11 Feb 2005
By Al Bogdan and Vivek Ramgopal
Al: Are you ready for the Pro Bowl! Yeah, I'm not either. The morning after the Super Bowl is always one of the saddest days of the year. That realization suddenly hits you that football is over and baseball season is two months away. To me, Super Bowl Sunday is the end of the sports year. There's not even any NHL this year to pass the time. I guess I can watch some basketball, but it's still too early in the season for me to get into it. Call me once it's playoff time.
For a last day of the year, though, we had a pretty good one. By now, the game's been discussed to death, but here are some of my thoughts anyway. I was very impressed overall by the Eagles. They had the Patriots reeling in the first half and should have taken a lead going into the third quarter. Terrell Owens was amazing and solidified himself as the best receiver in football. I'd love to give Todd Pinkston credit for his first half performance, but how do you miss the second half of the Super Bowl because of cramps? This isn't the first company softball game of the summer. It's the Super Bowl! Drink some Gatorade before the game! Do some stretches!
The Eagle defense was fantastic. They were able to contain everyone on New England's offense, except for MVP Deion Branch. Field position is what ultimately decided this game. The Patriots only had two scoring drives when they started on their own side of the field. New England started three drives in Philly territory and scored twice. The Eagle offense started every drive save one on their half of the field. The one chance they did have to begin a drive in Patriot territory was squandered away on a fumble.
Vivek: There's no hockey this year? I didn't even notice.
You forgot to throw out the over-analysis of Andy Reid's clock management, which again, has been beaten to death. I wasn't that worked up by the Eagles' second to last drive of the game, which resulted in the 30-yard touchdown pass to Greg Lewis. Having more than 1:48 left on the clock would have meant nothing if a hurried-up offense turned the ball over or stalled shy of the goal line. The only time that drive really looked like the game was in the first quarter was after an 11-yard completion by Freddie Mitchell (yeah, he was active during the game). The Eagles took 35 seconds to get the next play off.
We all know what happened with the Eagles' last-ditch effort, so I won't harp on McNabb completing a one-yard pass (and taking 24 seconds off the clock). Wait, I guess I just did harp on it.
Al: Well, enough of last year. Being the last Scramble of the season, we really should start looking ahead to next year so we generate plenty of ridiculous predictions to make fun of a year from now. Let's take a look at the free agents and likely trade bait candidates that are part of the Second Annual Football Outsiders Offseason Contest and guess where they'll be spending the 2005 season. Here are some projected salary cap figures for 2005 from Askthecommish.com.
Vivek: Alexander or Hasselbeck? Hasselbeck or Alexander? Trick question -- it might be neither. Welcome to mind of Seahawks' general manager Bob Ferguson. I think the obvious preference of the franchise would be to keep Alexander, but his desire to bolt the northwest for Florida could outweigh any dollar amount. How much would Jon Gruden love to have Alexander? Tampa Bay (continued at Matt Hasselbeck)
Al: Alexander isn't going anywhere. Usually the Seahawks use their franchise tag on Walter Jones, but they may very well be sick of his antics and decide instead to use it on Alexander. There are a ton of running backs out there, but Alexander is the best of the bunch. He should have one or two more years of effectiveness at his current high level before an age-related decline kicks in and he hasn't had a significant injury over the past three years. Seattle.
Reuben Doughns (trade bait)
Al: Droughns has been given permission to seek a trade and contract extension with another team since it seems Denver has realized they can plug almost anyone into their backfield and have him gain 1000 yards. I'm not sure who's out there that is looking for a running back and would be willing to pay Droughns what he seems to be looking for. He's really overestimating his worth here. I don't see him staying in Denver, though, after making this stand. I'll guess that Arizona makes the mistake of dealing for Droughns and signing him to an extension that turns out to be the worst contract for a running back this off-season.
Vivek: Arizona is a good guess for Droughns, but I'm betting that Michael Bennett is reunited with Denny Green. Seattle might be in desperation mode if they do lose Alexander, but Musa Smith, Jamal Lewis' backup in Baltimore the last two seasons, could be a great replacement.
