Tennessee Titans 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

In 2011, the Titans allowed just 19.8 points per game, 8th best in the NFL. In 2012, they were dead last, allowing 29.4 points per game, with essentially the same personnel. In 2013, they were right in between, ranking 16th, allowing 23.8 points per game. What happened? Well they got huge years from Jurrell Casey and Alterraun Verner, while Michael Griffin bounced back from a horrific 2012 season. However, in spite of an improved defense, the Titans still finished just 7-9 and fired head coach Mike Munchak.

Ken Whisenhunt has taken over for him and brought in Ray Horton to be his defensive coordinator, as was the case when Whisenhunt was the Cardinals’ head coach in 2012. Horton will be transitioning the Titans to a 3-4 defense, which might be a mistake. While some players like Akeem Ayers will benefit and Horton is a well-respected defensive coordinator, Jurrell Casey is arguably their best defensive player and he might not be a good fit at 5-technique defensive end at only 6 foot 1. At the same time, the Titans will have to re-sign stud cornerback Alterraun Verner if they want to continue being a solid defense.

That being said, the bigger issue is the offensive side of the ball. Jake Locker has yet to establish himself as a starting caliber quarterback going into his 4th season, which also happens to be his contract year. Ken Whisenhunt is an improvement as an offensive head coach over Mike Munchak and overmatched offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains so we’ll see if he can bring it out of Locker. At the moment, it looks like the Titans might be stuck in the mud as a middling team for at least another year.

Positional Needs

Middle Linebacker

The Titans are moving to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Zach Brown will be moving from outside linebacker to one of the middle linebacker spots, but they still need someone else at the other spot. Currently, the man slated to fill that role is Moise Fokou, who started at middle linebacker for the Titans in 2013. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked middle linebacker this season. Someone like Alabama’s CJ Mosley will be an option for them with the 11th overall pick in this upcoming draft.

Safety

Michael Griffin, Bernard Pollard, and George Wilson might all not be back next season. Griffin played alright this season, but he’s been very inconsistent in his career and he has a cap number of 8 million in 2014. The Titans can save 2.6 million on the cap and 6.2 million in cash by letting him go. Bernard Pollard, meanwhile, is a free agent. Finally, Wilson is going into his age 33 season and could be cut, a move that would save 2.5 million in cap space and cash. Chances are, they’ll need to add at least one new starter at safety this off-season.

Tight End

The Titans brought in Delanie Walker as a free agent, but he didn’t pan out as the pass catcher they were expecting him to be. He caught 60 passes, but they went for just 571 yards on 505 routes run. He’s really just a blocking tight end whose role is being overstretched. Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson, meanwhile, are also just blocking types. They need a strong pass catcher over the middle from the tight end position.

Running Back

Chris Johnson is expected to be a cap casualty this off-season, as they’d save 6 million on the cap and 8 million in cash by cutting him, going into his age 29 season after a year in which he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. They’d need a new lead back in that situation. Shonn Greene is his backup and he has starting experience and is being paid like a starter, but he’s proved to be overstretched as a lead back in the past, averaging 3.9 yards per carry in 2012, the last time he was a starter. He’ll have a bigger role in 2014 than the 77 carries he had in 2013, but they need someone to pair him with at the very least.

Quarterback

Is Jake Locker the answer? After 3 years, we still don’t have an answer for that question about the former 8th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Part of that is because he’s only played 23 games and thrown 563 pass attempts in 3 seasons, as a result of Matt Hasselbeck’s presence and a variety of injuries. He’s definitely flashed at times, but he has about a season’s worth of pass attempts under his belt now and he’s thrown for just 3904 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, while rushing for another 502 yards and 4 touchdowns and completing 57.2% of his passes. He’s heading into his contract year in 2014 and the coaching staff that drafted him is gone, so they might want to start to go in a different direction at quarterback or add some extra competition, much like the Buccaneers did with Mike Glennon last year.

Offensive Tackle

The Titans could cut David Stewart this off-season, to save 6.4 million in cash and cap space this off-season, after he had a middling season in 2013, going into his age 32 season. Even if they don’t, he probably won’t be around much longer so they could start looking to develop a successor even if they don’t cut him and need a replacement.

Defensive End

Jurrell Casey will be a starter at one 5-technique spot, but things are pretty fluid at the opposite spot. Ropati Pitoitua and Antonio Johnson are free agents, which leaves talented reserves Karl Klug and Mike Martin at the position. If they don’t bring back Pitoitua and Johnson, they’ll probably need to add some depth this off-season.

Center

I don’t know why the Titans cut Fernando Velasco, a perfectly functioning starting center, in order to give the starting job to veteran journeyman Robert Turner. Turner struggled mightily and was benched for 4th round rookie Brian Schwenke, who wasn’t any better. Despite splitting playing time, they finished as Pro Football Focus’ 32nd and 29th ranked centers respectively out of 35 eligible. Schwenke is young so he could get another chance at the starting job, but it might be wise to bring in some actual competition.

Key Free Agents

CB Alterraun Verner

Alterraun Verner had his “breakout” year this year because he had 5 interceptions and that’s all a lot of people care about with defensive backs, but he’s actually been very good since his rookie season in 2010, despite a combined 6 interceptions from 2010-2012. He’s been a top-24 cornerback on Pro Football Focus’ in all 4 seasons, making all 64 starts since being drafted in the 4th round out of UCLA in 2010. Verner rode those 5 interceptions, along with a 49.4% completion percentage allowed, to a 12th ranked grade on Pro Football Focus and he’ll see a big paycheck this off-season, probably upwards of 40 million over 5 years. He could be a candidate for the franchise tag.

S Bernard Pollard

It’s weird to say considering he’s already been on 4 teams and could be going on a 5th, but Bernard Pollard is only going into his age 30 season in 2014. He was a solid starter once again this season, this time for the Titans and could serve as a cheap short-term starter at the safety position for some team again this off-season, much like he did last off-season for the Titans, with whom he made just 2 million this season.

DE Ropati Pitoitua

A talented reserve 5-technique defensive end in Kansas City, the Titans attempted to turn Ropati Pitoitua into their version of the Seahawks’ Red Bryant this season. It didn’t go as well as they would have liked. He didn’t get any pressure on the quarterback, as you would expect from a 6-8 290 pounder trying to play on the edge, and he didn’t do enough against the run to make up for it. He wasn’t terrible, but his best fit is probably in a traditional 5-technique defensive end position. Fortunately, the Titans are switching to a 3-4 so they could bring him back as a cheap starter opposite Jurrell Casey.

DT Antonio Johnson

Antonio Johnson is a reserve and little else. He graded out well below average on Pro Football Focus in both 2011 and 2012, grading out 79th out of 88 eligible defensive tackles in 2011 and 80th out of 85 eligible defensive tackles in 2012. He was a better in 2013, but only on 386 snaps and he’s going into his age 30 season so he’ll probably have to wait a while to get a new job.

WR Kenny Britt

Kenny Britt had a ton of promise. Before tearing his ACL early in the 2011 season, the 2009 1st round pick had caught 56 passes for 1146 yards and 12 touchdowns over his last 14 full games, despite inconsistent, at best, quarterback play. He struggled in 2012 with injury and off the field problems, catching just 45 passes for 589 yards and 4 touchdowns, but had a chance to make up for it in his contract year in 2013 and get a good chunk of cash in free agency. Instead, his contract year was rock bottom. Despite playing just 305 snaps, he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked wide receiver. He caught just 11 of 33 targets, taking them for just 96 yards and getting 6 yards total after the catch. He also committed 6 penalties and was a healthy scratch in 4 games. Between his struggles on the field and his off the field baggage, Britt is going to have to wait a long time for the phone to ring this off-season, if it rings at all, in spite of his raw natural ability and athleticism.

Cap Casualty Candidates

RB Chris Johnson

The Titans overpaid Chris Johnson based off of his insane 2009 season, in which he averaged 5.6 yards per carry and rushed for over 2000 yards. Since that season, he’s rushed for 4731 yards and 27 touchdowns on 1133 carries, an average of 4.18 yards per carry. Last season, he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and now he’s going into his age 29 season. The Titans can easily get out of the final 3 years of his deal, a total of 23 million, and save 6 million on this year’s cap by cutting him. They can easily replace him, so he’s as good as gone.

DE Kamerion Wimbley

Kamerion Wimbley lost his starting job to Ropati Pitoitua this season and only played 360 snaps. Owed 6 million in his age 31 season in 2014, Wimbley could easily be cut, which would save the Titans 2.4 million on the cap. The only way he stays is if new defensive coordinator Ray Horton recognizes how much better he fits in a 3-4 than a 4-3, but it’s looking doubtful considering his age and their lack of need at the rush linebacker position.

WR Nate Washington

Nate Washington has 178 catches for 2688 yards and 14 touchdowns over the past 3 seasons, but he’s going into his age 31 season and could be cut, which would save 4.8 million in cash and cap space. The Titans have used a 1st and 2nd round pick on Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter in the last two drafts so Washington is becoming superfluous as he heads into the tail end of his career.

OT David Stewart

The Titans could cut David Stewart this off-season, to save 6.4 million in cash and cap space this off-season, after he had a middling season, going into his age 32 season. He’ll be a free agent after next season anyway.

S Michael Griffin

Michael Griffin had a solid season this year, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 14th ranked safety. However, he’s been very inconsistent in his career. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked safety in 2012 and 2nd worst ranked safety in 2009, but he was also 10th highest in 2011. He could be cut, which would save the Titans 6.2 million in cash and 2.6 million on the cap.

