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24 Feb 2006

Four Downs: AFC South

by Ned Macey

Houston Texans

Play for Now or Rebuild?

All news about the Texans seems to revolve around what they will do with the first pick in the draft. In the endless Bush/Young debate, nobody has taken a look at why the Texans are in the position they are in and how soon they will be able to become a respectable franchise.

The Texans held long-shot playoff hopes before the start of the season only to end up where they were four seasons ago, picking first in the NFL draft. They lost six games by a touchdown or less en route to a 2-14 record, even worse than their inaugural season.

The close losses give some reason for optimism, but DVOA shows them as a team that was, in fact, really bad (DVOA is fully explained here.) They ranked 31st in the league in overall DVOA. Their supposedly dynamic young offense ranked 28th, and that was the bright spot, as the rebuilt defense finished dead last.

The Texans have hired long-time Denver offensive coordinator (and namesake of Football Outsiders' player projection model) Gary Kubiak as head coach. The initial question Kubiak faces is whether to try and build on what was left or to start all over. The decision appears to have been made to try and be competitive as soon as possible.

They faced an immediate evaluation of quarterback David Carr, who was due an $8 million bonus. Carr was coming off his worst season since his rookie campaign, but they decided to make the investment anyway. Choosing to stick with Carr rather than draft Leinart or Young is a clear signal that the team is thinking of competing in the near future.

The decision to keep Carr is debatable. Anyone who has seen the Texans will freely admit that Carr is not the problem. If a team is paying a player $8 million in bonuses and nearly $25 million over the next three years, however, he needs to be part of the solution. Carr has yet to post a positive DVOA in any season as quarterback. He will be 27 years old when next season begins, so he is no longer a “young quarterback.� Kubiak may hope that Carr is similar to Jake Plummer and only needs a new system. Houston fans better hope he is right.

3-4 to 4-3

All this focus on the offense obscures the Texans' greatest weakness, their defense. Exacerbating matters is the fact that the team is shifting from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and lacks the players to make the transformation. Dom Capers, as 3-4 guru and inaugural head coach of the Texans, brought every single defensive player to the team with the intention of playing in the 3-4.

That player selection presents numerous challenges to new defensive coordinator Richard Smith. Smith inherits a defense that has no sure middle linebacker or pass-rushing defensive ends.

The Texans will have Seth Payne, Robaire Smith, Gary Walker, and Travis Johnson to man the defensive tackle positions. At defensive end, all that is on the roster are outside linebackers Jason Babin or Antwan Peek. Their linebackers have nearly all spent their entire careers in the 3-4 or as outside linebackers. The one exception is Kailee Wong, who played some middle linebacker for the Vikings. Relying on him -- 30 years old and coming off an injury -- is questionable. Needless to say, Smith will be longing early in the season for the days when he was coaching Zach Thomas.

Free Agent Shopping

Of course, the needs do not end on defense. As everybody knows, the Texans have yet to field a competent offensive line in their four years of existence. The investment in Carr makes it imperative that they finally put a line together to block for him. Again, as on defense, no quality internal candidate exists.

The final hole is at receiver, where everyone except for Andre Johnson and return specialist Jerome Mathis is a free agent. Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford are both unrestricted free agents. The two combined for 5.4 points above replacement level in 156 passes directed their way, or 0.1 more points than restricted free agent Derick Armstrong supplied in 12 passes. Armstrong continues to shine in our metrics, but he so rarely sees the field even behind the non-entities that are Gaffney and Bradford that you have to wonder what is wrong with him. He would seem a natural fit to bring back as a third receiver.

So the Texans need help at defensive end, middle linebacker, offensive line, and wide receiver. Assuming that the Texans have committed to Carr and are leaning toward drafting Reggie Bush (an issue we will take up in a future edition of Four Downs), the Texans have a ridiculous number of holes that need to be filled through free agency.

The good news is that they are already under the cap, and after they mercifully cut safety Marcus Coleman and cornerback Phillip Buchanon, the amount of money they have to spend should increase. They still will have too many needs to go after high-end players at all of these positions.

The first thing they should do is simply re-sign Gaffney. The free agent wide receiver market is thin. Antwaan Randle-El and David Givens would both be solid additions, but due to scarcity in the market, they will probably be overpriced. The Texans also should make due with Wong or one of their other half dozen linebackers in the middle.

The primary areas where they should strike in free agency are at defensive end and the offensive line. The solution to both of these problems may come from the New Orleans Saints. The Saints appear to have chosen the rebuilding path and have let Darren Howard and LeCharles Bentley hit the market. Bentley is one of the best centers in football, and signing him and shifting Steve McKinney to guard will upgrade two spots on the line.

Howard had a very disappointing season, but the truth is that not many quality defensive ends are available. Certainly paying big money to Howard would be a mistake, but if his poor season makes the price right, the Texans should gamble. One other option would be to sign Raheem Brock from the Colts. Brock is a solid defensive end against the run who could combine with Babin to form a potent defensive end rotation.