Travis Henry (trade bait)
Al: Miami needs a running back. Now, the Dolphins and Bills are in the same division, but the Bills were willing to deal within their division a few years ago when they picked up Drew Bledsoe from New England. After failing to get James, Henry will be the best running back on the market. Should Miami go cheap at running back and instead spend their money upgrading their offensive line? Of course they should. But a new coach doesn't make headlines or generate interest in his team by picking up a new left guard.
Vivek: I'll ticket Travis Henry to Oakland at the command of Al Davis. At what price is the question. With the Raiders fed up with Charles Woodson, they won't deal their first-round pick, which they could use to select cornerbacks Antrel Rolle or Pac-Man Jones.
Vivek: I think the Colts will keep the big three together for a little while longer. They have huge contracts everywhere, but I don't think that Miami will make such a big play as everyone thinks. With the No. 2 pick in the draft, they could easily go for Cedric Benson or one of the Auburn runners. Indianapolis.
Al: I agree. As much as it makes sense for the Colts to go cheap at running back and spend all their cap space on improving their defense, by re-signing Harrison and Stokley the Colts have shown that they don't want to let any part of this offensive juggernaut go just yet. Indianapolis will franchise James if they have to, but Edge isn't going anywhere.
Al: With Johnson threatening to sit out the season if he's franchised and with Chris Perry waiting in the wings, I don't see Rudi staying in Cincinnati. San Francisco has plenty of cap room and needs a feature back after learning this past season that Kevan Barlow isn't the answer.
Vivek: I think Cincinnati will pony up the money and keep him as their starter. There just aren't enough starting options out there for RBs this offseason.
Vivek: Jordan and Najeh Davenport are in similar situations -- great role players on very good teams, but they are stuck behind Pro Bowlers. Curtis Martin has stated that he has no problem reducing his workload to accommodate his backfield partner. I expect that, and the promise of increased carries, to keep him with the Jets.
Al: Jordan isn't going anywhere. I agree that he'll stay with the Jets. Now that the Jets have reportedly used their franchise tag on John Abraham, they don't have it available for Jordan, but I don't think New York will need to in order to keep him. What Martin did last year is incredible, but they can't expect him to be able to gain over 1,900 combined yards again next season at 32 years old. Jordan knows the Jet offense and was very good this year in his backup role. They'll be able to work things out.
Vivek: Davenport, on the other hand, is probably on his way out of Green Bay. The Pack just re-signed Tony Fisher to be their third-down back, so there is no room for Davenport. Davenport will sign somewhere that he can be the feature back. It is a rough year for RBs, as there are so many free-agent runners and quality college players available. If Cleveland does not trust the combination of Lee Suggs and William Green, the Browns could be a possible landing spot. I'm going to put Davenport with the NFC champs. Correll Buckhalter is an unrestricted free agent, so Davenport could definitely see 500-600 yards on the ground with Philadelphia. Nice complement to Westbrook, if they decide to give up a high draft pick.
Al: Philly is a nice destination, but I like Davenport as a New York Giant. It's a great fit. I doubt Davenport will find a job as a feature back this off-season, so he'll realistically be looking to fill a role as a backup or member of a RBBC. New York would love to have a big back to pair with Tiki Barber that isn't Ron Dayne. Plus, Tiki is about to turn 30 and the Giants can count on him being a 2,000-yard back for too many more years. Najeh would reduce the wear on Barber while giving the Giants a goal line or short-yardage option that doesn't suck and a possible heir apparent for 2006.
Al: Anthony Thomas? I guess for a team that's looking for a cheap part of a RBBC he'd be an OK option. He might be a nice fit in Carolina to team up with DeShaun Foster.
Vivek: Carolina sounds like a nice fit, but A-Train risk the chance of being part of a trio if both Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster are OK? I doubt the Panthers fork over extra money when they got a good fill-in performance from Nick Goings last season. San Francisco might make a big play for the former Wolverine as insurance for Kevan Barlow.
Al: Burress and the Rotweiller developed some great chemistry last season. But I think the allure of a big money contract will be too much for Burress to ignore when his other option is to accept less money to remain with the cap-strapped Steelers. I like Jacksonville as a potential destination. They should have a good amount of cap space available and could really use a No. 1 WR for Byron Leftwich to throw to. Jimmy Smith is getting up in years and no one on the current Jaguar roster looks like an heir apparent to his throne.
Vivek: Burress will stay in the division, but land in Baltimore. Why trade away the farm for Randy Moss, when you have the room to sign a pretty damn good wideout?
