a very conservative game-plan, and his front four failed to get any pressure on Tom Brady. Their best realistic scenario would be to pick up Quentin Groves out of Auburn, an all-SEC player with 20 career sacks in college. Hurting the Jaguars' chances, however, are their division rivals in Tennessee, who pick two spots earlier and could also use a defensive end. If they take Groves, the Jaguars may look to trade down and pick an end in the second round.

Tennessee Titans

Daniel Keyes Would Be Proud

Every good, mobile quarterback needs a security blanket, a big target with good hands within easy range of the line of scrimmage. In short, he needs a good tight end.

Michael Vick had Alge Crumpler. Donovan McNabb had Chad Lewis. Steve McNair had Frank Wycheck. Randall Cunningham had Keith Jackson. Common perception is that Daunte Culpepper made his name just lobbing passes to Randy Moss, but in his best season, 2004, tight end Jermaine Wiggins topped the Vikings with 71 catches. Even dating back to 1972, when Chicago Bears quarterback Bobby Douglass ran for 968 yards, his leading receiver (with a whopping 20 receptions) was tight end Earl Thomas.

The connection between scrambling passers and good tight ends is obvious. As quarterbacks escape pass rushers, linebackers must leave their coverage assignments and move up to contain them. This leaves tight ends wide-open and easy to spot. And like most things in football, the relationship is synergistic. Elite tight ends tend to draw extra coverage, which opens more running room for quarterbacks.

Which brings us to the afore-mentioned Algernon Darius Crumpler. The 6-feet-2, 262-pounder from North Carolina lead the Falcons in receiving for most of the Michael Vick era, playing in four Pro Bowls. He is 30 years old and dropped more passes than usual in 2007, but he becomes by default the most attractive receiving option the Titans have.

How will Crumpler's arrival help out Vince Young? The days of Young tearing through opposing defenses ended with the Longhorns' Rose Bowl victory over USC. Although he led all quarterbacks with 401 yards on the ground last season, he was actually below replacement level as a runner and ranked just behind Eli Manning (Yes! Eli Manning!) in rushing DPAR. It's clear that teams are going out of their way to stop Young from beating them with his legs, and the tactic is working. If Young can connect with Crumpler early and often in 2008, defenses will be forced to adjust, and Young's running ability could become a dangerous weapon again.

Free Agency Recap

The Titans' most important move in free agency was actually the retention of their best player: Albert Haynesworth, the defensive tackle who was the keystone to 2007's best defense. The team slapped him with the franchise tag, ensuring that Haynesworth will be taken care of, the team will build around him and they'll all live happily ever after.

Or not. Although the franchise tag bars Haynesworth from leaving, it does not guarantee that he'll sign a contract, either. On Monday, ESPN.com reported that Haynesworth had yet to sign his one-year, $7.8 million tender offer, and was not taking part in the Titans' voluntary off-season program. His agent, Chad Speck, offered a terse explanation: "Albert has not signed his tender and therefore will not be participating in the Titans off-season program at this time." Can't you feel the love?

Haynesworth's options are limited at this point, and will be familiar to Seahawks fans. He can pull a Joey Galloway and refuse to sign for most of the season, then sign for the last six games and qualify for free agency again in 2009. He can pull a Walter Jones and hold out until right before the season starts, then ink his name and get on the field -- and then qualify for free agency again in 2009. Finally, he can pull a Walter Jones, version II; after three years of franchise tags and one-year contracts, Jones finally signed a long-term deal in 2005.

That's the good news for the Titans' line. The bad news is that Travis LaBoy took his six sacks of 2007 and signed with the Cardinals, and Antwan Odom (eight sacks last year) signed with the Bengals. To bolster their pass rush, the team re-acquired Jevon Kearse after he was released by the Philadelphia Eagles, but they know he's neither an every-down player, nor a long-term solution: "Our expectation for him is to rush the passer in a limited number of snaps," wrote Mike Reinfeldt, the team's general manager, when Kearse was signed.

Speaking of coming home again, the team also signed wide receiver Justin McCareins, who shined for Tennessee in 2003 with 28.1 DPAR, seventh in the league. He had one good season in 2004 with the Jets, then struggled to make an impact over the next three seasons. Don't expect his second stint with the Titans to match his first.

Draft Needs

Tennessee overacheived somewhat in 2007, and the punishment for that is a lower draft pick in 2008. Most of the draft's best players will be gone by the time they make the 24th selection. They're still looking for a top wide receiver, and Limas Sweed, Vince Young's former teammate at the University of Texas, will likely be available. At 6-feet-5, Sweed would offer Young a large target and present matchup problems with most teams. They may also go for James Hardy out of Indiana, who would present even bigger matchup problems at 6-7.

