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15 Mar 2006

Four Downs: AFC North

by Ryan Wilson

Did you miss the first 2006 edition of Four Downs: AFC North? You'll find it here.

Baltimore Ravens

Out with the New, In with the Old

In seasons past, the Baltimore Ravens were relatively quiet during the early stages of free agency, instead opting to re-sign players or build their roster through the draft. Last year was a little different; the Ravens addressed two areas of need very early in the process when they signed wide receiver Derrick Mason and cornerback Samari Rolle. Even though the 2006 free agency period is not even a week old, this time around will be different for the Ravens too.

In the first 48 hours, the Ravens lost defensive linemen Maake Kemoeatu and Anthony Weaver, running back Chester Taylor, and punter Dave Zastudil -- all players Baltimore was interested in re-signing. At first glance, Kemoeatu's five-year, $23 million deal ($8 million signing bonus) with the Panthers seemed overreaching, until the Ravens signed Trevor Pryce to a five-year, $25 million contract that included $10 million in guaranteed money. Kemoeatu is 27 years old, 350 pounds, and entering the prime of his career. Pryce is 30, has battled back problems (he only played in two games in 2004), and even though he's been to the Pro Bowl, his last visit to Hawaii was in 2002.

Granted, Kemoeatu and Pryce play different positions, but part of what made Ray Lewis so successful during the early 2000's were players like Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams occupying blockers while Lewis flew to the ball. As it stands, the Ravens' depth chart reads like this at defensive tackle: Kelly Gregg, Dwan Edwards, Aubrayo Franklin and Justin Bannan. Gregg has the most experience -- 58 starts in four seasons -- and is a solid player. Edwards and Franklin have one start between them in two seasons, and Bannan, the former backup to Sam Adams in Buffalo, was just signed this week to provide depth. As things currently stand, the Ravens might draft a defensive lineman with their first round pick, ideally a player who could step in and start immediately.

A few weeks ago it seemed just as likely that the Ravens would draft a running back early on Day One. Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor were both unrestricted free agents, and Lewis and the organization were still not close on a contract. Last Saturday the Vikings signed Taylor and Lewis was scheduled to visit the Broncos. It was conceivable that Baltimore could lose its top two backs from a season ago and might give serious consideration to using an early round pick to draft a replacement. Instead, the Ravens nabbed Mike Anderson and re-signed Lewis, and as a result the running back position isn't an immediate priority. And here, "immediate" means "this season." Although Anderson sported a 37.0 DPAR (click here for further explanation of Football Outsiders' innovative statistics) last season (ranking eighth in the league), he's 32, and no one will soon confuse Baltimore's offensive line with Denver's. According to the Baltimore Sun, Lewis' deal pays him $6 million this season but contains a $5 million bonus due next March, which means in twelve months the Ravens will have to again decide if Lewis worth keeping.

Draft Day Dilemma

With Mike Anderson and Jamal Lewis now under contract, the Ravens can focus on more pressing needs. It was mentioned above, but it bears repeating: after Kelly Gregg, there is a gaping hole at defensive tackle. And that probably doesn't make Ray Lewis very happy. After losing Kemoeatu to the Panthers and losing out on 38-year-old (and 365 pounds of) Ted Washington to the Browns, the Ravens' best chance to find an impact player will come on April 29. Oregon's Haloti Ngata is considered the best defensive tackle in the draft, but he probably won't make it to the Ravens who have the 13th pick. However, Florida State's Broderick Bunkley and Michigan's Gabe Watson should be available. Bunkley often draws double-teams and excels against both the rush and the pass. He also benched 225 pounds 44 times at the Combine last month. Watson had a great Senior Bowl but some scouts question his work ethic. LSU's Claude Wroten was highly rated coming into the season, but off-the-field issues have caused his stock to drop. If the Ravens want to address other needs in the first round, Wroten may be available later in Day One.

The Ravens' offensive line ranked 28th in adjusted line yards and allowed 42 sacks in 2005. Jonathan Ogden was drafted ten years ago, but he's still a top-5 left tackle. Last year, the Ravens traded up to grab right tackle Adam Terry with the last pick of the second round, so there is depth at that position too. However, the interior line struggled last season and could use an upgrade. The Ravens drafted center Jason Brown a year ago and he may get a chance to earn the job over incumbent Mike Flynn. Left guard Edwin Mulitalo has battled injuries and could be destined for the bench. Oklahoma's Davin Joseph, USC's Taitusi Lutui, and Pittsburgh's Chris Spencer are all players who could step into starting roles as rookies and could be around when Baltimore selects in round two.

Because the Ravens chose not to re-sign safety Will Demps, shoring up the defensive backfield will also be a priority. This year's safety class is pretty deep, relatively young, and very athletic. Texas' Michael Huff is widely considered the best safety available, a probable top-10 pick, and some scouts even suggest he could be a very good cornerback in the NFL. He may well be off the board when the Ravens select, but if he fell to 13th they would jump at the chance to have a secondary that included Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle and Michael Huff. South Carolina's Ko Simpson, USC's Darnell Bing and Nebraska's Daniel Bullocks are all physical, athletic safeties who could be first-day picks.

Cincinnati Bengals

Pace Wins the Race

A year ago the Bengals used free agency to re-sign T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Rudi Johnson, as well as add depth along the defensive line. So far this free agency the Bengals have signed safety Dexter Jackson. That's it. Thanks to Rich Gannon impersonating Neil O'Donnell, Jackson was the Super Bowl MVP with Tampa Bay and parlayed that into a Larry Brown-esque big off-season contract. After a stint with the Cardinals and a second go-round with the Bucs, Jackson will fill an obvious need for the Bengals: improving their run defense. Last season, Cincinnati was without safeties Madieu Williams (out for 12 games) and Kim Herring (out for the year), and Ifeanyi Ohalete and Kevin Kaesviharn struggled in their absence. Herring and Kaesviharn could provide depth, but Ohalete, who's perhaps best remembered for suing Clinton Portis over the rights to #26 while with the Redskins, probably won't be back.

Another interesting storyline involves Kevin Walter (that's right, Kevin Walter the fourth string wideout and special teamer). According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Houston has offered Walter a four-year $6.4 million contract. As a restricted free agent, Cincinnati tendered Walter at the lowest level -- $712,000 -- which means the team would earn a 7th round pick if the Bengals chose not to match the offer. What makes this intriguing is that Cincinnati's number three receiver when the season ended, Chris Henry, is currently facing legal troubles and it's not clear if he'll be back with the team. Second-year player Tab Perry had a very productive rookie season, but he was mostly used as a return specialist.

The Bengals are also in the market for a backup quarterback. Jon Kitna is now in Detroit, and barring a Matt Millenism, he will not be back. There are rumors that Cincinnati has expressed interest in Tommy Maddox, but the team hasn't invited him to town, while former St. Louis backup Jamie Martin met with officials this week. Gus Frerotte and Brian Griese are also seeking work and would provide Cincinnati a veteran backup with starting experience. If the Bengals are unable to sign anyone, here's a scary thought: Doug Johnson and Craig Krenzel will battle for the number two job when training camp rolls around. And because Carson Palmer's return is still uncertain, it could be a battle for the number one job for at least a handful of regular season games.

Who Dey (Draftin')?

Last year in this space it was suggested that the Bengals should address their defensive line woes in the first round. And that's what happened when they selected defensive end David Pollack with the 17th overall pick. Pollack ended up moving to outside linebacker where he had a solid rookie season, but the defensive line still proved to be a liability. In 2005, the defense ranked 28th in stuffs and 29th in adjusted line yards. With Justin Smith and Robert Geathers at defensive end, the Bengals will look to the draft to bolster the defensive tackle position. Depending on how things play out in front of them, Cincinnati could wait until the second or third round to take a player, especially since there is depth at the position and they are also in the market for a tight end. Miami's Orien Harris, Texas's Rodrique Wright, and N.C. State's John McCargo are all players who can contribute immediately and are expected to be available after the first round.

Tight end Matt Schobel signed with the Eagles, and the Bengals would like to add another offensive weapon with his replacement. Vernon Davis is the best tight end in the draft, but Cincinnati has a better chance of hosting a Super Bowl than finding Davis available when they pick. There are other interesting options, however. UCLA's Marcedes Lewis is 6'7" and even though he doesn't time well, he creates obvious match up problems. Georgia's Leonard Pope is an inch taller than Lewis, and also faster. Colorado's Joe Klopfenstein was a virtual unknown before Senior Bowl Week, but he impressed scouts with his speed, size, and ability to catch the ball in traffic.

