NFL Free Agency: Namedi Asomugha Signs With Niners

Namedi signs 1 year deal with the 49ers.

Namedi signs 1 year deal with the 49ers.

Well if the arms race between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks couldn’t get any better, the Niners agree to terms with Namedi Asomugha. After the pass defense’s collapse at the end of last season it was inevitable San Francisco would look for some help. However we don’t know which player is going to show up. Will it be the supposed shut down corner when he was in Oakland or the free agent bust that looked lost in the Eagles secondary??

Time will tell as he agreed to a one year deal for $1.35 million. If he is a pre-season casualty he won’t count that high against the cap if released. The Niners are banking on him being motivated, in-shape and ready to prove he was better than he showed in Philadelphia. He is 31 years old and as a cornerback that is about where they hit the wall. There is the off chance they could move him to Free Safety to replace the departed Dashon Goldson. Stay tuned.

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Huge Quarterback Salaries: Feast or Famine

nfl-logoWhen the final gun went off at the end of Super Bowl XLVII, the first item up for business for the Baltimore Ravens was to work out the long term deal for Joe Flacco. General Manager Ozzie Newsome inked his quarterback to a lucrative 6 year $120.6 million deal. With that in mind, the Green Bay Packers are on the verge of an even bigger contract for Aaron . Which brings up the question: Are these huge quarterback salaries worth it?? Have they translated into Super Bowl wins??

When we’re talking about these over the top contracts we’re not talking about the contract where a back-up or a player is trying to resurrect their career like Drew Brees was in 2005. We’re talking about the $80 – 100 million plus contract extensions to lock up a quarterback long-term. Every GM beams with the quarterback in the photo-op, but are they crippling their own franchises??

Peyton Manning was an icon in Indy.

Peyton Manning was an icon in Indy.

The one that comes to mind first is Peyton Manning. He came into the league in 1998. By the end of 2003 he played out his rookie contract and was given the franchise tag in 2004. He then went on to sign a 7 year $98 million contract that made him the highest paid player in 2005 with a cap cost of $17.766 million for 2006. The fall-out?? Say good-bye to franchise all time leading rusher Edgerrin James via free agency that very same year. However the Colts did make it to Super Bowl XLI later that season but one of the issues had been with so much money tied to the offense, they couldn’t sign any key defensive free agents to get to a championship sooner. They weren’t the same type of team when they took on the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Gone was a superstar in wideout Marvin Harrison, replaced by lessor talents in Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. It’s a miracle they made it to that title game.

When you look at the other fall-out they lost several defensive starters in that same 2004 year in Cornerback David Macklin, Cornerback Walt Harris, and Linebacker Marcus Washington. Fortunately they had Cato June and S Bob Sanders who were already on the roster to replace them. However June, the leading tackler on the championship ’06 team, signed a free agent deal with Tampa before 2007 and Sanders career was derailed by injuries.

Yet with another contract looming he was franchised again in 2011. Had a deal not been reached he would have counted $23 million against the cap that year. But a deal was reached on a new 5 year deal worth $90 million that back-loaded money so he only counted $18 million against the cap. Having learned from previous years Manning cited he wanted the Colts to be able to retain other players. By 2010 they were an average team. They were 10-6 only because of his brilliant play. It wasn’t the 20th ranked defense that had given up 388 points (81 more than the AFC Champion ’09 squad). It wasn’t leading rusher Donald Brown (who?) that ran for 497 yards and 2 touchdowns. So when his neck injury hit, the entire house of cards collapsed as they went 2-14 and had to purge the team including Manning.

Brady is a 3 time Super Bowl champion.

Brady is a 3 time Super Bowl champion.

Of course you can’t mention Manning without bringing up Tom Brady. In 2008 the Patriots were coming off their 18-1 season where they had lost Super Bowl XLII. They had signed budget priced free agents in Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth the year before and became a juggernaut. His contract has been extended multiple times to offer cap space yet he’s still counting nearly $13.8 million against the cap this year where originally he was going to count $16-18 million before. Notice the Patriots have signed only middle of the road free agents over the last few years. So it was surprising they signed WR Danny Amendola to a $31 million deal.

However a closer look at it and you noticed they haven’t had any other high-priced free agents come in and help him get that fourth Super Bowl win. Even receivers Chad Ochocinco and Brandon Lloyd were marginal free agents at best. The defense has totally been purged and Bill Belichick has a young defense that has had some growing pains. They did make it to Super Bowl XLVI but lost to the Giants and Eli Manning for a second time. They don’t have the cap space to sign quality free agents yet remain close but no championships.

