Miami Dolphins 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The Dolphins were big spenders last off-season, coming off of a 7-9 season in 2012 and looking to free agency to help them take that next step. As teams who embrace that philosophy often realize, it’s much easier said than done. Big deals given to Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, and Philip Wheeler failed to pay off as the Dolphins finished 8-8 and general manager Jeff Ireland was given the boot.

Mike Wallace’s raw numbers, 73 catches for 930 yards and 5 touchdowns, were not bad, but he and Ryan Tannehill showed a supreme lack of chemistry on deep balls, as Wallace caught just 6 of 36 targets 20+ yards downfield, the worst rate in the NFL. Considering his forte is supposed to be the deep ball, he hardly resembled a wide receiver worth 12 million dollars yearly, especially since he caught just 52% of targets overall.

Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe, meanwhile, proved that the Dolphins bought high on one year wonders with them, as they graded out worst and 6th worst at their respective positions on Pro Football Focus. Add in a disappointing year from right tackle Tyson Clabo, a one-year signing, a significant injury suffered by Dustin Keller, another one-year signing, and a disappointing year by overpaid depth receiver Brandon Gibson and you have a disappointing free agency haul, with the exception of Brent Grimes, a cornerback who excelled on a one-year deal off of a significant injury suffered in 2012.

With all of that and some questionable calls in the past, it’s no surprise Ireland got the boot. The Dolphins were also even worse than their 8-8 record, in more ways than one. For one, they finished the season ranked 24th in rate of moving the chains differential. Though they came close to making the playoffs, they had no business being there and, while San Diego was able to win in Cincinnati, Miami probably would have had a hard time doing so.

They also had a very noticeable collapse down the stretch, being 8-6 off of a win over the Patriots going into week 16, but losing their final 2 games to the Bills and Jets by a combined 39-7 to get eliminated. And then there was the very public Jonathan Martin scandal, in which Martin left the team mid-season because he felt bullied by the rest of the team, which led to suspensions, bad press, and several assistant coaches being fired. I have my thoughts on that later in this write up, and also right here, if you want to read them. Between all that, the firing of their general manager, and the fact that head coach Joe Philbin is now very much on the hot seat as a lame duck head coach, you have an 8-8 season that was much worse than an 8-8 season.

Positional Needs

Offensive Tackle

The Dolphins had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season and now they have 4 starters set to hit free agency. That could definitely be seen as an opportunity to upgrade the offensive line by getting new personnel in, but they will have to replace those guys. Tackle is the most important offensive line position and Bryant McKinnie and Tyson Clabo are declining players heading into their age 35 and age 33 seasons respectively going into free agency. Jonathan Martin, meanwhile, is highly unlikely to return after the controversy between him and several other members of this offensive line.

Guard

Both of the Dolphins’ starting guards from last season are also free agents, but unlike their offensive tackles, the reason they probably won’t be back isn’t poor play or age, it’s that both of them, Richie Incognito and John Jerry, were reported instigators in the Jonathan Martin bullying scandal. It would be a PR nightmare for the Dolphins to bring either back so they’ll need two new starters at the guard position. Nate Garner and Sam Brenner, who filled in for the suspended Incognito down the stretch, down struggled mightily and should not be looked at as potential starters and internal replacements. They’ll have to go external here.

Defensive Tackle

The Dolphins had one of the deepest defensive lines in the NFL last season, led by a strong trio of defensive tackles Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, and Jared Odrick. Unfortunately, Starks and Soliai are free agents this off-season and it’s very unlikely that they are able to re-sign both. If they lose one or the other, they’ll probably add someone at the position this off-season to maintain the position as a position of depth.

Safety

Safety is another spot where the Dolphins could lose a starter to free agency as Chris Clemons is set to hit free agency. He played pretty well this season on a one-year contract and he played well in 2012 as well, but the Dolphins reportedly don’t see him as a priority with so many other free agents. If Clemons isn’t retained, he’ll need to be replaced.

Outside Linebacker

Philip Wheeler was a bust of a free agent signing, no huge surprise considering they bought high and paid for a one-year wonder. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked 4-3 outside linebacker in 2013. The Dolphins wouldn’t save cap space by cutting him, unless they did it as a post-June 1st cut, but they could still do so in an attempt to get out of his salary and find a suitable replacement.

Cornerback

Cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll are free agents this off-season, while Dimitri Patterson could be a cap casualty. The Dolphins do have Jamar Taylor and Will Davis waiting in the wings, 2nd and 3rd round picks respectively in 2013, but neither did much of anything as a rookie and I would not be comfortable having those two and Jimmy Wilson be my top-3 cornerbacks for 2014 with no depth. If they are unable to re-sign some of their guys, they should look externally for depth.

Running Back

The Dolphins used a 4th round pick in 2012 and a 2nd round pick in 2011 on running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas respectively, but their running game still struggled last season. They could add someone else to the mix this off-season.

Middle Linebacker

Like Philip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe was a bust of a free agent signing and for some of the same reasons. They bought high on a one-year wonder. Like with Wheeler, they could make Ellerbe a post-June 1st cut, save some cap space (though endure a hit next off-season), save some money, and free up the position to find a replacement. It’s less likely, but if they did so, they’d have to find a replacement.

Center

The Dolphins could have a completely different starting 5 on the offensive line in week 1 of 2014 as compared to week 1 of 2013. Mike Pouncey is a talented center, but he was implicated in the Jonathan Martin scandal and reportedly could be facing suspension to start next season. It’s bad timing too as he’s heading into the contract year of his rookie deal and the Dolphins probably would have picked up his 5th year option or extended him had he not been implicated because he’s so talented. Now they might be thinking of moving on from him after next season. Either way, they need another center in the mix to fill in for him when he’s suspended and possibly to be a long-term replacement.

Key Free Agents

DT Randy Starks

Randy Starks is an underrated, undermentioned player who has graded out above average in each of the last 6 seasons from 2008-2013 since becoming a starter, maxing out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 3-4 defensive end in 2009 and 7th ranked defensive tackle in 2013. He has scheme versatility at 6-3 312 and can play both 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 and defensive tackle in a 4-3 and, even though he’s going into his age 31 season, he’s coming off one of the best seasons of his career. He should command a good amount of money on his next deal over 3-4 years.

CB Brent Grimes

Brent Grimes was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 2010 and 2011, grading out 10th and 3rd respectively among cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus in those 2 seasons. As a result, the Falcons franchise tagged him going into 2012, but he tore his Achilles early in the season and was forced to “settle” for 5.5 million on a one-year prove it deal with the Dolphins for 2013. He certainly did prove it though as he finished as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked cornerback for the season, meaning he’s been top-10 among cornerbacks in each of the last 3 seasons he’s been healthy, including two top-3 finishes. He’s going into his age 31 season so he won’t get a huge deal, especially with his injury history, but he should still command a lot of money on a 3-4 year deal. He’s might be the top cornerback on the open market.

DT Paul Soliai

Paul Soliai has been a very solid defensive tackle over the past four seasons, grading out above average on Pro Football Focus in all 4 seasons, including a 12th place finish among defensive tackles in 2010 and a 19th place finish among defensive tackles in 2013. However, he’s only a two-down run stuffer and part-time player, maxing out at 627 snaps in 2011. Run stopping ability isn’t as valued as it used to be and Soliai is going into his age 31 season anyway. He’ll make a decent amount of money on a short-term deal, but you shouldn’t be breaking the bank for the 344 pounder.

S Chris Clemons

Chris Clemons has stepped up as an above average starter at safety in 2012 and 2013. In 2012, he was in a contract year, but he only got a cheap contract going into 2013. He once again played solid in 2013, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 19th ranked safety this season. However, now the Dolphins are reportedly considering moving on from Clemons in favor of finding a new starting safety and re-signing their other free agents. Clemons should be an underrated and cheap young starter (going into his age 29) on the open market.

CB Nolan Carroll

Nolan Carroll has seen his snap count increase in each of the past 3 seasons, going from 330, to 653, to 809 snaps from 2011-2013. He’s been a decent player the whole time and is now an average starter. He should be paid like an average starter and the Dolphins would be wise to bring him back as a starter, especially if they can’t retain Brent Grimes.

TE Dustin Keller

A first round pick in 2008, Dustin Keller broke out as a pass catching threat in 2010 and 2011, catching 55 passes for 687 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2010 and 65 passes for 815 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2011, despite catching passes from Mark Sanchez. However, he played just 8 games in 2012 and struggled through injuries when on the field, catching 28 passes for 317 yards and 2 touchdowns. He took a one-year prove it deal with the Dolphins, but destroyed his knee in the pre-season and didn’t play a snap all season. He’ll be a serious medical question going in 2014 and, despite his talent, he might have to settle for a contract near the veteran’s minimum. At the very least, his contract will be heavily incentive based.

G Richie Incognito

Richie Incognito won’t be back with the Dolphins, but if I had a choice right now between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin in terms of who I’d want on my team, I’m taking Incognito. That being said, I don’t think any team can just sign Incognito like it’s nothing and expect it to 100% work. Because of all of the things that have been said about him in the media, true or untrue, fair or unfair, there are probably a solid amount of players in the NFL who feel they could never play with him. I wouldn’t want him on a team with several of those players. You have to know and consult your locker room before you bring someone like him in now.