Al: Housh is reportedly looking for an $8 million signing bonus. Now, I like Housh as much as the next guy, but you'd be crazy to spend that much on him. Especially if you're Cincinnati and are close to the cap as is. He'll be this year's Alvin Harper/Peerless Price bust free-agent wide receiver if a team signs him to be their No. 1 after he finished the season with a strong final six weeks. So what team is so desperate for a No. 1 WR that they'd be willing to overpay for Housh? Oakland sounds about right.
Vivek: It really is going to be a game of musical chairs this free-agent season. Al and I actually agree for a change and for the exact same reason. Oakland.
Muhsin Muhammad (cap casualty)
Al: Inexplicably, he has been one of my favorite football players for years and he's finally going to get some of the recognition he deserves after signing a huge deal this off-season. Carolina doesn't have a lot of cap room, so it's likely Muhsin will parlay his great 2004 season into a big contract elsewhere. Let's see. What team has a large amount of cap space and may be looking for a new #1 receiver in the next few months? Yes, Minnesota, I'm looking in your direction.
Vivek: Muhsi will be the best free-agent signing that people don't notice this offseason. The Bears had arguably the worst receiving corps in the league last year. Justin Gage was my sleeper, and true to that title, he barely woke up during the season. Chicago.
Al: Ideally Porter is your No. 2 WR, but he's going to command No. 1 money in this market. San Diego looks like the best fit. They could use a wide receiver to replace Keenan McCardell and take some pressure off of Antonio Gates. They have enough cap room to give Porter a competitive deal while still having room to franchise Drew Brees.
Vivek: Joey Porter would be a terrific No. 2 receiver in Oakland, and I'll assume that he stays there with Oakland signing another top wideout.
Al: Taylor isn't going to get any big offers on the open market. His numbers have been steadily declining for the past three seasons from a peak that wasn't too impressive to begin with. Even if Baltimore ends up with Randy Moss, they'll still need people to line up on the other side of the field. Taylor was their best receiver last year and the Ravens know him.
Vivek: Cincinnati will need to replace Housh, and Taylor would be a cost-efficient fill-in. That'll help the Bengals hold onto Rudi Johnson.
Ty Law (cap casualty)
Vivek: I think I'm in the minority by assuming that Law will be back in New England next year. He has a hefty $12 million cap number for 2005, but the cost of cutting him and signing an adequate replacement will not be that much lower. Expect the Pats to reshuffle some money and Law to agree to a restructured contract. He'll be back in New England.
Al: I can't see Law staying in New England. Law refused to restructure his deal to take a pay cut after last season. Like I said a few weeks ago, I think the market for defensive backs this off-season will be ridiculous as teams try to contend with the high powered passing attacks that were shown off in the playoffs this year. Do you remember the ridiculous contracts cornerbacks were getting signed to before last season? Antoine Winfield received a $12.8 million signing bonus. Law could end up with a $15-16 million bonus if he ends up on the open market. I don't see why the Pats would keep him at $12 million after just winning a Super Bowl without Law playing the second half of the year or in the playoffs. I could see him going to Cleveland with Romeo Crennell, as long as the Browns don't do anything too drastic in rebuilding to screw up their cap for next year.
Vivek: What a time to have your best season. The Minnesota ownership situation might keep the Vikings from using all their cap space one top free agents, but Lucas could be a good replacement if Brian Williams bolts.
Al: Remember that song "Lucas with the Lid Off"? I wonder what happened to that guy. Anyway, this Lucas didn't impress me at all last year, but he should be able to find some team willing to overpay for a cornerback but not willing to overpay for a good cornerback. That sounds like New Orleans to me.
Vivek: Woodson has never been the true shut down corner that he thinks he is. With Philip Buchanon now the top cover corner on the team, the Raiders can say goodbye to this headache. Green Bay should make a big play after seeing its defense shredded last year.
Al: This guy's signing bonus will be astronomical. $20 million isn't out of the question. I don't think Green Bay will be able to put together the cap space they'll need to make this deal happen. Let's see, who needs defensive help and has a good amount of cap space â€¦ Indianapolis looks good to me.
