Posts Tagged ‘agency’

Patriots Prep For a Crazy Offseason

February 20th, 2010

The upcoming few years for the NFL have the potential to be incredibly bad.

With the owners having opted out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the league faces labor strife in the long term and a great deal of confusion in the near term.

Unless the league strikes a last-minute deal with the union before its new year starts in early March (a prospect that is looking more and more unlikely), the league will face an uncapped year, and all the uncertainty that goes with it.

This, of course, raises many questions. If the league goes a year without a salary cap, will the cap be gone for good? With salary restrictions removed, will we see the salary polarization that cripples baseball? Will there be a massive shift in the league, as there was when the cap was instituted?

However, the most important question (for Patriots fans, at least) is this: How can the Pats take advantage of this situation?

Believe it or not, New England is well-situated to improve itself over the offseason, and that's at least partly due to the oddities of this coming year.

As the National Football Post's Mike Lombardi has reported , the Pats are one of the few playoff teams in the league unfettered by free agency rules caused by the situation. Ironically, they won by losing the Ravens game; had they advanced, they would only have been able to sign players to replace those lost through free agency.

Given that last year's team had substantial weaknesses that would have likely prevented it from winning it all, this is the best-case scenario—they were a playoff team, and can still improve.

This also creates a situation in which the teams better than the Pats cannot improve themselves substantially.

Of course, there is always a catch: the minimum amount of time a player needs to qualify for unrestricted free agency jumps as well, from four to six years. As such, we're losing a crack at some of the league's youth (which is a blow, as the Pats need to get younger).

This year is also the first to determine the draft order by playoff elimination order. Before, it had been done strictly by won-loss record (except, of course, with the Super Bowl winners and losers picking last and second-to-last, respectively).

What does this mean for the Pats? They now have the 22nd pick, ahead of such teams with worse records such as the Jets (9-7) and Baltimore (9-7). Not too shabby, eh?

Also, thanks to Bill Belichick's wheeling and dealing, the team has three second-round picks in a draft supposedly stocked with talent.

The Patriots, in short, are in a position to make a lot of personnel changes.

This is useful, given that the team has so much to fix. They need to get younger, bigger, and faster on the defensive side of the ball. They need at least one new receiver on offense. If Vince Wilfork leaves, things could be catastrophic.

Nonetheless, the Patriots are well-positioned to make great strides this year.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ Needs: Sign Jeff Reed, Tag Casey Hampton

February 20th, 2010

The Steelers' top priority in free agency should be to get kicker Jeff Reed signed to a new deal.

Pittsburgh has always tried to take care of signing their own key free agents, usually before they play out the final year of their contract.

They currently have three key free agents they have targeted to try and work out deals: Jeff Reed, Casey Hampton and Ryan Clark.

Depending on how the Steelers feel about the progress of safety Ryan Mundy, Pittsburgh may be inclined to let Clark test the open market.

Clark has made it clear he would like to remain a Steeler, but if he gets an offer he can't refuse (see Chris Hope), he may take the money and run.

I think out of the three, the Steelers need to focus on Jeff Reed. He has made 88.5 percent of his kicks the past three years, tops in the NFL, and he has been clutch in big games.

He kicked in two Super Bowls and has mastered kicking in arguably one of the toughest stadiums to succeed in Heinz Field.

With the current state of kicking in the NFL, a clutch bad weather kicker can be awfully tough to replace. The Steelers need to get a deal done.

It won't be easy, what with the Raiders dumping a truck load of money at Sebastian Janikowski. Good luck with that.

The Steelers will probably be forced to use the Franchise tag on nose tackle Casey Hampton.

Although the Steelers have done long-term deals with a few older veterans such as James Farrior and James Harrison, they don't usually do that sort of thing for aging players on the down side of their careers.

"Big Snack" did make another Pro Bowl this past season, but he isn't as dominant as he once was.

Since the Steelers don't currently have anyone on the roster to replace him, I look for them to tag Hampton to buy some more time and draft his replacement early in this year's draft.

Some early projections have the Steelers possibly going with Dan Williams, a defensive tackle out of Tennessee.

The Steelers still have a little time to make their decisions; I hope keeping Jeff Reed is one of them.

Quick Bits-Around the NFL: Donte Stallworth Signs With Baltimore Ravens

February 18th, 2010

Ravens Sign Stallworth

Well, it's official: It was reported today that the Baltimore Ravens have signed Donte Stallworth to a one-year deal worth $900,000 with an extra $100,000 incentive package. 

It's only been a week since Stallworth was released from the Cleveland Browns after his reinstatement but Baltimore may be the best place for him to land. It was reported earlier that the receiver was working out with Detroit but Baltimore is ready to win now and, with four of the Ravens' top wide outs facing free agency, it's likely Stallworth will be a starter in 2011. 

