by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter
Andrew: Hello and welcome to the penultimate Scramble for the Ball of the 2016 NFL season! It's hard to believe we're here already. So much has happened over the past six months, some of which we're even allowed to talk about!
Bryan: Last week, we brought you a Scramble tradition: the Super Bowl Prop Bet Extravaganza! This week, we're engaging in the other time-honored Scramble tradition: the All-Keep Choppin' Wood team. This is our full lineup of players who did the most to help their teams lose games during the 2016 season. We'll talk about on-field blunders and poor play; off-field distractions and controversies; unwieldy contracts and free-agent busts; or a combination of all of the above and moreso. There was some ferocious competition for some of the slots this year, as there always is.
Andrew: Without further McAdoo, let's get straight to it. As always, the names of the actual selections are in bold in their respective segments.
Quarterback: The first name on this year's All-KCW Team needs no introduction. In fact, he technically even fits all three of Bryan's criteria above. We speak of Jets quarterback/defensive back JUGS machine Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick, you may remember, was the subject of a will-he-or-won't-he signing controversy during the offseason, as the player held out because the team wasn't offering more money and the team held out because the player was Ryan Fitzpatrick. When the deal was eventually done, Fitzpatrick went back to being the terrible quarterback the Jets anticipated, with his six interceptions against Kansas City a particular highlight. Fitzpatrick responded to accusations of poor play by blaming the coaches' lack of confidence in him, to which the coaches responded by benching him for Bryce Petty. Petty was even worse, putting up more negative DYAR in his four starts (minus-414) than Fitzpatrick had in his 11 (minus-328). If you knew nothing else about the 2016 New York Jets, that would be all you needed to know about the 2016 New York Jets.
Halfback: For the second straight year, we highlight a Green Bay Packers running back. Last year it was Eddie Lacy, this year it's James Starks. Starks didn't qualify for our full table of running backs with only 62 rushes; had he qualified, though, he would have been second-to-last ahead of Chris Ivory (another fine KCW candidate). Before Starks' injuries, however, he was ineffective, to say the least. Starks turned 30 this offseason and, like so many before him, fell off that cliff, averaging just 2.3 yards per carry. The Packers tried everything to replace him, trading for Kansas City backup Knile Davis, signing multiple reject Christine Michael, and eventually converting receiver Ty Montgomery to a full-time halfback. Injuries explain some of that, but Starks looked pretty much done this season.
Tight End: No extravagant justification necessary here: Will Tye of the New York Giants was not the worst tight end in the league by DYAR, but he was the worst guy not coming off a three-year injury (Dennis Pitta), or being thrown to by a rookie quarterback (Trey Burton, Lance Kendricks, Tyler Higbee) or Brock Osweiler (C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin). Tye was being targeted by Eli Manning, in an offense built around three talented wide receivers. Plenty of tight ends have flourished in worse situations (see DYAR leader Travis Kelce), whereas Tye and his -22.3% DVOA made just about the least of his opportunities.
Wide Receiver 1: Michael Floyd is going to the Super Bowl, just as we predicted before the season began. Of course, we predicted he would do so as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Floyd had a somewhat down year on the field in Arizona, catching less than half the passes thrown his way and ending up with a -5.7% DYAR -- a poor season, sure, but not KCW-worthy. No, he gets his KCW stripes after his December arrest for drunk driving -- his second DUI in five years.
Wide Receiver 2: There's only so much a receiver can do with Blaine Gabbert as his quarterback. That excuse only goes so far, however, to covering the performance of the 49ers receiving corps: even the Case Keenum/Jared Goff Rams managed to have one receiver who looked competent during this past season. Torrey Smith did not, and finished with the worst DVOA of the three 49ers receivers in the bottom five of our DYAR tables. From Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu to Smith and Jeremy Kerley; if rumors are to be believed, Kyle Shanahan has his work cut out in San Francisco.
Wide Receiver 3: Jermaine Kearse put up more OPI fouls (six) than touchdowns (one) this season. That's not good! He caught just 46 percent of his passes, ending up with a terrible, terrible -28.6% DVOA, which puts him firmly in the bottom five this season. Most of the bottom five come from terrible passing games -- all three San Francisco receivers and Tavon Austin dealt with extremely sub-par quarterback play this year. Kearse gets to play with Russell Wilson, and Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett didn't seem to have too much trouble putting up positive numbers in that offense. 2015 was a career year for Kearse, and the Seahawks rewarded him with a three-year, $13.5 million contract. Performances like he had this year aren't going to cut it going forward.