That being said, Incognito is still a good football player, only going into his age 31 season, coming off a solid 8 game start to the 2013 season and a 2012 season in which he finished 24th among guards on Pro Football Focus. I’m more sympathetic to Incognito’s side than most people probably are. He’s done some bad things in the past, but I don’t think he comes out of the Jonathan Martin situation like the terrible person a lot of people are trying to paint him as.

After reading the thousands of text messages sent back and forth between Incognito and Martin, I can definitely understand why Incognito believed they were friends. Friends rip on each other. I do it with my friends. I wouldn’t expect things to be any different in the NFL. Did Incognito cross some lines? Absolutely. Leaving female family members out of the mix is generally a good rule to follow and some of the racial stuff definitely raises eyebrows, even if it isn’t coming from a truly racist place, which I don’t believe it is.

Incognito definitely doesn’t come out of this looking like a saint, especially when you consider his history and his apparent obsession with strippers, hookers, and fake tits. However, I don’t believe anything Incognito said was coming from a place of hate. In fact, I believe the opposite. And then one day, all of a sudden, lawyers are involved, Incognito is out of a job, and being painted in the media as a racist and a bully. That’s something I can be sympathetic to.

On top of that, the fact that a large number of Incognito’s Miami teammates came to bat for him after the situation happened means something to me. Again, he’s not a good fit in every NFL locker room, but there’s a spot for Richie Incognito in the NFL, especially since I think Incognito is definitely going to be a lot more careful in the future with the lines that he’s crossed after this mess.

OT Tyson Clabo

Tyson Clabo was a top-20 offensive tackle on Pro Football Focus in all 5 seasons from 2008-2012, but the big right tackle wasn’t as good in 2013, grading out about average. That’s pretty understandable considering he’s aging. Now going into his age 33 season, he’s clearly on the decline and he’s only a right tackle, which is a less valuable position. He should be looking at one-year deals this off-season and he should consider himself lucky if he finds a secure starting job.

G John Jerry

Like Richie Incognito, John Jerry was involved in the Jonathan Martin scandal. Jerry wasn’t the reported main instigator, but the fact that he was involved probably got him a one way ticket out of Miami as he heads into free agency. Unlike Incognito, Jerry isn’t that good. The 2010 3rd round pick has been a slightly below average starter on Pro Football Focus in all 4 seasons as a starter. He could have a hard time finding work this off-season unfortunately.

OT Bryant McKinnie

Bryant McKinnie was a solid blindside protector in Minnesota for years, but he came out of the 2011 lockout at about 380 pounds and got himself cut. He then went to Baltimore, where he was pretty solid as a starter in 2011, but his weight problems limited him to 418 snaps in 2012 total (including post-season), the majority of which were week 17 or later. He played well when on the field, but he once again had weight problems going in 2013 and got himself benched and sent to Miami, where he struggled as the blindside protector. Now going into his age 35 season with a history of weight problems, he might be done.

Cap Casualty Candidates

OT Jonathan Martin

Cutting Jonathan Martin wouldn’t save the Dolphins any cap space, but there’s no way he returns. While I would want Incognito on my team in certain situations, I actually don’t believe Jonathan Martin is an NFL player. He obviously has mental issues he needs to attend to and I don’t think that an NFL locker room is the place to handle that. His situation in another locker room might not be the exact same as in Miami, but he’s going to encounter some locker room culture everywhere he goes. You can’t have someone in an NFL locker room that needs to be coddled and given special treatment. You have to be mentally tough to play football and I don’t get the impression that Martin is.

I wouldn’t have said any of that if Martin had been getting results on the football field, but he struggled mightily as a rookie and for the first part of his sophomore season and it’s definitely becoming clear why. Inadvertently through this situation, it’s come out that Martin was not in the physical shape that the Dolphins wanted him to be in and through his text messages with Incognito it was revealed that Martin didn’t even know how to watch film during the off-season.

On top of all this, he’s now a walking lawsuit for any NFL team. He’s not completely innocent in this, as it doesn’t appear he ever gave Incognito any indication that he didn’t view their relationship as nearly as friendly as Incognito did. I’m very sympathetic to Martin’s need for help, but he put Incognito in a very tough situation. I don’t think that the NFL is the place for him. It doesn’t make him a bad person. Not everyone is cut out for the NFL. Martin is a Stanford graduate and most likely a very, very smart person capable of having a very successful career in the “real world.” The same probably could not be said about Incognito. Martin should just do that.

CB Dimitri Patterson

Dimitri Patterson played pretty well when he was on the field in 2013, but he played just 6 games and 241 snaps. He’s a solid player, but he’s played 15 games over the past 2 seasons combined and he’s going into his age 31 season. The Dolphins can save 5.4 million dollars on the cap and in cash by cutting him, which seems like a pretty straight forward move.

OLB Philip Wheeler

Philip Wheeler was a bust of a free agent signing, no huge surprise considering they bought high and paid for a one-year wonder. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked 4-3 outside linebacker in 2013. The Dolphins wouldn’t save cap space by cutting him, unless they did it as a post-June 1st cut, but they could still do so in an attempt to get out of his salary and find a suitable replacement.

MLB Dannell Ellerbe

Like Philip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe was a bust of a free agent signing and for some of the same reasons. They bought high on a one-year wonder. Like with Wheeler, they could make Ellerbe a post-June 1st cut, save some cap space (though endure a hit next off-season), save some money, and free up the position to find a replacement.

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New York Jets 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The Jets exceeded expectations this season, as the media’s punching bag won 8 games. That being said, they weren’t nearly as good as their record would suggest. That was buoyed by a 5-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. Their 8 wins came by a combined 53 points, while their 8 losses came by a combined 150 points, a point differential of -97 that was worse than every team in the NFL with the exception of 6. They finished the season ranked 24th in DVOA and 25th in rate of moving the chains differential.

It wasn’t all bad though. While their offense was horrifically stagnant, moving the chains at a 65.69% rate, 29th in the NFL, their defense was pretty solid, ranking 12th, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 69.64% rate. The linchpin of this defense was their defensive line, which was arguably the best in the NFL, especially among 3-4 defenses. The 3 man defensive line of Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Damon Harrison was a huge part of the reason why the Jets were by far #1 in the NFL in yards per carry allowed. They ranked 8th, 5th, and 5th at their respective positions on Pro Football Focus.

Their secondary definitely had some issues and their pass rush could have been better and they have an obvious lack of playmakers on the offensive side of the football, but the good news is the Jets have a solid amount of cap room with a solid upcoming free agency class. They can have even more cap space if they make the fairly easy decision to cut guys like Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, Mike Goodson, and Antonio Cromartie. There’s a very good chance they go into free agency with among the most cap space in the NFL and willing to spend to build their team.

That being said, ultimately, their long-term potential will depend on Geno Smith’s long-term development at the quarterback position. He had a rough rookie year, completing 55.8% of his passes for an average of 6.88 YPA, 12 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions and the history of quarterbacks who fall out of the first round over the past 10-15 years is not pretty. However, he had nothing to work with in terms of receivers and it’s too early to write him off, especially considering he ended last season pretty decently. In his final 4 games, he completed 68 of 116 (58.6%) for 790 yards (6.81 YPA), 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. We’ll see what year two has in store for him.

Positional Needs

Wide Receiver

The Jets need to get Geno Smith a real #1 receiver. Guys like Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, and Stephen Hill aren’t getting it done. Holmes is the best of the bunch, but he won’t be back in 2014, owed 9.25 million. Look for the Jets to try to add at least one, if not two new wide receivers to the mix this off-season. They have plenty of cap space and this is a strong wide receiver market in free agency. The draft is also an option.

Tight End

Wide receivers aren’t the only kind of pass catchers that the Jets need. They need to surround Geno Smith with as many playmakers as possible to aid in his development. The cupboard was really bare last season and it’ll get even barer at tight end this off-season if both Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow leave via free agency. Right now, their top tight end is Konrad Reuland. Cumberland and Winslow could definitely be upgraded though as the former isn’t a starting caliber player, while the latter is aging, declining, and coming off of a serious off-season arrest. No Jets pass catcher had more than 43 catches for 523 yards last season.

Outside Linebacker

The Jets have done a great job adding young talent to their defensive front 7, with guys like Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Quinton Coples, but they need another edge rusher opposite Coples. Calvin Pace is a declining player going into his age 34 season in 2014. He wasn’t terrible this season, but he was cut last off-season after a weak 2012 seasons and he can’t be counted on going forward. He’s a free agent this off-season anyway.

Guard

Right guard Willie Colon is a free agent this off-season, while left guard Brian Winters struggled mightily as a 3rd round rookie in 2013, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 5th worst ranked guard last season. He’ll probably get another shot to start in his 2nd year in the league in 2014, but he’s no guarantee to ever develop into a starter going forward. Meanwhile, they’ll obviously need to replace Colon if he can’t be retained.

Safety

The Jets were so desperate for safety help that they signed Ed Reed mid-season. He won’t be a starting option for them in 2014, as a free agent going into his age 36 season. Dawan Landry was probably their best safety last season, but he wasn’t that great and now he’s going into his age 32 season. Meanwhile, youngsters Antonio Allen, Josh Bush, and Jaiquawn Jarrett have yet to develop into starting caliber players.