Indianapolis Colts

(Ed. note: This is a good place to remind Colts fans, or other Indiana readers, that Aaron, Will, and Mike Smith will all be at Rock Bottom in Indy Saturday night at 7pm for a BP/FO cross-sports pizza feed. Come hang with your FO buddies.)

So Long Edge

The Colts have been keeping their offensive core together for years waiting for it to be their year. The “triplets� have been together since 1999, and the Colts have given big contracts to Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Tarik Glenn, Ryan Diem, and Brandon Stokley. This past season, the stars seemed to align perfectly for the Colts, but they faltered once again in the playoffs.

Both Reggie Wayne and Edgerrin James were free agents, so the Colts finally faced the prospect of losing one of their important offensive players. The decision was not a hard one for the Colts, who maintained all season that Wayne was the priority. They turned words into action by inking their leading receiver last season to a six-year contract.

The signing of Wayne and the lack of movement on negotiations with James indicates the end of an era for the Colts. They cannot afford to franchise James because it comes with a 20 percent salary increase that would make his contract for this season over $10 million. The Colts have long hinted that they did not want to give James a long-term contract. Last off-season they franchised him and told his agent he could seek a trade. Without the power to franchise him this year, the only way he would return to the Colts is if he received no offers on the open market, an unlikely scenario.

Team President Bill Polian clearly agrees with Football Outsiders that signing an aging running back to a big contract is a risky proposition. He famously traded away Marshall Faulk in the prime of his career in 1999 only to replace Faulk with James and watch his team start a run of six playoff appearances in seven years.

Choosing Wayne over James is probably the correct decision, but a repeat of 1999 is highly unlikely. Wayne has more value because the Colts are a passing offense. Marvin Harrison is entering his mid-30s, and he no longer is effective against double coverage. With Wayne on the other side, however, Harrison posted his highest rank in DVOA since 2002. The thought of a double-teamed Harrison with only Stokley on the other side of the field had to scare Polian.

Still, the loss of James is a major one for the Colts for a couple of reasons. With the potent passing attack and quality offensive line, they should be able to find a back capable of rushing for 1200 yards. Nonetheless, the little things James does will be missed.

Most importantly, James excels in pass protection. The Colts are leaning toward taking a rookie running back to replace James, and rookies are notoriously poor in protection. If the Colts require a special back for passing plays, it will undermine their no-huddle system. James' flexibility allowed Manning to call any play with him in the backfield. If the replacement is an inferior receiver or blocker, as is likely, the Colts offense becomes more predictable.

One other point that bears mentioning is that unlike in 1999 when the Colts drafted fourth, they have the 30th selection this year. In 1999, they were guaranteed to have a shot at James or Ricky Williams. This year, if they have their heart set on Laurence Maroney, they have to pray that he falls all the way to them.

As a result of their uncertain draft position, they should acquire a stopgap in the free agent market. Their back-up from last season, Dominic Rhodes, has never played well since he filled in admirably for James in 2001. He will likely be released. One solid option would be former Raven Chester Taylor. Taylor should come for a reasonable price, and if DVOA is to be believed, he has been better than Jamal Lewis on a per play basis the last two seasons. Equally important, Taylor is known as a solid pass protector and receiver out of the backfield.

Keeping the Defense Together

The decision to let James go has effectively been made, but the Colts also face major decisions on their improved defense. Four starters and two key reserves are either unrestricted or restricted free agents. The Colts have little cap room right now. Some room has already been made by cutting defensive tackle Josh Williams, and they can clear a good deal of space by signing Dwight Freeney to a contract extension. Even then, they are unlikely to be able to keep everyone.

One advantage the Colts have is that by relying on undersized players, their free agents have more value to them then they would to other teams. Restricted free agents Gary Brackett, Cato June, and Robert Mathis are among the Colts' most valuable defenders, but it is unlikely any other team would break the bank to bring them on board. All three should return for the Colts.

More likely to depart are unrestricted free agents Raheem Brock and David Thornton. Brock is the starting defensive end who can also play tackle on passing downs. He is an integral part of the Colts defensive line rotation, and nobody on the roster can adequately replace him. He is a higher priority for the Colts than Thornton, who is actually the better player. Thornton can hope to join Mike Peterson and Marcus Washington as quality linebackers who left the Colts and made the Pro Bowl playing for other teams. A crowded outside linebacker market is all that is preventing Thornton from securing a hefty contract.

One last likely departure is Larry Tripplett, who played well while Corey Simon worked his way into playing shape. The Colts are deep at defensive tackle with youngster Vincent Burns healthy, and Tripplett will likely be elsewhere next year.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Hello Edge?