Even though Dexter Jackson solves the short-term issues at the strong safety position, he is an eight-year veteran who is on the downside of his career. That could require Cincinnati to use a mid-round pick to groom his replacement.

Cleveland Browns

Starting Over is Easy to do

Twelve months ago head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage made a splash in free agency when they signed guards Joe Andruzzi and Cosey Coleman, cornerback Gary Baxter, and defensive tackle Jason Fisk and traded for quarterback Trent Dilfer, in an effort to make the Browns more competitive in the AFC North. Cleveland finished 2005 with six wins -- two better than the year before -- but still had much room to improve on both sides of the ball.

In an effort to do just that, the Browns signed arguably the best available center/guard (LeCharles Bentley), an offensive tackle (Kevin Shaffer) a solid number two receiver (Joe Jurevicius), a 365-pound nose tackle (Ted Washington), a three-time Super Bowl champion pass-rusher (Willie McGinest), and a good punter (Dave Zastudil). If last year's free agent class was Craig Ehlo, the 2006 version is Larry Nance.

After signing his six-year, $36 million deal, Bentley proclaimed, "I can die happy now ... This has been my dream." It's still not clear if the Ohio native was referring to playing in his home state or if he was just glad to be out of New Orleans. Either way, he will be a difference-maker for the Browns. Bentley may play guard for the foreseeable future, since 2003 first round pick Jeff Faine is effective when fully healthy.

Joe Jurevicius isn't the first name most people think of when talking about quality wideouts, but he sported a 20.7 DPAR in 2005, caught 65% of the passes thrown his way, and had 55 receptions for 694 yards and 10 touchdowns. Antonio Bryant, whom the Browns chose not to re-sign (and who has since inked a deal with the 49ers) ranked lower than Jurevicius in DPAR (18.9), catch percentage (56%) and touchdowns (4). Jurevicius is also more of a prototypical possession receiver than Bryant, who was interested in being the number one guy.

Washington will anchor the defensive line and simply by weighing 365 pounds should help improve a Browns run defense that ranked 30th in DVOA in 30th and 27th in 2005.

Casual observers (or Butch Davis) often overlook special teams, which explains how Derrick Frost won the punting job in 2004. In one memorable moment, he single-handedly willed his team to defeat in a Sunday night match up against the Ravens when he launched a seven-yard punt deep in Browns territory. Kyle Richardson was certainly an upgrade a season ago, but he wasn't good enough for Cleveland to bring back. As has become habit, the Browns raided the Ravens roster and snapped up Dave Zastudil as his replacement.

Needs to Fill

During the Combine, Phil Savage admitted in an interview with the NFL Network that the Browns would take defensive tackle Haloti Ngata with the 12th pick if he was available. Savage also added that there was no way Ngata would last that long, so he felt quite comfortable acknowledging as much. So barring a minor miracle, Cleveland will look to improve their defense without Ngata. The Browns signed 10-year veteran nose tackle Jason Fisk last off-season, but he was often overmatched and has since been released. Ted Washington is the short-term solution, but like the Ravens, Cleveland could use a first round pick to add a player to provide quality depth this year and be a full-time starter in 2007.

With the addition of Washington, another option would be to draft a linebacker. This draft is full of fast, athletic, hard-hitting linebackers, and even though Ohio State's A.J. Hawk should be gone by the 12th pick, Iowa's Chad Greenway, should be available. N.C. State's Mario Williams is the top defensive end in the draft -- and will certainly be off the board when Cleveland picks -- but his college teammate Manny Lawson impressed scouts during off-season workouts. He's projected to be an outside linebacker in the NFL, and he would fit nicely into Crennel's 3-4 scheme.

Cleveland has depth at safety but could look to add a cornerback. Gary Baxter is returning from injury, and nickel back Daylon McCutcheon is entering his eight season. Despite having Braylon Edwards, Dennis Northcutt and Joe Jurevicius, the Browns might draft a wide receiver on Day Two because Edwards is coming back from knee surgery, Northcutt has been inconsistent during his career, and Jurevicius will be 31 when the season starts.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Free Agency (Chirping Crickets Edition)

Here's what I wrote a year ago:

"You get the impression that the Pittsburgh Steelers run their organization like it was a Mom & Pop ice cream stand located on the boardwalk. It's open during the busy season, but boarded up once all the tourists head for home. Now that the 2004 season is in the books, you're all but certain that Cowher turned out the lights at their South Side facility on his way to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl..."

Just replace "2004" with "2005" and "Hawaii for the Pro Bowl" with "watch his daughters play high school basketball," and everything else holds. In recent years the Steelers have been notorious for their inertness during free agency. In 2004, Duce Staley was their big catch; in 2005, they outdid themselves by signing Cedrick Wilson. In 2006? To date it's safety Ryan Clark, who was also known as, "the guy who plays back there with Sean Taylor," during his time with the Washington Redskins.

Like most off-seasons, Pittsburgh is content to watch teams spend like drunken sailors during the first few days of free agency -- even if that includes letting their own players walk -- and then sifting through the leftovers once the dust settles. For the second time in as many years, the Steelers have lost their number two receiver. Instead of franchising Plaxico Burress after the 2004 season, the Steelers let him eventually sign with the New York Giants, and now Antwaan Randle El is the newest member of the Redskins. (Check that. They just signed Adam Archuleta. And Andre Carter. And Todd Collins. Well, he was the newest member for a couple of hours, anyway.)

The Steelers will look to sign many of their free agents -- at least those with reasonable contract demands -- before looking elsewhere for depth. Charlie Batch has a new deal that will keep him in Pittsburgh for four years. The organization has also re-signed special teams captain Clint Kriewaldt, backup tight end Jerame Tuman, and Brett Keisel, who will replace Kimo Von Oelhoffen -- who just signed with the New York Jets -- at defensive end.

Pittsburgh also had discussions with safety Chris Hope's agent about a new contract, but Hope turned down their offer and is now with the Tennessee Titans. Heading into free agency, Hope was expecting a big payday, but he didn't even have any visits scheduled while Corey Chavous, Marquand Manuel, Archuleta, Marlon McCree, and Dexter Jackson all signed lucrative deals with their new teams.

Drafting for Need

Pittsburgh could go any number of ways in the draft. Ryan Clark will replace Chris Hope at free safety, which means the Steelers could use their first round pick on a linebacker like Ohio State's Bobby Carpenter. Even with Clark under contract, Pittsburgh may still draft a safety for the future. Ohio State's Donte Whitner and USC's Darnell Bing are two players that interest the Steelers, and Whitner has the best chance of being a first round selection because he's athletic enough to play cornerback. Syracuse's Anthony Smith and Georgia's Greg Blue are two players who may be available on Day Two.

Depending on how things unfold ahead of them, Pittsburgh might also take a wide receiver with the 32nd pick. It is unlikely that either Ohio State's Santonio Holmes or Florida's Chad Jackson will be available, but University of Miami's Sinorice Moss intrigues some scouts. Given that the Steelers haven't drafted a player from "The U" since they took Leon Searcy in 1992, this move seems doubtful. Other names to watch for on Day 1: Martin Nance is 6'4" and played with Ben Roethlisberger at Miami University; Pittsburgh's Greg Lee is also tall, has good hands, but is not a deep threat; Michigan's Jason Avant might be the most polished receiver in the draft and could be a very good number two receiver in the NFL. And with the departure of Randle El, the Steelers' playbook loses an entire section titled, "Trickeration." There are several players -- probably Day Two picks -- who could fill that role, however: Penn State's Michael Robinson, Missouri's Brad Smith and Texas A&M's Reggie McNeal. All three were college quarterbacks, and all three are hesitant to move to other positions in the NFL.

Next week: NFC East by Al Bogdan

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 15 Mar 2006

118 comments, Last at 29 Mar 2006, 9:37pm by J


by Adam H (not verified) :: Wed, 03/15/2006 - 11:27pm

Can't that Duncan Heinz guy do trickerization? He was a quarterback in Korea or something.

by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 12:23am

I have a really bad vibe about the Ravens heading into this coming season. I fully expect them to finish 4th in the division, probably around 4-12 or 5-11.

Ever since the late-season meltdown in 2004, there has been rampant dissension in the locker room, and the fact that 4 free agents left town as soon as they got the chance tells me the locker room is still in disarray.

