It’s led to some interesting discussions and hopefully we’ll be able to get some of the more relevant and fascinating opinions our analysts share out to the public at large with another installment of our Five Questions, Five Analysts series.
As was the case yesterday, we’re going to be looking at the best and worst moves, but our analysts have also been set the challenge of devising and acting on a strategy for a set NFL team. How did they get on? Has Ben Stockwell finally snapped and curled up into a ball after handing out lots of guaranteed money to a receiver?
1. What was your favorite move of the day?
Ben: We’ve been big fans of Jared Gaither here at PFF for a long time and at last a franchise is putting their faith in him to be their starting left tackle. Whenever a team has started him at left tackle throughout his collegiate and pro career Gaither has responded with outstanding performances and I fully expect that to continue. Gaither was inconsistent with his run blocking last season but with a full off-season bedding in to the Chargers offense, not just a few days, that should pick up and there was no better pass protector in the last quarter of the season.
Khaled: The Kansas City Chiefs got some real nice value by handing Peyton Hills a one year, $3m deal. So last year it all went a bit wrong for him, go back to 2010 and you have a real every down back who can not only ease the load on Jamaal Charles, but also fill in if he’s not 100%.
Nathan: I really liked Martellus Bennett to the Giants. For the last three years he has been in the top five in terms of run block rating for tight ends, and in the last two years has caught over 70% of balls thrown his way. While so many players have been overpaid, the Giants got him for just a one year, $2.5 million prove it deal.
Neil: I do love the Gaither signing in San Diego even though there is a little bit of risk associated with it because of his off-field failings. However a move I like that carries hardly any downside is the Colts signing of Cory Redding. He’s a superb run defender who also gets pressure and pairing him inside a player like Robert Mathis will deliver great results for the Colts. When you add in they got him for $3.5M per year you feel even surer the Colts did the right thing in letting Bill Polian go.
Sam: The Bills chaining Mario Williams to the stadium rather than letting him go off to greener pastures. Buffalo wants Williams bad, and they know if he gets out of the building they’re unlikely to be in the running. They’re doing everything they can to keep him in town and not letting him go without a contract. It’s old school, and it’s smart, and I like it.
2. What was your least favorite move of the day?
Ben: It was a move that was widely lauded but the Chargers signing of Jarret Johnson was a bit of a head scratcher for me. Johnson is a great run defender and a great player to have on your defense but if the Chargers are sticking with a pure 3-4 defense I really don’t see that Johnson offers enough as a pass rusher for him to be a starting outside linebacker for them. Antwan Barnes needs to be on the field more, he is the Chargers most disruptive pass rusher and limiting him to under 500 snaps again does not help this San Diego defense. Just not a great fit.
Khaled: I wasn’t a huge fan of the Browns picking up Frostee Rucker. That line needs to find more pass rush and Rucker isn’t that guy.
Nathan: I’ll assume someone else will tell you about Eric Wright, so I will instead go with the Derek Anderson re-signing in Carolina. While Jimmy Clausen didn’t look ready to be a starter in his rookie year, he certainly looked better than Anderson has in his recent seasons. Clausen appears to have gotten lost in the shuffle in Carolina and will have to wait even longer to get close to the field now unless he is cut by the Panthers to start over elsewhere.
Neil: Although I can’t mention how (League source etc.) I had heard a rumour Adam Snyder to Arizona was in the offing a week or so ago; I didn’t believe it then and I’m not sure I believe it now. The Cardinals O-line has been the butt of many a PFF joke but I genuinely thought they might have been just starting to get a handle on what is required at this level last year. Now I’m reminded this is the same front office who signed the ridiculous Kevin Kolb deal last year. Just how much scouting do they do? Was it sufficient that two of his better games (and by better I mean -0.2 and +0.3) came against them? I don’t suppose the way he was dismantled in the Conference Championship was deemed relevant. I guess the problem with Snyder is he was consistently poor and gave up a lot of pressure but didn’t allow many sacks, and his four penalties were better than average. He’s bad but not so disastrous he can’t make it through what was clearly cursory due diligence.
Sam: Laurent Robinson’s contract. I’ve always thought Robinson was a talented receiver, but he has never been able to stay healthy for long, and only really has one season as a body of work. Even in that season he managed 11 TDs, but fell short of 1,000 yards. The Jags gave him legit big money, with healthy guarantees and they shouldn’t be comfortable in his ability to justify the deal. It was panic buying at its worst.
3. What team were the big winners?
Ben: The dust is still settling but the Cincinnati Bengals did fairly well out of yesterday by allowing two defensive ends to walk who were stealing snaps from Carlos Dunlap. Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker were solid contributors but are not irreplaceable, and any move that gets Dunlap more than 448 snaps is good news for the Bengals defense. They need more additions to challenge the Ravens and Steelers but these two losses can be addition by subtraction to get more out of Dunlap.
Khaled: I like the business the Seattle Seahawks are doing if the Matt Flynn rumors are to be true. I think he could possibly be a franchise QB much like Matt Schaub proved to be, and is worth the risk. Throw in dumping the expensive flop Robert Gallery and potentially picking up both Steve Hutchinson and Jason Jones? Yeah, they continue to get better.
Nathan: I like the two moves the Indianapolis Colts made today to improve their team. They traded for offensive tackle Winston Justice who has played well at times in the past including a +10.1 pass block rating in 2009. They also added Cory Redding who finished 2nd in the 4-3 defensive end Run Stop Percentage at 10.2%. Both moves were low cost but nice improvements.
Neil: Not only did the San Francisco 49ers bid adieu to Adam Snyder but they now get to play him twice a year. Ray McDonald will be licking his lips in anticipation.