They could also look at defensive linemen, such as North Carolina's Kentwan Balmer, Notre Dame's Trevor Laws or Auburn's Quentin Groves.

Posted by: Vince Verhei on 25 Mar 2008

67 comments, Last at 03 Apr 2008, 5:20pm by PFC1

Comments

1
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 3:27pm

Vince,
The RCA Dome recap is truly inspired lunacy. As a lifelong fan who was only in the dome once, for a convention in 1994, I hanker for a piece of turf. If my wife would let me install it, a urnial would work great for my three sons. Keep them from peeing in Lake Washington.

2
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 4:30pm

Do the Colts set some sort of record for least interesting offseason ever?

3
by Quentin (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 4:44pm

...he was actually below replacement level as a runner and ranked just behind Eli Manning...

Unstoppable!

...but he becomes by default the most attractive receiving option the Titans have.

No surprise there. I honestly can't think of the name of a single Titans receiver.

4
by Nathan (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 4:59pm

Regarding the Jacksonville moves, I just don't understand why the loss of M. Stroud is such a big deal. Maybe 2-3 years ago this was huge, but this is a guy that hasn't played a full 16 game season in the past two years.

Added to that is the fact that he has had the dreaded microfracture surgery on an ankle, and has served a four game suspension for performance enhancing substance abuse. And when he returned from that suspension, he got in one half of play and immediately reinjured the aforementioned ankle.

While I agree that players of his ability are rare, his value to the team was not going to be any higher than what it was at the time he was traded. While I hate to see him go, in reality he had been mostly gone for the past two seasons anyway, why not make it official?

As far as McCray was concerned, where, oh where will the team find a guy that racked up 18 total tackles and three sacks in a season? I mean, there were only roughly 100 other players in the league that generated those kinds of numbers last year.

And go and look at Tight End production against the Jacksonville Pass Defense last season. Not so much, and Knight was on the field for most of it.

I am not saying that these guys don't need to be replaced, or that they aren't worth the uniforms that they wear, but I just don't see how it's that hard to replace guys like this. In some cases, they already have.

5
by Jasonomics (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 5:05pm

Re: 3.

That's because we don't have any receivers. In order to qualify one must actually catch the football.

6
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 5:07pm

James Hardy is coming out of Indiana.

7
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 5:13pm

6: Story fixed to identify the correct Big Ten school that begins with the letter "I."

8
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 6:16pm

I'd just like to point out that, among the items currently listed as being for sale on the RCA Dome auction page, the urinal is the only one to have received a bid.

W/r/t Crumpler: Check out the research in the KC chapter of PFP 06 on aging tight ends. The list of TEs of Crumpler's age and experience who didn't suck consists of Tony Gonzalez. Think 30 catches, not 70, and average play, at best.

9
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 6:57pm

Hi everyone,

I just cleaned up a bunch of posts that had nothing to do with the Colts, Texans, Jaguars or Titans. Please do not discuss the Patriots, the Giants or the Super Bowl here. Frankly, it's all very boring.

The Jags did lose to the Patriots in the playoffs. That game is certainly acceptable discussion material. Otherwise, please avoid those two teams.

Apologies to those who made good points concerning elite pass rushers among the Giants/Pats comments. I fully acknowledge that rather than edit here or there, I threw the baby out with the bathwater.

10
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 7:23pm

Wow, the AFC South lost an awful lot of pass rush this off season... I hadn't realized that. Both the Jags and the Titans lost D-linemen. Add to that that the Texans secondary continues to look like poorly cured swiss cheese and Peyton Manning has got to be feeling pretty good right now...probaby not missing that urinal in the slightest...

11
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 7:26pm

The Jags loss to the Patiots is telling because a good team lost to a team that they matched up poorly against...a team with a potent, multi-weaponed offense led by an elite QB, and an aggressive, opportunistic, slightly-above-average defense.

Unfortunately for the Jags, that also describes their biggest division rival, the Colts, to a T.

(Ahhhg....the Patriots have become the Colts!!!! I feel unclean!)

12
by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 8:03pm

Stroud may still be a top-shelf name, but he hasn't been a top-shelf player for a couple of years, as #4 pointed out. In fact, he was barely a player at all last year.

And the other two would have been strictly backups if not for major early season injuries to Sensabaugh and Hayward. It isn't as if Jax was letting starter quality players just walk away.

13
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 9:28pm

Maybe we've been watching a different Jags offseason. Marcus Stroud isn't a huge loss; he's barely played the last two seasons, and his 2nd Pro Bowl should've gone to John Henderson. And he could be a big injury risk. Plus, the team has run a 3-DT rotation for years with Rob Meier, who's probably the most important player you've never heard of. He's had 15 sacks in the last 3 years. Also, they signed Jimmy Kennedy from the Broncos for depth at the position.

