2013 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Pick: Jason Peters

We don’t have nearly the Comeback Player of the Year field that we had a year ago. If anyone this year did what Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning, or Jamaal Charles did in 2012, they would have won this year’s award by runaway. Instead, we have only maximum three real candidates this year, depending on your particular definition of “comeback.”

Jason Peters fits every definition of comeback. He tore his Achilles in the off-season before the 2012 season and didn’t play a snap all season. Going into his age 31 season in 2013, there was reason to doubt he’d be the same player he was before the injury. He wasn’t quite the player he was in 2011, when he was the runaway top offensive tackle on Pro Football Focus, but he still had a fantastic year.

He was a deserving Pro-Bowler on one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked offensive tackle, surrendering 4 sacks, 3 quarterback hits, and committing 4 penalties, while excelling as a run blocker as well. He was a great fit in Chip Kelly’s offense, often lining up in weird formations and having to move around much more than the usual offensive tackle. Even at his age and off of a serious leg injury, Peters did not lack athleticism at all and was a big part of the Eagles’ success.

Terrell Suggs is another candidate whose comeback has a looser definition. Suggs also tore his Achilles right around the same time Jason Peters did, but he came back last year to play 8 games, 12 games if you include the Super Bowl run. He also suffered a serious biceps injury along the way and predictably was a shell of his normal self and even that’s being generous. Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked 4-3 defensive end in 2011 and the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year, Suggs graded out below average in 2012.

In 2013, there was some concern that, going his age 31 season, he had ruined his body playing through all of those injuries in 2012 and that he wouldn’t be the same player again. He wasn’t the same player in 2013, but he was still pretty damn good, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 9th ranked 3-4 outside linebacker. Baltimore didn’t even make the playoffs in 2013, the year after winning the Super Bowl, but you can’t blame the defense, as it was one of the best in the NFL. In fact, I’d say the 2013 defense, regular season at least, was better than the 2012 defense in the regular season. Suggs being fully healthy again was a big part of that.

Philip Rivers is the 3rd candidate and his candidacy requires the loosest definition of comeback, as he hasn’t missed a game in 9 years as a starter. Instead, his comeback was a comeback from poor coaching and a lack of talent around him. After posting QB ratings of 100+ for 3 straight seasons from 2008-2010, Rivers saw his QB rating drop into the 80s in both 2011 and 2012. There were rumors of injuries and age, going into his age 32 season, was also seen as a factor.

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

The results were great. Rivers posted a 105.5 QB rating that tied for his career best. He completed 69.5% of his passes for an average of 8.23 YPA, 32 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, while leading the Chargers to a 2nd place finish in rate of moving the chains and an AFC Wild Card berth, in spite of a terrible defense supporting him. Rivers still didn’t have a lot of offensive help around him, but he made the most of it and would get my 2nd place MVP vote behind Peyton Manning. At the end of the day, I’m taking Jason Peters here because he fits the truest definition of a comeback and because the way he dominated his position this season, after what happened last season and his age, is very impressive, but all 3 got consideration.




2013 NFL Coach of the Year Pick: Bill Belichick

What Andy Reid has done in Kansas City this season is impressive, but it’s overshadowed by what Bill Belichick has done in New England. At the beginning of the season, I did a list of the top-200 NFL players. New England had 11, tied with Seattle and San Francisco for the most. Of those 11 players, 4 are currently on season ending injured reserve (Sebastian Vollmer, Rob Gronkowski, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork).

One has fumbled his way to the bench (Stevan Ridley) and has been replaced in the starting lineup by a guy who was traded for a 7th round pick last April (LeGarrette Blount). Another (Danny Amendola) is 3rd on the team in snaps played at wide receiver behind a guy who is making less than a million dollars on a one year deal (Julian Edelman) and a guy who went undrafted in April’s draft (Kenbrell Thompkins). Another (Ryan Wendell) has not lived up to a strong 2012. Even their future Hall-of-Fame quarterback (Tom Brady) has showed his age and not lived up to expectations. Of those top-200, only Devin McCourty, who has quietly become one of the premier safeties in the game, Logan Mankins and Nate Solder have played 15+ games and exceeded expectations.

Add in Aaron Hernandez’s incarceration in June, Shane Vereen missing 8 games, Aqib Talib being in and out of the lineup with hip problems, Wes Welker leaving, and an improved AFC East and you have the perfect storm it would have taken to knock the Patriots off of their extended run of dominance, which had featured 11 seasons of 10+ wins, 10 division titles, 9 seasons of 11+ wins, 7 seasons of 12+ wins, 7 AFC Championships appearances, 5 Super Bowl appearances, and 3 Super Bowl victories. If they had gone 8-8 this season, no one would have been surprised.

Instead, the Patriots won 12 games and the AFC East by 4 games, got the AFC’s #2 seed and yet another 1st round bye, and didn’t lose by more than a touchdown all season, with all 4 losses possibly winnable. They seem poised for yet another AFC Championship appearance. They won by 34 in Baltimore, something that had never been done in the history of the Ravens franchise, shattering the previous record margin of victory by a road team of 27.

In that game, they started their left guard at left tackle and had 6 separate rookies play at least 50 snaps, including two rookies who went undrafted (Chris Jones, Josh Kline) and another (Duron Harmon) who everyone laughed at the Patriots for drafting in the 3rd round. Sealver Siliga, an inexperienced 2011 undrafted rookie signed off the street, also started that game, as he did in the week 17 game against Buffalo, a 34-20 victory in which Siliga shined against the run.

Fellow undrafted rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Joe Vellano also contributed significantly to this team this season, each playing over 500 snaps. Add in Chris Jones and that’s 3 undrafted rookies who played 500+ snaps for them. The Patriots had at least 58 different players play at least one snap on offense or defense and 46 different players play at least 100 snaps. Basically, if you made this team’s 53 man roster out of the pre-season, you played a significant role on this team this season, unless you got hurt, which you probably did.

Yes, Andy Reid improved the Chiefs from 2 wins to 11 wins, but being significantly better than Romeo Crennel sometimes isn’t enough to win you this award. This year is one of those times. If Bill Belichick is coaching the Chiefs, they win at least 11 games. You can’t say the same thing for the Patriots with Andy Reid. Never mind the fact that coaching is just Bill Belichick’s day job, that he also is the general manager of this team and makes all of the personnel decisions. I don’t know when the man sleeps, especially this season. Maybe that’s why he constantly looks like a zombie in a hoodie on the sideline every Sunday, but 75% of the time, they’ve won.

And if for no other reason, give it to him because he’s only won the award 3 times in his career, even though the vast majority of people would agree he’s the greatest coach of his era and one of the tops of all time. The fact that he’s only won it 3 times is borderline criminal and a testament to how messed up the Coach of the Year voting system is. The media almost always gives this award to a first year coach who saw a big improvement in win total (as it’s been 4 of the last 7 times), not the man who did the best job. This season, and most seasons, that’s Bill Belichick.




2013 NFL Executive of the Year Pick: Dave Gettleman

Dave Gettleman was hired as the Panthers’ general manager in January of 2013, coming over from his previous job as Senior Pro Personnel Analyst with the New York Giants, where he had worked in the front office since 1999. He deserves a lot of credit for the Panthers’ breakout season and thus this award. An examination of the Panthers’ salary cap shows us why. The Panthers have 7 players with cap numbers of higher than 5 million this season, which puts them among the tops in the NFL, none of whose current contract was signed while Gettleman was the general manager. Teams who are structured like that almost have to get top level performances from those highly paid players to be successful.

How did those guys fare for Carolina this year? Well, Jon Beason was traded to New York early in the season after getting benched, leaving about 5.3 million in dead money on Carolina’s cap with him. DeAngelo Williams carried the ball 201 times and averaged about 4.2 yards per carry, hardly worth his top-10 positional cap number. Steve Smith caught 64 passes for 745 yards and 4 touchdowns, for the 4th worst season of his career, behind his rookie year, the Jimmy Clausen year, and the year he missed 15 games with injury. Among wide receivers, he was 14th in cap number and 39th in receiving yards. Also 10 tight ends had more receiving yards than him.

Ryan Kalil had a solid season, but didn’t live up to the then record contract for a center he signed a few years back. His cap number was 3rd at his position, but he ranked just 10th among centers on Pro Football Focus. Charles Johnson also had a solid season, coming in 19th among 4-3 defensive ends on Pro Football Focus, but that hardly makes him worth the 5th highest cap number among 4-3 defensive ends and 8th among defensive ends regardless of scheme.

Only two of those seven had years that were worth their cap number. Thomas Davis is one. His cap number was 3rd among 4-3 outside linebackers, but that’s also exactly where he graded out at his position on Pro Football Focus. Thomas Davis wasn’t signed by Gettleman. He was inherited. However, Gettleman is undoubtedly a big part of the reason why he’s still here. Davis has torn his ACL three times in his career. Not many general managers would have kept a guy like that on the roster at his current cap number when cutting him would have saved over 2 million in cap space and close to 5 million in cash. Gettleman did and the Panthers were rewarded for it.

Cam Newton is the other one. He had a cap number of about 6 million, by virtue of being the #1 overall pick in 2011. It’s a solid chunk of the cap, but it was just 18th among quarterbacks. I think you’d have a hard time finding 17 quarterbacks who had a better season than Cam Newton. Newton wasn’t drafted by Gettleman, so he doesn’t deserve credit here, but it’s worth noting that he’s one of the few good things left behind by the previous regime.

There were a few other good things left behind by the previous regime. Gettleman didn’t draft either Luke Kueckly or Greg Hardy, both of whom were vital to Carolina’s success this season and greatly exceeded their cap numbers on their rookie deals. Veteran Jordan Gross had a vintage year this year and was much better than his 4.9 million dollar cap number. However, it’s still a head scratcher how Carolina was not only able to finish 12-4, win the NFC South, and get the #2 seed, despite having their high cap number guys struggle, but also how they were able to do this with about 11 million dollars left in cap space, 6th in the NFL.

There are two reasons for this and Gettleman has his hands all over both of them. They got great production out of guys signed to cheap deals and they nailed the 2013 NFL Draft, Gettleman’s first with the team. The biggest example of cheap salaried guys making a huge impact is in the secondary. The secondary was in dire need of help coming off of last season and desperately needed an overhaul. However, the Panthers didn’t commit a single draft pick to it.

It was a risky move, but it paid off. The Panthers finished 11th in the NFL in yards per attempt allowed and 2nd in the NFL in points allowed. Captain Munnerlyn, Michael Mitchell, Melvin White, Quintin Mikell, and Drayton Florence were the top-5 guys in terms of snaps played on that secondary. Not exactly big name guys, but they definitely got the job done. They combined to play 3897 snaps and only Melvin White graded out below average on Pro Football Focus and he did so just barely. Their combined salary cap number: About 3.6 million. That’s bargain shopping.

Who are these guys and where did Gettleman find them? Mitchell was a 2nd round pick in 2009 by the Raiders and washed out of Oakland, signing with Carolina for 1 million dollars this past off-season. Quintin Mikell is a veteran in his age 33 season, his 11th in the NFL, and was completely overlooked by the league because of that, signing with Carolina for the veteran’s minimum right before the season started. Drayton Florence was in a similar situation, also in his age 33 season and his 11th in the NFL, but he was actually cut from his one year deal by the Panthers in final cuts, before re-signing with them for the veterans minimum in mid-September. Melvin White, meanwhile, signed with the Panthers as an undrafted rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette after the draft.