S George Wilson

Cutting George Wilson would save 2.5 million on the cap and in cash for 2014. He’s a talented player who graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked safety in 2012, but he played just 420 snaps in 2013. He played well in 2013 on those limited snaps, but he’s going into his age 33 season so the Titans might not see him as a startable player for 2014. If they don’t, he’s not worth what he’s owed.

TE Craig Stevens

Craig Stevens is purely a blocking tight end who caught just 2 passes for 5 yards on 95 snaps this season. Considering fellow tight ends Delanie Walker and Taylor Thompson are also blocking types, Stevens is pretty superfluous. Owed 3.4 million in cash, the Titans would save 2.4 million in cap space by cutting him this off-season.

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Detroit Lions 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The Lions went 4-12 in 2012, but everything suggested they would be much better in 2013. They were killed by turnovers (-16), inability to recover fumbles (32.6%), return touchdowns (-10 touchdowns), and inability to win close games (3-8 in games decided by a touchdown or less). Through 9 games, things were great. They started 6-3, going +1 in turnovers, recovering 39.1% of fumbles, going +1 in return touchdowns, and going 3-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less. However, they won just 1 of their final 7 games, despite a fairly easy schedule (a combined 50-60-2 record by those 7 opponents). They went -13 in turnovers in those 7 games and 0-4 in games decided by a touchdown or less, some of the same things that plagued them before.

Those types of things tend to even out in the long run, but they haven’t really been doing that with the Lions. They have the talent to be one of the best teams in the NFL, finishing 6th in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 73.92% rate, as opposed to 68.50% for their opponents (both of which were top-10), a differential of 5.42%. On top of that, they aren’t going to lose much this off-season, in spite of the fact that they don’t have a ton of cap space. They absolutely made the right move firing Jim Schwartz. It might not fix the problem, but at this point they had no other choice.

They’ve replaced him with Jim Caldwell. He’ll probably be better than Schwartz, but I don’t know if that was the right hire. They’re banking on him being more of the man that was recommended by Peyton Manning, led the Colts to a 24-8 record and a Super Bowl appearance in 2 seasons with Manning, and orchestrated the Ravens’ offense during their Super Bowl run, rather than the Peyton Manning puppet that finished 2-14 in the one season with Manning, led one of the worst offenses in the NFL this season with the Ravens, and went 26-63 as head coach of Wake Forest. I’d bet on the Lions winning more than 7 games rather than less than 7 games in 2014, but I don’t know if they’re going to reach their potential.

Positional Needs

Wide Receiver

The Lions drafted Titus Young and Ryan Broyles in back-to-back 2nd rounds because they wanted a talented trio of wide receivers with them and Calvin Johnson. However, Titus Young is out of the league because of off-the-field problems (to put it lightly), while Ryan Broyles has suffered significant leg injuries in each of the last 3 seasons dating back to his time at Oklahoma. His career is now in doubt. Now they have nothing after Calvin Johnson and they really struggle to move the ball when he’s out of the lineup. They need a good receiver opposite him. Nate Burleson is going into his age 33 season and could be a cap casualty, while the likes of Kris Durham and Kevin Ogletree aren’t getting it done.

Center

Dominic Raiola had a fantastic season this year, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked center this season. However, he’s a free agent this off-season and could just retire, going into his age 36 season. They may need to replace him for next season and even if they don’t, they will have to at some point. They need a center of the future.

Tight End

Brandon Pettigrew is a free agent this off-season. He’s never lived up to his potential as a former first round pick and especially struggled in his contract year, catching just 41 passes for 416 yards and 2 touchdowns. He probably won’t be back next season so they’ll need another tight end to go with talented rookie Joseph Fauria.

Safety

Louis Delmas could easily be a cap casualty this off-season. If he is, they’ll need to replace him.

Cornerback

The Lions have spent a lot of picks on cornerbacks over the past few drafts, including Darius Slay in the 2nd round in 2013, Bill Bentley in the 3rd round in 2012, Chris Greenwood in the 5th round in 2012, and Jonte Green in the 6th round in 2012. However, they still don’t have another cornerback opposite Chris Houston. Veteran Rashean Mathis was the savior for them at the position this season, but he’s a free agent going into his age 34 season. They could spend another pick on this position in this draft.

Defensive End

Ezekiel Ansah had a strong rookie year, but they might need help opposite him. Willie Young, a talented starter, and Israel Idonije are free agents this off-season, while Jason Jones could be a cap casualty after a suffering a serious injury this season.

Kicker

David Akers is a free agent this off-season and could retire going into his age 40 season. If he’s not back, they’ll need to replace him.

Key Free Agents

DE Willie Young

A talented reserve since being drafted in the 7th round in 2010, Willie Young broke out as a starter this season, playing 801 snaps and grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 16th ranked 4-3 defensive end. Just in time for his contract year. He should be the Lions’ number #1 priority in terms of free agents this off-season. He’ll get a deal around 4-5 years, $20-$25 million this off-season.

C Dominic Raiola

Dominic Raiola had a fantastic season this year, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked center this season. However, he’s a free agent this off-season and could just retire, going into his age 36 season. If he continues playing, it’ll probably be on a one year deal with the Lions.

TE Brandon Pettigrew

Brandon Pettigrew is a free agent this off-season. He’s never lived up to his potential as a former first round pick and especially struggled in his contract year, catching just 41 passes for 416 yards and 2 touchdowns. He probably won’t be back next season.

QB Shaun Hill

Shaun Hill is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s not a starting caliber quarterback at all, going into his age 34 season, but he’ll get a good amount of money to be a backup somewhere. In his career, he’s completed 62.0% of his passes for an average of 6.69 YPA, 41 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. If I had to bet, I think he’ll be back in Detroit.

DE Israel Idonije

Idonije remained unsigned late into last off-season because of his age (going into his age 33 season), but he provided the Bears with great play at two spots on the defensive line in 2012, lining up at defensive end in base packages and rushing the passer from the interior in sub packages. He also moved to defensive tackle for a few games late in the season. His composite grade would have been 8th among 4-3 defensive ends and 6th among defensive tackles on Pro Football Focus in 2012. That being said, he played just 347 snaps in 2013 and now is going into his age 34 season so job offers will be limited.

CB Rashean Mathis

Rashean Mathis randomly had a very strong season in 2013 in his age 33 season, after being let go by the Jaguars. Believe it or not, he actually finished as Pro Football Focus’ 27th ranked cornerback in 799 snaps, allowing opponents to complete 48.7% of his passes against him. He won’t be a hot commodity going into his age 34 season, but he should get picked up at some point. He’s probably looking at one year deals though.

K David Akers

David Akers is an incredibly accomplished kicker, who has 1721 career points, 11th most all-time. He’s hit 80.9% of his field goals for his career and bounced back from a rough 2012 by hitting 19 of 24 in 2013. However, he’s going into his age 40 season and may opt to hang them up. If he doesn’t, he might have to wait a little bit for a chance at a job.

Cap Casualty Candidates

G LeRoy Harris

LeRoy Harris was brought in on a two-year deal last off-season to compete for the right guard job, but ended up losing the job and didn’t play a single snap all season. The Lions can save 1.95 million in cap space and cash by cutting him this off-season and given Larry Warford’s breakout year as a rookie, Harris is entirely superfluous. He’s probably gone.

S Louis Delmas

After playing in just 19 of 32 possible games in 2011 and 2012, Louis Delmas didn’t miss a game in 2013, playing 1058 snaps, 2nd most on the team. He was a pretty solid starter. However, his history of injury problems is still there and he probably isn’t worth his 6.5 million dollar cap number for 2014 on a cap strapped team. The Lions can save 6 million in cap space and cash by cutting him and there’s already talk that they’re going to do so.

RB Montell Owens

Montell Owens is a running back/fullback/special teamer, who played just 2 snaps on offense in 2013. The Lions are pressed for cap space and can save 1.205 million by cutting Owens. That’s too steep of a cap number for a special teamer coming off of a serious knee injury.

WR Nate Burleson

The Lions can save 5.5 million in cap space and cash by cutting Nate Burleson going into his contract year in 2014. Burleson is going into his age 33 season and has missed 17 games over the past 2 seasons. That seems like a no brainer for a cap strapped team. A paycut is another option here.

OT Corey Hilliard

Corey Hilliard started the first 7 games of the season at right tackle for the Lions and wasn’t bad, but he was benched for undrafted rookie LaAdrian Waddle, who impressed down the stretch. The Lions may cut him to save 1.6 million in cap space. It wouldn’t be hard to find a cheaper backup at right tackle.

DE Jason Jones

Jason Jones’ first year of a three year deal was disappointing, as he played just 87 snaps before suffering a serious knee injury. Willie Young, who took over at left end for him, was very solid and, provided he’s brought back as a free agent, the Lions may just go ahead and cut Jones. They’d save 6 million in cash over the next 2 seasons and about 2 million on next year’s cap by cutting him.

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Buffalo Bills 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The Bills were the only team in the NFL to select a quarterback in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. While most teams, even the neediest at quarterback, shied away from spending a premium pick on anyone from the 2013 quarterback class, the Bills took EJ Manuel out of Florida State after a trade down. It was certainly a risk, but for a team searching for a franchise quarterback really since the Jim Kelly days, having last made the playoffs in 1999 and last won a playoff game in 1995, it was understandable. However, given the risk, the Bills season can be best evaluated on the basis of EJ Manuel’s development and, by those standards, 2013 was a failure.