The loss of Hayward isn't a big deal. The team realized he's overrated; he wanted a pay raise that they weren't going to give him. He had one good year with 10 sacks in 2006, but he only had 3 last year.

And I disagree with your assessment of the team's moves at WR. Williamson represents no risk, but, as a former first round pick, he does offer potential, as you note.

Signing Porter does represent a risk, but he does offer a lot of potential. Though he'll be 30 soon, he doesn't have that much wear on his body, since he rarely played for Oakland. And you fail to take into account the situation in which he played in Oakland, where even Randy Moss didn't produce. A change of scenery to a team on the rise could make all the difference. And BTW, this year's WR crop is poor.

The team could have signed Chad Johnson, who I've always found entertaining, but they wanted to avoid a potential headache. Under Del Rio, the team has consistently shied away from headcases like him.

With Porter, the team should have a pretty solid receiving corps. Reggie Williams was arguably their leading WR last year with 38 catches for 629 yards and 10 TDs in an offense that spread the ball around. In comparison, Wilford had 45 catches for 518 yards and 3 TDs. More catches, but Williams had better numbers everywhere else.

I'll say the team did not really want to let Wilford depart. But they already have a bunch of tall receivers with the similar talent sets (Williams and Matt Jones). The team sought to improve its WR corps, but it's not as if the team had any trouble throwing the ball last year. Check their DVOA ratings. They only had one of the top offenses in the league. They needed a true #1 WR, but, again, the offense is in pretty good shape.

The loss of Knight isn't that big a deal. He's aging and more of a liability in coverage than recognized. The team signed Drayton Florence at CB, in effect addressing the need at safety. Sensabaugh will be given a chance at SS this year following an early exit last season due to injury, and he's not bad.

While I don't think Florence is worth the money, he will be either the nickel behind Mathis, one of the league's top corners, and Brian Williams, who was signed to a big contract a few years ago. Williams has played well, but he's not a true man cover corner. He's got good size and speed and he's a hard hitter, so there's much speculation that the team will move him to SS, where he could excel.

If this is the case, the team will have the depth you think they lack in the secondary. I know you guys are qualified to write about the Pats, but most of you don't know jack about the Jags.

14
by the original sam (formerly sam!) (not verified) :: Tue, 03/25/2008 - 10:24pm

Andrew,

The Jags could not have signed Chad Johnson since he's not a free agent. And they haven't lost Hayward. They lost McCray who's entire college and pro career can be summed up in the word "underachieving."

The loss of Marcus Stroud does hurt -- but it happened realistically two seasons ago.

15
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 12:04am

Signing Porter does represent a risk, but he does offer a lot of potential. Though he’ll be 30 soon, he doesn’t have that much wear on his body, since he rarely played for Oakland.

I would love it if someone could show me any evidence, whatsoever, that this is true in general. Do players who enter the NFL later in life, for instance, extend their careers longer than people who enter early?

My gut instinct says "I doubt it" but I have no evidence either way. I personally think it has far more to do with age than with wear and tear.

16
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 1:17am

I agree with those that say the Jags' subtractions this offseason aren't going to hurt them.

Actually, I think I might make a ridiculous claim:

The Jags' acquisitions this offseason will hurt them more than their losses. Have fun with Troy Williamson, guys.

17
by PaulH (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 1:24am

I agree with most of the people that have been discussing the Jags earlier.

Stroud isn't a major loss; the years of him being particularly effective have long since passed and the further injuries spell bad news for the future. It was a good move by the Jags to get something in return for him while he still had a little value left. The real shame is / was that they didn't dump him a few years ago at peak value before his decline started.

Bobby McCray left, but so what? He had a whopping three sacks last year, and it's not like he was that highly valued by anyone else either. The Saints picked him up, where he will be a back-up defensive end and a situational pass rusher. No major loss there.

The additions of Porter and Williamson aren't really bad moves either. They didn't have to give up any real value to get them, and they both have a big upside. And it's not like they lost Randy Moss when Earnest Wilford left.

I think the Jags are still a dang solid football team. They re-inked Garrard, and the running game is going to remain very strong. I'm not sure how good the wide receiver corps will be, but I don't see it regressing. And the defense will whether these pretty minor losses and do pretty well again next year.

I see them being in the thick of playoff contention again.

18
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 2:26am

Chad Johnson may want out of Cincy....but I don't know if Cincy is going to take that 8 million dollar cap hit to do it.

Sage Rosenfels deserves to get a starting job somewhere. I mean is Joey Harrington and Chris Redman that much better? Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman? Hell my team is hoping for more mediocre Kitna and erratic Drew Stanton. I always thought Rosenfels got jerked around with Miami.