Signing Trevor Pryce is a clear sign of desperation, triggered no doubt by the loss of half their D-line. The Ravens are now an old team with poor offensive and defensive lines. And it appears more and more that Phil Savage was the genius of their front office, not Ozzie Newsome. The outlook for the Ravens hasn't been this bleak since before the Brian Billick era.

by cd6 (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 12:34am

I keep hearing steelers drafting a LB, and I'm not totally thrilled with it

I would prefer a center, like the kid from OSU. I saw that in one mock draft, but that was it. Is this because theyre more likely to go after one in later rounds, when OLmen who arent "stud franchise tackles" go or what?

Ced Wilson was ok in the playoffs, and they can get a punt returner in later rounds. (Jeremy Bloom in round 5, 6, anyone?)

by krugerindustrialsmoothing (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 1:14am

what is the status of Kellen Winslow? is he going to be back in time for training camp next year? that is the quietest addition the Browns might make that could pay off big. Could this team actually take the division next year?

by arch (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 2:09am

Winslow should be back by training camp barring any further motorcycle accidents.

by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 2:23am

" As things currently stand, the Ravens might draft a defensive lineman with their first round pick, ideally a player who could step in and start immediately."

Since the Ravens are all set at DE (Pryce, Suggs, Johnson, with A. Thomas as well) I'm guessing this means they might take a DT in the draft, however, to my knowledge DT's almost always take a year of unproductive playing/benchwarming until they can actually contribute.
I think that the Ravens have a strong preference to Kelly Gregg type DTs (fast, unrelenting, undersized) hence the signing of Bannen, it gives Rex Ryan more flexibility to work his zany schemes.

I'm wondering why the Ravens haven't signed Collins yet.

Re: 2- I think its a bit premature to be touting Savage over Newsome at this point. And if this is the bleakest its been since before Billick, does that mean the Ravens will win a Super Bowl in 2 years?

by Israel (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 2:29am

Ryan, you did not use the words "punt returner" when discussing the Steelers' needs, now that Randle El is gone.

by DGL (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 2:41am

#7: Let Troy do it.

by Israel (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 2:52am

#8 - That was suggested here, back when Randle El had that terrible fumble.

by Francisco (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 4:05am

I would question the idea that Jonathan Ogden is still a top-5 tackle. I watched most of the Ravens' games last year, and he seemed to be getting beat more than in the past, and was called for quite a few false starts.

As a concrete example, I can offer nothing. All those games just blended into one big pile of crap, with the exception of the "worst case scenario" stretch near the end when Kyle Boller caught fire. So if anyone has any facts to shoot down my perception, go for it.

by Vash (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 4:07am

#9: I was one of the people, if not the person, who suggested it.

Anyway, is it any surprise at all that the Steelers haven't done much? Their basic FA strategy is to let other teams spend out the wazoo in the first week and then pick the best of the players remaining. They usually end up with some very good players who were simply undervalued.

by Dean from Oz (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 4:52am

Anyone think there is any chance the Steelers trade up for RB White - he certainly fits the Steeler mould, but I'm thinking they probably have bigger (heh) needs.

by theload (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 7:30am

I'm hoping the Steelers pick up Nick Mangold from Ohio State with the 32nd. Harting's knees won't last much longer, and Mangold is supposed to be the best by far.

by Sam B (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 8:40am

I'd be suprised if the Browns pick up a corner in the draft - they have 3 starting quality corners in Baxter, McCutchon and Bodden (who was undrafted, but magnificent last season - his name is not on Chad Johnson's list), and some vauge depth. CB is probably the strength of the defence.

On the other hand, Cleveland could use a defineably strong safety for run support.

Picking up a RB to spell Droughns would be handy too, but it's really all about the defensive front seven - pick two players from there early in the draft, and the Browns can afford to go BPA all the way.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 10:02am

Re: 10

That's (worst case scenario) very funny. Interestingly, the Ravens management seemed to discount those performances and hint that Boller might not be the starter this year. But they haven't made much effort to this point at upgrading the position. Perhaps they are waiting for Joey Harrington to become available.

Not sure, at this point, there's any real reason to expect the Ravens to improve from last year. There are still rumors about moving Ray Lewis, and if they could get someone to offer up a bunch for him it might help. Pryce doesn't seem like a real difference maker at this point. Not sure he's better than either of the DL folks they lost.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 10:14am

Surprised the Bengals haven't made any any moves on the D line in FA. Perhaps they believe they are good enough (ala Pittsburg, NE, Indy, Denver) to sit out the first round of FA and wait for the bargains later. I'm inclined to think the DT situation is bad enough that they shouldn't wait, but it could still work out for them.

Really surprised to see the Bengals apparently interested in Lavar Arrington. I know Marvin coached the guy for a while but thought the Bengals were really high on their current LBs. If they land Arrington, who sits? Pollock? Simmons?

The Bengals won't go to camp with Johnson as the top QB (pending Palmer's recovery). Still lots of options in this area and probably wise to wait for prices to drop before committing to anyone.

Give the lack of speed in our judicial system, I would guess Chris Henry is still safe for this year.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 10:28am

Re 4 & 5

Winslow's recovery should be complete at this point. How much (if anything) that he and Edwards have lost are the big questions. They should know about Winslow fairly early but may not know about Edwards until just before the start of the regular season.

by Lou in Cincy (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 10:32am

re 16: Pollack would move back to defensive end and Geathers would move inside.

by J (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 12:07pm

With all of the Steelers recent signings (no bigs names, and some extensions), they now have all their starters signed thru 07 - except maybe RB and CBs.

Starting QB, OL, RB (Staley), TEs, WRs (Wilson and Ward), DL (Keisel RDE), LBs, and Ss (Clark) are all signed thru 07.

Taylor has a one-year tender offer, and McFadden could end up starting. He seems ready.

Colbert does a great job. I like all of their recent moves, with maybe one exception, Okobi. They must think he has the skills to take Hartings place.

I like them taking Mangold, but I am not sure about taking him with the 32nd.

I would like them to take Robinson, if he would play WR. He could fill the void of El. Maybe even better than El. He is bigger, so he could develope to be a good blocking WR as well as gadget type guy.

It has been reported that Colcough will be penciled-in as punt returner; at least for now.

by J (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 12:12pm

Also, the Steelers will get three compensatory draft picks. Maybe a 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Probably two 4ths and a 5th.

Either way, they do have extra picks to maybe move-up (2nd round, take Mangold??)- by trading their normal picks.

by steelberger1 (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 12:13pm

Re 4

Short answer to your last question...not likely.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 12:27pm

Re: 20
Does anyone else thing compensatory picks are BS? Did the new CBA do away with them?

I can't stand seeing teams letting their own free agents walk and then getting rewarded for it.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 12:30pm

... I'm not so upset about compensatory picks in the 6th or 7th... but I don't think teams should be given extra picks in the 3rd, 4th or 5th rounds. Just the fact that a fan is talking about building their team through compensatory picks irks me.

by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 12:39pm

Re: 8, 13

I've seen mock drafts that say Mangold, but it seems unlikely. The Steelers worked out a deal to extend Chukky Okobi, who they've generally seemed pretty sold on as the heir to Hartings.

The Steelers 1st round pick will almost certainly come from the following positions: S, ILB, OG, WR. Everything else has too much money&depth invested in it already (well, except RB, but Cowher&Colbert aren't dumb enough to take a 1st round RB).

by Splat (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 12:56pm

The Bengals are apparantly one of the very serious suitors of Sam Adams.

by Regio (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 12:57pm

I'm also betting on the Steelers getting an interior O-Lineman in the first round...at some point they will need to add depth at RB, WR and CB...

by DGL (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 1:04pm

#9,11: I remembered that someone had suggested it, which is one reason I re-suggested it.

The other is that there's a short clip on the NFL Films Steelers Season/Super Bowl recap video that shows Troy lobbying with Cowher to let him take the ball over the top at the goal line, on the sequence where Ben scored the (argued-about) TD. If he thinks he can run the ball, I'm sure he thinks he can run back punts. (Though I'm not sure the coaching staff would be willing to take the presumed increased risk of injury.)

