New York Giants re-sign OT William Beatty

William Beatty had a very good season last year and left tackles don’t grow on trees, I know that. ProFootballFocus’ 12th ranked offensive tackle this season, Beatty committed 11 penalties, but allowed just 3 sacks and 22 combined hits and hurries, while making 15 of 16 starts on the incredibly valuable blindside. However, this is a classic case of paying for one year. It’s always important to consider where a guy was a year ago.

In Beatty’s first 3 years in the NFL after being taken in the 2nd round in the 2009 NFL Draft, he was solid in limited action, but could never stay on the field. In those 3 seasons, he played just over a full season’s worth of snaps, 1261. If he stays healthy and plays like he did last season, Beatty will be worth this 7.75 million dollar yearly salary over 5 years (5 years 38.75 million), but that’s a big if and 19 million guaranteed is a lot to commit to someone with his injury history.

Finally, as rare as it normally is to see a franchise left tackle available on the open market, this year that’s not the case. With Jake Long, Andre Smith, Branden Albert, Sebastian Vollmer and Gosder Cherilus set to hit the open market barring any surprise franchise tags, Beatty would have been just one of six of ProFootballFocus’ top-13 offensive tackles from 2012 available this off-season.

Obviously your own guy is more valuable to you than he would be to anyone else because of the familiarity factor, but this was a buyer’s market at offensive tackle this off-season and a good offensive line draft. The Giants may have jumped the gun here and should have opted to let the market set the price. At the end of free agency, this deal could easily look like an overpay even before you consider Beatty’s injury history.

Grade: C


New England Patriots extend QB Tom Brady

Tom Brady has agreed to a 3 year 27 million dollar extension. That’s not a typo. For comparison’s sake, Mark Sanchez signed a 3 year 40 million dollar extension last off-season (LOL), while Peyton Manning and Drew Brees respectively signed 5 year 95 million dollar and 5 year 100 million dollar contracts last off-season. If Brady wanted to test the open market, he could have probably gotten 27 million YEARLY. Peyton Manning was offered 25 million per year by the Titans as a free agent last off-season and that was off of 4 neck surgeries. He eventually turned it down for a better opportunity in Denver, but we’re still talking about Brady taking about a 1/3 of his true market value.

This is why Brady is the fucking man. He had two goals out of this contract: he wanted to retire a Patriot and leave on his own terms (this contract will take him through his age 40 season in 2017 and is fully guaranteed) and he wanted the team to have the financial freedom to build a strong supporting cast around him and give him the best chance to win. That’s it. He doesn’t care what he makes. Sure he makes a ton of money through endorsements and through his wife, but most elite level players are just as financially set as he is, but they still want big contracts as a status symbol. Brady just willingly became the most underpaid player in the NFL over the next 5 seasons. Because of this move, the Patriots have 5 more good chances at another ring. I think they get one more.

This extension essentially turns the 33 million over 2 years remaining on his contract into a 5 year, 60 million dollar contract. He’ll make 12 million per year (which is right around Tony Romo and Phillip Rivers money) and free up 7 million in cap space for the Patriots this off-season and 8 million next off-season. From 2015-2017, he’ll remain very, very reasonable priced cap wise, which will allow the Patriots to best build around him. In the immediate future, this deal greatly increases their chances of re-signing Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer, and Aqib Talib, along with potential another free agent or two. They will enter free agency with among the most cap room in the NFL, which almost doesn’t seem fair.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Brady agreed to this extension with the promise that the Patriots would use some of the saved money to re-sign Welker, who has caught 561 passes from Brady in 77 regular season games since joining the Patriots in 2007. I’d say there’s at least a 50/50 chance that Welker is re-signed sometime in the next couple of days. That’s an obvious incentive for Brady agreeing to this extension.

Going off of that, not only is this deal an A, but it pretty much assures that every other move they make this off-season will be an A. I was originally lukewarm on the idea of the Patriots bringing back Welker considering his age and how much of his value comes from Brady and the scheme. However, if they bring him back now, they will be doing it to take care of the man who gave them such an unbelievable deal on an extension. How can that be anything other than an A? The same goes for almost any move they can make.

One final point: with Brady being signed through 2017, he is now signed 2 years longer than backup and one time potential successor Ryan Mallett. If Brady does, in fact, play through age 40, Mallett will be in his age 30 season in 2018 when the Patriots’ starting quarterback job finally becomes available. All of a sudden, he doesn’t look like such a young asset and may have more value to the Patriots as a trade chip than anything else.

I think they’d take a 2nd rounder for him if one became available, which it could given the state of this quarterback class, and they might take a 3rd rounder and get their pick back for him. Mallett was a 3rd round pick of the Patriots out of Arkansas in the 2011 NFL Draft. Cleveland is an obvious destination as new VP of Player Personnel Michael Lombardi is a known Mallett supporter from his days as an analyst on NFL Network and is known to be less than impressed with incumbent Brandon Weeden. Cleveland doesn’t have a 2nd round pick after using it on Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft last off-season, but the Patriots could be enticed by their 3rd rounder and a future pick. If Mallett is gone, Tim Tebow and Matt Cassel, two guys who know Josh McDaniels’ system, could be intriguing options as backups in free agency.