In 2010 he signed a four-year extension worth $72 million to relieve cap space then in February of this year re-worked it to a 3 year $27 million extension. He thought the latest move would keep Welker in town. When it didn’t he was upset about it. Yet it was the back and forth between he and Peyton Manning who would be the highest paid players have crippled their teams in other areas. The real reason they didn’t win it in 2007 and 2010 were pedestrian defenses. They were the Achille’s Heel that showed up in the waning minutes of  Super Bowl XLII when Eli Manning started his drive.  Let’s face facts , in 2011 when they lost Super Bowl XLVI they were 31st in the NFL in overall defense. Gone were Richard Seymour and Asante Samuel who had made plays for them. In 2007 they were at least 4th in defense but weren’t pressed in games since they were ahead by so many points.

Romo is the newest member of the $100 milion club.

Romo is the newest member of the $100 milion club.

Now wait…wait this just in *Walter Cronkite voice* “The flash making it official, Jerry Jones has just signed quarterback Tony Romo to a 6 year deal worth $108 million.” They get some immediate cap relief but who else have they signed with any merit?? Exactly. Now don’t forget we’re a week or two removed where Aaron Rodgers will not discount double check a contract worth $120 million. The sticking point will be how much is guaranteed?? $60-65 million??

You’ll note before last season the New Orleans Saints signed Drew Brees to a 5 year $100 million contract. Yet who have they signed to shore up that porous defense that ranked dead last allowing 440 yards per game and gave up 454 points for the season?? They’re supposed to be competitive in a division that has Tampa improving and Atlanta fresh from a birth in the NFC Championship?? The Chancellor doesn’t think so.

Yet you look around, Manning’s Broncos and Brady’s Patriots seem like the only teams that are favored to be contenders. Over in the NFC it’s the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and the Atlanta Falcons who are the favorites. The Giants and Eli Manning’s $90 million contract and the aforementioned Aaron Rodgers and the Packers seem to be on a tier below. In fact it was Colin Kaepernick (4 yrs / $5.2 million) and money spent on a better team that ousted Green Bay 45-31 in last year’s divisional round. Now that they’re going to sign Rodgers to his mega deal, they can only keep Clay Matthews yet Charles Woodson and receiver Greg Jennings are now gone.

The league will come to realize this yet it’s hard to see teams not overpay for the best at their positions. The Tony Romo signing is baffing since he has only 1 playoff win in 7 years. Yet when he faced the Redskins and Robert Griffin III (4yrs /$21 million) for the NFC East Title he came up short as he has in big games since ’07. $108 million for a perennial 8-8 quarterback??

What we’re seeing here is a changing of the guard. You have the teams with all their money tied into elite quarterbacks facing young counterparts with smaller contracts on more complete teams. We hadn’t even brought up Andrew Luck and the Colts yet either. Joe Flacco signs his huge deal and watches all his teammates walk out the door as Peyton Manning once did. Each team has to do what is right for them but these contracts are crippling the rest of the roster. The only big money quarterback to win a Super Bowl was Eli Manning and even his Giants have not been in that top-tier of contenders. The NFL is catching on and in another 2-3 more years of watching this, you’ll know who the teams that will be the contenders. Find the team with the young quarterback with money spent on defense. The Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan are at that tipping point.

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Ravens Rebuilding Defense With Dumervil and Huff Signings

Michael Huff signs 3 year deal to replace Ed Reed at safety.

Michael Huff signs 3 year deal to replace Ed Reed at safety.

The start of NFL free agency wasn’t kind to the Baltimore Ravens. They lost LB Dannell Ellerbe,  LB Paul Kruger, then both Safeties in Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. All of this with the retirement of Ray Lewis meant the defense would see a dramatic makeover. Yesterday they signed former Raider S Michael Huff just days after landing DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil. You can hear the “ahhhs” coming from the Raven fan base that there is life after Reed and Lewis. The question is did they get better??

Well upon further review… In Huff you have to measure his projected production vs what Ed Reed would have brought to the table. First things first they signed him  for $6 million over 3 years where Ed commanded $15 million from the Texans. They did get younger by 5 years going with Huff but they’ll need him to be more productive than he’s been. In 7 years he has averaged 58 tackles and only has 11 career interceptions. Reed had 15 in the last three years and 4 last year alone.

In some circles he has been considered a bust after being drafted so high out of Texas. He averages 8 passes defensed per season and needs to make more tackles. In that department Reed had 15 passes defensed in 2012 and averaged 12.5 per season. He has to show improvement and that is hard to do when learning a new system. He will probably be teamed with a rookie unless an experienced SS comes available later before the season starts. They signed a veteran safety but our CEO doesn’t think they improved the position.

Elvis Dumervil provides primetime pass rush that even Terrell Suggs didn't offer in 2012.

Elvis Dumervil provides primetime pass rush that even Terrell Suggs didn’t offer in 2012.

