Neil’s NFL Daily: April 22, 2013

| April 22, 2013

So, after months of rumor one of the most anticipated trades in NFL history actually happened, and at first glance it appears the Buccaneers have come out on top, both in terms of the cost in draft picks and the contract Darrelle Revis has signed. In today’s edition of my daily musing on all things NFL, I’ll concentrate on what this really means from the perspective of Tampa Bay, but firstly a brief note regarding the Jets. Trading the best cornerback in the NFL for a first-rounder and another conditional pick sounds a bit thin, but from the hole they dug themselves into — essentially having to broker a deal with only one interested party — it’s not disastrous. As a piece I’ve got coming in the next few days will show, between 2008 and 2010, they were the worst drafting team in the NFL. To now make this trade work to anything like their advantage the Jets need to pick rookies who reflect fair compensation for a player who effectively took away their opponent’s best receiver week in, week out.

 

Monday, April 22nd

Buccaneers’ Recent Front-Office Work a Mixed Bag

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Darrelle Revis trade was the Buccaneers engineering a contract with him that called for no guaranteed money. This ability to manage the cap via cleverly constructed contracts and astute financial management is becoming something of a trait for the West Florida club. While we’ve been critical of some of their recent moves in ‘on-field’ terms, no one can dispute Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik has a great grasp on his team’s outgoings. His policy effectively says, we’ll overpay you in cash terms while we still want you, but, if we decide to let you go it’s not going to cost us much.

As a result, this year the Buccaneers have just over $1m tied up in players no longer with the team. To put that in context, the Raiders have $44m in the same category.

As limited as the thinking was that saw Eric Wright given $7.5m a year on the back of a terrible season in Detroit (when he gave up just shy of 900 yards and five touchdowns), Dominik at least had the foresight to ensure his four-game suspension reduced his guaranteed number below his first year contract and was able to redo his deal for a much more equitable $1.5m. Quincy Black’s ludicrous five-year, $29m deal (something he signed before ever playing a three-down role) was gone and forgotten in two years. Additionally, there’s only $10.5m guaranteed left to pay on Vincent Jackson’s much more laudable five-year contract.

So the Revis deal has got to be great for Tampa Bay, right? Well yes, if for some obscure reason he becomes Nnamdi Asomugha when out of New York, they are out only a first-round pick and that’s a risk most people would take any day.

The bigger issue for the Buccaneers is how the team are choosing to allocate the well-managed money they do have. Last year Tampa Bay had almost twice as much money tied up in the guard position as any other team, and more than three times the NFL average for the position. Now you can colour me sceptical if you like, but I’m not seeing too many game-winning guards, particularly not ones as overrated as Davin Joseph who in 2011 (he was injured last year) rated as our 69th out of 78 guards as a run blocker.

Not content with ramping up the costs at one ‘low value’ position, the Buccaneers have now made it two by allocating $12.25m across their starting safety duo (Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson), which is second only to Pittsburgh with Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. Best-case scenario, adding Revis could give them three-quarters of a good secondary (Barron struggled in coverage last year and Goldson had a poor playoffs), but what’s the point if you can’t get any pressure on the quarterback? Even Darrelle Revis can cover for only so long.

Much as I think Gerald McCoy is great, what do they have outside that? Before his injury last year, Adrian Clayborn managed five hurries in 123 rushes, Daniel Te’o Nesheim rated 40th out of 43 4-3 ends for Pass Rushing Productivity (and that would have been far worse but for a career game against the NFL’s worst pass protecting LT, the Chargers’ Michael Harris), and Da’Quan Bowers has an alleged degenerative knee problem.

The Buccaneers, as they did last year, will try and supplement that paucity of QB disruption by blitzing Lavonte David (by far their best coverage linebacker), along with the other linebackers and safeties as required. The problem here is that not a single one of these blitzers gained fair reward for their efforts — we didn’t grade a single one “in the green”.

In summary, nice as it is to have Revis, this looks like a financially well-managed team that is putting its eggs in the wrong baskets. Guards and safeties don’t win many games, and they need Josh Freeman to mimic Joe Flacco for this one to pay dividends.

James Harrison Signs with Cincinnati

So the team with the biggest need for linebackers of any in the NFL finally got one. Unfortunately, the man I two years ago called the best player at his position no longer commands that lofty status. In 2010, if it hadn’t have been for his penchant for giving away penalties, he’d have performed brilliantly in every facet of the game. Unfortunately, of those core attributes only his run defense remains of the highest quality, with both his pass rushing and coverage skills in steep decline. His pass rushing productivity plummeted from 12.73 in 2010 (fifth ranked) to 7.7 (19th ranked) last season.

However, a flawed Harrison is still better than what they have and should be acknowledged as a good pick-up.

 

Past editions of Neil’s NFL Daily.

 

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