Neil's NFL Daily: April 5, 2013
So it’s Friday already and nearly everyone is talking draft. The writers who, like myself, rarely watch a down of college football are busily trying to sound authoritative on the basis of watching a couple of games and/or having a Google doctorate and those who take the thing seriously seem overly obsessed with Geno Smith and Manti T’eo.
As usual we’ll wait for them (and every other draftee) to play in the NFL before we comment this year, but in the future? Who knows, maybe we need to start doing our thing in that regard too — I can Google with the best of them.
As for yesterday, it’s not often a right tackle being released takes center stage but maybe the story here is a lot bigger than just a single player. The position of tackle on the quarterback’s front side has taken a free agency hammering. Is this just a coincidence brought on from a series of unusual circumstances or a peculiar trend?
For those who missed them you can catch up with my earlier NFL Dailies (bad planning that the plural of such a macho title now looks so limp) here:
Wednesday’s Issue – Nnamdi Asomugha: a myth? and Carson Palmer’s actual 2012 weakness.
Thursday’s Issue – Daryl Washington’s suspension and why the Cardinal’s O-Line may be better than you think.
Friday, April 5th
Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Right Tackles
In the PFF premium stats (if you haven’t got them you only have yourself to blame) we group left tackles and right tackles together but, if I wasn’t already, after this free agency period, I’m starting to question if that’s really a good idea. Our own Steve Palazzolo is currently conducting a piece of in-depth research into that very topic and while I’m not going to pre-judge his analysis, it appears NFL front offices have already voted on the subject.
Thirteen of the top 14 tackles in terms of pay, play on the left side and the odd guy out is Doug Free who signed his deal when he was playing on the left. If you ignore this as a quirk, the 15th-highest paid tackle is RT, Gosder Cherilus who just signed a $7M a year deal with the Colts [EDIT: The new Anthony Davis deal vaults him to 12th on the list]. Cherilus was our highest-rated pass blocker on the right side in 2012 but our top overall right tackle, Andre Smith remains unsigned despite his previous team, the Bengals, having more cap space than the GDP of some small countries. Smith may be his own worst enemy here; he set his own value based on one very good and one decent season preceded by two years of poor play and with questions still being asked by many personnel guys as to if this was a “contract performance” Smith gave them reason to delve further by being accused of possession of a handgun in an airport in January.
One person with no such questions is RT, Tyson Clabo who the Falcons released yesterday, ostensibly to free up money to resign Matt Ryan. Since 2010 he’s been a model of consistency and ranked 3rd, 1st, and 5th among right tackles. He’s a balanced player who grades well, if not superlatively, in all areas and has had one really bad game in pass protection in those three years. Unfortunately for Clabo, if you have little personally invested in a guy you didn’t draft, (Clabo was a Free Agent pick up in the Rich McKay era), games like this year’s Week 4 debacle against the Panthers loom large. In that encounter he allowed three sacks, two hits, and four hurries or 25 percent of everything he gave up all year including the two playoff games.
So here’s the thing: what the Falcons told you by resigning left tackle Sam Baker to a $6.85M per year deal is that, in their opinion at least, he’s a much better player. As a guy the current regime personally drafted in the first round, I’m sure there’s an element of confirmation bias involved, but surely not so much as to be completely wrong. In those same three years that I gave you the Clabo rankings, Baker came 27th, 27th, and 18th among left tackles, so all else being equal, my take from this is we are not comparing apples with apples anymore. Sure we can throw in age, style, and a whole host of other things but there is absolutely no question Clabo is currently a better right tackle than Baker is a left tackle. That Baker is now bench-marked as a better overall player means Rodger Saffold (who got moved to right tackle to accommodate Jake Long) may not be returning those calls from the Rams for quite a while.
Jason Hanson Retires
I know the whole point of this column is to add analysis to news but sometimes things happen that make me break my own rules. To put his tenure into a context even I can understand, in Jason Hanson’s first season not only was Reggie White still playing but he was still a Philadelphia Eagle.
Hanson was drafted in the second round by Detroit and by way of a little nostalgia here is what “Ourlad’s Draft Guide” (get the 2013 version here) had to say about him:
“A very productive dual kicker. Not physically imposing but has fine technique and is consistently able to drive the ball superbly. Very good long range kicker with numerous successful field goals from 50 yards and beyond. However, he sometimes hits the ball low – needs to improve his placement trajectory. Quality KO man – gets the ball high and far with consistency. Capable punter – has a smooth motion, gets the ball off quickly and is able to get good distance and hang time.”
In their mock draft they had him going in Round 3 to the Oilers.
I get questions nearly every day either directly or on twitter (@PFF_Neil) and I felt this was a good forum to share the answers. Any questions I get that can be better answered without a character restriction I’ll respond to here.
A Landing Place for Clabo?
What’s the chances the Jaguars land Tyson Clabo? – @jacobrivet1
Let’s be honest, the Jaguars a) have the cash (cap room of $27M+), b) have the need, although my diminutive buddy Khaled Elsayed thinks Cameron Bradfield is worth a shot , regardless there’s currently nothing else and c) have the knowledge – GM David Caldwell was Thomas Dimitroff’s right-hand guy in Atlanta.
However, it’s maybe the last of these which is most important. Is Caldwell of the view that Clabo was that Week 4 game or that this is a good player let go for higher ulterior motives.
So to answer your question and borrow from my good friend Peter King – 38.9%
Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil