NFL Quick-Hits: Smith dealt, Ryan’s future big pay day & more Revis mess
I. Alex Smith is a solid fit for Andy Reid’s offense in Kansas City and he truly was the best option available this offseason. Geno Smith doesn’t scream “franchise quarterback” and it would have been a tough sell to the fan base to re-install Matt Cassel as the starter while patiently waiting for a better option to come along. Smith was that better option.
That said, a second-round pick and a condition third-round selection that could turn into another second-rounder was a steep price to pay for Smith. Yes, he was having an excellent season before suffering a concussion in mid-November and yes, he should be able to effectively run Reid’s West Coast Offense. But the reason Jim Harbaugh stuck with Colin Kaepernick last season when Smith was healthy is because he knew the Niners were more explosive offensively with Kaepernick under center. Granted, Kaepernick adds another dimension by running the Pistol offense but Smith will prevent Reid from threatening opponents downfield on a consistent basis. Can the Chiefs win with Smith in the time being? Sure, but this move only delays the inevitable, which is that at some point Kansas City will need to draft and develop a young franchise quarterback for the long term.
II. Now that we know the annual average ($20.1 million) of Joe Flacco’s new deal, as well as the guaranteed portion ($52 million) and how much he’ll receive over the first three seasons of the contract ($62 million), there’s absolutely no reason why the Falcons shouldn’t re-sign Matt Ryan well before the end of the 2013 season. Flacco has eight more postseason victories under his belt, but it’s not as if Ryan is on the decline – on the contrary, he’s only going to get better. He posted career numbers last season with Michael Turner barely churning out 3.5 yards per carry. Imagine what Ryan could do against a defense that also had to worry about stopping Steven Jackson (or any other running back that didn’t have cement blocks for feet). The new floor for contracts involving franchise quarterbacks as been set following Flacco’s agreement with the Ravens. The Falcons would be wise to be proactive because with Ryan set to become a free agent in 2014, there’s no sense to wait.
III. Jake Long isn’t going to get the $11 million that he/his agent is asking for on the free agent market. He’s coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons and has also dealt with various injuries over that span. Granted, he’ll be 28 by the start of the season so if he can stay healthy he still has plenty of good years left in the tank. But in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, this was a bad year for him to hit the open market. A team would either have to be crazy or desperate to fork over $11 million per year after what Long has shown the past two seasons.
IV. This situation involving Darrelle Revis and the Jets is ugly. It’s believed that he’s seeking $16 million annually and $60 million guaranteed on his next contract, which would make him the highest paid defensive player in the league. If he holds out this summer, then the final three years of his contract won’t void and he’ll be “stuck” in New York until he becomes a free agent in 2017. Meanwhile, the Jets only have him signed through 2013 and former GM Mike Tannenbaum left the team in cap hell before he was let go at the end of the season. Thus, the Jets could trade Revis, but his value couldn’t be lower coming off knee surgery. Plus, from a scheme standpoint, Revis means more to Rex Ryan’s defense than any other player on the Jets’ roster. If you’re trying to win, it behooves you not to get rid of its best defensive player. Then again, it’s not as if the Jets are going to compete any time soon. Not with Mark Sanchez under center and an overall lack of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. If new GM John Idzik wanted to start fresh, trading Revis, saving the cap space and acquiring a couple of picks might not be a bad idea. (Even if the Jets aren’t getting max value on their return.)
V. The Falcons’ decision to release John Abraham, Michael Turner and Dunta Robinson turned heads last week but it’s simple cost versus production. Turner no longer has the ability to create on his own and managed just 3.6 yards per carry last season. Robinson is coming off his best year in Atlanta but he’s maddeningly inconsistent in coverage and the Falcons probably could get better, cheaper production out of Brent Grimes assuming he’s healthy and they re-sign him. After racking up 10 sacks, Abraham was clearly the most productive of the three but he’s no longer an every-down player and GM Thomas Dimitroff recognizes the need to find younger pass rushers. By releasing these three players, Dimitroff created roughly $18 million in cap space. That money can be used not only to sign Matt Ryan to an extension, but also get younger and/or better at running back and up front defensively.
