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27 Mar 2006

Four Downs: NFC North

By Michael David Smith

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

The big stories in the NFC North are all about the quarterbacks. The Bears added a free agent and demoted the quarterback who started most of last year to third string. The Lions signed two free agents and said the quarterback who started most of last year won't be back. The Vikings traded the quarterback who just a year ago was coming off a historically great season. And the Packers still don't know if the quarterback who is one of the greatest and most popular players in the storied history of their franchise will be in Green Bay next year.

Chicago Bears

Grabbing Griese to back up Grossman

Starting quarterback Rex Grossman hasn't shown that he can stay healthy, and backup Kyle Orton hasn't shown that he has any business on an NFL roster, so the Bears added veteran insurance in Brian Griese, who entered 2005 as Tampa Bay's starter but left 2005 on a cart with a torn ACL. Griese is actually a lot like Grossman: he has shown flashes of talent but hasn't proven that he can be a consistent and healthy starter over the long haul. Griese says he wants to compete for the starting job, but the Bears' coaching staff seems to favor Grossman. A depth chart of Grossman, Griese and Orton isn't ideal, but it's the best group of quarterbacks the Bears have had in a long time.

The Bears started free agency by re-signing their only major free agent, guard Terrence Metcalf, to a six-year contract extension. Since then they've been mostly passive observers. They coveted Antwaan Randle El, but not enough to match the eight-figure signing bonus the Redskins offered him.

Last year's major free-agent signing, Muhsin Muhammad, indicated to the Chicago Sun-Times that he wasn't pleased with the Bears' efforts to get a playmaker in free agency.

"He's a good player,'' Muhammad said of Randle El. ''He's exciting. I think he would definitely add a dimension to the return game. Of course, you want to have high-caliber players on the team, and I'm not sure if the Bears are going to get a guy like that or if they are really chasing a guy like that.''

Jerry Azumah was one of the best running backs in Division I-AA history at New Hampshire, and the Bears turned him into a competent cornerback and an excellent kick returner. But a series of injuries, most recently an arthritic hip, have forced him to retire at the age of 28.

A judge dropped battery and resisting-arrest charges against defensive tackle Tank Johnson because the police officer involved in the case didn't want to prosecute.

Elsewhere on the defensive line, the Bears matched a four-year offer sheet for $7.5 million, including a $1.6 million signing bonus, that the Bills signed with defensive lineman Israel Idonije, a backup in Chicago last year. Idonije played mostly on special teams, but new Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who was the Bears' secondary coach last year, loves the athleticism of the 6-foot-6, 275-pounder and was disappointed that the Bears hung onto him.

Chicago gave the lowest tender to restricted free agent Hunter Hillenmeyer, a somewhat surprising move considering that he has been their starting strongside linebacker the last two years. But Hillenmeyer was always the weak link on the Bears' defense, and if he signs elsewhere they won't miss him.

Draft Preview

The Bears are deep on defense and at running back, so the most likely option in the draft is a receiver (even though the Bears took receivers with two of their top four picks last year) or an offensive lineman. Ohio State wide receiver Santonio Holmes is certainly worth a look, although a better option might be Georgia tight end Leonard Pope, a big and athletic player who would probably be an immediate upgrade over incumbent starter Desmond Clark. Auburn's Marcus McNeil can play either right or left tackle and would compete for playing time immediately with the incumbents, John Tait and Fred Miller.

Detroit Lions

Quarterback Shuffle

Josh McCown is in. Jon Kitna is in. Joey Harrington is out. That's the focus in Detroit, where Harrington, the No. 3 overall pick in 2002, erased any lingering doubt that the Lions made a mistake when they chose him. The question now is whether McCown or Kitna will be the starter in Detroit, and whether Mike Martz can do for one of them what he did for Trent Green, Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger.

The Lions' other signings have been for middle-of-the-road players including offensive linemen Rex Tucker, Barry Stokes and Courtney Van Buren, tight end Dan Campbell and wide receiver Corey Bradford. Apparently they think if they add enough mediocre players with low salaries, one of them will pan out -- that's a better strategy than Millen's past strategy of signing mediocre players like Az Hakim to high salaries.

On defense the Lions haven't made any major moves. They hung onto two of their own free agents, Jared DeVries and LeVar Woods, and added linebacker Paris Lenon from the Packers. Defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, who has started every game the last three years and been one of the Lions' best defensive players, has skipped the team's off-season activities and might retire. Wilkinson was the first pick in the 1994 draft and didn't live up to expectations with his original team, Cincinnati, but he has been a very good player with the Redskins and Lions. If you want to get an idea of the impact he had with those two teams, check out their run defense DVOA with and without him. In 2002, Wilkinson's last year with the Redskins, Washington was No. 15 against the run and Detroit was No. 26. In 2003, when he moved to Detroit, the Redskins plummeted to No. 25 and the Lions rose to No. 5.

(For more on Football Outsiders' advanced metric DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, click here.)

Draft Preview

We're all out of jokes about Millen taking another wide receiver in the first round, so we'll try to be serious here. The Lions let R.W. McQuarters and Andre Goodman get away in free agency and haven't signed anyone to replace them, so the defensive backfield is a concern. Michael Huff, the Texas Longhorn who can play cornerback or safety, would be a good fit if Millen decides to go with defense in the first round for the first time in his Detroit tenure. Detroit also could go for a middle linebacker like Ohio State's A.J. Hawk.

On offense, the player who would make the most sense is USC tackle Winston Justice. Last year's Detroit offensive line was a mess, and Kyle Kosier, who quietly had the best season of anyone on the Detroit front five, signed with Dallas as a free agent. No. 9 might be a little high to take Justice, but he looks like he's ready to step in and start immediately. The Lions need that, and Millen loves players from big-time football factories. The complete list of schools from which the Lions have taken players in the first two rounds in the Millen era goes like this: USC, USC, Texas, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Georgia, Texas, Oregon, South Carolina, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas.