Al: Smoot's going to be an extremely rich man in a few months. True, he's not as good as Law or Woodson, but he's only 25 and has shown flashes of being a top-flight corner over his first four seasons. This is a perfect recipe for a big free-agent contract. Dallas can use some help in the defensive backfield, has plenty of cap room, and wouldn't mind hurting a division rival.
Vivek: The Pats could need help in the secondary, but it would be uncharacteristic for them to reach out and grab one of the highest priced prizes out there. I'll hedge my bet from above and figure that either Smoot or Woodson ends up in Green Bay.
Al: Bienvenido a Miami. Who needs a left tackle more than the Dolphins do? He's young, and signing Jennings would be a huge blow to one of Miami's division rivals. Great fit.
Vivek: Ok, it seems that Al is getting a bit jiggy with his free-agent predictions. I think Jennings will stay put as the Bills make a concerted effort to create the best possible situation for J.P. Losman.
Al: Here's hoping that Seattle uses its franchise tag on Shaun Alexander and finally lets Walter Jones explore free agency so that the Giants can pick him up. Sure the Giants don't have much in salary-cap space, but they have plenty of dead wood on the roster that they could cut to create some. Signing Jones would allow the Giants to move Luke Petitgout back to the right side where he would form a solid duo with guard Chris Snee. I really don't want to get too excited about this, because I know in my heart that it's never going to happen.
Vivek: Two things are always certain in the NFL offseason. First, we will all debate about whether or not Brett Favre will call it a career. Second, the Seahawks will franchise Walter Jones, and I expect them to do that for the fourth consecutive year. If he walks, there is no guarantee that Seattle will be able to secure a solid replacement. I don't expect the Rams to let Orlando Pace go anywhere, and there are no sure-fire o-line prospects in this year's draft. Seahawks.
Al: I don't think St. Louis can afford to franchise Pace yet again. With Buffalo likely losing Jennings, Pace would make a nice option to protect young QB J.P. Losman.
Vivek: With Kyle Turley's tenure in St. Louis approaching an end (if not his career), I don't see how St. Louis can let go of Pace. They can't leave Bulger, Faulk and Jackson vulnerable to hits.
Al: Green Bay can't afford to lose both of their guards in the same off-season. They'll re-sign the better known, but not necessarily better of the two.
Vivek: I agree with Al. It's a coin flip here, and just for the sake of disagreeing with Al, I'll ticket Rivera to Detroit ...
Vivek: ... and keep Wahle in Green Bay.
Al: MDS devoted an entire article to Wahle earlier this season, and called him one of the league's best pulling guards. Gregg Easterbook named Wahle his first runner-up for his annual Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP. He probably won't sign a contract as lucrative as the other linemen on this list, but whatever team that is smart enough to sign Wahle may be getting the best free-agent value of the off-season. This is exactly the type of player I'd expect New England to pick up. The Pats don't necessarily need an upgrade at guard, but they could use one at right tackle. With his pulling ability, you would think that Wahle should be agile enough to handle the transition to the outside of the line. Or maybe the Pats move Stephen Neal outside and keep Wahle at his natural position.
Vivek: When Shaun Ellis re-signed during the season, the sense of urgency to keep Abraham subsided. I'm a much bigger Ellis fan than Abraham. Abraham supporters claim that Ellis piled up most of his sacks when offensive lines double-teamed Abraham. Not true. Look at the numbers this year -- Ellis recorded seven of his sacks this year when Abraham was injured. Chad Pennington's contract might be large, but it was as cap-friendly as possible. That at least gives the Jets some options -- franchising and then trading Abraham, slapping him with the franchise tag, signing him to a long-term deal or letting him walk. With Santana Moss due for an extension next year, I expect the Jets to franchise Abraham -- which they are rumored to have already done -- and then attempt to trade him. A Randy Moss for John Abraham and picks swap? Possible, but I don't see Randy Moss moving. The Cowboys have some cap space, and may be looking to make up for the failed Marcellus Wiley signing. I'll go out on a complete limb and say Dallas.
Al: If the Jets are going to franchise Abraham, as rumored, it's only to trade him. No way the Jets keep him or commit long-term money to him. He's been too much of a headache for the organization. Dallas is a nice fit, but I'll say he ends up somewhere else in Texas. Houston could really use a pass rusher on their defensive line, after having both the worst adjusted sack rate in the league and the fewest total number of sacks in the league.