Part of the problem was that Manuel missed too many valuable reps both in practice and in the game with injury. Manuel attempted just 306 of the Bills’ 522 pass attempts this season, as he missed 6 full games and parts of others with injury. He was also pretty ineffective when on the field, getting outplayed by backup Thad Lewis, who was on the practice squad to start the season. Lewis completed 59.2% of his passes for an average of 6.96 YPA, 4 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, while rushing for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Meanwhile, Manuel completed 58.8% of his passes for an average of 6.44 YPA, 11 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions, while rushing for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns and grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked quarterback. As a result, the Bills were 28th in the NFL, moving the chains at a 66.27% rate, in spite of a decent running game. It’s obviously way too early to make any determination on Manuel’s future, but Bills fans can’t feel happy with his progress thus far. If he continues struggling into next season, they may have to give Thad Lewis a longer look. At the very least, Lewis is a decent backup.

Lewis’ emergence as a decent backup wasn’t the only positive from the Bills’ 2013 season as they had one of the league’s best defenses this season. Not only were they 2nd in the NFL in both sacks and interceptions, but they also rank 6th in rate of moving the chains against, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 67.58% rate. They were actually better than their 6-10 record would have suggested, in spite of their weaknesses on offense, ranking 19th in rate of moving the chains differential and posting a -49 point differential. Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, Jairus Byrd, Mario Williams were all deserving Pro-Bowlers, while Kiko Alonso, their 2nd round pick, is in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The bad news is the Bills lost the architect behind this defense as defensive coordinator Mike Pettine took the Cleveland Browns’ head coaching job. The Bills have talent independent of him and they’re going to be in good hands under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, but Pettine was really the one to get the most out of them. They could also lose stud safety Jairus Byrd in free agency. They’ll have to continue playing like a top-10 unit on defense if they have plans to make the playoffs in 2014. For right now, it looks like they’re headed towards another year of mediocrity unless the offense can take a huge step forward.

Positional Needs

Guard

Andy Levitre is one of the best guards in the NFL, but the Bills let him go last off-season as a free agent. Their efforts to replace him were a train wreck. Colin Brown got the first crack at the job, starting 5 games and, in spite of his limited playing time, he finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ 4th worst ranked guard. Doug Legursky then took over and he was better, but only by default. He finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ 63rd ranked guard out of 81 eligible. If you combined them, they would have been the 2nd worst guard in the league last year. They need to address this position this off-season.

Offensive Tackle

Offensive tackle is another problem on their offensive line. Right tackle Erik Pears could be upgraded, especially as he heads into his age 32 contract year. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 55th ranked offensive tackle out of 76 eligible. They could draft someone like Auburn’s Greg Robinson with the 9th overall pick and then move Pears to left guard for the short-term. They could also draft an offensive tackle and slot him at left guard for the time being until Pears’s contract runs out. Cutting Pears could also be an option.

Tight End

Scott Chandler is a free agent this off-season. He was their leader in receptions and receiving yardage last season, in addition to his work as a blocker, so he’d obviously need to be replaced if they were unable to bring him. No other tight end caught more than 5 passes this season for them. They could also add another tight end early in the draft to bring in another receiver to the mix. Chandler is more of an inline tight end and they don’t have a true pass catching tight end.

Safety

Jairus Byrd is a free agent. If they aren’t able to bring him back, they’ll need to replace him at safety. The Bills would frequently use 3 safeties in obvious passing situations with Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, and Da’Norris Searcy who is the biggest of the bunch and would often play linebacker. Everyone would have to move up a role if Byrd left unreplaced.

Wide Receiver

No Bills receiver had more than 600 yards receiving last year. Steve Johnson could be a cap casualty next off-season if he continues to disappoint, while youngsters Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and TJ Graham have yet to develop into #1 receivers. Robert Woods, a 2013 2nd round pick, could be a solid #2 receiver long-term, but Goodwin, a 2013 3rd round pick, hasn’t shown much on offense, while TJ Graham, a 2012 3rd round pick, has been awful when on the field. They could add someone else to the mix this off-season.

Kicker

Dan Carpenter nailed 91.7% of his kicks this season and his career kicking percentage is 83.8%. However, he’s a free agent this off-season. They’ll need to replace him if he can’t be re-signed. Dustin Hopkins is an option to replace him because they drafted him last season, but he struggled so much in training camp and the pre-season that they brought in Dan Carpenter. Hopkins also missed all of the season with a groin injury suffered in September.

Key Free Agents

S Jairus Byrd

Jairus Byrd is not just one of the top safeties in the NFL, but one of the top defensive players at any position. He’s what everyone thinks Earl Thomas is (not that Thomas is bad by any stretch of the imagination). Byrd was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked safety in 2011 and 2nd ranked in 2012. He ranked 8th in 2013, which wasn’t as good, but he missed a few games with injury to start the year so that had something to do with it. Upon his return, he was just as good as he was before the injury. The Bills now have a choice between franchise tagging him for the 2nd straight year or letting him hit the open market, where he could become the highest paid safety in the NFL. Either way, he’ll get paid.

TE Scott Chandler

Scott Chandler is not explosive at all, but he’s a great blocker at 6-7 265 and he’s also a good possession receiver and end zone threat, in spite of his inability to get separation. Over the past 3 seasons as a starter, he’s caught 134 passes for 1615 yards and 14 touchdowns in 45 games. Last season was the best season of his career, as he caught 53 passes for 655 yards and 2 touchdowns, reaching career highs in receptions and yardage, in spite of inconsistent quarterback play on a run heavy team. He was the team’s leader in both receptions and receiving yardage. He won’t command a ton of money on the open market, but the Bills will definitely need to replace him if he leaves.

K Dan Carpenter

Dan Carpenter was cut by the Dolphins before this season, but it was for financial reasons, not because of his performance. He was then cut by both the Cardinals and Jets, who brought him in purely as competition, but he caught on with the Bills, where he nailed 91.7% of his kicks. His career kicking percentage is 83.8% and it shouldn’t be hard for him to find work this off-season. My guess is the Bills want to bring him back.

Cap Casualty Candidates

QB Kevin Kolb

Yeah remember this guy? He’s still on the roster. The Bills signed Kevin Kolb to a two-year deal in the off-season to give them a stopgap for their rookie quarterback. However, Kolb continued to be injury prone and suffered a significant concussion in the pre-season that not only knocked him out for the season, but potentially for his career. He reportedly didn’t know his own name or where he was after that hit. There’s no chance the Bills keep him on the roster at a 3.1 million dollar salary. The Bills would save 3.1 million on the cap by cutting him and there’s a very good chance he just retires for his health. Hopefully he can live a normal life.

OT Erik Pears

Erik Pears isn’t terrible, but he was Pro Football Focus’ 55th ranked offensive tackle out of 76 eligible and he’s heading into his age 32 contract year. The Bills can save 2.9 million in cash and cap space by cutting him and they’d have their choice of upgrades over him with the 9th overall pick. He could also be moved to guard.

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Minnesota Vikings 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

In 2012, the Vikings rode a historic season from Adrian Peterson all the way to the post-season. In 2013, Peterson went back to being just very good and the Vikings ended up winning just 5 games. Peterson rushed for 831 fewer yards in 2013 than 2012. 1266 yards and 10 touchdowns on 279 carries is definitely not a bad season, especially considering Peterson missed 2 meaningless games with injury, but because he wasn’t averaging 6.0 yards per carry, it exposed their quarterbacks.

Christian Ponder was benched after 3 games for Matt Cassel and then returned to the starting job after mid-season pickup Josh Freeman bombed his only start of the season. Ponder then played until he got hurt and then Matt Cassel took over for the rest of the season. Cassel attempted 254 passes on that quarterback carousel. Christian Ponder attempted 239 and Josh Freeman attempted 53. All in all, Minnesota quarterbacks completed 59.5% of their passes for an average of 6.68 YPA, 18 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions, a quarterback rating of 76.0 that ranked 9th worst in the NFL.

In spite of that, their offense wasn’t as much of the problem and the reason why they declined this season, as their defense was horrible. In terms of rate of moving the chains against, they ranked 30th, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 75.91% rate. Their offense wasn’t great, ranking 19th and moving the chains at 70.56% rate, but they weren’t the biggest problem. They’re a quarterback away from being a very solid offense, with a great offensive line and running game and a solid set of weapons in the receiving game. I expect them to target quarterbacks early in the draft, but they are picking 8th with a bunch of quarterback needy teams ahead of them so they might have to move up to get their guy.

So what happened to their defense? Well, they suffered more injuries than they did in 2012, when they barely suffered any injuries. The loss of secondary leader Harrison Smith was the most notable one. They also missed Antoine Winfield, who played great in 2012, but left as a cap casualty and eventually retired. Other 30+ veterans did not play up to their standards, including Kevin Williams, Jared Allen, Brian Robison, and Chad Greenway.

One year after he was being touted as a Coach of the Year candidate, the Vikings fired Leslie Frazier after the season, in part because of the struggles of the defense, which is his specialty. He was replaced with another defensive coach in Mike Zimmer and he should be an upgrade. Zimmer has been an above average defensive coordinator for 14 years in the NFL, with the Cowboys, Falcons, and Bengals, but didn’t get his first head coaching job until now, when he’s going into his age 58 season, a testament to the NFL’s obsession with offensive coaches. 2013 was perhaps Zimmer’s best season as his Bengals were one of the best defenses in the NFL, despite losing Geno Atkins and Leon Hall to injury.

Zimmer will get the most out of the Vikings’ defense, just like he did with the Bengals’ defense. They don’t have nearly as much talent, especially since they could be undergoing a veteran purge, but Zimmer will do the best he can. I’m very excited to see what he can do with 2013 first round picks Xavier Rhodes and Sharrif Floyd, who will have bigger roles in 2014, as well as Harrison Smith, who had a strong rookie year in 2012, but missed most of 2013 with injury. Teams that have a big regression in win total tend to improve about half the total the following season. Given that, we could see the Vikings back in contention next season, especially if they can get the quarterback position right.

