San Diego Chargers 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

No team had fewer players on my top-200 players list before the season than the San Diego Chargers, who only had one, safety Eric Weddle. However, at the end of the season, they ended up winning a playoff game and coming within a touchdown of the Broncos in San Diego. What happened? Well the primary factor was a throwback year by Philip Rivers. After posting QB ratings of 100+ for 3 straight seasons from 2008-2010, Rivers saw his QB rating drop into the 80s in both 2011 and 2012. There were rumors of injuries and age, going into his age 32 season, was also seen as a factor.

Instead, Rivers found the fountain of youth in 2013, with help from his new coaching staff and the front office. New head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt did a fantastic job fixing Rivers and building an offense better suited to his strengths. Also, after playing for 2 years with minimal offensive supporting cast, new GM Tom Telesco (who got some Executive of the Year consideration from me) did a great job fixing the situation, without big offensive signings and with just one off-season. Drafting DJ Fluker in the first round helped, but the real steals were getting Keenan Allen (an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate) in the 3rd round getting and King Dunlap and Danny Woodhead on cheap contracts in free agency.

The results were great. Rivers posted a 105.5 QB rating that tied for his career best. He completed 69.5% of his passes for an average of 8.23 YPA, 32 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, while leading the Chargers to a 2nd place finish in rate of moving the chains, only behind the Broncos. The defense was still a big problem, as they allowed opponents to move the chains at the 5th highest rate in the NFL. Eric Weddle remains their only top level player on that side of the ball. That being said, with the offense as good as it is, they have a chance to be right in the post-season mix again in 2014.

Positional Needs

Cornerback

The Chargers might have the worst cornerbacks in the NFL, a big part of the reason why they ranked 28th in rate of moving the chains against. Shareece Wright, Richard Marshall, Derek Cox, and Johnny Patrick were their top-4 cornerbacks last season. They ranked 102th, 101st, 104th, and 94th respectively out of 110 eligible cornerbacks. Cox will probably be cut, while Marshall will be a free agent this off-season. They desperately need cornerback help. They need at least one, if not two new starters at the position.

Outside Linebacker

The Chargers had just 35 sacks this season, tied for 23rd in the NFL. They also ranked 28th on Pro Football Focus’ in terms of team pass rush grade. Their lack of pass rush was way too evident in their loss in Denver to Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Melvin Ingram came back from a torn ACL late in the season, but the 2012 1st round pick still hasn’t proven anything in his career. He struggled a bit as a rookie and was clearly not 100% in 2013 because of his injury history. He’ll be back as a starter in 2014, barring any setbacks, but they’ll need someone opposite him. Dwight Freeney’s future is in limbo going into his age 34 season after missing 12 games in 2013. He could be a cap casualty, a move that would save the Chargers 3.15 million in cash and on the cap.

Defensive End

He was better as a rookie in 2012, but Kendall Reyes struggled mightily this season. The former 2nd round pick graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked 3-4 defensive end in 2013. They should bring in more competition for him in case this becomes a pattern and a long-term issue.

Guard

Starting left guard Chad Rinehart is a free agent, while right guard Jeromey Clary struggled mightily, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 72nd ranked guard out of 81 eligible. The former right tackle has been struggling for years and the Chargers could cut him and save 4.55 million on the cap by cutting him. Johnnie Troutman is an internal option, but he struggled mightily in 9 starts last season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 60th ranked guard out of 81 eligible. The Chargers could need at least one, if not two new starters at guard this off-season if Rinehart, a decent starter, isn’t retained.

Defensive Tackle

Nose tackle Cam Thomas is a free agent and he could be upgraded anyway. If he isn’t retained, they’ll need a new nose tackle, preferably one who can also play some 4-3 defensive tackle and 5-technique defensive end because the Chargers use a hybrid scheme and need help at those positions as well.

Middle Linebacker

Manti Te’o struggled as a rookie, though the 2013 2nd round pick will get another chance to be the starter in 2014. Donald Butler has been better in the past, but he too struggled this season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 45th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible. He’s a free agent this off-season and if he’s not retained, he’ll need to be replaced. Adding another middle linebacker for competition purposes isn’t a bad idea.

Wide Receiver

The Chargers need wide receiver help after Keenan Allen on the depth chart. Eddie Royal could be a cap casualty, owed 4.5 million, while Malcom Floyd is going into his age 33 season and may never play again because of a career threatening neck injury. That would just leave Vincent Brown as the only functional receiver on the depth chart after Allen. Depth is needed.

Center

Nick Hardwick is still a good player, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 11th ranked center, but he’s going into his age 33 season and is reportedly considering retirement. If he retires, they’ll have a gaping hole at center. Even if he doesn’t, adding a developmental center behind him isn’t a bad idea in case he’s not around much longer. He’s getting up there in age and will be a free agent next off-season.

Key Free Agents

MLB Donald Butler

A 2010 3rd round pick, Donald Butler was an above average starter on Pro Football Focus in 2011 and 2012, but he had a bad season this year, which was bad timing considering it was his contract year. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 45th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible. He’s also missed 23 games in 4 seasons. Both of those things could impact his market this off-season. He may have to settle for one year prove it deals.

G Chad Rinehart

A 3rd round pick in 2008, Chad Rinehart was great as a starter in Buffalo in 2011, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 9th ranked guard. However, he missed most of the 2012 season with injury and had to settle for a one year deal in San Diego. He wasn’t the same in San Diego, grading out slightly below average. He remains a one year wonder and will probably be looking at short-term deals again this off-season.

DT Cam Thomas

Cam Thomas has been a valuable rotational defensive lineman over the past 3 seasons, grading out above average on Pro Football Focus in two of them, but he didn’t last season and he’s also combined for 1284 snaps played over the past 3 seasons. He’s only a part-time player and he won’t command a lot of money on the open market.

CB Richard Marshall

Richard Marshall has had an up and down career, but over the past 4 seasons, he’s had one season in which he played just 4 games and two seasons in which he graded out among Pro Football Focus’ 10 worst cornerbacks. Now going into his age 30 season, off of a season in which he graded out 101st out of 110 eligible cornerbacks, he should see a fairly cold market.

WR Danario Alexander

Danario Alexander is so talented when healthy, but he’s had 7 knee surgeries in his career. He caught 113 passes for 1781 yards and 14 touchdowns in his senior season at Missouri, but went undrafted in 2010 because of knee problems. He was able to rebound eventually and make an impact in the second half of the 2012 season with the Chargers, catching 37 passes for 658 yards and 7 touchdowns in 9 games, which extrapolates to 66 catches for 1170 yards and 12 touchdowns over 16 games. However, then he tore his other ACL before this season, forcing him to miss the season and putting his career in doubt. He’s highly unlikely to get anything more than a one year deal at the minimum, if he even gets anything.

Cap Casualty Candidates

FB Le’Ron McClain

Le’Ron McClain is little used fullback who played 134 snaps and who is going into his age 30 season in 2014. The Chargers can save 2.5 million in cash and on the cap by cutting him, which makes a lot of sense considering how unnecessary he is.

CB Derek Cox

Derek Cox was a bust of a free agent signing as he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 7th worst ranked cornerback, including 4th worst ranked cornerback in terms of coverage grade. Fortunately, his contract was structured in a way that they can get out of the rest of the 13.1 million over 3 years left on his contract and actually save cap space in the short term. They’d save about 1.625 million in cap space by cutting him.

G Jeromey Clary

Jeromey Clary struggled for years at right tackle so they moved him to right guard. It didn’t help as he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 72nd ranked guard out of 81 eligible. They can save 4.55 million on the cap by cutting him, which seems like a no brainer. That’s way too much to pay for a mediocre guard who is going into his age 31 season.