Grade: A


Tennessee Titans sign S George Wilson

The Titans had arguably the worst safety play in the NFL last season, a huge part of the reason why they ranked 24th in the NFL against the pass and dead last in the NFL in points allowed. Michael Griffin was ProFootballFocus’ 86th ranked safety out of 88 eligible, leading the NFL with 22 missed tackles and struggling mightily in coverage as well. Opposite starter Jordan Babineaux wasn’t much better, ranking 76th out of 88 in 12 starts. He was benched down the stretch for the inexperienced Robert Johnson, who wasn’t very good in limited action.

Griffin will be back in 2013 as the Titans stubbornly opted to retain him because they gave him such a large contract last off-season. They had a five-day window after the Super Bowl to get out of paying him his 4.5 million dollar salary in 2013, after already paying out his 15 million guaranteed in the form of a large signing bonus and his 2012 base salary, but opted against letting him go. Babineaux, however, they won’t be as faithful to. After being benched down the stretch, Babineaux was highly unlikely to be back as a starter and probably won’t been seen as worth his 1.6 million dollar non-guaranteed salary in 2013. The Titans had to find at least one new starting safety this off-season.

The Titans did that with this signing. In fact, they managed to get a very solid safety for a very reasonable sum of money. Wilson, one of the league’s underrated players, was actually ProFootballFocus’ 8th rated safety in 2012. The Bills new coaching staff cut him likely because they didn’t trust him going forward, as he turns 32 in March, but he should have at least one more season in him as at least an average starting safety in the NFL. The Bills will miss him.

Wilson’s contract with the Titans is worth 4 million over 2 years. While I don’t have the specifics, that probably means the Titans got an at least average starting safety for about 2 million in 2013, which is an excellent deal, especially since it was their biggest off-season need. This was a very smart signing.

As for the Titans’ draft plans, I don’t think this alters them much. Wilson is hardly a long term solution and might end up being a cap casualty next off-season. Griffin, meanwhile, could go with him if he doesn’t get his act together very quickly. A safety like Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro is still very much an option for the Titans at #10 overall. Other options with that pick include Alabama cornerback DeMarcus Milliner, Alabama guard Chance Warmack, and North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper. They also could easily trade down.

If they opt against drafting Vaccaro at 10, they’ll likely spend a day 2 pick on a safety in what is a very strong safety class. Vaccaro, Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien (also a likely 1st round pick), Florida’s Matt Elam, South Carolina’s DJ Swearinger, LSU’s Eric Reid, Fresno State’s Phillip Thomas, and Georgia Southern’s JJ Wilcox could all easily end up as future starters out of this draft. Bears GM Phil Emery mentioned at The Combine that he views 6 safety prospects as future starters out of this draft. That’s just one man’s opinion, but it makes a lot of sense and could easily be indicative of the views of the league as a whole.

Grade: A


Buffalo Bills re-sign QB Tarvaris Jackson

On paper, this deal isn’t a terrible value. Tarvaris Jackson can earn up to 4.5 million with incentives with this deal, which isn’t unreasonable for a solid backup quarterback, which is what I think Jackson is. No longer is Jackson the “project/developmental quarterback.” He turns 30 in a couple of months and he’s as good as he’s going to get. He’s now an experienced veteran/solid backup with 34 career starts in 7 seasons in the league, a 17-17 career record, 1053 passing attempts, and a 77.7 QB rating.

My issue with this deal is that the Bills seem to think of Jackson as a candidate to start for them. New Head Coach Doug Marrone says there will be an “open competition” between Tarvaris Jackson and incumbent starter Ryan Fitzpatrick for the 2013 starting job. I guess that also means the Bills will be keeping Ryan Fitzpatrick and his 7.25 million dollar salary (more on that later).

This is a big change from what GM Buddy Nix was talking about during the season. The normally candid Nix said “I don’t want to leave here without a franchise guy [at quarterback] for the future in place. I have not said that before but I’m saying it now because it’s fact.” He also said this: “I think there’s a time that in the era that you’re in and the development of your team, there’s a time when you can move up a round to take a quarterback. And I think the time’s now for us. We need a good, young quarterback, and we’re going to do our best to get him.” Of course, things have changed since then. A new coaching staff has been brought in and Nix isn’t Buffalo’s only decision maker. The new coaching staff seems to want to go the veteran route.

I think Nix’s route would have been a much better decision. Yes, this isn’t a good quarterback class, but the Bills have been treading water as an organization for over a decade. They haven’t made the playoffs since 1999 and uninspired moves at quarterback like this one is a big part of the reason why. Since Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season, the Bills have drafted 3 quarterbacks: JP Losman with the 23rd pick (bust), Trent Edwards in the 3rd round (didn’t amount to anything), and Levi Brown in the 7th round (2 career pass attempts). There’s a reason Kelly is still the last Bills’ quarterback to win a playoff game.

A Jackson/Fitzpatrick quarterback battle is more of the same for the Bills. It won’t excite the fans at all and while Bill Parcells always said, “If you listen to the fans, someday you’ll be sitting with them,” I think there are two reasons why that doesn’t fully apply in this situation. One, the fans are the ones who buy the tickets and come to the games. The Bills were 26th in the NFL in fan attendance last season (in terms of percent of capacity filled). There’s a reason there are rumors of the team being moved to Toronto.