Left Tackle: The Vikings offensive line was not considered a strength before the start of this season. Gone are the days of Matt Birk and Steve Hutchinson, with Matt Kalil and Joe Berger not quite up to the same standard. Still, plenty of other teams have been able to perform with merely below-average play along the offensive line. The problem comes when those below-average players get injured and have to be replaced with others who are even worse. Enter T.J. Clemmings, a below-average guard who was forced to move to left tackle after season-ending injuries to starter Matt Kalil, free-agent acquisition Andre Smith, and midseason pickup Jake Long. To call that move a disaster would be a disservice to most football disasters, which are nowhere near as catastrophic to their teams as Clemmings was to the Vikings this year. The Vikings could block nobody from doing anything they wanted, with teams regularly able to get pressure on Sam Bradford using only three pass rushers no matter what blocking scheme the offense employed. At least we now know Bradford isn't actually made of glass.
Left Guard: We could nominate most of Seattle's line this season and be done with it, but we're going to highlight Mark Glowinski here -- and he might be the third-least of Seattle's offensive line woes. Seattle gambled on an inexpensive, inexperienced, and young offensive line gelling together as the season went on, and it just didn't happen. We could have easily given this spot to rookie Germain Ifedi, who struggled moving from tackle to guard in the pros, or the ineffective J'Marcus Webb. Sometimes you get what you pay for, and the cheapest line in football finished in the bottom ten in both pass protection and run blocking.
Center: If you want a real versatile player on your all-KCW team, look no further than Zane Beadles. San Francisco's sole major free-agent signing last season, Beadles started at tackle, guard, and center this season for the 49ers, and was terrible at all three slots. SIS charted him with 21 blown blocks, among the league leaders, as he played a crucial role on San Francisco's last-ranked run blocking offensive line and third-to-last pass blocking line. And speaking of 49ers...
Right Guard: Josh Garnett gets a little bit of slack for being a rookie; even a first-round rookie sometimes takes time to adjust to the NFL game. But the growing pains for the 49ers were very painful indeed. Garnett blew 22 blocks, per Sports Info Solutions charting, including 15 in the passing game. This is despite only starting 11 games this season -- he's not a bust yet, but he'll want to put this rookie season well in his rear-view mirror. Sealing his spot on this team is the cost the 49ers paid to trade up into the first round to get him. The Chiefs got the 49ers' second-, fourth-, and sixth-round picks for Garnett, which they turned into Chris Jones, Parker Ehinger, and D.J. White. Jones and Ehinger were both better than Garnett this season.
Right Tackle: Four out of five linemen from the 49ers and Seahawks? It may seem excessive, but it's more than fair. The competition at both tackle spots was furious, but Bradley Sowell picked up a rare double, being benched at both left and right tackle for Seattle this season. Between Sowell, Clemmings, Cedric Ogbuehi, and Mike Remmers (who Ben Muth rated as the worst full-time starter he watched all season!), we saw some terrible play on the offensive line this season; a true tour de force of blown blocks, shoddy protection, and sacked quarterbacks.
Defensive Front Seven
Defensive End: Muhammad Wilkerson cost the Jets $14.75 million against the cap this season. In return, Wilkerson gave them 4.5 sacks and 33 solo tackles in the worst season of his career. He had just 14 quarterback pressures, down from 30.5 last season. It's possible he wasn't fully recovered from the broken leg that ended his 2015 season, but if that's true, the Jets didn't help by trotting him out for nearly all the defensive snaps early in the year. If anything, he was a defensive liability at times this season -- a shocking performance from a multiple-time All-Pro. We'd take odds on him bouncing back to form next season, because players generally don't fall off a cliff at age 27 like Wilkerson did.
Defensive Tackle: The Colts roster is not good. The offense has some pieces, certainly, but they remain devoid of a cohesive picture on either side of the ball. The coaching philosophy is reportedly to "run the ball and stop the run," but they really aren't built to do either. On defense, this shows in their ranking of 32nd in run defense DVOA. They similarly rank 31st by adjusted line yards, and 26th or lower by this metric in every direction except left end. Any player from their front seven could have been selected here, but run defense starts with the interior line and nose tackle David Parry.