OLB Larry English

Larry English has been a massive bust as a 2009 1st round pick, totaling 789 snaps played from 2010-2013 combined. The Chargers can save 1.5 million in cash and cap space by letting him go.

WR Eddie Royal

Eddie Royal was the Chargers’ #2 wide receiver in terms of receiving yardage, catching 47 passes for 631 yards and 8 touchdowns. However, the Chargers will save 4.5 million on the cap and in cash by cutting him, which might be too tempting for the Chargers considering Royal has exceeded 345 yards in just half of his pro seasons.

OLB Jarret Johnson

Jarret Johnson is a two-down edge player who doesn’t provide much pass rush and he’s going into his age 33 season. The Chargers can save 4 million in cash and 2.5 million in cap space cutting him this off-season.

OLB Dwight Freeney

Dwight Freeney is a declining player going into his age 34 season who missed 12 games with injury last season. They might not find him to be worth the 3.15 million dollars in salary the Chargers owe him. They can save all of that on the cap by cutting him.

WR Malcom Floyd

The Chargers would endure a cap hit by cutting Floyd now, but they could save some cap space in the short-term by making him a post-June 1st cut. They may do that because Floyd is going into his age 33 season and attempting to recover from a career threatening neck injury. He also may just retire.

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Cincinnati Bengals 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

I would argue that the Bengals have the most non-quarterback talent in the NFL (San Francisco and Seattle are obviously in the mix as well). They have a great offensive line, a bunch of talented offensive weapons and one of the best defenses in the NFL. There might not have been another team for which I found it so hard to come up with positional needs. They finished the regular season 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential, led by the NFL’s #1 defense in that regard, and they won 11-5 games without the benefit of dominating the turnover battle, which bodes well for their chances of continuing a high level of play in 2014.

However, they once again fell flat in the post-season, despite being heavily favored at home over the Chargers, who barely made the playoffs. Andy Dalton is now 0-3 in post-season games, losing in the first round in each of his first 3 seasons in the NFL, and unlike the first two, this was a home game and a game which he was supposed to win so he’s unsurprisingly faced his fair share of criticism this off-season. Can you win a Super Bowl with Andy Dalton? That’s a question a lot of people are asking.

My opinion is that he’s shown enough in 48 regular season starts to suggest that he could get hot and win the Super Bowl with the right supporting cast (which I think he has right now), much like Eli Manning and Joe Flacco did. He hasn’t shown in it in the post-season yet, but I put more value in 48 regular season starts than 3 post-season starts. In those 48 regular season games, he’s 30-18, completing 60.9% of his passes for an average of 6.97 YPA, 80 touchdowns, and 49 interceptions, better, by far, than both Flacco and Manning in their first 3 years in the NFL.

It’s unclear how the team will deal with losing both offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to head coaching jobs elsewhere, but this is a young, talented team with a bright future for 2014. They’ll get Geno Atkins, one of the top defensive players in the NFL, back from injury and, while they have a couple of key free agents, they have plenty of cap space to work with, especially once they cut off some dead weight. Bengals at 25-1 to win the Super Bowl in 2014 seems like an awfully good value play.

Positional Needs

Cornerback

Leon Hall tore his Achilles for the 2nd time in 3 years this season and might not be back next season, owed a non-guaranteed 6.8 million. The Bengals can save 5.1 million on the cap by cutting him. Dre Kirkpatrick has not lived up to his billing as a 2012 first round pick and can’t get on the field, struggling on 408 snaps in 2 seasons. Terence Newman is still playing decent football, but he’ll be 36 next season. Adam Jones will be 31 next season. Things have gotten so bad that they had to bring Chris Crocker back as a cornerback last season. He also struggled and he’ll be 34 next season. They need another infusion of youth into the position.

Center

Kyle Cook at center is the weak link on an otherwise very strong offensive line. He’s graded out below average on Pro Football Focus in 3 straight seasons and now is going into his age 31 season after grading out 24th out of 35 eligible centers in 2013. The Bengals can save over 2 million on the cap and 2.7 million in cash by cutting him and replacing him with a highly drafted rookie center. That would make a lot of sense considering how few needs they have.

Middle Linebacker

Rey Maualuga graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 38th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible in 2013 and in 2012 he ranked dead last at his position. With few needs, cutting him, saving 2.7 million in cash and cap space in the process, and replacing him with a better middle linebacker makes a lot of sense.

Running Back

BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a likely cap casualty this off-season, as they can save 2.5 million in cash and cap space by letting him go. Green-Ellis averaged just 3.4 yards per carry last season and now is going into his age 29 season with Giovani Bernard as a budding feature back behind him on the depth chart. Once he’s let go, they’ll need to find a cheap backup for Bernard, preferably someone who can handle short yardage for the 200 pound Bernard.

Quarterback

Can you win a Super Bowl with Andy Dalton? That’s a question a lot of people are asking. My opinion is that he’s shown enough in 48 regular season starts to suggest that he could get hot and win the Super Bowl with the right supporting cast (which I think he has right now), much like Eli Manning and Joe Flacco did. He hasn’t shown in it in the post-season yet, but I put more value in 48 regular season starts than 3 post-season starts. Still, it’s very possible he’ll be the limiting factor in this team’s quest to win a Super Bowl and now he’s going into his contract year. The Bengals seem willing to let him play out his contract year without an extension and deal with his contract when the time comes. Adding a developmental quarterback behind him wouldn’t be a terrible idea, especially since he doesn’t have a great backup quarterback right now.

Kick Returner

Brandon Tate was their primary kick returner last season. If he’s not brought back as a free agent, they’ll need to find a new primary kick returner.

Punt Returner

Brandon Tate was also their primary punt returner.

Key Free Agents

DE Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson broke out in 2012 in the contract year of his rookie deal, as the 2009 3rd rounder and 6-7 270 pound physical freak recorded 13 sacks and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 13th ranked 4-3 defensive end. The Bengals franchise tagged him instead of giving him a long-term deal because they wanted him to prove it again. At first glance, he doesn’t appear to have proven it, recording just 5 sacks, but he also added 16 quarterback hits and 40 quarterback hurries, to go with 7 batted passes. Add in the fact that he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 4-3 defensive end against the run and you have a guy who was much better than his raw sack totals. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked 4-3 defensive end and he should command upwards of 10+ million dollars yearly on his next contract and he’s one of the top 4-3 defensive ends on the market along with Greg Hardy and Michael Bennett.

OT Anthony Collins

Anthony Collins has been the Bengals’ swing tackle for years and he’s always shown well when given the chance, grading out above average on Pro Football Focus in limited action in every season since 2009. In 2013, he was given his biggest chance yet, with Andrew Whitworth moving to left guard in place of the injured Clint Boling and Anthony Collins taking over at left tackle. Collins played a career high 592 snaps and didn’t allow a sack or quarterback hit all season, finishing as Pro Football Focus’ 24th ranked offensive tackle despite the limited action. Blindside protectors don’t grow on trees so someone will pay a good amount of money for him to be their starting left tackle this off-season.

Cap Casualty Candidates

DE Robert Geathers

Robert Geathers is a terrible pass rusher and a mediocre run stuffer on the edge, grading out below average on Pro Football Focus in every season since 2008, including bottom-10 finishes from 2009-2012 and bottom-5 finishes in 2009, 2010, and 2012. For some reason, the Bengals re-signed Geathers to a 3-year deal last off-season, worth 9.5 million dollars. Geathers played just 22 snaps before injury and will likely be cut heading into his age 31 season, a move that would save the Bengals 2.7 million in cash and cap space. Even if Michael Johnson isn’t retained, Geathers would still probably be 4th on the Bengals’ defensive end depth chart behind Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, and Margus Hunt.