The only one of those five who was on the Panthers’ roster before the season was Captain Munnerlyn, a 6th round pick of the Panthers in 2008 and someone who did play a lot of snaps for the Panthers in past seasons. Gettleman didn’t draft Munnerlyn, but he did bring him back on a one year, 1.1 million dollar deal this off-season, after he failed to get more than that on the open market. Munnerlyn was the highest paid of their secondary quintet, but he was also the best of the bunch. The diminutive 5-8 cornerback excelled in all 3 facets of the game, run defense, pass coverage, and blitzing, doing his best Antoine Winfield impression and grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 11th ranked cornerback.

The secondary wasn’t the only area where Gettleman found deals. Needing help on the offensive line and wide receiver, Gettleman turned to Travelle Wharton and Ted Ginn, who each had cap numbers of 1.1 million this past year. Turning to Wharton and Ginn wasn’t exactly in vogue this off-season, which is why they were able to come so cheap. Wharton is a former Carolina offensive lineman who gave them some good years from 2004-2012, but got released as a cap casualty after the 2011 season. Wharton then went to Cincinnati, but didn’t play a regular season snap for the team, missing the entirety of the season with a knee injury. The Panthers took a chance on the 10-year veteran going into his age 32 season, coming off of a lost season with injury, and having been cut twice since his last regular season snap, and the rewards were great. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked guard.

Ted Ginn wasn’t quite as good. The bust of a 2007 1st round pick bounced around from Miami to San Francisco to Carolina this last off-season, but he definitely had a positive impact and I don’t just mean catching the winning touchdown in the Panthers’ victory over New Orleans, which essentially won them the NFC South. Ginn was 4th on the team in receiving, catching 36 passes for 556 yards and 5 touchdowns. That doesn’t sound like much, but he graded out above average as a receiver in Pro Football Focus and played a valuable role as the 3rd receiver. He also provided value on special teams, averaging 12.2 yards per punt return on 26 returns and 23.8 yards per kickoff return on 25 returns.

And that was just in free agency. Gettleman’s first year on the job also featured a very strong draft. He didn’t have a lot of resources to work with, as the Panthers had just 5 picks in this draft, as a result of past trades. Their final 3 draft picks (Edmund Kugbila, AJ Klein, and Kenjon Barner) didn’t do much of note this season, but given the way Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short, their first and second round picks respectively, played, they didn’t have to. Both emerged as starters at what was a long-time need position of defensive tackle and they didn’t just start. They both played extremely well and should get Defensive Rookie of the Year consideration, grading out 16th and 14th respectively among defensive tackles on Pro Football Focus.

Now, Gettleman doesn’t deserve all the credit for the production of the cheap signings and rookies. The players themselves obviously deserve some credit, as does head coach Ron Rivera, but Gettleman deserves most of the credit. Gettleman also deserves credit for not firing Ron Rivera, who is a Coach of the Year Candidate in his own right, after the public outcry for him to be let go and after it would have been very easy to let him go. Even I thought they should have fired him, after his continued struggles in close games to start the season (2-14 to start his career in games decided by a touchdown or less at that point) threatened to derail my prediction that they would win 12 games, the NFC South, and get the #2 seed (it didn’t thankfully). For all of the great work he did getting them to that point in a tough situation given the previous regime’s habit of giving out undeserved exorbitant contracts, Gettleman deserves Executive of the Year.




2014 Pro-Bowl Thoughts

Quarterback: Tom Brady, Patriots; Drew Brees, Saints; Peyton Manning, Broncos; Cam Newton, Panthers; Philip Rivers, Chargers; Russell Wilson, Seahawks

Brady, Brees, Manning, Rivers, and Wilson will get no arguments from me. I voted for all 5 of them. I had Nick Foles over Cam Newton. I like Cam Newton. I thought the criticism he took early in his career was baseless, but there’s no way he had a better year than Nick Foles. I don’t think Newton has significantly improved from last year to this year. He was underrated last year. Now he might be overrated. Of course, Foles didn’t make it onto the ballot until late November because he wasn’t a week 1 starter, so you can’t blame the public for not voting him in.

Wide receiver: Antonio Brown, Steelers; Dez Bryant, Cowboys; Josh Gordon, Browns; A.J. Green, Bengals; Andre Johnson, Texans; Calvin Johnson, Lions; Brandon Marshall, Bears; Demaryius Thomas, Broncos

Wide receiver might have been the toughest position for me to pick as there were at least 12 guys I thought were deserving for 8 spots. Actually 6 of the guys I voted for made it, with only Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson getting left out. I didn’t vote for Demaryius Thomas, but you can’t argue he doesn’t deserve this. The only one I have a slight issue with is Dez Bryant. He wasn’t one of the 12 or so guys I was choosing from. He definitely had a good year, but Jackson and Jeffery would have been better options.

Tackle: Branden Albert, Chiefs; Jason Peters, Eagles; Tyron Smith, Cowboys; Joe Staley, 49ers; Joe Thomas, Browns; Trent Williams, Redskins

Staley, Thomas, and Williams were guys I voted for. Jason Peters and Tyron Smith definitely got strong consideration from me. The only one that’s kind of weird is Branden Albert. He’s not having a bad year or anything, but I think Jordan Gross and Andrew Whitworth have definitely been better players this season.

Guard: Jahri Evans, Saints; Ben Grubbs, Saints; Mike Iupati, 49ers; Logan Mankins, Patriots; Louis Vasquez, Broncos; Marshal Yanda, Ravens

Louis Vasquez and Ben Grubbs were guys I voted for. The rest is a little off, but it consists mostly of guys who have been really good in the past, but just aren’t having as good of seasons this year. The only one that’s glaringly bad is Mike Iupati, who is having a very average season, struggling through injuries. Josh Sitton and Evan Mathis are easily the best guards in the NFL this season, in my opinion. They’re major snubs. Larry Warford is a big omission as well.

Center: Ryan Kalil, Panthers; Alex Mack, Browns; Mike Pouncey, Dolphins; Max Unger, Seahawks

Max Unger is another player who has been very average in an injury plagued season. He’s been better in the past through. Alex Mack and Mike Pouncey are both guys I voted for and Ryan Kalil gets no argument from me. Chris Myers should have been in this group, but it’s not a huge deal.

Tight end: Jordan Cameron, Browns; Vernon Davis, 49ers; Jimmy Graham, Saints; Julius Thomas, Broncos

He’s not definitely a top-4 tight end or anything, but how did Tony Gonzalez not get voted in? He played well enough and it’s weird to have the Pro-Bowl without him in his final season. I would have voted him over Jordan Cameron for that reason, but Cameron is hardly a bad choice. The other 3 are guys I voted for.

Running back: Jamaal Charles, Chiefs; Matt Forte, Bears; Frank Gore, 49ers; Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks; LeSean McCoy, Eagles; Adrian Peterson, Vikings

Charles, Lynch, McCoy, and Peterson all got my vote. Matt Forte was right on the border, so I’m not going to argue that. Frank Gore is a pretty weird choice, as he ranks close to last in elusive rating and only averages 2.1 yards per carry after contact. Eddie Lacy and DeMarco Murray were both better runners this season.

Fullback: Marcel Reece, Raiders; Mike Tolbert, Panthers

I had Anthony Sherman instead of Marcel Reece, but I’m not going to argue fullbacks. Reece has had a very good season once again.

Defensive end: Greg Hardy, Panthers; Cameron Jordan, Saints; Robert Quinn, Rams; Cameron Wake, Dolphins; J.J. Watt, Texans; Mario Williams, Bills

Jordan, Quinn, Wake, and Watt all got my vote. Greg Hardy was right on the border. Mario Williams has had a very solid season, but I just think there were better choices. Calais Campbell is the best player on one of the best defenses in the NFL in Arizona and has 10 sacks and 17 quarterback hits from the 5-technique defensive end spot. Mario Williams has 14 sacks and 7 hits, but he’s not nearly the run player Campbell is and he plays from an easier spot to get to the quarterback

Interior lineman: Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers; Haloti Ngata, Ravens; Dontari Poe, Chiefs; Justin Smith, 49ers; Ndamukong Suh, Lions; Kyle Williams, Bills

Gerald McCoy, Ndamukong Suh, and Kyle Williams were all very well deserved and got my vote. Dontari Poe didn’t have a bad year at all, but I feel like there were better choices. Damon Harrison from the Jets is the best nose tackle in the NFL this season. Justin Smith and Haloti Ngata get in on name value. Jurrell Casey is the biggest snub among defensive tackles. Also, I voted in all 3 of the Jets’ defensive lineman, Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Damon Harrison and not one made it. I don’t get it. Why do people think the Jets are by far the best run stopping team in the NFL, allowing 3.3 YPC?

Outside linebacker: John Abraham, Cardinals; Ahmad Brooks, 49ers; Tamba Hali, Chiefs; Justin Houston, Chiefs; Robert Mathis, Colts; Terrell Suggs, Ravens

Jurrell Casey was a big snub, but Lavonte David was the biggest. He’s probably a top-5 DPOY candidate in my book and I’d argue he’s the best linebacker in the entire NFL, even over media darling Luke Kuechly. John Abraham and Terrell Suggs have had good seasons, but you can’t tell me they are better football players than Lavonte David. Ahmad Brooks is probably the weirdest pick. The San Francisco Bay Area is known for stuffing the ballots for all-star games and that’s really the only reason he’s going to Hawaii. The only one of these 6 I actually voted for was Robert Mathis, though I’m not going to argue Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Hali almost got my vote and Houston only didn’t get my vote because he was hurt. However, he would probably be a top-3 defensive player of the year candidate if he hadn’t gotten hurt and he’s still PFF’s #1 ranked 3-4 outside linebacker despite missing significant time. Thomas Davis, Brian Orakpo, and Elvis Dumervil are other big omissions.

Inside/middle linebacker: NaVorro Bowman, 49ers; Vontaze Burfict, Bengals; Luke Kuechly, Panthers; Patrick Willis, 49ers

I’m not going to argue anything here except how Vontaze Burfict got voted in as a middle linebacker when he was on the ballot as an outside linebacker and has played outside linebacker all season. All 4 of these guys got my vote, though Burfict did at outside linebacker. My middle 4th middle linebacker was Derrick Johnson, who is having a very good season. Stephen Tulloch and Karlos Dansby are also having very good seasons at a loaded middle linebacker position this year.

Cornerback: Brandon Flowers, Chiefs; Brent Grimes, Dolphins; Joe Haden, Browns; Patrick Peterson, Cardinals; Darrelle Revis, Buccaneers; Richard Sherman, Seahawks; Aqib Talib, Patriots; Alterraun Verner, Titans

Grimes, Peterson, Revis, Sherman, and Verner all got my vote. Joe Haden got strong consideration. Aqib Talib has been in and out of the lineup too much for my taste and I feel like he got voted in based on a strong start to the season. Brandon Flowers is having by far the worst season of this bunch. Oddly enough, he was a big snub last season, so I guess this balances out, but he’s one of PFF’s lowest ranked cornerbacks this season, allowing 66.7% completion and a 103.9 QB rating. Vontae Davis (50.6% completion and PFF’s highest coverage grade) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (NFL best 44.1% completion) were big omissions.