Quarterback

Geno Smith had a rough rookie year, completing 55.8% of his passes for an average of 6.88 YPA, 12 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions and the history of quarterbacks who fall out of the first round over the past 10-15 years is not pretty. He had nothing to work with in terms of receivers and it’s too early to write him off, but the Jets should at least add a better veteran backup quarterback in case he continues to struggle in 2014. They should have someone better to turn to than Matt Simms.

Offensive Tackle

Austin Howard has developed into a solid right tackle, but he’s a free agent this off-season. If he’s not retained, they’ll need to find a new right tackle.

Cornerback

Antonio Cromartie could easily be a cap casualty this off-season, which would leave the Jets thin at cornerback. Kyle Wilson and Dee Milliner would be the starters going forward in that situation, but they’d need some more depth.

Middle Linebacker

Both of the Jets’ middle linebackers are pretty overrated. David Harris is only an average starter who isn’t worth his salary and they can save 5 million on the cap by cutting him, but they probably won’t. Demario Davis, meanwhile, was Pro Football Focus’ 6th worst ranked middle linebacker last season. I don’t expect them to overhaul the position, but they should really bring in another middle linebacker this off-season.

Kicker

Nick Folk was one of the best kickers in the NFL last season, nailing 33 of 36 field goals, but he’s a free agent this off-season. If they are unable to retain him, he’ll need to be replaced.

Key Free Agents

OT Austin Howard

Austin Howard took over as the Jets starting right tackle before the 2012 season and he’s been a pretty solid starter in those 2 years. The Jets should make re-signing him a priority. There’s been talk of him getting a deal similar to what right tackles Sebastian Vollmer (4 years, 17 million), Andre Smith (3 years, 18 million), and Phil Loadholt (4 years, 25 million) got last off-season, which seems reasonable.

G Willie Colon

There was a time when Willie Colon was one of the best right tackles in the game, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 14th ranked offensive tackle in 2008 and 3rd ranked offensive tackle in 2009, but he missed every game but one in 2010 and 2011 combined. He returned as a guard in 2012 and played solid in 11 games and then signed a one-year deal with the Jets for the 2013 season. He played all 16 games for the first time since 2009 and he was a decent starter at right guard. He’s definitely not the player he once was and he’s going into his age 31 season, with an extensive injury history, missing 36 games from 2010-2012, but he’s still a starting caliber player and would be a solid investment on a short-term deal for a guard needy team.

OLB Calvin Pace

Calvin Pace looked pretty done after the 2012 season, after recording 8 sacks in 2011 and 2012 combined and grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 3-4 outside linebacker in 2012. The Jets cut Pace going into his age 33 season last off-season, but brought him back on a cheap one year deal. That paid off as Calvin Pace had a career high 11 sacks. Some people mistake that for having the best year of his career, which isn’t true as you can’t just look at sack numbers. He graded out slightly below average on Pro Football Focus, thanks to just 3 quarterback hits and 21 quarterback hurries. That being said, it was clearly a better year than 2012. Now going into his age 34 season, he’s probably going to have to settle for one year deals, but he wouldn’t be a bad investment for a pass rush needy team as a cheap stopgap. The Jets may try to bring him back.

TE Jeff Cumberland

Jeff Cumberland has essentially been the Jets’ starting tight end over the past two seasons. Dustin Keller was there in 2012, but he missed 8 games and in 2013, Cumberland essentially split snaps with Kellen Winslow. He’s led them in snaps played by a tight end over the past 2 seasons. Cumberland is an inline tight end at 6-4 260, but he’s not much of a pass catcher, combining for 55 catches for 757 yards and 7 touchdowns over the past 2 seasons. He’s not a starting caliber tight end and with a strong tight end class coming up and a lot of cap space, the Jets will almost definitely upgrade him.

S Ed Reed

Ed Reed is a declining player, last grading out above average on Pro Football Focus in 2011 and grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 59th ranked safety out of 88 eligible in 2012. The Texans didn’t seem to care, biting on name value by giving him a 3-year, 15 million dollar deal last off-season. Things only got worse from there. Reed had a hip problem that the Texans didn’t know about. He missed time with injury and ended up getting benched and then cut upon his return, getting paid a total of 6 million guaranteed for 275 snaps. He ended up with the Jets, where he played another 375 snaps for one of the league’s neediest teams at safety. Now going into his age 36 season, he might be done. The next call he gets from the NFL might be a Hall of Fame call.

TE Kellen Winslow

After essentially being out of the league in 2012 with chronic injury problems, Kellen Winslow caught on as a pass catching tight end with the Jets and caught 31 passes for 388 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, now he’s going into his age 31 season with an extensive injury history and a recent arrest for synthetic marijuana and public masturbation. His phone might not ring.

K Nick Folk

Nick Folk was one of the best kickers in the NFL last season, nailing 33 of 36 field goals. He’s had his ups and downs, but he’s hit 80.3% of his field goals in his career. The Jets will definitely try to re-sign him.

Cap Casualty Candidates

QB Mark Sanchez

The Jets pursued Peyton Manning before the 2012 season because they were disappointed with Mark Sanchez’s performance. When they didn’t land Manning, they essentially guaranteed the next two years of Sanchez’s salary as an apology. Those two years went about as bad as they could have. In 2012, Sanchez was arguably the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, completing 54.3% of his passes for an average of 6.36 YPA, 13 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, and one butt fumble. In 2013, he didn’t play a snap because of a shoulder injury. Fortunately for the Jets, the guaranteed money on Sanchez’s deal is done and they can save 8.3 million on the cap by cutting him. He’s no longer the starting quarterback and he’s not a starting caliber quarterback anyway so this is a no brainer.

WR Santonio Holmes

The Jets re-signed Santonio Holmes to a 5-year, 45.25 million dollar deal before the 2011 season, but the results were not as they expected. In 2011, he caught just 51 passes for 654 yards and 8 touchdowns. Unfortunately that was the best season he’s had while on this contract. He played just 15 games combined over the next two seasons, combining for 43 catches for 728 yards and 2 touchdowns, while causing several problems in the locker room. Now going into his age 30 season with the guaranteed money up on his deal, there’s no reason for the Jets not to cut him, a move that would save 8.25 million on the cap.

RB Mike Goodson

Mike Goodson played just 30 snaps last season, after getting arrested in the off-season and suspended to start the season. He fell to the bottom of the depth chart upon his return. The Jets can save about 1.3 million on the cap by cutting him and there’s really no reason to keep him around.

CB Antonio Cromartie

Antonio Cromartie had a dominant 2012 season in the absence of the injured Darrelle Revis, a big part of the reason why the Jets made the decision to move on from Revis. However, Cromartie was terrible in 2013, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked cornerback in terms of coverage grade. He was torched with regularity, allowing 19.1 yards per completion, 2nd highest in the NFL. He’s way too inconsistent to command the 9.5 million dollar salary he’s due for his age 30 season in 2014 and the Jets can save all that money on the cap by cutting him.

MLB David Harris

There hasn’t been any talk of the Jets cutting David Harris, but he’s overrated and overpaid so they should at least consider it. They can save 5 million on the cap and in cash by cutting him. He was only a league average starter last season and he’s been worse in the past. He hasn’t graded out positively on Pro Football Focus since 2010 and he graded out as their 6th worst ranked middle linebacker in 2012. Now he’s going into his age 30 contract year.

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Baltimore Ravens 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012, but I thought they had a more talented team in 2013 and would have more success, at least in the regular season, after they won 10 games in the regular season in 2012. Defensively, they had purged washed up veterans like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, replacing them with youngsters Matt Elam and Arthur Brown, and they had Lardarius Webb returning from injury and Terrell Suggs returning to full strength. They lost guys like Bernard Pollard, Dannell Ellerbe, and Paul Kruger in free agency, but were able to replace them with Michael Huff, Daryl Smith, and Elvis Dumervil respectively.

Offensively, they lost players like Matt Birk and Anquan Boldin (as well as Dennis Pitta to injury). However, it was reasonable to expect that Joe Flacco would maintain some of his performance gains from the previous off-season, thanks in part to the Ravens’ retooled offensive line (putting Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, Michael Oher at right tackle, and Kelechi Osemele at left guard) and new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, two things that were late season changes in 2012 that really paid off in the post-season.

I was half right. Their defense was better than maybe even I thought it would be, finishing 2nd in opponent’s rate of moving the chains. All of the aforementioned defensive players had big impacts with the exception of Michael Huff, who was cut mid-season, but James Ihedigbo had a big impact in his absence. They didn’t really have any holes defensively. However, as good as their defense was, their offense was equally bad, ranking 30th in rate of moving the chains. The losses of Matt Birk, Anquan Boldin, and Dennis Pitta were too much and it didn’t help at all that Michael Oher struggled mightily and Kelechi Osemele missed most of the season with injury. As a result, they finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs.

Now they go into the off-season with a reasonable amount of cap space, but also needing to re-sign 7 starters, including 5 that are average or better (Daryl Smith, Eugene Monroe, James Ihedigbo, Dennis Pitta, Arthur Jones). They have a very top heavy cap structure with 6 players with cap numbers higher than 7 million for 2014 (Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Marshal Yanda, Lardarius Webb), which is going to make things pretty inflexible for the next few years. There’s still a chance they could bounce back into the playoffs in 2014.