DT Domata Peko

Domata Peko graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th worst ranked defensive tackle last season and now heads into his age 30 season, so he probably won’t be getting any better at time soon. The Bengals have internal replacements in Devon Still and Brandon Thompson, 2012 2nd and 3rd round picks who got experience in 2013 when Geno Atkins went down with injury. They can save 4.165 million in cash and on the cap by cutting Peko, which makes a lot of sense.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Given that they can save 2.5 million on the cap and in cash by cutting him, BenJarvus Green-Ellis seems unlikely to be back in 2014. He’s not worth much more than the veteran’s minimum, going into his age 29 season, and the Bengals can find a much cheaper backup for budding feature back Giovani Bernard than him. The Law Firm averaged a career low 3.4 yards per carry in 2013 and probably won’t get any better.

CB Leon Hall

Leon Hall tore his Achilles for the 2nd time in 3 years this season and might not be back next season, owed a non-guaranteed 6.8 million. The Bengals can save 5.1 million on the cap by cutting him. He’s a talented player when on the field, but he’s missed 20 games over the past 3 seasons combined and he’s facing another grueling recovery from injury going into his age 30 season.

C Kyle Cook

Kyle Cook at center is the weak link on an otherwise very strong offensive line. He’s graded out below average on Pro Football Focus in 3 straight seasons and now is going into his age 31 season after grading out 24th out of 35 eligible centers. The Bengals can save over 2 million on the cap and 2.7 million in cash by cutting him and replacing him with a highly drafted rookie center. That would make a lot of sense considering how few needs they have.

TE Jermaine Gresham

The Bengals can save 3.6 million in cash and cap space by cutting Gresham, though they’re unlikely to. He’s an overrated player though. He’s a terrible blocker who has been miscast as an inline tight end. He was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked tight end overall last season, 6th worst in terms of blocking grade, and he isn’t a great pass catcher either, catching 46 passes for 461 yards and 4 touchdowns on 392 routes run in 2013. He was Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked tight end in 2012 and the 2010 1st round pick is starting to look like a bust. They have 2013 1st round pick Tyler Eifert waiting in the wings to be the every down tight end if they want to be frugal and let Gresham go.

MLB Rey Maualuga

Rey Maualuga graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 38th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible in 2013 and in 2012, he ranked dead last at his position. With few needs, cutting him, saving 2.7 million in cash and cap space in the process, and replacing him with a better middle linebacker makes a lot of sense.

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Kansas City Chiefs 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The Chiefs were the NFL’s most improved team last season, going from 2 wins in 2012 to 11 wins in 2013. It shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was. They had a lot of talent in 2012, as evidenced by their 6 Pro-Bowlers, but they couldn’t do anything because of horrific quarterback play, horrific head coaching, and a horrific turnover margin. The additions of Alex Smith and Andy Reid stabilized all 3 of those things and allowed talented players like Jamaal Charles, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Eric Berry, Dontari Poe, Derrick Johnson, Branden Albert and others to shine. Their turnover margin actually went from -24 all the way to +18.

It also helped that they had one of the easiest schedules in the NFL (the easiest, according to DVOA). They actually weren’t quite as good as their record made them seem as they went 10-0 against teams that finished 8-8 or worse and 1-6 in their 7 other games, including a post-season loss in Indianapolis. Their one win against a winning team came against a Philadelphia team that was still using Michael Vick under center.  Andy Reid did a great job, but I’m glad he didn’t win Coach of the Year. He inherited an underrated squad, had an easy schedule, and it was a loaded Coach of the Year field (Reid, Ron Rivera, Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Chip Kelly).

Their schedule will be tougher in 2014 and they won’t be able to count on such a strong turnover margin. Turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a year-to-year basis. They were the beneficiary of that in 2013. In 2014, they might not be. They also have a good amount of key free agents, including left tackle Branden Albert, who isn’t expected back.

They have a strong supporting cast, but the limiting factor is Alex Smith. Smith is a league average starting quarterback, maybe a little bit below league average, which was a tremendous upgrade over Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel, but is he the type of guy who can lead you to victory against tough opponents or get hot in the post-season and win a Super Bowl? He was Pro Football Focus’ 24th ranked quarterback last season, including 29th in pure passing grade.

The Chiefs went 10-6 in 2010 under Matt Cassel for similar reasons (strong running game, easy schedule, strong turnover margin) and stuck with him instead of drafting someone like Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick in the first round. Alex Smith is a better quarterback than Cassel ever was, but the Chiefs may end up making the same mistake twice if they are confident in Smith as their franchise quarterback. He has one year left on his contract and the Chiefs are reportedly currently in talks about extending him, which may end up keeping their team in no man’s land for a few more years.

Positional Needs

Wide Receiver

Jamaal Charles led the team in receiving with 70 catches for 693 yards and 7 touchdowns. Dwayne Bowe was 2nd, their leading wide receiver, but he was a huge disappointment, showing poor chemistry with Alex Smith and catching just 57 passes for 673 yards and 5 touchdowns. After them, it was Donnie Avery and Dexter McCluster, the former of whom could be a cap casualty and the latter of whom is a free agent. Avery was Pro Football Focus’ 105th ranked wide receiver out of 111 eligible. They desperately need another downfield pass catcher.

Guard

Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz are both free agents this off-season. Asamoah was the starter at right guard, while Schwartz made 7 starts at right and left guard and also played some right tackle. Jeff Allen is currently slated to be the left guard in 2014, where he played most of 2013, but he struggled mightily, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 62nd ranked guard out of 81 eligible. Schwartz should be the left guard, but if they don’t re-sign him and Asamoah, they’ll need at least one new starter at guard, if not two.

Safety

The Chiefs frequently use three safeties in obvious passing situations as Eric Berry moves towards the line of scrimmage and plays a lot of linebacker in sub packages. Kendrick Lewis, Quintin Demps, and Husain Abdullah are all free agents and those are the Chiefs’ top-3 safeties after Berry. None of them are great anyway. They could need up to two new safeties this off-season. Adding at least one average or better starter at the position would be wise.

Offensive Tackle

Branden Albert is a free agent this off-season, after serving on the franchise tag this season. It doesn’t sound like he’ll be back after he and the Chiefs have struggled to come to an agreement on a long-term deal. Eric Fisher was the #1 overall pick in 2013, but he struggled mightily at right tackle this season and he might not be ready to play on the blindside. Donald Stephenson was their swing tackle last season and could be a bookend opposite Fisher, but the 2012 3rd round pick has struggled mightily in limited action in 2 years in his career. Adding another offensive tackle, assuming Albert is gone, would make sense.

Tight End

The Chiefs don’t just need pass catchers at wide receiver. They could use tight end help as well. Sean McGrath led their tight ends in receiving yardage, catching just 26 passes for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns. Anthony Fasano struggled in his first year with the team and could be a cap casualty this off-season. Travis Kelce could be a bigger factor in 2013, but he missed his entire rookie year with injuries and was only a 3rd round pick so he might not be much help. They could add another tight end this off-season.

Defensive End

Tyson Jackson, the 3rd overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, shook the bust label a little bit this season, reinventing himself as a two-down run stuffer in Bob Sutton’s defense. However, he’s a free agent this off-season and if he isn’t brought back, they’ll need to find a new two-down run stuffer and starting 5-technique defensive end. Fortunately, it’s just a two-down position because Allen Bailey and Dontari Poe handle sub package duties from the interior. He wouldn’t be that hard to replace if need be, though he did have a good season against the run.