There are some other interesting shots and angles on that video, but I'll refrain from discussing them lest this turn into the Irrational Super Bowl Officiating Discussion Thread.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 1:08pm

The Steelers are in good shape, they haven't really lost anthing that they will miss much. Barring injury to Ben, hard not to see them back in the playoffs.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 1:22pm

RE 4 and 21
and now
The Short, Short version ---- NO

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 1:24pm

Re: 23

I'm with you on that one. It's seems possible for a team to get more from the compensatory pick than they would have in trade (had the player been under contract). Wierd.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 1:29pm

RE 28

My ealy predictions for placemnet in the AFC north (understand that these picks are predicated on Carson Plamer NOT being ready for the start of the season and missing the first 4 games, which I feel CIN will go 2-2 in)

PIT- 12-4
CIN- 11-5
CLE- 8-8
BAL- 6-10

Baltimores record is also contingent on wether or not they upgrade at QB and in the Defensive Secondary.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 1:32pm

RE 25

Good Beer company I think they should go for it!!! :-)

by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 1:39pm

Re: 32

Samuel Adams is clearly ranked too high because they don't use hot chicks in their commercials. Coors Light is way better than this. Teh Coors Light twinz is teh hotxor!!!1!oneone

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 1:44pm

RE 33

While the Coors Light twins may be hot, but Sam Admas sells itself and does not rely on implied sex with hot grade b starlets to sell its product.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 1:46pm

Re: 21 & 29

Browns haters? :-)

The Browns ought to be improved this year, but I agree they won't be enough improved to threaten Cincy or Pittsburgh unless they both take a significant step back (possible but unlikely). For Pittsburgh, I think the risk is potential injury to Ben (as mentioned earlier). For Cincy, I think there are a couple - Palmer taking longer to rehab & return to form and Chad Johnson going loco.

I do like what the Browns have done. I think the guys they have brought in can help create a winning attitude

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 1:56pm

RE 35

Nope my best friend is a Big Browns fan and He like me is a realist.

I just think that the AFC North is now and for a while going to be the toughest conference in the AFC.

Besides both PIT and CIN have to regress in order for the browns to win the division.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 2:00pm

Concerning the Bengals, are they considering moving Pollock even if they don't land Arrington? Seems odd they would move him back to DE after such a limited test at LB unless they've decided that's where he belonged all along.

What's the hold-up on Sam Adams? Have the Bengals made an offer that he's shopping or haven't they made an offer yet?

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 2:01pm

I expect the Browns to be much improved this year. Don't underestimate the 2nd year under Crennel plus the additions of some firepower on the lines.

I think they will go in with Dilfer and Frye at QB. I'd call that a weak QB spot, but that's what I thought about Brunell last year.

I loved the dig at Derrick Frost. He punted for the Redskins last year, and was awful, save for decking Marc Boerigther and making a tackle after one of his weak 30 yard, no hang time punts. The only reason his average wasn't so bad is his skill at rollig the ball foward.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 2:14pm

RE 23

Unfortunately that is the system tha FA set up with Unrestricted and restricted bull crap. its intention was designed for the player to go out as a RFA and see what the market could bear and then give his team right of first refusal. I just think that it is dumb if a team does not want to match the offer or becuase of Cap constraints they can't that they get a Draft pick for that player? It was my understanding that if a player was a restricted free agent, the team was or should be seriuosly considering matching the offer gievn by another team. So yea a 6th or 7th round pick as compensation is fine but a 3rd? i think that is to much for a RFA.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 2:21pm

RE 38

I think they will go in with Dilfer and Frye at QB. I’d call that a weak QB spot

That is why I feel they will go 8-8 an improvement over the past year and then make a run at about 10-6 or 11-5 in 2007 much like the now "bungle"ess Bengals did for the past 3 years

by jeff t (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 2:22pm

The Steelers won't take a center in this years draft. Hartings was restructured and Okobi extended (10 million dollar extension). I don't think they will take a OG early this year either. Both starters are in place and they seem to like Chris Kemoatu. Okobi can back-up at guard as well.

The biggest hole on the roster right now is at WR. After Ward, there just isn't much. Wilson is an Ok slot guy and Nate Washington has shown some flashes but I don't think you can count on a 2nd year UDFA out of Tiffen U. who has 1 career catch. But, I don't think they'll take a WR in the 1st round unless Jackson falls to them at 32.

My prediction is that the Steelers take the best front 7 defender available in the 1st. By the 2008 season, they may have to replace Farrior, Porter, Haggans and Smith.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 2:58pm

I really like where the Stillers are at the moment, with the restructured contracts they negotiated this off-season. I imagine they'd grab a couple of O line players, some people for the front seven, and a WR in the draft. Maybe PSU's Robinson, if they can lure him to a different position with their shiny, shiny rings (I think that's how Bellichick does it, anyway).
So, what cut-rate WRs are going to be around a week from now? I see them grabbing another Wilson or maybe two, since they need a PR still.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 3:23pm

RE 42
they could go after Troy Brown from NE or Nate Burleson from MIN

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 4:11pm

Cut Rate WR Market:
With the Eagles taking Jabarr Gaffney.

Reche Caldwell is available.
Ike Hilliard is available.
David Boston is available.
Me-Shawn is available.
Josh Reed is available.
Eric Moulds will be available.
Az-Azir Hakim is available.
Dez White is available.
Kevin Johnson is available.
Michael Lewis is available.
Tim Carter is available.

Did McCardell re-sign?

by NedNederlander (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 4:14pm

Re: #12. I really think this would be a good move. I really like LenDale White as a Steeler. The problem is, it's very hard to predict where White will go. But if he's still on the board around 20, I think Pittsburgh would be wise to move up and grab him. For all the talk of Pittsburgh's vaunted running game, they really don't have much of one - just the fact that they stick to it regardless of how well it's working.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 4:16pm

Burleson and Hakim might be good options, then. They could probably afford them with the cap space they just freed up, too....

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 4:38pm


I think troy makes more money in endorsements than he does in salary/bonuses. Its in his best interest to stay in NE. I dont see him going anywhere.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 4:42pm

RE 47

Yea but what is he waitning for then? NE is not known for spending alot of money on thier players. he is still listed as an UFA.

by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 4:46pm

David Boston would be intriguing... I know he got injured in 2004, and I suspect that probably contributed to his terrible 2005 numbers, but I don't know more than that. Anyone? Was he still recovering from the injury, or was it a career-changing thing that makes him no good anymore? The Steelers liked him alot in the '99 draft.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 5:04pm

RE 49

And the fact that he tested positive for steroids in 2004.

No I do not think you want that guy, I think with the injury and the positive test he is through.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 5:25pm

No word on McCardell, I assume that means he hasn't resigned yet.

by Luz (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 5:51pm

#15 - harrington and boller on the same team? i hope billick gives HBO the rights, again!

#23 - compensatory picks can not be traded. also, they were setup to prevent teams from getting killed by free agency. while that hasn't seemed to be case, my biggest problem is the system they use to select them.

- up until the third paragraph i was convinced that #41 was DJ Any Reason in disguise.

- i think the steelers would have to trade up if they were going to take a WR in round 1.

by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 6:00pm

Re 52

In the P-G this morning, Colbert says he expects to get 3 compensatory picks, so the steelers probably wouldn't be shy about trading away some picks to move up. That said, I haven't heard any buzz yet that they'd like any WRs enough to move up in the 1st, but its early.

I'm, personally, of two minds on Sinorice Moss for the Steelers. Rationally, I think he could a great compliment to Hines Ward, would be put in a position to grow into a starting role (around Ced Wilson and Quincy Morgan), and could help with the return game. Plus, if we learned anything in the 2005 NFL, its that height doesn't matter for WRs. The less rational side of my brain... well, all I can think of is Santana Moss and the Ozzie Canseco effect.

by bleyle (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 6:49pm

i've read where the steelers and lions have been talking...with the steelers trading extra picks for Mike Williams.

also, they just "re-signed" Rodney Bailey for some D-line depth.

by Sean D. (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 7:05pm

What is it with people on this site thinking McCardell is a free agent? I've posted this before (in the AFC West 4 downs), here's what I said:

I have to point out an error. Unless the Chargers release McCardell he will not be able to test the free agent waters. Unlike the Buccanneers the Chargers followed through on their promise to extend Keenan's contract and he is signed through 2007.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 7:15pm

> With all of the Steelers recent signings (no bigs names, and some extensions), they now have all their starters signed thru 07 - except maybe RB and CBs.