Posted in: NFL
Tags: Alex Smith, Alex Smith Chiefs, Alex Smith trade, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Colin Kaepernick, Darrelle Revis, Darrelle Revis Jets, Darrelle Revis trade, Dunta Robinson, Geno Smith, Jake Long, Jake Long contract, Jeff Idzik, Jim Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, joe flacco contract, John Abraham, Kansas City Chiefs., Matt Cassel, Matt Ryan, Matt Ryan contract, Michael Turner, Mike Tannenbaum, NFL column, NFL free agency, NFL Free agency 2013, Steven Jackson Falcons
Five NFL defenses that (potentially) improved over the offseason
Seeing as how no teams have played a down yet, it makes it difficult to gauge which defenses will be improved in 2012. But based on the decisions they made in free agency and the draft, these five teams should be improved defensively next season.
Think of the impact that Julius Peppers has had with the Bears the past two seasons – that’s exactly what Mario Williams could do for the Bills in 2012. Buffalo’s defense struggled last season mostly because the pass rush was non-existent. So GM Buddy Nix lured Williams to Buffalo this offseason and made sure he didn’t leave the city without first signing a contract. Nix also signed Mark Anderson, an experienced situational pass rusher that should benefit from playing opposite Williams in the Bills’ “new” 4-3. Adding cornerback Stephon Gillmore should also help Buffalo on the backend while Nigel Bradham and Tank Carder will add depth to the linebacker corps. We’ll have to see how the Dave Wannstedt hire pans out but for now, there’s no question the Bills have upgraded their pass rush in one offseason.
With the moves they made this offseason, the Cowboys’ defense could transform from a top 15 unit into a top 10. DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer and Sean Lee comprise a solid front seven but Dallas struggled on the back end in 2012. So Jerry Jones invested $50.1 million and a second round pick on his cornerback positions this offseason with the additions of free agent Brandon Carr (the best CB on the market) and first-round pick Morris Claiborne (the best CB in the draft). It’s never guaranteed that a big money free agent or a rookie will make an immediate impact but at least on paper, the Cowboys have definitely improved their secondary. The signing of Dan Connor was also somewhat underrated as well. He struggles at times in coverage and he’s not a pass rusher but he’ll be perfect for what Dallas signed him for: an insider ‘backer that can bolster the run defense.
The Falcons were productive this offseason in re-signing John Abraham (their best and sometimes only pass rusher last season), safety Thomas DeCoud (who is better than his reputation would suggest), and situational pass rusher Kroy Biermann (who appeared to be distracted last year, although marrying a reality TV star and parenting a newborn will do that to a man). But fans grew aggravated by GM Thomas Dimitroff’s inactivity in free agency and expressed disappointment that the team didn’t go after big money talent like Mario Williams. (Fans were also upset that the team didn’t re-sign MLB Curtis Lofton, who wound up landing with division rival New Orleans.) But the day before the draft Atlanta swung a deal that could only be considered as a steal. Acquiring a three-time Pro Bowler in Asante Samuel for a seventh round pick was a bargain for any team, especially one that struggled getting off the field last season on third downs. Furthermore, the hiring of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was a huge coup for the Falcons, who should be more aggressive and better equipped to handle explosive offenses like New Orleans, Green Bay and New York. No, the Falcons weren’t very active in free agency this year. But the re-signing of Abraham, the acquisition of Samuel and the hiring of Nolan should be more than enough to make this an improved Falcons squad.