19
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 5:19am

Last I checked Garrard was not re-signed...
Who told there weren't Jags fans ?
Don't forget Mike Walker as an addition to the WR corps. :o)
Nobody is saying the loss of Naeole is going to hurt but it's a bigger loss than Stroud.
I can see the jags go OL or DB with their first-round pick if they don't like the DEs there.
They need depth at linebacker too as they have four quality starters but Peterson is quite injury-prone now.

20
by Nathan (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 8:52am

RE:19 (loboafcadio)
The Naeole thing worries me a little, but I think that all of the O-Line stockpiling that the team has done over the past few years puts them in a good position to recover from the loss. Mo Williams was a serviceable backup, and he can probably hold down the RG spot until Nwaneri comes around. The OG class for this years draft is pretty poor, so don't look for anything ground breaking there this year.
I feel like the team is set at LB with 4 starting quality LB's in Peterson, Smith, Durant, and Ingram. They might add one later in the draft, but I think this year is going to be all about the really big guys (D-Line) and the small guys (DB's and WR's).

21
by George Phillies (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 9:30am

RE#18

If you believe that Mike Brown is cheap, then it actually could be spun as a GOOD thing for Cincy to take the $8MM cap hit. That's $8MM that they are suddenly not allowed to spend. Sounds like exactly the sort of thing that Mike Brown would want.

That doesn't mean he's on the market, just that the cap ramifications aren't nearly as prohibitive in Cincy as they are for a franchise whose primary goal is winning.

22
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 9:51am

The loss of Naeole hurts for depth purpose. Mo Williams can't be the superSub if he is a starter and I'm quite sure he'll go back to tackle if Pashos or Barnes is injured, forcing Norman in the lineup, not a very bad thing, but after, the line is thin, Collier and Nwaneri don't seem ready.
Of course, I don't know any team which could survive 3 injuries on the O-line :o)

Concerning the secondary, the Jags now have 7 solid contributors, they are in good shape there as Sensabaugh is coming back and they're upgrading from Cousin to Florence.

23
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 10:07am

Re #15
Take a look at the essay on tight ends in the Kansas City chapter of PFP06. The tight ends who are productive in their 30's have historically been guys who weren't receiving targets for their team before they were 26-28 years old.

Re #21
That's $8M the Bengals won't spend in any event. It's just whether they don't spend it all this year or don't spend it all this year and next year (and the year after, or whenever it finishes amortizing). Sure, there's a time value aspect, but phfft.

24
by iapetus (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 10:42am

16: Sorry, but I think you're being somewhat delusional here. There's no way that Troy Williamson's addition will hurt the Jags - he'll be in a training camp competition with Matt Jones for the position of token highly athletic first-round receiver who can't actually catch the ball and is mocked by most of the fans and spurned by the quarterback. We'll still only carry one player at that position into the regular season, and I'm still quietly confident that Matt Jones has a shot at the HoF for his services to underachieving, so Williamson might not even make the cut.

25
by R. Magill (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 10:52am

I like Houston to sneak up on some people next season. Andre Johnson is a great downfield threat and Chris Brown could be a nice runner if he stays healthy. Their secondary still isn't great (Dunta Robinson hasn't taken that next step to "shut down" yet in my mind), but Jacques Reeves is definitely an upgrade over Von Hutchins and their pass rush should be vicious. As the Giants proved last season, you don't need a great secondary to have a successful defense. I wouldn't be surprised to see 12 sacks from Mario Williams. They could very well be a wild card contender and give Jacksonville a run for their money.

26
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 11:36am

Rosenfels is absolutely good enough to start for several NFL teams, and in my opinion the Vikings would be wise to trade for him, even at the cost of a second round pick. A roughly league average starter (which is what I think Rosenfels is) would make the Vikings a serious contender in the NFC. No other such player is likely to be available via trade or free agency, and no quarterback drafted in the second round since 1995 has been any good in his first or second season in the league. In fact, of second round quarterbacks in the salary cap era (9 players who can reasonably be evaluated at this point), only Drew Brees and Jake Plummer have ever had a season as good as Rosenfels' 2007. The Vikings might well be able to get Brohm at 18, and if they can they should, but he's unlikely to be a good NFL starter as a rookie.

Gray's contract is one year for the veteran minimum, so he could realistically be a third stringer, but my guess is that the team hope to trade Rosenfels and draft a long term back-up for Schaub somewhere in rounds 3 through 6 - perhaps Brennan (my preference) or Ainge.