Two, the fans are the ones who have been following this team for decades. They’re not as dumb as they’re made out to be. They know why the Bills haven’t made the playoffs since the Clinton Administration. They’ve seen this type of decision made before and they know it ends in 6-10 (a record that Bills have had 4 times since 1999, including 3 of the last 4 seasons).

Drafting a quarterback in the first round is still the best way to find a legitimate franchise quarterback. Of the 60 teams to make the playoffs in the last 6 seasons, 35 of them found their starting quarterback by drafting him in the 1st round. At some point, you just have to bite the bullet and use a high pick on a quarterback and put your faith in him. I think now is that time for the Bills. With the new rookie salary cap, it no longer sets your franchise back financially if you miss in the 1st round of the draft and the Bills have a good enough supporting cast that they won’t be set back talent wise if they miss in the 1st round of the draft. This is the time to go for a homerun.

I suppose they could do so next year in a much better quarterback class, but there were better veteran options than Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson is a tried and failed starter with two NFL teams. Guys rarely get a 3rd chance and there’s a reason for that. Jackson has always been surrounded by a good defense and running game, both in Minnesota and in 2011 in Seattle, when he went 7-7 with a team that would go on to become the NFL’s next big thing in 2012, going 11-5, not losing a single game by more than a touchdown and coming within 30 seconds of the NFC Championship game. Jackson is the definition of a retread at this point in his career. He’s definitely not one of the top-32 quarterbacks in the NFL.

The Bills could still draft a quarterback this April, but it sounds like it will only happen if they definitely feel he’s the best available player regardless of position, which, for quarterbacks and no other position, is the wrong way to approach things. Ryan Nassib could be a candidate to rejoin former Syracuse Head Coach Doug Marrone with the Bills’ 2nd round pick and if Geno Smith falls to them at #8 overall, they could pull the trigger. However, it’s also very possible they don’t take a quarterback until the mid-rounds, if at all, as is usually the case with this organization. Most likely, Fitzpatrick and Jackson will be the only ones who make a start for the Bills in 2013, making it yet another lost year for this organization. And for that, I give this signing an F.

Now back to Fitzpatrick, who will make 7.5 million this season. Between him and Jackson, the Bills could be paying up to 12 million this season to quarterbacks this year and not get anything from them. I don’t know who is the better quarterback between Fitzpatrick and Jackson, but I do know the Bills could have gotten a comparable quarterback to Fitzpatrick for cheaper and a better quarterback (Alex Smith) for comparable money. If you’re going to trot out two retreads to compete for your starting quarterback job, at least make sure you’re not paying them a combined 12 million.

Grade: F


Philadelphia Eagles re-sign QB Michael Vick

Michael Vick was never going to age well. He’s way too reliant on athleticism. While quarterbacks playing at a high level into their mid and late 30s isn’t unheard of, running backs and wide receivers doing so is pretty rare. There’s a reason for that and as Vick aged and lost some of his athleticism, it was predictable he’d struggle, especially after spending 2 years away from the game in prison. Injuries don’t help things. Vick has played all 16 games just once in his career and has missed 13 games in the last 3 years alone. Not only does that make him incredibly unreliable going forward, all those injuries have really taken a toll on him.

Andy Reid made him look better than he was, just like he did with Kevin Kolb, AJ Feeley, Donovan McNabb, etc, but even Reid couldn’t do anything with him last year as Vick had his worst quarterback rating since 2006 and the 4th fewest rushing yards of his career (behind his rookie year, when he barely played, 2003, when he missed 11 games with injury, and 2009, his first year in Philadelphia, when he barely played). There’s a reason Reid gave up on him last season, keeping him on the bench in favor of the rookie Nick Foles even when Vick was healthy and not allowing Vick to see the field until week 17, when he lost 42-7 to the Giants in the absence of an injured Foles. 33 this off-season, Vick is washed up.

Because of all of this, I was going to give whoever signed him this off-season a bad grade. Well it turns out the team that signed him was his former team, the Eagles. Technically they didn’t sign him, but there was no way they were letting him see the 15+ million he was due this season so if he was going to be brought back it would be because he signed a new contract.

I can’t argue with the fit. Of all of the possible destinations for Vick, scheme wise he fits new Eagles’ Head Coach Chip Kelly’s offense best (even over old Head Coach Andy Reid in Kansas City). He fits the offense better than Nick Foles would have (though I never bought the notion that Kelly’s offense was completely inflexible and that he wouldn’t be able to cater it to Foles’ skill set).

Plus, this off-season, in a really weak quarterback market, Vick was going to get a starting job somewhere. He’s probably still one of the top-32 quarterbacks in the NFL when you include draft eligible prospects. The Eagles’ options this off-season were Vick or Foles/day 2 rookie quarterback. Either way, I don’t think they’ll be very good, which will put them in prime position to draft a quarterback in the 1st round in 2014, a much stronger quarterback class.

However, I can’t give this a good grade. This is way more than Vick is worth. He gets 3.5 million at signing, 4 million assuming he makes the week 1 roster (he will), another 500K for 50% playing time (he probably will), another 1 million for 90% playing time (he probably won’t), and another 1 million for winning the Super Bowl (HAHAHAHAHAHA).