After struggling early in the season, the Eagles wound up being a top 10 defensive unit in 2011. But here’s why they’ll be improved in 2012. Juan Castillo has a full year of experience under his belt and the pressure he faced last year being a first-time defensive coordinator should lessen. Andy Reid also hit a home run in this year’s draft. Fletcher Cox has top 10 talent and the Eagles landed him at No. 12 (after moving up). Mychal Kendricks is undersized for the position but he was extremely productive at Cal, he hits like a Mac truck and he plays at 110mph every down. Vinny Curry is raw but he has potential as a pass rush and the only reason Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin fell to the fourth round was because he broke his leg at the Senior Bowl and was limited in pre-draft workouts. Otherwise, he’s a second-round prospect. Re-signing Derek Landri was also good for depth purposes and acquiring DeMeco Ryans from Houston should help the run defense.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams are a bit of a wildcard but considering they ranked 22nd in yards allowed, 31st in run defense and 26th in points allowed, there’s really nowhere to go but up. There are five moves the Rams made this offseason that should prove to beneficial in 2012. The first was hiring defensive-minded Jeff Fisher as head coach, who brought assistants like Mike Waufle and Chuck Cecil with him to St. Louis. The Rams also added scrappy cornerback Cortland Finnegan and defensive tackle Kendall Langford, who is a freaking house. Drafting run-stuffing DT Michael Brockers to play alongside Langford was also big and former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins could prove to be worth the gamble that new GM Les Snead took in the second round. Keep an eye on William Hayes, too. He was limited last year because of a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 1 but he’s someone that could potentially see his playing time increase because he’s he can play the run and provide some pressure. The Rams screwed the pooch by not taking an outside linebacker in the second round, but all in all they had a productive offseason and should be improved next year.
Posted in: NFL
Tags: Andy Reid, Asante Samuel, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, DeMarcus Ware, DeMeco Ryans, Fletcher Cox, Janoris Jenkins, Jeff Fisher, John Abraham, Mario Williams, Michael Brockers, Mike Nolan, Morris Claiborne, Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, Stephon Gilmore
NFL Free Agency Update: Forte, Wallace and V-Jax
Bears set to open contract talks with Forte
NFL Network’s Albert Breer reports that the Bears will open contract talks with free agent running back Matt Forte in Indianapolis this weekend. Head coach Lovie Smith believes that signing Forte is “only a matter of time” for the Bears, but the franchise tag remains very much in play.
Seahawks to tag Lynch if no long-term deal is reached
Seattle general manager John Schneider stated that running back Marshawn Lynch would receive the franchise tag if the two sides can’t reach a long-term deal before the March 5 franchise deadline. Schneider remains optimistic that a four-year deal can be reached, however.
V-Jax expected to stay with San Diego?
In somewhat surprising news, NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora reports that “people close to” free agent receiver Vincent Jackson are convinced he’ll be franchised despite contrary reports. The two sides haven’t made much progress when it comes to a long-term deal but it seemed as if the Chargers were willing to let him test the market instead of tagging him. At the end of the day, the Bolts are, and should be worried about trying to replace Jackson’s production. Norv Turner’s vertical passing game would take a hit if the Chargers had to rely on an aging Antonio Gates to carry the load.
Franchise tag still a possibility for Wallace
Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert said on Thursday that the Steelers will extend a first-round tender to restricted free agent receiver Mike Wallace and that the franchise tag remains a possibility. The Steelers clearly want their No. 1 receiver back but they have limited cap space and Wallace is due for a huge pay raise. His contract situation will be one of the more intriguing storylines this spring.
Falcons willing to let Abraham test the market
John Abraham was the Falcons’ lone pass rusher last season but he turns 34 in May and still wants to be paid like one of the best defensive ends in the game. With a slew of other free agents that also need contracts, the Falcons are apparently willing to allow Abraham to test the market. If that’s the case, then Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff has a huge task on his hands in trying to beef up the Falcons’ pass rushing situation for the 2012 season.
2012 NFL Free Agency: Finding defensive value
Here is Part 2 of my two-part series on finding value in NFL free agency this offseason. You can check out Part 1 (offensive value) here.
