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20 Feb 2009

Four Downs: AFC East

by Sean McCormick

Buffalo Bills

Will the Bills break out of their current run of offensive mediocrity?

Maybe it's the funny monochrome uniforms, maybe it's the sleepy demeanor of Dick Jauron, or maybe it's the low wattage coming from Lake Erie, but the Bills have achieved a remarkable level of blandness in the last three years. Under the steady hand of Dick Jauron, the Bills have achieved a remarkable level of consistency. Three consecutive 7-9 records. Three years with a VOA rating (our advanced Football Outsiders stat, not adjusted for opponent) fluctuating between -9.2% and -7.6%. No matter the quality of the opposition, the Bills looked and played at just about the same uninspiring level of execution. Unfortunately, Buffalo's schedule was one of the easiest in the league last year, so while it may have looked like they were playing as not-that-well as ever, they were actually doing worse. Since 2006, the Bills have changed offensive coordinators, changed quarterbacks and changed feature backs, and yet their offensive DVOA (explained here) has hovered between -8.7% and -6.2% throughout.

In the early 1990s, the Bills were able to field elite skill position talents like Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and James Lofton. But the current Bills offense seems to be built more like an auction league unit than anything else. No Bills player was among the top 25 highest-paid players in the league. At a salary of $732,190, starting quarterback Trent Edwards made less money than many backups (including his own, J.P. Losman), and Edwards was able to start 14 games, generating nearly 2,600 yards and 11 touchdowns. Unfortunately, there is no award for production per dollar, and while Edwards outperformed his contract, his 237 DYAR (Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and -0.2% DVOA were both 24th best in the league. Marshawn Lynch actually earned a Pro Bowl berth while costing the team less than $2 million against the salary cap, but his DYAR and DVOA ranked 23rd and 25th respectively, very much in line with Edwards' production. Edwards and especially Lynch have flashed enough talent to give the team hope they will mature into elite players, but right now they are doing more for the bottom line than for the product on the field.

Who Could Leave?

The biggest name player to depart will be former first-round pick J.P. Losman. Losman came out of Tulane with a big arm and good mobility, but in his five seasons in Buffalo, he never showed enough accuracy or awareness to be an effective starter. Losman’s last meaningful play with the team, where he held the ball too long on a designed rollout and ended up getting stripped by Jets safety Abram Elam and fumbling away a certain win, neatly encapsulates everything that was wrong with Losman’s tenure as a Bill. Another former first-round pick who might hit the streets is defensive tackle John McCargo, who the team has tried unsuccessfully to trade. Angelo Crowell is a quality linebacker, but he might be considered too big of a risk to re-sign after sitting out all of last year, and the team may wait and see what his market value is.

Who Could They Sign?

The biggest immediate areas are at defensive end, receiver and at center. Julius Peppers and Terrell Suggs are the big names, but now that they’ve been franchised it means the Bills would need to put together a massive trade package to land one of them. Buffalo could target a less expensive option like Bertrand Berry or, more likely, address this need via the draft. James Hardy was supposed to be the big, physical target opposite Lee Evans, but Hardy is coming off major ACL surgery and cannot be counted on to contribute in 2009. T.J. Houshmandzadeh would be a nice fit, although he would require a big contract. The team may want to keep an eye on what happens in Tampa with Antonio Bryant, who has the kind of size to speed ratio they are looking for. At center, the combination of Melvin Fowler and Duke Preston were inadequate, and the team might want to stabilize the interior by adding a veteran presence like Matt Birk.

Miami Dolphins

Will Season Two of 'The Sparanos' measure up?

There is no question that the Dolphins were one of the big surprises of 2008. Under the direction of first-year coach Tony Sparano and castoff quarterback Chad Pennington, the Dolphins leaped from 1-15 to 11-5 and an AFC East title. Since the merger, only four teams have managed to increase their win totals from the previous season by nine or more games -- the 1999 Colts, the 1999 Rams, the 2004 Steelers and the 2008 Dolphins. In each of those first three cases, the surprising first season was followed up by multiple playoff appearances. Wins alone are an imprecise measurement for play, however, which is why we use DVOA. Miami went from a –27.6% DVOA rating in 2007 to a 9.2% in 2008, a 36.8% improvement. That's impressive, but hardly historic. As it turns out, Miami's wasn't even the biggest turnaround this year. That honor goes to the Carolina Panthers, whose win total only jumped by five games, but whose DVOA leaped from –21.1% to 19.8%.