Positional Needs

Wide Receiver

Is there any doubt the Ravens miss Anquan Boldin? Without another receiving threat opposite Torrey Smith, Joe Flacco had the worst season of his career, a year after winning the Super Bowl. He completed 59.0% of his passes for an average of 6.37 YPA, 19 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions, all significantly worse than his career averages. Things will only get worse at the position if Jacoby Jones leaves as a free agent. They need to add a new starting wide receiver into the mix.

Tight End

Tight end is another spot where they could add weapons. Dennis Pitta’s return from injury last season really helped the Ravens’ receiving corps, but he’s a free agent this off-season. Also free agents are Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark, leaving them with literally nothing at the position. Matt Furstenburg is tops on their tight end depth chart right now. He’s a 2013 undrafted free agent who has never played a snap in the NFL.

Offensive Tackle

Another position where the Ravens have a lot of free agents is offensive tackle, as both starting left tackle Eugene Monroe and starting right tackle Michael Oher are free agents this off-season. Re-signing Monroe should be one of their priorities this off-season, even if they have to franchise tag him, as he’s one of the better left tackles in the game and one of the few talented offensive players the Ravens have. Last season, he graded out 16th among offensive tackles on Pro Football Focus and was even better after coming to Baltimore from Jacksonville via trade. However, they really need to upgrade Michael Oher, who has been inconsistent in his career at both left and right tackle and this past season was a big part of the reason why the Ravens struggled offensively. He graded out 68th ranked among 76 eligible offensive tackles.

Center

One of the underrated and undermentioned losses from the Ravens’ Super Bowl team was long-time center and anchor Matt Birk, who retired last off-season. The Ravens attempted to replace him with 2012 4th round pick Gino Gradkowski, but he was awful in his first season as a starter, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ worst center and being a big part of the Ravens’ general problems on the offensive line and in the running game. He needs to be upgraded this off-season.

Safety

The Ravens lost both of their starting safeties from their Super Bowl team last off-season and the idea was to replace them with 1st round pick Matt Elam and free agent acquisition Michael Huff. Matt Elam definitely flashed as a rookie, but Michael Huff disappointed and was benched and cut mid-season. Fortunately for the Ravens, unheralded 3rd safety James Ihedigbo stepped up as the other starter, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 16th ranked safety. However, he’s a free agent this off-season, so if he isn’t re-signed, the Ravens will have to find another starter at safety.

Guard

Kelechi Osemele was dominant in the post-season for the Ravens in 2012 and looked poised for a breakout season in 2013, his 2nd year in the NFL, after getting drafted in the 2nd round in 2012. However, he struggled through a back injury before eventually landing on injured reserve. He was replaced by AQ Shipley, who was awful, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 67th ranked guard out of 81 eligible. Osemele will be back in 2014 presumably healthy, but he’s still not a proven starter and could be moving to tackle depending on what happens with Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher. They need better insurance than Shipley.

Kick Returner

Jacoby Jones was their primary kick returner last season and he’s a free agent. They have some internal options to replace him, but they may also choose to go external.

Key Free Agents

OT Eugene Monroe

Re-signing Monroe should be one of the Ravens’ priorities this off-season, even if they have to franchise tag him, as he’s one of the better left tackles in the game and one of the few talented offensive players the Ravens have. He’s graded out 6th, 15th, and 16th among eligible offensive tackles on Pro Football Focus in 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively and he was even better last season after arriving in Baltimore from Jacksonville via trade. The 8th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Monroe deserves upwards of 40+ million over 5 years on his next contract.

DE Arthur Jones

A 2010 5th round pick, Arthur Jones has developed from a solid reserve to a solid starter to a breakout player in 2013 and now is set to cash in. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked 3-4 defensive end in 2013 and could make upwards of 5-6+ million over 4-5 years on his next year. Early reports say the Ravens are unlikely to retain him, opting to focus on other free agents thanks to the Ravens’ large amount of defensive line depth. One concern with Jones, he’s never played more than 536 snaps in a season and he’s never been the key cog on Baltimore’s defensive line, rotating often and playing alongside Haloti Ngata.

TE Dennis Pitta

Dennis Pitta broke out as a talented tertiary receiving option in 2012, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked tight end in terms of pass catching grade. He caught 61 passes for 669 yards and 7 touchdowns on 396 pass routes run, an average of 1.69 yards per route run, 7th in the NFL among eligible tight ends. However, he suffered a serious hip injury before the 2013 season, which knocked out most of his season, but he caught 20 passes for 169 yards and 1 touchdown in 4 games upon his return, even though he wasn’t 100%. His presence really helped their passing game. He’s not much of a blocker at all, but he rarely lines up inline so it doesn’t really matter. In 2012, he lined up on the slot on 64.6% of his snaps, 6th in the NFL and in 2013, he lined up there on 79.7%. For that reason, it wouldn’t make sense for the Ravens to franchise tag him because he could easily argue that he’s a wide receiver and win. Besides, the Ravens need that franchise tag for Eugene Monroe over anyone. Still, the Ravens should bring him back on a multi-year deal that pays him 5-6 million annually. He’s too important to their offense.

MLB Daryl Smith

Daryl Smith was an underrated stud in Jacksonville, grading out as a top-10 4-3 outside linebacker from 2009-2011, maxing out at #1 in 2009 and #2 in 2011. He missed most of the 2012 season with injury and took a cheap one-year deal with the Ravens for the 2013 season. Moving to middle linebacker in a 3-4, Smith did a solid job as the starter and has earned himself a multi-year deal, going into his age 32 season. His age is a minor concern, but he’s still a starting caliber player and the Ravens will try to bring him back.

S James Ihedigbo

The Ravens lost both of their starting safeties from their Super Bowl team last off-season and the idea was to replace them with 1st round pick Matt Elam and free agent acquisition Michael Huff. Matt Elam definitely flashed as a rookie, but Michael Huff disappointed and was benched and cut mid-season. Fortunately for the Ravens, unheralded 3rd safety James Ihedigbo stepped up as the other starter, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 16th ranked safety. That being said, he’s a career journeyman going into his age 31 season so the Ravens have to be careful how much they pay him. He’s probably a starting caliber player though.

WR Jacoby Jones

Jacoby Jones has gotten a bunch of chances to prove himself as a starting caliber wide receiver, but he’s maxed out at 51 catches for 562 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2010. Now going into his age 30 season, he’s purely a depth receiver whose best attribute is returning kicks. He’s averaged 10.2 yards per punt return in his career on 235 punt returns, scoring 4 times and he’s averaged 26.7 yards per kickoff return in his career on 133 punt returns, scoring another 4 times. However, that’s something that’s going to deteriorate as he ages. He shouldn’t command a big contract.

OT Michael Oher

Michael Oher is well known for being the subject of “The Blindside,” but the 2009 1st round pick has been inconsistent in his career, struggling both on the blindside and at right tackle. He played very well as a rookie and was a solid starter in 2010 and 2011, but he struggled in 2012 and, in 2013, he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 68th ranked among 76 eligible offensive tackles. He probably won’t be back as a starter in 2014. He may have to settle for one year prove it deals on the open market.

TE Ed Dickson

Grossly miscast as an inline tight end over the past two seasons, Ed Dickson’s best attribute is pass catching. He’s struggled mightily with inline run blocking duties over the past 2 seasons, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 6th worst ranked tight end in run blocking grade in 2012 and worst in 2013. He’s not that great as a pass catcher either though, as the 2010 3rd round pick maxed out with 54 catches for 528 yards and 5 touchdowns. In 2013, he caught just 25 passes for 273 yards and 1 touchdown on 246 pass routes run.

TE Dallas Clark

Dallas Clark caught 100 passes in 2009, going for 1106 yards and 10 touchdowns, but the aging tight end hasn’t been the same without Peyton Manning and since suffering a serious injury in 2010. In 2010, he caught 37 passes for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns in 6 games and then struggled mightily in 11 games with Curtis Painter in 2011, catching 34 passes for 352 yards and 2 touchdowns. He then moved on to Tampa Bay in 2012, where he played all 16 games, but caught just 47 passes for 435 yards and 4 touchdowns. In 2013 with the Ravens, he caught 31 passes for 343 yards and 3 touchdowns in 12 games as a homeless man’s Dennis Pitta. Now going into his age 35 season, he’ll have to wait a while for the phone to ring, if it does at all.

Cap Casualty Candidates

MLB Jameel McClain

The Ravens have Arthur Brown and Josh Bynes at middle linebacker and could also bring back Daryl Smith, so they really have no need for Jameel McClain, a mediocre player who graded out as well below average on Pro Football Focus last season, playing just 376 snaps. Cutting him and saving 3.2 million in cash and cap space in the process seems like a no brainer.

FB Vonta Leach

Vonta Leach was cut last off-season, before eventually being brought back on a cheaper deal, but he could be cut again this off-season. The Ravens can save 1.75 million on the cap and in cash by cutting him, which would be a very reasonable move considering he’s a rapidly declining run blocker going into his age 33 season and played just 230 snaps last season. The Ravens also have a successor on the roster in 2013 4th round pick Kyle Juszczyk, a much more versatile player.

