The deadline for those franchise tagged to sign a long-term deal, has come and gone. Ray Rice and Matt Forte got their long-term deals done, but what about the defensive players that failed to come to terms? There were a few IDPs who will be playing with a chip on their shoulder to prove that they are worth years and money. I like the fact that there will be a few decent defensive players playing for a contract, as I am prone to buying into the contract year theory; players tend to play better when they are playing for a long-term contract and big bucks. Here’s a quick look at those that failed to come to an agreement with their respective teams, and what it could mean for their 2012 season.
Cliff Avril, DE, DET – It seems that Avril and the Lions couldn’t agree on $20 million guaranteed and a $30 million deal over 3-years. Don’t go shedding too many tears for the sack artist, as he is due $10.6 million under his franchise tender. He and his agent have stated their displeasure over the lack of a contract and there is the possibility of a holdout, but I don’t see him losing out on one cent by missing regular season contests that would net him a big money contract. As the league has shifted to a pass-heavy league, there’s a premium on pass-rushing specialists and Avril fits the bill as he has come into his own the past two seasons. Since the 2008 season, he’s notched 34 sacks , including his first double-digit campaign in 2011 (11 sacks).
Speaking of the 2011 season, Avril graded out at a +6.7 overall and +11.1 in pass-rushing, as he appears to be hitting his stride. In addition to his 11 sacks, he also compiled 38 QB Hurries (tied for 7th among 4-3 DE) and an additional 8 QB hits, good for a 6.9% QBI. Having just turned 26, if he turns in another double digit sack season, the Lions will have no choice but to lock him up long-term, however, at a steeper price. In terms of his IDP outlook for 2012, I don’t see any reason to downgrade him at this point. A short holdout seems likely, but shouldn’t miss any regular season games. Continue to draft him as a low-end DE1/high-end DE2.
Dashon Goldson, S, SF – Goldson is another defensive player who failed to reach a deal. Goldson, apparently, was looking for Michael Griffin money, but the 49ers were a little leary on giving him the kind of money that impact safeties are going for these days. Should Goldson be in the same conversation as Eric Weddle or Tyvon Branche? The 49ers don’t think so and are content in letting him play for his tag tender of $6.2 million. Goldson played in 866 defensive snaps last season, but graded negatively at a -8.1. From an IDP standpoint, he only logged 66 tackles, but had six interceptions and finished the season as a DB3/DB4 in most fantasy formats. He’s only a few seasons removed from an 86 tackle season, but he’s never made the impact at the safety position that warrants the type of money he’s asking for. What can we expect of Goldson in the 2012 season? Even playing for a big money contract, I’m not expecting him to set the IDP world on fire. I’m looking for him to settle into his career numbers and finish with around 75 tackles. He’ll make nice bench depth in the later rounds in most IDP formats.
Brent Grimes, CB, ATL – Grimes has quietly turned into one of the better cover corners in the league. In 2011, Grimes graded at a +16.0, only Darrelle Revis graded better. He’s also quietly becoming a factor in defending the run, as well. Grimes finished with 47 tackles, and was targeted just 56 times, allowing just 25 receptions. Even though he finished with one pick, he did add in 12 defended passes. Grimes improved his play from the 2010 season, but from an IDP standpoint, his tackle numbers declined almost 60%, due to the fact that he appeared in 12 games and opposing QBs are starting to respect his abilities, as his times targeted decreased significantly (119 to 56). He also saw a workload drop, as his snap count saw a 40% decrease (987 in 2010 to 706). Again, the dip was due in larger part to the fact that he missed 4 games. In 2012, Grimes might be getting the Revis treatment, as opposing QBs are not going to get beat by him so they’re going to throw the opposite direction. Grimes will play the 2012 season under the tag which will pay him $10.4 million and, at 28 is still entering his prime. He’ll be a value pick in those leagues requiring a cornerback, as he should finish with close to 70 tackles and 4 INTs and appear in 900+ defensive snaps, numbers that should make him a solid CB2.
Anthony Spencer, OLB, DAL – In 2011, Spencer graded out among the top 10 3-4 OLBs at a +9.6 and was top 15 in pass rushing at +6.8. Spencer finished with 6 sacks and added 9 QB hits and 35 QB hurries, to go along with 64 tackles in 963 defensive snaps. He doesn’t get the press for his rush abilities as a certain other OLB in Dallas, but he manages to hold his own, as he’s notched at least 5 sacks in the last 3 seasons in Big D, as he’s graded positively in each of those 3 seasons. Even though Spencer and his agent failed to reach a deal, there’s still some hope that the two sides will work out a long-term deal. In the meantime, Spencer is slated to play for $8.8 million this season. In terms of his IDP value for this season, he’ll be a target as bench depth in deeper leagues that reward more for the big plays rather than tackles.