Free safety: Jairus Byrd, Bills; Earl Thomas, Seahawks; Eric Weddle, Chargers

I don’t understand why 3 free safeties and 3 strong safeties are going when we were only able to vote for 2, but okay. Thomas and Weddle both got my vote and Byrd only didn’t because he missed significant time. No arguments here, just confusion.

Strong safety: Eric Berry, Chiefs; Kam Chancellor, Seahawks; Troy Polamalu, Steelers

Devin McCourty, for my money, is the best safety in the game. PFF agrees. He was on the Pro-Bowl ballot as a strong safety even though he’s played the vast majority of the season at free safety, playing within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage on a league low 9.1% of snaps. He’s a big omission. Eric Berry got my vote and TJ Ward would have gotten my vote if I were allowed to vote for 3 or if I were allowed to vote McCourty at free safety, so he’s a snub. Kam Chancellor and Troy Polamalu are both having very good seasons though.

Top-15 snubs

1. Lavonte David (Tampa Bay)

2. Jurrell Casey (Tennessee)

3. Devin McCourty (New England)

4. Evan Mathis (Philadelphia)

5. Calais Campbell (Arizona)

6. Vontae Davis (Indianapolis)

7. Josh Sitton (Green Bay)

8. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver)

9. Jordan Gross (Carolina)

10. Damon Harrison (NY Jets)

11. Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati)

12. TJ Ward (Cleveland)

13. Brian Orakpo (Washington)

14. Larry Warford (Detroit)

15. Elvis Dumervil (Baltimore)

One note: I thought it was very interesting my top-15 snubs all play for different teams. No real pattern.




2013 Pro Bowl Picks

QB: Peyton Manning (Denver), Philip Rivers (San Diego), Drew Brees (New Orleans), Russell Wilson (Seattle), Tom Brady (New England), Nick Foles (Philadelphia)

RB: LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia), Jamaal Charles (Kansas City), Marshawn Lynch (Seattle), Adrian Peterson (Minnesota), Eddie Lacy (Green Bay), DeMarco Murray (Dallas)

WR: Calvin Johnson (Detroit), Andre Johnson (Houston), Josh Gordon (Cleveland), Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh), Brandon Marshall (Chicago), DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia), Alshon Jeffery (Chicago), AJ Green (Cincinnati)

FB: Anthony Sherman (Kansas City), Mike Tolbert (Carolina)

TE: Jimmy Graham (New Orleans), Vernon Davis (San Francisco), Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta), Julius Thomas (Denver)

OT: Joe Thomas (Cleveland), Trent Williams (Washington), Jordan Gross (Carolina), Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati), Joe Staley (San Francisco), Zach Strief (New Orleans)

G: Evan Mathis (Philadelphia), Josh Sitton (Green Bay), Louis Vasquez (Denver), Larry Warford (Detroit), Ben Grubbs (New Orleans), Matt Slauson (Chicago)

C: Alex Mack (Cleveland), Chris Myers (Houston), Manny Ramirez (Denver), Mike Pouncey (Miami)

DE: JJ Watt (Houston), Robert Quinn (St. Louis), Cameron Jordan (New Orleans), Calais Campbell (Arizona), Cameron Wake (Miami), Muhammad Wilkerson (NY Jets)

DT: Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay), Ndamukong Suh (Detroit), Jurrell Casey (Tennessee), Kyle Williams (Buffalo), Sheldon Richardson (NY Jets), Damon Harrison (NY Jets)

MLB: Patrick Willis (San Francisco), NaVorro Bowman (San Francisco), Luke Kueckly (Carolina), Derrick Johnson (Kansas City)

OLB: Lavonte David (Tampa Bay), Elvis Dumervil (Baltimore), Robert Mathis (Indianapolis), Vontaze Burfict (Cincinnati), Brian Orakpo (Washington), Thomas Davis (Carolina)

CB: Darrelle Revis (Tampa Bay), Richard Sherman (Seattle), Vontae Davis (Indianapolis), Brent Grimes (Miami), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver), Alterraun Verner (Tennessee), Patrick Peterson (Arizona), Leodis McKelvin (Buffalo)

SS: Devin McCourty (New England), Eric Berry (Kansas City)

FS: Eric Weddle (San Diego), Earl Thomas (Seattle)

K: Nick Folk (NY Jets), Justin Tucker (Baltimore)

P: Justin Hekker (St. Louis), Shane Lechler (Oakland)

KR: Cordarrelle Patterson (Minnesota), Dexter McCluster (Kansas City)

ST: Justin Bethel (Arizona), David Bruton (Denver)




2013 Head Coaches Likely to be Fired

Likely to be fired

Mike Munchak (Tennessee)

Mike Munchak’s name has been on the hot seat for a while in Tennessee, with many believing he’d be fired last off-season. He was kept around, predictably as he had only finished his 2nd season with the team, but this time around he might not be so lucky. Munchak has a 21-26 record in 3 seasons and has failed to take the team to the playoffs. This year, the Titans are 6-9, heading into a week 17 home finale against the Texans. Owner Bud Adams, who hired Munchak, has died so the team is going to be under new leadership and the new leadership could easily let Munchak go in an attempt to get the team unstuck out of the mud.

Rex Ryan (NY Jets)

Rex Ryan reportedly told his team before their week 16 win over Cleveland that he was getting fired after the season. Reports have refuted that, but still no one would be surprised if Ryan was let go. Ryan and injured reserve quarterback Mark Sanchez are the only real holdovers from that era and with new GM John Idzik in charge, there’s been an expectation for the past year or so that this would be the end of Ryan’s tenure in New York, which saw him go 41-38 (pending week 17), make two NFC Championships, but fail to make the playoffs in each of his final 3 seasons. Now fired former GM Mike Tannenbaum was more to blame for that and I actually don’t agree with letting Ryan go, after he led this bunch to a 7-8 record with his strong defense, but right now it seems inevitable. Rex Ryan and Jim Schwartz are the longest tenured NFL head coaches without division titles. In today’s NFL, that likely means you’re gone.

Mike Shanahan (Washington)

This is where it gets messy. There’s no doubt right now owner Dan Snyder wishes Mike Shanahan was gone, after a 24-39 tenure that saw him make the playoffs just once. Shanahan might not even want to be there, after he reportedly thought about resigning last January because he hated working with Snyder, only to be stopped by RG3’s torn ACL and the bad personal PR that would have come with resigning after that. However, Shanahan wants to get his 7 million dollars in 2014 salary and he wouldn’t get that by resigning this off-season, while Snyder doesn’t want to fire him because he’d have to pay him that. You have to think eventually Shanahan will be gone, but it might be messy.

Dennis Allen (Oakland)

Dennis Allen’s record in 2 seasons with the Raiders isn’t that good, as he’s 8-23, but he’s only in his 2nd year and he’s been put into a near impossible situation with a team devoid of talent and in salary cap hell, so I wouldn’t agree with him being let go just yet. However, it doesn’t sound like Mark Davis’ apple has fallen far from his dad’s tree and, now that he’s in charge, he may be just as impatient with head coaches as father Al Davis. Allen’s requests to have his assistants signed to extensions have already been denied by Mark Davis, which is never a good sign.

Jim Schwartz (Detroit)

A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that Jim Schwartz needed to make the playoffs to save his job. After being eliminated from the playoffs last week at home to the 6-9 Giants, it would be hard to see Schwartz being kept. The Lions were 6-3, looking at a schedule that featured just one likely playoff team (Philadelphia) over their final 7 games, but now they sit at 7-8 and already on the outside looking in. I have no idea how he keeps his job after that. The Lions are a talented team, but they are consistently plagued by things like losing close games, committing turnovers, and allowing return touchdowns, things that are supposed to be inconsistent. At the end of the day, they need new leadership. They have the talent to be a 12-4 team, but they’ll probably never get there under Schwartz. Schwartz is 29-50 in 5 seasons, with one playoff berth and no division titles.


Jason Garrett (Dallas)

There have been conflicting reports on whether or not Jason Garrett is coaching for his job in this week’s NFC East play-in game. Certainly, Garrett being fired after a 29-27 tenure with no playoff appearances in Dallas would be no surprise. However, Romo’s injury might have saved Garrett’s job as it would allow him to deflect blame for a potential week 17 loss to Philadelphia, which would eliminate them from playoff contention. I could see this one going either way.

Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay)

There was a time earlier this season when Schiano seemed like the most likely head coach in the NFL to be canned, after the Buccaneers 0-8 start, which was filled with numerous reports about the players dislike of Schiano’s coaching style. However, now the Buccaneers are 4-11, including some impressive wins, such as double digit wins over Tampa Bay and Atlanta and upset wins over a Miami team that will likely make the playoffs and a Detroit team that was still playing well at the time. Of their losses, most have been close and they’ve fought all along. That could be enough to save Schiano’s job, especially since this is only his 2nd season. He has an 11-20 record thus far.

Leslie Frazier (Minnesota)

Leslie Frazier led the upstart Vikings to a 10-6 record last season and looked like a coach of the year candidate, after they went 3-13 the year before. The Vikings predictably picked up his option for 2014, but this is the NFL and now they may be regretting that, as the Vikings are 4-10-1. Frazier is now 20-32-1 as head coach of the Vikings and the Vikings can get out of their mistake of picking up his option by letting him go this off-season. At the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me if they kept him around for his contract year.




2014 Head Coaching Candidates

Jay Gruden

Cincinnati OC, Age 47 in 2014

Gruden has done a fantastic job in Cincinnati getting the most out of Andy Dalton as their offensive coordinator, since taking over in 2011. He’s drawn the respect of the rest of the league and has been considered for head coaching jobs in the past, but has maintained a stance that he’s not ready to be an NFL head coach. Maybe this year he’ll have interest.

Greg Roman

San Francisco OC, Age 42 in 2014

Greg Roman is another guy that has drawn interest from around the league in terms of him being an NFL head coach and if the 49ers hadn’t made long playoff runs in each of the past two years, he might already have his own team. Teams usually like to have their head coach in place by mid-January, so assistants whose teams are still playing at that point are at a disadvantage. If the 49ers don’t make a long playoff run, Roman will be a hot commodity. He and Jim Harbaugh have been tied at the hip since he took over as Stanford’s offensive coordinator in 2009 and many around the league see him as a Jim Harbaugh-lite.

Darrell Bevell

Seattle OC, Age 44 in 2014

Last season, the Seahawks lost defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to the Jacksonville Jaguars, where the successful defensive coordinator became the new head coach. They could face a similar situation with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell this season. Bevell was hand-picked by Pete Carroll and has been the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator for each of the past 3 seasons and over the past 2 seasons he’s helped Russell Wilson develop from an overlooked 3rd round pick into one of the best signal callers in the NFL.

Ken Whisenhunt

San Diego OC, Age 52 in 2014

Ken Whisenhunt was Arizona’s head coach from 2007-2012, going 45-51 and making a Super Bowl. When he was fired, it was a little bit of a surprise and he could certainly be seen as a capable head coach by teams around the league this off-season, especially after he redeemed himself in San Diego, doing a masterful job helping turn around the career of Philip Rivers.

Todd Bowles

Arizona DC, Age 51 in 2014

When the Dolphins fired Tony Sparano in 2011, Todd Bowles took over as the interim head coach for the final few games of the season. He’s yet to really be considered for a head coaching job, but that could just be because he’s never had a lot of coordinator experience. However, in his first full season as a defensive coordinator this season, the long-time secondary coach has led one of the best stop units in the NFL in Arizona.