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Dallas Cowboys 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The average NFL team has an average change in win total of about 3 from season to season. Just last season, the Texans went from 12-4 to 2-14, the Redskins went from 10-6 to 4-12, the Falcons went from 13-3 to 4-12, the Vikings went from 10-6 to 5-10-1, the Panthers went from 7-9 to 12-4, the Chiefs went from 2-14 to 11-5, the Cardinals went from 5-11 to 10-6, and the Eagles went from 4-12 to 10-6. And that’s a pretty normal year. The NFL is a parity league.

Apparently that’s not the case is Jerry’s World. Rather than displaying parity in win totals, the Cowboys’ last few seasons have been the NFL equivalent of Groundhog Day, with each ending in arguably the worst possible way a season can end. The Cowboys have now finished 8-8 in each of the last 3 seasons, coinciding with Jason Garrett’s three full seasons as head coach. They’re the definition of stuck in the mud and the last 3 seasons have all ended with the Cowboys losing a divisional title game to each of their other three divisional opponents.

That being said, the Cowboys are closer to 4-12 than they are to 12-4. They weren’t as good as their 8-8 record this past season. When you really look at it, the only difference between them and the 4-12 Atlanta Falcons was special teams and turnover margin, two things that are very tough to count on. Their offense is one of the better offenses in the NFL, but they have arguably the league’s worst defense. They ranked dead last, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 77.66% rate, and as a result, they finished 22nd in rate of moving the chains differential, which is much worse than their 8-8 record would suggest.

Things are going to get worse before they get better too. The Cowboys are likely going to be a ridiculous 20+ million over the salary cap, as a result of very poor management by the front office and GM/Owner Jerry Jones. That’s going to force them to restructure some of their big contracts, kicking the can further down the line and ensuring they won’t have any real cap space for another 2-3 off-seasons. They’re also going to be unable to re-sign some of their own free agents like Anthony Spencer, who was hurt in 2013, but who would probably be an asset in 2014, and Jason Hatcher, who was arguably their best defensive player in 2013. Considering the lack of depth they have behind Hatcher at defensive tackle, that could be a catastrophic loss.

On top of that, they’ll have to cut some veterans. Most of the veterans they’ll be cutting probably won’t hurt them, but if they end up having to cut DeMarcus Ware, which they probably will if he doesn’t agree to a pay cut, that would take out another one of their precious few talented defensive players and at another position with minimal depth. Even if he stays around, he’s declining going into his age 32 season.

Sure, the Cowboys could see fewer injuries next season and the return of middle linebacker Sean Lee would help their defense, but he’s just one player and he’s never been able to stay healthy. This is shaping up to once again be one of the worst defensive units in the NFL next season and that’s going to keep them out of real contention. If I had to put money on it right now, the Cowboys are under 8 wins next season, not over.

Positional Needs

Defensive Tackle

Things were so desperate for the Cowboys at defensive tackle this season that Nick Hayden not only started at defensive tackle, but lead all Cowboy defensive linemen in snaps played, this coming after he played a combined 22 snaps in 2011 and 2012. He predictably struggled, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked defensive tackle. Their depth was awful as well. Their only functional defensive tackle last season was Jason Hatcher, one of the defense’s saving graces, a fierce interior pass rusher who graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked defensive tackle. However, he’s a free agent this off-season and the Cowboys have next to zero chance of retaining him for 2014 given their cap situation. The Cowboys need at least one, if not two or three new defensive tackles this off-season. Very few teams need any position more than the Cowboys need defensive tackles.

Defensive End

It’s not just defensive tackles the Cowboys need. Their defensive line might be in more trouble than any defensive line in the NFL. It was a huge part of the reason why the Cowboys were so awful defensively last season. They had 20 different players see snaps on their defensive line last season and only two, Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware, graded out positively on Pro Football Focus. Hatcher is as good as gone and Ware could be a cap casualty if he doesn’t take a pay cut. Even if Ware is back in 2014, he’s a declining player going into his age 32 season and the perpetually cap strapped Cowboys are going to have to let him go at some point, even if they don’t this off-season. Opposite him, George Selvie was alright as legendary defensive line coach Rod Marinelli did the best he could with this unit, turning Selvie from an NFL burnout to a functional starter, but he was still overstretched and would be better off in a 3rd defensive end role. And of course, their depth at the position was horrible. The Cowboys should add at least one new defensive end into the mix this off-season, even if Ware returns.

Outside Linebacker

This was supposed to be Bruce Carter’s breakout year in Monte Kiffin’s scheme, after all of the comparisons to Derrick Brooks and the comments about his otherworldly athleticism. He lived up to it in coverage, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked 4-3 outside linebacker in coverage grade, but he was awful against the run, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst 4-3 outside linebacker against the run and overall grading out 32nd out of 35 eligible at the position. The Cowboys don’t have much choice but to let him continue starting into his 4th year in the league and hope that the 2011 2nd round pick finally puts it all together, but some competition would be nice if possible. Opposite him is the bigger problem. Ernie Sims was horrific as a two-down linebacker this season. He played both outside and inside linebacker, but his composite grade on Pro Football Focus would have made him their worst ranked 4-3 outside linebacker and 2nd worst ranked middle linebacker, despite the fact that he played just 391 snaps. He’s a free agent this off-season and they need to take this opportunity to upgrade the position. Finding adequate two-down linebackers isn’t hard, but it’s still a need.

Middle Linebacker

Sean Lee is a fantastic middle linebacker when healthy, but he’s never played all 16 games in a season and has missed 18 games in the last 4 seasons, including 15 in the last 2 seasons. His injury problems go back to his time at Penn State and were a big part of the reason why he fell to the 2nd round in 2010, despite his rare talent. The Cowboys need a better insurance policy at the position than DeVonte Holloman. Holloman was awful last season as a 6th round rookie, playing just 198 snaps at middle linebacker (3 starts), not enough for him to be eligible for Pro Football Focus’ rankings, but if he was, he would have ranked 10th worst, despite such limited playing time.

Safety

Barry Church is an adequate starter at safety, though if the Cowboys were in a better financial position it wouldn’t be a bad idea to upgrade him. They need help opposite him though. Undrafted rookie Jeff Heath predictably struggled last season and 2013 3rd round pick JJ Wilcox wasn’t much better when given the chance. My guess is they’ll give Wilcox another chance to start, but there’s no guarantee that he ever develops into a starter. Only about 1/3 of 3rd round picks do.

Guard

The Cowboys’ offense is much better than their defense, but they do have one hole. On an otherwise fantastic offensive line, their weakness is left guard, where Ronald Leary made all 16 starts last season and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 55th ranked guard out of 81 eligible. That’s not a huge surprise considering he went undrafted in the 2012 draft and then didn’t play a single snap as a rookie. Upgrading him would be a good idea, but they probably won’t get the chance.

Key Free Agents

DT Jason Hatcher

Once a solid reserve and rotational defensive lineman, Jason Hatcher had a breakout season in 2012, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked 3-4 defensive end. There was some concern about how he would transition to defensive tackle in a 4-3 in 2013, but he proved to be a perfect fit for Rod Marinelli’s scheme. He wasn’t great against the run, as could be expected of a 6-6 285 pounder, but he had 11 sacks, 7 hits, and 33 hurries on 472 pass rush snaps, 10.8% pass rush rate that’s absurd for an interior defensive lineman. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked defensive tackle overall and 4th ranked defensive tackle in terms of pass rush grade. He’s a perfect fit for both a 3-4 scheme and a penetrating 4-3 scheme, though his size won’t fit all schemes. That’s one minor concern, with the other being that he’s going into his age 32 season, but he should still command a sizeable contract.

DE Anthony Spencer

From 2008-2012, Anthony Spencer was a top-11 3-4 outside linebacker on Pro Football Focus in all 5 seasons, including 4 as an every down starter and topping at #1 overall in 2012. As a result, he was franchise tagged by the Cowboys twice, but he played just 38 snaps on his 2nd franchise tag in 2013, missing most of the season with a knee injury. Between the knee injury and the fact that he’s going into his age 30 season, he might be met with a relatively cold market this off-season and be forced to settle for a one-year prove it deal, but if he impresses on that deal, there should be time for him to get another multi-year contract and big payday next off-season.

G Brian Waters

One of the best interior offensive linemen of his era, Brian Waters was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked guard as recently as 2011. He didn’t play at all in 2012, but he unretired for the 2013 season and played pretty well in 7 games for the Cowboys before going down for the season with a triceps injury. Now going into his age 37 season and coming off of a significant injury, there’s a very good chance he just retires again, but if he wants to continue playing, he can still help a team on a one year deal. He’s made it known in the past that he wants to stay close to home in Texas and I don’t think it would be a bad idea at all by the Cowboys to bring him back and plug him in at left guard, where they have a need. He’d come cheap, a positive for a cap strapped team.

Cap Casualty Candidates

WR Miles Austin

Cutting Miles Austin would only save the Cowboys about 400K on the cap, but it would save the Cowboys 6.5 million in pure cash and they could get even more cap savings by cutting him as a post-June 1st cut. It’s hard to see him back with the team given their cap issues. Miles Austin’s career has been completely derailed by hamstring problems. He struggled mightily this past season, catching just 24 passes for 244 yards on 342 pass routes, ranking 2nd worst in the NFL among eligible wide receivers in yards per route run. The Cowboys have a good set of young receivers with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Dwayne Harris so they really have no need for Austin. Going into his age 30 season, Austin will be limited to one year deals on the open market this off-season. He could be a cheap bounce back candidate though, as he caught 66 passes for 943 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2012.

