Free Agency 2011 – Rams Nab Mikell

| July 27, 2011

He’s one of the best players in the league that many haven’t even heard of. A safety who had our highest grading last year, and over the past three years. A guy who I never thought I’d see trending on twitter. Quintin Mikell.
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As free agency started and the deals trickled through, my No. 6 ranked free agent found himself a new home. It was surprising to some that Mikell got so much money, but I’m going to tell you why it’s such a good deal for the Rams. They just nabbed themselves a talented and durable safety. Scrub that, they just nabbed themselves one of the most talented and durable safeties in entire league.
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Mikell: The Player

It must be because they play in Philadelphia, but for some reason some of the best performances on the Eagles defenses seem to go unnoticed. Trent Cole (in my opinion the best defensive end in all of football) gets next to no press for his exploits. A defensive tackle like Brodrick Bunkley is largely looked past despite being a beast in run defense. While Quintin Mikell, a man has been the most consistent safety in the NFL the past three years and not missed time through injury is an afterthought too many.
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I don’t know. Maybe people think the Eagles have some special system that overwhelms teams, but it’s about time these guys got their due. They’re among (if not) the best at what they do.
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Mikell is the poster child for underrated players in the NFL. Teams like to use safeties that can play deep or come up into the box, and Mikell is that guy. He spent 462 snaps ‘in the box’ (8 yards or closer to the line of scrimmage) and 572 snaps in a deeper role. He made plays in run defense, with only three safeties making more defensive stops (a tackle dependent on the down and where the tackle is made). He made plays in coverage even, with his 11 pass deflections last year leading all safeties.
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He doesn’t pick balls off like Ed Reed, and he doesn’t make the kind of highlight reel plays that Troy Polamalu has become known for – but not everyone does. But if you watch what Mikell does on a play by play basis … well there isn’t a complete safety as consistent as him. You don’t rank as PFF’s top-rated safety over three years without being a pretty darn good player, even if you may disagree to what lengths he has been.
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Mikell: For The Rams

But Mikell being such a good player doesn’t necessarily make him such a good signing for the Rams. There’s been some negative feedback regarding how much of the Rams cap they blew on ‘just a safety’. Granted safety may not have the same value as a position like defensive end, but it’s still one of 11 spots on defense. Just ask Jacksonville how bad play there can really hamper a defense.
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So I don’t buy that the Rams should have ignored safety for the sexier positions. It’s clearly a need with none of the guys on the roster inspiring much confidence. The way the Rams used O.J. Atogwe last year is a better fit for a more aggressive player like Mikell, than it was for him and he should boost their coverage and run support units. Coach Spagnulo has worked with Mikell and knows how to get the best of him.
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In terms for the money, well if you look at what Antrel Rolle got ($37m over five years with $15m guaranteed) as being what top safeties get, then the money makes sense. Heck, if you compare Rolle (our 79th ranked safety) to Mikell and what they do on the field, the Rams got a steal.
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Getting better

The Rams have some of the key components of a good defense. Ronald Bartell is a reliable cornerback, Chris Long brings plenty of pressure, Fred Robbins is playing the best football of his career and James Laurinaitis looks like a star in the making. By signing Mikell they’ve managed to make their defense even better, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the NFC West.
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So before you doubt the Rams spending big on a safety with little name value, watch Mikell. See what he’ll bring to the Rams defense. Then pat them on the back for making their team better.
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That’s what free agency is all about.

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Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled … and be sure to follow our main Twitter feed as well: @ProFootbalFocus
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