More concerning for next year's prospects is the fact that Miami's raw VOA was 21.1%, but it dropped all the way to 9.2% once adjusted to account for the strength of their opponents. No other team in the league had anywhere near that disparity between unadjusted and adjusted numbers. The Dolphins benefited from a cupcake schedule that made them look much better than they really were. In 2009, Miami's schedule grades out as one of the hardest in the league, with the AFC South and NFC South on tap, plus the Chargers and the Super Bowl champion Steelers. Right now, the odds of a repeat of Sparano's amazing rookie season look long indeed.

Who Could Leave?

Bill Parcells doesn’t figure to overestimate the quality of the last year’s team, so look for as many as 18 current players to be subtracted from the roster. Channing Crowder has been a solid player but the Dolphins won’t break the bank for him, and they may be more inclined to try to upgrade the free agency. Vernon Carey and Yeremiah Bell are also due to hit free agency, and while the team would like to keep them both, don’t expect Parcells and Jeff Ireland to overpay. Vonnie Holiday is a declining player with a big cap number, and unless he’s willing to restructure his contract, he’s probably on the way out.

Who Could They Sign?

The Dolphins were exposed along the offensive line and in the front seven when they played Baltimore in the playoffs, and those figure to be areas where they concentrate on getting bigger, younger and stronger. If Carolina doesn’t franchise Jordan Gross, expect the Dolphins to show serious interest. Baltimore’s Jason Brown could provide the kind of long-term upgrade at center that Kevin Mawae did for Parcells’ Jets teams in the late nineties.

On defense, the depth of the linebacker class has thinned out some now that Terrell Suggs and Karlos Dansby have been hit with franchise tags. Baltimore’s Bart Scott would bring more physical play than Channing Crowder, but he seems more likely to head to New York than Miami. Parcells drafted defensive end Chris Canty when he was in Dallas, and Canty would make a nice replacement for the aforementioned Holiday. The other area where Miami may want to upgrade is at cornerback, where they might want to land an up and comer like Pittsburgh’s Bryant McFadden. Alternately, they could try to add depth more cheaply by kicking the tires on someone like Leigh Bodden, hoping that Bodden would benefit from a change in scheme.

New England

Is Matt Cassel a franchise quarterback?

When did Bill Belichick turn into Bill Walsh? When not busy crafting elite defenses, Belichick was turning Vinny Testaverde from a laughingstock to a playoff quarterback, then molding a sixth-round draft pick named Tom Brady into a Hall of Famer. Now, in perhaps his greatest feat yet, he has turned Matt Cassel -- the man Football Outsiders affectionately nicknamed "Rusher McFumbles" -- into potentially the most sought-after player this offseason. Cassel, starting for the first time since high school, threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns while guiding the Patriots to an 11-5 record. The Patriots placed their non-exclusive franchise tag on Cassel, and it seems likely that they will set the bidding floor for any quarterback-hungry team desiring Cassel's services at a first-round pick. A 26-year-old quarterback who has already experienced success in the NFL looks to be a much safer bet than a college prospect, but is he worth that high a price?

Cassel's individual numbers might give interested parties a moment's pause. Cassel's 630 DYAR ranked 17th in the NFL, and his 6.4% DVOA places him squarely in the company of guys like Sage Rosenfels and Seneca Wallace. Like Miami, New England's stats from 2008 were juiced by an easy schedule.

A closer look suggests reasons for optimism, however. Cassel posted a negative DVOA in five of his first seven games and averaged only -14.6% per contest. In his final nine games, Cassel posted a negative DVOA in only two outings, and his average performance was an eye-popping 30.6% DVOA. Over the entire year, that would have ranked fifth in the entire NFL. Cassel also started to run more as the season went along, and his rushing DYAR was third-best in the league among quarterbacks. If Cassel's second-half performance is indicative of the kind of player he can be, then teams like Detroit and Minnesota would be well-advised to start working on their trade packages now. Stranger still, New England may want to sit tight and keep Cassel another year, even with a healthy Tom Brady on the roster. Who would have thought that back in September?