With the signing of Elvis Dumervil, GM Ozzie Newsome has pulled a coup. Not only did they rip the Broncos for one of the league’s best pass rushers, they took a defensive captain from a conference rival. What do you think that “C” means on his jersey. Don’t forget he’s only going into his 8th year, has been to the last three Pro Bowls and is just two seasons removed from a 17 sack season.

They saved $5 million in signing him v. Paul Kruger, whom has to live up to his contract and hasn’t been a full time starter yet. Dumervil is just in time to aid a Terrell Suggs who should be back to full strength and needs a bounce back year. Coming back from an Achille’s injury he was a shell of his former self. It might be ironic that his best game of the season was the 2 sacks he had against Denver in the playoffs with Dumervil watching.

Now its reported that Suggs helped recruit Dumervil and has a proven running mate to crash the pass pocket. Elvis is going into his 8th year and has averaged 10.5 sacks in his first 6. Which is good until you realize how good he was last year. He was a force across from Von Miller and had 11 sacks but more important 6 forced fumbles. He’s not only going to be able to duplicate the pass rush with two guys on the corners, there will be Haloti Ngata providing a push up the middle. He’s also reuniting with linebacker coach Don Martindale, who coached in Denver when Dumervil came into the league. He’s already played in a 3-4, is familiar with the coaching staff and has an effective pass rusher on the other side, this was a dramatic upgrade that should affect the overall defense.

You can hear GM Ozzie Newsome saying quietly "I got this" can't you?

You can hear GM Ozzie Newsome saying quietly “I got this” can’t you?

What Ozzie is hoping for is the improved pass rush to affect Huff in being a better center fielder as a safety. However there is a wait and see aspect to this because it hasn’t translated into better performance yet. In 2010, the Oakland Raiders were 2nd in the NFL with 47 sacks and he only had 3 interceptions. Last year they were 31st in sacks with 25 and he had 2 picks. However he can benefit from the standpoint of more crowd noise and Baltimore having more leads which forces opponents to pass.

Let it be known that Dumervil will draw the initial double teams and if Suggs returns to form, this could be a sack machine in 2013.  Haloti in the middle and these two from the outside and don’t forget they picked up Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to possibly emerge as a DE who can provide support.  This can be a 40 -45 sack team in 2013. The question remains who they have at the inside linebacker position. However now you get a sense that Ozzie might have something up his sleeve. Which leads to a question… Having built two different Super Bowl winners, is Ozzie Newsome the best General Manager in the NFL??

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Free Agency Days 3 – 5: Moves That Complete Teams

It was the hard hitting SS Leonard Smith that pushed the late 80s Bills into the NFL elite.

It was the hard hitting SS Leonard Smith that pushed the late 80s Bills into the NFL elite.

Just because some of  the sexier names have taken up the headlines the last two days doesn’t mean there aren’t valued players left to be signed. Those spots that can complete a team and put a team over the top. When you look back at moves of yesteryear, the Buffalo Bills were building through the draft with Bruce Smith, Cornelius Bennett, Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas. It was a move to bring a leader and proven old pro in SS Leonard Smith to push the Bills into the league’s elite. He was the last move that sent the Bills to several Super Bowls as the next decade dawned.

Not Charles Haley...it was Thomas Everett that pushed the Cowboys over the top back in the early 1990s.

Not Charles Haley…it was Thomas Everett that pushed the Cowboys over the top back in the early 1990s.

Same thing for the early 90’s Dallas Cowboys when they traded for Pittsburgh Steelers’ Safety Thomas Everett in 1992. Where they had been 1-3 against Run & Shoot teams in 1991, they went 5-0 against those teams including the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII that finished as the top passing teams that year. It was this interception in Super Bowl XXVII that started the 1990’s reign of the Dallas Cowboys. Otherwise the Bills take a 17-14 lead and the Bills take control of the game.

Wilson moves to New England.

Wilson moves to New England.

In these cases as it has in many instances, it’s the non headline signings that have made the difference in teams turning around their fortunes. One such signing could be SS Adrian Wilson joining the Patriots. Going into his 13th season he is a quick fix that can pay short-term dividends on the field. However he can pay long term dividends  for Belichick by mentoring a young secondary.

You’ll notice the Patriots re-signed CB Kyle Arrington to a four-year deal worth $16.5 million and a one year deal with Aquib Talib, who is only entering his 6th season. They are looking to upgrade the 29th ranked pass defense and will benefit from a full offseason to improve players who know the Bill Belichick and the Patriot way. What happens if the Patriots can improve to a ranking in the teens against the pass?? After all their last two seasons ended in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl XLVI respectively.

Another way to improve your pass defense is to improve on the pass rush. Don’t overlook the fiasco that left Bronco LB/DE Elvis Dumervil a free agent. Now the New England Patriots are among those that are pursuing him. Sure he was going to re-sign for a lesser amount to stay with the Broncos. That was all well and good until other teams start to entice him with offers. Just ask the 49ers who didn’t franchise S Dashon Goldson and are now looking at lesser talents in an aging Charles Woodson and the signing of SS Craig Dahl. Who?? Exactly!! Keep your eye on Dumervil with the Steelers, and Ravens also vying for his services. To strengthen yourself and weaken your enemy is the root of free agency.