Defensive End: Our token player from the Cleveland Browns is defensive lineman Jamie Meder. We say "token" because although the Browns weren't notably horrific at any one position, they were well below average at almost all. Meder is a case in point: his 26 tackles, one sack, one pass deflection, and three tackles for loss would be perfectly reasonable as a rotational backup interior defensive lineman, and that statline is only really a half-tackle per game different from his numbers in that role in 2015. This year, however, he was actually a 15-game starter on the worst run-stuffing defensive line in the league. A busy offseason beckons for the Browns front office.
Edge Rusher: The Dallas Cowboys defense is generally considered to be devoid of standout talent at most positions, with its respectable performance being more due to coordinator Rod Marinelli than any difference-making individual player. Defensive end Randy Gregory had the potential to be such a difference-maker leading into the 2015 draft. Instead, he failed the combine's drug test and fell to the second round, where the Cowboys took him 60th overall. He stayed clean, if ineffective, during his rookie season, but that all fell apart this year. Gregory was suspended three times in one season for failed drug tests: the first two during the offseason, and the final one in November. He did manage to appear in two games for the Cowboys between the end of the 4-plus-10-game bans and the start of the one-year ban, posting his first NFL sack against the Eagles in Week 17, but will now miss the entire 2017 season at the very least.
Edge Rusher: For the second straight year, we're going with Mario Williams and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad contract. By the end of the year, Williams was a healthy scratch for Miami, which is not what you want out of someone making $6.5 million. He had nine solo tackles per SIS charting -- and six missed tackles, which is not a super great ratio. Before the season was over, the Dolphins announced they would cut Williams, which is very rarely a good sign for your career prospects.
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Linebacker: The New Orleans Saints could not cover receiving backs, allowing a league-worst 51.2 yards per game and 44.8% DVOA to running backs in the passing game. A big part of the reason was offseason acquisition Craig Robertson, who arrived from Cleveland in free agency with a positive reputation. Though a capable player against the run, Robertson was exposed in space -- and not only against the elite Falcons receiving backs. Even San Francisco's DuJuan Harris put up five receptions on six targets for 83 yards and a 47-yard touchdown against New Orleans. Against many NFL defenses, that's a career day. Against the Saints pass defense, it's just a day.
Linebacker: Tahir Whitehead is a good test case for why you should ignore tackles as a stat. Whitehead set a career high in tackles with 132 this season, but far too many of those tackles came significantly down field. Whitehead was terrible attempting to cover running backs down the field, and he's a big reason why the Lions had a 34.2% DVOA trying to cover running backs in the passing game. Whitehead also allowed 13 broken tackles and had a broken tackle rate of 12.6 percent -- not good at all. Too many missed tackles, too many times where he was simply outplayed.
Cornerback: One of our good friends is a Tennessee Titans fan. As we were asking for nominees for this spot, he simply texted that Perrish Cox had probably had the worst season at cornerback in all of football history. This is hyperbole -- but not by much. Cox was so bad he didn't make it through the season, getting cut after Week 12. He combined an inability to cover (he had just a 42 percent success rate in coverage) with an equal inability to tackle (a 14.3 percent broken tackle rate). Cox was regularly and routinely burned for long touchdowns, and was a total liability on the field.
Cornerback: Darrelle Revis doesn't get this award for being the worst cornerback in the NFL. His level of play was very low, don't get us wrong. Revis' 39 percent success rate was fifth-worst among cornerbacks who started at least half the season, and he allowed 10.7 yards per pass -- not per completion, per pass. A solid ability to limit YAC keeps him from being one of the absolute worst cornerbacks this year, but his contract -- he counted $17 million against the cap this year -- simply demands more. The Jets may experiment with moving Revis to safety this offseason, but one way or another, it appears to be far easier to fly over Revis Island than it has been in the past.
Strong Safety: Our 2016 Keep Choppin' Wood lifetime achievement award goes to Buccaneers safety Chris Conte, whose team immediately saw a substantial improvement in its defensive play when they benched him for Keith Tandy in the middle of the season. Even Conte's good plays often had their downsides, as his pick-six against the Chicago Bears resulted in him splitting his coach's head open, but that was nothing compared to the headaches he caused when deployed in deep coverage. Tampa Bay's defensive DVOA when Conte started averaged out to -4.1%, which is massively boosted by games against the Blaine Gabbert 49ers and the can't-block won't-block Seahawks. Meanwhile, in the five games after he was benched, they averaged -11.9%. It's rare for one safety to make that big a difference, but Chris Conte is no ordinary safety. Kind of like Earl Thomas, only in reverse.