Green Bay Packers

Same Old, Same Old

The question on everyone's mind seems like it has been the question on everyone's mind for ages in Green Bay: Is Brett Favre retiring? We haven't heard anything yet, which would indicate that he'll be back. Favre doesn't want to put the Packers in an uncertain situation, so presumably if he were going to announce his retirement, he would have done it early enough in the off-season that the Packers could have signed another quarterback.

The Packers have started their off-season conditioning program, and Javon Walker is skipping it. Last year Walker threatened to skip training camp in a contract dispute, quarreled in the media with Favre, showed up to camp on time despite failing to get a new contract, tore his ACL in the season opener, and fired agent Drew Rosenhaus. It's been a turbulent year, and the Packers have to wonder whether Walker will be ready to contribute physically or mentally.

Speaking of the Packers' off-season conditioning program, Mike McCarthy insisted that the team radically overhaul its weight room when he discovered that the team had been lifting with machines much more than free weights. Strength training experts are nearly unanimous that free weights are superior to machines because they force the lifter to stabilize the weight, and it's surprising that an NFL team would still rely on machines.

In free agency, Green Bay lost center Mike Flanagan to the Texans. It wasn't long ago that the Packers had the best interior offensive line in football, but with Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera leaving last year and Flanagan leaving this year, the middle of the line is a problem in Green Bay.

Running back Ahman Green's value certainly has declined since his great 2003 season. He recently agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million. Najeh Davenport, who Favre once said would lead the league in rushing if he were a full-time starter instead of Green's backup, also signed a one-year deal. Of course, there's no guarantee that Green and Davenport will beat out the minimum-salary youngsters, Samkon Gado and Noah Herron, for playing time.

The four-year, $21 million contract Green Bay gave defensive end Aaron Kampman was a good deal for both sides. It allows the Packers to hang on to one of their top players from last season, and it gives Kampman a front-loaded deal worth more than $12 million this season. Looking to bolster the defense, the Packers have added two likely starters, tackle Ryan Pickett from the Rams and strong safety Marquand Manuel from the Seahawks. The Packers also plan to talk to free agent cornerback Charles Woodson. Signing him would be a mistake, though. He has never lived up to his promise and isn't worth the kind of money that he'll demand.

In one of those stories that isn't a big deal now but will be if a Vikings-Packers game goes down to the final seconds, kicker Ryan Longwell left to join the Vikings. Green Bay brought in Billy Cundiff to replace Longwell.

Draft Preview

There has been some talk that if Favre retires, the Packers will take a quarterback, but that just doesn't make much sense. Aaron Rodgers was the first-round pick last year, and even though there's a new regime in the Green Bay front office, they'd be crazy not to at least give Rodgers a chance to prove himself before moving on to the next hot young prospect.

Defense makes a lot more sense, and Hawk seems to be the most common projection for the fifth spot, which Green Bay owns. Hawk is generally recognized as the best of a good group of linebackers in this year's draft. He would probably start immediately, in place of Brady Poppinga, who currently resides atop the depth chart at strongside linebacker.

Minnesota Vikings

Hutch Feels Like a Million Bucks

Signing Steve Hutchinson away from the Seattle Seahawks gives Minnesota one of the league's best guards, and if center Matt Birk is able to return to health, the middle of the Vikings' line will go from a weakness in 2005 to a strength in 2006.

That will benefit Chester Taylor, the former Baltimore Ravens backup whom just about everyone agrees was better last year than the Ravens' starter, Jamal Lewis. (Taylor ranked 28th out of 53 running backs in FO's DVOA rankings; Lewis, with the same 10 teammates around him, ranked 49th.) The Vikings added Taylor to what looks like a very talented offense.

But that offense now depends on Brad Johnson, who became the starter at quarterback when the Vikings said goodbye to Daunte Culpepper, shipping him off to Miami for a second-round pick. Johnson played very well when he replaced Culpepper during the second half of last season, but he turns 38 in September, so the Vikings would be advised to make sure they have a competent backup. The only other quarterbacks on their roster are J.T. O'Sullivan, who has never thrown a pass in the NFL, and the recently signed Mike McMahon, a former backup with the Eagles and the Lions who doesn't rise to the level of "competent."

Restricted free agent Nate Burleson will leave to join Seattle, and that's good for Minnesota which will get a third-round pick as compensation. Burleson is an inconsistent player, and the Vikings are getting the better end of that deal, just as they got the better end of the Hutchinson deal.

On defense, two starters from last year's secondary, Corey Chavous and Brian Williams, have left via free agency. A secondary with Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot at the corners and Darren Sharper at free safety sounds pretty good, but Chavous and Williams were important parts of last year's unit and won't be replaced easily.

Draft Preview

Some mock drafts have suggested that Brad Childress would like to have an all-purpose running back for his offense, and that Memphis's DeAngelo Williams, who plays a lot like Brian Westbrook, would fit nicely. But running back is probably the Vikings' deepest position, with Taylor as the starter, Mewelde Moore and Ciatrick Faison as capable backups, and Onterrio "The Original Whizzinator" Smith possibly back from a drug suspension this year. Taking a running back here would be like spending three consecutive top 10 picks on wide receivers.

There is talk that the Vikings could choose a speedy wide receiver in the first round for the second straight year. Last year's pick, Troy Williamson, had a mediocre rookie season with 24 catches and 372 yards. This year the Vikings could add Chad Jackson of Florida, who was generally viewed as a mid-second round pick until he ran a blistering 40-yard dash time at the combine. Now most projections have him going in the first. Would the Vikings really take another receiver, making them only one 2007 first-round receiver away from following in Millen's footsteps? During draft season, stranger things have happened.