Vick will probably make 10-13 starts this season, play anywhere from average to mediocre for a non-playoff team, and make 8 million dollars in the process. It’s not worth it. Why not just give Foles a shot? At least he’s young and has some upside. Why not find out what you have with him? This isn’t an awful move, but certainly not a good move either. I’m giving it a C.

As for Foles, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to him. Obviously, Kelly can’t be too high on him if he brought Vick back. Vick almost definitely won’t be back in 2014, but do the Eagles really see Foles as a 2014 starter? That’s doubtful, especially considering how much better next year’s quarterback class will be. They’ll probably opt for someone like Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Tajh Boyd, Logan Thomas, Aaron Murray, Derek Carr, or David Fales instead.

Foles still has some value on the trade market. He was a 3rd round pick last year and showed some promise in his first year as a starter last year. I don’t see why he can’t bring the Eagles a 3rd rounder in return. Andy Reid’s Chiefs obviously have a need at quarterback. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they came calling, though they probably won’t be the only team that has some interest.

One interesting trade scenario could send Foles to the Chiefs, with the Eagles and Chiefs swapping first round picks. By the NFL trade value chart, the difference between the 1st and 4th pick is the 12th pick and while Foles is definitely not worth the 12th pick, that trade chart is not applicable in every scenario. The Chiefs currently have no clue who they’re taking with the 1st overall pick and need a quarterback. Geno Smith is an option, but the NFL seems very lukewarm on him at best as a #1 pick.

Foles could help fill the Chiefs’ quarterback need (along with Alex Smith perhaps as a veteran stopgap) and allow the Chiefs to keep a top-4 pick. With the 4th pick, they’d still be able to choose between most of the players they’re interested in at #1. Star Lotulelei and DeMarcus Milliner would be the most likely options in that scenario. As for the Eagles, the trade up would allow them to secure Luke Joeckel, who is almost definitely their 1st round target. He could still fall to them at 4 (which gives them some leverage, which is why the whole Nick Foles is not worth the 12th overall pick thing isn’t relevant), but he might not and locking him up could be worth parting with Foles.

Update: I’m lowering this to do a D. A friend of mine is an Eagles fans and I asked him what he thought of the move. His response: “Ugh, Michael Vick again…Are we really doing this again?” And that really is true. Is Vick better than Foles? Probably, but enough to warrant 8 million and giving up on Foles? Why not just give Foles a chance and if he doesn’t have anything than you take a quarterback in 2014. I really don’t see how any Eagles fan can be happy the team brought back Vick again.

Grade: D


Baltimore Ravens 2013 Needs

Before the 2011 season, Eli Manning called himself a top-5 quarterback. Everyone laughed. He won the Super Bowl. Before the 2012 season, Joe Flacco called himself the best quarterback in the NFL. Everyone laughed. He won the Super Bowl. There really seems to be something to this self-proclaiming greatness thing. I am so getting laid tonight! Laugh all you want. I don’t care.

On a serious note, Joe Flacco’s year did remind me of Eli Manning’s year, but Eli Manning the 2008 version. Eli was in his 5th year when he won his first Super Bowl and though nothing about his regular season predicted he was headed for greatness, his team got hot at the right time and Eli came into his own in the post-season and won it all.

Flacco had a career best regular season this year, passing for a career high in yards, tying a career low in interceptions, posting his 2nd best interception total, and led the Ravens to a career high in points as the offense actually played better than their 12th ranked defense. However, the Ravens came into the post-season having lost 4 of 5, having fired their offensive coordinator, and winning a playoff low 10 games, despite 5 wins by a field goal or less. Flacco played well, but nothing about their regular season suggested this was going to happen (in hindsight you can look at their week 16 destruction of the Giants, but this is still obviously an incredibly surprising end to their season).

However, a few things changed in the post-season and they morphed into a Super Bowl Champion. Defensively, Ray Lewis’ return was huge (like the Manning/Flacco parallels there are definitely Strahan/Lewis parallels). He didn’t actually play that well on the field. Sure, he led the post-season with 51 tackles, but when you consider that only 11 of them went for a stop (a tackle within 4 yards of the line of scrimmage on 1st down, 6 yards on 2nd down, and the full distance on 3rd and 4th down), that’s not as impressive.

He also missed 3 tackles and allowed 19 catches for 251 yards on 23 attempts. Overall, his -11.7 post-season rating was ProFootballFocus’ worst. However, his intangibles on and off the field definitely made an impact. Veterans around him wanted to win this last one for Ray and as soon as he returned, they believed they had a chance. Plus, those veterans may have been holding out a little bit on defense in the regular season so they’d have something left for the post-season.

Offensively, their offensive line played much better in the post-season. Going with that alignment for the 1st time all season, the Ravens put veteran Bryant McKinnie in at left tackle, allowing Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele to play right tackle and left guard respectively, upgrading 3 positions at once and turning a weakness into a major strength. This helped Joe Flacco tremendously, as did Jim Caldwell taking over for Cam Cameron at offensive coordinator, and some great catches from his receivers. Still, plenty of credit has to be given to Joe Flacco, who became one of 7 active starting quarterbacks with a ring and put himself into that elite category with Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger.

I hate to overreact to 4 games, but Flacco was amazing, completing 57.9% of his passes for an average of 9.1 YPA, 11 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions and I have reason to believe that will continue into 2013, despite still a less than stellar statistical regular season track record. Caldwell is here to stay as offensive coordinator and with every throw Flacco made, we learned even more how bad of an offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was.