Middle Linebacker

Starting middle linebacker Akeem Jordan is a free agent this off-season. If he isn’t able to be retained, he’ll have to be replaced. Fortunately, the middle linebacker spot is only a two-down position in Kansas City’s 3-4 defense because Eric Berry comes down and plays linebacker in obvious passing situations. It wouldn’t be hard to find another capable two-down run stuffing linebacker. Promoting 2013 4th round pick Nico Johnson is an option.

Quarterback

Is Alex Smith the long-term solution? He was a tremendous upgrade over Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel, but is he the type of guy who can lead you to victory against tough opponents or get hot in the post-season and win a Super Bowl? He was Pro Football Focus’ 24th ranked quarterback last season, including 29th in pure passing grade. The Chiefs went 10-6 in 2010 under Matt Cassel for similar reasons (strong running game, easy schedule, strong turnover margin) and stuck with him instead of drafting someone like Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick in the first round. Alex Smith is a better quarterback than Cassel ever was, but the Chiefs may end up making the same mistake twice if they are confident in Smith as their franchise quarterback. I’m not saying move on from him, but maybe instead of extending him right away going into his contract year, which sounds like what they’re going to do, draft a developmental quarterback early and make him play out his contract year, knowing that, worst case scenario, you have the franchise tag in your back pocket if he is actually a much better quarterback than I think he is.

Punt Returner

Dexter McCluster is a free agent this off-season and he handled every single one of their punts except for one last season. If they don’t bring him back, they’ll need to find someone new to handle punt returns.

Key Free Agents

OT Branden Albert

Branden Albert has been a very solid blindside protector over the past 3 seasons, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 18th ranked offensive tackle in 2011, 25th ranked offensive tackle in 2012, and 28th ranked offensive tackle in 2013. However, he’s had a history of back problems and now is going into his age 30 season, two big reasons why the Chiefs and he have had big problems agreeing on a long-term deal. He’s unlikely to be back with the Chiefs, but he’ll still big a hot commodity on the open market. Good blindside protectors like him are incredibly valuable.

G Jon Asamoah

An underrated interior offensive lineman, Asamoah has graded out well above average in all 3 seasons as a starter, maxing out as Pro Football Focus’ 10th ranked guard in 2012. He missed 7 games essentially to end the 2013 season, which will probably hurt his market, but he’s still an above average guard who should be paid like one. Something similar to what Louis Vasquez got last off-season (4 years, 23.5 million with 13 million guaranteed) would be pretty reasonable.

G Geoff Schwartz

Geoff Schwartz played well in 2010 with the Panthers, in 11 games at guard and 5 games at tackle. His composite grade would have been 5th among guard and 13th among tackles on Pro Football Focus. However, he missed the entire 2011 season with injury and was relegated to reserve work in Minnesota in 2012, impressing in limited action. In 2013 with the Chiefs, he played 549 snaps at left guard, right guard, and right tackle and his composite grade would have been 7th among guards, 20th among tackles, despite the limited playing time. He’s a starting caliber player (at worst) and deserves to be appreciated and paid as one. He’s only going into his age 28 season.

DE Tyson Jackson

A surprise pick #3 overall in 2009, Tyson Jackson looked very much like a bust going into this season, grading out below average on Pro Football Focus in the three of first four years of his career from 2009-2012. However, the Chiefs forced him to take a pay cut ahead of his contract year in 2013 and it seemed to wake him up. Bob Sutton coming in as defensive coordinator probably also helped. He graded out as Pro Football Focus 14th ranked 3-4 defensive end, including 10th in terms of run grade. That being said, he’s only a part-time player who doesn’t generate any pass rush in a passing league. He played just 509 snaps and he might coast if he gets some guaranteed money. Teams shouldn’t overpay based on one good year. He should consider himself lucky if he gets what teammate Mike DeVito got last off-season. DeVito, a rich man’s Jackson, got 12.6 million over 3 years.

S Kendrick Lewis

A 5th round pick in 2010, Kendrick Lewis has been a 4-year starter on his rookie deal and he has played pretty well. He’s graded out above average on Pro Football Focus in 2 seasons and below average in 2. He’s roughly a league average starter at safety and should be paid like one.

WR Dexter McCluster

Dexter McCluster has been an all-purpose player in 4 years since being drafted by the Chiefs in the 2nd round in 2010. He’s caught 172 passes for 1500 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns, rushed for 662 yards and a touchdown on 152 carries, returned 52 kickoffs for 1087 yards, and returned 79 punts for 989 yards and 3 touchdowns. His best role is as a depth receiver and punt returner. He was one of the league’s best punt returners last year, scoring twice, averaging 12.2 yards per punt return, and finishing as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked punt returner last season.

MLB Akeem Jordan

An under-the-radar depth linebacker that Andy Reid brought over with him from Philadelphia, Jordan was a starter in Kansas City this year in a two-down middle linebacker role. He only played 483 snaps, but actually ended up as Pro Football Focus’ 11th ranked middle linebacker. Two-down linebackers don’t command much money, but he’s proven that he can be a solid base player in that role and he has experience in both the 3-4 and the 4-3.

Cap Casualty Candidates

WR Donnie Avery

Donnie Avery struggled mightily in his first season in Kansas City, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 105th ranked wide receiver out of 111 eligible. That’s no surprise considering how inefficient he was in Indianapolis the year before, grading out 100th out of 105 eligible wide receivers. The Chiefs can save 1.35 million on the cap by cutting him.

TE Anthony Fasano

Anthony Fasano also struggled mightily in his first season in Kansas City, catching 23 passes for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns on 236 routes run, a pathetic average of 0.85 yards per route run. Only one tight end ran more routes and averaged fewer per route. The Chiefs have Sean McGrath and Travis Kelce will be coming back from injury. They could easily cut him and replace him with another tight end through the draft, a move that would save them 1 million in cap space.

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Philadelphia Eagles 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The Eagles were one of the NFL’s most improved teams last season, going from 4 wins in 2012 to 10 wins in 2013. The influence of new head coach Chip Kelly was apparent. It’s not that Andy Reid was a bad offensive head coach, as was proven by the work he did in Kansas City in his first year on the job this year, but his message had grown stale in that locker room. Kelly came in with a fresh offensive playbook and vision, not just fresh to the Eagles, but really to the entire NFL.

Chip Kelly seemed to revitalize the career of Michael Vick early on, as Vick produced some of the better numbers he had put up in years, completing 54.6% of his passes for an average of 8.62 YPA, 5 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, while rushing for 306 yards and 2 touchdowns on 36 carries in 7 games. Film study suggested that he was made to look better by Chip Kelly’s scheme and that was basically confirmed when Vick got hurt, as he always does. Nick Foles took over as the starter and never looked back as the 2012 3rd round pick and little-thought-of backup set the NFL on fire.

Foles completed 64.0% of his passes for an average of 9.12 YPA, 27 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He probably won’t be that good every season, but he established himself as a franchise quarterback in Chip Kelly’s scheme. With a punishing offensive line and offensive playmakers like DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, and Riley Cooper, Foles led the Eagles’ offense to a 78.69% rate of moving the chains in games in which he started and finished, which would have been 2nd only to Denver over the whole season. With a full season of Foles and Jeremy Maclin returning from injury next season, this offense has the ability to be a top-5 unit in 2014.

The defense was the problem. They weren’t as bad as they had been over the past 2 years, as they were able to force 31 takeaways, after forcing 37 the previous two seasons combined. They also got breakout years from defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton, who, along with Trent Cole, led a fairly solid front 7. However, they still had major issues at middle linebacker and in the secondary, as their secondary overhaul from last season didn’t really fix the problem. Their defense allowed opponents to move the chains at a 73.10% rate that was 22nd in the NFL. That will have to be fixed if they’re going to take the next step.