Coming later this week: AFC West by Mike Tanier

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 27 Mar 2006

93 comments, Last at 10 Feb 2007, 11:20pm by holly pob


by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 03/27/2006 - 7:55pm

I'm not at all sure I'd rather have a pick at the bottom of the third than a 24 year old receiver with a 1000 yard season already under his belt. My understanding (and I didn't watch the Vikings a lot last year) were that Burleson's struggles were as much down to injury, mis-use and bad quarterbacking at the start of the season as his own play. Clearly he's not a no.1 receiver in the NFL, but I'd happily give up a third round pick for a good-excellent, young, reasonably proven no.2 man.

by GaryS (not verified) :: Mon, 03/27/2006 - 8:09pm

Any word out of Minnesota on whether they are trying to trade up and take one of the three QBs in the first round? I have a hard time believing Childress wants to go into the season with a 38 year old QB.

by Nate (not verified) :: Mon, 03/27/2006 - 9:48pm

Regarding the Bears draft, I think there is large possibility they go defense in round one. Coach Smith was at the FSU pro day, likely to look at Cromartie (or maybe Sims, an OLB). OT is a position I would like to see them pick, but they don't seem to have much interest in building out the depth at that position. TE is an obvious need. Also, don't be surprised if the Bears pick Sinorice Moss in the first. No, I'm not joking.

by Stevie (not verified) :: Mon, 03/27/2006 - 10:55pm

MDS why do you think the Vikings got the better end of the Burleson deal? When Moss went down he played like a no 1 in 2004, and having Djack opposite he's going to match with the 2nd corner with a more accurate QB throwing the ball and a better running game. I normally agree with most of what you say but the draft must be really to be to be certain the Vikes are going to get a better player then Burleson at the bottom of the 3rd. I think he'll be a success in Seattle

by Tony (not verified) :: Mon, 03/27/2006 - 11:20pm

Jerry Azumah was probably the best player in recent history to come out of my alma mater of UNH and play in the NFL. Dan Krieder (Fullback, Pitt) and Jason Ball (Center, Unknown) also were UNH alums as well. Does anyone know what happened to Ball? He seemed to play well as a rookie with the Chargers, then held out, got released, signed by the Miami, and was released and never heard from again. Anyone hear anything on him?

by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Mon, 03/27/2006 - 11:48pm

The Bears need depth in the secondary, CB and S, so they should go DB in round 1, then address TE in Round 2. WR and OT can be addressed in the middle rounds.

by Michael David Smith :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 12:17am

The reason I like the Burleson deal from the Vikings' standpoint is that a low third-round pick will get a contract with a signing bonus of about %500,000 and league-minimum annual salaries. I really believe that the way to build a team is with those low-salary guys who can make a difference, guys like Leroy Hill, who went at the end of the third round to the Seahawks last year.

by Terry (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 1:09am

But how many 3rd rounders are Leroy Hill?

by Stevie (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 1:44am

#5 Your right Ball seemed to drop off the face of the Earth after a good year. Kind of like Ross Verba, whats he doing now? I remember he had unrealistic contract expectations but he's gotta be worth a mil a year to somebody

by Rick Berg (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 1:51am


by Frank Greenagel (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 2:27am

but Chavous and Williams were important parts of last year’s unit and won’t be replaced easily.

Worst thing I've read this year on the website. Chavous is vastly overrated -- solely based on his 9 int's in 2003. I watched every game he has played in a Viking uniform. He is terrible on coverage (except when balls are misthrown or tipped towards him) and he cannot run support at all. I'm still having flashbacks about Chavous missing tackles on Cadillac Williams, Warrick Dunn and Stephen Jackson. Both FO and ESPN wrote things like

by brasilbear (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 9:01am

I'd like the Bears to draft defense first, but I'd like to see them add either a pass rushing DE (Alex Brown is over-rated IMO) or a huge NT (improve the rush defense). But in the first, I don't see either of those guys falling to the Bears.

OL depth is needed and another CB for depth, but do you really want to draft a Nickel back in the first round? The Bears did sign a CB away from the Panthers.

Look for the best player left in the first, and pick him. Simple to say, difficult to do.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 10:24am

We’re all out of jokes about Millen taking another wide receiver in the first round...

You're just not trying hard enough.

by paytonrules (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 11:33am

#6 and #12
The bears do need some depth - although they are actually pretty deep at safety. Brown missed several games and Green filled in sericably. You don't have backups that are just as good as your pro-bowl players, no matter who you are.

That said you don't draft for depth in the first round, you draft need and the bears aren't just shallow at TE they are bad. They aren't good at WR either, and I don't care if it's Grossman, Greise or Santa claus without somebody to throw to they will all suck. I wouldn't mind an offensive lineman or two either.

by Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 11:36am

Taking a running back here would be like spending three consecutive top 10 picks on wide receivers.

What fool would do that? I mean, even Matt Millen isn't that stupid.

(There are always more Matt Millen jokes.)

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 11:57am

Re: 2

I read recently that there are rumors that Childress likes Brody Coyle and isn't inclined to try and move up for one of the top QBs. Of course, I don't really believe anything I read about specific players and teams this time of year, so .....

by JonL (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 12:18pm

Nice job. The point about Millen favoring

by Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 12:19pm

PaytonRules - I don't think the coaching staff/FO trusts Mike Brown to stay healthy anymore. That's partly why I think we without a doubt will go DB on the first day, maybe twice.