I'd be very interested to hear the opinions of any of our resident Bronco fans on Chris Myers. He started every game as part of a good unit last year, but runs over middle and guard were a weakness of Denver's in 2007, when previously they had been a strength, and they performed badly in power situations. That's not necessarily an indictment of Myers, but it's not a positive indicator. In any case, former starter Steve McKinney has been cut, and while he may well end up re-signing, it's clear that Myers is expected to start.

I don't buy the notion that the Texans will draft a running back early. Darius Walker was highly effective in his limited action late last year, and can expect an expanded role as a third down back. Green and Brown should both still be effective when healthy, and it's possible that the lower carry totals which their mutual presence should permit each other will help them stay that way. The wild card is 2006 UDFA Chris Taylor, who had a single big game late in his rookie season and then spent the whole of 2007 on IR after injuring a knee in camp. Kubiak has consistently been talking Taylor up, repeatedly stating that prior to the injury he had been the other player besides Kevin Walter he believed was set for a breakout season. I don't think it's clear the Texans will draft a running back at all, and if they do it is likely to be a late round player who will spend most or all of 2008 on the practice squad, as Taylor did in 2006 and Walker in 2007. The Texans showed last season that they can run the ball competently without anyone especially wonderful at RB (though not with Sam Gado).

27
by mattman (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 12:03pm

#13 - "The team could have signed Chad Johnson, who I’ve always found entertaining, but they wanted to avoid a potential headache. Under Del Rio, the team has consistently shied away from headcases like him."

Del Rio avoids headcases but he signed Jerry Porter???? Maybe it's not headcases Del Rio looks to avoid, but receiving talent.

28
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 12:23pm

"I wouldn’t be surprised to see 12 sacks from Mario Williams"

Neither would I, given that he had 14 last year.

29
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 12:39pm

Before the incidents with Art Shell, Porter was never thought to be a "headcase". He even was the consumate team mate when he welcomed Randy Moss on his turf.
I'll give him the "bénéfice du doute".

30
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 12:52pm

24: The idea is not necessarily that Williamson will be dropping passes left and right. The idea is that they've now got three slots at WR tied up in Jones, Porter, and Williamson going into training camp, and that's going to prevent them from getting someone who could actually be good.

31
by MCS (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 1:02pm

Non-football related topic but interesting nonetheless. News is that two Indianapolis attorneys are suing the Colts organization on behalf of the taxpayers. You see, the proceeds from the RCA Dome auction are slated for charity. The lawyers argue that the proceeds from the sales should go back to the taxbase (or the government) because the dome was publicly funded.

If anyone knows anything, I'd like to hear more on this topic.

32
by John (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 1:12pm

Old news (re: the RCA Dome lawsuit). The local governing authorities agreed to do the smart thing, which is keep the money instead of donating it to charity. I don't know whether the lawsuit has been formally dropped, but that was certainly the intent when the authorities caved.

We've been paying an extra 1% sales tax in restaurants in Indianapolis ever since the (then) Hoosier Dome was built, and it's going to be torn down before it's fully paid for. Depressing.

33
by R. Magill (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 1:17pm

Re 28: Good point, I probably should have looked that up before I wrote it.

34
by MCS (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 1:37pm

re 32. Tack on the 1% sales tax increase for property tax relief and you guys are hurting.

35
by Big Tuna (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 2:23pm

Hey Del Rio, I'll trade you twinkle toes for your 1st rounder.

36
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 2:52pm

#31-#34, same thing in Seattle when the Kingdome was imploded--25 years old and not paid for. I think the additional taxes they foisted on us, however, were heavily focused on tourism and downtown--hotels, restaurants, parking, and taxis. Nobody is denying that the two new stadia are not improvements, but....

Plus the Seattle regional economy is pretty robust, taking much of the sting out of it. Also, we have other GIANT public works projects to fund that make the unpaid portion of the Kingdome look like chump change--maybe $20 Billion in two short stretches of highway.

37
by *Legion* (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 4:54pm

Regarding the Jags..

#1. As many have said, Marcus Stroud was "lost" in 2005, when he suffered a devastating ankle injury. He still hasn't recovered. Microfracture surgery is something of a last resort, and sometimes even that plain doesn't work. It hasn't worked for Stroud. Jacksonville stole those draft picks from Buffalo, for a guy who was a complete non-contributor in 2007.

#2. Bobby McCray was a nice 7th round draft pick the Jags landed in 2004. But as a pro, the reality is that he's riding the wave generated from a single 10-sack season. Reality came knocking in 2007 and 10 sacks turned into 3.