This was the claim in this morning's PP-G, but I think that Willie Parker and Max Starks can at least be RFA's at the end of 2006. A minor quibble-- probably more important to get Ike Taylor locked up too.

by Luz (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 7:40pm

the ravens have released orlando brown and the steelers have signed rodney bailey to a one-year deal.

by Vince (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 7:47pm

Isn't Peerless Price also available?

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 03/16/2006 - 8:30pm

Re: (#47, #48 )--

My understanding is that Troy Brown is debating between return and retirement, not New England or another team.

He turned down about half a million dollars more last year from the Saints, because his family wanted to stay in greater Foxborough. I don't think Pittsburgh will offer enough to tempt him.

by Mikey Benny (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 1:54am

Re:23 -- Hines Ward was a compensatory pick.

How can any Steeler fan complain about the Steelers' free agency philosophy? Pittsburgh has undoubtedly been one of the 3 or 4 most successful franchises in the free agency era. They are successful in large part because they don't overspend.

Their biggest signing in recent years, Duce Staley, was having a magnificent 2004 campaign before his injury, and only stayed on the bench because Bettis had filled in so well. ARE is a nice player to have, but the Redskins are silly for paying him so highly. The Steelers did the right thing IMHO.

As a Steeler fan, I for one hope the philosophy doesn't change.

by J (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 7:31am

For anyone interested, I updated my Steelers salary cap page....it is linked.

Yes you are correct.
Parker and Starks will be RFA...that is why I put (Duce) as their starting RB.

I did over look Starks, but it is safe to say he won't be going anywhere...unless the Steelers do not want him.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 8:52am

Compensatory picks do strike me as odd, given that their only practical effect appears to be a slight (or even not so slight) mitigation of the devices put in place to ensure long-term competitiveness. It seems obvious that successful teams will lose more players to free agency, thereby gaining more compensatory picks which will help keep them successful. It's also one more reason why life is so difficult for the GM of an expansion team: you're unlikely to get any extra picks until at going into at least the fourth season of your team's existence. I believe Gaffney, who just signed with the Eagles, will be the first player for whom the Texans will have received meaningful compensation.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 9:21am

Re: 62

I doubt the Texans will get any comp picks. I think those are awarded based on a 'net' change in free agents. The Texans have already signed a few FA and will likely add several more before it's over.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 9:31am

Re: 54

Hard to believe the Lions would give up on Williams this quickly for a couple of reasons.

1. It would create a significant (though probably manageable) cap $$ hit.

2. Even Millen knows that it's not uncommon for good receivers to struggle as rookies and then blossom in the 2nd-3rd years.

Carlos Rodgers OTOH.......

by steelberger1 (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 10:40am

re 35

No, I dont hate the Browns...I dont have a reason to. If they start beating the Steelers on a regular basis or start running their mouths without actually beating them on a consistent basis (cough*bengals*cough), then I might start hating them. Right now its like kicking a puppy. That puppy IS starting to grow up though, I'll give you that.

by Bruce Dickinson (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 2:03pm

The Steelers had a quiet offseason last year? Well.... THEY WON THE SUPER BOWL!!!

You won't see many teams copying their formula because it's not sexy.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 2:50pm

> You won’t see many teams copying their formula because it’s not sexy.

The Steelers also have drafted very well in recent years-- that's just not something you can "copy". Another team could follow the same supposed formula and fall on their faces, minus the talent evaluation success and/or luck (and there's always a good dose of the latter involved in the draft).

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 2:57pm

#63 Oh, is that how it works? I had always been a bit unclear about that. Cheers.

by Luz (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 3:46pm

63, 68

that's why i don't like the formula that determines comp. picks. if you lose two really good players and sign four bargain basement players, you get bunk. which doesn't seem to be in the spirit of the system, at least to me.

by J (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 3:47pm

63, 68

Comp picks are awarded for prior year's FAs. The NFL uses a secret formula to figure them - why sectret?...I have no idea.

The maximum award to any one team is four.

The awards and the rounds of comp picks are based on loss of FAs (not all FAs qualify) - specifically their new salary, their playing time (this past year), and their postseason honors.

The primary basis is the salary.

The Steelers will probably get three. Gained C Wilson, lost Bell (maybe 3 or 4 round), Burress (prob 4th), Ross ( 5th Round), Vicent (who is kinda canceled by the signing of Wilson).

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 4:52pm

Here we go again with the compensatory pick junk again.

Dante Culpepper was traded for a 2nd round draft pick. Yet the NFL is going to give a compensatory pick as high as a 3rd rounder?! They base the picks based on one year of production? Essentially, if you draft well and don't re-sign the good players you drafted, you get rewarded with more draft picks?! Teams that do better are more likely to lose players in free agency, but they will also get rewarded with more draft picks. Furthermore, teams that don't get compensation picks will see the value of some of their later (4th-7th) round picks drop because the NFL decides to give other teams picks.

The system makes no sense at all. The Redskins lost Antonio Pierce and Fred Smoot to big money contracts, both of those guys started most of the games for their teams and would've cost $50 M to keep. They signed Casey Rabach and David Patten, for not nearly as much money. ($20 M) They also signed the unwanted Warrick Holdman for peanuts. I doubt the NFL so much as throws them a 4th round pick.

What's the logic behind giving teams compensatory picks anyway? Do they need some help because they can't pay to re-sign their players? I really don't see a need. Maybe in the early days of free agency, but there is enough money out there that teams shouldn't be rewarded for under-valuing their own players. No team is going to be dumb enough to let their superstars walk without getting "value".

by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 5:12pm

Matt, you're way overevaluating the effect of compensatory picks.

In 2005 there were 5 3rds, 3 4ths, 6 5ths, 8 6ths, and 9 7ths

In 2004, there was 1 3rd, 4 4ths, 1 5th, 4 6ths, and 22 7ths

In 2003, there were 0 3rds, 2 4ths, 5 ths, 9 6ths, and 16 7ths.

So, over the last 3 years, we're averaging 2 3rds, 3 4ths, 4 5ths, 7 6ths (which you said you're not upset about), and 15 and 2/3rds 7ths (which you said you're not upset about). The effect of those few mid-round picks is almost negligable. I honestly don't see why you're getting so worked up over it.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 6:09pm

> Dante Culpepper was traded for a 2nd round draft pick. Yet the NFL is going to give a compensatory pick as high as a 3rd rounder?!

The Culpepper trade was a bad one that wasn't nearly for equivalent value. These compensatory picks aren't of great value, not nearly as valuable as the players lost (nor should they be), that basically amount to tossing the FA-losing teams a bone. Granted, they have an effect in the opposite direction of parity, but I think the NFL has plenty of mechanisms in place to promote that agenda, and in general to force the outflow of players from good teams to bad ones. Ask the Patriots.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 6:32pm

Also, Culpepper was traded. Aren't compensatory picks only awarded for free agent losses?

by Dman (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 7:09pm

The logic behind compensatory picks is that when a team has to have a major purge because of the cap, they'll still have at least enough players to not forfeit the game. Thats how I see it anyway.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 7:19pm

> The logic behind compensatory picks is that when a team has to have a major purge because of the cap, they’ll still have at least enough players to not forfeit the game. Thats how I see it anyway.

Exaggerated (intentionally), but that's how I see it too. Basically these are replacement bodies. Occasionally a team might hit it big with one of these picks (which is the luck of the draw), but not on average. In the Steelers' case last year, they lost four players now starting for other teams, including one "star" (Plaxico Burress). They're not going to get anything close to that in return. And they didn't lose these players because the team was too cheap or didn't properly value its own talent or whatever the argument was against the compensatory picks-- these were essentially salary-cap casualties for a deeper team.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 8:16pm

Rounds 3-5 have good value.

Let's look at the 2003 draft. I'll only count 3rds from near the end.

Chris Brown - RB
Chris Simms - QB
Domanick Davis - RB
Onterrio Smith - RB
Terrence McGee - CB
Dan Klecko - LB
Asante Samuel - CB
Justin Griffth - FB

Terrence Holt - FS
Justin Gage - WR
David Diehl - OT
Dan Koppen - C
Hunter Hillenmeyer - LB
Doug Gabriel - WR

Arnaz Battle - WR
Cato June - LB
Willie Ponder - KR
Brooks Bollinger - QB
David Tyree - WR

It's unscientific, but teams are still able to find good players in those later rounds.

I know I've argued before that the draft is overrated... but I think its still a useful tool in building a franchise. For a team to be talking about getting 3 compensatory picks is ridiculous, especially seeing that they won the Super Bowl... so their front office decision making must not be so bad.