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 12:28pm

The bears have Muhsin Muhammad at WR who was just fine being the only reciever in Carolina. They do not need WR's right now. Compare Grossman vs Carolina in the playoffs vs Eli vs Carolina in the playoffs. And thats after two of their number 2 recievers were hurt during the year.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 12:36pm

As much as it'll depress me while watching (and later charting) Bears games, I really think the QB situation is simply going to melt down. Grossman is injury-prone and just about replacement-level. Griese has a new offence to learn and isn't that great anyway. Orton got thrown under the bus. What happens when Grossman gets injured? Griese comes in? Orton comes back in? What if Griese gets hurt? It's like their plan to stop the fire involves a stack of wood and a pail full of gasoline.

Add to this that they STILL only have one decent reciever (though I believe they'll go for a versatile TE in the first round), and the likely decline of the defence... there are going to be serious problems around here next year.

by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 12:38pm

#12 and #14
Nickel CB is a starting position in the modern NFL, having 3 solid CBs is not a luxury, but a need.

Brown has proven to be fragile. I believe he is on the outs. Not this year, but maybe next year. Lovie wants his safeties to have more range. I wouldn't be surprised if they consider moving Tillman to FS. If they do that, with Azumah's retirement, there is no one to step into that CB spot. If they don't move Tillman, they still need a nickelback or FS wih range.

Of course, if Hillenmeyer leaves, OSU's Bobby Carpenter becomes a darkhorse candidate at OLB.

There is no question TE needs an upgrade, but I see Vernon Davis and then a bunch of guys who are good prospects, but pretty equal. So unless they are in love with some guy's potential (Leonard Pope, Mercedes Lewis), it makes sense to grab a guy in Round 2. Of course, the Bears could always trade up for Mr. Davis. That would be tremendous.

by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 12:54pm

Oh, and don't forget we don't know how Chris Harris is recovering from his injury at the end of last season.

by JonL (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 1:15pm

I don't know what happened to my earlier post. I was trying to say that it would be interesting to look at a possible

by JonL (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 1:16pm


by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 1:35pm

As far as Green Bay I have a feeling we will know for sure on Apr 1st (this Saturday) wether or not Brett is going to retire. That is when his roster bonus comes due. Damn to think we have less than 3 full weeks until draft day. I hope we do pick up AJ hawk for a LB, he would add immediate talent to our LB core and give some relief for Nick Barnett to pass rush like a mad man. but we still need a decent weak side LB I don't know if Na'il Diggs still is capable of running in the flat with some of these RB in the NFC north. any sugestions for that?

by Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 1:45pm

Fnor - why do you think the Bears defense is likely to decline? Is it just the DVOA research that suggests that defense is more likely to regress to the mean than offense?
Our defense is really young, and we are going to have every starter back. Assuming we stay relatively injury-free, I don't see a huge declinse in the defense.
I also think George Halas hates tight ends, and the Bears will never have a good one.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 1:59pm

Probably right about TEs, unfortunately. Though a good one would be a huge asset.

As for the defence, they had a fantastic season last year, to the point where it was one of the best ever, perhaps. So they have two things going against them: success of that magnitude is ridiculously difficult to repeat, and that defence is inconsistent from year to year.

Other things that could rain on the Bears Defence Parade: general improvement of their division and in particular the advent of the Mike Martz era seem to be shaping up to make a decline nearly certain.

by Jero D (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 3:09pm

Re 25: Wasn't Diggs released a few weeks ago?

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 3:20pm

Yep it does look that way. so now we need two LB.Becuase our LB core looks like crap except for Barnett

51 Brady Poppinga LB
52 Kurt Campbell LB
54 Roy Manning LB
55 Robert Thomas LB
56 Nick Barnett LB
59 Tracy White LB

by kyle (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 3:21pm

i look for childress and the vikings to pick up either brodie croyle or charlie whitehurst in round 2. i think their first round pick would best be spent on some DB help.

the bears should go for the TE in round 1, and then pick up Daniel Bullocks out of Nebraska in Round 2. Great in run defense and reads in the zone his junior year, but a little iffy in man coverage.

if GB takes anyone but Hawk i'll eat my hat. their run defense was so terrible in the first half of last year, and Hawk is so quick on the blitz, too. he is the perfect pick for their need.

there's no helping detroit at this point. huff's probably the best bet, i think.

by Jero D (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 3:21pm

Cundiff was kind of a surprise to take over the kicking duties in GB, but of the great kickers available, who the heck wants to kick at Lambeau after mid-November when they can pad their stats in a dome?

In Cundiff the Pack get something they havn't had in Jacke or Longwell dating back to the mid/late 80's - someone who can kick-off inside the opponents 15-yard line, (Dallas still needs to hire a kick-off specialist!!) but the Packers also don't get the 78% or better FG kicker.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 3:24pm

RE 30

Yes of cousre there is help for DET.

Fire Millen.

(can still make jokes about him)

by TomC (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 4:22pm

Fnor's point about the Bears' D is well taken, but things do look significantly better now than they did two weeks ago, when it looked like both T. Johnson and Idonije could be unavailable this season. The D-line depth was a huge factor in last year's success.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 4:41pm

Wow...so who actually has the worst QB corps in this division? Or, for that matter, the best?

Chicago Bears
Rex Grossman
Brian Griese
Kyle Orton

Detroit Lions
Josh McCown
Jon Kitna
Dan Orlovsky (or Shaun King)

Minnesota Vikings
Brad Johnson
J.T. O'Sullivan
Mike McMahon

Green Bay Packers
Brett Favre
Aaron Rodgers
Tom Arth

I'd say Green Bay, simply because Favre is still pretty good. I still think Grossman could surprise, especially in non-playoff games against average defenses in which the Bears don't completely abandon a very good running game for no reason whatsoever. The Vikes and Packers are both using degrading QBs in their last year or two, but at least the Packers have a decent young guy in the wings. I'd say the Vikes are in the worst situation and NEED to draft a day one QB. If Johnson goes down, they've got nothing. Actually, all of these teams should draft a mid-level QB, as they all lack any sort of quality depth at the position.