Cameron was best known for not using Ray Rice enough, but the most damaging thing he did to this offense was not allowing Flacco to air it out more. In 6 games under Caldwell (excluding week 17 when he didn’t play), Flacco threw 20+ yards downfield 41 times, completing 20 for them for 714 yards, 6 touchdowns, and no interceptions. He’s arguably the best deep ball thrower in the NFL and might be even more accurate 20 yards down field than 10. He always looked like he was holding back.

I expect his strong play to continue in 2013, assuming the offensive line continues to hold up. Flacco needs time to set up the deep bombs and I don’t know how much they can trust Bryant McKinnie, a 34 year old free agent with a history of weight problems, going forward. Still, I believe in Flacco into the future. He’ll never put up the numbers Aaron Rodgers did after his Super Bowl run, but he can do what Eli Manning did.

The Ravens will lose quite a bit this off-season. They’re in a tough cap spot and they have to take care of Flacco. I don’t expect either Paul Kruger or Ed Reed to return as free agents. Ray Lewis is obviously gone and soon to be 37 year old center Matt Birk may follow him into retirement. Anquan Boldin, meanwhile, may be a cap casualty. They also have to deal with the fact that no Super Bowl winner has even won a playoff game since the 2004 Patriots. The 2013 Ravens will have everyone gunning for them and they could be both tired and complacent. While there’s nothing about winning the Super Bowl that says you must fail to win a playoff game the following season, I’m not going to pick the Ravens to repeat. They may win a playoff game or two, but that’s just too tough in today’s NFL.


I’m listing this one first as a formality. Obviously, if Joe Flacco does not re-sign, the Ravens will have a huge need at this position. However, he’ll almost definitely be back with the Ravens. If they can’t reach an agreement before the deadline, they’ll just slap the franchise tag or exclusive rights franchise tag on him. He won’t be allowed to hit the open market.

Middle Linebacker

Ray Lewis announced he’ll retire at the end of the season, so this is it for him. Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe were the starters in his absence this season, but the former really struggled and the latter is a free agent. They’ll need to bring someone else in at the position either way, but obviously re-signing Ellerbe and making McClain the 3rd linebacker would be the ideal outcome.

Offensive Tackle

The Ravens’ offensive line really struggled this season, but in the playoffs, they were able to plug Bryant McKinnie in at left tackle, which allowed Michael Oher to play on the right side and Kelechi Osemele to play at left guard, upgrading three positions at once. McKinnie is hardly dependable, however, and he’s a free agent heading into his age 34 season this off-season. Clearly an offensive line with Osemele at left guard and Oher at right tackle is best for them, but it only works if they have a left tackle. They may opt to bring in a young offensive tackle through the draft.

Wide Receiver

Anquan Boldin will make a non-guaranteed 6 million in his age 33 contract year in 2013 and there are rumors he could be cut, with the Ravens backed up against the salary cap and needing to take care of Joe Flacco. Either way, they need a successor for him because he’ll be a free agent heading into his age 34 season next off-season and wide receivers normally take a year or so to develop. They need a long term complement for Torrey Smith.


Ed Reed is another veteran who might not be back because of the Ravens’ salary cap situation. He’s a free agent who turns 35 in September and, according to rumors, the Super Bowl was probably his last game with the team. Reuniting with Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis or joining Bill Belichick in New England are rumored destinations for the future Hall of Famer. The Ravens, meanwhile, don’t have an obvious replacement.


The Ravens will get top cornerback Lardarius Webb back in 2013, but who knows how much they can depend on him after he tore an ACL for the 2nd time in his career. Cary Williams, meanwhile, is a free agent and, if he’s not brought back, they’ll need to replenish depth.

Nose Tackle

Terrence Cody hasn’t been the player they expected him to be when they drafted him in the 2nd round in 2010. He was still splitting snaps this year with Ma’ake Kemoeatu, who is a 34 year old free agent this off-season. Cody, meanwhile, is in a contract year in 2013. This could be a position they address this off-season, either through the draft or free agency.


Matt Birk is another veteran the Ravens have. He’s still dependable, but also 37 in June. They drafted Gino Gradkowski in the 4th round last year to be his successor, but if Birk decides to hang them up, they could bring in some competition for the unproven Gradkowski.


This is only if they don’t add a left tackle (or even a right tackle) or bring back McKinnie as a starter and Kelechi Osemele has to play right tackle. The rotating door of Jah Reid, Bobbie Williams, and Ramon Harewood was a mess for the Ravens in the regular season at left guard. More likely than not, however, Osemele will begin the 2013 season as the starting left guard.

Rush Linebacker

Paul Kruger had a breakout year this year, just in time for his contract year. They’ll be alright without him because Terrell Suggs figures to be healthier in 2013, while 2012 2nd round pick Courtney Upshaw should play better, but they should still try to retain Kruger if they can, though that may be tough given their cap situation. If he doesn’t return, they’ll need to add depth.