Positional Needs

Safety

Needing to fix the safety position last off-season, the Eagles went dumpster diving for injury plagued safeties Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips and used a 5th round pick on Earl Wolff. Phillips was cut even before final cuts, while Chung struggled when on the field and missed 4 games with injury. Nate Allen had to stay on as the starter next to Chung and, while he wasn’t as bad as he was in 2012, when he was Pro Football Focus’ 5th worst ranked safety, he wasn’t great. He’s a free agent this off-season and should not be seen as a long-term starter. Chung, meanwhile, will likely be a cap casualty this off-season, which would save the Eagles 3.25 million on the cap. Wolff will probably get a chance to be a starter in 2014, but they need at least one new safety, if not two this off-season. If either HaHa Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor falls to them at #22 overall, expect them to get snatched up.

Middle Linebacker

DeMeco Ryans was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked middle linebacker last season and the aging soon-to-be 30 middle linebacker has never fit a 3-4 defense. The Eagles can save 6.9 million in cash and cap space cutting him this off-season, but they seem prepared to stubbornly stick with him because he’s their defensive signal caller. Mychal Kendricks, meanwhile, is a media darling for some reason (Cris Collinsworth wouldn’t shut up about him), but he led middle linebackers in missed tackles and receiving yards allowed, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 36th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible in the process. They probably won’t do anything at the position, but they should.

Cornerback

Brandon Boykin was the only Eagles defensive back to grade out above average in coverage on Pro Football Focus, though he did grade out as Pro Football Focus’ #1 cornerback in coverage. He’s just a slot cornerback though and their outside cornerbacks need to be upgraded, especially Cary Williams, who was Pro Football Focus’ 92nd ranked cornerback in coverage grade out of 110 eligible. Williams could be a cap casualty, though it’s unlikely because they just signed him last off-season and because he led their secondary in snaps played last season. Either way, they should add another cornerback to the mix this off-season.

Defensive Tackle

Fletcher Cox has blossomed into the type of every down defensive lineman the Eagles envisioned when they took him in the 1st round in 2012 and Cedric Thornton was a pleasant surprise this season, excelling as a run stuffer. He didn’t get much pass rush, but at the very least, he’s a very valuable two-down defensive lineman. Either way, they could use another starter on the defensive line. They could upgrade Bennie Logan, a 2013 3rd round pick and an undersized nose tackle at 6-3 309 who struggled a bit as a rookie and would be best suited as a rotational backup. They could definitely stand to add more muscle upfront.

Guard

Todd Herremans could be a cap casualty this off-season, going into his age 32 season. Cutting him would only save 600K on the cap, but it would save them 3 million in cash and they’d avoid future cap hits. Herremans was a punishing run blocker last season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd best run blocker, but struggling mightily in pass protection, grading out as their 3rd worst pass protector. As we know, this is a passing league so pass protection is more important. He probably won’t be cut this off-season, but he doesn’t have much longer in Philadelphia unless he takes a pay cut. Bringing in a developmental young guard behind him wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially because, as good as Evan Mathis is, he’ll be going into his age 33 season in 2014.

Punter

Donnie Jones is a free agent. They’ll need a new punter if he can’t be retained.

Key Free Agents

QB Michael Vick

Michael Vick has been on the decline in every season since 2010, which makes sense considering how reliant he is on his legs and how many injuries he’s suffered in the past. He put up decent numbers in 7 games last season, completing 54.6% of his passes for an average of 8.62 YPA, 5 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, while rushing for 306 yards and 2 touchdowns on 36 carries. However, a closer examination shows that much of that was Chip Kelly’s system making him look better than he was, much like it did with Nick Foles. In 2012, he completed 58.1% of his passes for an average of 6.73 YPA, 12 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, while rushing for 332 yards and a touchdown on 62 carries. That’s probably more accurate and now he’s two years older, going into his age 34 season. He’s played all 16 games once in 10 seasons in the NFL and has missed 22 games over the past 4 seasons. He might still be one of the top-32 quarterbacks in the NFL, but anyone looking at him as anything more than stopgap starter is in trouble. There’s also a chance he’s retained in Philadelphia as Nick Foles’ backup, a role he grew to embrace as the season went on.

S Nate Allen

Nate Allen was Pro Football Focus’ 5th worst ranked safety in 2012, which is why the Eagles brought in Patrick Chung, Kenny Phillips, and Earl Wolff last off-season. The oft injured Phillips couldn’t even make it to final cuts, while the 5th round rookie Wolff was not ready to be a week 1 starter. Allen was able to reclaim his starting job and, while he wasn’t as bad as he was in 2012, he still wasn’t great. He shouldn’t be looked at as a sure starter on the open market. He may have to settle for a one year prove it deal with an opportunity to compete for the starting job.

P Donnie Jones

Donnie Jones has been one of the better punters in the NFL for the better part of a decade, averaging 45.5 yards per punt, 40.7 yards net, and 31.7% inside the 20 for his career. Last season, he was right around those averages. 44.9 yards per punt isn’t that impressive, but he hit 40.2% of them inside the 20 and averaged 40.5 yards net. He’ll find punting work fairly easily this off-season.

Cap Casualty Candidates

WR Jason Avant

The Eagles can save 3.25 million on the cap by cutting Avant, going into his age 31 season. That would make a lot of sense as the 38 passes he caught in 2013 were his lowest since 2008 and because the Eagles already have 5+ million dollars in annual salary committed to their top-3 wide receivers, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Riley Cooper. It sounds like he’ll be gone.

S Patrick Chung

The safety needy Eagles took a chance on the oft injured Patrick Chung last off-season, after he missed 14 games combined from 2010-2012. The 2009 2nd round pick didn’t really pan out for the Eagles, as he missed another 4 games and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 71st ranked safety out of 86 eligible. The Eagles can save 3.25 million in cash and cap space by cutting him this off-season.

WR Arrelious Benn

The Eagles traded a late round pick for Arrelious Benn last off-season, but he didn’t play a snap for them because he tore his ACL before the start of the season. The bust of a 2010 2nd round pick only played 79 snaps in 2012 for the Buccaneers and has never caught more than 30 passes for 441 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Eagles can save 1 million in cash and cap space by cutting him and there really isn’t any reason to keep him around.

WR Brad Smith

Brad Smith is just a gimmick player who played 20 snaps on offense last season, is heavily reliant on speed, and is going into his age 31 season. The Eagles don’t have much need for him and can save 1.5 million in cap space by cutting him.

TE James Casey

James Casey is set to make close to 4 million in salary next season and the Eagles can save 2 million on the cap by cutting him. He’s a fine player, but that’s a lot of money to pay to a 3rd string tight end, especially on a team that has as much money committed to 3 wide receivers as they do. He played just 157 snaps in 2013 and I don’t foresee him having much of a bigger role in 2014, with Zach Ertz developing and Jeremy Maclin healthy. He’s not worth it.

G Todd Herremans

Todd Herremans could be a cap casualty this off-season, going into his age 32 season. Cutting him would only save 600K on the cap, but it would save them 3 million in cash and they’d avoid future cap hits. Herremans was a punishing run blocker last season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd best run blocker, but struggling mightily in pass protection, grading out as their 3rd worst pass protector. As we know, this is a passing league so pass protection is more important.

TE Brent Celek

Another tight end the Eagles could cut is Brent Celek. It’s far less likely that they cut Celek because he’s still a very solid player, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 6th ranked tight end, thanks to his pass catching and run blocking ability. However, they would save 4 million in cash and cap space by cutting him and they do have 3 highly paid wide receivers and a budding young tight end in Zach Ertz. Ertz 2013 2nd round pick who graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked tight end last season, despite limited playing time, showing himself to be a mini-Celek with his all-around ability.