Follow-up question...how is Mike McMahon still getting employed in the NFL? Is it his 44.5 career completion percentage? His career 5.57 yards per pass attempt? Perhaps it's his 15-29 TD to turnover ratio (inc. lost fumbles).

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 4:58pm

RE 33

I would have to agree with you on many points of that post but lets just get Real crazy for a moment and ponder the possibiliies if Favre Retires:

Green Bay Packers
Kerry Collins
Aaron Rodgers
Tom Arth


Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers
Joey Harrington
Tom Arth

I could see both of these as a possible solution if Brett decides to hang up his guns.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 5:18pm

Concerning the Vikings, they may already have the multi-purpose guy that they need in Moore. Then again, according to DVOA, I'm curious about why they picked up Taylor, if it was based on last year's performance: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/rb.php

by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 5:30pm

Tom: Agreed, they're heaving a sigh of relief they get Johnson back, he's been good to them.

Basilicus: I suppose Grossman could come up well eventually, but he seems like the kind of player that either becomes good or dies a horrible flaming death without people realizing it (provided he even stays healthy). I've long said that Grossman didn't really do better than Orton did last year; simply that the coaches trusted him more and opened up the offence for him. So, instead of bad plays in a gimpy offence, he got the advantage of being able to look bad while throwing downfield. A lot. He didn't show much talent at that, and it seems to be what he is inclined to do, so I'm worrying if I'm a Bears fan.

by Duane (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 5:43pm

The QB depth chart in Green Bay is probably more like:


Favre is only

by Duane (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 5:46pm

Uh, here's the rest:(?)


by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 5:47pm

Duane: avoid quotation marks, the system cuts comments off at them.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 5:53pm

i look for childress and the vikings to pick up either brodie croyle or charlie whitehurst in round 2.

Well, if Mr. Levin is right, it sounds like Vikings fans had better hope it's Whitehurst.

by William (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 5:55pm

7, I agree that a solid middle class is a huge key to building a competitive team for the long-term, and those players for the most part are drafted from the late 2nd round on. In response to 4, I would argue that Leroy Hill had arguably the best season out of the 3rd round picks, but several others from that round showed the potential to be solid, long-term players, including Charlie Frye, Frank Gore, Ellis Hobbs, Nick Kazcur, Dominique Foxworth, and Chris Henry. And I believe Jerome Mathis and a few other gems were found in the 4th. Late-round drafting is a highly underrated indicator of front-office success.

by Michael David Smith :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 6:40pm

Regarding Mike McMahon, I've heard he's a really, really hard worker in practice, which is why his former coaches like him -- it was his former head coach Marty Mornhinweg who convinced Andy Reid to bring him to Philly, then it was his former offensive coordinator Brad Childress who brought him to Minnesota.

The problem, of course, is that plenty of people are hard workers and simply don't have what it takes to contribute in the NFL. If you're a fan of the other three teams in the division, you've got to love the idea of the Vikings having McMahon and JT O'Sullivan behind Johnson.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 6:57pm

J.T. O'Sullivan cleaned up in NFL Europe in 2004: 120 of 196 (61.2%) for 1,527 yards (7.79 ypa), 10 TDs and 5 INTs for a 91.9 rating. May not sound like much but it's the 6th best QB rating in NFL Europe history. Only Jonathan Quinn, Craig Nall, Rohan Davey, Dave Ragone, and some guy named Stambaugh have rated higher...right, nevermind.

by Erik (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 10:58pm

The reason I like the Burleson deal from the Vikings’ standpoint is that a low third-round pick will get a contract with a signing bonus of about %500,000 and league-minimum annual salaries. I really believe that the way to build a team is with those low-salary guys who can make a difference, guys like Leroy Hill, who went at the end of the third round to the Seahawks last year.

As I read this comment I had to think of where I'd read an article recently about how to value transactions like this - then it hit me FO of course!

A year ago, Bruce Stram wrote a great three part article on Capanomics that discusses thse kinds of issues (link on my name)

After re-reading these articles, I'd be hard pressed to say that the Vikings made a good cap decision.

Below are some relevant quotes from the article.

The key question is not how good a player is, but what his ability and cost are relative to other players that might be available to replace him.

I’ll try to catch everyone up with an example. Suppose in terms of the physical skills that determine performance at one of the given football positions, replacement level players are known to have skills 3 sigmas above the average of the general population (This represents the top .1% of the population in terms of that skill set, but still constitutes an ample pool of 200,000 males in the U.S. Sigma is a relative measure of how far a given attribute, say speed, varies from the population average.) Thus, an average player might be 3.5 sigma, and a very good player 4 sigma and so on. I’m assuming for the sake of argument that the replacement level player is 3 sigmas.
With this in hand, we may readily compare the value of a 3.5 sigma QB to a 4 sigma OT. First we can say that the tackle has a better set of skills relative to his position than does the QB. But the QB may still be more valuable because his position is more important. The importance factor applied is simply a measure of how much increasing skill levels at each position (in terms of sigmas) contribute to winning.