San Francisco 49ers 2013 Needs

A lot is being made about the 4th and goal non-holding call by the referees that essentially ended the game. I don’t think it was necessarily a bad call. It was a borderline call and either team would have had a beef depending on the outcome of the call. Obviously it’s not the way you want a Super Bowl to be decided, but I don’t have an issue with it. At least the refs were consistent. They pretty much swallowed their whistles all game and let the players play so that call went right along with that. That did benefit the Ravens who were being more physical and aggressive (Cary Williams bumped an official and didn’t get tossed), which could lead to conspiracy theories (between this game and all the calls the Ravens got against the Broncos, maybe the NFL wanted to see media darling Ray Lewis go out on top). Still, I have no issue with that particular call.

However, one thing I will say is that it’s important not to judge Kaepernick’s performance on the basis on that call (ie: if the call had gone in the 49ers’ favor and the 49ers had won, Kaepernick is a hero, but since it didn’t, he is a goat). Kaepernick played well enough to win. He went 16 of 28 for 308 yards, a touchdown and an interception and added 62 yards and another score on the ground. It’s a team sport. He doesn’t play defense. He doesn’t play special teams. He didn’t fumble (LaMichael James). He didn’t drop at least 74 yards worth of passes nor did he not play the ball on the one interception he threw (Randy Moss). He led the 49ers to 3 touchdowns and 3 field goals. It’s hard to put this one on him and Jim Harbaugh definitely made the right move going to him.

Not only was it the right long term move (paying Kaepernick 740K in his age 26 season in 2013 is much better than paying Alex Smith 8.5 million in his age 29 season, plus they can probably get a day two pick for Alex Smith), but they wouldn’t have been where they got to without Kaepernick. Alex Smith probably wouldn’t have beaten the Patriots in New England in a game that the Patriots threw up 34 and Alex Smith probably wouldn’t have come back in that first Rams’ game to get a tie. That would have left them at 10-6 and even if they would have still made the playoffs via a tiebreaker over Chicago, they would have been the 6 seed and had a much tougher road to the Super Bowl and with a much more limited quarterback.

With Kaepernick at quarterback, the future is bright for the 49ers. 19 of 22 starters are under contract for the 49ers in 2013 and only three will be older than 30. However, no team has gone from losing the Super Bowl to winning the Super Bowl since the 1972 Dolphins so, like the 2012 Patriots, the 2013 49ers will have 40+ years of history working against them. It’s really hard to play that many games, come that close, and then come back the next year and win it all. No team has done it with a 16 game regular season schedule. It’s too physically and mentally exhausting. No team since the 1993 Bills has even gone back to the Super Bowl and that was in a joke of an AFC back then. The NFC is loaded now.

The other concern is Justin Smith. He’s one of those 3 starters over 30 as he turns 34 in September. He tore his triceps against the Patriots week 15 and even though he only missed 10 quarters, he wasn’t the same when he returned and it was obvious. Aldon Smith recorded just one sack in his final 6 games without a healthy Justin Smith, after 20 in his first 13, and with a lack of a pass rush, their secondary, which actually ranked 2nd in the NFL in YPA, was exposed.

They allowed 25.2 points per game in those 6 games (excluding return touchdowns). Sure, they faced a tough batch of quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Joe Flacco), but Super Bowl caliber defenses should be able to limit those guys. The 49ers’ defense wasn’t. Smith should be healthy for the 2013 season, but how much longer can he be effective and who steps up if he can’t? Can Aldon Smith learn to beat double teams? Harbaugh definitely has this team in the right direction, but they have questions.


Dashon Goldson is a free agent. The 49ers franchised him last off-season, unwilling to commit to him long term based off of one high interception total, but this year he proved that he was much more than interceptions, picking off just 3 passes, but playing much better overall and grading out among the league’s best safeties on ProFootballFocus. He made the Pro-Bowl for the 2nd straight time in his career and rightfully so this time. Retaining him will be a priority of the 49ers’ off-season and, if they can’t, they’ll probably have to replace him externally.

Meanwhile, Donte Whitner also made the Pro-Bowl, but only by association. He really didn’t play that well and could be upgraded (he allowed two touchdowns in the Super Bowl alone). There was talk before the season of only using him in base packages, primarily as a run stopper. Heading into his contract year in 2013, the 49ers could bring in a 3rd safety to compete with him, even if Goldson is re-signed. The 49ers use a lot of sub packages anyway so extra defensive back depth is not a bad thing.

Nose Tackle

The 49ers don’t use a traditional 3-4 nose tackle that often. “Starting” nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga played on just 393 of 1280 possible defensive snaps for the team this season and he played pretty poorly as well. Heading into age 32 season, he sounds unlikely to be retained so the 49ers will need someone to play his snaps as purely a base package run stuffer, at the very least.

Tight End

Backup tight end Delanie Walker is a free agent. He does some nice things, but he also had the worst drop rate in the NFL this season, dropping 11 of 48targets, and only catching 26 of them. The 49ers love using two tight ends so the backup tight end is actually kind of a starter for this team. Walker played on 713 of 1229 possible offensive snaps. Given that, they could attempt to replace him with a starting caliber player. Without a ton of huge needs, a tight end like Zach Ertz could be an option for the 49ers’ at the end of the 1st round.


The 49ers have most of their starters under contract for 2013 and most of them are pretty young too, which is a great spot to be in. However, center Jonathan Goodwin will be in a contract year in 2013, his age 34 season and I don’t know if the 49ers have a successor on their roster. Goodwin still played well last season on an overall incredible offensive line, but they could use a mid-round selection on a developmental center.