DEFENSIVE END: John Abraham (Falcons)
At this point in his career, Abraham reminds me of Leonard Little and his final years in the NFL. At 34, Abraham isn’t a full-time player any more but he’s still very productive as a situational pass rusher. The Falcons did a great job keeping him fresh the past two years by constantly rotating him in and out of the lineup. He racked up 9.5 sacks last season and there were a handful of games when he was the Falcons’ lone pass rusher. He wants one more shot at a championship before he walks off into the sunset and seeing as how Atlanta is content with him testing the market, he would be a great addition for a Super Bowl contender looking to beef up its pass rush. In fact, the Falcons better hope the Saints don’t find a way to fit him under their cap.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Brodrick Bunkley (Broncos)
Bunkley recorded 43 tackles but no sacks in 16 regular season games last season, which could turn some folks off. But according to Pro Football Focus, 11.3% of all plays Bunkley was in run defense ended up with him making a defensive stop (which was the most of all defensive tackles in the league). Injuries ransacked his 2010 campaign but Bunkley has always been a force against the run and at 28, he still has three or four quality years left in him.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: Manny Lawson (Bengals)
Some had their doubts about whether Lawson could play in Cincinnati’s 4-3 front after spending his first five years playing in San Francisco’s 3-4. But he played very well against the run and offers teams versatility in that he can stand up or stick his hand in the dirt while rushing the quarterback. He’s only a two-down linebacker because his coverage skills are nothing to write home about, but at 28 he still has plenty of quality years ahead of him and now teams know he can play in either a 43 or 34.
INSIDE LINEBACKER: Channing Crowder (Dolphins/Retirement)
Crowder flirted with retirement last season while taking the entire year off but he stated a couple of weeks ago that he wants to return to the NFL. If he can get back into shape, Crowder would be a nice addition to any defense looking for a two-down ‘backer. Most of his experience in the NFL has come in a 3-4 but he did play some 4-3 in Mike Nolan’s hybrid scheme in Miami. Crowder played very well in 2010 and while he may have to settle for a limited role in the early going next season, he could be a solid, cheap signing for a team looking for a run thumper.
CORNERBACK: Terrell Thomas (Giants)
Thomas tore his right ACL during the 2011 season but when healthy, he’s an above average No. 2 corner that plays the run very well. Apparently he’s ahead of schedule with his knee and at 27 he’s still relatively young. If he doesn’t re-sign with the Giants he would be a perfect fit in any Cover-2 team looking for a physical corner to set the edge. And with Carlos Rogers, Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan and Brandon Carr already set to hit the open market, Thomas will be a cheap signing offseason. (Especially seeing as how he’s coming off the ACL injury.)
SAFTEY: James Sanders (Falcons)
After being released by the Patriots last season Sanders was picked up by the Falcons and notched starting time at both safety spots. While he can be a liability sometimes in coverage, Sanders plays the run well and has plenty of postseason experience. Good safeties are extremely hard to find and while Sanders isn’t the best player on the market, the 28-year-old vet would be a welcome addition to a team starved for safety help. (He’s also not going to break the bank after playing as a spot starter last season.)
2012 NFL Playoffs: Quick-Hit Reactions from Falcons vs. Giants
The Giants absolutely destroyed a hapless Falcons team on Sunday, 24-2. Here are quick-hit reactions from this Wildcard drubbing.
– While their pass rush was suspect early on, the Giants’ offensive line did a fantastic job opening holes for Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Then the Falcons’ defense helped out by constantly diving at shoestrings instead of wrapping up. The G-Men hadn’t run the football well all year but they finally got their bruising, punishing style back today.
– It took a while for Eli Manning to get going but once Jacobs and the running game started to open up passing lanes, the Giants’ offense really took off. One thing Manning did was stay patient. John Abraham was getting a ton of pressure on him early on, but Eli stood tough and constantly kept his eyes downfield. When his receivers started to beat the coverage, he made accurate passes and then guys like Hakeem Nicks did the rest. (Again, with a lot of help from piss poor tackling by Atlanta.)