Free Safety: We noted earlier that the Colts defense can't stop the run. That's OK though, because they can't stop the pass either! The Colts defense also ranked 27th against the pass, and rookie free safety T.J. Green was widely considered to be the biggest culprit. We don't generally like to pick on rookies, but when everybody we trust who watches the Colts nominates him as the worst player in the secondary, it's tough to ignore the consensus. Sadly for Green, that also makes him our consensus pick in this spot.
Kicker: Blair Walsh's shank at the end of Minnesota's loss in the 2015 wild-card game against Seattle ended up simply being the prelude for a disastrous 2016 season. Walsh missed four field goals and four extra points in just nine games. That placed him just out of the top ten for missed kicks this season -- and he only played half the year before being cut. He also was terrible on kickoffs, managing only 19 touchbacks in 41 attempts, kicking another out of bounds, and setting up opposing returners for 26.1 yards per return. It's not good, is what we're saying.
Punter: Drew Butler had an awkward season in Arizona. First, he was terrible; his 35.6-yard net punting average would have ranked last in the league had he had enough punts to qualify, as would his 42.2-yard average punt. Then he got hurt, with what Arizona deemed a "severely" sprained ankle. Then he was cut, released with an injury settlement. Then he was re-signed after six weeks when his replacement was also terrible. His punting did not show significant signs of improvement on his triumphant return, either. At least he didn't have a punt blocked -- for the first season in his career! Little victories.
Kick Returner: After being released by the Eagles in November following his arrest for DUI and unlawful possession of a firearm, Josh Huff joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just as they looked primed for a playoff push. In his first game with his new team hosting the division rival New Orleans Saints, he fielded a bouncing Wil Lutz kickoff ... with his face. The ball bounced out of bounds at the 1-yard line, leading to a safety on the next play from scrimmage. In his third game, again facing the Saints, he again muffed a Wil Lutz kickoff to set his team up inside their own 5-yard line -- leading less directly to a Jameis Winston interception two plays later. In between, he returned kickoffs from the end zone to his own 14 (against Dallas) and his own 15 (against New Orleans), meaning he somehow managed to average 12 yards per kickoff return for the Buccaneers while posting a 50 percent catch rate as a receiver. He was cut by his second team in December, after only three games.
Punt Returner: Patriots rookie Cyrus Jones has had the ball in his hands 19 times this season ... and fumbled five of them. Well, that's not strictly true -- he managed to muff a punt against the Ravens without ever getting his hands on it, as he lackadaisically allowed the ball to bounce off his foot and be recovered by Baltimore to spark a late rally. Still, five fumbles from only 19 returns, albeit only two of them were lost, is not what any team wants when it's meant to be getting the ball after a defensive stop. Needless to say, Julian Edelman is returning punts for the Patriots during the playoffs.
Head Coach: Jeff Fisher ran out of 7-9 bullsh*t this season. After years of coasting by on mediocre records in St. Louis, the bottom fell out in the Rams' first season in Los Angeles, with Fisher leading the team to a 4-9 record before being shown the door. Fisher likely ends his head coaching career one loss short of the all-time record. Don't worry, Jeff -- you have another, less reported record! Fisher missed the playoffs in 16 of his 22 seasons as a head coach. That's the most non-playoff seaons for any coach after the NFL/AFL merger, besting Dan Reeves by two. Jack Del Rio and John Fox become the active leaders in that category, and they're only at eight. Congratulations on ensuring those early January tee times, coach!
Offensive Coordinator: After a statistically excellent, if decidedly inconsistent, 2015 season, 2016 was meant to be the season in which Blake Bortles cut out the silly interceptions and became the first true Jaguars franchise quarterback since ... does David Garrard count? Byron Leftwich? Mark Brunell? Anyway, that didn't happen. Bortles and the Jaguars offense were a disaster, as the third-year quarterback instead cut out most of the exciting touchdowns and highlight plays and found even sillier ways to throw interceptions. The blame for that ultimately fell on offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who was deemed to be asking the quarterback to perform tasks to which he was ill-suited. (The jokes write themselves in Jacksonville.) Olson made way midseason for quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett, who then had to interview for his own job this offseason -- not exactly a resounding vote of confidence in the 37-year-old coach.