Al: Bell's likely gone from Pittsburgh after not being activated for the AFC Championship game. With Jeremiah Trotter a free agent, Bell could shift a few hundred miles east to Philadelphia.
Vivek: Trotter will show appreciation to the organization that gave him a second life, so there won't be room in Philly for Bell. Houston could use a solid linebacker to sure up the defensive unit.
Vivek: Don't go drafting Phillip Rivers in your fantasy leagues just yet. This San Diego team is just a receiving option away from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Look for them to hold onto Brees and sign a solid No. 2 receiver.
Al: Easiest call on the board. San Diego has enough cap space to hang onto Brees for another year while Rivers gets another year of clipboard holding under his belt.
Vivek: This is probably more wishful thinking, but I'm hoping that the Jets have enough room to sign Bubba. I'm tired of seeing missed blocks and dropped passes.
Al: Green Bay will keep Franks, especially if Favre comes back.
Vivek: This season should be easier on Garcia, especially now that his woman problems are behind him. There is no guarantee that the Browns will release him, but Garcia gave them no reason to keep him around. Arizona might be a nice fit with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
Al: Cleveland doesn't really have any better options for next year, though. We've seen the Kelly Holcomb show one too many times already. Garcia and Cleveland will get together and realize that it's in the best interests of both of them to give this a shot for one more year.
Al: Baltimore will hold onto Hartwell. There will be a ton of interest in him, but the Ravens have more than enough cap room to hold onto Ray Lewis' partner on the inside.
Vivek: Agreed. Baltimore will keep that unit together as much as possible.
Vivek: Shaun Alexander is out the door in my head, so that forces the Seahawks' hand with Hasselbeck's negotiations. As much as GM Ramgopal would like to have Alexander over Hasselbeck, Seattle will overpay to keep one star. Factor in the dearth of free-agent quarterbacks, and there really is no alternative. Who would they sign as a starter -- Sage Rosenfels? Kelly Holcomb? Brother Tim?(There is one wild card here â€“ if Brett Favre does hang it up, the Packers might make a huge push for their former draft pick.)
Al: I don't think Seattle will need to franchise Hasselbeck to keep him. Favre isn't retiring without someone dragging him off the field. Seattle will sign Hasselbeck to a new long-term deal and solidify their quarterback position for the next five years.
Al: Pierce was the leading tackler on a pretty good defense in Washington. They'd be crazy to let him go after his breakthrough 2004 season. Plus all indications are that Pierce wants to remain in Washington. He recently told The Royal Gazette in his native Bermuda that "It would have to be a mind-blowing offer for me to leave because as long as coach (Gregg) Williams is here, I think I'm a good fit for this defence." I'm getting football news from a paper in Bermuda. Gotta love the Internet.
Vivek: Good job with the investigative research, Al. Bermuda is the last place I look for NFL rumors. Even before the season ended, Pierce has proclaimed his loyalty to the Redskins and the coaching staff. He'll stay put in Washington.
Al: Missing from this list is Drew Bledsoe, who will likely be let go or moved in favor of J.P. Losman next year. I can see Warner and Bledsoe being talked about for the same jobs all off-season. Both would be great fits for a team with a top-notch offensive line that just needs a veteran quarterback behind center to add some consistency to an offense. I think Bledsoe would be a great fit in Dallas, so that leaves Kurt Warner in Oakland. Kerry Collins was a disaster and Rich Gannon will be lucky to find himself a backup job next year after recovering from a broken vertebra in his neck. The Raider offensive line was pretty good at protecting the quarterback last year, despite having an immobile Kerry Collins behind center, ranking No. 7 in adjusted sack rate. If Warner doesn't end up in Oakland, I don't see too many other places where he'll be able to find a starting job. Maybe Arizona.
Vivek: Let's see. A team with a struggling starter that has a lot of raw talent at the skill positions and a coach who is known for his quarterback development. Detroit sounds about right.
Al: I really miss the dot.com era. Those few Super Bowls before the internet bubble burst were a hotbed of great commercials. You had young people with money to burn just throwing money at the wall and seeing if it stuck. Now, you have the same boring companies doing the same boring commercials that they always do, now with the added bonus of increased governmental scrutiny of what gets broadcast over the airwaves. So instead of the Pets.com sock puppet, or that cat herding commercial, or the E*Trade dancing monkey we get Dennis Rodman in a hot tub and that stupid convertible in a snowstorm commercial a dozen times. At least Careerbuilder.com was smart and remembered that monkeys = funny.