#3. Although I don't want to drop the oft-used Randy Moss bomb, the fact is that Jerry Porter has ONLY played in the offensive sinkhole that is the Oakland Raiders. We've seen... other receivers go from complete non-producer into record setter in the course of 1 offseason, by going from Oakland to a contender. Granted, David Garrard is not To.. I mean, one of the NFL's truly elite passers (at least at this point, we'll see what he ultimately develops into), but him and the Jags offense is a good step above Oakland.

#4. Troy Williamson probably won't amount to much, but come round 6, you're taking flyers on long-shot players anyway. Williamson is a better prospect than most 6th round picks. And it's not like he would be the first receiver in the NFL to develop some hands after a few years in the league. He might not make the team, but he's worth bringing into camp.

#5. Even though the loss of McCray is minimal in impact, there's no question the team needs pass-rushing DEs. Paul Spicer is one of the league's most underrated DEs, but he's a guy who is stout against the run and generates *some* pass rush. The team really needs an ears-pinned-back pass rusher to harass QBs. Reggie Hayward was becoming that guy, but like Stroud, his injury threatens his ability to play high-level football ever again.

38
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 6:46pm

Jason Taylor to the Jags for a #1 or #2 makes far too much sense for it to ever happen. Taylor goes to a contender, and a team that is ready to challenge fills probably its biggest hole with a fine, fine player. And, FWIW, Taylor doesn't have to move too far from a community where he's put down deep roots. So it'll never happen.

39
by DZ (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 7:02pm

I find it hilarious that Jags fans are talking themselves into Jerry Porter by bringing up Randy Moss. That's utter wishful thinking. Unfortunately, I don't think we'll really be able to evaluate Porter effectively. Garrard is due for some serious regression, and when he returns to the norm (which the bevy of near ints he threw in the last few weeks indicates he is more than ready to do), Porter and Williamson will take the heat for it.

The Jags' problem is that they were bad on defense and getting worse as the season wore on. They did nothing to improve on that front, and that is what will kill them again 08.

40
by Bionicman (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 7:10pm

Many Jacksonville fans here are saying Stroud hasn't been good since 2005, but PFP 2006 disagreed. It said that the 2006 run defense was significantly better with him than without him and that game charters liked him more than Henderson.

41
by Jake_Plummers_Beard (not verified) :: Wed, 03/26/2008 - 9:00pm

Man, this place has such a Jacksonville bias.

42
by whitey (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 12:54am

I was surprised that nobody mentioned the Packers possibly going after a trade for Rosenfels when Favre retired. At the very least he would provide competition for Rodgers in training camp. If I were Ted Thompson I'd check that possibility out.

43
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 2:46am

#41 I think just about every Jax fan on the planet has commented in this thread. Wait, I think I hear the big tarp firing up its laptop to join the fray....

44
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 4:49am

#43
That's why so much Colts fans mail questions to Ask Vic I guess :o)

Seriously, I'm expecting the Jags to spend a third or a fourth rounder on a project QB such as Josh Johnson or Dixon, athletic wonders who would require some development.

45
by peachy (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 5:07am

Personally, I think anyone who compares Porter to Moss is letting their optimism run away with them. I would be delighted if he turned out to be another Corey Dillon - a talented but often troubled player rotting away in a disfunctional franchise who turned into a valuable contributor once in a more stable environment.

46
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 7:17am

I don't think anyone's comparing Porter to Moss in the sense of suggesting he could have the same impact in Jacksonville that Moss did in New England, or that he is even nearly as good a player. I think the contention is more along the lines of: "You can't say Porter isn't a good receiver based on his stats (conventional and advanced) in Oakland. Even Randy Moss had bad stats when he played for Oakland."

Which I think is about fair. A healthy, motivated Porter is, to my mind, subjectively, a good #2 or marginal #1. That makes him a big upgrade over the assortment of guys previously on the Jags roster, who range between marginal #3s and guys who simply have no business suiting up in the NFL.

47
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 8:58am

Re: 26

Not a Broncos fan, but I think Chris Myers is the guy that made Shaun Rogers the NFL defensive player of the week when Denver played Detroit. I wouldn't be expecting much based on that performance.

48
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 9:17am

In an eight year career (so far) Porter has had two seasons with very good production (as measured by tradition stats) 2004 and 2005. In 2004, he was playing for a bad Raiders team that threw a lot of passes (his FO metrics were ranked ~60ish for WRs). In 2005, he had Moss on the other side but his FO metrics didn't improve much (~mid 50s). Looks like a solid #2 (but I'm not sure for how much longer). If the Jags try to make him into a focal point for their passing game, I suspect they'll be disappointed (Alvin Harper).

49
by PaulH (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 11:32am

Jason Taylor to the Jags for a #1 or #2 makes far too much sense for it to ever happen. Taylor goes to a contender, and a team that is ready to challenge fills probably its biggest hole with a fine, fine player.