Coordinator Consultant: He wasn't officially the defensive coordinator, but Buffalo's defensive collapse had Rob Ryan's fingerprints all over it and he was removed early, along with his brother, as another disappointing season drew to a close in Buffalo. Rob is the classic example of a coach whose reputation is greater than his performance merits. He has been a defensive coordinator now for 13 seasons. In that time, he has had a defense finish in the top half of the league a mere three times -- which is the same as the number of times he's had a defense finish in the bottom three.
|2016 All-Keep Choppin' Wood Team|
|QB||Ryan Fitzpatrick||DE||Muhammad Wilkerson||K||Blair Walsh|
|RB||James Starks||DE||Jamie Meder||P||Drew Butler|
|WR||Michael Floyd||NT||David Parry||KR||Josh Huff|
|WR||Torrey Smith||EDGE||Randy Gregory||PR||Cyrus Jones|
|WR||Jermaine Kearse||EDGE||Mario Williams|
|TE||Will Tye||LB||Craig Robertson||HC||Jeff Fisher|
|LT||T.J. Clemmings||LB||Tahir Whitehead||OC||Greg Olsen|
|LG||Mark Glowinski||CB||Perrish Cox||DC||Rob Ryan|
|C||Zane Beadles||CB||Darrelle Revis|
|RG||Josh Garnett||SS||Chris Conte|
|RT||Bradley Sowell||FS||T.J. Green|
Staff Playoff League Update
Bryan: Your leader going into the Super Bowl proper is Sterling, whose all-Green Bay strategy leaves him with 236 points and a 25-point gap between him and second place. The thing is, however, now he's nearly out of players -- he only has the New England defense left to score, so he's not likely to get too much higher than he is now.
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Still, Green Bay's success is probably enough for Sterling to guarantee himself at least a top-two finish; the Aaron Rodgers-Davante Adams combination paid off in spades. It may not be enough to hold off Aaron, though. Just 25 points behind, Aaron still has Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, James White, Chris Hogan, and Stephen Gostkowski. Even subpar days by all five players probably gets Aaron into at least shouting range of Sterling, and all it would take is one of those five players to have a good day to rocket Aaron to victory. Call him the favorite.
Everyone else is probably too far back to really contend. Vince is in third place, just 39 points back, but he only has Devonta Freeman and Taylor Gabriel at his disposal; he'll need a big offensive shootout that somehow doesn't involve the Falcons throwing the ball very much in order to win. Bryan has a better chance in fourth place; he's a full 80 points back, but has three Patriots and three Falcons remaining on his roster. Almost assuredly too little, too late to catch Sterling though.
Bringing up the rear, Scott's in fifth place, 91 points down. He does have three Patriots left, including the Tom Brady-to-Julian Edelman stack, but expecting all three players to score more than 30 points is quite the stretch. In last place is Andrew, 110 points off the leader. He still has Mohamed Sanu, so, you know, there's a chance! Sanu could be named MVP after a ten-touchdown performance from backup quarterback Matt Schaub. Stranger things have not happened.
|QB||Tom Brady||Matt Ryan||Aaron Rodgers||Russell Wilson||Ben Roethlisberger||Dak Prescott|
|RB||Jay Ajayi||Ezekiel Elliott||Ty Montgomery||Le'Veon Bell||LeGarrette Blount||Spencer Ware|
|RB||Dion Lewis||James White||Lamar Miller||Devonta Freeman||Tevin Coleman||Latavius Murray|
|WR||Julian Edelman||Julio Jones||Jordy Nelson||Doug Baldwin||Antonio Brown||Odell Beckham|
|WR||Dez Bryant||Chris Hogan||Davante Adams||Jarvis Landry||Michael Crabtree||DeAndre Hopkins|
|WR||Cole Beasley||Tyreek Hill||Eli Rogers||Taylor Gabriel||Malcolm Mitchell||Mohamed Sanu|
|TE||Travis Kelce||C.J. Fiedorowicz||Jimmy Graham||Ladarius Green||Martellus Bennett||Jason Witten|
|K||Robbie Gould||Stephen Gostkowski||Mason Crosby||Chris Boswell||Matt Bryant||Steven Hauschka|
|D||New York||Kansas City||New England||Seattle||Atlanta||Houston|
Best of the Rest
Bryan: The best strategy for the leaders, so far, is clear -- have Jared Cook. Cooks' 33 points leads all scorers in the Best of the Rest league, and each of our top six squads feature him prominently. Most have Alex Smith (10) and Thomas Rawls (25) as well.