Mike Zimmer

Cincinnati DC, Age 58 in 2014

Mike Zimmer has been Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator since 2008, which is a very long time for someone to stay in one job in the NFL. He’s been very good, especially over the past few seasons as Cincinnati’s defense has been one of the better defenses in the NFL and helped carry the Bengals to 3 straight post-season appearances. Before that, he did a very good job as the defensive coordinator in Dallas from 2000-2006 (with a one year stop in Atlanta in between). He’s gotten some interest in the past as a head coaching candidate, but nothing substantial. Perhaps this is the year he’ll do the rounds in the interview process and possibly end up as a head man. There’s also the possibility he has no desire to move beyond the defensive coordinator position, where he’s been in the NFL for 14 seasons, which is fine because he’s very good at it.

Bob Sutton

Kansas City DC, Age 63 in 2014

Bob Sutton has done a fantastic job as the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator this season and has been in the NFL since 2000, in a variety of capacities with the New York Jets, including defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. He also has experience as a head coach, coaching at the United States Military Academy from 1991-1999. His age could work against him, but he’ll get some looks this off-season.

Vic Fangio

San Francisco DC, Age 56 in 2014

Like San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Vic Fangio might have his own team already if the 49ers hadn’t made long playoff runs in each of the past two seasons. Also like Roman, Fangio has been bound at the hip with Jim Harbaugh for a few years, coming over with him from Stanford, where he was the defensive coordinator in 2010. In the NFL, he’s coordinated a defense that has been among the league best in each of the last three years. If the 49ers don’t go on another long playoff run, Fangio could easily be elsewhere as a head coach in 2014.

Art Briles

Baylor HC, Age 59 in 2014

While some of the big name college head coaches like Stanford’s David Shaw and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin probably aren’t going anywhere, we could still see at least one college head coach making the leap to the NFL this season. Art Briles has done a great job turning around Baylor’s football program, taking it from a 3-9 team with a 0-8 record in the Big-12 in 2007 to an 11-1 team with an 8-1 Big-12 record in 2013, producing big seasons from quarterbacks Robert Griffin and Bryce Petty along the way. If Mike Shanahan is not back in Washington next season, Briles would figure to be the favorite to replace him, reuniting with Griffin in DC.

Bill O’Brien

Penn State HC, Age 45 in 2014

Bill O’Brien is another college head coach who could make the leap. O’Brien has an NFL background, being part of the Patriots’ coaching staff from 2007-2011, including offensive coordinator in 2011. As head coach of Penn State, O’Brien has done a fantastic job in a near impossible situation, taking over for Joe Paterno after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, leading them to 8-4 and 7-5 seasons. It’s no secret he’d like to return to the NFL as a head coach if an opportunity presents itself as he’s trying to get the buyout in his contract reduced even further and I think an opportunity will present itself.

Lovie Smith

Ex-Chicago HC, Age 56 in 2014

Lovie Smith is one of just a few head coaches to be fired after a 10+ win season over the past 25 years or so and it was kind of a surprise when he was let go. The Bears’ defense has noticeably missed his leadership this season. Smith was out of the NFL this season, but only because he was collecting a salary from the Bears either way. After a year off, it’s widely assumed he’ll try to come back to the NFL and more likely than not he’ll have a job waiting for him. As head coach of the Chicago Bears, he went 81-63 in 9 seasons and made a Super Bowl.




2013 MLB Mock Draft

1. Houston Astros- RHP Jonathan Gray (Oklahoma)

It’s between two right handed pitchers for the Astros right now, Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray, but I think Gray’s signability gets him the nod here given the state of the Astros’ organization. They can’t really go wrong with either and need as many talented prospects as they can get with a major league worst roster and a middling farm system.

2. Chicago Cubs- RHP Mark Appel (Stanford)

The Cubs will probably take whichever right hander the Astros don’t and in this case that’s Appel. Appel might be the superior prospect, but Scott Boras is his agent and he didn’t sign after being drafted 8th overall by the Pirates last year. The Cubs have money to spend and don’t seem scared off as they are widely known to be interested in both of the top two pitchers.

3. Colorado Rockies- 1B Kris Bryant (San Diego)

Bryant is a power hitter who can really play any of the corner infield or outfield spots. He is widely projected to the Rockies as the top offensive player in this draft and to them he makes the most sense as a 1st baseman. Todd Helton is aging and they don’t have a 1st baseman in the pipe among their top prospects.

4. Minnesota Twins- RHP Braden Shipley (Nevada)

This is where the draft really gets interesting as there’s no clear pick. The Twins have a bunch of high upside high schoolers to choose from and they’ve certainly gone in that direction often in the past, taking high schoolers in the 1st round 9 out of 15 times since 2001, including both times they’ve had a top-5 pick. However, after taking a huge chance on Bryon Buxton 2nd overall last year, they may want a safer alternative this year.

5. Cleveland Indians- 3B Colin Moran (North Carolina)

While the Twins love high schoolers, the Indians are the complete opposite. Prior to selecting Francisco Lindor in 2011, they hadn’t used a 1st round pick on a high schooler since 2001, so it makes sense that they are widely expected to take the best available college bat and that’s Moran in this case. They don’t have a 3rd baseman in the pipe among their top prospects and they don’t have a good one in the major league roster either, which is why they’ve been forced Mark Reynolds to play there when he’s a natural 1st baseman.

6. Miami Marlins- OF Clint Frazier (High School-GA)

The Marlins have no issue taking a high schooler early as the selection of Oklahoma State’s Andrew Heaney last year snapped a 5-year long streak of high schoolers. Frazier has the most upside of any prospect in this class and with the Marlins in the position they are, they really need to swing for the fences and they need help everywhere they can get it.

7. Boston Red Sox- RHP Kohl Stewart (High School-TX)

You can go back and forth between Stewart and Frazier for top high school prospect, but Frazier is the consensus top high school hitter and Stewart is the consensus top high school pitcher. He’d go earlier if it were known he’d sign, but he has a scholarship from Texas A&M to play quarterback. The Red Sox have the resources and the cachet to get the deal done though.

8. Kansas City Royals- LHP Sean Manaea (Indiana State)

The Royals gave away a lot of their farm in the James Shields/Wade Davis deal so they can really go in any direction here. Manaea would seem to be the best available, however. He’s the top lefty in this class and has an outside shot at the top-5 for that reason. If the Twins decide on a lefty college pitcher over a righty or the Indians decide to go pitcher over hitter, Manaea is the obvious choice. The Red Sox could have interest too if they want a safer pick.

9. Pittsburgh Pirates- C Reese McGuire (High School-WA)

The Pirates’ top two prospects are former top-2 pick pitchers and among the best prospects in baseball so I doubt they go with another pitcher here. Catcher is a needy position as they don’t have a highly rated catching prospect and on the big league roster Russell Martin is just on a 2 year deal. Last year’s 2nd round pick, Wyatt Mathisen, is having a lot of trouble with his defense and could be converted back into a shortstop. McGuire is another prospect that could go higher than this as catchers are reached for because of need more often than any other position. He also offers signability which the Pirates could put a greater value on after losing Appel last year.

10. Toronto Blue Jays- OF Austin Meadows (High School-GA)

The Blue Jays spent a lot of their farm bringing in Jose Reyes and RA Dickey and all them and it hasn’t really worked out, at least not yet. Because of this, they can really go anywhere and they are widely projected to take a high upside high schooler. Meadows looks like the favorite, with two way kid Trey Ball as the runner up.

11. New York Mets- 1B DJ Peterson (New Mexico)

Before last year, the Mets hadn’t drafted a high schooler since 2003 so expect them to focus on college players again this year. How they feel about Ike Davis, who has shown plenty of promise, but should be farther along than this at age 26, will impact this choice a lot. With Davis currently hitting .148 at 1st base, DJ Peterson seems awfully tempting as a 1st baseman of the future. He’s projects as a righty middle of the order power hitter and he’s one of the more MLB ready players in this class. The other option is Arkansas right handed pitcher Ryne Stanek, with Mississippi State outfielder Hunter Renfroe as the dark horse.

12. Seattle Mariners- 1B Dominic Smith (High School-CA)

The Mariners are once again a light hitting team, ranking 25th in the majors in runs scored and 4 of their top 6 prospects are pitchers, so they’re probably thinking hitter here. Smith offers significantly more long term upside than light hitting 1st baseman Justin Smoak, who has not panned out as the Mariners would have liked when they traded Cliff Lee to the Rangers for him. The Mariners are without a power hitting 1st base prospect on their farm.

13. San Diego Padres- LHP Trey Ball (High School-IN)

The Padres have taken high schoolers with 4 of their last 5 first round picks and they do so again here. Ball is this draft class’ top two way player as he can play both shortstop and pitch left handed. Expect him to be a pitcher long term as lefties that can hit 94 like him are a rarity. Either way, he might be too good for the Padres to pass on.

14. Pittsburgh Pirates- RHP Ryne Stanek (Arkansas)

While the Pirates do have two of the top pitching prospects in baseball, you can’t completely rule out a pitcher for them with one of their two first round picks, especially if one like Stanek falls to them. After all, they drafted Appel 9th last year (before losing him) despite having two top pitching prospects. Stanek is one of the most MLB ready pitchers in this draft class and could have an impact as soon as 2015.

15. Arizona Diamondbacks- OF Hunter Renfroe (Mississippi State)

The Diamondbacks could go in a number of different directions with this pick. However, after trading Justin Upton and not receiving an outfield prospect in return, they don’t really have a top outfield prospect unless you count Adam Eaton, who is still rookie eligible, but is currently at the major league level on the DL with a serious elbow injury. He’s a different type of outfielder than Renfroe anyway.

16. Philadelphia Phillies- OF Austin Wilson (Stanford)

The Phillies have a real shortage of top outfield prospects at the moment as they are without one in their top-10. This is a problem because Delmon Young is currently playing right field and he’s not a long term solution. The Phillies go with a more MLB ready outfielder here in Austin Wilson, who is likely going to be seen as the top outfield prospect available ahead of high schooler Ryan Boldt.

17. Chicago White Sox- LHP Marco Gonzalez (Gonzaga)

Before breaking the trend last year, the White Sox had drafted only college players in the first round since 2001 so they’ll probably take a college player here. Gonzalez would seem to be the best available and he could instantly be the top left handed pitching prospect in an organization that lacks an elite one. Their farm system is also much more hitter heavy than pitcher heavy.

18. Los Angeles Dodgers- C Jonathan Denney (High School-OK)

The Dodgers have gone to the high school level for 8 of their last 10 first round picks and figure to look there again. The Dodgers don’t have a top catching prospect and while AJ Ellis is currently getting the job done now at the big league level, he’s already 32. Backup Ramon Hernandez is even older, just turning 37 in May. Youth desperately needs to be added.

19. St. Louis Cardinals- SS JP Crawford (High School-CA)

The Cardinals’ farm system is widely regarded as the best in baseball, but the one thing they lack is an elite shortstop prospect. They can afford to wait on the young Crawford and he might just be too good to pass on, despite their preference to draft college players. After all, their last high school 1st round pick, Shelby Miller in 2009, has worked out pretty well. Crawford could definitely go a lot earlier than this as the top middle infielder in the draft class.