Vivek: Don't forget that washed up former bat boy turned hip hop rapper turned gangsta rapper turned preacher also equals funny. I can't say this without exposing my Maxim/Blender-loving side, but I was very disappointed FOX pulled the second GoDaddy.com spot. I'm sure GoDaddy isn't complaining -- they've been all over the news for the past week.
Vivek: Not in terms of what he actually says, but how he backs up his talk. First he calls out Rodney Harrison, then proceeds to be non-existent in the biggest game of his life. Now he decides to call out the team that just beat him and blames his lack of production on the return of Terrell Owens.
Al: And what was Mitchell's excuse for his lack of production in 2003? Or 2002? How about 2001?
Al: Donovan McNabb would be deserving for his complete failure to run a hurry-up offense and his three interceptions. But he did throw for 357 yards and was able to move the ball against the Patriot defense for most of the day.
So, I'll give this one to the People's Champ, Fred Ex himself, Freddie "1 catch, 11 yards" Mitchell. Freddie couldn't get open all day, despite being covered either by someone whose name he didn't know or Rodney Harrison, who's still waiting to find out what exactly Freddie has waiting for him. Not only did Mitchell do nothing but talk for two weeks about how big of a day he would have in the Super Bowl, but he pissed off Harrison -- who turned in arguably the best defensive performance on the Patriots.
Al: And the winner is ... Vivek with 243 points. Viv destroyed the competition by being the only one of us to put any faith in Philadelphia making it to the Super Bowl. El Angelo did an outstanding job at picking our rejects, finishing with 161 points which would have been good enough for third place in our competition.
|6||McNabb, PHI||65||BEST OF THE REST|
Al: Last week's Prop Bet Extravaganza turned out well for me, but not so well for Ian and Viv. Thanks to correctly picking a first half tie followed by a Patriot win, I finished with a profit of $1,390. Vivek did OK in his first year in this contest, losing $920. Ian was awful, finishing in dead last with losses of $1,670.
There's no way we're picking the Pro Bowl, so let's take a look at the early Super Bowl future lines and pick the three we like the best. We're using the latest odds from the Mirage according to Scoresandodds.com. Let's pick one contender (15/1 or less), one pretender (between 15/1 and 35/1), and one longshot (greater than 35/1).
Al: Contender: San Diego at 13-1. The Chargers as of now look to have the fourth-most cap space in the league. Even if they franchise Drew Brees, they'd still have $13 million to play with before any other restructuring. Plus, thanks to the Giants overpaying for Eli Manning, they have the best collection of draft picks out of any of the contenders going into this year's draft.
Pretender: I love Washington at 35-1. Their defense was great last year and they still have Joe Gibbs as their head coach. Maybe it just took him a year to find out what parts of his offense can still work in today's NFL. As Aaron pointed out in his ESPN chat, they should have a pretty easy schedule next year going up against the NFC West. With someone other than Mark Brunell behind center, and a top ten pick in each round of the draft to load up on offensive linemen, Washington has a better than random chance to win it all.
Longshot: Bears 60-1. Rex Grossman should be healthy and I think will play well if he can stay on the field for a full season. Chicago has the No. 4 pick which they could use to pick up a weapon for Grossman to use on offense. Even without Brian Urlacher missing half the season and Mike Brown missing practically all of it, Chicago still had the No. 12 defense in the NFL according to DVOA.
Vivek: For the record, I'll take the AFC -3.
Contender: San Diego is a good choice for the money, but I'm more confident in the Steelers (12-1). One more year under Ben Roethlisberger's belt will be tremendous, regardless of the Plaxico Burress situation. They could sign a cheap third option and move Antoine Randal El to the second slot behind Hines Ward if Burress departs.
Pretender: They are just a bit off the Contender list, but I'll pick the Ravens at (18-1). The defense can carry the load and plenty of cap room means they have a legitimate shot at landing a receiving option.
Longshot: If Big Ben could do it as a rookie, Eli has a shot as a sophomore (40-1 for the Giants). Throw in a stable offensive lineman and some help in the secondary, and the Giants could make some noise.