The similarity among all teams means that this competition is essentially over -- BedfordP will almost certainly win their second consecutive Best of the Rest championship. While they only have a four-point lead over the field, all but one team left in the field have only Michael Floyd remaining, or are entirely out of players. No matter what Floyd puts up, BedfordP is protected from all of their closest rivals -- they've got Floyd. Only JW124164 has even a mathematical chance of taking first place; they're 28 points down, but do have Justin Hardy remaining.
- 1. BedfordP (102 points, Michael Floyd remains)
- 2. Sid (98 points, Michael Floyd remains)
- 3. RFT (98 points, out of players)
- 4. Damon Rutherford (94 points, Michael Floyd remains)
- 5. Puffbronman (92 points, out of players)
- 6. Michael in Melbourne (92 points, out of players)
Keep Choppin' Wood: In a weekend of nothing especially stupid happening on the field -- not counting Pittsburgh's defensive play-calls, discussed below -- this award goes to Green Bay's kickoff unit for managing to get a delay of game penalty on a kickoff. That's the sort of thing that only usually happens to bottom-feeders like the Jacksonville Jaguars -- and indeed had only happened to the Jaguars since 2005. No longer!
John Fox Award for Conservatism: Mike Tomlin punted. On fourth-and-7 at the New England 39. While trailing by 11 points. Midway through the third quarter. Your Scramble team can think of no excuse for any coach to do this, not even Jeff Fisher. We suggest, to deter this sort of behavior, that any coach who punts on anything less than fourth-and-10 in opposition territory while trailing by at least two scores in the second half immediately forfeits all game-extending time-outs.
Mike Martz Award for Confusing Coaching: Mike Tomlin's defense took an interesting approach to covering Chris Hogan -- namely, not covering him in any way, shape or form. Pittsburgh sat in a soft zone for most of the game, running the same coverages time and time again. Tom Brady and company were more than happy to pick the Steelers apart, and the Steelers failed to add any wrinkles to attempt to induce confusion -- no combo coverages, no traps, and no adjustments as the Patriots began to pick them apart. Against the Steelers, Brady is now completing 71.7 percent of his passes, with 21 touchdowns and no interceptions. That's not going to cut it, defensively!
'Injuries Suck' Fantasy Player of the Week: There was a chance, finally, for all three of Pittsburgh's big three to be together in one major championship game… and then Le'Veon Bell was knocked out of the game with a groin injury. That meant a surprisingly large load for DeAngelo Williams, who put together 85 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. With only two games played, that's about as good as you get, here.
Jon Snow (We Know Nothing) Lock of the Week
Records so far:
What? You're looking for picks here? Did you miss the Prop Bet Extravangaza from last week? Go! Now!
For the record, Bryan took New England (minus-3) and Andrew took Atlanta (plus-3).
The end of the line for Pittsburgh -- and possibly the end of the line for Ben Roethlisberger? Big Ben hinted at retirement plans after the loss to New England, and while the smart money is on him coming back, he's turning 35 in March and beginning to get towards the age where the team might want to start thinking about his replacement. More pressing this offseason, however, is bolstering the defense, which couldn't stop Brady at all. James Harrison is turning 39. Lawrence Timmons is headed to free agency and is declining anyway. On offense, Le'Veon Bell needs a giant new contract. Definitely some murky waters ahead for Pittsburgh, and you have to question how long their window will be open.
Green Bay seems to be in a better position, with more than $35 million in cap space to work with this offseason. Reports have them actually planning to use that money in free agency in a departure from their normal offseason strategy; it's a team that's reloading to improve the holes that led to their early season slump and to capitalize on the form that propelled them to the NFC Championship Game. That money would be well-spent on a cornerback, and then maybe a second cornerback and possibly a third cornerback. They also need to figure out what to do with both Julius Peppers and Nick Perry in free agency, and could stand to improve inside linebacker as well. Heck, take that $35 million, sign seven defensive players, and they're probably good to go as an NFC favorite in 2017.
Still, it hurts to get so close and come up short; it's not every year that you get to be one of the final four teams remaining, and you have to make the most of each of those opportunities. It's an offseason filled with what-ifs and shoulda-beens for these two teams, and the only way to make those really go away is to take a step further next time. It's Minneapolis or bust for these two franchises next year, which sounds like a terrible B-movie of some description.
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