Greg Jennings is going to look different in a Viking uniform.

Greg Jennings is going to look different in a Viking uniform.

In the words of Robin “Holy Brett Favre batman.” After watching the animosity and angst thrust at his former teammate, Greg Jennings decides to play for the hated Minnesota Vikings. Going into just his 8th season he’s as complete a receiver there is in the NFL. Unlike a Wes Welker, he can play the X receiver, Z receiver, or the slot.  This more than makes up for the loss of Percy Harvin who wasn’t a polished receiver. Taking his career 425 receptions 6,537 yards and 53TDs to a division rival, he will get booed lustily when he returns to Lambeau Field. His play will help the maturation of QB Christian Ponder and take heat off of Adrian Peterson. Don’t forget the Vikings will be going outdoors after next season. Having a cold weather receiver will pay dividends down the road.

Steven Jackson's physicality might be what the Falcons needed. They aren't perceived as a tough team.

Steven Jackson’s physicality might be what the Falcons needed. They aren’t perceived as a tough team.

The Atlanta Falcons have made many moves this off-season and one of the best moves was coaxing Tony Gonzalez from retiring and playing one more year. This up’s the ante for the organization to get it done in 2013 even though he’s signed a two-year $13 million deal. To fill the role of the departed Michael Turner, the St Louis Rams all time leading rusher Steven Jackson signs and brings a big play running back to the defending NFC South Champions. His hunger and desire to be a champion along with Tony’s could propel this team to the top or at least another NFC Championship appearance.  They now have every piece in place with wideouts Roddy White, Julio Jones, Matt Ryan having his first playoff win under his belt, along with Coach Smith are these the two signings that will put the Falcons over the top??

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Miami Dolphins Making Moves on Free Agency Day One

Danell Ellerbe has flown the Ravens coup.

Danell Ellerbe has flown the Ravens coup.

If  you thought it was going to be difficult for the Ravens to stay among the league’s elite, things just got worse. One day after trading away Anquan Boldin, they lose the free agent they most wanted to keep in linebacker Danell Ellerbe.  He just signed with the Miami Dolphins. Today he received a 5 year $35 million deal that takes him down to sunny Florida. They should have franchised him…now his 89 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks will be in the AFC East.

Wallace is on his way to South Beach.

Wallace is on his way to South Beach.

Now add to that the Dolphins also signed WR Mike Wallace to a 5 year $60 million deal to leave the Steelers. Right now his agent is with the Dolphins brass to solidify the deal. They gave Ryan Tannenhill a deep threat that should open a few things up for Davone Bess and other underneath receivers. However they signed him for a guaranteed $30 million. Will these moves pan out?? Will the Dolphins make a move in the AFC East?? Don’t forget they are probably going to lose Reggie Bush.

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Buffalo Bills Release Ryan Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick was released on the first day of free agency.

Fitzpatrick was released on the first day of free agency.

The Buffalo Bills are moving in another direction now they have released QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Over the last three seasons he has had steady numbers but didn’t really show too much in the way of leadership when the Bills needed him most. Take week 4 of last year when the 2-1 Bills were hosting the 1-2 Patriots. The Bills outplayed New England for the first 2 1/2 quarters taking a 21-7 lead. All of a sudden the offense goes ice cold as the Patriots scored 35 unanswered points to rip the heart out of the team for the season losing 52-28.

There was a jittery quarterback in the face of playing the toughest team in the AFC East and we didn’t see any leadership displayed. The play calling was abysmal as the Bills kept throwing with a quarterback that wasn’t showing confidence. As a result they kept stopping the clock instead of running CJ Spiller. The 45 point second half was the most points by a team trailing at halftime since 1950. Several times in that second half he threw interceptions that kept a tired defense on the field. He threw 4 interceptions for the game. That ripped the heart out of the team for the rest of the season. This in microcosm was the Fitzpatrick era in Buffalo.

Ryan-Fitzpatrick-Buffalo-Bills

 

There comes a point where you see all the potential a player can reach and it’s less than what is desired. Fitzpartrick was a capable quarterback, yet one better suited  as a back-up. One not expected to be a team leader or to enter that top tier of quarterbacks ready to lead his team to the Super Bowl. At some point you have to bite the bullet and go after a better quarterback and a new direction. Similar to what fans have been screaming in Dallas about Tony Romo.

Sometime, you have to just bite the bullet. Last year, we watched Peyton Manning  receive his official release from the Colts who drafted Andrew Luck. All Luck did was take a young team to the playoffs. Trust me it helped fashion this move.

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