Positional Needs

Quarterback

Christian Ponder was benched after 3 games for Matt Cassel and then returned to the starting job after mid-season pickup Josh Freeman bombed his only start of the season. Ponder then played until he got hurt and then Matt Cassel took over for the rest of the season. Cassel attempted 254 passes on that quarterback carousel. Christian Ponder attempted 239 and Josh Freeman attempted 53. All in all, Minnesota quarterbacks completed 59.5% of their passes for an average of 6.68 YPA, 18 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions, a quarterback rating of 76.0 that ranked 9th worst in the NFL. I expect them to target quarterbacks early in the draft, but they are picking 8th with a bunch of quarterback needy teams ahead of them so they might have to move up to get their guy.

Cornerback

The Vikings took Xavier Rhodes in the first round in 2013, but they still need help at the position. Chris Cook and Marcus Sherels are both free agents and both struggled this season. Cook has had an inconsistent tenure in Minnesota, after being drafted in the 2nd round in 2010, which has included off the field problems. Sherels, meanwhile, is much more valuable as a return man than as a defensive back. Josh Robinson will still be under contract, but he’s been miserable in two seasons since being drafted in the 3rd round in 2012, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked cornerback in terms of coverage grade in 2012 and 12th worst in terms of coverage grade in 2013. He shouldn’t be considered an option to start on the outside opposite Rhodes, so that’s a big need of theirs.

Defensive Tackle

The Vikings also took Sharrif Floyd in the first round in 2013, but defensive tackle remains a position of need. Kevin Williams and Fred Evans are both free agents this off-season and both are over 30, going into their age 34 and age 31 seasons respectively in 2014. Letroy Guion, meanwhile, is a mediocre at best player who could easily be a cap casualty this off-season. Floyd can be a replacement for Kevin Williams long-term, but they still need a long-term replacement for Pat Williams, who they have yet to replace since he retired following the 2011 season. This is something they need to address.

Defensive End

The Vikings have a bunch of free agents this off-season and things are no different at defensive end. Brian Robison was locked up on an extension this season, as he goes into his age 31 season, but Jared Allen and Everson Griffen are both free agents. Allen is going into his age 32 season anyway. My guess is they’d prefer to lock up Griffen, who is much younger and has thrived as a rotational player over the past few seasons, but it’s unlikely they’re going to be able to bring both back. They need to add depth at the very least.

Outside Linebacker

Chad Greenway used to be a great player, but he hasn’t graded out above average on Pro Football Focus since 2010 and last season he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked 4-3 outside linebacker, struggling in coverage and against the run and missing a league leading 21 tackles. He’ll make 6.5 million in 2014 and count for 8.4 million on the cap, in his age 31 season, so the Vikings could definitely cut him, which would free up 4.8 million in cap space. They may also keep him as a veteran presence if they don’t feel they need the cap space, but even if they don’t, he won’t be around much longer. They also may need to add someone opposite him as Marvin Mitchell is a free agent, though the two-down linebacker spot is much easier to fill.

Guard

The Vikings quietly have one of the best offensive lines in football. The only hole is left guard, where Charlie Johnson is a below average starter. Fortunately, he’s a free agent so the Vikings can use this opportunity to upgrade the position and improve even further on their dominant offensive line. After the quarterback position, this is their only real hole on offense.

Middle Linebacker

Erin Henderson is a decent starting linebacker, but he was arrested for DUI twice this season. He was benched following the first one and is now expected to be cut. The Vikings would save 2 million both in cash and on the cap by letting him go before his contract year next season. They’d need to replace him in that scenario, though Audie Cole, who flashed in limited action this season, could be a cheap internal option.

Punt Returner

I mentioned under the cornerback section that Marcus Sherels is a free agent. In spite of his issues in coverage, they need to bring him back because of his dominance as a punt returner. He was 2nd in the NFL in punt return average, returning 22 punts for 335 yards and 1 touchdown, an average of 15.2 yards per punt return. In his career, he averages 10.3 yards per punt return. If he isn’t brought back, they’ll need to replace him.

Key Free Agents

DE Jared Allen

Jared Allen is has declined in Pro Football Focus’ rankings in every season since 2011, when he was Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked 4-3 defensive end. That makes sense as he’s getting older and he has played a significant snap total in almost every season in the league. He’s going into his age 32 season in 2014 and the Vikings don’t seem like they’re going to bring him back. Given the cold market that met Dwight Freeney and John Abraham last off-season, similar pass rushers in similar stages of their careers, Allen will probably have to settle for a short-term deal, hopefully with a contender.

DE Everson Griffen

Everson Griffen has played a significant role as a rotational player in the last two seasons, playing 623 snaps in 2012 and 717 snaps in 2013 and grading out about average. He’s going into the prime of his career, going into his age 27 season in 2014, and the Vikings, in a re-build, are much more likely to bring him back than Jared Allen. That would lead to a large role for him and he could thrive in Mike Zimmer’s defense. Expect him to re-sign with the Vikings on a multi-year deal that pays him like a starting caliber player.

DT Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams has been with the Vikings for 11 seasons since they drafted him 9th overall in 2003, but it appears that his tenure with the team is up as he heads into his age 34 season. The Vikings have an in-house replacement for his 3-technique role in Sharrif Floyd, a 1st round pick in 2013. He could retire, but he’s still got something left in the tank, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 27th ranked defensive tackle last season. He’ll probably be looking at short-term deals this off-season.

RB Toby Gerhart

Toby Gerhart was a premium pick in the 2nd round in 2010, but has served purely as Adrian Peterson’s backup in 4 seasons. He’s been impressive when given a chance, rushing for 1305 yards and 5 touchdowns on 276 carries, 4.5 yards per carry, while adding 77 catches for 600 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air. He could draw some interest as a lead back going into his age 27 season on the open market this off-season.

CB Marcus Sherels

Marcus Sherels isn’t much of defensive player. He had played 384 snaps in 2 seasons from 2011-2012 and this season, when he saw significant action, playing 545 snaps, he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 20th worst ranked cornerback in terms of coverage grade. That being said, they need to bring him back because of his dominance as a punt returner. He was 2nd in the NFL in punt return average, returning 22 punts for 335 yards and 1 touchdown, an average of 15.2 yards per punt return. In his career, he averages 10.3 yards per punt return.

CB Chris Cook

Chris Cook had a very disappointing 4 years in Minnesota after they drafted him in the 2nd round in 2010. He played just 34 of a possible 64 games, for a variety of reasons, including injuries and off the field issues. And while he flashed in coverage from time to time, he was terrible in 2013, his most significant season in terms of snap count. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 95th ranked cornerback out of 110 eligible, allowing 9 touchdowns to no interceptions and 71.2% completion. Only Justin Rogers allowed a higher QB rating. It’s easy to see why the Vikings drafted Cook so high. He has a rare combination of size and speed at 6-2 212 and at his best, he can be pretty damn good. My guess is his tenure in Minnesota is done and he’ll have to settle for one year prove it deals like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Aqib Talib did last off-season.

G Charlie Johnson

A 6th round pick in 2006, Charlie Johnson has been a starter for quite a few years, playing both left guard and left tackle, dating back to his time in Indianapolis with the Colts. He’s never been particularly good though as he struggled to protect Peyton Manning’s blindside, arguably the easiest blindside to protect, and then in Minnesota he got replaced by 1st round pick Matt Kalil and moved back to left guard. He’s the weakness on an otherwise strong Minnesota offensive line and the Vikings should take this opportunity to upgrade the position as he goes into his age 30 season. As for Johnson, he’s probably looking at one year deals without guarantees of a starting job.

WR Jerome Simpson

Simpson had a career high 726 receiving yards on 48 catches this season, though he did score just once. Still, he needed to have that kind of season after his miserable 2012 season, in which he struggled through injuries and caught just 26 passes for 274 yards. That being said, anyone signing him should know that he caught fewer than 50% of his targets not just last season, but in 2011, his other big receiving year (50/725/4). He also has a history of off the field problems. He’ll be greeted with a stronger market this year than last year, but he might still be looking at one year deals. The Vikings might be wise to bring him back cheap as a depth receiver.

OLB Marvin Mitchell

Marvin Mitchell was the 3rd linebacker in Minnesota this season, but only played 310 snaps. He’s never played more than 361 snaps in a season since being drafted in the 7th round in 2007 and he’s already going into his age 30 season. He’s almost definitely looking at one year deals this off-season. He wasn’t bad in his role last season so it might make sense for the Vikings to bring him back cheap, but he’ll also be very easy to replace if they don’t. Finding a two-down outside linebacker isn’t hard.

QB Josh Freeman

I’m not entirely sure what happened to Josh Freeman, but in his last 8 starts, Josh Freeman has completed 47.8% of his passes for an average of 5.80 YPA, 8 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He was demoted to 3rd string in Tampa Bay and cut despite still being owed a guaranteed salary. He then picked up 3 million from Minnesota, but ended up making just one start, a national televised trainwreck against the Giants in which he completed 20 of 53 for 190 yards and an interception. Sure, he probably didn’t have the playbook down yet, but the fact that the Vikings never went back to him for the rest of the season says something. Many members of the media have suggested there’s something deeper to his struggles, though those in the know seem uncomfortable divulging this information. Whatever it is, NFL teams are likely aware of it as well and Freeman should consider himself lucky if he even gets a chance to compete for a starting job anywhere this off-season.