A one and a two what? A first and second round draft pick for Taylor?

I like Taylor -- he's still a good player and a good guy in general -- but you and I have about as good of a chance of being traded for a one and a two as does Taylor. Long story short, Taylor will be 34 when the regular season starts, and he's currently far more interested in Dancing with the Stars than in the NFL at the moment.

I would like to see him in Jacksonville, but no way it happens on those terms.

50
by PaulH (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 11:33am

Sorry, just realized you said a one or a two, and not both.

Either way, I'm still thinking the price is a bit high even at a second round pick.

51
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 12:44pm

Re: 47 -

I think thats about right. Myers is a adequate, but far from outstanding, player. At this point, he's a good backup/poor-average starter. Rogers, when he's trying, can be outstanding... he made DEN's mediocre interior lineman (not just Myers) look silly.

Apparently Denver thinks thats all the potential Myers has, and therefore wasn't willing to pay him starter money. What I think many folks don't realize is that, although he started 16 games last year, the DEN O-Line actually kinda sucked last year. Without Nalen/Hamilton/Lepsis, we had a bunch of highly average players up front. Some are young and have potential, but its definitely an area Denver could imporve on.

Still, this is likely an improvement in Houston...

Denver really should've put a 2nd round tender on Myers. $1.5 million for a decent back-up is not too much... the 6th round tender he got basically guartunteed he'd leave, and DEN got very little in return. This F-up, I think as much as anything, led to Sundquists' departure.

52
by black (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 12:48pm

This is the single most the Jags have ever been talked about on this site. Jags fans unite!!

53
by the original sam (formerly sam!) (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 2:23pm

bobman,

at least our fans don't need a bitchin' sound system to make noise in our stadium... and the city of jacksonville didn't need to steal a football team (although we did almost steal yours)

arrogant pricks like you deserve the purile and arrogant prick of a quarterback you have there in crappiapolis

54
by DZ (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 2:46pm

It's great to see that once again the level of debate has been raised here at FO.

I suppose if my team had just traded for Troy Williamson, I'd be a little testy too.

Thanks for saying that Colts fans deserve Peyton Manning! I think we take that as a compliment. Since he dominates the AFC South every year, I'd say things are just as they should be.

May I say that the Jags certainly deserve David Garrard, Quinn Gray, and Cleo Lemon!

55
by peachy (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 4:14pm

The Taylor rumours I've heard put the asking price somewhere in the region of a second and a fourth. That seems high to me, but Jax does have loads of lower round picks, which might be enticing for a team like Miami that needs an almost complete rebuild. Especially since this doesn't seem like a particularly deep draft, which reduces the relative value of fourths and fifths for a team looking to make a splash now.

56
by MJB (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 4:42pm

ESPN.com is reporting that Titans starting guard Benji Olsen is retiring (link is my name). My only question is, was Jake Scott signed from the Colts to address the possiblity of Olsen retiring?

57
by the original sam (formerly sam!) (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 5:48pm

54:

I just get tired of Colts fans who act like they're perennial super bowl winners who dominate Jacksonville every time they play. Peyton's won ONE Super Bowl. And while the Jags have lost the majority of games to the Colts, it's not like they're not competetive games. Of course it helps when you keep taking cheap shots at the opposing team's QB, but why look at the details?

I'm not testy about Williamson. I think it's too early to give up on the kid, and if the competition helps the receiving corps get better that's great. This is a team that doesn't exactly need to load up on 6th round talent.

You sound pretty cocky for a fan of a team that hasn't done anything at all to improve this offseason.

58
by DZ (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 11:34pm

The Jags are 3-11 all time against the Colts. If you want to take comfort in close games and made up conspiracy theories, go ahead. Colts fans will continue to take solice in winning the division every year.

As for details, I think the point of this discussion is that the Jags weren't good enough last year, and they've only gotten worse. Unless that Porter as Moss theory pans out, of course.

Colts fans respect Tennessee (they actually won the AFC South one time!) because Jeff Fisher works miracles every year. We mock Jacksonville becuase we hear the same thing every year...The Jags are physical! The Jags always play the Colts tough!

It causes us to wonder...if they are so good why are they 1-5 against the Colts in the last three years? I see nothing in this offseason to indicate that is about to change.

59
by the original sam (formerly sam!) (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 11:42pm

DZ,

I take no solace in close games. I'm only saying these two teams aren't worlds apart. You're not winning 52-20 twice a year. You really thinking exchanging Ernest Wilford for Jerry Porter is a downgrade? Otherwise, the offense is not worse off. Is Drayton Florence better than Terry Cousin? yes. Then they've gotten better on defense. Is Sensabaugh better than Sammy Knight? Yes, because Sensabaugh had Knight beaten out in camp last summer. Losing Knight is not a loss.