OT Jeremy Parnell

Parnell is a fine swing tackle, but he’s not going to be a starter on this solid Dallas offensive line, so the cap strapped Cowboys will probably just cut him, to save 1.5 million on the cap. They need all the breathing room they can get.

C Phil Costa

The same is true of Phil Costa, a backup center. They can save another 1.5 million by cutting him.

DE DeMarcus Ware

DeMarcus Ware has a base salary of 12.25 million for 2014 and a cap number upwards of 16 million. That’s simply too much for a cap strapped team like the Cowboys to take on, especially with Ware aging, going into his age 32 season. Ware still played well last season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked 4-3 defensive end, but he missed the first 3 games of his career and had a career low 6 sacks. If he doesn’t agree to a pay cut, I’d imagine they’d cut him, saving close to 7.5 million on the cap.

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Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin situation thoughts

This is will be included as part of my Dolphins off-season report in a few days, but the Ted Wells report has finally come out so it felt like better timing to publish this separately right now. With everything out in the open that needs to be out in the open, I feel I can accurately judge both sides of the situation in terms of their involvement and subsequently their NFL futures. This is the first time I’ve done this on here because I wanted to wait for everything to come out. Unfortunately, that took a while, but whatever.

G Richie Incognito

If I had a choice right now between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin in terms of who I’d want on my team, I’m taking Incognito. That being said, I don’t think any team can just sign Incognito like it’s nothing and expect it to 100% work. Because of all of the things that have been said about him in the media, true or untrue, fair or unfair, there are probably a solid amount of players in the NFL who feel they could never play with him. I wouldn’t want him on a team with several of those players. You have to know and consult your locker room before you bring someone like him in now.

That being said, Incognito is still a good football player, only going into his age 31 season, coming off a solid 8 game start to the 2013 season and a 2012 season in which he finished 24th among guards on Pro Football Focus. I’m more sympathetic to Incognito’s side than most people probably are. He’s done some bad things in the past, but I don’t think he comes out of the Jonathan Martin situation like the terrible person a lot of people are trying to paint him as.

After reading the thousands of text messages sent back and forth between Incognito and Martin, I can definitely understand why Incognito believed they were friends. Friends rip on each other. I do it with my friends. I wouldn’t expect things to be any different in the NFL. Did Incognito cross some lines? Absolutely. Leaving female family members out of the mix is generally a good rule to follow and some of the racial stuff definitely raises eyebrows, even if it isn’t coming from a truly racist place, which I don’t believe it is.

Incognito definitely doesn’t come out of this looking like a saint, especially when you consider his history and his apparent obsession with strippers, hookers, and fake tits. However, I don’t believe anything Incognito said was coming from a place of hate. In fact, I believe the opposite. And then one day, all of a sudden, lawyers are involved, Incognito is out of a job, and being painted in the media as a racist and a bully. That’s something I can be sympathetic to.

On top of that, the fact that a large number of Incognito’s Miami teammates came to bat for him after the situation happened means something to me. Again, he’s not a good fit in every NFL locker room, but there’s a spot for Richie Incognito in the NFL, especially since I think Incognito is definitely going to be a lot more careful in the future with the lines that he’s crossed after this mess.

OT Jonathan Martin

While I would want Incognito on my team in certain situations, I actually don’t believe Jonathan Martin is an NFL player. He obviously has mental issues he needs to attend to and I don’t think that an NFL locker room is the place to handle that. His situation in another locker room might not be the exact same as in Miami, but he’s going to encounter some locker room culture everywhere he goes. You can’t have someone in an NFL locker room that needs to be coddled and given special treatment. You have to be mentally tough to play football and I don’t get the impression that Martin is.

I wouldn’t have said any of that if Martin had been getting results on the football field, but he struggled mightily as a rookie and for the first part of his sophomore season and it’s definitely becoming clear why. Inadvertently through this situation, it’s come out that Martin was not in the physical shape that the Dolphins wanted him to be in and through his text messages with Incognito it was revealed that Martin didn’t even know how to watch film during the off-season.

On top of all this, he’s now a walking lawsuit for any NFL team. He’s not completely innocent in this, as it doesn’t appear he ever gave Incognito any indication that he didn’t view their relationship as nearly as friendly as Incognito did. I’m very sympathetic to Martin’s need for help, but he put Incognito in a very tough situation. I don’t think that the NFL is the place for him. It doesn’t make him a bad person. Not everyone is cut out for the NFL. Martin is a Stanford graduate and most likely a very, very smart person capable of having a very successful career in the “real world.” The same probably could not be said about Incognito. Martin should just do that.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The Steelers started the season 0-4, so it was pretty impressive the way they were able to finish their season, coming within a missed call in the Chiefs/Chargers game of making the playoffs. The big difference was their improved turnover margin. After a -9 turnover margin in their first 4 games, they had a +5 turnover margin in their final 12 games, going 8-4 in those 12 games. That shouldn’t have been surprising considering how inconsistent and unreliable turnover margins can be.

The Steelers finished just 8-8, but they were better than their record. They finished 13th in rate of moving the chains differential, 3rd best among non-playoff teams, behind only Detroit and Arizona, and best among non-playoff teams in the AFC. I think that bodes well for their playoff chances next year. That being said, the construction of next season’s Steelers team is still up in the air. They still have an aging roster with very little cap space. We’ll see where they are in 4 months.

Positional Needs

Safety

Troy Polamalu had a strong season last year, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked safety last season. However, he’s still missed 22 games over the past 5 seasons and going into his age 33 season. The cap strapped Steelers will probably consider cutting him going into his contract year, a move that would save them 8.25 million on the cap and in cash. Opposite him, Ryan Clark is a free agent. He was decent last season, but he’s clearly on the decline and going into his age 35 season. He’s already considering retirement. 2013 4th round pick Shamarko Thomas could be a future starter, but he’s just one player.

Wide Receiver

Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders are both free agents this off-season so that leaves the Steelers with 2013 3rd round pick Markus Wheaton after Antonio Brown on the depth chart with absolutely no depth. Wheaton still has promise, but he played just 161 snaps as a rookie, catching 6 passes. If they don’t re-sign one or both of Cotchery and Sanders, they’ll be looking at wide receivers early in the draft.

Defensive End

Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood are both free agents. Keisel is a declining player going into his age 36 season, while Hood has been a massive bust since being drafted in the first round in 2009. They can’t really count on either of them in 2014. Cameron Heyward has one starting 5-technique spot locked up, but they’ll need a starter opposite him for the future and some depth.

Cornerback

William Gay and Cortez Allen are two solid cornerbacks, but they’ll need a third for the future. Ike Taylor is going into his age 34 season and could easily be a cap casualty this off-season, which would save them 7 million in cap space and cash going into his contract year, a very smart move for a cap strapped team like the Steelers. Taylor struggled mightily in 2014, graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 6th worst ranked cornerback in terms of coverage grade, allowing a league leading 1043 yards receiving in his area of coverage.

Offensive Tackle

Mike Adams was the left tackle to start the season, but he was benched and replaced with Levi Brown, who was acquired via trade. However, he never even made it on the field for the Steelers, tearing his triceps within a week. He’s suffered that injury in back-to-back seasons and wasn’t great before that, so it’s highly unlikely that they pay him 6 million in his age 30 season in 2014, when they can cut him penalty free. Kelvin Beachum then took over at left tackle and he’s been below average. The Steelers need to improve Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside protection.

Middle Linebacker

The Steelers lost starter Larry Foote to injury after week 1. Vince Williams, a 6th round rookie, took over eventually, next to established starter Lawrence Timmons. He wasn’t terrible, especially for a 6th round rookie, and he could develop into a starter long-term, but he could have been better. Larry Foote probably isn’t back, as a mediocre linebacker going into his age 34 season and coming off of a significant injury, so they could use another veteran in the mix to push Williams.

Kick Returner

Felix Jones, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jonathan Dwyer combined to take back 37 of 43 kickoffs for the Steelers and all 3 of them are free agents this off-season. None of them were particularly good anyway, as the Steelers ranked 21st in the NFL, returning kickoffs for an average of 22.4 yards per. They could use a mid to late round pick on a kickoff return specialist.

Punter

Mat McBriar is a free agent and if he’s not retained, they’ll need a new punter. He struggled anyway, as he averaged just 39.8 yards per punt and 34.5 net yards per punt.

Key Free Agents

OLB Jason Worilds

A talented reserve in the first three years of his career, Worilds, a 2010 2nd round pick, had a breakout year in 2013. The Steelers cut veteran James Harrison in the off-season and were expecting 1st round pick Jarvis Jones to take his spot. Instead, it was Worilds, who played 792 snaps, most among Steelers outside linebackers, and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked 3-4 outside linebacker this season. There isn’t room for the Steelers to have Jarvis Jones, LaMarr Woodley, and Worilds under their cap, considering how cap strapped they are, but they may make LaMarr Woodley, an overpaid declining player, a post-June 1st cap casualty and use the freed up cap space to bring back Worilds. Wherever he ends up, I imagine him getting a multi-year deal worth upwards of 5 million yearly.