Cap Casualty Candidates

DT Letroy Guion

Letroy Guion has graded out well below average in a rotational role over the past 2 seasons, including ranking dead last among defensive tackles on Pro Football Focus in 2012 on just 509 snaps. In 2013, he played just 397 snaps behind Kevin Williams and Sharrif Floyd. The Vikings can save 4 million in cash and on the cap by cutting him this off-season so he’s probably as good as gone.

MLB Erin Henderson

Erin Henderson is a decent starting linebacker, but he was arrested for DUI twice this season. He was benched following the first one and is now expected to be cut. The Vikings would save 2 million both in cash and on the cap by letting him go before his contract year next season.

OLB Chad Greenway

Chad Greenway used to be a great player, but he hasn’t graded out above average on Pro Football Focus since 2010 and last season he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked 4-3 outside linebacker, struggling in coverage and against the run and missing a league leading 21 tackles. He’ll make 6.5 million in 2014 and count for 8.4 million on the cap, in his age 31 season, so the Vikings could definitely cut him, which would free up 4.8 million in cap space. They may also keep him as a veteran presence if they don’t feel they need the cap space.

TE John Carlson

The 5 year, 25 million dollar deal the Vikings gave John Carlson last 2 years ago was absurd. He caught just 31 passes in 2010 and missed all of 2011 with injury and the Vikings already had Kyle Rudolph. Carlson caught just 8 passes in his first year with the team. This year, with Kyle Rudolph missing time with injury, Carlson had an opportunity to shine, but caught just 32 passes on the season. Carlson could easily be cut this off-season, which would free up 2 million in cap space. With Kyle Rudolph coming back, that’s definitely a possibility. He wouldn’t be worth his 4 million dollar salary as a backup.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dished out more big contracts over the past few years than perhaps any team in the NFL. They’ve re-signed Davin Joseph (7 years, 52.5 million), Donald Penn (6 years, 41.7 million), Mike Williams (6 years, 40.25 million), and Quincy Black (5 years, 29 million), signed Carl Nicks (5 years, 47.5 million), Vincent Jackson (5 years, 55.5 million), Dashon Goldson (5 years, 41.25 million), and Eric Wright (5 years, 37.5 million), and traded for Darrelle Revis (6 years, 96 million).

Some of those deals have panned out. Vincent Jackson has been their #1 receiver with 150 catches for 2608 yards and 15 touchdowns in the past 2 seasons combined. Donald Penn has been a fixture as an above average blindside protector. Darrelle Revis shook off a torn ACL and re-emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL last season. However, most of those deals have been disappointing.

Quincy Black and Eric Wright were both gone within 2 years of signing those deals. Davin Joseph suffered a knee injury in 2012 and was one of the worst guards in the league in 2013. Carl Nicks has been a very good guard when on the field, but has played just 9 games in two years because of a toe injury and a subsequent infection. Both could be cap casualties this off-season. Dashon Goldson graded out below average on Pro Football Focus in his first year with the Buccaneers after signing a record deal for a safety. Mike Williams has the potential to bounce back going forward, but he missed 10 games with injury and caught just 22 passes in the first year of his extension this season.

The Buccaneers’ problems have not been limited to free agency. High draft picks committed to Josh Freeman, Brian Price, Arrelious Benn, Da’Quan Bowers, Adrian Clayborn, and Mark Barron have yet to pay the dividends they were supposed to. As a result, the Buccaneers are a 4-12 team pressed up against the cap and GM Mark Dominik was fired this off-season after 5 seasons with the team, in which they went 28-52 and failed to make the playoffs. They haven’t made the playoffs since the 2007 season under Jon Gruden and they’re already on their 3rd head coach since Gruden was let go.

The Buccaneers might have been even worse than their 4-12 record would suggest. Sure, they went 2-4 in games decided by a touchdown or less and had a tough schedule, but they also went 4-12 despite a +10 turnover margin, which can be tough to maintain on a year-to-year basis, especially for bad teams. The Buccaneers went 1-11 this season when they didn’t win the turnover battle. They’re way too reliant on that. In terms of rate of moving the chains differential, they ranked 30th, which is about right. This is one of the worst teams in the NFL in spite of all the money they spent.

It’s not all bad for the Buccaneers though. The trio of Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, and Darrelle Revis might all be among the top-20 players in the NFL, as they graded out 1st, 2nd, and 1st at their respective positions on Pro Football Focus this season. Their defense was the definition of top heavy as those were the only three players that graded out above average and played more than 300 snaps, but the core is there for them to build around. It’s much easier to upgrade from poor to average than it is to upgrade from average to great. Players like those 3 are rare and represent three positive things from Mark Dominik’s tenure.

Another positive thing he left behind was Mike Glennon, who definitely flashed as a third round rookie quarterback, completing 59.4% of his passes for an average of 6.27 YPA, 19 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. He’s expected to get another chance as the starter in 2014 and could be the answer at quarterback if he develops properly. The Buccaneers will also get Doug Martin and Mike Williams back from injury for next season.

The other positive thing for the Buccaneers was that they hired Lovie Smith, an accomplished head coach and a defensive mastermind who was sorely missed by the Bears this season. The Buccaneers had to settle for bottom of the barrel coaching options the last two times around in Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano because of the poor reputation of the Buccaneers’ owners around the league, so they should consider themselves lucky that Smith was willing to take the job. Smith is familiar with the organization, serving as linebackers coach from 1996-2000.

I’m very excited to see what he’ll be able to do with Gerald McCoy (in the Tommie Harris/Henry Melton role) and Lavonte David (in the Lance Briggs role) and to see if he can help the rest of the defense play better around them, including former high draft picks Da’Quan Bowers, Adrian Clayborn, Johnthan Banks and Mark Barron and high paid underachieving safety Dashon Goldson. There’s some concern about how Darrelle Revis will fit his scheme because he’s a pure man cornerback, but Smith let Charles Tillman play man in Chicago so I’m not too concerned. He’s not dumb.

Smith’s biggest flaw and what led to his eventual termination in Chicago was his tendency to pick incompetent coaches to run his offense. Smith has tabbed former University of California coach Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator and he’ll be tasking with aiding in Mike Glennon’s development, which could make or break this team going forward. Tedford is a bit of a wild card. He coached 6 different future NFL 1st round pick quarterbacks while in college, but only Aaron Rodgers panned out as the other 5 included Kyle Boller, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, and David Carr, who are among the biggest busts in NFL history (the 6th is Trent Dilfer). I want to give Smith the benefit of the doubt with his judgment of offensive minds, but he hasn’t earned that with his history.

Positional Needs

Defensive End

The Buccaneers used 1st and 2nd round picks on defensive ends in Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers and they haven’t really panned out. Clayborn graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 47th ranked 4-3 defensive end out of 52 eligible in 2013, while Bowers played just 212 snaps behind Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who was Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked 4-3 defensive end. Clayborn could bounce back next season, another year removed from his torn ACL, and he did flash before the injury. However, even then they need someone opposite him. If any of Jadeveon Clowney, Anthony Barr, or Khalil Mack is still there at #7 overall, I expect them to pull the trigger.

Middle Linebacker

Lovie Smith suggested at his introductory press conference that he’s looking to upgrade the middle linebacker position. That makes sense. Mason Foster has graded out below average in all 3 seasons as a starter since being drafted in the 3rd round in 2011 and he’s a poor fit for the cover 2. Smith will be looking for his next Brian Urlacher. That won’t be easy, but it’ll be easier to find someone better than Foster so expect them to target this position early in the draft, perhaps in the 2nd round.

Tight End

Tim Wright emerged as a solid receiving threat out of the tight end position, this season, catching 54 passes for 571 yards and 5 touchdowns as an undrafted rookie. However, the 6-3 220 pound converted wide receiver is not an inline tight end by any stretch of the imagination and a very poor blocker. Wright would be better served in a joker role, playing out wide, in the slot, at h-back, and as a move tight end, behind a true inline tight end.

Defensive Tackle

It’s really amazing how good of a season Gerald McCoy had considering he was the only one on his defensive line that the opposing team had to worry about. They started 4th round rookie Akeem Spence at defensive tackle next to him and he played as you’d expected a 4th round rookie to play, grading out as Pro Football Focus 3rd worst ranked defensive tackle. He could be better in 2014, but they should bring in some competition for his job.

Guard

The Buccaneers could make both Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks cap casualties this off-season, as Joseph graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked guard this season and Nicks has played just 9 games in 2 seasons with foot problems and may never play again because of nerve damage. All of their internal replacements sucked this season so they should replace both of them from the outside if they do cut them.

Outside Linebacker

This is another spot on the defense that needs help, the outside linebacker spot opposite Lavonte David. They could fill this spot by moving Mason Foster here or by drafting someone like Anthony Barr or Khalil Mack to play the Von Miller role. It’s a two-down role anyway so this one isn’t that high up on their list, especially since it’ll be easy to fill.

Wide Receiver

The Buccaneers have no depth behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. When the latter went out for the season 6 games into it this season, they didn’t have a suitable replacement. Tiquan Underwood had just 24 catches for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns on 376 routes run and he’s a free agent anyway. Depth needs to be added.

Quarterback

Is Mike Glennon the quarterback of the future? His 19 touchdowns to 9 interception ratio would suggest he is, but he also completed just 59.4% of his passes for an average of 6.27 yards per attempt. He was an obvious upgrade over Josh Freeman, but the Buccaneers still moved the chains at a 66.29% rate this season, 27th in the NFL, with Glennon making 13 starts. He’s the heavy favorite to be the starter in 2014, but they need to add a better backup than Dan Orlovsky, who is a free agent this off-season anyway.