Those teams choose to let their players go... they want to keep the players, but only if its the right price. They are still gonna pick up some UDFAs if they don't have any compensatory picks...

by Theo (not verified) :: Fri, 03/17/2006 - 11:18pm

Joe Jurevicious is a slot receiver.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 12:01am

It’s unscientific, but teams are still able to find good players in those later rounds.

Keep in mind that 3rd round compensatory picks aren't 3rd round - they're basically "beginning 4th round". They're always at the end of the round.

Those teams choose to let their players go… they want to keep the players, but only if its the right price. They are still gonna pick up some UDFAs if they don’t have any compensatory picks…

See also the Tennessee Titans last year.

Compensatory picks aren't really that big a deal. Definitely the 5th/6th aren't really useful. The "hit rate" for 5th/6th round is essentially the same as undrafted free agents.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 1:00am

All those 3rd were near the end.

Or else I would've included Lance Briggs, Jason Whitten, Nate Burleson, Kevin Curtis, Derrick Dockery, Ricky Manning Jr., Cie Grant, BJ Askew.

The hit rate isn't about the same as a UDFA... and furthermore some UDFAs are pursued by a lot of teams which puts them in an advantageous position.

I'm surprised no one agrees with me on this. Teams create their own salary cap problems, by being poor managers of the cap. It's their own fault.

by Theo (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 2:07am

Matthew, Pittsburgh is whith you man. They're with you.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 3:08am

> I’m surprised no one agrees with me on this. Teams create their own salary cap problems, by being poor managers of the cap. It’s their own fault.

Huh? Pittsburgh could possibly be "poor managers of the cap"? As opposed to your earlier example of Washington, who you felt wouldn't get much (or enough) in compensatory picks? You mean the team that is significantly cash-over-cap signing other teams' free agents year after year, borrowing against the future? That's their approach, and that's their right, but there's a price.

As far as I can see the Steelers (and Patriots) are almost religiously adhering to the spirit of the salary cap rules while spending right to the cap limit. If they've simply been better at making decisions in the draft and stockpiling players that the system eventually forces them to lose, and the system kicks back a small compensation, that's fair. The situations with other cheapskate teams who aren't even spending to the cap and still receive compensation may be different, but this does not appear to be the scenario you disagree with.

by brian (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 11:29am

GlennW is absolutely right. The Steelers should not be punished because they refuse to get into the cycle of overpaying for players. The Steelers have historically lost well regarded free agents at a high rate. First of all, they should be rewarded for the time and money they spent developing that player. They should not be punished (losing that investment) because some other team was willing to pay the highest market rate (often over-valuing the player - randle el is a great example). What they do is manage the cap well, develop players and pay for quantity of quality of the quality of a couple of ove-priced superstars. Often times by the time these players reach their big payday you're almost gauranteed to end up playing for years when they are not as productive at the end of the contract.

It's hard to argue with the Steelers success as they have the best record in the NFL in the salary cap era.

by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 12:40pm

Matt -

Nice work trying to shift the issue about picks by showing players one could get "late in the round" - which, mind you, is prior to the beginning of compensatory picks. So, who was actually taken with compensatory picks in 2003?

3rd round: Nobody (no picks, the 1st two (average # of 3rds over last 3 years) 4th rounders were Dennis Weatrhersby and Artose Piner)
4th round: Jamaal Green, LaBrandon Toefield, Austin King, Ovie Mughelli, Solomon Bates
5th round: J.R. Tolver, Shane Walton, Tron LaFavor, Kevin Garrett, Tony Pashos
6th round: Brock Forsey, Frank Walker, Makoa Feitas, Tim Provost, TOny Gilbert, David Tyree, Bennan Curtin, Yeremiah Bell, Keith Wright

A reall all-pro lineup that is, eh Matt? I can see why you're getting all worked up about it.

The point everyone is missing is that compensatory picks aid in parity. Their effect (which, mind you, is SLIGHT) is to give teams a small disincentive to re-sign their own players or to sign free agents. This aids in player mobility - teams that can afford to allow their players to leave are slightly less disinclined to do so, while teams who absolutely need a large infusion of talent will sign FAs and not recieve compensatory picks.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 1:37pm

My beef isn't with the Steelers, more so it's with the NFL for giving out compensatory picks in the 3-5th rounds. If they restricted those picks to rounds 6, 7... that's fine.

Since 2000 here is a list of the following draft choices I object to.

4th Round
Green Bay: Gary Berry, FS
New England: Greg Randall, T
Tennessee: Peter Sirmon, OLB
Washington: Michael Moore, G

5th Round
Kansas City: Pat Dennis, CB
Pittsburgh: Tee Martin, QB
Arizona: Jay Tant, TE
Minnesota: Troy Walters, WR
New Orleans: Chad Morton, RB

3rd Round
Dallas: Willie Blade, DT
Jacksonville: James Boyd, S
Buffalo: Jonas Jennings, G

4th Round
Seattle: Curtis Fuller, S
Seattle: Floyd Womak, OT
St. Louis: Brandon Manumaleuna, TE
Minnesota: Shawn Worthen, DT
Minnesota: Cedric James, WR

5th Round
New York Giants: Jon Carter, WR
New England: Hakim Akbar, S

3rd Round
Buffalo: Coy Wire, S
Arizona: Dennis Johnson, DE

4th Round
Minnesota: Ed Ta'amu, G
Tennesee: Rocky Boimon, OLB
Detroit: John Taylor, DE
Green Bay: Najeh Davenport, RB

5th Round
Seattle: Ryan Hannman, TE
Miami: Sam Simmons, WR
Seattle: Matt Hill, OT
San Francisco: Josh Straw, DT

4th Round
Philadelphia: Jamaal Green, DE
Jacksonville: LaBrandon Toefield, RB
Tampa Bay: Austin King, C
Baltimore: Ovie Mughelee, FB
Seattle: Solomon Bates, MLB

5th Round
Miami: JR Tolver, WR
St. Louis: Shane Walton, FS
Chicago: Tron Lafavor, DT
St. Louis: Kevin Garrot, CB
Baltimore: Tony Pashos, T

3rd Round
Cincinatti: Landon Johnson, OLB

4th Round
Philadelphia: JR Reed, FS
St. Louis: Brandon Chiller, OLB
Philadelphia: Trey Derlik, T
New York Jets: Adrian Jones, OT

5th Round
Tennesee: Robert Reynolds, MLB

Here's the point. In 2001 Seattle and Minnesota were each given 2 extra picks in decent draft slots. In 2003 the same thing happened to St. Louis, and 2004 with Philadelphia. Can someone name me the name players each of these teams lost to warrant such selections?

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 1:45pm

That's the best reason I've heard for compensatory picks, to allow mobility and parity.

This year however I definately feel that the NFL shoudn't be giving out any 3rd and 4th round compensatory picks. When teams can get Dante Culpepper for a 2nd and Patrick Ramsey for a 6th. It seems like draft pick values are inflated. Heck, San Francisco gave Brandon Lloyd a 1st round tender and they were only able to get a 3rd and next years 4th from the Redskins!

by GlennW (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 1:48pm

> The point everyone is missing is that compensatory picks aid in parity. Their effect (which, mind you, is SLIGHT) is to give teams a small disincentive to re-sign their own players or to sign free agents.

There's a small force in that direction. However, for the most part (or at least regarding Matt's objection) the teams with large outflow of FA talent just can't afford the players at the market price and wouldn't have signed them anyway, and those are often better teams with deeper talent. If those teams didn't receive any compensation, parity is further advanced (slightly). But I agree that it's hardly significant and moreover I think that the small compensation is fair (parity mechanisms involving total or even major redistribution of talent year-to-year is neither "fair" nor good for the sport imo).

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 3:31pm

It should also be noted that compensatory picks aren't all roses for those teams. If you're in cap hell, and you get compensatory picks - crap, that's more rookies that you have to pay (which means effectively your veteran salary cap is *lower*). That part is minor, but then again - you are talking about 3rd+ round picks here.

Incidentally, the hit rate for late 5th and later picks is about the same as undrafteds. There was a paper about that a while ago.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 4:27pm

> When teams can get Dante Culpepper for a 2nd and Patrick Ramsey for a 6th. It seems like draft pick values are inflated. Heck, San Francisco gave Brandon Lloyd a 1st round tender and they were only able to get a 3rd and next years 4th from the Redskins!