Who Could Leave?

The secondary has a lot of players up for free agency, including James Sanders, Rodney Harrison and Lewis Sanders. All three could go, though Harrison figures to receive a one-year show me deal with the Pats. The same goes for Junior Seau, who produced well in limited duty last year. Cornerback Deltha O’ Neal and punter Chris Hanson, in contrast, will almost certainly be gone. New England got good production from reserve players like Lamont Jordan and Larry Izzo, but they might want to clear room out for younger, cheaper prospects.

Who Could They Sign?

There is no cap space to go after premiere free agents, particularly while Cassel’s $14.65 million remains on the books, so the Patriots will have to try addressing their defensive needs with second and third-tier options. Bryant McFadden would be a nice addition at cornerback if he doesn’t re-sign with Pittsburgh. Leigh Bodden was very successful under Romeo Crennel, and he is the kind of veteran that New England has been able to plug into their defense and get production out of. After a disastrous one-year outing in Detroit, Bodden would likely come cheap. Chris McAllister is a formerly productive veteran who has been breaking down the last few years due to injury; he’s the kind of winning player the Patriots have utilized well in the past.

New York Jets

Did the Madden Curse Strike Again?

In 2007, Brett Favre was one of the top quarterbacks in football and led the Packers to the NFC Championship game. That, no doubt, was the Favre that general manager Mike Tannenbaum and then-head coach Eric Mangini thought they were acquiring, and that's the Favre that the media talked up during New York's 8-3 start. So when Favre tossed two touchdowns and eight interceptions down the stretch, it seemed like the grizzled veteran suddenly crashed down to earth, taking the entire team with him.

But Favre's season wasn't a strong start followed by an epic collapse -- it was a mediocre showing from beginning to end, interrupted by a small spike of quality play in the middle of the season. Favre put together a dominant three-game run in weeks 10-12, putting up a gaudy 46.5% DVOA, but the rest of the year he hovered between average and below average. He posted negative DVOAs in four of his first six games, and his advanced stat line in December looks every bit as bad as his conventional one. A smattering of big plays like his game-deciding Hail Mary to Chansi Stuckey against Miami in Week 1 provided a screen that shielded Favre from criticism and obscured the fact that his low-percentage approach on first and second downs wasted one of the most efficient ground games in the league. When the big plays dried up down the stretch, the bad decisions and the interceptions did not. To add insult to injury, Favre's rushing numbers were the worst of any quarterback in the league, thanks to his fumbling three times. Opponents recovered all three.

Favre's history of waffling aside, his recent decision to retire figures to be a permanent one, and there's no question that without him the Jets' current quarterback roster of Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff, and Erik Ainge looks extremely thin on experience. But new coach Rex Ryan has seen firsthand how successful a young quarterback can be if supported by a solid defense and consistent ground game, and he should be happy not to have to deal with the daily soap opera that a second Favre season in New York would likely have descended into. Clemens was highly regarded by many draft observers and figures to be the nominal starter heading into training camp. Ratliff has a lot of buzz, however, after following up a strong training camp with a 32-for-47 for 499 yards and four touchdown performance in the preseason. If the new Brett can keep developing, it might make Jet fans quickly forget the old Brett's only season in New York.

Who Could Leave?

Eric Barton has been a solid player in New York, but he’s a little undersized for the 3-4 and doesn’t play with the kind of violence Rex Ryan would like. He could be headed elsewhere. David Barrett has already been released, and Drew Coleman and Ahmad Carroll may soon join him as the secondary figures to get a substantial makeover. Both Mike Nugent and Jay Feeley are unrestricted free agents. Feeley kicked very well for the Jets down the stretch, but they’ll probably concentrate on re-signing Nugent, who is six years younger. Veterans like Bubba Franks and Ty Law who were brought in for one-year auditions will not be retained.

Who Could They Sign?