20. Detroit Tigers- RHP Chris Anderson (Jacksonville)

The Tigers like taking power arms early and are widely expected to do so again this year considering their farm system is a little lighter on power arms than they’re used to. Anderson is a very MLB ready prospect and would instantly bolster what is seen as one of the worst farm systems in the majors. As good as their starting rotation and their major league team as a whole is right now, you always have to be looking towards the future.

21. Tampa Bay Rays- OF Ryan Boldt (High School-MN)

The Rays have the 2nd best farm system in the majors behind the Cardinals and their off-season trade of James Shields only made it better. They love drafting high upside high schoolers, going to that level with 7 of their last 9 1st round picks and they have time to wait on Boldt, who fits what they look for and has as much upside as anyone in this draft class. He’s got all 5 tools.

22. Baltimore Orioles- OF Aaron Judge (Fresno State)

The Orioles’ farm system lacks an elite outfield prospect and major league left fielder Nate McLouth is a journeyman who has bounced all over. Judge’s game has holes, but the 6-7 outfielder has as much power as anyone in this draft and won’t fall much farther than this. With Adam Jones and Nick Markakis already excelling in the majors, Judge could give them one of the best outfields in the majors if he develops by 2015, as some expect.

23. Texas Rangers- RHP Hunter Harvey (High School-NC)

The Rangers have gone with a high schooler with their last 6 first round picks and go there again. Harvey is a power arm who fits the Rangers’ bill and his name has been tied to them on several occasions for obvious reasons. The Rangers can afford to wait on him and he could eventually be a top end of the rotation starter as he has as much upside as any pitcher in this draft class.

24. Oakland Athletics- RHP Andrew Thurman (UC Irvine)

As anyone who has watched or read Moneyball can tell you, Billy Beane hates drafting raw high school players with a passion, due in large part to the fact that he was once one and totally flamed out. He must have seen something different last year when he took Addison Russell out of high school in the first, but before that it was a string of 15 straight college players in the first round. I expect him to get back to that. Thurman doesn’t have the best upside or velocity, but he has command of all of his pitches and he’s very MLB ready.

25. San Francisco Giants- SS Oscar Mercado (High School-FL)

The Giants’ farm system is awfully light on offensive prospects, which is an issue because that’s what their major league roster lacks of the most. Mercado’s bat needs improvement, but he’s young and he’s got a great glove. The Giants will have to wait on him, but he could end up being the best middle infielder from a draft class weak at the shortstop and 2nd base positions. The Giants need both and Mercado projects best to shortstop long term.

26. New York Yankees- LHP Matt Krook (High School-CA)

The Yankees’ last 4 first round picks have been high schoolers and they go there again to grab a high upside lefty. This makes a lot of sense because the Yankees’ position as perennial contenders allows them to sit back in the bottom of the 1st round and wait for the prospects to fall to them and they don’t have to force things and draft for need or draft for someone who can provide more immediate help.

27. Cincinnati Reds- C Nick Ciuffo (High School-SC)

The Reds lack a top catching prospect or a solidified major league level catcher so they could definitely focus on the position. Ciuffo has plenty of upside and a great bat, but he’s got a scholarship waiting at South Carolina and he needs a lot of work behind the plate. Still, the Reds take the risk and should be able to buy him out of his commitment.

28. St. Louis Cardinals- RHP Jonathan Crawford (Florida)

It doesn’t seem fair that the Cardinals get another two first round picks to add to their #1 rated farm system and their major league best squad, but they get this pick for losing Kyle Lohse this off-season. After going high school with their first pick, the Cardinals are likely to look at college with this one and they have a few collegiate arms to pick from, the likely highest rated of whom is Florida’s Jonathan Crawford.

29. Tampa Bay Rays- LHP Rob Kaminsky (High School-NJ)

As I mentioned during their first pick’s writeup, the Rays love high schoolers. After taking a hitter with their first pick, they add a pitcher into their 2nd ranked farm system with this one. Kaminsky is technically a two way player who can play the outfield, but his arm is much better than his bat so his long term future appears to be on the mound.

30. Texas Rangers- OF Michael Lorenzen (Cal State-Fullerton)

The Rangers add one of the draft’s most intriguing players to the fold in Lorenzen here with their 2nd pick of the first round. Lorenzen can play all over the field and he also was Cal State-Fullerton’s closer last year and tops out at 96 MPH with his fastball. The Rangers will find somewhere for him and his future right now seems to be as a cannon armed outfielder.

31. Atlanta Braves- RHP Bobby Wahl (Missouri)

Wahl is one of the more major league ready pitchers in this class and could have gone as many as ten picks earlier, but it didn’t work out that way. The Braves take him here and add him to a farm system that is already heavy on pitching prospects. Still, he might just be too good to pass on for a team without obvious needs.

32. New York Yankees- RHP Phil Bickford (High School-CA)

With three first round picks, the Yankees double up on high school arms. Like Krook, Bickford comes from California and has a big time upside. Bickford is a righty, while Krook is a lefty. The Yankees’ farm system is very hitter heavy right now so pitching figures to be the focus of their draft as they somehow ended up with three picks in the first round this year.

33. New York Yankees- RHP Alex Gonzalez (Oral Roberts)

I thought about a hitter here, but I really wanted to get Gonzalez into the first round and the Yankees have a big enough need for young pitchers that this does make sense. Like Wahl who went 31st, Gonzalez could have gone ten picks earlier, but it just didn’t work out that way for him. The Yankees gladly add him to the fold here.




18 Remaining NFL Free Agents Who Could Have An Impact

The draft is over, but teams with needs still have hope. The end of the draft usually kicks off a 2nd wave of free agency featuring players that teams were waiting until after the draft to sign. This year, more than any recent year, that group is loaded and has many players who could be starters and have impacts in 2013. These 18 players are all worthy of a cheap one year deal and could have value as a starter or key rotational player this season.

1. DE John Abraham

Why he’s still available: Abraham turns 35 next month. He’s also no longer capable of playing a full set of snaps because of his declining durability and mediocre run stopping skills. In an effort to keep him fresh, the Falcons played him on fewer than 70% of their snaps last season and his next team may have to go even lower than that as he ages. He might just be a pass rush specialist at this stage of the game and he’s not viewed as a good fit for the 3-4.

What he can still bring to a team: However, if brought in as a pass rush specialist, he can still have a major impact for a team, provided his skills haven’t fallen off a cliff in his age 35 off-season. Despite his limited snaps last year, he was still one of the league’s most productive pass rushers, totaling 10 sacks, 8 hits, and 38 hurries. He graded out as ProFootballFocus’ #5 end both overall and rushing the passer and he ranked 6th in pass rush efficiency.

Potential fits: Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta

2. S Quentin Mikell

Why he’s still available: He turns 33 in September and showed declining coverage skills last year, grading out below average in coverage on ProFootballFocus. It’s possible his asking price is too high as well. He was set to make 6 million dollars this season with the Rams, a big part of the reason why he was cut.

What he can still bring to a team: His salary was probably the only reason he was cut though. The Rams could have easily still seen him as a capable starter, just not worth what they were paying him. He actually graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 5th rated safety last year, which is a little misleading because so much of his high rating was based on his ability as a blitzer, which is not the #1 thing teams look for in a safety. It was also uncharacteristic of him when you look at his career as a whole and may not be something he keeps up long term. However, his rating as a run stuffer, something teams do still care about, was very good, grading out as the 3rd rated run stuffing safety in the league last year. He’s still a starter at the right price.

Potential fits: Cleveland, Arizona, Buffalo, NY Jets, San Diego, Carolina, St. Louis, Dallas, Cincinnati, Washington

3. OT Eric Winston

Why he’s still available: Unlike the two players above him on this list, Winston is not particularly old (he turns 30 in November), but anytime a player is released in back-to-back off-seasons on reasonably priced contracts, it raises a bit of an eyebrow. He’s also purely a right tackle, a position that seems to be devalued in the NFL. It’s probably the deepest position left on the market and Winston’s asking price is rumored to be too high.

What he can still bring to a team: I think Winston is being unfairly discriminated against for being cut two off-seasons in a row. Both were special circumstances. The Texans cut him last off-season because they were so pressed for cap space and the Chiefs cut him this off-season because they had the opportunity to replace him with the #1 overall pick, which turned out to be offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who looks poised to play in Winston’s old spot this year. However, Winston has graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 5th and 9th rated right tackle in the NFL in 2011 and 2012 respectively, doing so in two different schemes, so he’s not purely a zone blocking tackle. He’s a starter somewhere in this league and probably an above average one at that.

Potential fits: Detroit, Arizona, Miami, Dallas, Washington, Houston

4. OLB Daryl Smith

Why he’s still available: Smith is on the wrong side of 30, turning 31 last month and he missed all but 117 snaps with injury last year, not returning until week 16. In those 117 snaps, he graded out as a below average player on ProFootballFocus.

What he can still bring to a team: All you have to do is watch his 2011 tape to see what he can do for you when he’s right. Smith was ProFootballFocus’ 2nd ranked 4-3 outside linebacker, behind only Rookie of the Year Von Miller, excelling in all 3 facets of the game, run stuffing, coverage, and blitzing. It’s unclear if he can even be that player again, but he’s worth a shot. If he can be even half as good as he was in 2011, he’s a dependable starter.

Potential fits: Jacksonville, Oakland, Tampa Bay, NY Giants, Minnesota, Atlanta

5. S Kerry Rhodes

Why he’s still available: Like Mikell, Rhodes is aging and his asking price is probably too high at this point. He turns 31 in August and was set to count 6 million against Arizona’s cap this season, which led to his release. He’s also known for being very inconsistent. Though he had a strong season this year, he missed significant time with injury in 2011 and graded out below average on ProFootballFocus in 2010. He’s also rumored to have attitude and work ethic issues.

What he can still bring to a team: At the end of the day, this was actually ProFootballFocus’ 4th rated safety last year and heading into his age 31 season, it’s not inconceivable that he could continue to be a solid starter for another year or two. He’s not as old as some players on this list and he excelled in both coverage and against the run last season.

Potential fits: Cleveland, Buffalo, NY Jets, San Diego, Carolina, St. Louis, Dallas, Cincinnati, Washington

6. OT Tyson Clabo

Why he’s still available: Right tackle has become a devalued position and it’s also one of the most loaded positions still remaining on the market. With a strong right tackle draft, teams were not going to rush to sign the remaining right tackles available in free agency in a buyer’s market. Clabo also turns 32 in October.

What he can still bring to a team: Now that the draft is over, teams that didn’t fill their right tackle vacancy should call pretty quickly. While he’s only a right tackle, Clabo is as consistent as they come ranking 8th, 11th, 2nd, 1st, and 5th among right tackles on ProFootballFocus over the last 5 years and graded out well above average in each of those 5 seasons. He’s equally good as a run stuffer and pass protector and hasn’t had a negative grade in either of those facets in any of the last 5 seasons and, in typical Atlanta Falcon fashion, he’s only committed 22 penalties in those 5 seasons as well.

Potential fits: Detroit, Arizona, Miami, Carolina, Dallas, Washington

7. MLB Karlos Dansby

Why he’s still available: We have another over 30 player here as Dansby turns 32 in November. Though he’s played every down over the last few years, he’s shown declining coverage skills and may end up having to play just two downs at some point in the future.