MLB DeMeco Ryans

DeMeco Ryans was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked middle linebacker last season and the aging soon-to-be 30 middle linebacker has never fit a 3-4 defense. The Eagles can save 6.9 million in cash and cap space cutting him this off-season, but they seem prepared to stubbornly stick with him because he’s their signal caller.

CB Cary Williams

Cary Williams is owed about 4.75 million in cash for 2014 and the Eagles can save over 3 million on the cap by letting him go. It probably won’t happen because they just signed him last off-season and because he led their secondary in snaps played last season, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 92nd ranked cornerback in coverage grade out of 110 eligible, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to cut him and bring in someone else at cornerback.

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Green Bay Packers 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

Every year since the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010, we’ve been saying that if the Packers can stay healthy, they’re going to be tough to beat. They had the most adjusted games lost in 2012 and even in 2010, they had the 3rd most adjusted games lost, despite winning the Super Bowl (they were 17th in 2011, which was when they started 13-0). They’ll probably be very high in adjusted games lost in 2013 after the numbers come out as injuries derailed their defense.

The biggest injury though was to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They’ve been able to survive all sorts of other injuries over the past few years, to win the Super Bowl in 2010, despite a 10-6 regular season, to go 11-5 and win a playoff game in 2012, but they couldn’t live without Aaron Rodgers this season. They went 6-2 in regular season games he played and 2-5-1 in the other 8 games, with awful quarterback play behind Aaron Rodgers until ex-backup Matt Flynn returned to stabilize things somewhat.

However, as we say every year, the Packers will be very, very good if they can stay healthy in 2014. Adjusted games lost tends to be inconsistent on a year-to-year basis and if the Packers can have an average amount of injuries and keep Rodgers out there all 16 games, they have the talent to win 11, 12, 13 games again and challenge for the Super Bowl. They have a few things to clean up defensively, but that unit is a lot different when it’s healthy.

Positional Needs

Middle Linebacker

AJ Hawk has stuck around with the Packers through rumors that he’d be a cap casualty for several straight off-seasons, often restructuring or taking a pay cut. However, this might be the end of the line for him. Hawk was awful last season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 48th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible and now he’s going into his age 30 season so he’s probably not getting any better any time soon. The Packers can save 1.9 million on the cap by cutting him. They should do that and find an upgrade. Opposite him at middle linebacker, Brad Jones struggled in his 2nd season as a starter in 2013, after getting a fairly lucrative contract the off-season before. There’s been talk he could be a cap casualty, though he should be safe for another season. Either way, middle linebacker is a big problem position for the Packers.

Safety

MD Jennings and Jerron McMillan were supposed to compete for the starting safety job opposite Morgan Burnett going into 2013. McMillan was the week 1 starter, but he was so bad he didn’t even finish the season on the team. He played 196 snaps and would have been Pro Football Focus’ 10th worst ranked safety if he were eligible, despite his very limited playing time. No safety played fewer snaps and graded out worse than him. Jennings took over as the starter, but he wasn’t a whole lot better, finishing as Pro Football Focus’ 67th ranked safety out of 86 eligible. They need an upgrade at that position.

Tight End

Jermichael Finley is a free agent this off-season and he’s also a serious health risk going forward after needing neck fusion surgery. He’s also never really lived up to his promise, struggling with drops, missing 26 games in 6 seasons, and never surpassing 61 catches or 767 receiving yards despite playing with Aaron Rodgers. Andrew Quarless filled in as the starter for him and he’s not that good either. He’s a mediocre blocker who has never surpassed 32 catches for 312 yards and 2 touchdowns despite leading the team in snaps played by a tight end in 2 of the past 4 seasons because of injuries to Finley. They’ll probably look at tight ends early in the draft.

Outside Linebacker

Clay Matthews and Nick Perry can form a fierce pass rush duo when they’re both healthy, but Nick Perry has missed 15 of 32 games since being drafted in the first round in 2012, while Clay Matthews has also missed 9 games over the past two seasons. Their primary reserves at the position in 2013 were Mike Neal, a converted defensive lineman, Andy Mulumba, an undrafted rookie, and Nate Palmer, a 6th round rookie. They all predictably struggled when counted on. Mike Neal was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 3-4 outside linebacker and Mulumba was their 7th worst, despite playing just 304 snaps. Palmer, meanwhile, didn’t qualify because he only played 200 snaps, but he would have been their 8th worst if he had, despite his limited playing time. No one played fewer snaps than him and graded out worse.

Offensive Tackle

The Packers drafted Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod in the first round in 2010 and 2011 to be their bookend tackles of the future, but they played a combined 6 snaps this season, all by Sherrod, who was playing for the first time since 2011 and has played a combined 121 snaps in 3 seasons. Bulaga will be back from injury next season, his contract year, but Sherrod might never turn it around. Don Barclay and David Bakhtiari were the starters this season and both struggled.

Cornerback

Sam Shields is a free agent, while Tramon Williams could be cap casualty going into his age 31 contract year. That would leave them thin at the position if both left. They should use a mid to late round pick for depth purposes on a developmental cornerback.

Defensive Tackle

BJ Raji and Ryan Pickett are both free agents this off-season. Mike Daniels is one starter on the defensive line at 5-technique defensive end and 2013 1st round pick Datone Jones will have a bigger role in 2014, but they’d really hurt for depth if both Raji and Pickett left and they’d also have no one to play on the nose. Pickett is also going into his age 35 season and nearing the end of the line.

Center

Evan Dietrich-Smith is a free agent. If he’s not retained, they’ll need to find a new starting center.

Key Free Agents

CB Sam Shields

Sam Shields burst onto the scene as an undrafted rookie in 2010, serving a huge role in the Packers’ Super Bowl season when injuries hit. He struggled in 2011, but graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 15th ranked cornerback in 2012, despite missing 6 games with injury and then he was about average in 2013. Overall, he’s an above average cornerback who will get a lucrative contract on the open market.

C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Dietrich-Smith took over as the starting center from Jeff Saturday late in the 2012 season and played solid in limited action and then graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked center in 2013 in his first full season as a starter. He’s still just a one year wonder, but he should be paid pretty well for a center on the open market. My guess is the Packers will try hard to retain him.

WR James Jones

James Jones has been a featured wide receiver in an explosive pass offense for the past 2 seasons and hasn’t really done much with it, totaling 784 receiving yards on 664 routes run in 2012 and 817 receiving yards on 544 routes run in 2013. The 14 touchdowns he caught in 2012 are an outlier as he’s totaled 23 touchdowns in his other 6 seasons in the league combined. The Packers seem prepared to move on from him with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Jarrett Boykin as their top 3 receivers and Jones will undoubtedly be overpaid by a receiver needy team on the open market. He’s a marginal starting receiver that the Packers made look better than he was.

DE BJ Raji

BJ Raji has been very inconsistent in his career in 4 years as a starter. He was very good in 2010, especially in the playoffs on their Super Bowl run, but struggled mightily in 2011, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked defensive tackle that season. In 2012, he was better, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 7th ranked 3-4 defensive end and ended up turning down a contract that would have paid him 8 million dollars yearly. However, the 2009 1st round pick struggled in 2013, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 3-4 defensive end. He’s unlikely to get nearly that much money on the open market now, but he’ll probably still be overpaid. He’s an overrated player. He can play all 3 defensive line positions in a 3-4 and he could probably play 4-3 defensive tackle, but he’s way too inconsistent.