Now that the Favre saga has played itself out, Tannenbaum and Ryan will probably turn their attention to modifying the personnel on defense to fit Ryan’s scheme. Last year’s free agent spending spree will limit just how much can be done, but expect Ryan to try and lure either Ray Lewis or Bart Scott to New York, with Scott being the best fit. Jim Leonhard was a nice surprise last year at safety for Baltimore, and he would make for an upgrade in coverage over current starter Abram Elam without costing an arm and a leg. There is no money to go after an elite corner to pair with Darrelle Revis, but the team might be able to afford someone like Andre Goodman or Bryant McFadden. Chris McAllister would be a natural fit assuming he checked out medically. Ryan might also try targeting a speed receiver like Nate Washington to complement Jerricho Cotchery.

Posted by: Sean McCormick on 20 Feb 2009

30 comments, Last at 26 Feb 2009, 4:51pm by Jetspete

Comments

1
by justme_cd :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 1:35pm

First!

Horay Offseason!

Sorry I'm not contributing much, but thanks for the work (:

2
by Gringo Starr (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 1:47pm

As a lifelong Bills fan who finally gave up on the team last season, I'm wondering whether it's possible for the Bills to break out of their decade of mediocrity. The city of Buffalo is only going to get smaller and poorer, and the team hasn't been able to afford to fix it's problems. Jauron is clearly a wash - as likable a guy as he is, the decision-making last season was horrible - but Ralph Wilson didn't fire him because he couldn't afford to eat the rest of his contract. (never mind that he hired him in the first place because he couldn't afford a coach who had more than one winning season under his belt). They'll never be able to go after top-tier free agents, or even hold onto top-tier free agents (not that keeping overrated guys like Nate Clements would have helped at all). Do they become the Pittsburgh Pirates, priced out of ever fielding a winning team? It's hard to root for the team to leave for greener pastures, but at the same time, the economics aren't going to change if whoever takes over the team after Wilson passes keeps the team in Buffalo. So what happens to the Bills?

3
by dryheat (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 1:55pm

Why is Buffslo doomed, when places like Green Bay are smaller, and places like Pittsburgh, Detroit and Cleveland are suffering with the same economic slump? The tradition's there, the rabid fan base is there. Assuming the team is sold to a wealthy businessman, as they all are these days, I see know reason why the Bills can't thrive. Yes, some players don't like playing in the cold weather, but money goes a long way to allieviate that.

One thing that will certainly hurt Buffalo long term is the uncapped year. Wilson will probably spend well below the salary floor, and the team will wallow in mediocrity until it is sold and the culture changes. Kraft did it. Glazer did it. No reason Bills couldn't hit an upcycle like the early 90s again.

5
by Possuum (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 2:10pm

Buffalo can't just hide behind it's declining population and economy as the reason for the Bills being mediocre. They haven't had emough impact skill position players taken in the draft. Specifically, they have failed to develop a QB for some time now. You know, the list since Kelly:

Todd Collins
Doug Flutie
Rob Johnson
Alex Van Pelt
Drew Bledsoe
Kelly Holcombe
J.P. Losman

The best QBs on the list come from trades or free agency (Flutie, Bledsoe). It's a losing proposition because they can only have consistent QB play for a year or two, and then the QB is old again. There is a double cost in that they traded first round draft picks for Johnson and Bledsoe, preventing them from attaining high quality rookies. There are other ways the Bills are bad, but they just have not found a good QB. They have had good defenses. They have had other good skill position players. They have had consistently decent to great special teams since the 2000 disasterbacle.

To me, this doesn't bode well for Jauron, because he has never been able to settle and develop a QB. Part of me thinks it's his extreme risk aversion, but maybe he developed that because of bad QBs.

8
by Rich COnley (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 2:55pm

"They'll never be able to go after top-tier free agents, or even hold onto top-tier free agents (not that keeping overrated guys like Nate Clements would have helped at all)"

That is such a crock of sh*t.

There is a salary cap and a salary floor in football. The Bill spend no more or no less than any other team in the NFL. Look up their earnings.

Here, I'll do if for you:

http://www.forbes.com/lists/2006/30/06nfl_Buffalo-Bills_301765.html

In the NFL, player salaries are almost entirely paid by revenue sharing. The reason the Bills can't compete has nothing to do with market or revenue.

10
by Dean (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 3:41pm

I think he was suggesting that the Bills, in the future, would spend below the current salary floor if the cap were to go away.