I still think you're comparing apples to oranges with these examples. Sometimes teams are willing to dump players at well below their true market value (as with the Culpepper situation), and regardless many teams probably do overrate the value of draft picks. The NFL shouldn't set its compensation awards around what you correctly call "inflated" draft pick values. And forget about the RFA tender compensation settings-- in many cases those awards are way out of whack (apparently by design). In the NFL restricted free agency really is "restrictive".

by Money (not verified) :: Sat, 03/18/2006 - 6:11pm

Mathew, you are contradicting yourself. You complain that the compensatory picks are too high. Yet at the same time you state that draft picks are overvalued. You state all these wonderful players that can be had for picks as a reason against compensatory picks, when its actually the opposite. If the picks are overvalued then they are getting compensated much less than the value of what they lost. As well, in my opinion the compensatory system should stay in place for teams like Tennessee and others that have had to go through cap hell and would be even more terrible were it not for the compensation. Pittsburgh, New England, Philedelphia et al may be slightly aided my the picks but when you look at the actual players it becomes clear that its not the incoming players that is ensuring their success, it's the money available to sign their own, more worthwhile free agents.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sun, 03/19/2006 - 12:53am

This is a circular argument. I stated elsewhere that draft picks are somewhat overrated, but not to the point where the NFL should hand them out to teams. If a team took Tom Brady in the 5th round with a Compensatory Pick they would've looked pretty good.

If the picks are overvalued then they are getting compensated much less than the value of what they lost.

But I thought the argument was whoever left wasn't worth the money? So now they are quite valuable?

Incidentally, the hit rate for late 5th and later picks is about the same as undrafteds. There was a paper about that a while ago.

If this is true than the NFL should just stop giving out compensatory picks in the 5th, 6th and 7th rounds because it's of no use.

by steelberger1 (not verified) :: Sun, 03/19/2006 - 11:13am

RE 85

Objection noted.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sun, 03/19/2006 - 12:46pm

Cincy have let Walter go: he is now a Texan. Presumably they'll draft a replacement.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Sun, 03/19/2006 - 3:58pm

> But I thought the argument was whoever left wasn’t worth the money? So now they are quite valuable?

Ex: Antoine Randle El is a valuable player, but for a talent-deep capped team he's not worth (i.e. could not be afforded, at least with an eye towards the future) at $25M, $10M guaranteed. A 4th-round compensation pick in the draft is not worth nearly so much.

> If this is true than the NFL should just stop giving out compensatory picks in the 5th, 6th and 7th rounds because it’s of no use.

Or the 6th and 7th rounds of the draft could be eliminated entirely for that matter. I would still advocate that they be retained, because that's two more opportunities that each team has an equal chance at a "hit" with exclusive rights to the player. Right now a team like the New Orleans Saints could use a few more such picks, based on special circumstances as well as being (relatively) strapped for cash, and I believe that the NFL is/was considering awarding them some additional later-round picks. To a lesser extent the same could be said for smaller-market teams, so I think a seven-round draft at minimum makes sense.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Sun, 03/19/2006 - 9:02pm

I concur with Matt. I object to the Steeler's decision to draft Tee Martin. The rest of what he's saying is bogus.

There are teams that draft well and develop players and there are teams that spend like drunken sailors in free agency and rely on restructuring to bail them out. They are different ways of running a franchise and neither is morally superior to the other.

The salary cap is an artificial constraint. It doesn't seem like that big of a stretch to me for the league to reward teams that draft well, develop well and can't afford to sign all of the good players that they've developed.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sun, 03/19/2006 - 11:56pm

Allright, I'll admit to being a stubborn fool on a lot of issues. I was about to concede that I've changed my mind, but I haven't. I'm going to re-state my case against some compensatory picks, and try to use logic instead of emotion.

I think the original intent of the Compensatory Picks is to benefit teams who are rejected by free agents. It could be their own, or other players. In my mind, these are the cases that warrant a 3rd or 4th round pick, and it makes sense. Think how frustrating it would be if you were Arizona and you keep offering equal money to your free agents, but they decide to walk. Think of the mood in New Orleans if Drew Brees went to Miami for less money than New Orleans offered, and other players did the same. In these extreme cases I think a 3rd-5th or multiple compensatory picks would be warranted.

A second objection I have is giving compensatory picks to playoff teams. If a team was so hurt by the previous years free agency losses, they wouldn't have made it to the playoffs. Obviously, if that team was good enough to make the playoffs, than the front office decision not to overpay wasn't so bad.

I think the salary cap and front office decisions do a good job in facilitating offseason player movement, and I'm not sure if teams actively think about a compensatory pick (like comment #20, which sparked this whole discussion).

Can you expound on your argument that the salary cap is an artificial limit? No matter how a team spends money, it eventually comes due against the cap.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 12:02am

Using the 2005 draft as an example. I would object to the following picks in that draft.

3rd Round
Denver: Dominique Foxworth, CB
Seattle: Leroy Hill, LB
New England: Nick Kaczur, OG
Denver: Maurice Clarett, RB

4th Round
St. Louis Rams: Claude Terrell, OG
Indianapolis: Matt Giordano, S

5th Round
Green Bay: Michael Hawkins, CB
Carolina: Ben Emanuel, FS
Philadelphia: Scott Young, OT
Indianapolis: Tyjaun Hagler, LB
Carolina: Geoff Hangartner, C
New England: Ryan Claridge, LB

6th Round
Carolina: Joe Berger, OG
St. Louis: Reggie Hodges, P
Philadelphia: Calvin Armstrong, OT

7th Round
Philadelphia: Keyonta Marshall, DT
St. Louis: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB
St. Louis: Madison Hegecock, FB
Philadelphia: David Bergeron, LB
Seattle: Doug Nienhaus, OT
New England: Andy Stokes, TE

Check out the 3rd round, and its clearly a case of the rich getting richer... and one of them doesn't belong.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 3:32am

MF, Gladly...

What I mean about the Salary Cap being an artificial limit is this:

It's something put in place by the league, it artificially restricts the amount of money that teams can spend (by artificially restrict, I mean that monetary concerns/profitability/etc. are what determine how much a club will spend). I did not mean that the salary cap is not enforced or consistently gamed. Though it sometimes feels that way. Sorry for the confusion.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 3:42am

"(by artificially restrict, I mean that monetary concerns/profitability/etc. are what determine how much a club will spend)"

should read "(by artificially restrict, I mean that monetary concerns/profitability/etc. are NOT what determines how much a club will spend)"

That's what I get for posting at 1:30 am.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 10:13am

Just curious, how do we define the 'hit rate' discussed earlier for late round draft picks and UFAs? Given that the UFA pool is essentially infinite it's difficult to see any 'rate' being much above zero. Even restricting the analysis to UFAs that actually sign contracts would result in a much bigger pool than for late round picks.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 10:27am

Re: 89

'Sometimes teams are willing to dump players at well below their true market value (as with the Culpepper situation), and regardless many teams probably do overrate the value of draft picks.'

Not really sure what you're saying here. Are you suggesting the Vikes got a better offer for Culpepper, but made the deal with Miami anyway? If Miami's was the best offer (and I'm pretty sure it was) doesn't that mean that Culpepper's 'true market value' was merely a second round draft pick?

I think some teams value draft picks differently than others, but I'm not sure there are any that really overrate their value. The draft (beyond round 1)provides for 3-4 years of production at very modest salary. For teams that draft/develop well these are guys that will be 'overperforming' their contracts.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 12:45pm

> Not really sure what you’re saying here. Are you suggesting the Vikes got a better offer for Culpepper, but made the deal with Miami anyway? If Miami’s was the best offer (and I’m pretty sure it was) doesn’t that mean that Culpepper’s ‘true market value’ was merely a second round draft pick?

I'm saying that the offer was the "true market value" only given the special circumstances. Unhappy player demanding a trade, due a $5M roster bonus, possibly to be cut before the draft anyway. And the team that trades for him must still pay him large money. All of these are factors external to Culpepper's actual on-field value.

For similar reasons Terrell Owens' market value in trade was zero. You can't use these more unusual examples to peg a draft pick's average worth in true future player performance. I'm sure we all have a general idea of what a 2nd- or 3rd-round pick will become on average, and it isn't a Daunte Culpepper or Terrell Owens, so we shouldn't point to these trades in valuating the compensatory picks.

by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 2:13pm

Re: 101, 102

Teams are absolutely insane in their evaluation of draft pick value. Teams treat draft picks in much the same way as coaches treat 4th-and-shorts causing Easterbook to rail against them. Draft picks are evaluated not by what one can reasonably expect for them, but by the absolute best one could possibly get for them, because nobody wants to be embarassed by trading away a pick that turns into a HOFer.