RB James Starks

James Starks has definitely flashed, but he’s been plagued by the same thing that plagued him in college and what dropped him down to the 6th round of the draft in 2010, injuries. He’s never played more than 13 games in a season or had more than 133 carries in a season and he’s missed 29 of 64 possible games in 4 seasons. However, he’s rushed for 1427 yards and 5 touchdowns on 322 carries, a solid 4.4 yards per carry average, along with 45 catches for 341 yards and another score, and he really carved out a niche as Eddie Lacy’s backup in 2013, averaging 5.5 yards per carry on 89 carries and “only” missing 3 games. He’ll sign on somewhere as a backup, perhaps back in Green Bay.

FB John Kuhn

John Kuhn has been a solid fullback in Green Bay for years, grading out above average on Pro Football Focus in every season except one since 2008, maxing out as their 3rd ranked fullback in 2008 and again in 2013, perfect timing in his contract year. Fullbacks don’t usually get paid much, but the Packers will still probably try to bring him back on a fairly lucrative deal for a fullback because of his versatility as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker.

DT Ryan Pickett

Ryan Pickett has been a quality run stopping rotational defensive lineman for the Packers since 2006, grading out about average on Pro Football Focus since 2008. However, he’s going into his age 35 season so he’s near the end of the line. He’ll probably be looking at one year deals this off-season if he wants to continue playing.

TE Jermichael Finley

Jermichael Finley is a free agent this off-season and he’s also a serious health risk going forward after needing neck fusion surgery. He’s also never really lived up to his promise, struggling with drops, missing 26 games in 6 seasons, and never surpassing 61 catches or 767 receiving yards despite playing with Aaron Rodgers. He’ll have to settle for one year prove it deals on the open market this off-season.

TE Andrew Quarless

Quarless is a mediocre blocker who has never surpassed 32 catches for 312 yards and 2 touchdowns despite leading the team in snaps played by a tight end in 2 of the past 4 seasons because of injuries to Jermichael Finley. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 44th ranked tight end out of 64 eligible in 2013. He’ll have to settle for short-term deals as a depth tight end somewhere.

OLB Mike Neal

Mike Neal was a 2nd round pick of the Packers’ in 2010 and played a total of 489 snaps from 2010-2012, but the Packers liked what he brought as a situational interior pass rusher and decided to convert him to rush linebacker, where they had a need, to get him more space to rush. That turned out to be a disaster as the 6-3 280 pounder fit like a square peg in a round hole there, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 3-4 outside linebacker and leading the team in snaps played by a rush linebacker thanks to injuries to Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. Neal will have a hard time finding a fit this off-season as a free agent.

QB Matt Flynn

Matt Flynn turned two strong starts in place of an injured Aaron Rodgers into a fairly lucrative contract with the Seahawks, but he lost his starting job in the pre-season to then unproven 3rd round rookie Russell Wilson and got sent to Oakland the next season. In Oakland, he lost his starting job in the pre-season to Terrelle Pryor and then cut got mid-season in favor of the terrible duo of Pryor and Matt McGloin. He then went to Buffalo, where he never played, before ending up back in Green Bay as Rodgers’ backup again, when Rodgers was hurt. Flynn wasn’t great, but he was definitely better than anyone else they trotted out in Rodgers’ absence, completing 61.4% of his passes for an average of 6.90 YPA, 7 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. He’s proven to struggle mightily outside of Green Bay’s system, but the Packers should still bring him back on a cheap deal to backup Rodgers because they don’t have anyone else better.

Cap Casualty Candidates

MLB AJ Hawk

AJ Hawk has stuck around with the Packers through rumors that he’d be a cap casualty for several straight seasons, often restructuring or taking a pay cut. However, this might be the end of the line for him. Hawk was awful last season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 48th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible and now he’s going into his age 30 season so he’s probably not getting any better any time soon. The Packers can save 1.9 million on the cap by cutting him.

CB Jarrett Bush

Jarrett Bush is pretty much a non-factor defensively, playing 119 snaps in 2013 and 631 snaps over the past 4 seasons combined. He’s good on special teams, but the Packers could still cut him to save 1.7 million on the cap. That doesn’t seem worth it for a special teamer.

CB Tramon Williams

Tramon Williams is going into his age 31 season and not worth the 7.5 million the Packers could save on the cap and in cash by cutting him ahead of his contract year in 2014. However, he’s also probably the Packers’ best cornerback, especially if they can’t retain Sam Shields, so they may still keep him around, even at that rate, without a real cap problem. Extending him to bring his cap number down is another option.

MLB Brad Jones

Brad Jones struggled in his 2nd season as a starter in 2013, after getting a fairly lucrative contract the off-season before, worth 11.75 million over 3 seasons. There’s been talk he could be a cap casualty, though he should be safe for another season. He earned that contract by grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 10th ranked middle linebacker in 2012, though he’s still a one year wonder. Cutting him, in the unlikely case that they do, would save them 2.925 million in cash and 1.925 million on the cap.

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Arizona Cardinals 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The Cardinals were one of the NFL’s most improved teams from 2012 to 2013, going from 5 wins to 10 wins. Why did they improve? Well, their quarterback play improved from abysmal in 2012, when they completed 55.4% of passes for an average of 5.6 YPA, 11 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. Even worse, after Kevin Kolb got hurt in 2012, the terrible trio of John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer combined to complete 228 of 425 (53.6%) for 2214 yards (5.2 YPA), 3 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions, a quarterback rating of 53.2. That’s a big part of the reason why they finished 5-11 after starting 4-0.

Carson Palmer wasn’t great, but he was a monstrous upgrade, completing 63.3% of his passes for an average of 7.47 YPA, 24 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions. He was able to get the ball downfield to the Cardinals’ talented receiving corps, which includes Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, the latter of whom broke out with his first 1000 yard season in 2013, his 2nd year in the NFL.

Their running backs also were better. After they averaged 3.4 yards per carry on the ground in 2012, they averaged 3.6 yards per carry in 2013. Lead back Rashard Mendenhall struggled, averaging 3.2 yards per carry, but Andre Ellington averaged 5.5 yards per carry as the backup. For some reason, he only got 118 carries to Mendenhall’s 217, as Bruce Arians channeled his inner Todd Haley and gave the clearly inferior running back half as many carries. Mendenhall is a free agent this off-season and losing him might be addition by subtraction for 2014.

The Cardinals still weren’t great offensively, with an average passing game, a below average running game, and an abysmal offensive line, but they were good enough offensively to let their defense shine and help them win games. Their defense allowed opponents to move the chains at a 68.19% rate, 8th best in the NFL, propelling them to a 11th place finish in rate of moving the chains differential. Only Detroit ranked higher among non-playoff teams and they were the only non-playoff team to win 10 games. They could very well sneak into the playoffs next season, but they are in the NFL’s best division, which doesn’t help matters.

Positional Needs

Offensive Tackle

The Cardinals traded Levi Brown early this season, which was a good move because he sucks, but Bradley Sowell was horrific in his absence, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked offensive tackle. Neither of youngsters Nate Potter nor Bobbie Massie did anything of note this season, playing 80 and 57 snaps respectively this season. Meanwhile, free agent acquisition Eric Winston was awful as well at right tackle, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 69th ranked offensive tackle out of 76 eligible. He’s a free agent this off-season anyway. They need one, if not two new starters at offensive tackle this off-season. They’ll definitely heavily consider offensive tackles with the 20th overall pick.