Key Free Agents

WR Tiquan Underwood

Tiquan Underwood was the Buccaneers’ 3rd string wide receiver this season and was pressed into starting action for the final 10 games of the season with Mike Williams hurt. He didn’t impress with his opportunity, as he had just 24 catches for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns on 376 routes run. The man who was infamously cut by the Patriots the day before the Super Bowl in the 2011 season, Underwood has just 63 catches for 1009 yards and 6 touchdowns in 4 seasons. The former 7th round pick of the Jaguars out of Rutgers is purely a depth receiver and situational deep threat.

DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim

A 3rd round pick out of Washington in 2010 by the Eagles, Te’o-Nesheim has carved out a significant role in Tampa Bay over the past 2 seasons, playing 748 snaps in 2012 and 616 snaps in 2013. However, he’s been terrible, especially in 2013, when he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked 4-3 defensive end. He had just 1 sack, 9 hits, and 14 hurries on 328 pass rush snaps, managed 10 total solo tackles, including 9 stops, and missed 7. He shouldn’t get anything close to guaranteed money for next season.

Potential Cap Casualties

DT Derek Landri

The Buccaneers can save 1.5 million in cash and cap space by cutting Landri, so it seems like a no brainer. He played just 124 snaps, despite the Buccaneers need at the defensive tackle position, and graded out well below average on Pro Football Focus on those snaps.

G Davin Joseph

The 7-year, 52.5 million dollar contract the Buccaneers gave Davin Joseph was a mistake from the start. The year before he received it, he was Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked guard, despite playing just 11 games. In 2011, the first year of his contract, he continued to struggle, grading out below average and then he didn’t play at all in 2012 with a knee injury. This past season he was their 2nd worst ranked guard. The Buccaneers have a new front office and coaching staff so Joseph’s hall pass has probably run out as he heads into his age 31 season. The Buccaneers can save 6 million in cap space by cutting him and get out of the remaining 27.5 million he’s owed penalty free.

G Carl Nicks

Carl Nicks received a massive 5 year 48.5 million dollar contract from the Buccaneers and, even though he’s a guard, it was worth it. Nicks has played well when on the field in the first two seasons of the deal, but he’s played just 11 games thanks to a toe injury and a subsequent infection. He now has nerve damage that may potentially end his career. Given that, it makes sense for the Buccaneers to cut him and save 2.286 million on the cap this off-season, as good as he can be when healthy.

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Atlanta Falcons 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

The Falcons were definitely going to regress this season. The average 13-win team wins 9.5 games the following season. The Falcons played just 2 eventual playoff teams in 2012 and went 7-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less. They had an unsustainable +13 turnover margin, which was powered by an unsustainable 64.3% fumble recovery rate. They also had significant off-season losses. They lost their best two defensive linemen, John Abraham and Vance Walker, and only replaced them with an aging Osi Umenyiora. They lost two offensive line starters and had just two players playing in their 2012 spot on the line. The switch from Michael Turner to Steven Jackson appeared to be an upgrade, but with Jackson heading into his 30s, it was tough to expect much.

However, the Falcons regressed in a way that no one saw coming. They went from 13 wins to 4 wins as injuries ravaged the team. Sean Weatherspoon, Sam Baker, Kroy Biermann, and Julio Jones all missed significant time with injury, while Roddy White was limited by lower body injuries all season. Steven Jackson also missed significant time with injury and struggled when he did play, showing his age. White and Jackson were a part of a group of 30+ veterans who disappointed on this team, including Asante Samuel, Stephen Nicholas, and Osi Umenyiora, all of whom were benched at one point or another.

Baker and Weatherspoon also struggled when they were in the lineup, hurting their linebacking corps and offensive line significantly. The former unit was forced to rely significantly on two undrafted rookies, Joplo Bartu and Paul Worillow, while the latter saw two 2nd year players, Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz, play among the worst in the league at their respective positions. Add in a disappointing year from safety Thomas DeCoud and you had a team that had little around the quarterback position.

It’s very hard for a team to win just 4 games with a strong quarterback and Matt Ryan is not to blame, as he completed 67.4% of his passes for 6.94 YPA, 26 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, despite a lack of talent around him. However, the Falcons had ones of the worst defenses in the NFL, struggling in all facets and the only thing that worked on the offensive side was the passing game, as they were unable to pass protect or establish anything on the ground.

The good news is that things should turn around in 2014. Teams that see significant drops in win totals often rebound and wind up, on average, right in the middle of their strong season and their bad season. That would put the Falcons at 8 or 9 wins, which isn’t hard to imagine given their recent history of success. They should have significantly fewer injuries and they have plenty of cap space to build their roster. They also have the 6th overall pick in the draft to add a much needed cheap blue chip. Also, things that are usually kind to the Falcons were not in 2014. They went 3-7 in games decided by a touchdown or less and their turnover margin was -7 as they forced just 21 takeaways. Those things should turn around in 2014 and allow this team to compete for a playoff spot.

Positional Needs

Defensive End

Maybe edge rusher is a better term here because Mike Nolan will want someone who is versatile enough to play in all schemes. The Falcons had just 32 sacks this season, which ranked tied for 3rd worst in the NFL, and they are Pro Football Focus’ 32nd ranked team in terms of pass rush. Osi Umenyiora was their big free agent pass rusher signing, but he was benched towards the end of the season and he’s unlikely to be brought back next season, owed 3.5 million dollars in his age 33 contract year. They need at least one, if not two new starters at defensive end/edge rusher. Jadeveon Clowney or Anthony Barr could be very intriguing at #6.

Defensive Tackle

The Falcons top-3 defensive tackles are all free agents this off-season and the odds are against them bringing all 3 of Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, and Peria Jerry back. Even if they do, Babineaux is heading into his age 33 season, while Jerry, a 2009 1st round pick, has been a complete bust and is barely a rotational caliber player at this point in his career. Corey Peters, meanwhile, played well this season, but was terrible in 2012 so he’s tough to trust.

Offensive Tackle

The Falcons gave Sam Baker a 6 year, 41.1 million dollar deal last off-season after the 2008 1st rounder had a strong contract year. The first year of that deal went as bad as it possibly could have. Baker’s tendency to get injured returned and he played just 190 snaps. He was horrific on those 190 snaps, allowing a sack, 7 hits, and 12 hurries. No offensive tackle played fewer snaps than him and graded out worse than him on Pro Football Focus in either overall grade or pass blocking grade. Despite such limited snaps, he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 9th worst ranked offensive tackle overall.

He’ll be back next season because he still has guaranteed money left on his deal and cutting him would cost 9.2 million on the cap. However, they need help opposite him. Lamar Holmes, a 2012 3rd round pick, has been awful this far in his career. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked offensive tackle in 2013, allowing 10 sacks, 13 hits, and 53 hurries, while committing 12 penalties. He could still turn it around, but given that he was just a 3rd round pick, it’s looking unlikely. They can’t let him come into 2014 as the uncontested starting right tackle.

Tight End

Tony Gonzalez is retiring, at least for now. The Falcons need a new tight end to replace him. Levine Toilolo, a 2013 4th round pick, was their 2nd string tight end last season, but he only played 198 snaps because the Falcons almost never use two-tight end sets, catching 11 passes for 55 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s a decent blocker and goal line weapon, but I don’t know if he’s a good enough receiver to be a #1 tight end. They should bring someone else into the mix.

Guard

Left guard Justin Blalock was their only good offensive lineman in 2013. They need help at right guard opposite him. Garrett Reynolds has been very inconsistent in his career and was benched last season for Joe Hawley, who took over at center, moving Peter Konz to right guard. Konz was horrible at right guard, just as he was at center. They need to bring in competition for Reynolds, as Hawley, a decent reserve, is a free agent this off-season.

Center

Peter Konz has been a complete bust in 2 years since being a 2nd round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He was Pro Football Focus’ 6th worst ranked guard in 2012. In 2013, he started the season at center, his collegiate position, but struggled and moved back to right guard. Despite splitting time at the two positions, he was still both Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked center and their 68th ranked guard out of 81 eligible. They need to bring in some competition for him.

Running Back

The Falcons replaced Michael Turner with Steven Jackson, but Jackson didn’t prove to be much of an upgrade. Jackson fell off a cliff, rushing for a career low 543 yards and 3.5 yards per carry. He only played 12 games and had just 157 carries. That shouldn’t have been a surprise as he had 2396 carries going into his age 30 season in 2013. Of the top-25 all-time leading rushers who have played in the last decade, the average one has his last 1000 yard season in his age 30 season at 2602 carrier carries. The Falcons can get out of his contract fairly easily and replace him, but even if they don’t, they need a running back for the future as Jackson is heading into his age 31 season.

Cornerback

The Falcons used 1st and 2nd round picks on cornerbacks in 2013 NFL Draft, taking Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, but they might still need help at the position this off-season. Asante Samuel is expected to be a cap casualty, while Robert McClain is a free agent. If they don’t retain him, they’ll need to get someone to replace him.

Middle Linebacker

Paul Worrilow took over as the starting middle linebacker as an undrafted rookie this season. He wasn’t terrible, but he did grade out as Pro Football Focus’ 41st ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible. The Falcons do seem to like him so he’ll probably be back as the starter next season, but it might not be a bad idea to get a cheap veteran backup just in case he continues to struggle.

Safety

Thomas DeCoud had an awful 2013 season in the 2nd year of his 5-year deal, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th worst ranked safety. The Falcons can save a good amount on the cap and 11.2 million in cash over the next 3 seasons by cutting him. If they cut him, they’ll need to find some sort of replacement. Perhaps 2013 undrafted rookie Zeke Motta can be that guy and they might just keep DeCoud as a veteran presence in hopes that he turns it around with so many needs. That’s why it’s at the bottom on this list.

Key Free Agents

DT Jonathan Babineaux

Babineaux has played in 138 games for the Falcons, missing a combined 4 over the past 6 seasons, since being taken in the 2nd round in 2005 out of Iowa. Since Pro Football Focus’ first season in 2008, Babineaux has graded out above average in all 6 seasons, maxing out as Pro Football Focus’ #1 ranked defensive tackle in 2009 and grading out 13th as recently as 2011. Unfortunately, he’s going into his age 33 season this off-season so he’ll probably be looking at short-term deals, but he should still be able to get 3-5 million dollars per year.

DT Corey Peters

A 3rd round pick in 2010, Corey Peters has been a pretty inconsistent player thus far in his career, playing significant amounts of snaps in all 4 seasons and alternating between below average and above average seasons on Pro Football Focus. For example, in 2012, he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked defensive tackle, but in 2013, he graded out 30th and significantly above average. He’ll get a decent amount of money on a 3 or 4 year deal going into the prime of his career. Of the Falcons’ 3 free agents at defensive tackle, Peters should be their #1 priority because of his combination of youth and talent.

CB Robert McClain

Robert McClain broke out as the nickel back in 2012 for the Falcons, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked cornerback. He wasn’t nearly as good in 2013, grading out right around average, playing about half the snaps, but he still should be retained because he’s one of the few talented young players the Falcons have. He should get a bigger role in 2014.

DT Peria Jerry

Peria Jerry has been a complete bust as a 2009 1st round pick. 2010 was the only season he graded out above average and he did that on 213 snaps. 2013 was his worst season as he played a career high 678 snaps and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 6th worst ranked defensive tackle. He’s looking at rotational work on a one year deal at best this off-season.

Cap Casualty Candidates

CB Asante Samuel

Asante Samuel is going into his age 33 season and he’s as good as gone after getting moved down to 4th string behind rookies Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford late last season. Samuel is owed 4.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2014 in his contract year and the Falcons can save 4.5 million on the cap by letting him go.

DE Osi Umenyiora

Osi Umenyiora is another veteran who is as good as gone. Umenyiora was their big pass rush signing last off-season and though he led the team with 7 sacks, he still wasn’t as good as they needed him to be and they benched him down the stretch to evaluate younger players. The Falcons can save both 3.5 million in cash and cap space by letting him go, as he heads into his age 33 season.

RB Jason Snelling

Jason Snelling was arrested this season and the Falcons have generally displayed a no tolerance policy in the past in terms of players with off the field run ins. Given that, it’s pretty safe to assume that Snelling will be cut, saving 1.375 million in cash and cap space. He’s also going into his age 31 season in 2014 and had just 44 carries in an underwhelming backfield in 2013, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.

OLB Stephen Nicholas

Stephen Nicholas has been jumped on the depth chart by two undrafted rookies Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu and played just 132 snaps in 2013, the 3rd year of a 5 year deal. The Falcons can save a combined 7.5 million in cash in 2014 and 2015 and 2 million in cap space by cutting him this off-season, as he goes into his age 31 season.

OLB Kroy Biermann

Kroy Biermann missed most of last season with injury and has yet to establish himself as an impact edge rusher. The Falcons can save 3.05 million on the cap next season and in cash by cutting him, but they may keep him around because of how thin they are at edge rusher.

RB Steven Jackson

The Falcons replaced Michael Turner with Steven Jackson, but Jackson didn’t prove to be much of an upgrade. Jackson fell off a cliff, rushing for a career low 543 yards and 3.5 yards per carry. He only played 12 games and had just 157 carries. That shouldn’t have been a surprise as he had 2396 carries going into his age 30 season in 2013. Of the top-25 all-time leading rushers who have played in the last decade, the average one has his last 1000 yard season in his age 30 season at 2602 carrier carries. The Falcons can get out of his contract fairly easily, saving about 1.8 million on next year’s cap in the process, if they choose.

S Thomas DeCoud

Thomas DeCoud had an awful 2013 season in the 2nd year of his 5-year deal, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th worst ranked safety. The Falcons can save a 3 million on the cap and 11.2 million in cash over the next 3 seasons by cutting him. They also might just keep DeCoud as a veteran presence in hopes that he turns it around with so many needs.

TE Tony Gonzalez

This is just formality as Gonzalez is technically under contract for 2014 at the salary of 7 million. He’s expected to retire, however, so the Falcons won’t technically have to cut him to realize savings of 7 million in cash and cap space. Gonzalez will now sit and wait for the Hall of Fame to call, though he did leave the window open for him to return mid-season to a contender in 2014.

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Oakland Raiders 2014 Off-Season Report

2013 Recap

Before Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen came in, the Raiders were one of the most poorly run franchises in football, towards the end of the Al Davis era and ensuing Hue Jackson era, which saw him trade a 1st and 2nd round pick for Carson Palmer weeks after Davis’ death. As a result, the Raiders had over 56 million in dead money on their cap. Before they drafted DJ Hayden, the Raiders had just two of their first round picks on their roster, Darren McFadden and Sebastian Janikowski, a kicker and a running back who got benched mid-season. Of their top-10 cap numbers, only three of them were actually on the roster this season. Two of those would be McFadden and Janikowski and the other would be Tyvon Branch, who missed most of the season with injury.

Fortunately, the light at the end of the tunnel is near. The Raiders wisely kept both Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen despite back-to-back 4-12 seasons, recognizing there wasn’t much they could do. McKenzie and Allen did a good job and getting good seasons out of cheap free agents like Pat Sims, Tony Pashos, Vance Walker, Mike Jenkins, and Charles Woodson. It might sound crazy, but the Raiders overachieved by winning 4 games last season and McKenzie and Allen deserve credit for that. This team was literally working with half of the financial resources of most teams last year, but now they have about 66 million in cap space with all the dead money off their cap. They basically have to start from the ground floor with this roster this off-season, but they have the financial resources to build it up in a hurry.

They’ll have to go into this off-season by identifying building blocks. Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston are both building blocks and need to be re-signed this off-season, even if it means overpaying them on frontloaded deals. Defensive tackles Pat Sims and Vance Walker both showed promise this season and should be brought back on multi-year deals. They have a decent young receiver corps. Center Stefen Wisniewski is also very good and the Raiders might be wise to lock up the 2011 2nd round pick long-term this off-season on an extension. Tyvon Branch is their highest paid player for 2014 and he’s pretty solid as well when healthy. Sio Moore showed a lot as a 3rd round rookie and they definitely shouldn’t give up on 1st round rookie DJ Hayden. They’ll have to build around those guys if they want to get out of their recent drought of success. Since losing the Super Bowl in the 2002 season, they are 53-123, by far the worst in the NFL.

Positional Needs

Quarterback

The Raiders are basically starting from the ground floor this off-season, but there isn’t a quicker way to turn the team around than by adding a franchise quarterback. The first round pick they used on JaMarcus Russell, the first and second round picks they traded for Carson Palmer, the 4th round pick they traded for Jason Campbell, the 3rd round pick they used on Terrelle Pryor, and the 4th round pick they used on Tyler Wilson were all for naught as the Raiders had to resort to undrafted rookie Matt McGloin to end the season.

McGloin did some nice things, completing 55.9% of his passes for an average of 7.33 YPA, 8 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions, but ultimately showed why no one used a draft pick on him a few months prior. He could be a nice backup going forward but nothing more. Terrelle Pryor, meanwhile, showed significant flaws as a passer and is not a real starting option going into his 4th season in the league. He completed 57.4% of his passes for an average of 6.61 YPA, 7 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked quarterback in terms of passing grade, and was ultimately benched for an undrafted rookie. The Raiders will be looking for quarterbacks early in the draft.

Defensive End

LaMarr Houston is one of the few building blocks the Raiders have. The converted defensive tackle has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 18th, 9th, and 11th ranked defensive end in the past 3 seasons respectively and has been well worth the 2nd round pick the Raiders used on him in 2010. The Raiders have literally unlimited cap space this off-season because their roster is so bare so there’s no excuse for not re-signing him, even if they have to overpay him on a front loaded deal with a significant cap number in the first season. Even if they do re-sign him, they have a huge need opposite him. Veteran journeyman Jason Hunter struggled mightily as the starter opposite him. He was Pro Football Focus’ 4th worst ranked 4-3 defensive end. Jadeveon Clowney is going to be awfully tempting for this team at #5 overall if he’s still there, in spite of the Raiders’ desperate need for a quarterback.

Defensive Tackle

The Raiders signed Vance Walker and Pat Sims to cheap one-year deals last off-season because they were so strapped for cap space. That worked out really well. Sims blossomed in his 6th year in the league as the 2008 3rd round pick out of Auburn graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 17th ranked defensive tackle. Walker, meanwhile, continued the solid play he displayed in Atlanta prior to coming to Oakland, grading out as above average. Unfortunately, both of them were on just one year deals so they’ll be free agents this off-season. If either isn’t re-signed, they’ll need to be replaced.

Guard

Tony Bergstrom was supposed to be a big part of the Raiders’ offensive line this year, but he missed the entire season with a foot injury and Lucas Nix had to step in for him. He might get another chance at a starting job in 2014, but he’s barely played in 2 years in the league and was only a 3rd round pick so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he never developed into a starter, especially as he’s already heading into his age 28 season. Lucas Nix was terrible in his absence, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked guard. Meanwhile, at the other guard position, Mike Brisiel is a poor fit for the blocking scheme and could be cut this off-season in an effort to save 1.15 million on next year’s cap and 11.55 in cash over the last 3 seasons. He’s going into his age 31 season.

Offensive Tackle

Jared Veldheer, Khalif Barnes, and Tony Pashos are the Raiders top-3 offensive tackles and all 3 are going to be free agents this off-season. Veldheer should be locked up long-term. Even though he missed most of the season with a torn triceps and struggled upon his return, he’s still a franchise left tackle at full strength. A 3rd round pick out of Hillsdale in 2010, Veldheer graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 17th and 12th ranked offensive tackle in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The Raiders are in no position to allow someone like that to leave.

Even if re-signed, they’ll need someone opposite him at right tackle. Tony Pashos was competent this season, after being out of the league in 2012, but he’s going into his age 34 season. Barnes, meanwhile, was awful this season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 59th ranked offensive tackle out of 76 eligible and he’s perennially among the worst ranked tackles in the NFL. 2013 2nd round pick Menelik Watson could be a long-term starting option, but the raw athlete struggled mightily in limited action as a rookie and might just be another Bruce Campbell.

Running Back

Darren McFadden has never been able to live up to his billing as the 4th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and was never able to live up to his huge 2010 season, in which he rushed for 1157 yards and 7 touchdowns on 223 carries (5.2 yards per carry) and added 47 catches for another 501 yards and 3 scores. In 3 seasons since, he’s played a total of 29 games out of 48 and rushed for just 1700 yards and 11 touchdowns on 446 carries (3.8 yards per carry). This season, he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked running back.

Even with the big 2010 season, he’s never played more than 13 games in a season or had more than 223 carries or 270 touches and in his 2nd straight season of sub-3.5 yards per carry, he was benched for backup Rashad Jennings following an injury. Jennings was much better, rushing for 733 yards on 163 carries (4.5 yards per carry) with 6 touchdowns and 36 catches for 292 yards. Both are free agents and the Raiders are much more likely to bring back Jennings as a lead back than McFadden, who is probably going to be playing football elsewhere in 2014. Jennings, however, should not be considered a sure bet lead back, as he’s never had more than 163 carries in a season, he’s missed 27 of 80 games in his career, and he’s rushed for 4.3 yards per carry in his career, including 2.8 yards per carry in 2012. And if both are gone, then this is a significant position of need.

Cornerback

The Raiders drafted DJ Hayden in the first round in 2013. That hasn’t worked out so far as he played just 353 snaps because of injury and was unable to crack the starting lineup, grading out well below average on Pro Football Focus. He should still be considered a big part of their future obviously, but they’ll need cornerback help after him as well. Both Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter were on just one year deals and are now free agents again. Jenkins was actually pretty decent and could be brought back, but Porter showed why he had to settle for a one year deal as he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 6th worst ranked cornerback this season.

Safety

Charles Woodson played decent football this season at free safety, but he’s a free agent heading into his age 38 season in 2014 so he obviously can’t be counted on long-term. Usama Young was his backup and he was actually very solid in limited action, which shouldn’t be surprising because he was actually a solid starter in Cleveland the year prior. However, he too is a free agent. The Raiders have so many needs that it might be a good idea to settle for bringing back either Woodson or Young or someone else on a cheap one year deal.

Key Free Agents

DE Lamarr Houston

LaMarr Houston is one of the few building blocks the Raiders have. The converted defensive tackle has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 18th, 9th, and 11th ranked defensive end in the past 3 seasons respectively and has been well worth the 2nd round pick the Raiders used on him in 2010. The Raiders have literally unlimited cap space this off-season because their roster is so bare so there’s no excuse for not re-signing him, even if they have to overpay him on a front loaded deal with a significant cap number in the first season.

OT Jared Veldheer

Even though he missed most of the season with a torn triceps and struggled upon his return, Jared Veldheer is still a franchise left tackle at full strength. A 3rd round pick out of Hillsdale in 2010, Veldheer graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 17th and 12th ranked offensive tackle in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The Raiders are in no position to allow someone like that to leave.

DT Pat Sims

Pat Sims was a largely irrelevant backup in Cincinnati to start his career, but the 2008 3rd round pick out of Auburn blossomed in his 6th season in the league in Oakland, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 17th ranked defensive tackle, excelling against the run. The Raiders should try to keep him around as a potential building block for the future, but they shouldn’t overpay for him based on one strong season.

DT Vance Walker

A 7th round pick out of Georgia Tech, Vance Walker has emerged as a solid starter at defensive tackle over the past 2 seasons, first in Atlanta in 2012 and then in Oakland in 2013, where he was on a one year deal. He’s graded out above average in both seasons and has earned the right to get a multi-year deal worth in the range of 4-5 million dollars yearly with a decent sized signing bonus. The Raiders have a lot of cap space and would be wise to keep him in the fold.

RB Rashad Jennings

Rashad Jennings was a talented backup for Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville in 2009 and 2010 to start his career, after going in the 7th round in 2009. He rushed for 661 yards on 125 carries, an average of 5.3 yards per carry. However, in 2011, he missed the whole season with injury and only rushed for 2.8 yards per carry upon his return in 2012. The Jaguars let him go as a free agent and the Raiders snatched him out where he had, by far, his best season, rushing for 733 yards and 6 touchdowns on 163 carries, an average of 4.5 yards per carry, and adding 36 catches for 292 yards through the air, taking over for Darren McFadden mid-season. The Raiders could bring him back on a cheap deal to be their lead back, but they should be hesitant about putting too much faith in him, especially as he’s going into his age 29 season already.

RB Darren McFadden

Darren McFadden has never been able to live up to his billing as the 4th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and was never able to live up to his huge 2010 season, in which he rushed for 1157 yards and 7 touchdowns on 223 carries (5.2 yards per carry) and added 47 catches for another 501 yards and 3 scores. In 3 seasons since, he’s played a total of 29 games out of 48 and rushed for just 1700 yards and 11 touchdowns on 446 carries (3.8 yards per carry). This season, he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked running back. Even with the big 2010 season, he’s never played more than 13 games in a season or had more than 223 carries or 270 touches and in his 2nd straight season of sub-3.5 yards per carry, he was benched for backup Rashad Jennings following an injury. Jennings is much more likely to be brought back as a lead back than McFadden, who is probably done in Oakland. Perhaps he can reunite with former Head Coach Hue Jackson in Cincinnati, under whom he had that 2010 season.

CB Mike Jenkins

Mike Jenkins was a 1st round pick by the Cowboys in 2008 and actually made the Pro-Bowl in 2009, deservingly so, but he eventually washed out in Dallas, struggling and losing his starting job. He got another chance with the Raiders this season and wasn’t terrible, grading out only slightly below average. They could bring him back as a starter, but he’s probably looking at short-term deals wherever he goes.

S Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson actually wasn’t that bad this season, grading out only slightly below average. However, he’s going into his age 38 season in 2014 so there’s a very good chance the former Defensive Player of the Year and Heisman winner just hangs them up and waits for the Hall of Fame to call, which it will. If he decides to continue playing, he’ll be looking at one-year deals with little to no guaranteed money.

OT Tony Pashos

Tony Pashos was out of the league completely in 2012, but he actually played very well in 12 games in 2011 with the Browns, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 22nd ranked offensive tackle. Given that, it shouldn’t be that surprising that he was pretty competent this season on the right side in Oakland, but he’s going into his age 34 season in 2014 so it’s tough to trust him going forward. He’s probably looking at one year deals with an opportunity to compete for a starting job.

S Usama Young

Usama Young was a cheap young talented starter in Cleveland in 2012, so naturally they cut him, despite the fact that he was Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked safety that season. The Raiders wisely snatched him up cheaply, but they didn’t play him enough. Brandian Ross played in Tyvon Branch’s absence this season and he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked safety. Usama Young, meanwhile, played just 208 snaps for some reason. He graded out above average on those snaps though. I still believe he’s a starting caliber player if given a chance.

OT Khalif Barnes

Khalif Barnes was one of Pro Football Focus’ worst tackles in 2012, grading out 64th out of 80 eligible despite making just 9 starts at right tackle. In 2013, he was equally bad, grading out 59th out of 76 eligible in 11 starts on the blindside. When Jared Veldheer came back from injury, Barnes, not Tony Pashos, went to the bench. Barnes should be looking for swing tackle work this off-season.

CB Tracy Porter

Tracy Porter has fallen a long way from running back an interception for a touchdown to seal a victory over Peyton Manning and the Colts in February 2010. Porter struggled mightily in 2011, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 91st ranked cornerback out of 109 eligible, allowing opponents to complete 71.2% of passes against him. He didn’t get a chance to redeem himself on a one year deal in Denver in 2012 because of an illness and he struggled mightily again in Oakland in 2013. He was Pro Football Focus’ 104th ranked cornerback out of 110 eligible. He’ll have to wait a while for a team to call.

DE Jason Hunter

Jason Hunter was a veteran journeyman, but the Raiders gave him a chance to start because they were out of options and had very little cap space, in spite of the fact that didn’t play a snap in 2012 thanks to injury. He played exactly as he would have expected him to, generating just 4 sacks, 6 hits, and 12 hurries and grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th worst ranked 3-4 defensive end. He’ll be looking at situational role at the most this off-season.

Cap Casualty Candidates

G Mike Brisiel

Brisiel has been talked about as a cap casualty for about a year. They signed him to a 5-year deal to be one of the lynchpins of their zone blocking scheme, but the zone blocking scheme was implemented poorly and thrown out. Brisiel was Pro Football Focus’ 8th worst ranked guard in 2012 and would have been cut if cutting him hadn’t come with a cap hit. Now they can cut him and save over a million in cap space and 11.55 million in cash over the next 3 seasons, as he goes into his age 31 season. They could easily cut him, but they actually might not. They aren’t pressed for cap space at all and Brisiel had a much better season this year than last year, grading out just below average. With the struggles of Lucas Nix last season, Brisiel is their best guard and they might not want to part ways.

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