S Ryan Clark

Ryan Clark was still a solid starter last season, but he was a far cry from his 2008-2012 form, a stretch in which he finished in the top-25 among safety on Pro Football Focus in all 5 seasons and maxed out at 9th in 2012. Considering his age, as he’s going into his age 35 season, that’s very understandable and it’s probably not going to get any better. He could still be brought back as a starter by the Steelers, but he also might retire. It’s hard to see him signing anywhere else other than Pittsburgh, but stranger things have happened. Either way, it’s probably going to be a one, maybe two year deal.

WR Emmanuel Sanders

A decent starter and nothing more, Emmanuel Sanders took Mike Wallace’s spot in the starting lineup this season and caught a career high 67 passes for 740 yards and 6 touchdowns on 108 targets and 557 routes run. He doesn’t have a ton of upside, but he’s a decent, cheap starter or #3 receiver for any receiver needy team on a budget. The Steelers will probably try to bring him back at the right price.

C Fernando Velasco

Fernando Velasco randomly had a great season in 2012, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 11th ranked center in his first year as a starter. He was given a 2nd round tender by the Titans after that season, but eventually he was made a final cut, a pretty surprising move. Perhaps he was proving to be a one year wonder in Training Camp and wasn’t living up to his salary. The Steelers scooped him up to replace Maurkice Pouncey after he tore his ACL week 1 and while he wasn’t nearly as good as he was in 2012, he was still a welcome addition for the Steelers’ offensive line, though he did suffer injuries of his own. He’ll probably be looking at one year deals this off-season again, but he’s a starting caliber player.

DE Brett Keisel

Keisel was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked 3-4 defensive end as recently as 2011, but he’s turned in two very pedestrian seasons since. Going into his age 35 season, there’s a chance he could retire. If he doesn’t, he’s probably looking at one year deals, though he should still be given a chance to contribute as a rotational player or starter. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Steelers to bring him back if he were interested.

RB Jonathan Dwyer

Jonathan Dwyer was actually the Steelers’ leading rusher in 2012, leading the way with 632 yards and 2 touchdowns on 156 carries. He was a little overstretched in that role, averaging just 4.0 yards per carry and is better suited for a backup role. He carried the ball 49 times in 2013, which is much more appropriate. He’ll be looking at short-term deals and backup roles on the open market this off-season.

WR Jerricho Cotchery

Cotchery was a 1000 yard receiver in 2007 with the Jets and isn’t even that old, but he hasn’t been putting up the same numbers in Pittsburgh. Last season was his best since 2009 as Cotchery had a bigger role with Mike Wallace gone. He caught 46 passes for 602 yards and 10 touchdowns on 74 targets and 455 pass routes run. He’s going into his age 32 season so his best days are behind him, but he’s a solid depth receiver at the very least.

DE Ziggy Hood

A first round pick in 2009 by the Steelers, Hood was supposed to be a key cog on this Pittsburgh defense for the future. Instead, he’s been a massive bust. A key contributor since 2010, Hood has graded as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd lowest ranked, lowest ranked, 4th lowest ranked, and 2nd lowest ranked 3-4 defensive end respectively. His phone shouldn’t ring for a while.

P Mat McBriar

Mat McBriar was once a great punter, but he struggled mightily this season, after being signed off the streets mid-season, as he averaged just 39.8 yards per punt and 34.5 net yards per punt. Time will tell if he gets another chance, going into his age 35 season.

Cap Casualty Candidates

OT Levi Brown

Levi Brown has played a combined 269 snaps over the past 2 seasons thanks to two separate triceps tears, the latter of which was suffered after the Cardinals shipped him to Pittsburgh for a late round pick. He suffered the injury in practice before he could ever play a snap with the Steelers. And it’s not like he’s been a good player in the past. The 5th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Brown is a massive bust that has gotten way too many chances to shed the label. Before the last two injury plagued seasons, Brown was ProFootballFocus’ 57th ranked offensive tackle (out of 76) in 2011, 78th ranked offensive tackles (out of 78) in 2010, and 72nd ranked offensive tackle (out of 77) in 2009. Going into his age 30 season and owed 6.25 million, there’s no reason the Steelers keep him around, especially since they can cut him penalty free.

CB Ike Taylor

Ike Taylor is going into his age 34 season and could easily be a cap casualty this off-season, which would save them 7 million in cap space and cash going into his contract year, a very smart move for a cap strapped team like the Steelers. Taylor struggled mightily in 2014, graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 6th worst ranked cornerback in terms of coverage grade, allowing a league leading 1043 yards receiving in his area of coverage.

MLB Larry Foote

Larry Foote was Pro Football Focus’ 46th ranked middle linebacker out of 53 eligible in 2012 and he was going into age 33 season in 2013. Still, the Steelers decided re-signing him with a cheap 3-year deal was their best option at middle linebacker. Foote lasted one game before going down with injury and in his absence, 6th round rookie Vince Williams proved to be a cheaper and probably better replacement. With Foote now going into his age 34 season, he’s unlikely to be brought back at his 1.5 million dollar salary. The Steelers can save 1.17 million on the cap by cutting him, not a ton, but enough for this cap strapped team to pull the trigger.

OLB LaMarr Woodley

Cutting LaMarr Woodley would actually cost the Steelers cap space, so they’d have to cut him as a post-June 1st cut if they’re going to cut him. That being said, there’s some merit to them doing that. His cap number is going to be 13.59 million if they don’t cut him and they can free up a lot of cap space by cutting him as a post-June 1st cut. He’s a declining player going into his age 30 season and he’s maxed out at 641 snaps played in the first 3 years of his extension from 2011-2013 thanks to injury and declining play. The Steelers can go forward with Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds as the starters at the position going forward and be younger and more explosive, but they need some cap space and Woodley to be out of the way in order to re-sign the free agent Worilds, who had a breakout year this season.

S Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu had a strong season last year, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked safety last season. However, he’s still missed 22 games over the past 5 seasons and going into his age 33 season. The cap strapped Steelers will probably consider cutting him going into his contract year, a move that would save them 8.25 million on the cap and in cash. Extending him to a short-term deal that lowers his cap number for this season would make more sense to me though.

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Chicago Bears 2014 Off-Season Preview

2013 Recap

Die hard Bears fans probably didn’t recognize the team at all last season. Their offense was as good as it’s been in years, a big change for a franchise that is not usually good offensively. However, their defense was as bad as it’s been in years and potentially one of the worst defenses in franchise history, considering how good their defense has almost always been. They moved the chains at a 75.68% rate, 4th best in the NFL, but they allowed opponents to move the chains at a 76.92% rate, 2nd worst in the NFL. As a result, they missed the playoffs once again.

What happened to their defense? Well, it was a combination of age, injuries, and departed coaches. The Bears came into 2013 with 4 defensive starters over 30 and all 4 had down seasons. Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman both missed significant time with injury and were shells of their former selves when on the field. Julius Peppers also struggled by his standards and even Tim Jennings, the youngest of the bunch, wasn’t as good as he’s been in the past. Also, in addition to the injuries suffered by Briggs and Tillman, they were dealt a significant blow when Henry Melton, their best young player, tore his ACL early in the season. Their run defense never recovered.

They also really missed Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli, their long-time head coach and his trusted defensive coordinator. Their absences were probably just as much why some of their players declined as age. Even under 30 players like Chris Conte and Major Wright struggled by their standards this season, while James Anderson struggled mightily as a free agent addition and youngsters Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin did not develop. The downgrade from Marinelli to Mel Tucker was significant.

Firing Lovie Smith wasn’t all bad though. Lovie Smith’s biggest issue was that he continually hired incompetent coordinators to run his offense, guys like Ron Turner, Mike Martz, and Mike Tice. New head coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer are both great offensive minds that were able to turn this into one of the best offenses in the NFL.

Alshon Jeffery broke out as a legitimate outside receiving threat opposite Brandon Marshall and the addition of Martellus Bennett in free agency gave them a significant upgrade at tight end over the overmatched Kellen Davis. They stopped messing around with the offensive line and brought in 4 new starters, two in free agency, Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson, and two in the draft, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills. Those 4 and center Roberto Garza each made all 16 starts this season on a much improved offensive line. It didn’t even matter if Jay Cutler was out there or not because they were able to coach journeyman backup Josh McCown into strong play for a short period of time, completing 66.5% of his passes for an average of 8.17 YPA, 13 touchdowns, and 1 interception.

All that being said, I don’t really believe the Bears are in a better position now than where they were a year ago. They fired Lovie Smith despite an 81-63 record in 9 seasons and a Super Bowl appearance in 2005 because he had made the playoffs just once in the past 6 seasons. He and Rod Marinelli were strong defensive minds, but they never had a strong offensive mind. Now, Trestman and Kromer are strong offensive minds, but they don’t have a strong defensive mind. Trestman’s willingness to stick with Mel Tucker at defensive coordinator despite such an awful defensive season last year is very much Lovie Smith-like. The Bears are no less stuck in the mud than they were a year ago.

Positional Needs

Defensive End

Corey Wootton is a free agent this off-season, while Julius Peppers is as close to being a sure thing cap casualty as you can be. The Bears drafted Shea McClellin in the first round in 2012, but he’s been a bust thus far. He played just 368 snaps as a rookie and then struggled mightily in 2013, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst 4-3 defensive end. He’s being moved to outside linebacker for 2014 so the Bears really have nothing at the defensive end position right now. They’ll need at least one, if not two new starters at the defensive end position this off-season.