What he can still bring to a team: Dansby was ProFootballFocus’ 13th rated middle linebacker last year. For comparison, Dannell Ellerbe was 14th, but because Ellerbe is 4 years younger, he got 35 million from the Dolphins and Dansby got cut. He’s still a starter in this league and should be an every down player for at least one more season. He’s also as scheme diverse as they come, playing middle linebacker in a 3-4 and outside linebacker in a 4-3 in his career, excelling in both.

Potential fits: Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Minnesota, Houston, Denver, Atlanta

8. OT Bryant McKinnie

Why he’s still available: He turns 34 this season and he’s been a pretty big headache since he’s entered his 30s, getting cut by the Vikings after the lockout for showing up at over 380 pounds and then last season barely playing for the Ravens because of weight and durability issues.

What he can still bring to a team: However, once he got himself into playing shape and the Ravens allowed him back on the field, he played very, very well. He played just 418 snaps with almost all of them coming in the post-season, but after Joe Flacco and maybe Anquan Boldin, there wasn’t a more important player to their Super Bowl run. McKinnie played above average at left tackle, which allowed Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele to play their natural positions of right tackle and left guard respectively.

Joe Flacco was sacked just 6 times in 4 post-season games and at the end of the day, he was the Super Bowl MVP and the Ravens were hoisting the Lombardi. For that reason, the Ravens almost have to give him another chance and he’s a better fit for them than anywhere else because they understand his issues best, but if they, for whatever reason, don’t show interest in him, I wouldn’t be shocked if he signed elsewhere.

Potential fits: Arizona, San Diego, Baltimore

9. DE Dwight Freeney

Why he’s still available: The future Hall of Famer was not himself last year, as he graded out below average on ProFootballFocus. He also missed the equivalent of 3 games with an injury that slowed him down until about week 8 and he turned 33 in February.

What he can still bring to a team: After he got healthy last year, Freeney ended the season actually pretty well. Though he struggled mightily against the run throughout, Freeney managed 4 sacks, 8 hits, and 25 hurries in his final 9 regular season games, before a poor showing in their post-season game in which he was held to just 1 hurry by the man one spot above him on this list. If he can stay healthy, he could be a dangerous pass rush specialist, especially in his natural 4-3 scheme. I don’t think he was ever a good 3-4 fit.

Potential fits: Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta

10. S Gerald Sensabaugh

Why he’s still available: He turns 30 in June and after a strong 2011, Sensabaugh declined in 2012, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 73rd ranked safety out of 88. He also happens to play a position where it’s a buyer’s market right now, especially after such a strong safety draft.

What he can still bring to a team: He’s not over the hill yet and his 2010 and 2011 tapes are both very good as he graded out above average in both seasons. I think he’s still a starter in this league. Now that the draft is over, he’ll get interest somewhere.

Potential fits: Jacksonville, Cleveland, Arizona, NY Jets, San Diego, Carolina, St. Louis, Cincinnati

11. S Charles Woodson

Why he’s still available: While other players on this list are old, Woodson is old by even those standards. He’s a future Hall of Famer, but he turns 37 in November. He made a free agency tour before the draft, but didn’t get anyone interested and there’s rumors he may just hang them up after a season in which he missed 9 games with injury.

What he can still bring to a team: Still, in the 7 regular season games he played last season, he graded out as an above average player, though a very poor showing in a post-season game against San Francisco dropped his rating to negative on the season overall. He’s versatile enough to play both slot cornerback and safety, something he did last year in Green Bay and he only allowed 8 catches on 18 attempts on the slot last year, which made him one of the better slot coverage backs in the league last year, albeit in a limited sample size.

Potential fits: Cincinnati, San Francisco

12. G Brandon Moore

Why he’s still available: He turns 33 in June and he plays a non-premium position at guard. He may also still have some of that Jet stink on him.

What he can still bring to a team: As far as guards go, there were few better last year. Only 3 guards, and 2 right guards, graded out better than he did on ProFootballFocus and despite his age that should earn him another starting job. He was equally good as a run and pass blocker and only committed 4 penalties. Also, Mark Sanchez thinks he has a real cushy butt.

Potential fits: Jacksonville, Buffalo, San Diego, Indianapolis

13. DE Israel Idonije

Why he’s still available: A tweener defensive lineman who didn’t play a full set of snaps, Idonije turns 33 in November. Also, while he’s been productive, teams may be attributing that more to his supporting cast on Chicago’s defensive line (as well as defensive line coach genius Rod Marinelli) than anything else. Prior to a breakout 2010 season at age 30 in Chicago, he was no one. He might not be scheme diverse.

What he can still bring to a team: He may just be a rotational player, but he’s very efficient and he’s as versatile as they come. On 467 pass snaps, he recorded 9 sacks, 5 hits, and 37 hurries and also graded out above average against the run. Despite playing a good portion of his snaps at defensive tackle last year, Idonije graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 12th rated 4-3 defensive end and overall he actually graded out slightly higher than the much more heralded Julius Peppers. He’s versatile enough to play end on running downs and tackle on passing downs and could theoretically play 3-4 end at 6-5 275. His ideal fit, however, would be another cover 2 scheme and I think he has the most value to Chicago.

Potential fits: Jacksonville, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Chicago

14. DT Richard Seymour

Why he’s still available: Seymour turns 34 in October and is coming off a season in which he missed the final 9 games with injury. He also reportedly has very high contract demands and wants to play for a contender and could retire if he doesn’t get the right fit at the right price.

What he can still bring to a team: If he still wants to play, however, Seymour still has something to offer. He’s succeeded in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 scheme in his career, including last year in a 4-3 in Oakland. Before he got hurt, he was very, very good in 7 games and in spite of his short season, he still finished the season as the 14th ranked defensive tackle on ProFootballFocus. If healthy, he could still be a valuable rotational lineman in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, provided he wants to play.

Potential fits: New Orleans, Seattle, Green Bay, Denver, New England

15. OLB Nick Barnett

Why he’s still available: Like so many players on this list, Barnett’s age isn’t doing him any favors as he turns 32 in May. Despite being an every down player in Buffalo last year, Barnett may have to be just a two down player going forward.

What he can still bring to a team: Barnett played almost every snap for the Bills last season and he’s scheme diverse, succeeding in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 in his career. He graded out as an above average linebacker on ProFootballFocus, ranking 9th among 4-3 outside linebackers and posting a positive grade in coverage and against the run. He should have one more year in him as an every down player.

Potential fits: Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Minnesota, Houston, Denver, Atlanta

16. OLB Thomas Howard

Why he’s still available: While he’s young by these standards (30 in July), Howard is coming off a season in which he didn’t play a single snap after tearing his ACL. That type of thing might not be a huge deal for a higher rated player, but Howard was a marginal starter before his injury. Right now, he’s a question mark.

What he can still bring to a team: He’s not over the hill in football years yet and before his injury, while he was a marginal player, he was still an every down linebacker in Cincinnati, excelling in coverage, though struggling mightily against the run to bring his grade on ProFootballFocus to right around 0. He has a role somewhere.

Potential fits: Tampa Bay, NY Giants, Minnesota, Atlanta

17. RB Ahmad Bradshaw

Why he’s still available: Bradshaw had has countless foot surgeries and has really never been healthy in his career. The Giants finally had enough of his injury issues this off-season and decided to let him go after another surgery. He’s taken visits since, but he hasn’t been able to convince anyone he’s healthy enough and he plays a position that’s become devalued in the NFL over recent years, especially ones with injury problems.

What he can still bring to a team: For all his injury issues, he’s actually missed only 7 games in the last 4 years, totaling 831 carries over that span and topping 1000 yards twice, including 1015 last year. One of the toughest players in the NFL, Bradshaw has always been able to tough it out and play effectively. At his age 27, he’s not over the hill even by running back standards. He’ll have to prove he’s healthy before he gets signed, which might not come until July, but once he does, he’ll get signed and he should have a role somewhere in the NFL this season.

Potential fits: San Diego, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, NY Giants

18. S Ronde Barber

Why he’s still available: While this list has some old players, Ronde Barber is ancient even by these standards. The oldest defensive player in the league, Barber recently turned 38 years old and is contemplating retirement. He might also not be willing to sign with anyone else except Tampa Bay, the team with whom he’s played his entire 16 season career. After adding Darrelle Revis through trade, Dashon Goldson through free agency, and Johnathan Banks through the draft this off-season and Mark Barron through the draft and Eric Wright through free agency last off-season, there just might not be a spot for Barber in Tampa Bay.

What he can still bring to a team: A hybrid slot cornerback/safety, Barber actually played very well last season in his new role, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 10th rated safety, missing just 8 snaps all season. The Buccaneers could opt to bring him back as a slot cornerback behind Revis and Wright while Banks develops as the 4th cornerback with the idea of becoming a starter in 2014 and beyond opposite Revis with Wright set to hit free agency next off-season. He probably could, if he so chooses, get work elsewhere eventually.

Potential fits: Tampa Bay, Dallas




NFL Free Agency Preview: Predictions for over 80 Free Agents


Jason Campbell (Arizona): 1 year, 2 million

Of all the quarterback needy teams, the Cardinals might be the neediest. Campbell is the best available quarterback on a weak quarterback market and he’d be a potential stopgap option for the Cardinals ahead of a rookie quarterback. Matt Cassel and Carson Palmer are also options for them should they be released. The Cardinals are exploring all options and I don’t think Campbell was as bad as he looked in 6 quarters last year against two tough teams, Houston and San Francisco, with no offensive supporting cast.

Running Backs

Steven Jackson (Atlanta): 2 years, 10 million with 4 million guaranteed

Steven Jackson is looking to hitch his wagon to a contender and Atlanta needs a replacement for Michael Turner. Denver and Green Bay also make sense, but I have to think if it gets to a bidding war between the trio, the Falcons would be the top bidder. The Packers rarely spend money in free agency and the Broncos could always go with Willis McGahee again in 2013.

Reggie Bush (Detroit): 3 years, 13 million with 5 million guaranteed

This is not a well-kept secret. The Lions are proceeding into this off-season as if Jahvid Best is not on the roster and Bush can play that role for them. They’ve shown a lot of interest in him and while they don’t have a ton of cap room, they could easily sign him as early as tomorrow as one of their few free agent targets.

Shonn Greene (San Diego): 3 years, 12 million with 4 million guaranteed

The AJ Smith/Norv Turner duo that drafted Ryan Mathews’ 12th overall and saw him as a future feature back is gone and this new regime can’t be too confident in Matthews’ ability to carry the load long term off of his 2012 tape. Greene is unspectacular, but durable, consistent, has good ball security and can block. Basically, he’s the polar opposite of Ryan Matthews and he’ll come cheap for a team with plenty of other needs in the draft.

Ahmad Bradshaw (Green Bay): 1 year, 3 million with 1 million guaranteed

I don’t see the Packers getting into a bidding war for Steven Jackson because that’s just not their M.O. However, Ahmad Bradshaw seems like they type of back they’d sign to a one year prove it deal. When healthy, he’s a great running back and he can contribute on passing downs, a must for any Green Bay running back.