Another concept needs to be added as well: I think it is reasonable to assume that at a given position, the contribution of increased skill has declining value in terms of winning. This concept of declining returns to a given factor is very common in economic analysis, and it has certain very desirable mathematical properties, but it doesn’t really have to be true. But in the real world, economists have found it to be true almost all the time. Per the NFL, I think it’s obviously true, at least in the extreme. I don’t know that one can imagine an OT so good that he could lead a team that was filled entirely with replacement players at every other position to the playoffs, with a replacement level RB following that tackle OT for a 5 yard gain on almost every play, and that offense scoring so many points to make up for the points given up by a replacement level defense.

by Erik (not verified) :: Tue, 03/28/2006 - 11:08pm

Re 44, If I had been smart enough, I would have said in my reply (no. 44) that I think the Vikings made the wrong decision on Hutcheson, not on Burleson. The Burleson decision might be more of a push.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 11:22am

Why hasn't Brett Favre received any criticism for essentially holding his franchise hostage? When other players act as selfishly as Favre is doing right now, they get dragged over the coals.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 12:25pm

I have the growing sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach that the #5 pick will roll around, Vince Young will be there, the packers won't draft him, and it'll be passing up on Barry Sanders all over again........

by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 1:16pm


Other than the Hall of Fame career, the reasons may be the well publiscised death in the family, his wife getting cancer and his house getting washed away in a hurricane.

by PackMan (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 1:50pm

I really hope we pick hawk at #5, he fills a huge need. I always thought Harrington would be a good successor to Favre. But Rodgers is basically the same guy, they come from the same system (along with Boller, Dilfer, and other average-at-best QBs) Hopefully Rodgers will break that pattern.

Why does everyone always rip Millen for using 3 1st rd picks in a row on WRs, but never ATL, after doing essentialy the same thing (they traded a 1st rd pick for Peerless Price, then drafted the next 2 years)????

by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 1:50pm

James: But really, why would people be sympathetic towards him?

John: You already have a QB prospect, and comparing Vince Young (all-right runner with questionable QB skills) to Barry Sanders (God) seems a bit silly to me, even if Young is still a draftee.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 2:05pm

I'm just of the opinion that you don't single handedly will your team to win two consecutive rose bowls without being one heck of a player.

I think calling his running skills all-right is a bit of a discervice.

Aaron Rodgers is destined to be a career back-up who bounces around the league 10-12 years. I honestly think GB drafterd him not because they wanted, but because they felt like they had too to avoid the media and fans knashing their teeth and rending their garments in woe.

by PackMan (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 2:21pm

RE 52, I unfortunately agree with you. Look at the other top draft prospects from his system that he is following, they all pretty much fit that description. I want to say Harbaugh was from that system too, but I'm not sure.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 2:25pm

A disservice? Perhaps. But he was in a designed running offence playing against college-level defences. I think what we're seeing now is not so much a running QB but a superior athelete against inferior opponents.

He won't get that in the NFL. He'll get guys like Kearse and Reed and Polamalu. guys who won't miss, whom he can't outrun, and can break down running plays when the runner is a 260 lb RB, much less a tiny QB with slightly less speed.

Running QBs, on the other hand, are skilled at passing but have the capability to run when they need to. It may have looked like Young

by PackMan (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 2:41pm

I honestly don't think that Bettis (The only RB that I can think of that is close to 260) is faster than Young.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 2:49pm

To be honest I think that GB should give Aaron Rodgers the chance to show that he can be a QB of the 'future'. As for Favre Ted and Brett have already talked once and 'agreed' to push back the date his roster bonus is due. for all of you that think this is hamstringing GB you are wrong. before the new CBA they had a projected surplus of alomost 25 million to be under the cap and now they get an extra 10 million becuase of the new CBA. Just becuase they do not go after the flashiest talent does not mean that they will not go after talent. GB like PIT, IND, and the others that do not like to overpay for thier talent is quietly waiting for alot of these guys to come down in price. Yes the redskins make this hard becuase they have historiclly 'overpaid' for thier talent under the current ownership (if they always spend so much for apparent 'talent' where is thier ring for thier troubles?). So give it a couple of more weeks and we will see. If Brett decides to retire then we could go after Kerry Collins as a Veteran, who has SB expeience, or really piss off millien and get Joey, and have him back up Aaron. Our MOST glaring needs, besides needing a new center, are in our front 4 ,DT not DE, and our secondary. Do not try and blame Brett for the GB Brain Trust not going after talent in those areas becuse of him. just give them time (FA does not end until when?) and I am sure that they will try and fill many of the holes we have with the 'correct' talent as opposed to the 'hyped' talent.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 2:58pm

Last time I checked everyone in college played against college level defenses.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 3:12pm

#57: Uh, yeah. And college defences make running QBs quite commonplace. In the NFL, these players hit brick walls because what works in college does not work in the NFL, and those with some success are either somewhat skilled passers, or simply don't give their teams as much value because their passing is bad and/or they're always injured.

I apologize for the weird number for RB weight; I'm a bit distracted at the moment. The number itself is rather irrelevant, however.

by PackMan (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 3:24pm

The weight is significant. Most NFL RBs are about 5'11

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 4:01pm

I just think the whole

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 4:04pm

whoops, I forgot and used quotes.

I just think the whole college level defenses thing is a disengenous comment. He's got an NFL calibar arm and, as has been noted on this site, unlike other running quterbacks, he rarely takes big hits.

Las time I checked there aren't a whole lot of Troy Polamalus in the NFL either.
Vince Young made plenty of future NFL players look like idiots in his time at Texas.

by Duane (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 4:33pm

Fnor, thanks for the lesson. Appreciated.