3-4 Defensive End

The player they bring in to play Sopoaga’s snaps could also provide some depth at 3-4 defensive end if he’s versatile enough. They probably will want to limit Justin Smith’s snaps a little bit as he gets older and they don’t really have good depth here. Before getting hurt against New England, Smith sat out just 56 snaps in 13 games and once he returned, he sat out just 20 snaps in 3 games despite playing with a torn triceps. He’ll also be a 34 year old in a contract year in 2013. Depth is needed, but a long term successor could also be looked at. Look for them to bring in at least one, maybe two young defensive linemen this off-season.

Rush Linebacker

Here’s another position where they completely lack depth. Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks are great outside linebackers in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme, but if either of them were to get hurt, they’d be in serious trouble. They clearly don’t trust their depth as reserves played a combined 78 snaps for them at that position this year. They don’t have very many pressing needs, so they can once again use their early picks on depth and they desperately need depth at that position for insurance and to give those two a little bit more of a breather. Parys Haralson is technically still on the roster, but owed 2.57 million in 2013 after missing an entire year with a torn triceps, they probably won’t see it worth it to bring him back purely as a depth player.

Wide Receiver

After tearing his ACL in December, Mario Manningham’s status for 2013 is definitely up in the air. Owed a non-guaranteed 3.85 million in 2013, the 49ers may decide it’s better to just cut him than to deal with the headache. A half year of Manningham is not worth that much money. Randy Moss is also a free agent and he’s heading into his age 36 season anyway. He may not be welcomed back. They still have high hopes for AJ Jenkins even though he didn’t see the field much as a rookie, but they could use some more depth here.


This isn’t an overreaction to Chris Culliver’s horrible Super Bowl (and Super Bowl week). He played solid overall this year, but the 49ers use a lot of sub packages, so extra defensive back depth is not a bad thing. Perrish Cox really struggled when he did see the field this season. Besides, Carlos Rogers turns 32 in July. He should be safe for 2013, but owed 13.5 million in 2014 and 2015 combined, he might only have one more year on the roster. Cornerbacks take a while to develop anyway so they could use a mid-round selection on a developmental cornerback and ease him in.


David Akers is coming off a miserable year, hitting just 33 of 47 field goals, including just 9 of 19 from 40+. 2013 will be his age 39 season so this is probably the end of his ride. The 49ers will need to bring in a new kicker this off-season.


Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers: Super Bowl XLVII Pick

I did a Super Bowl preview last week, which can be read here, and now I’m going to do an actual Super Bowl pick. For those of you who don’t want to read the whole preview now, here’s a little bit of a summary. The 49ers have been arguably the best team in the NFL throughout the entire season and certainly since Kaepernick took over midseason. However, the Ravens have played on the 49ers’ level over the past month, en route to the Super Bowl.

The Ravens are peaking at the right time. The 49ers have never really had a peak. They’ve been consistently very solid. That’s what makes this game so tough to pick. A month ago, I would have picked the 49ers to win easily, maybe even by double digits, but a lot of changed since then. Jim Caldwell has this offense clicking. Joe Flacco is on fire, thanks to part to Jim Caldwell and an improved offensive line. And the defense has played incredibly well due to Ray Lewis’ on the field leadership. I’ve gone back and forth with this one, so I’m going to put the argument for both teams before I make a final pick.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have a lot of history on their side. Underdogs have covered 8 of the last 11 Super Bowls, while the lower seed (if applicable) is 1-12 ATS in the Super Bowl since 1996. Teams that played in the Wild Card round are 7-0 ATS in the Super Bowl since 2002. There’s a simple explanation for that. In order to make it to the Super Bowl as a lower seeded underdog out of Wild Card weekend, you have to play really, really well. Teams like that tend to have a harder road to the Super Bowl than teams like the 49ers. They typically play more games, go on the road more often, and play higher seeds. As a result, they seem to be better prepared for the Super Bowl.

All of those are the case with the Ravens. They’ve played three games to the 49ers’ two. They’ve played two road games to the 49ers’ one. And they’ve been underdogs twice (touchdown plus underdogs in fact), while the 49ers have yet to be underdogs. In order to get to this point, they’ve had to play better than the 49ers have and that seems to be a good predictor of Super Bowl.

An example of how they’ve played better recently than the 49ers is defensively. The 49ers had the better regular season defense, ranking 2nd in the NFL in points allowed, allowing 71 fewer than the 12th ranked Ravens. However, dating back to their week 15 game against the Patriots, they’ve allowed 24.8 points per game defensively (excluding return touchdowns), coinciding with Justin Smith’s injury and Aldon Smith’s definitely related sack drought.

They aren’t getting much pressure on the quarterback and, while their secondary ranked 2nd in the NFL in YPA this season, good quarterbacks who get time can throw on them. This isn’t 10 years ago when you could play good pass defense without getting pressure. It’s tough for defensive backs to win one on one for an extended period of time with all the new rules that have come into play.