Two disparate views of the Jacksonville Jaguars have taken root following their solid 12-4 campaign. The first says they are a mediocre team that took advantage of a weak schedule and was properly exposed by the Patriots in the playoffs. The other is that the Jaguars are a young, up-and-coming team with enough salary cap space to become an elite team.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. The Jaguars were not as good as their 12-4 record, but they did finish the year 10th in our DVOA rankings and were closer to fourth than they were to 11th. Their presence in the playoffs was not undeserved. They do have a decent amount of cap room, but the truth is they are not entirely young. Key players Mike Peterson, Jimmy Smith, Donovin Darius, and Fred Taylor will all be at least 30 years old next season.

Ironically, the biggest problem for the Jaguars is that they have no seemingly obvious holes to fill. A year ago, they lacked pass rushing defensive ends and a second receiver. The acquisition of defensive end Reggie Hayward and the improvement of Paul Spicer and Ernest Wilford helped the team improve greatly.

This year's Jaguars team's only one major weakness is one they may not appreciate, their running game. They still have Taylor, who has been their starter since 1998. Taylor, however, is no longer the back he once was. His DVOA ranked 37th in the league. In fact, Taylor has been declining for years:

Year DVOA Rank
2000 16.9% 3
2001 Injured NA
2002 6.0% 17
2003 -1.4% 26
2004 -3.3% 33
2005 -10.1% 37

I think we can safely call that a trend and one unlikely to be reversed at the age of 30. Taylor is in line to make big money this season, and it is hard to think he would be worth it.

Due to their salary cap space, releasing Taylor would be unnecessary if they were simply going to use Greg Jones or Alvin Pearman. If, however, the Jaguars really wanted to upgrade the position, they should consider signing Edgerrin James.

Spending big money on a running back approaching 30 is a dangerous proposition, but Jacksonville should gamble on James. He will only be 28 years old, and given his long held desire to play in Florida, Jacksonville may be an appealing option. One would assume that James would prefer Jacksonville to Arizona or Minnesota, two teams reportedly interested in him. He would be a massive improvement over Taylor, and James' one weakness, short-yardage carries, is less of a factor because of the presence of Greg Jones.

Other Needs

The other reason to take a risk on James is that the Jaguars have the cap space to take a hit if he flops, and the possible upgrade at running back is worth the risk. The Jaguars seem to be focusing on free agent cornerbacks. Both Kenny Wright and Terry Cousin are free agents, and they clearly have visions of adding a second shutdown corner to pair with Rashean Mathis.

That doesn't make sense, however, for two reasons. First, the only great corner on the market is Nate Clements, and the Bills have franchised him. Second, even with seemingly mediocre players like Wright and Cousin, their pass defense was exceptional. They ranked 5th in DVOA in overall pass defense with Wright and Cousin. Do they really think that adding Deshea Townsend will make that much of a difference? If Townsend comes cheap, then by all means sign him, but spending big money to fix a problem that does not really exist is a waste of money.

The one other area where the Jaguars would be well served to shop in the free agent market is on the offensive line. A move for Bentley would be wise here as well, and the Jaguars should also consider upgrading at the guard position. With Steve Hutchinson receiving the transition tag, however, the pickings at guard are slim.

How Many Quarterbacks Does a Team Need?

The Jaguars had one other possible decision this off-season with regard to back-up quarterback David Garrard. The four-year veteran played well while filling in for an injured Byron Leftwich. DVOA shows Leftwich was the better player, but Garrard ranked an impressive 12th. As always, other teams are desperate for quarterback help, and Garrard -- who has a reasonable contract -- would likely be a hot commodity.

In fact, when salary, injuries, and age are factored in, Garrard may be the most attractive quarterback that could come available. Established stars like Drew Brees and Daunte Culpepper have injury questions and will warrant higher salaries. Nobody else available has the promise that Garrard has shown.

The Jaguars appear hesitant to trade him despite his likely value in the market. They are rightly concerned about the health of Leftwich, who missed five games last year and re-injured his ankle in the playoffs. Leftwich also missed two games in 2004. Having a quality backup like Garrard is certainly appealing, but you have to wonder if a potential first round pick from the Dolphins, or a second and fifth from the Lions, is worth more than an insurance policy on your quarterback. The Jaguars would be better off signing a Jon Kitna-type backup and trying to maximize Garrard's value while it is highest.

Tennessee Titans

Should They Keep McNair?

Before the Titans can determine what other moves they want to make, they have to decide whether or not to keep Steve McNair. The long-time franchise stalwart is due a $50 million roster bonus, so a renegotiation is imperative. Keeping McNair can only be justified in two ways. First, they could decide that they have the young talent to compete next season. That seems highly unlikely.

The more likely reason is that McNair has long been the franchise's most recognizable player, and the team may hope to see him retire as a Titan. McNair clearly still has skills. He ranked ninth in DPAR among quarterbacks last season despite about as suspect a receiving corps as one could imagine. He is better for 2006 than anyone else they could acquire. The truth is, however, that he is 33 years old and has a history of injuries. The odds of his still being productive in a couple seasons when Tennessee's multiple young players have matured seem long.