Rashard Mendenhall (Arizona): 1 year, 2 million with 1 million guaranteed

Rashard Mendenhall will be greeted with a soft market, but he’ll have some suitors. In Arizona he’d rejoin former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who is now the Head Coach in Arizona. Arians doesn’t throw to backs a lot, so Mendenhall’s lack of pass catching skills won’t be as big of a deal and if he can turn it around anywhere, it’s with his former offensive coordinator so this seems like a great fit. He’d fit in as a backup to Ryan Williams, a need after cutting Chris Wells, and they have shown interest.


Jerome Felton (Minnesota): 3 years, 13 million with 4 million guaranteed

The Vikings won’t let the man who paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s near record breaking season get away. Felton is arguably the best fullback in the NFL and should become the highest paid. This deal would surpass Vonta Leach’s 3 year, 11 million dollar deal from 2 off-seasons ago.

Wide Receivers

Mike Wallace (Miami): 5 years, 63 million with 35 million guaranteed

This is not a very well-kept secret either. Many in the know feel this is as close to a done deal as possible and this one will probably be made official within an hour of free agency opening. The Dolphins have a ton of cap room and a desperate need for a #1 receiver. No one else is going to give Wallace this kind of coin and that’s his biggest goal this off-season.

Wes Welker (New England): 3 years, 22 million with 9 million guaranteed

Welker will test the free agency market, but he’ll find out what he’s probably known for a while: that he’s more valuable to the Patriots than anyone else. A 3-year deal with minimal if any guaranteed money after the first year makes a lot of sense for the aging Welker.

Greg Jennings (Minnesota): 4 years, 28 million with 11 million guaranteed

The Vikings’ need for a wide receiver became even bigger when they traded Percy Harvin, but I have a feeling they made that deal knowing they’d likely be signing one of free agency’s big time receivers once it opens. With Wallace and Welker likely going to Miami and New England respectively, Jennings instantly becomes the best fit and I think they’d offer Jennings more money than he’d get anywhere else, as he’s aging and coming off some injury problems. This deal is comparable to the one Anquan Boldin got at a similar age 3 off-seasons ago as Jennings follows in Darren Sharper’s and Brett Favre’s footsteps and puts on the purple.

Danny Amendola (Philadelphia): 4 years, 25 million with 10 million guaranteed

The Rams are reportedly not expected to re-sign Amendola as they view him as just a slot receiver and not worth the kind of money he could get elsewhere. The Eagles are known to be one of the most interested teams and have money to burn. His signing would coincide with incumbent slot receiver Jason Avant’s release.

Brandon Gibson (Detroit): 2 years, 7 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Lions will probably be without Ryan Broyles’ services for the first half of the season at least so expect them to sign a cheaper receiver in the 2nd wave of free agency with their minimal cap space. They are one of the most pass heavy teams in the NFL and can’t afford to trot out guys like Nate Burleson and Kris Durham opposite Calvin Johnson.

Tight Ends

Jared Cook (Cleveland): 4 years, 26 million with 12 million guaranteed

Cook was not franchised by the Titans because they feared he might win his challenge and get the wide receiver tag rather than the tight end tag, but he’s expected to be met with a very strong market for his services. The Browns would probably be willing to give him the most money. Norv Turner loves vertical field stretching tight ends like Cook and they really don’t have one right now and they have plenty of money to play with.

Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta): 1 year, 7 million

If Tony Gonzalez returns, which I’ve maintained all along he will, he won’t wear another uniform than Atlanta’s. 7 million seems reasonable for him since he’ll essentially be able to name his price to return.

Dustin Keller (St. Louis): 4 years, 25 million with 11 million guaranteed

Keller is unlikely to be brought back by the Jets because they simply don’t have the cap space, but a reunion with former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer would make a lot of sense for both sides. Keller had his best season in 2011 with Schottenheimer, who puts a lot of emphasis on the tight end position in his offense. Lance Kendricks is a product of the old regime and just isn’t cutting it.

Martellus Bennett (Tampa Bay): 4 years, 24 million with 10 million guaranteed

The Giants won’t get into a bidding war for Bennett because Eli Manning has always gotten good production out of his tight ends, no matter who they are. Bennett has been linked to Tampa Bay because his twin brother plays there, but even if Michael doesn’t re-sign as a free agent, Martellus makes a lot of sense to Tampa Bay. They have plenty of cap space and need an intermediate target for Josh Freeman.

Brandon Myers (Miami): 4 years, 19 million with 7 million guaranteed

The Dolphins are expected to pursue an upgrade on Anthony Fasano at tight end this off-season and certainly have the cap room to get a deal done with Cook, Keller, or Bennett, but they may have to settle for someone like Brandon Myers, a productive pass catcher, but not nearly the athlete any of the above are.

Delanie Walker (San Francisco): 3 years, 12 million with 4 million guaranteed

This is another situation where the player is more valuable to his original team than any other because of Walker’s unique role in the 49ers’ offense. I can’t see another team signing him and he may come cheap to the 49ers.

Fred Davis (Washington): 1 year, 3 million

Davis can’t seem to make it through a 16 game season, but he has plenty of upside and the Redskins are expected to give him another chance on a one year prove it deal.

Offensive Tackles

Jake Long (St. Louis): 5 years, 42 million with 18 million guaranteed

I think Long ends up becoming free agency’s highest paid offensive lineman. The Dolphins don’t value him a ton, but barring anything terrible on his medical, someone will remember what he used to be and pay him like an elite left tackle. The Rams are among the most desperate in the NFL at that position and have money to work with. Along with Chicago, they are currently the front runner to land the former #1 overall pick.

Andre Smith (Cincinnati): 4 years, 30 million with 11 million guaranteed

I think teams will be wary of committing too much long term to someone with Smith’s history of inconsistent play and work ethic concerns. He was terrible until the Bengals exercised a clause in his rookie contract cutting two years off of it and he didn’t really come on until his contract year. He could easily become complacent once he gets paid. I think he ends up taking less money than he expects back home in Cincinnati and doesn’t get a lot guaranteed.

Sebastian Vollmer (New England): 5 years, 32 million with 14 million guaranteed

Vollmer is another right tackle I think returns to his current team as the Patriots have plenty of cap space to play with and seem committed to re-signing their own guys before anything else.

Phil Loadholt (Minnesota): 4 years, 25 million with 10 million guaranteed

Loadholt also returns to his current team. I think all 3 of the top level right tackles will do so. Right tackles rarely get much money on the open market and all 3 should be valued most by their current teams. Loadholt is a solid player, but should be the lowest paid of the trio. He’ll still command a hefty salary.

Jermon Bushrod (Chicago): 5 years, 30 million with 12 million guaranteed

Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer of the Bears was previously on the Saints’ staff, where Bushrod played most recently. The Saints don’t value the left tackle position much because of Drew Brees’ quick release and won’t get into a bidding war for his blindside protector, but the Bears badly need help there. It’s very possible Bushrod gets overpaid because Brees made him look better than he was, but the Bears are a team that could take a chance.

Eric Winston (Philadelphia): 4 years, 20 million with 9 million guaranteed

Winston was cut by the Chiefs, but can still play and the Eagles, who are flush with cap, are known to be among the most interested. He’d be a perfect fit. He’d slide Todd Herremans back into his natural spot at guard coming off a major injury and he has the movement skills that Chip Kelly is going to value in an offensive line. He’s only ever really played on the right side, but he’s a very good right tackle, something the Eagles will value because the right side is Michael Vick’s blindside. He should get a deal similar to the one the Chiefs gave him last off-season.

Sam Baker (Atlanta): 3 years, 17 million with 7 million guaranteed

Baker’s checkered injury past won’t help him get paid on the open market and he won’t get a lot of guaranteed money. Because of his shorter arms, it actually sounds like the open market values him more as a guard than a tackle and the Falcons might be the only team interested in him as a left tackle and thus could easily offer him the most money. They retain their blindside protector with a high upside, low risk deal.

Gosder Cherilus (Miami): 2 years, 8 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Dolphins seem fine moving on from Jake Long and are more likely to pursue a replacement through the draft, but if someone like Cherilus comes cheap enough, they could bring him in to compete for a starting spot or keep the seat warm for a rookie. Cherilus had a solid season last year in Detroit, but his injury history does not bode well for his chances of getting a big money long term deal.

Interior Offensive Linemen

Andy Levitre (Tennessee): 5 years, 40 million with 18 million guaranteed

From what it sounds like, the Titans will sign either Andy Levitre or Louis Vasquez, the top two guards available and two of the top guards in the NFL. Levitre makes the most sense since they’d be the most desperate to get him. He’d immediately turn the left guard position into a position of major strength following the retirement of Steve Hutchinson, but his signing would not preclude the Titans drafting a guard at 10. Chance Warmack would still fit in really well at right guard and the Titans have made it known that adding help on the interior of their offensive line is a priority of their off-season.

Louis Vasquez (Indianapolis): 5 years, 34 million with 15 million guaranteed

The Colts are expected to sign whichever of the two top guards the Titans don’t sign and have been linked to Vasquez by many sources. The Colts have a lot of money to play with and are expected to add a big time free agent both on the offensive line and on defense as well as a few other signings. They figure to be one of the most active teams in free agency as they try to build up a team that won 11 games despite replacement level talent all over the place last year. They won’t be able to do it with smoke and mirrors like that forever.

Matt Slauson (NY Jets): 3 years, 11 million with 4 million guaranteed

The Bills aren’t expected to be able to re-sign Andy Levitre, but they’ll need to find a replacement. Slauson isn’t awe inspiring, but he’s an average starter and he’ll come cheap.

Donald Thomas (Detroit): 3 years, 12 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Lions continue to bargain hunt pressed up against the cap. They have a need at right guard and Donald Thomas is a good high upside low risk signing for them. He was very good in 7 starts for the Patriots last year and could end up being a high end starter at a low end starter’s cost.

Brandon Moore (Chicago): 1 year, 4 million with 1 million guaranteed

The Bears are expected to focus heavily on the offensive line, as they should, but after signing Jermon Bushrod, they probably won’t have enough cap space to fill out their roster if they sign a big money guard. Moore should suffice as a cheap, veteran stopgap. He’s not flashy, but as long as Jay Cutler doesn’t run into his ass Moore should help this ball club.

Interior Defensive Linemen

Desmond Bryant (New England): 3 years, 14 million with 6 million guaranteed

Bryant cost himself with his stupid arrest last month and whichever team signs him will have to be comfortable with an off the field incident as well as the slight chance of a suspension. The Patriots are one of five teams rumored to be in the mix for Bryant, who really impressed, especially as a pass rusher, in place of an injured Richard Seymour for the Raiders last year. New England, however, is probably the most likely to look past his off the field incident and the fact that he went to school in Boston at Harvard doesn’t hurt his chances of ending up in New England.

Jason Jones (St. Louis): 3 years, 12 million with 5 million guaranteed

Jones has been tied to the Rams ever since Jeff Fisher took over there last off-season. He signed a one year deal with Seattle instead, but he’s a free agent again and the Rams are in the market for a versatile pass rusher again so it’s a natural fit.

Richard Seymour (Seattle): 2 years, 9 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Seahawks have made it known they want to add more pass rush. Seymour can play the Jason Jones role in Seattle at worst and may also be able to start for the Seahawks at a position where they have some key free agents. Seymour should be able to get a short term deal from one of several contenders, including Seattle, Green Bay, and New England. He can still play, but he missed most of last year with injury.