What I was trying to say was Arth is probably no more than a placeholder in the depth chart. And I don't believe that Packers' management feels like they are hostage to Favre's indecision. If he returns they have their starter and backup, and just need a third QB, probably a draftee. If he retires they elevate Rodgers, find a servicable veteran backup and still draft a mid- to late-round QB this year.

by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 4:35pm

'Why does everyone always rip Millen for using 3 1st rd picks in a row on WRs, but never ATL, after doing essentialy the same thing'

Actually, I have ripped the Falcons for that. But I think you'll agree that using three straight Top 10 picks is more questionable than using the three picks the Falcons used.

by PackMan (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 4:44pm

Yes, I made the point because you said that the Vikings could do the same thing if they drafted a WR this year and the next, but they don't have a top 10 pick this year. But thank you for ripping ATL, even the best receivers cannot make a mediocre QB great, DET should have learned from ATLs mistake.

by GBS (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 4:51pm

It's a good thing the Vikes grabbed Chester Taylor because everyone knows they 'ain't never gonna do it with Ciatrick Fason.'

by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 5:11pm

John: The thing is that there's nowhere for his skill set to go in the pros. Lots of people have big arms... a huge number of NFL failures do. Having a cannon is ridiculously overvalued in prospects compared to other things like decision making, maturity and flexbility. While it may be said that it is harder to measure those things, that doesn't in any way excuse the big-arm fetishizing that goes on among the media and to an extent the scouts.

So what separates Young from Billy Joe Smith, the late first- or second-round dud with the huge arm but shakey QB skills? Young's running game. I would argue that the college defences is at the heart of the matter. While Young may have beaten certain NFL-ready players in college, he never faced an entire defence of NFL-calibre players. So it's not just going against the pro-bowlers. It's going against LBs that know when to stay home and can run faster than most safeties and CBs he saw in college. Based on all we've seen through the years, system-based QB running schemes simply do not work. It's not that the talent or potential for it hasn't been there, it's the fact that the NFL game is too fast and defences too well-taught and disciplined for the scheme as a whole to work.

So yeah, he's an asset when he runs 20 times per game. But what happens on the rest of the snaps? The kid's apparently dumber than a bag of hammers, and didn't do anything to impress us with his ability as a QB other than throw far and happen to be on some winning teams. That's definitely not enough to prospectively mourn his loss until he's done something to show that he can actually be a QB in the NFL. It may sell some seats, and that's all well and good, but good defences won't have problems stopping a one-dimensional team, and you have to beat good defences (often with superior QB play) to go anywhere in the playoffs.

MDS: Your green text frightens and confuses me.

by PackMan (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 5:16pm

I haven't heard that Young has a strong arm, I have heard that he has an okay arm at best, and the thing that the scouts wanted to see at his proday was his arm strength. If he had a strong arm, his stock would be even higher. But he should still be able to have the Kordell Stewart/Michael Vick career. Not sure if that is good or not.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 6:12pm

I think it's more likely to be a Donovan McNabb type career. You could have made all the same arguments about him as are being made about young. Even more so since the big east isn't as strong a football conference as the big 12.

If I recall, McNabb scored just as bad (within a point or two either way at any rate) on the wonderlic as Young. Judging intelligence by one test taken at one point in time isn't a be all end all either.

Of course, all this arguing is what makes it fun. Pull a random top five pick out of a hat and you've got a 50% chance of plucking someone who never made a pro bowl.

I'm glad I've wasted my entire work day on this :)

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 6:16pm

oh, I'd also like to add steve young as another quaterback to whom Vince Young could have a similar carreer, if things went (very) well for him. Not saying he will, certainly, but the potential is there.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 6:23pm

One more thing. Fnor, the arm strength comment merely meant that it is adequete for the NFL. A number of the college quaterbacks in running oriented systems (Eric Crouch for instance) simply don't have enough arm strength to play in the NFL. I was merely stating that this is not the case for Vince Young.

by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 6:48pm

How did this turn into another discussion about Vince Young? I thought we have talked this to death? I do not see whay we are talking about him, becasue he will not be available to any team in the NFC North except GB. As far as GB is concerned if they do not plug thier LB holes and draft AJ Hawk they would be crazy. Young will be gone by pick seven in the draft. TEN gets Matt Lienart unless NO trades thier pick and then TEN would go after Young or Cutler. then at pick number seven OAK WILL draft the best player available and if Young is still there they will draft him. Coach Shell has already informed Brooks that he will have to compete for the starting job. And against who? Marques T.? I don't think so. I think Al Davis has told Art Shell to go after Vince Young if he drops that far. If he doesn't then Jay Cutler will wear Silver and Black. Trust me I think Al Davis (who has final say on all personel and satffing matters) went after Brooks as a possible Veteran Backup.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 03/29/2006 - 7:26pm

that was my doing. my apologies. back to your regularly scheduled programming.......

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 03/30/2006 - 1:11pm

Off-hand,I'd say that there is less than a 50% chance that Brad Johnson is healthy enough for 14 starts, to say nothing of 16 starts, since the guy was a little fragile when he was in his 20s. Then again, with the return of Birk, the addition of Hutchinson, and FB Tony Richardson from the Chiefs, along with what appears to be a decision to retain a fully recovered Kleinsasser at TE, it's pretty obvious that Childrees is going to attempt to hammer the opposing defensive fronts early, earlier, and often, so maybe the Vikings QB isn't going to be too exposed.

This assumes, of course, that the Vikings defense plays like it did in the second half of 05, and not the the first half. Losing Chavous isn't a big deal, but he will have to be replaced, and I don't watch enough college football to have a handle on whether there is a safety likely to available in the Vikings first round slot who warrants such a pick. Childress seems to have said that they intend to use somebody already on the roster to play the critical MLB spot in a Tampa Two defense, but he might be blowing smoke, so who knows? Given their decision to go run-dominant on offense, I think it'd be unlikley that they would pick a wr in the first round.

by Jero D (not verified) :: Fri, 03/31/2006 - 3:38pm

Maybe Brett is holding out to see what the Pack does with their 25-35 million, whatever the number is. I don't think Ted Thompson is going to spend this money to build a team so Brett can play one more season. He had a quietly successful draft last year (Nick Collins, Terrence Murphy, Poppinga, Hawkins, and Will Whittaker) and if Thompson does it again this year there is going to be a need to have some cap space to keep the core players. Something that Mike Sherman didn't allow himself as GM and as a result many players left and the guys that did get contracts failed to perform as expected. *cough* Hunt *cough*.