McNair as a short-term solution in Miami seems like an obvious move for all parties. If McNair so desires, the Titans should happily let him move on, thank him for his service, and wish him well. If McNair wants to sign a reasonable contract for two years, they should keep McNair, draft his heir apparent, and be happy that he makes them more competitive than the workmanlike Billy Volek.

Still Not a Player in Free Agency

If McNair does leave, and the team does draft a young quarterback, it makes little sense for the Titans to be players in the veteran free agent market. A year ago, Tennessee was in salary cap jail and forced to cut a number of their best players. The situation is not nearly so dire this year, but they are not exactly swimming in cap space. The money that they did have was already spent taking care of their top priority, re-signing the surprising Kyle Vanden Bosch to a reasonable five-year contract.

The major area of focus for the Titans is the offensive line. Center Justin Hartwig is a free agent, and veterans Brad Hopkins and Benji Olson have bloated salary cap numbers. Olson should probably be released, and the Titans will likely encourage the veteran Hopkins to retire.

The Titans' other weaknesses a season ago were on the outside, as they had the worst pair of starting cornerbacks and only one competent wide receiver, Drew Bennett. Bennett was actually nagged by injuries and had a pretty bad season.

Of course, despite their struggles the past two seasons the Titans are not a stupid organization. In last year's draft, they used nine of their 11 picks on wide receivers, defensive backs, and offensive linemen. With so much young talent at these positions of need and not a great chance of competing, the Titans will likely wisely spend another year developing and evaluating the talent with an eye toward the 2007 off-season to really make a move.

The Titans will have two defensive starters that are free agents. Neither is a superstar, but they would be wise to retain both. Safety Tank Williams struggled this year after suffering a torn ACL in 2004, but with the extra year to heal, he is worth retaining. Linebacker Brad Kassell plays a solid middle linebacker, and while numerous competent outside linebackers are on the market, the pickings at middle linebacker are slim.

Monday: NFC South by Darrel Michaud

Posted by: Ned Macey on 24 Feb 2006

53 comments, Last at 05 Apr 2006, 12:22am by someone


by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 4:32pm

Ned... what about Mike Vanderjagt's fate in Indy? I've been in his corner for about six years, but have been burned in the playoffs once too often. Who is on the horizon? Without Edge (and therefore a more predictable O as you indicate), the FG job might end up being more important the next couple years. And they may be long ones, too.

Maybe it's worth it to give up 3 pts per game in FG potential for an added 8 yards on every kickoff....

by wrmjr (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 4:47pm

#1, well the Pats aren't franchising Vinatieri (click my name for story), maybe the Colts can get some magic from him.

by Al H (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 4:49pm

I actually think the Jaguars could benefit with trading Garrard while they have a chance. The 3rd string we have, Quinn Gray is exceptionally good for a 3rd stringer and would be a very capable backup. We don't see him often, but when we do he always has a very tight throwing motion(durn you Byron) and actually recognizes the other receivers.

Garrard tends to have tunnel vision for Jimmy, makes the passing game a bit more predictable.

by Tony (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 4:59pm

If Vinatieri signs with the Colts....man, as I Pats fan, I'd puke. It would be about 178 million times worse than Damon to the Yankees. (Roughly)

by Luz (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 5:04pm

it seems like to me that the colts might be about to decline while the other three teams in the division seem likely to improve. this will be one of the more interesting division races next year, along with the afc north and nfc east.

by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 5:11pm


I agree, but the rumors I've heard is that if the Pats don't offer him a deal he likes in a week or so, Adam's off to reuinite with Parcells and the Cowboys, who really need a good kicker.

Don't know if it's true, but that was in the Boston Metro this morning...

On the flip side, if Vinateri does leave the Pats, well, then NE would be looking for a new kicker, and the Idiot Kicker would be one of the best on the market... That might make me puke more than seeing Vinateria lining up for Colts FG's...

by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 5:36pm

I guess Ryan Longwell's on the market and he would be a reliable pickup for anyone needing a placekicker. There's a lot of dreck out there ever since the Anders(o,e)ns retired.

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 5:54pm

Wait, McNair's due a $50 million roster bonus? That's a typo, right? I mean, why not make it a $200 billion bonus and a pony?

by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 6:09pm

Nice job playing Free Agent Matchmaker -- very informative.

by mikeabbott (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 6:17pm

6. I would be puking too, but it will never happen, the patriots know he's a choker.

by bleyle (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 6:23pm

My understanding was the McNair's roster bonus was purposely made absurd, thus necessitating that the parties revisit the contract at this time.

by Sean (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 6:26pm

Good call on James' pass blocking ability. I noticed that the Colts spent a fair amount of time lining up Dallas Clark in the backfield, either motioning him in as a fullback, or having him and James flank Manning in shotgun sets. Maybe they'll end up playing Clark essentially as a fullback next year, allowing him to handle the blocking duties. He'd still be a dangerous player coming out of the backfield. It's not an ideal solution, but it might work until Maroney or whomever got their blocking responsibilities down.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 6:46pm

Vanderjagt is not one of the best kickers on the market. Random rookies have more upside than him, given the cost difference.