Defensive Tackle

The Bears run defense was terrible this season as they couldn’t handle the loss of Henry Melton, who tore his ACL early in the season. They couldn’t really replace him. Stephen Paea was alright, but Landon Cohen struggled mightily went counted upon. Things were so bad that they signed Jay Ratliff off the streets. He’s not a long-term option, going into his age 33 season after struggling through injuries over the past couple of seasons.

Safety

Major Wright and Chris Conte both struggled mightily this season at safety, grading out as Pro Football Focus worst ranked and 4th worst ranked safeties respectively this season. They’ve both been better in the past, but Wright is a free agent this off-season and unlikely to be retained, while Conte will be a free agent next off-season. It’s a position they’ll need to address this off-season.

Cornerback

The Bears re-signed Tim Jennings to a 4-year deal this off-season, but they still have 4 free agents at the cornerback position this off-season, including Charles Tillman, a long-time starter who is unlikely to be retained, coming off of a rough season in which he missed significant time with injury and going into his age 33 season. They’ll need a new starter opposite Jennings this off-season. Jennings is also going into his age 31 season and probably won’t make it through all 4 seasons of his contract.

Outside Linebacker

James Anderson was awful this season at outside linebacker, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 4-3 outside linebacker this past season. Lance Briggs was better opposite him, but he wasn’t his best and missed 7 games with injury. That’s to be expected as he’s going into his age 34 season and he won’t be able to be counted on for much longer. Shea McClellin will be converting to outside linebacker and they have 2013 4th round pick Khaseem Greene in the mix as well, but they can’t count on either of them as long-term starters at the position either. They should try to add someone else to the mix this off-season.

Middle Linebacker

Jon Bostic took over as a starter as a 2nd round rookie, but finished as Pro Football Focus’ 5th worst ranked middle linebacker. There shouldn’t be a ton of concern right now as he was only a rookie, but there’s already been some talk of moving him to outside linebacker, where he would be a better fit and potentially help solve another problem. They could add a cheap veteran or a late round pick to the mix at this position this off-season.

Wide Receiver

Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are among the top wide receiver duos in the NFL, but the Bears’ depth behind them is pretty limited, especially if they cut marginal slot receiver Earl Bennett. They could add a mid-round or late-round pick on a depth receiver.

Offensive Tackle

Every single one of the Bears’ starting offensive linemen played at least 1022 snaps and no one missed more than 48 snaps. There’s something to be said for continuity, but right tackle Jordan Mills actually really struggled, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked offensive tackle last season, allowing a league worst 62 quarterback hurries. He could be better in his 2nd season in the league in 2014, but he was just a 5th round pick. They should consider some competition at the position.

Center

The Bears might not be able to keep all 5 starters on their offensive line because center Roberto Garza is a free agent. He’s going into his age 35 season in 2014 and has been very inconsistent in the past. If they don’t bring him back, they’ll have to replace him because they don’t have an internal replacement.

Punter

Adam Podlesh struggled as the Bears’ punter this season. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst punter as the Bears ranked dead last in the NFL in punting average and 4th worst in net punting average. They can easily cut him this off-season and replace him with at least a league average punter.

Key Free Agents

DT Henry Melton

Henry Melton emerged as one of the better defensive tackles in the NFL in 2011 and 2012, grading out 16th among defensive tackles on Pro Football Focus in 2011 and 7th in 2012, earning himself the franchise tag for the 2013 season. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL early in the 2013 season so now his future is in limbo. He’s talented and young so someone may still want to commit to him on a multi-year deal, but he may have to settle for a one year prove it deal, even if it is a lucrative one in the range of 5-6 million. That would probably be his best option considering he could get a very lucrative deal next off-season if healthy.

DE Corey Wootton

An inside/outside defensive lineman who plays defensive end in base packages and moves inside to defensive tackle in sub packages. The 6-6 270 pounder has played in that prominent role for 2 seasons and has graded out below average on Pro Football Focus in both seasons, but just barely. He’s a decent starter and versatile. He’s sadly one of the Bears’ best defensive players, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea for them to bring him back on a multi-year deal that pays him like a starter somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 million per year.

QB Josh McCown

Going into this season, Josh McCown was an aging journeyman backup quarterback. He was in his age 34 season and hadn’t posted a QB rating of 70 or higher since 2006. Out of nowhere, he completed 66.5% of his passes for an average of 8.17 YPA, 13 touchdowns, and 1 interception. There was even some talk that the Bears should continue starting him even after Jay Cutler was healthy and/or that the Bears should let Jay Cutler leave as a free agent, in favor of keeping McCown as the starter. The Bears instead kept Cutler, which was the right move. McCown probably isn’t the quarterback his numbers showed him to be last season and he’s also going into his age 35 season, but there’s no denying he’s great in Trestman’s system. They would be wise to bring him back as a backup for the increasingly injury prone Jay Cutler.

C Roberto Garza

Garza has had some rough seasons in the past, grading out below average at both guard and center in every season from 2010-2012, including a 2011 season in which he ranked 2nd worst among centers on Pro Football Focus. However, he played pretty well in 2013 in a new system with a new offensive line coach. Unfortunately, he’s going into his age 35 season so he won’t command a long-term deal. He’ll probably sign a one-year deal somewhere, probably back in Chicago.

CB Zachary Bowman

A 2008 5th round pick, Bowman is already going into his age 30 season and his 7th season in the league. He’s played sparingly in every season but two, 2009 and 2013. In both of those seasons, he didn’t play that well, although he wasn’t awful this last season. He’ll probably be looking at one year deals as a depth cornerback this off-season.

S Major Wright

A 2010 3rd round pick, Major Wright has been a starter for 3 seasons. He was alright in 2011 and 2012, but he struggled mightily in 2013, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked safety in 2013. He’ll probably have to settle for a one-year prove it deal this off-season. Anyone who gives him a long-term deal that pays him like a starter is making the wrong move and could be falling into a trap.

WR Devin Hester

He’s not a receiver anymore, which is a good thing, but, as good of a kick returner as he’s been in his career, he’s going into his age 32 season and the lifespan of kick returners isn’t that long, even really good ones. He has 18 special teams touchdowns all-time, a record, but just one in the last 2 seasons. He could be overpaid by someone off of name value.

OLB James Anderson

James Anderson had a great 2010 season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked 4-3 outside linebacker in 2010. However, he struggled in both 2011 and 2012 and was cut by the Panthers. He was snatched up by the Bears and given a three-down role, leading the team in snaps played by linebackers. However, he struggled mightily, overmatched in his role, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 4-3 outside linebacker. He shouldn’t be given a three-down role going forward.

CB Kelvin Hayden

A well-travelled, veteran slot cornerback, Hayden missed the entire 2013 season with a torn hamstring. Now going into his age 31 season, Hayden might have to wait a while for the phone to ring.

DT Landon Cohen

Cohen didn’t play a single snap in 2012 and played a combined 104 snaps from 2010-2012, but he was thrust into a bigger role in 2013 when Henry Melton went down with injury, playing 386 snaps. He struggled mightily, a huge part of the reason why the Bears sucked against the run this season. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 63rd ranked defensive tackle out of 69 eligible despite the limited playing time. He should have to wait a very long time for the phone to ring.

DT Jay Ratliff

An aging, injury prone player, Ratliff was once a great player, but he played just 269 snaps in 2012 and was on the street in 2013 after the Cowboys cut him, rather than activating him from the physically unable to perform list. The Bears were so desperate for defensive tackle help that they signed him off the streets, but he predictably struggled on 210 snaps. Going into his age 33 season, he’s going to have to wait a while for the phone to ring, if it ever does.

DT Nate Collins

A talented reserve in 2012, the 2010 undrafted free agent had a chance to shine in a larger role this season with Henry Melton’s injury, but Collins suffered one of his own, tearing his ACL in October. He’ll have a hard time finding work this off-season, but he’s a worthwhile reserve when healthy.

Cap Casualty Candidates

DE Julius Peppers

Julius Peppers is as close to being a sure cap casualty as anyone in the NFL. He’ll count for an absurd 18.18 million on the Bears’ cap next season and the Bears would save 9.82 million on the cap by cutting him. Given that he graded out below average on Pro Football Focus and is a shell of his former self going into his age 34 season, that’s a no brainer.

RB Michael Bush

The Bears can save 1.85 million on the cap by cutting Michael Bush going into his age 30 season, which seems like a reasonable move considering he’s an aging below average backup running back. He averaged 3.13 yards per carry last season and has averaged just 3.66 yards per carry over the past 3 seasons.

WR Earl Bennett

The Bears can save 2.45 million on the cap by cutting Earl Bennett this off-season. Considering he’s caught just 85 passes for 999 yards and 7 touchdowns in the past 3 years combined, he’s definitely expendable. They can find a cheaper, better slot receiver fairly easily.

P Adam Podlesh

Adam Podlesh struggled as the Bears’ punter this season. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst punter as the Bears ranked dead last in the NFL in punting average and 4th worst in net punting average. They can easily cut him this off-season and replace him with at least a league average punter.

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