As for passing on Young with the 5th being comperable to passing on Barry Sanders, I don't think that'll come close. Mandarich over Sanders will always top my Infante Years list. I think the Packers would be wise to still take a guy like Hawk over Young with the 5th, only because I just don't have a good feeling about Young's NFL success. Only a gut feeling though and that's never 100%.

by Jero D (not verified) :: Fri, 03/31/2006 - 3:43pm

As an add, I say give Rogers a shot for a year or two. Hold off on drafting one of the hot QBs this year and check out the hot QBs in a year or two if Rogers bombs, there is always a serviceable FA QB avail who'll revitalize his career for 5-10 games as a placeholder until the Packers can either draft that next starting QB or find another diamond like Favre.

by empty13 (not verified) :: Fri, 03/31/2006 - 4:28pm

DET receivers cant or wont hang on to the ball. Mike is an underweight TE. Charles is a doper. Roy is a prima donna. Unless Marinucci is going to whip their sorry asses into shape it wont matter that Kitna and McCown are upgrades theoretically oe Joe-y.

by PackMan (not verified) :: Fri, 03/31/2006 - 4:41pm

76, Mariucci is no longer the DET coach.

by empty13 (not verified) :: Fri, 03/31/2006 - 6:08pm


Here in the wonderful Daytwa we tend to merge all their names together since they all start with M.

Mornhinweg (Is that a real name?)

I call him what i like to call him...

by Viking Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 03/31/2006 - 9:59pm

There is no way the Vikings got the better end of the Burleson deal. He plays faster than he is and would be perfect in the west coast offense. Was'nt on the love boat either. Lots of injuries last year. The Vikings are idiots, which makes me one too.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 04/01/2006 - 12:42am

For whatever reason, the Vikings decided they'd only offer the low tender to Burleson, despite having plenty of cap room. Whether they got the worse of the exchange will depend on what they get with the pick, and how Burleson performs. Since those variables are pretty much completely unknown, it makes little sense at this point to give predictions with any certainty. Burleson has had one year in which he demonstrated above-average performance so there isn't a lot to project on. We'll see.

by Polaris (not verified) :: Sat, 04/01/2006 - 4:36am

The indicators I have seen seem to show that the Vikings actually wanted Burleson back fairly badly because he does have a very high

by Polaris (not verified) :: Sat, 04/01/2006 - 4:47am

From what I have seen, it seems that the Vikings actually wanted Burleson back fairly badly because he does have a very high 'yard after catch' number which is essential to the WCO and that is the offense that Childress will be running. According to the Vikings FO today, they were willing to give more 'real' money than Seattle (and then fight the P-Pills) but Nate turned them down flat.

I don't think you should read too much into the low tender either. IMHO the Vikings made the same mistake that Seattle did and the Seahawks were clever enough to see it after it had been done to them. That is I think both franchises assumed that the CBA negatiations would fall through and remember that the deadline for tenders (and tags) was long before the new CBA was signed. As such I think that Seattle assumed that no one would have money to match their transition tag and likewise the Vikings assumed that no one would go seriously into the RFA market with limited funds (making draft picks a premium). If that is so, then both got hosed when the new CAP added about 10 million CAP to all teams AND gave more years to 'cash over cap'. Both were very well positioned for the 'nightmare scenario' that never happened. -Polaris

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 04/01/2006 - 10:40am

Even so, it's not like the mid-tender is that much more money, and it is a whole hell of a lot more protection. A first for Burleson would have been a rip-off.

by Mentos (not verified) :: Sun, 04/02/2006 - 1:47pm

re: 71

I also think that the Raiders will draft a quarterback.

by egan (not verified) :: Tue, 04/04/2006 - 10:34am

J.T. O'Sullivan almost won the World Bowl in '04. Had a QB rating of 91.9 Knows West Coast. Could be very good given the chance. A sleeper that is already on the team.

by John (not verified) :: Tue, 04/04/2006 - 12:54pm

J.T. O'Sullivan???

You simply must be joking.

by David Ferrier (not verified) :: Wed, 04/05/2006 - 3:05am

A word on the Packers draft choice. AJ Hawk would be great, but if Young or Cutler is still on the menu when by the time GB gets their pick it might be good to trade down with a team that wants a QB like the raiders or the Rams.

by johbur (not verified) :: Wed, 04/19/2006 - 3:33pm

AJ Hawk would be a fine draft choice for Green Bay, but he's third on my Big Board behind Mario Williams and Vernon Davis. With J-Walk being a punk a big receiver is a must. You can either run a two TE set with VD, or split him out wide. He runs a 4.38. That's faster than 20 or so of the current #1 CBs in the league. VD against a 5'10

by Napoleon Dynamite (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 11:59am

hey hey hey
what are you talking about saying that the vikings got the better end of the deal losing Burleson? they now have no player capable of being a number one receiver which burleson could do effectively. losing moss last year and burleson this year makes about as much sense as drafting three top ten WR's

by sum1 (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 12:02pm

wait a sec, the bears picking up a veteran quarterback to back up grossman... sounds familiar. Oh Yeah! some guy named Hutchinson! the problem isn't with the QB's, it's with the scheme; the bears would perform the same with someone like Giovanni Carmizzi in there.

by andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 05/30/2006 - 10:42pm

Vikings hire Rick Spielman. If they weren't doomed before, they are now...

by lola (not verified) :: Sat, 02/10/2007 - 11:17pm

u la la

by holly pob (not verified) :: Sat, 02/10/2007 - 11:20pm