Vanderjagt was semi-fine with the Colts because they kick field goals so infrequently (and when they do, go fig, they're short), and for some reason felt it was okay to dedicate an extra spot to a kickoff specialist (and then have to suffer Vanderjagt's kickoffs when roster space got cramped...).

Vanderjagt is just the prime example of why field goal percentage is biased. As reference, to unbias Vanderjagt's kicking numbers, here's his FG/XP DVOA for his career:
9.9, 9.9, 9.7, 6.1, -3.9, 18.1, -3.6, 6.2.
Average of 6.55. This is "good", but not "great". Nate Kaeding, a second year kicker, had an FG/XP of 7.1 this year. And his kickoffs are only bad, not "gut-wrenchingly awful" like Vanderjagt's.

New England would be better off going through a few random rookies until they find a decent one if they lose Vinatieri.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 7:23pm

"...workmanlike Billy Volek" ???

I've been the biggest Volek pusher on these forums the past two years, so them's fightin' words. Otherwise great article.

Haven't the Pats and Vinatieri held the great "I'm-going-to-leave-New-England" party every year about this time? Regardless, I don't think placekicker is a position Belichick is going to be playing games with, especially given the type of ball the Pats often play. So if they don't re-sign Vinatieri, they will shell out to get a good kicker. Not Vinatieri, I think, as he's not known as either a distance- or a weather-kicker, which is crucial in New England.

I'd say as the Jaguars, unless you can get a first-round pick in the top 20 and you have someone specific you want in that spot (or a good second and fourth-or-higher offer and same) don't give up Garrard. I don't have the confidence that Leftwich is that much better than Garrard and I also want to see Leftwich last a full season (it hasn't been a problem, but he's already such a slow player that I think he's more of a liability to the team when he's injured than more athletic or toned QBs would be.)

On the Texans I think the right decision is to aim to compete now. If I understand, they have the cap space to rebuild as they go. I think to restructure the entire organization would be to waste the prime years of some pretty good skill players in Andre Johnson, David Carr, and Domanick Davis (if they get Reggie Bush I'm going to drive down to Houston and hit Charlie Casserly on the head.) I think it's generally easier to build an average to above average O-line than it is to build a successful triplet combination that gets to work together a few years in a row.

As for the Titans, go with Volek. Draft a mid-rounder QB or two, but use those high picks to rebuild the rest of the team.

As for the Colts, they're stinking stinkers and they stink. It's not my bias, I'm just quoting a study or something.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 7:25pm

In my post #13, "Not Vinatieri, I think, as he’s not known as either a distance- or a weather-kicker," should read, "Not Vanderjagt, I think...."

by Crushinator (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 7:41pm

Good call on what you think the Titans will do - Though I think Billy Volek is a pretty competent QB.

by Sean (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 7:50pm

The Titans think so, too. I don't have any faith that they are going to take a quarterback with the third pick, and I have even less faith that they will take Vince Young. I'm expecting Tennessee to take D'brickshaw Ferguson and to keep Mcnair and Volek as the quarterback tandem.

by Ned Macey :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 7:56pm

As for McNair, they obviously are not going to pay a $50 million bonus, but it isn't that simple because not paying the bonus just voids the years from 2007 forward. He is on the books for $9 million for 2006 (with a $1 million bonus owed for not paying the $50 million). Technically, they could keep him for that, but it seems ridiculous.

I think McNair did it that way so that they could not franchise him, and he figured they would have to renegotiate with him while he was still in his prime, giving him one more big payout. His body is probably wearing down faster than he thought it would.

Volek isn't awful, but his great numbers last year were all put up against pretty bad defenses. His DVOA/DPAR numbers from 2004 were basically equivalent to Joey Harrington. He also turns 30 this year, so he's not really a solution for building for the future, although he is certainly a solid back-up.

by fromanchu (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 8:41pm

as a titan fan, i would like to see mcnair finish his career in tennessee, but i also would be glad to see him play his last few years for a contender like miami. wouldn't blame him at all for not staying for rebuilding. i think volek will suffice as starter for a year or two, while aging players are replaced.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 8:46pm

If NE lets Vinateri go they are crazy and if they get Vaderchoke I will loose all faith in the Karmatic effect. Vanderchoke needs to retire now before all of that placed bets for the post season get to him. I was really hoping for a NE vs.IND III for an AFC championship but oh well.

But still Run while you can Vaderchoke, we will find you eventually.

Now in all seriousness I think that the Edge would be a good fit and a decent replacement for fred taylor while taylor could go to another team and help bolster thier 3rd down back situation (which I have a feeling is all he is good for now) I do not think he can physically handle the every back routine anymore, but he could still have some explosiveness as a thrid down back.