Stallworth returned to the league Feb. 7 after serving a year-long suspension following an incident in which he killed a 59-year-old pedestrian in Florida while driving drunk. Since his return, Stallworth has shown nothing but humility and a willingness to return to form.

"I have a lot of people I am thankful for, and that now includes the Ravens. I can't let any of those people down, including my family, Commissioner Goodell and the Ravens."


Clausen Won't Throw At the Combine

In an interview with Sirius NFL Radio today, former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen stated that he would not be able to perform physically at the combine next week due to an injured toe that's remained from a surgery to repair tendon damage. 

Clausen emerged from the Senior Bowl without affecting much change in the perspective of those considering him as a legitimate prospect. Since the end of the '09 season, he's been largely considered the best quarterback entering the draft, followed closely by Sam Bradford. 

Not being able to throw at the combine in Indianapolis next week may be the biggest roadblock Clausen has had to face since his final less-than-stellar year as an Irishman. Clausen remains upbeat about the situation, despite the potential repercussions. 

"I'm really excited to go down to Indianapolis next week so teams can get to know me as a person," Clausen stated, according to "And I think after they get to know me as a person, they'll see the truth from what the perception is out there about me."


Chargers Dealing Cromartie

In wake of LaDainian Tomlinson's all-but-over career in San Diego and the possibility of losing Darren Sproles to free agency, the Chargers are shopping Antonio Cromartie in hopes of acquiring a new franchise running back. 

The Chargers also have Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason, but Cromartie is no novice. He's been a solid four-year starter for San Diego and he went to the Pro Bowl in 2007. 

There are several potential endings to this saga. The Chargers are ready to take the next step and have nearly all the pieces set in place. Dallas has depth at running back and could afford to lose either one. 

Carolina is another possibility. They have two backs that work well together but could support the run game on their own. Green Bay has also been reported to seek out depth at the corner position. 


Giants Looking to Upgrade Defense

Despite talks of shipping off Osi Umenyiora, the Giants are most likely going to retain the defensive end in hopes of keeping the defense competitive. However, with Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka on the roster, it's very possible the New York front office will utilize Umenyiora as a trade chip for Karlos Dansby of the Arizona Cardinals.

After releasing Antonio Pierce, the Giants have found themselves in need of a leader in the middle. It's possible that the Cardinals will franchise Dansby, but at a pay rate of $1 million per game, that's pretty unlikely.

On an interview with Sirius NFL Radio, Dansby expressed that his "wish list" of potential teams consisted of the Chargers, Dolphins, Redskins, and Giants. 

Dansby has excelled at the inside linebacker position in Arizona's 3-4 defense so a spot on New York's roster would be a perfect fit. He isn't the speediest linebacker in the league, but he has decent coverage skills and is a stellar tackler.

Do the Boston Red Sox Want to Keep Jonathan Papelbon Long-Term?

February 18th, 2010

After making all kinds of noise this winter about his free agency in 2012, Jonathan Papelbon expressed his desire to stay with the Red Sox long term:

What do you make of the perception that you will seek the biggest contract in free agency and leave the Red Sox after 2011?

Papelbon responded, "I think that’s the perception, that I’m going to go somewhere else, but it’s all a perception. Right now this is the way it’s working out. It’s that simple. It’s one year at a time, it’s working out and both sides are happy. Why would you try to do anything else is my way of thinking. Of course I’d love to be with Boston for a long term."

He continued, "But this is the way it is right now and I’m happy going one year at a time. This is the organization I started in. This is the organization that gave me the opportunity to play major league baseball. Of course I’d love to stay here for 15 years. Right now one year at a time is the way it’s working and I’m happy and everyone else is happy, so why not."

While Papelbon is stating that he wants to stay in Boston is news worthy, what will ultimately decide Papelbon's fate in Boston is if the Red Sox want to keep him around.

Yes Papelbon is a tremendous talent and is one of the top closers in baseball, but it's hard to imagine the Red Sox giving Papelbon the huge contract that he is thought to be after.

Even though Papelbon's free agency is two years away, I can tell you right now that Papelbon's contract expectations beyond 2012 will play a major role in figuring out his future with the Red Sox.

If Papelbon expects to break records and set a new standard for contracts given to a closer, then I imagine he will have to go elsewhere.

But if Papelbon's price comes down, let's say to somewhere in the three years/$36 million dollar range (K-Rod money), then does anyone think the Red Sox would pass that up?

They might, but given the expected rise of fireballer Daniel Bard, it would not surprise me to see the Sox pass on Papelbon all together after the 2011 season.