60
by black (not verified) :: Fri, 03/28/2008 - 10:40am

What happened to the whole "is this Marvin Harrison's last game thing they were talking about during the playoffs?" did everyone forget about this? Is he healthy? Will he play?

61
by brandon (not verified) :: Fri, 03/28/2008 - 12:05pm

you are absolutely crazy if you think the jags got weaker over the offseason.. Jerry Porter is better than any reciever on the team last year, and reggie williams showed significant improvement. Porter has size and speed, and has good hands, looking at his last few years is just ignorant as a sign of what kind of player he is.

sensabaugh is a giant upgrade over knight, who was god awfully slow. on top of that, florence in 06 had better metrics than jammer and was once thought of as the better corner between the 2 prior to last year. he might be starting alongside mathis and williams might move to SS allowing us to have a great secondary as far as pure coverage is concerned.

stroud is not the same player he was, and they can replace him in the draft, or with the relatively unkown tony mcdaniel and rob meier.

the jaguars do need to get a pass rushing DE, so we'll see how that turns out. regardless, they improved the secondary already, and the offense has also improved.

those saying naole will be missed, take this into consideration.. over the last half the season is when the run game really took off, guess who was playing RG the entire time? maurice williams,NOT naole, who is 33 in comparison to maurice who is 28 i believe.

colts fans are just mad cuz while they are the same team minus some players and a few question marks ( harrison never will be dominant again, and freeney is coming back from a very serious injury and might not be the same) so they are worried and rightfully so.

jags will win this division this year, houston will be competetive, tenn finished under .500 and indy will switch roles with jacksonville becoming the wildcard with a better record than some division winners.

62
by Bsanders37 (not verified) :: Fri, 03/28/2008 - 12:56pm

Ha! Jags will win this division. The Colts are bringing back 20 starters from a team that lost three games (you can exclude that Titans season finale) to the two teams who played in the AFC title game. They lost those three games by 11 points, and in two of the losses they were using a makeshift line, fourth-string WR's and a hodgepodge linebacking crew.

If Harrison can come back anywhere near full strength and if Freeney is fully headed by the time the season starts, I see no reason why the Colts can't be quite a bit better this season than they were last season. And remember, last year they were in the top three in the NFL in BOTH offense and defense.

Granted, the two above IFs are rather large, but all indications at this point are that Harrison and Freeney will both be 100% by the season opener. If that's the case, I see no reason why this Colts team can't win 14 games and compete with the Patriots and Chargers for another Super Bowl berth.

63
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 03/28/2008 - 9:26pm

The Colts offense will continue to be dominant, barring an injury to Peyton, but it's very likely the defense will regress. There's nothing in the recent record to indicate that their #3 DVOA ranking last year will recur. Expect a league average unit on that side, lousy special teams and great offense to combine for the 3rd or 4th best team in the AFC, with a plausible shot at the Superbowl.

#51 - FO's numbers suggest that Denver's line was slightly above average last season, though it struggled running up the middle and in power situations. Not as good as it has been in the past, but certainly competent. Houston's was better (again, per the stats on this site) in both ASR and ALY, and vastly better running up the middle and in power situations. They even had the lowest stuff rate in the league. However, both starter Steve McKinney (who missed most of the season with injury, but played well before it and in the second half of 2006) and back-up Mike Flanagan have been cut. I think the Myers move is at least as much about getting younger and healthier as it is about getting better.

64
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 3:41am

I'm a jags fan and I can have tealglasses but give Indy its due, they rule the AFC South, and until the Jags win it, we have to assume they're the better team.
No shame there, just a fact.
I truely hope Porter can be a competent #1 WR and Walker is fully healed.

65
by Hartley (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 7:34pm

re: #56 -
Yes, the Titans were pretty sure Benji Olsen was going to retire well before it happened. The man has a medical problem with his back, has had it for years, and it's been getting steadily worse for a couple of seasons. Last season it got to the point where he couldn't walk for 3 or 4 days after a game. I don't think he practiced at all once the season started. The Titans were willing to let him battle for a spot on the roster in camp if he felt he still had some gas in the tank, but they weren't expecting him to be a major contributor anymore.

66
by PFC1 (not verified) :: Thu, 04/03/2008 - 5:09pm

RE 63> Granted, the Colt's defense will probably regress. But does anyone know the situation of Booger McFarland? He injured his knee in training camp last year and was out for the season. One would expect that he would be returning about in time for training camp to start this season.

67
by PFC1 (not verified) :: Thu, 04/03/2008 - 5:20pm

Wait. Never mind. He failed the physical and was cut. Rob Morris, too.