They’ve played a tough batch of quarterbacks in those 5 games, including Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan, but Joe Flacco is certainly in that group somewhere. The Ravens’ defense, meanwhile, has allowed 14.3 points per game in their last 4 (excluding return touchdowns and a week 17 game in which their starters didn’t play). They’ve seen their fair share of tough quarterbacks as well, Eli Manning, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and last week they held Tom Brady to 13, a quarterback who led his team to 34 points (despite 4 turnovers) against the 49ers in an eventual losing effort in that aforementioned week 15 game. If you compare how these teams looked against the only common opponent they’ve had recently, Baltimore clearly looks like the better team.

There’s also the whole story line factor with them: how they have come this far despite tragedy (death of Art Modell, Torrey Smith’s brother), injury (Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs missed significant time, Lardarius Webb is out, while Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata have played through injuries), and struggles (they closed the season losing 4 of 5). There’s nothing scientific about this, but teams with the better story seem like they more often win this game.

San Francisco 49ers

On the other hand, while on paper it appears the Ravens have had to play better in the playoffs to get here, consider that the 49ers are coming from the vastly superior conference. Not a single AFC divisional winner beat an NFC playoff team this year (0-6). In fact, those 4 teams are a combined 8-8 against the NFC this year, as opposed to 39-9 against AFC teams. Overall, the AFC went 25-39 against the NFC this year. The NFC has been better for the last few years and has won 4 of the last 5 Super Bowls. Beating the Broncos and Patriots on the road is impressive, but beating Atlanta in Atlanta and beating the Packers in San Francisco isn’t an easy path either. It’s not like last year when the Patriots just had to play the Broncos and Ravens at home.

Plus, while the Ravens are an underdog, they are a publicly backed underdog. This means two things. One, you’re not getting any line value with them really. They opened at +5, but so much action drove it down to +3.5. Two, I love fading publicly backed underdogs. Fading the public in general is smart when you need a tiebreaker between two sides because the public always loses money in the long run, but I especially like fading public underdogs because it creates a slighted favorite effect. Whenever everyone predicts an upset, it usually doesn’t happen (see Colts over Ravens, Bengals over Texans, Packers over 49ers, etc).

There’s a reason they’ve been favored. The Ravens may be playing better football right now (though that’s debatable when you consider the conferences these two teams come from), but there’s something to be said for the 49ers’ season long play. If they win this Super Bowl, there’s no debating they were this season’s best team, while if the Ravens win, you could still make arguments for teams like the Broncos, Patriots, and 49ers as the NFL’s best team based on their entire body of work. I know this isn’t the BCS. Championships aren’t decided like that and if the Ravens win, there’s no denying they’ll have won the Super Bowl, but you could argue that any of those 3 aforementioned teams had better overall years, especially the 49ers, regardless of the outcome of this game. They just didn’t (or hypothetically won’t have) when it really mattered.

Coming into the post-season, I had the 49ers behind the Packers, Broncos, and Patriots because I felt that in a post-season filled with inexperienced quarterbacks, the three who had won Super Bowls would have an obvious advantage. I questioned Kaepernick’s ability to win on the big stage, coming in with 7 regular season starts and I also questioned how their defense would play with Justin Smith limited. I was right about the latter, but definitely wrong about the former, which was probably the more important one.

In terms of pure talent, the 49ers had the best team this season. They led the NFL in Pro-Bowlers and if fans judgment isn’t your thing, they also led the NFL in All-Pros, as decided by writers, and had the top cumulative team rating on ProFootballFocus. Football is more than a contest of who has the most good players, obviously, as the Chiefs and their 6 Pro-Bowlers won 2 games. It’s a team game, but since the 49ers are in the Super Bowl, it’s safe to say they’re more than just a collection of great players. They’re a very, very good team, especially since Colin Kaepernick took over at quarterback.

The Verdict

This is tough. On paper, the 49ers are have clearly been the better team this season, but games aren’t played on paper. On paper, the Broncos and Patriots were clearly better teams than the Ravens too and they both lost because the Ravens have been playing at a much higher level over the past month and a half. I like to think that an elite team from the superior NFC conference would have better luck, which is why I’m ultimately taking the 49ers, but it’s definitely no sure thing. The game will probably come down to turnover margin, which is tough to predict. I am making this a significant play because it’s the Super Bowl, but any other week, this would be a 1 or 2 unit insignificant play.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Baltimore Ravens 20

Pick against spread: San Francisco -3.5 (-110) 3 units

Prop Bets

Ravens win by 1-6 +420 2 units

49ers win by 1-6 +310 2 units

I’ve done this in each of the past two years and it’s worked out. Basically, if the Ravens win by 1-6, you win +420 and lose -100, so +320. If the 49ers do so, you win +320 and lose -100, so +220. Essentially, you’re getting +270 will this game by decided by 6 or fewer points. 7 of the last 11 Super Bowls have been decided by 6 or less and considering how hard of a time I had picking between these two teams, I say there’s a good chance this happens again.

Both teams won’t make a field goal longer than 33.5 yards -140 2 units

It sounds weird, but both teams have only done so in 10 of 46 Super Bowls. Also, 49er kicker David Akers has hit from 34+ in just 5 of his last 10 games.

Colin Kaepernick less than 43.5 rushing yards +130 1 unit

Don’t like this one was much as the others, but I feel like most people are probably going to take the over because they remember Kaepernick’s ridiculous game against Green Bay. I love fading the public and Kaepernick has only gone over this total in 3 of 9 starts. I know he could go over this at any point with one run, which is why it’s only one unit, but I do like this one.