In the NFL, These Are Troubling Times for Teams in Need of a Quarterback

February 17th, 2010


Quarterbacks stand as the face of most teams in the NFL. Having a franchise guy is generally the signpost for whether a rebuilding team is on its way up (e.g. Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions), or still treading water (e.g. Marc Bulger and the St. Louis Rams). 

This offseason however looks to be a bad time for the large number of team searching for a new face to put under center.  Many of the teams hunting will be forced to settle, because of the limited stock that is available. Others could end up overreaching for a player above value (be it draft position or contract) in order to try and fill the need.

For those teams interested in picking up a name in free agency, the combination of restricted status and limited availability will seriously hamstring their efforts.

The cream of the free agent crop this offseason are serviceable guys that are both unspectacular and restricted. QB Jason Campbell of the Washington Redskins could very easily end up staying in D.C. now that the front office has undergone a complete retrofit.

Regardless of where he lands, the 28-year old Campbell will be eager to prove that it was the ill-fitting system that figured into his thus far very average career and that he has not reached the limit of his abilities.

Ranking somewhere similar to Campbell in terms of overall desirability, Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton is probably the safer bet, but basically showed the peak of his upside in 2009.  Denver will likely be compelled to retain Orton for lack of a better alternative, but reports (even dispelled ones) that the team was considering a move for McNabb show what faith they have in his long-term viability.

There is one very interesting name within the bounds of free agency.  Young Carolina Panthers QB, Matt Moore, showed very well in his limited duty after Jake Delhomme went down with injury. With so much money tied up in Jake Delhomme, the Panthers may be compelled to let Moore go if the price is right.  Several teams could hope to land the next Matt Schaub, by plucking the promising backup away from his current team.

Don’t like those names?  Well then you are probably out of luck. QB Chad Pennington is an unrestricted free agent that could find his services put to use as a stopgap, in spite of his ever declining arm strength and advancing years.  Unfortunately, 2008 was likely his last major hurrah, but he could look to be this year’s Jeff Garcia.

Beyond those names, only one other free agent quarterback could even be looked at to start: Vikings backup Tarvaris Jackson.  He has a strong arm an decent scrambling ability, but there is a reason the team brought in Sage Rosenfels before doing anything and everything to land Brett Favre. 

So where does this leave the dozen or so teams shopping for a quarterback? With two great backups that have so far been adequate at best as starters, one unproven prospect, a broken down vet and Tarvaris Jackson, free agency does not appear to be the answer.

So where does the answer lie? The draft is the traditional place, where every prospect is a surefire star and franchise contracts can be thrown around with nary a professional start in sight.

2008 saw rookies Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan impress on their way to the playoffs while 2009 appears to have landed three teams their franchise-faces in Mark Sanchez (New York Jets), Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions) and Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

However, in my opinion, this year doesn’t have a surefire number one guy for a team to rally behind. The two forefront names come into the draft with many questions that a scouting combine alone can’t answer.

Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen is considered the most pro-ready quarterback.  He played for a system that is very NFL-friendly under the tutelage of the offensive mind of Charlie Weis.  He has a minor injury knock after being slowed by turf toe, but that is his smallest concern.

More prevalent would be concerns over attitude and potential. Coming from great college coaching may mean Clausen has come closer to peaking than other more unpolished talents. The early returns could be good, but the long-term may not set the world alight. 

Clausen is also seen as being a little too aware of his own quality. Talented quarterbacks with egos that outpace experience can be a bad combination, just ask Ryan Leaf.

Sam Bradford steps in as the only other first-round talent.  He has a much better attitude than Clausen and the difference in offensive coaching could translate to a much greater upside. The concerns here lie with the system he was in at Oklahoma, arm strength and injury.

Both quarterbacks will likely end up going in the top ten (quite possibly top five), although in a deeper draft both would probably end up going in the late teens.  What is even more disconcerting is the drop-off after them. Teams like Buffalo and Seattle will likely find themselves with no good options, while later first round teams like Arizona don’t have any names worth taking a flyer on.

The final choice then would be "sleeper" quarterbacks, those drafted after the first round who could develop and produce. Given the current outlook, the teams that come away as losers may just end up in the best position two or three years from now.

A team like Seattle, unlikely to land any of the above mentioned names could come away the victor by utilizing early picks elsewhere and snagging Dan LeFevour around the third or fourth round.  A year or two under the aging Hasselbeck could give the Central Michigan signal caller the time to learn the pro-style offense.

The winners and losers of any quarterback hunt cannot be determined until the season begins. With the current crop, even then it will likely be a question mark for several years. All that can be gleaned from the array of options this year is that several teams will come away disappointed from the dull cache of names available.

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