17
by MJK :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 5:36pm

That's not entirely true. I'm not as familiar with the vagaries of the new CBA as I was with the old CBA, but under the old CBA only a portion of revenues (from TV, general ticket sales, merchendise, etc) was shared. Certain other portions were not shared...specifically, things like stadium naming rights, luxury box sales, corporate promotional revenues, and so forth. Basically, a lot of things that individual owners had to put a lot of effort into developing to increase revenue. It got so that owners were actually designing stadiums to minimize their shared revenue and maximize their own...e.g. by having fewer, and worse, general seats and more and better luxury boxes (see Gillette Stadium).

That was a major sticking point between the small market and big market owners when the last CBA was negotiated. Big market owners didn't see why they should have to share their stadium naming revenue with Ralph Wilson when he forwent acquiring a similar income stream with his team and instead named the stadium after himself. But at the same time, small market owners like Irsay were pointing out that if the players got what they wanted and the salary floor was keyed to total revenues instead of shared revenues (which I believe did happen under the new CBA), and a significant portion of revenues that related to one's market were not shared, small market teams could be forced by the salary cap and salary floor to pay more than they actually brought in each year in real dollars. And even if they did not, the actual, physical dollars they had on hand to try to entice big name free agents with large signing bonuses is in general less than the big market teams. So due to their revenue stream, Team A might be able to give a guy a 5 M dollar salary a year, while Team B has enough of the ancillary revenue streams that don't get shared to have the capital up front to give the guy 1 M per year, but a 32 M signing bonus to be amortized over an 8 year contract. Both teams are, on paper, paying the player $5M per year, from a salary cap and salary floor point of view, but the free agent is more likely to go to Team B.

Both sides were probably exaggerating the issue a bit, but it is not true to say that revenue sharing, the salary cap, and salary floor really put all the teams on a level footing when it comes to attracting free agents. Like I said, I'm not as familiar with the new CBA to be sure how much of the revenue sharing mismatch was resolved, but I think there is still some revenue that is market dependent, and is not shared.

There's other issues that go into competing that have nothing to do with the salary cap and floor, as well. Things like quality of coaches, quality of trainers, practice facilities, physical therapists, size and quality of scouting departments, etc. A rich team can better afford these things than a poor team.

19
by Jerry :: Sat, 02/21/2009 - 5:29am

Big market owners didn't see why they should have to share their stadium naming revenue with Ralph Wilson when he forwent acquiring a similar income stream with his team and instead named the stadium after himself.

To be fair, Rich Stadium was one of the first purchased names in the league; I'm not sure why the name wasn't resold when Rich gave it up.

21
by BD (not verified) :: Sat, 02/21/2009 - 1:35pm

The problem with the Bills is a mix of the economic and incompetence issues.

Economically, Buffalo is worse off than many other Rust Belt cities. There are no major companies left in the city with enough heft to produce the kinds of revenue streams from advertising, luxury boxes, and naming rights. Ralph Wilson is not stupid; nobody in Buffalo was willing to fork over the kind of $ that would approach the naming rights received elsewhere.

The reason it's a problem is that, while player salaries are subsidized, bonuses are not. So the up front $ that can bring in the big name player is not there.

The Bills can also not afford to pay as much for management level staff and the other things that NFL teams have in terms of facilities, etc. Now this is a little more controversial. Because the Bills are known to be profitable, earning in the area of 5 - 10 million per year. So Ralph COULD find higher-paid staff. However, other issues (ego?) prevent him from doing so.

This brings us to the next problem: incompetence. The Bills are filled with people who have been with the organization for years and who have no particular football expertise (at least as recognized by others). In other words, a bunch of 'pencil-pushers.' Ralph is resistant to hiring a true football-guy. The last really good one in Buffalo was Bill Polian, with whom Ralph had a falling out. John Butler was similarly ran out of town, and the Tom Donohoe era was marked by high profile bang or bust signings that busted far too much.

So it's a messy mix of ego, incompetence, and economic woes. Wilson is something of a low-budget Snyder, in other words.

Hence the reason I don't know if I'll be able to root for the Bills wholeheartedly anymore.

13
by Tim Wilson (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 4:07pm

Did I miss the part where the Bills have to pay for their players' salaries out of their own ticket sales, as opposed to from revenue sharing like every other team in the league?

The Bills' payroll is enough to field a playoff-caliber team. The current economic climate is not forcing them to draft terribly.

4
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 2:08pm

Has anyone else noticed that this year has brought a new aspect to the Madden curse? For the first time EA gave ratings of 100 to a few players in some stats and they all had major problems this year:

-Devin Hester Speed 100, disappointing season returning kicks
-Tom Brady Awareness 100, out for year
- Peyton Manning Awareness 100, bum knee
-Braylon Edwards Spectacular Catch 100, dropped everything in sight (that one was just funny)

Oh yeah, the intro to the Pats made me throw up a little.

11
by Chad (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 3:45pm

It seems to me I remember Manning having a pretty good season...

6
by Possuum (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 2:16pm

Also, depending on the definition of "immediate", Tight End should be on Buffalo's areas of immediate needs. Robert Royal may indeed be the worst starting TE in the league, and neither Schouman and Fine are particularly inspiring.

7
by Led (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 2:20pm

With Favre retired and Barrett and Bowens released, the Jets are in pretty decent cap shape -- $18m under. I would applaud signing either Scott or Leonard if they can get them. The consistent message from the team is that they're happy going with what they have at QB, but there is drumbeat in the press for them to sign a veteran. I kinda hope not. I agree with Sean that CB and WR are areas of need, but CB has to be the higher priority either in free agency or the draft.

22
by NY expat :: Sat, 02/21/2009 - 4:29pm

Well, looks like guard might be a concern. This NJ Star Ledger article indicates they're releasing Brandon Moore in a salary cap move to avoid paying a $7M roster bonus due Mar 5. The article suggests the move was to free up money to go after Leonhard and either Lewis or Scott. Yeah, Scott and Leonhard would be nice, but opening up a hole on the line with no obvious replacement ... well, that didn't work out too well last time. This blog entry suggests the Jets might move Woody to guard and then draft a tackle.

9
by Soulless Merchant of Fear (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 3:34pm

The Buffalo section could have been a lot shorter:

"Will the Bills break out of their current run of offensive mediocrity?"

No.

14
by tuluse :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 4:25pm

Their defense is pretty mediocre too, if not downright bad.

12
by the silent speaker (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 3:55pm

Something has been puzzling me for a while about the Giants-Jets-Saints draft pick triangle. Maybe someone can explain this to me:
A. My understanding of the current situation is as follows:
If the Saints sign Jonathan Vilma this week, the Jets get the NO second-round pick, the Saints get the NO third-round pick, and the Giants get the NO first-round 2010 pick (for Jeremy Shockey).
If Vilma is unsigned as of the moment free agency begins, the Giants get the NO second-round pick (for Shockey), the Jets get the NO third-round pick, and the Saints get the NO first-round pick in 2010.
B. Because of the above arrangement, people are saying that the Saints should come to an agreement with Vilma but not sign it until after free agency begins.
C. My question is as follows: if the Saints do that, don't the Jets scream bloody murder at them for deliberate sabotage? The mere fact that Vilma signs within minutes of the start of free agency would give them a prima facie case, and then there would seem to be three major pieces of fallout:
1. The league would treat the Vilma contract as signed when agreed to, and the Saints would owe the second-round pick anyway.
2. The Saints would probably be disciplined by the league, maybe losing a highish draft pick.
3. No team would make a trade with the Saints ever again, for fear of being the victims of similar sharp practice.

Naturally none of this applies if they honestly are trying to come to a deal and can't, but then Vilma will take offers as soon as free agency begins and he won't sign with the Saints right away in that case.

15
by tuluse :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 4:31pm

I don't think the "deliberate sabotage" is against league rules. So I would think the Jets are just screwed. Of course the Saints and Vilma could come to a verbal agreement, and Vilma could get an offer from another team right as free agency starts, and the Saints could screw themselves.

16
by Joseph :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 4:38pm

silent speaker,

Don't worry. Not even all Saints fans understand it, as the question has come up 3/4 times on local writer Jeff Duncan's Saints Mailbag.