Sam: The Philadelphia Eagles set about this season securing their players long-term rather than making a splash externally. Trent Cole is one of the best defenders in football and they got him locked down. DeSean Jackson is an enigma, but capable of blowing a game wide open at any time. While in shipping Winston Justice off to the Colts they dumped a large salary and got something (just) back in return for the move. If they can get Evan Mathis back they’ll have struck gold.
4. What team were the big losers?
Ben: The Oakland Raiders are going to be a fall back option persistently here simply because of all of the players they are having to clear to create any cap space. What’s worse is they can’t clear enough cap space to sign players to fill the holes on their roster and whilst cutting ties with Cooper Carlisle creates cap space and gets rid of a poor player they lost a very good contributor in the shape of John Henderson.
Khaled: The ‘Texodus’ continues in Houston. So they may be losing 60% of their starting offensive line, are watching Mario Williams get locked into Buffalo (literally it seems) and could be without their most complete tight end in Joel Dreessen. How quickly a good roster can get taken down a peg or two.
Nathan: The Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins if they don’t end up with Peyton Manning. We’ve seen the quarterback market start to run dry with Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell and Chad Henne all finding new homes already. There are still other teams looking at quarterbacks, but Matt Flynn, Alex Smith and David Garrard are the only strong options if Manning doesn’t work out.
Neil: While the Adam Snyder deal was perhaps the worst individual move the fact that the Cardinals are still in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes means it might be inconsequential. Manning is used to playing behind a sub-optimal group up front and as poorly as Snyder played last year it wasn’t bad enough to worry the best quarterback to ever play unduly. On the other hand the Minnesota Vikings deal for John Carlson has no redeeming features. At least he was good enough to make clear that as a run blocker he was no Jim Kleinsasser. What he failed to mention is that as a pass receiver he’s not much better either. After his rookie year when we rated him a +5.4 in that category he’s never been better than a -5.3 and he’s dropped a lot of balls. There’s a far superior player out there in Joel Dreessen and the Vikings drop a five year deal on a kid who has some upside as a pass catcher but none as a blocker.
Sam: Tampa Bay spent huge and threw a crazy amount of money at Eric Wright. Wright has a lot of talent, but has been a poor player for much of his career and the Bucs paid him like he’s a stud. Crazy deal. That alone makes them losers.
5. What would your approach to free agency be if you were one of the following NFC franchises. Redskins (Ben), Bucs (Sam), Vikings (Neil), Cowboys (Nathan) and Seahawks (Khaled)?
Ben: Much as I still do not like the contract given to Pierre Garcon, the moves that the Washington Redkins have made in the last week have made sense to a certain extent. This franchise still can’t find the middle ground between overly aggressive spending and passively building but after two years that didn’t get the Redskins very far they needed to make a move and upgrade the offense. I would perhaps have been a little more patient with a deep wideout market but the Redskins made their mind up which guy they wanted and they went to get him. As more contracts come in it doesn’t look as bad as it did on first viewing but a guy like Robert Meachem looks to be slightly better value right now. The move that really doesn’t look good though is shelling out a lot of money, or any for that matter, for Adam Carriker. For a player who has such little impact on the defense either directly or indirectly setting up other players $20 million over four years is steep. Players of Carriker’s caliber can be had for less commitment in terms of years and dollars than that.
Khaled: I like to the roll the dice and as Seattle Seahawks GM I’d be pursuing Matt Flynn. Peyton Manning doesn’t want to come so I’m looking at the guy with the highest amount of upside on the market, and Flynn is that guy. After re-signing Red Bryant (though I think there was too much money involved) I’m pretty happy with how things are going on the defensive side of the ball, though with a bit of cap room I’m trying a little harder to bring back David Hawthorne. He’s a talent and can play any linebacker spot. Over on the offensive side of the ball I’d also cut Robert Gallery, but I may be looking for a left guard with slightly less miles on the clock right now. The scheme versatile Evan Mathis would look good next to Russell Okung. Essentially if I think I’ve found the fix at QB, I’d focus more on what I had, rather than the unknown.
Nathan: With the Dallas Cowboys having such little cap room, I would follow through on letting Terence Newman go. That said, Brandon Carr is not worth the money he got, so I would stayed away from that deal and waiting until the market thinned out so I could find better value. A backup QB would have been high on the agenda and a move for Kyle Orton would have been near the top of my to do list.
Neil: So after ripping the Minnesota Vikings what would I have done? Well for a start off, not denying the need for another tight end, I would have gone after Dreesen not Carlson. I’d enquire about Mario Manningham, Evan Mathis (to replace Hutchinson), Broderick Bunkley (to replace the invisible Remi Ayodele) and O.J. Atogwe; all of whom are good fits. Clearly I don’t want to overpay but if I could get some (or even all) of these guys at sensible prices I would. In addition I like bringing players back so if Erin Henderson is open to being reasonable I’d snap him up.
Sam: Tampa Bay is a young team with a ton of salary cap room going into free agency. I think spending was the right choice, but I’m not wild on their choices. Carl Nicks might be the best one, but given how much they have tied up in the O-line already I’m not sure it is money well spent. As good as Vincent Jackson is, he’s 29 and one DUI away from a lengthy ban, I’d have been more inclined to look at Mario Manningham or Robert Meachem for that spot. Corner help was needed too, but I think they’d have been far better off spending big here and targeting Cortland Finnegan or Brandon Carr. I also think they would be well served to find some pass-rush help from somewhere, even if it isn’t in the shape of one of the marquee names.