Even with the leg injury, and uneven career thus far, I'd submit that Duante Culpepper has a higher expected value and higher chance of becoming a franchise QB than anyone in this draft, simply because of the bust rate of 1st round QBs. His cap cost will not be prohibitively more than any of the top 3 QBs in the draft, and, considering the risk of one of them busting, its a better deal. Yet the Vikings could only get a high 2 for him.

Mike Mayock was on NFL Net right after the Brees deal talking about possible trades. According to draft pick value charts, for the Jets to move from 4 to 2, they would have to give up their 2nd and 3rd round picks, and even then the Saints are getting the raw end of the deal. Does that sound illogical to anybody else?

NFL teams have a HORRIBLE valuation of draft picks. A smart executive could really take advantage of that fact.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 3:27pm

Re: 102

Every circumstance is 'special'. The Dolphins decided they would rather have Culpepper, as is, making $8 million/year (that's just a guess) rather than some second round pick making $1 million/year (also just a guess). The Vikes felt that for them the balance went the other way. The fact that there weren't a lot of other suitors for DC offering a better deal indicates that under these circumstances, his market value was a second round pick.

A players contract (or contract demands) has a huge impact on the market for him in trade. A guy that is a great bargain and has three years left on his contract would be worth much more in trade than a similarly talented more haighly paid player with a year left on his contract.

Said more simply, circumstances for any trade are always unique. That's no reason not to include some of them in an analysis of the value of draft/compensatory picks. But it's fair to note/factor in all the other stuff (beyond performance) that also influences value.

Re: 103

I'm not convinced the NFL brass have it wrong (after all, it is there business). Nobody since George Allen has really embraced the POV you suggest. Are they all really that bad at their jobs?

by GlennW (not verified) :: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 3:29pm

> According to draft pick value charts, for the Jets to move from 4 to 2, they would have to give up their 2nd and 3rd round picks, and even then the Saints are getting the raw end of the deal. Does that sound illogical to anybody else?

It's especially illogical given that the Saints will almost certainly get the player they want/need anyway. The only reason that the swap is worth anything is that the Jets and Titans *might* want the same QB. Obviously the Saints should take full advantage of this but that doesn't mean it makes sense.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 3:46pm

> I’m not convinced the NFL brass have it wrong (after all, it is there business). Nobody since George Allen has really embraced the POV you suggest. Are they all really that bad at their jobs?

That approach worked pretty well for Allen but admittedly is less advantageous in the era of free agency and the salary cap.

I'm with DJ in that public relations has something to do with these imperfect draft valuations-- especially now that draftnik-ing is practically a second football season. Having that first-round draft pick hold up his new jersey is just a lot sexier than acquiring a solid starter, but really no more valuable. For the owners that may indeed be "knowing their business", but not necessarily knowing their football. I understand your point but I still think the scale is tilted well in the direction of individual draft picks being overvalued.

by J (not verified) :: Tue, 03/21/2006 - 1:18am

For any who are interested, I have updated my Steelers Salary Cap Page.

I also added A Look Ahead - 2007 Cap.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Tue, 03/21/2006 - 12:22pm

That's a good page. I thought Pittsburgh had more cap space than ~ $4M.

by J (not verified) :: Wed, 03/22/2006 - 12:11pm

found this at kffl.com

"The Associated Press reports the brother of Pittsburgh Steelers S Tyrone Carter, Tank Carter, was sentenced five years in prison for driving with a revoked license. His original sentence was six months. Tank was scheduled to report to a Broward County, Fla. jail in January, but instead he watched the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. He reported for jail on Feb. 13. The judge did not like that and increased his sentence to five years."

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Thu, 03/23/2006 - 5:04pm

Tank Carter's since been quoted as saying he'd do it again in a heartbeat, even knowing what the punishment would be.

by empty13 (not verified) :: Thu, 03/23/2006 - 11:37pm

Allen's approach was based on WINNING NOW. He thought rookies didnt get one there. And usually, that is correct. Without FA in the 70s, George's run really went like 5 years. Nowadays, like with the young Panthers... maybe 2 years...

Free agents usually pay off better than draft picks, and sooner. Which is a bargain depends on the specific case. Rookie QBs and OL and secondary usually dont pay off that well. QBs and OL need germination time. And way too much is riding on some young CBs. One slip means quick six, even by slow old stonehanded WRs.

Allen-type / older teams however, have a short window of opportunity, and arent long on speed usually.

In the case of Culpepper, or as I call him, Chauncey Pullpecker, I do agree that he is a safer bet, if not a safe bet, because he is a "known quantity". If paired with a solid veteran line and a dependable running game and the scariest wideout in the league, sure he can pass for 4000 yards and 30 TDs. I dont share some folks' eval of his talent, obviously. But NO rookie is doing that even with an all-pro offense, and even if one could, lots of veteran defenders wouldnt want to suffer such a recordbreaking spree by a mere rook.

by Jerry (not verified) :: Fri, 03/24/2006 - 7:22pm

This ssems like as good a place as any to let those of you who care know that the Steelers' last exhibition game will be August 31 at home vs. Carolina. (That's all the information that came with the season ticket invoice.)

by empty13 (not verified) :: Sat, 03/25/2006 - 9:08pm

Sounds good, but most teams keep stars under wraps for the last preseason game because if they get hurt that week, there is usually no way they are fully ready for the first game that counts. in the standings.

The 3rd week of preseason is the one where teams let the starters play the most, by far. That is the last (and often, first) real tuneup for a lot of teams against live "first rate" competition.

by Jim Henley (not verified) :: Sun, 03/26/2006 - 2:22pm

Seems to me the Steelers' concerns are:

1. The DL is aging across the board. The starters AND backups are right around 30. Within two years they might need three new starters. And it's not so easy to find 3-4-suitable linemen.

2. They need - at the very least - a complementary back for Willie Parker, who had like one good play during the playoffs (the 75-yard TD in the Super Bowl). A true power back. Duce Staley's recent injury history suggests his career is about done. Willie makes a nice Erric Pegram but with Bettis' retirement they no longer have a Bam Morris/Bus type.

3. They do need a gadget guy. Gadget plays are as much a part of what makes Pittsburgh Pittsburgh as the zone blitz and going for it on fourth and short.

4. Cedrick Wilson will probably make a serviceable number two receiver, but it's yet to be proven.

5. There's a fair chance that injuries are going to short-circuit what will otherwise be a HoF career for Big Ben. He's been banged up a lot for a 24-year-old.

The last thing management can't really control. But the first three they need to address.

by J (not verified) :: Mon, 03/27/2006 - 10:04am

According to my numbers...

The signing of Verron Haynes will be the last of the Steelers FA activity. They could restructure some contracts (Bad idea) or release players (DE Kirschke or FB Krieder - I love krieder, but his cap value is over $1M..getting high - at some point)

They had ~$3.6M cap space

minus haynes $400 K more (Haynes ~$750K cap value minus cap value of lowest cap value counting towards top 51 ~$350K)

minus practice squad ~ $640K

minus draft class ~$1.5M (after accounting for top 51 Rule...meaning as drafted players sign, other players won't count because of Rule of 51)

minus ~$600K once the season starts, the Rule of 51 does not apply...so two more low end players contracts will count against the cap.


~ $460K below cap.

My numbers might be off by a bit...but not too much...I am thinking I am within $600K of actual cap numbers.

by Jim Henley (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 6:30pm

Knock off another $600K for Quincy Morgan's new one-year deal, signed yesterday.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 7:20pm

RE 111

Yea but ONE almost did

Peyton Manning 1998 season stats

1998 575 326 3739 26 28 233.7

Pretty damn impressive stats for a rookie.

by J (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 9:37pm


Morgan signed a one-year deal for $585K...the league mini for his status.

So, assuming he got $40K or less signing bonus (which is a very good assumption), he only count $425K + Signing bonus ($40K) for a total of $465K...according to CBA (cap relief - for vets)

Due to the rule of 51, one of the Steelers whose cap value was $350K (lowest salary of players in top 51) will now not count towards the cap.

So, signing Morgan increased the Steelers cap by $115K....great deal for the Steelers.