A is correct.
B is correct. As of this week, they still don't have a "handshake" agreement. I believe Coach Payton said that--maybe at the Combine--don't remember.
C--I think that the Saints have at least made an OFFER to Vilma.

Regarding the fallout points, how many times have we seen a free agent CHANGE TEAMS minutes after the bidding starts, and no tampering charges were ever alleged or proven. As far as I know, even a "handshake" agreement would not change the trade parameters--so long as he doesn't SIGN it before FA starts. I have to believe even the signing would be VIDEOTAPED to prove it--which would pretty much end any arguments/allegations. This may be why Coach Payton said that there was no agreement in place--even if there were, then saying there isn't publically would help the Saints' "case." Could they not have told him for "plausible deniability"?--Possibly, but I doubt it. I really think that there isn't an agreement in place yet. It may even be that the Saints have told Vilma that they wouldn't even talk with his agent until a day or two before FA begins in order to help prove that there was no agreement in place beforehand, if there were ever any allegations.

23
by John Doe (not verified) :: Sun, 02/22/2009 - 12:04am

As a giants fan I'd love it, we could package both 1s and maybe get Crabtree. However, it's not against the rules and there is no way the Saints will be giving up that pick.

What they are forced to do, however is give Vilma the opportunity to test the market which means they may lose him.

18
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Sat, 02/21/2009 - 5:26am

nfc south then afc south
nfc north then afc north
nfc west then NO AFC WEST
nfc east then afc east

why does this website hate the west coast so much? we are people too

20
by jebmak :: Sat, 02/21/2009 - 5:43am

Funny, aside from the random "website hate" stuff. I am always irritated that I have to wait for the end of the cycle to get AFC East info on the Dolphins.

26
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 02/23/2009 - 12:31pm

I imagine it's due to the Websites general love of the Patriots. They probably figure if they posted the AFC east first they would get less traffic for the other stuff.

24
by Wait, what? (not verified) :: Sun, 02/22/2009 - 3:28pm

If you want the AFC West version, you can read it here; note that you will need to be a registered ESPN Insider to read it.

Aaron mentioned this at the start of Four Downs coverage in a Site News post, but since I imagine not everyone saw it: all the Four Downs stuff is going up on ESPN Insider first, and then being reprinted over here a little later on (ie, a period of days).

The funny thing is, the AFC West article hit ESPN on the 14th- and the two East division ones came out on the 15th and 16th, yet have already been posted. It appears that whoever was supposed to do it (Aaron? Bill? an intern?) just forgot to post the AFC West over here on time; trust me, it's written. I will not spoil the fascinating insights on Tyler Thigpen and JaMarcus Russell for you, though.

Alternately, the AFC West article is never coming over here because everyone at FO hates the West Coast, except the guys who live on the West Coast, and they just... uh... I don't know, they hate the Chiefs or something. Conspiracy theories are silly, people.

27
by BucNasty :: Mon, 02/23/2009 - 1:09pm

It's not the Chiefs, it's the Broncos. Probably because of the old paper-rock-scissors thing they used to have going in the AFC. Colts beat Broncos, Broncos beat Patriots, Patriots beat Colts. That's my theory. Either that, or this is their way of lobbying for representation on the Hall of Fame committee.

25
by Dice (not verified) :: Sun, 02/22/2009 - 10:54pm

Nah, the FO west coasties are NFC fans, and they resent that the AFC west sucked almost as bad as their division this past season. See? A theory for everything!

28
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 02/24/2009 - 1:27am

records in2009

Pates 11-5
jets 10-6
Bills 6-10
Dolphins 4-12

right back to crap territoy for Maimi

29
by mr fla (not verified) :: Wed, 02/25/2009 - 5:46pm

miami is going to be afc east champs in 09 the pats are going down everyones old jets have a good d fence bills are sluggish only way the phins blow it is at the bowl bill p is the master of all of this 11-5 season so dont 4get bill b is an understudy of bp so if he turned dallas around in one yr imagine 2 more with the phins jets suck pats suck bill suck lmfa miami is back hahahahah

30
by Jetspete (not verified) :: Thu, 02/26/2009 - 4:51pm

Drew Brees' chin might take exception with your Eric Barton is not a violent player comment.

kidding aside, my jets are screwed