Poor, Poor Mcnair I do not see him playing well at all this year. I think he is toast an should just hang it up. he has had agood run but.......

by Al H (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 8:52pm

As a Jag fan, I would love to get Edge, not just for what he would bring to the position but also for what he'd take away from Indy. Peyton Manning never really killed us, Edge killed us, he was the cornerstone of their offense against us. That first game of the season we were systematically dismantling their passing attack, so they finally wised up and start stretching more effectively with James.

Plus, I think Freddy T just doesn't have that fire anymore, he always was more of a dancer/stutterstep runner, and behind the Jag O-line in its current setup, that's just not a good idea.

by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 9:59pm

I really can't see Indy winning it all without Edge unless they get lucky and have some breakout RB who can passblock, receive passes (or at least be a threat to receive passes) and run reasonably well and often. Otherwise, it'll be all in the hands of Manning - and teams like Pitt et al will tear that Manning up.

by Tom (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 10:20pm

Re #8
Titans GM Floyd Reese announced at the press conference where they announced the Vanden Bosch signing that they would not be exercising the $50M bonus due McNair; negotiation with McNair's agent, Bus Cook, have been ongoing, but news reports suggest any resolution will come closer to the Sept. 1 $1M option date than the draft.

I expect them to take a QB in the first round; Don Banks and others have them high on Cutler, but I'm not sold they think he's worth the #3 pick. I expect them to either draft Vince Young at #3 or move down a couple slots and take another player. After drafting Michael Roos in the second round last year, I don't think Ferguson is that high a priority; Roos was an LT in college and they'd look for him to make the transition. Hartwig is probably gone as an FA, with Eugene Amano replacing him at C. I wouldn't be surprised to see Brad Hopkins stick around for another year if the contract can be worked out; this would allow additional time to groom Jacob Bell, who started 15 games at G in 2004, to be the RT, and allow Stewart or Loper, the linemen drafted last year, another year of development to step into guard slots in 2007.

I'd expect to see the Titans add a veteran FA wideout and maybe a linebacker. I think they'll definitely address the LB position in the draft, probably with their second-round pick (no #3 because of the Travis Henry trade), though OG, DL, and DB are also possibilities.

by football (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 10:35pm

Ned Macey,
Since you have been so kind as to give us your totally unbiased point of view about the two schools of thought about the Jaguars, let me give you the two schools of thought about the Colts:

1) Overated and aided by Charmin soft schedule, not really a 14-2 team, with choking quarterback and fans who wax poetic about undefeated seasons and how tough it will be against Denver in the AFC Championship.

2) See Above.

Good luck this year, you'll need it!

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 10:44pm

Not sure what will happen with Vinatieri, but I can't see the Pats picking up Vanderjagt, for all the reasons mentioned (weather, limited kickoffs, etc.)

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 11:09pm


Here, let me fix that for you.

but I can't see the Pats picking up Vanderjagt, for all the reasons mentioned (weather, limited kickoffs, him sucking, etc.)

by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2006 - 11:12pm

#24: Do you really believe that Ned Macey's an Indy homer based on his saying that Jacksonville is probably slightly worse than their 12-4 schedule (and subsequent ass-whopping in the playoffs) but better than just a mediocre team? Does this really make you think that he's got some massive bias after saying that Indy is likely to be hurt by Edge's leaving?


BTW, on Indy's schedule. They didn't have the hardest time, true, but they ended up playing every AFC playoff team except Denver and also played the NFC superbowl participant, as well as teams like San Diego. The Colt's record against those playoff teams in the regular season was 6-1, losing only to Seattle. This is not the sign of a particularly weak team.

Is Manning a choker? Absolutely. Is Indy going to compete for the superbowl? I doubt it. There's no need to denigrate what a good season and what a good team they were this year.

by Belichick for President (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 12:19am

I believe Ned is a Colts Homer based on him being a Colts Homer. The Colts get plenty of attention as the team of choice from the media most every season, they don't need me on the bandwagon as well.
I guess I am still annoyed by spending all last year reading posts from homers about when they could declare the season undefeated, was it 14 games (Miami's 1972 regular season), was it 17 games (Miami's end of season 1972) or would they have to wait until the inevitable Superbowl 40 victory to pat themselves on the back? This began during week 8 or 9.
Then it was 'I'm not worried about anything until the AFC Championship' which began at the same time, and later 'I think we can beat Denver' was inserted prior to the playoffs. This was heavy, prolonged discussion, with no thought of any other possible outcome.
As far as the Colts going 6-1 against good teams, I believe this includes the 'slightly worse than they look Jags', a game with no defense at all against the Bengals that could have gone either way, a game against the Steelers when Ben was coming back from injury, a game against the Pats at their low point, with a bunch of games against the likes of the Texans, Titans and Cardinals.
I will leave the impartial Colts analysis to you guys. And I won't say nice things about a loser organization that manipulates the refs in the offseason to favor Manning.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 1:49am

Yeah, seriously Ned Macey, why do you have to say all them bad things 'bout the Colts? They ain't done nothing to you. They been sweet to you, they got you gifts and told you you look pretty.