Outside Linebacker

The Cardinals really need to get more edge rush than just from John Abraham. Abraham had 12 sacks, but no other rush linebacker had more than 3 sacks and Abraham is going into his age 36 season in 2014, so he won’t be around much longer. Matt Shaughnessy started opposite him and he was terrible as a pass rusher, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 3-4 outside linebacker in terms of pass rush grade on Pro Football Focus. He’s a free agent this off-season anyway.

Quarterback

Carson Palmer was a tremendous upgrade on the crap the Cardinals had at quarterback in 2012, but he still wasn’t great, completing 63.3% of his passes for an average of 7.47 YPA, 24 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions. Even worse, he’s going into his age 35 season and will be a free agent after next season so he won’t be around much longer. They’re in an awkward position picking 20th overall and they won’t be able find an upgrade over Palmer in the first round, even if they wanted to, which I’m not sure they do. However, they don’t really have a developmental quarterback on the roster behind him so it wouldn’t be surprising at all if they drafted one after the 1st round.

Tight End

Bruce Arians likes his tight ends to be blockers first for some reason. As a result, Jim Dray led the team in snaps played by Cardinal tight ends. However, he was overmatched as an inline tight end, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 12th worst ranked tight end in terms of run blocking grade. He also only caught 26 passes for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns and he was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst tight end overall. He’s a free agent this off-season so the Cardinals should take this opportunity to upgrade the position. Rob Housler is their best pass catching tight end, but he can’t block at all so Arians probably won’t make him the starter. They might look at tight ends in the mid-round of the draft.

Defensive End

Darnell Dockett is an aging player going into his age 33 season and on the decline. This might be his last season with the Cardinals as the Cardinals can cut him and save 6.55 million in cash and cap space going into his age 34 season in 2015. They don’t have an internal replacement at all and they have very little depth at the position, especially with Frostee Rucker set to hit free agency. They should spend a mid-round pick on the position.

Kick Returner

Javier Arenas was their primary kickoff returner last season, returning 22 of 26 kickoffs, but he’s a free agent this off-season. He wasn’t very good anyway, averaging 21.3 yards per kickoff return, as the Cardinals averaged 20.0 yards per kickoff return, tied for dead last in the NFL. They should use a mid-round pick on a kickoff return specialist.

Punt Returner

Patrick Peterson wasn’t nearly as good as a punt returner this year as he usually has been, averaging just 6.0 yards per punt return, as the Cardinals averaged 5.8 yards per punt return as a team, 31st in the NFL. It’s probably best to just allow Peterson focus on cornerback, to avoid unnecessary injury to their best coverage defensive back, and find a punt return specialist. They’ll be looking for someone who can return kickoffs and punts in the mid rounds of the draft.

Kicker

Jay Feely is a free agent going into his age 38 season. He’s still a good kicker, nailing 30 of 36, but if they can’t retain him, they’ll have to replace him.

Key Free Agents

MLB Karlos Dansby

Karlos Dansby was a solid middle linebacker in Miami, grading out as a top-13 middle linebacker on Pro Football Focus in all 3 seasons from 2010-2012, but the Dolphins cut him last off-season anyway in an attempt to get younger at the position. Dansby went back to Arizona, where his career started, on a cheap one year deal and arguably had the best season of his career, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked middle linebacker in 2013. Meanwhile, Dannell Ellerbe, his replacement in Miami, was awful this season. He’s going into his age 33 season, but he still won’t come nearly as cheap as he did last off-season. The Cardinals will attempt to re-sign him, but they don’t have a ton of cap space and Dansby will command quite a bit of money on a short-term deal.

WR Andre Roberts

A solid depth receiver who could start in some places in the league, Andre Roberts caught 43 passes for 471 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2013 as the Cardinals’ #3 receiver. In a bigger role in 2012, he caught 64 passes for 759 yards and 5 touchdowns, which is actually pretty impressive considering his quarterback play. He’ll get a decent amount of money on his next contract.

S Yeremiah Bell

Yeremiah Bell looked pretty done after the 2011 season, as an aging safety who graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 76th ranked safety out of 89 eligible. However, he played pretty decent as a starter with the Jets in 2012 and then in 2013 with the Cardinals. That being said, he’s now going into his age 36 season so he might have to wait a little bit for the phone to ring and he might have trouble finding a starting job.

OT Eric Winston

Eric Winston was a top-26 offensive tackle on Pro Football Focus from 2008-2012 and a top-14 offensive tackle on Pro Football Focus from 2009-2011. However, despite being an above average starting right tackle, Winston was still cut after both the 2011 and 2012 season for financial reasons, first by the Texans and then the Chiefs. He sat on the open market a while probably because teams weren’t too excited about someone who had been cut in back-to-back off-seasons, but he ended up with the tackle needy Cardinals. However, he struggled mightily, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 69th ranked offensive tackle out of 76 eligible. Now he’s going into his age 31 season and looking at his 4th team in as many years after the worst year of his career. He’s also exclusively a right tackle and that’s not as valuable of a position. He won’t be a hot commodity on the open market and should consider himself lucky if he gets a starting job.

RB Rashard Mendenhall

Rashard Mendenhall was a first round pick of the Steelers in 2008, but he never really lived up to that. He was a starter in Pittsburgh for 3 seasons, but he only once exceeded 4.1 yards per carry in 5 seasons with the Steelers. Hurting matters, he tore his ACL at the end of the 2011 season, limiting him to 3.6 yards per carry and 6 games in 2012 and then 3.2 yards per carry in 2013. This past season, he rushed for 687 yards on 217 carries. He’s only a short yardage plodder and shouldn’t be anyone’s lead back. He’s averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in his career and will probably have to settle for one year deals this off-season.

OLB Matt Shaughnessy

Matt Shaughnessy struggled mightily as a 4-3 defensive end in 2012 with the Raiders, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 8th worst ranked 4-3 defensive end overall and 4th worst ranked in terms of pass rush grade. Moving to a 3-4 and playing rush linebacker in 2013 with the Cardinals didn’t help matters, as could be expected of the 6-5 270 pounder. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 9th worst ranked 3-4 outside linebacker, including 3rd worst in terms of pass rush grade. He’s a rotational defensive end at best.

TE Jim Dray

Jim Dray led the team in snaps played by Cardinal tight ends because Bruce Arians likes his tight ends to block primarily for some reason. However, he was overmatched as an inline tight end, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 12th worst ranked tight end in terms of run blocking grade. He also only caught 26 passes for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns and he was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst tight end overall. He’s a depth tight end at best.

K Jay Feely

Jay Feely is going into his age 38 season, but age hasn’t stopped him yet. The career 82.7% field goal kicker nailed 30 of 36 field goals. Feely’s 329 career field goals made are 21st all-time. He won’t hurt for work if he wants to continue playing.

Cap Casualty Candidates

MLB Jasper Brinkley

Jasper Brinkley was brought in to be a starter last off-season, with Paris Lenon gone and Daryl Washington facing suspension. However, the Cardinals also brought in Karlos Dansby through free agency and Kevin Minter in the 2nd round of the draft. Dansby had a great season and Washington seems to have put his legal troubles behind him. Even if Dansby leaves as a free agency, I’d guess that Minter would be the starter inside next to Washington, with Brinkley being a cap casualty. They can save 2 million dollars in cap space by cutting him, which makes sense.

RB Ryan Williams

Ryan Williams is as big of a bust as a 2nd round pick can be, playing a combined 142 snaps in 5 games in his 3 seasons in the league thanks to injury and ineffectiveness. When on the field, he carried the ball 58 times for 164 yards, a pathetic 2.8 yards per carry. Owed just over a million dollars going into the final year of his rookie deal, he’s unlikely to be back. There’s at least 3 running backs ahead of him on the depth chart, 4 if they bring back Rashard Mendenhall.

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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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