– It’ll be interesting to see how New York fares next weekend heading into Green Bay. They hung with the Packers earlier this year in New York and they certainly have the weapons to pull off an upset. They’ve also looked like a more confident team these past three weeks, so we’re probably in store for a great matchup in the Divisional round. Then again, the Packers aren’t going to piss themselves like the Falcons did today.
– While the media will surely make this game about the Giants (who did dominate, there’s no question), you can’t overlook the fact that Mike Smith, Mike Mularkey and Matt Ryan continue to kill the Falcons in big games. His defense bailed him out by getting a safety on the next possession but Smith blew it by going for it on fourth-and-1 in the second quarter. Instead of taking a field goal after a successful drive (the Falcons’ first in three possessions), Smith went for it, then the Falcons’ o-line didn’t get any push and Ryan was stopped short. Then, in the same situation in the third quarter, Smith elects to go for it again and Ryan is stuffed on another sneak. This isn’t the first time that Smith has blown it on fourth-and-1 this season. He cost the Falcons a potential victory against the Saints earlier this year by going for it on his own 29-yard-line in overtime. The Falcons were stuffed then too, and the Saints received a rather easy victory. Smith clearly has no idea what “risk versus reward” means and he cost his team yet again today. Both of those plays deflated an offense that couldn’t move the ball to save its life and a defense that had kept the team in the game. It was stupid, stupid coaching from a man that has been fantastic in the regular season but now 0-3 in the playoffs.
– Of course, Smith doesn’t call the plays for the Falcons – that’s Mike Mularkey’s job. Why Mularkey would run two quarterback sneaks when his offensive line had gotten zero push all day is beyond me. Mularkey wants to be a head coach again in the NFL and the Falcons should be praying he gets his shot. He’s a horrendous playcaller in big games because he gets too conservative, too predictable and he puts his players in losing situations. He has no imagination when it comes to game planning for good defenses and he can’t make in-game adjustments either. His game plan today was to run Michael Turner 25 times and hope that would be enough. When the Giants’ shut down the Falcons’ running game, Mularkey had no other plan. For this offense to only score two points is pathetic, especially when you consider how vulnerable New York’s secondary was coming into the playoffs. And hey, the Falcons’ offense wasn’t even though ones that scored the two points – that was the defense. I just keeping thinking about the Miami Dolphins, who are reportedly interested in Mularkey as a head coach. What are they thinking after today? “Yep, that’s our guy! Dude clearly knows how to win.”
– Of course, Mularkey isn’t on the field. Matt Ryan has proven to be a pretty good regular season quarterback but he quivers when the spotlight is on him. Just like he did versus Chicago, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans earlier this year, Ryan anticipated the rush instead of reacting to it. When he’s scared, he takes his eyes off his receivers and immediately looks to dump the ball off. At this juncture, it’s entirely fair to play the, “Can Matt Ryan ever win a playoff game?” card.
– Hey Roddy White, that’s not a flaming arrow coming at your face – it’s the ball. Try catching it.
– I actually feel for Atlanta’s defense because until the fourth quarter, they played well enough to win. They didn’t tackle well but their top corner Brent Grimes was deemed inactive before the start of the game and they were without starting strong-side linebacker Stephen Nicholas as well. They also lost their starting strong safety William Moore in the first half, yet despite being overmatched they hung in there while the offense continued to fail them. It’s certainly not the defense’s fault that Atlanta came up short in the postseason yet again.
– When you watch a punchless, scared team like the Falcons, you have a greater appreciation for teams like the Packers, Saints, Steelers, and Patriots, who don’t lack that killer instinct when it comes to the postseason. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they can’t trade up in the draft for a backbone.
Posted in: NFL
Tags: 2012 nfl playoffs, 2012 nfl playoffs quick-hits, Ahmad Bradshaw, Atlanta Falcons, Brandon Jacobs, Eli Manning, falcons vs giants, Hakeem Nicks, John Abraham, Matt Ryan, New York Giants, Roddy White