You devoted, like, 25% of your article to the Colts alone! That's way more than you devoted to the Patriots, the Seahawks, or the World-Champion Steelers! That's more than you devoted to all the NFC playoff teams! Way to insinuate the Colts are the best team in this division. Together, Tennessee and Houston won ALMOST HALF AS MANY GAMES as Indy. Why don't you stick that in your pipe and smoke it. Indy being good at 14-2? With the best record in the league? Jeez, man, what have you been smoking? Next you're gonna tell me the 49ers weren't that good last year....

by bob (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 3:43am

good job letting edge go, they had offensive saturation. I can see both sides of keeping wayne, at one point u dont want to let TOO much talent disappear in one offseason(edge and wayne) on the other hand it again leaves ur defense wanting.

I think a really good/aggressive move would be to have let both go(maybe try to trade one?) then start reupping their colts like the eagles do, sign them early to good bonuses but long contracts.

if they could keep doss, sanders, freeney, mathis, thornton, bracket, june, simon. that would be a quality defense for a while(and of course they might pick up other talented players).

one thing I think now that all that talent is signed is peyton needs to not bitch about his oline. I mean how much more help can he reasonably expect?

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 6:09am

Colts re-signed Raheem Brock to a five-year deal. Where do they keep finding the money?

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 7:06am

Ned, are you saying Buchanon has been cut, or that you expect him to be? My understanding was that his low cap number made it virtually certain he be retained at least through camp and that it was even arguably small enough for him to be worth keeping on the roster as a punt returner/#5 corner.

I also think that Babin especially and Peek to a lesser extent never really made the adjustment to playing OLB in a 3-4 and will be much happier back at their college position. Not to say the Texans don't need to find some more ends, of course, but I regard MLB as a position of greater need, to shore up that historically bad run defense.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 7:19am

It occurs to me that if 2007 is uncapped, playing for the now makes a whole lot of sense for the Texans, because they are by far the wealthiest team in this division, and as such would be in a position to splash some serious cash in free agency that year.

by asg (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 11:29am

Is there a possibility that Houston will make a move for Steve Hutchinson, since he was not franchise-tagged?

by Sam Chapman (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 1:05pm

I've read on some draft previews that it's a deep o-line class so Houston might get away with Bush and still get someone to help the team as well. But lets face it since Boselli they haven't really tried to address their o-line at all despite it being terrible. They could do with a real difference maker on defence and that would probably be the best use of a high pick but it would be PR suicide so it wont happen.
Keeping Carr is a good idea if only to see if he can pass like this | not this _ (usually under a heap of players too)

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 1:15pm

I fully expect the Colts to drop Vandy like a bad habit and don't expect them to be shopping for a kicker. They still have their other idiot kicker Cortez and they re-signed Rayner.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 1:31pm

Here's my outlook on the Colts.

The past several years, their offense has looked great most games, but then died in the biggest ones. Scoring 3 points against the Pats had to be the biggest flop ever. Their defense has been more in line with their regular season performance.

I don't know what this is due to (tons of possible factors) but it has happened. I would like to see them become a defense-first team. Cut Manning, free up a bunch of cap space, sign a few good defensive players (their own + a couple). I'd like to see a less effective, but more unpredictable offense that teams can't figure out because it's been exactly the same since Game 1.

That said, this will never happen.

by Derek (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 1:39pm

#13 (Pat)
It is funny that you mention Kaeding and his poor kickoffs. I haven't seen the Chargers more than a few times in the last couple seasons but I've heard about Nate's struggles with that aspect of the game.

I mention it because I am an Iowa fan and remember Kaeding kicking it through the opposing goalposts on kickoffs with some regularity as a Hawkeye. I guess kicking NFL footballs from the 30 makes the kickoff situation quite a bit different from college.

by Crushinator (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 1:56pm

If I'm the Jacksonville Jaguars, I think seriously about picking up Jay Fiedler and seeing what you can do with Garrard

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 2:57pm

Pat (#25): lol... I was trying to make my point about what the Pats would do while still being polite. I see you have no such compunction when it comes to Vanderjagt. :D

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 5:29pm

I said this on some other thread, but forgot which: Vanderjagt is likely to go to Dallas, assuming Vinatieri's not available.

The Colts won't pay for him. They's have enough of his mix of skills, foibles, and lip.

The Patriots won't sign him, because they've made too much fun of him. No way in hell Belichick and Pioli will eat all that crow.

Again, assuming Vinatieri re-signs with New England (like Troy Brown, he has a mint in local advertising locked up if he stays with the Patriots), Parcells would take Vanderjagt as an improvement over the comedy of errors the Cowboys had in the kicking department last year. He'd even use another roster spot to get reasonable kickoffs, so long as he didn't have to watch his kicker honk short, makeable figgies, over and over and over...

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 5:33pm

so long as he didn’t have to watch his kicker honk short, makeable figgies, over and over and over…

Then he'd get to watch his kicker mock the opposing bench, and honk important, makeable figgies, over and over. :)

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 5:59pm

Pat (#42 )--

That's still an improvement over what the Cowboys had last year.

by Rollo (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 9:57pm

Re 39: Even more interesting when you consider that Fiedler's exposure as a starter came as a backup in Jacksonville.

I agree the Jags could really, really use Edge. I'd argue his pass catching skills would be as valuable as his run blocking, given the Jags' lack of a good safety valve tight end. I also agree their corners are mostly OK - Cousin played very well and should be resigned, while Wright had problems when he was asked to do more than short zone coverage. Don't be surprised to see a first day draft pick on a corner, but I'd be very surprised to see any moves in free agency for a corner.

The Jags really need to acquire some more targets at either TE or RB for Leftwich and a stud playmaker at OLB to complement Peterson. The running game will improve with either a great guard (Bentley) or halfback (James). I don't see the Jags going 12-4 again next year, but I think 11-5 and a first round win is a real possibility if they play their cards well.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 10:05pm

That’s still an improvement over what the Cowboys had last year.

Oh, sure. The TV stations would approve as they're guaranteed to get a shot of Parcells grimacing at the kicker again.

It won't be as good as the "He missed it" trio, but really, what could be.

by Kuato (not verified) :: Sun, 02/26/2006 - 12:38am

Does anyone have figures for Manning's salary cap number?

I believe it is really not that high at this point. Around 8-10 last year and the same next year. I don't believe it really jumps until 2007, but know one knows what the cap will look like at that point.

I know P King did a whole article about the Brady/Manning cap charges (although I believe it was also proved to be inaccurate later), but SI.coms search engine wouldn't work for me.

by black (not verified) :: Sun, 02/26/2006 - 3:00am

Jag fan here, as an ECU grad don't want Garrard to be traded ever. Its a perferct storm of sorts, favorite college player drafted by favorite pro team. Don't like the idea of Reggie Bush and Vince Young in the same divison. I hope both teams trade down.

The jags lack explosive players, nobody can just touch the ball and go all the way. Fred Taylor, and Jimmy Smith used to be the answers. Now that there passed there primes, you could keep them and save face by drafting a dynamic tightend. Or somebody that can score touchdowns, I'm looking at you Shaun Alexander,and LenDale White. Other than that, just wait for the colts to collapse.

by hwc (not verified) :: Sun, 02/26/2006 - 5:14am

RE: #46

Manning's cap number for 2006 is scheduled to be $10 million. BUT, that assumes that they can convert a $9 million roster bonus to signing bonus and pro-rate it over 7 years.

If there is no CBA extension, they can't do that. The most they could prorate is over 4 years. And, they would run afoul of the 30% rule by converting that much "salary" into bonus.

Nothing has hit the media, but I think the Colts are probably sweating bullets about now.

by Redman (not verified) :: Sun, 02/26/2006 - 5:32am

The Jaguars should draft Sinorice Moss and line him up in the slot while he learns from Jimmy. Eventually he'll split out wide opposite Matt Jones. Moss is the most underrated player in the draft, hes got skills. Next Marvin Harrison if you ask me. I'm tryin to see Moss and Jones out wide and Jamal Lewis in the backfield. Draft Fasano in the 2nd or 3rd round. That's an offense for the future right there. Byron, Jones and Moss, plus Fasano at TE and Jamal at RB. Lewis would be the oldest out of all of them at 26 years old. crazy....

by Miguel (not verified) :: Sun, 02/26/2006 - 10:26am

shows Manning and Brady's current cap numbers

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sun, 02/26/2006 - 10:31am

Has anyone done a recent similarity scores comparison for Lewis? Ricky Williams aside, has anyone ever had a monster, loads of carries season like his 2003 at a similarly young age, shown the decline phase afterwards, and then recovered something like past form?

by Rex King (not verified) :: Wed, 03/08/2006 - 1:17am

I think you missed a couple of Texans needs. C.C. Brown was a SS playing out of position at FS due to Coleman's meltdown. He's a decent back-up, particularly at SS, but was out of his depth in coverage. The Texans also badly need an every-down TE. Marcellus Rivers did well in spots last season, but he's a FA yet to be re-signed. Breuner is strictly a blocking TE, and Bennie Joppru is recovering from his 3d season-ending injury in 3 years. But along with you, I think every Texans fan finds it mystifying that Derrick Armstrong didn't make it onto the field more.

by someone (not verified) :: Wed, 04/05/2006 - 12:22am

I know Corey Simon signed a big, long contract, but the whole story at the time was that it was effectively a one year deal with a roster bonus that was effectively an option to extend. I take it the Colts are keeping the guy on for the next two years?