Terrance Knighton (Denver): 2 years, 8 million with 3 million guaranteed

Knighton rejoins Jack Del Rio in Denver. Del Rio was his Head Coach in Jacksonville and now leads Denver’s defense. He also fits what John Fox looks for in a defensive tackle as he prefers his defensive tackles tie up blockers rather than get up field and rush the passer.

Chris Canty (Carolina): 2 years, 7 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Panthers have a desperate need at defensive tackle with minimal cap room to play with so they could end signing a cheap defensive tackle like Canty. Canty has natural been tied to Carolina by people in the know because much of their new front office comes from the Giants’ organization, where Canty last played before becoming a cap casualty in February.

Glenn Dorsey (Oakland): 1 year, 3 million with 1 million guaranteed

The Raiders figure to be bargain shopping once again this off-season with minimal cap room and a bunch of needs. Glenn Dorsey might just need a change of scenery and a change of scheme and he’d fit best as a 4-3 under tackle in Oakland. He’s a low risk, high reward signing for a Raider team in desperate need of talent, especially in the front 7.

Ricky Jean-Francois (Philadelphia): 3 years, 8 million with 2 million guaranteed

Jean-Francois has seen very little action as a reserve in his career in San Francisco, but he’s being talked about as a hot commodity on the open market. The Eagles’ new VP of player personnel Tom Gamble came over from San Francisco and I think that makes them the favorite to land the unproven commodity.

Mike DeVito (NY Jets): 2 years, 6 million with 2 million guaranteed

DeVito is very good at what he does and very good at his role in the Jets’ defense, so even with the Jets’ poor cap situation, they should be able to bring him back. I can’t see anyone breaking the bank for a pure base 3-4 end.

Edge Rushers

Cliff Avril (Indianapolis): 5 years, 60 million with 30 million guaranteed

The Colts make a splash on offense and now they make one on defense. They are fully expected to sign either Cliff Avril or Paul Kruger almost as soon as free agency opens as they have plenty of cap room to play with and need a replacement for Dwight Freeney. Avril is arguably the best defensive player available in free agency this year and at the very least should get paid the most. He doesn’t get the Mario Williams money he was hoping for, but even he admits that was pretty much a pipedream.

Paul Kruger (Cleveland): 4 years, 42 million with 20 million guaranteed

The Browns are expected to sign whichever rush linebacker the Colts don’t sign and I think because of the Colts’ supporting cast they’re more likely to bring in Avril than Cleveland. Cleveland will “settle” for Paul Kruger, who fills a massive need for a pass rusher opposite Jabaal Sheard for a team flush with cap room.

Michael Bennett (Detroit): 5 years, 25 million with 10 million guaranteed

Bennett is one of the truly underrated players in this free agency class. He’s performed as well as Avril and better than Kruger over the past 2 years, but he’ll be lucky to get half as much guaranteed money. Once we get into day 3 or 4 of free agency, he’d make a lot of sense as a cost effective replacement for Cliff Avril for the Lions, who don’t have a ton of cap room. He’d be a great fit in their wide nine scheme.

Osi Umenyiora (Tennessee): 3 years, 14 million with 6 million guaranteed

The Titans are known to be interested in Michael Bennett to provide depth behind Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, but he’ll probably be too expensive as a pure rotational end and will probably be able to get a starting job. Umenyiora would like a starting job as well, but at his age, he’ll probably have to settle for being a fairly well paid rotational end and serve in a similar role in Tennessee to his one in New York. The Giants don’t have a ton of cap room and won’t get into a bidding war for him.

Connor Barwin (Houston): 3 years, 14 million with 5 million guaranteed

What a difference a year makes. Barwin was an up and coming pass rusher after last season and was a candidate for a long term extension last off-season and potentially a future franchise tag candidate. Instead, Barwin had an awful 2012 campaign and now teams won’t know what they’re getting with him. He barely played in his first two years, was great in his 3rd year, and awful in his 4th. The Texans will know better than anyone and will likely retain him on a team friendly deal.

John Abraham (Seattle): 2 years, 9 million with 3 million guaranteed

John Abraham has already made his free agency tour and had no shortage of suitors. He’s not a full time player anymore and he struggles against the run, but there’s something to be said for being one of the most efficient pass rushers in the NFL and that’s what Abraham was last season. The Seahawks add him to go with Richard Seymour as they seek to get more pass rush upfront. Abraham will likely sign with a contender and the Seahawks would appear to have the biggest need for him.

Dwight Freeney (Denver): 1 year, 5 million with 2 million guaranteed

I like this fit regardless of whether or not they cut Elvis Dumervil, though it sounds like they will. Freeney would be a rotational pass rusher if Dumervil is kept and a starter opposite Derek Wolfe if Dumervil is let go. He’d rejoin fellow Colt legend Peyton Manning and would have a good chance at winning another ring.

Victor Butler (New Orleans): 3 years, 10 million with 4 million guaranteed

Butler is unlikely to remain in Dallas given their cap situation and their new 4-3 defense, but he’s an intriguing 3-4 rush linebacker option. He’s got plenty of talent and has flashed, but was always stuck behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. It makes sense that he’d follow Rob Ryan to New Orleans, where they are in desperate need of pass rush.

Shaun Phillips (Baltimore): 2 years, 7 million with 3 million guaranteed

Not really connecting the dots here or anything, but the Ravens need a rotational rush linebacker with Kruger likely gone and Phillips would be a cheap, but still productive veteran.

James Harrison (New England): 1 year, 4 million with 1 million guaranteed

The Patriots are one of the teams Harrison has expressed interest in and I think they make the most sense for him. The Saints are not interested. The Browns have bigger fish to fry and I just can’t see him in a Ravens uniform. In New England, he’d be a nickel rusher and linebacker depth and Bill Belichick loves versatile edge rushers like him, though they already have a pair in Dont’a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich. Still, they’d find a role for him and he’d come cheap for a team that likes picking up proven guys cheap in the tail end of their careers.

Non-Rush Linebackers

Dannell Ellerbe (Baltimore): 5 years, 24 million with 10 million guaranteed

The Ravens really seem infatuated with Ellerbe and believe his best football is yet to come as a successor to Ray Lewis. I can’t see anyone valuing him more than them and while they have minimal cap room, they can fit him under after getting rid of Anquan Boldin, likely the reason they did so.

Phillip Wheeler (St. Louis): 3 years, 15 million with 6 million guaranteed

Wheeler is an underrated free agent, but he had a great season last year on a one year deal in Oakland, though I need to see him repeat it. The Rams give him a chance to as he fills their need for an every down linebacker. They’ve shown interest in him and some in the know do connect the dots here.

Brad Jones (Kansas City): 3 years, 14 million with 5 million guaranteed

Jones broke out in about half a season as the Packers’ starting middle linebacker last year when injuries struck. He’s a well-kept secret that the Packers will try to retain, but they could get some competition from Kansas City and GM John Dorsey, who comes from the Green Bay organization. The Chiefs have the bigger need and the Packers have never been big spenders in free agency so I like the Chiefs to win that bidding war.

Brian Urlacher (Chicago): 1 year, 5 million with 2 million guaranteed

At the end of the day, I think the Bears bring back Urlacher on a cheap one year deal, which might be his last as a pro.

Daryl Smith (Oakland): 2 years, 7 million with 3 million guaranteed

Another bargain buy for the Raiders, Smith was one of the better linebackers in the league in 2011, but he’s aging and missed most of last year with injury. He’ll be cheaper than retaining Phillip Wheeler and if healthy could be the better player.

Justin Durant (NY Giants): 2 years, 7 million with 2 million guaranteed

The Giants don’t have a lot of money to work with, but I expect them to bring in a veteran linebacker or two because that’s the weak point of their team.

Michael Boley (Tampa Bay): 1 year, 3 million with 1 million guaranteed

Tampa Bay has been a rumored destination for Boley since the Giants cut him last month and it makes sense. Quincy Black may have played his last snap in the NFL and most likely with the Buccaneers, so they need a veteran stopgap who can give them two down run stopping ability.

Rey Maualuga (NY Giants): 1 year, 3 million with 1 million guaranteed

Another bargain buy for the Giants at linebacker, Maualuga was dreadful last year and picked a bad time to do that, but he’s been better in the past and he’s worth the risk on a one year prove it deal for a team like the Giants.


Sean Smith (Philadelphia): 5 years, 37 million with 17 million guaranteed

I expect the Eagles to be very active in free agency. They have plenty of cap room, especially after they cut Nnamdi Asomugha, plenty of needs, and have made plenty of big splashes in the past. As long as Michael Vick doesn’t proclaim them a dynasty and Vince Young doesn’t call them the Dream Team, they should be fine. Smith helps fill a massive need at cornerback and has unsurprisingly been linked to them. Smith should get a deal that rivals Eric Wright’s from last off-season.

Aqib Talib (New England): 4 years, 26 million with 9 million guaranteed

Like with Wes Welker and Sebastian Vollmer, the Patriots take care of their own here with the money saved after Tom Brady’s extension, though Talib’s return seems like the least likely of the three right now. They’ve poked around with other cornerbacks in recent days, but at the end of the day, I think they’d rather sign a proven commodity like Talib than throw a bunch of money at someone like Sean Smith or take their chances with someone out of the bargain bin.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Jacksonville): 5 years, 31 million with 14 million guaranteed

I’m not really passing along any information here. As far as I know, the Jaguars have shown no interest in DRC, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t and I like the scheme fit. Gus Bradley comes from Seattle where they like their cornerbacks tall and long and the 6-2 former Eagle fits the bill. The Jaguars have money to spend and can win a bidding war for his services if need be.

Keenan Lewis (Cleveland): 5 years, 30 million with 13 million guaranteed

The Browns are known to be interested in a bunch of different free agents. They have plenty of cap space and are willing to spend so I expect them to bring in some big money guys. One of the guys rumored to them is Keenan Lewis and I like the fit since they need another cornerback opposite Joe Haden. The Steelers would like to retain him, but couldn’t get into a bidding war with the Browns because of the Steelers’ limited cap space.

Antoine Cason (Indianapolis): 4 years, 22 million with 9 million guaranteed

The Colts spend some more money here. They are known to be very interested in Cason and would probably be able to win a bidding war for his services.

Cary Williams (Tampa Bay): 4 years, 22 million with 8 million guaranteed

Williams is another option to the Colts and he makes sense because Head Coach Chuck Pagano was once Williams’ defensive coordinator in Baltimore, but I don’t have him going there. I don’t have anything to link Williams in Tampa Bay, other than they really need a cornerback and pretty much have to sign one of these guys.

Derek Cox (Washington): 4 years, 20 million with 7 million guaranteed

The Redskins cut DeAngelo Hall and are expected to go hard after Derek Cox with that cap space, though they’ll face competition from Tampa Bay and his last team, the Jaguars. I would bet on Dan Snyder in any bidding war however and the Redskins do have enough cap room opened up to win one.

Chris Houston (Atlanta): 3 years, 14 million with 6 million guaranteed

Houston could return to Detroit for the right price, but there is a big demand for cornerbacks out there and while he’s just a #2, he might be priced out of Detroit’s range. He makes sense on a short term deal returning to Atlanta, where they desperately need veteran cornerback help after losing Dunta Robinson and with the team likely to lose Brent Grimes.

DeAngelo Hall (Miami): 3 years, 15 million with 6 million guaranteed

Again, not passing anything along here, but the Dolphins need to sign one of these cornerbacks.

Jerraud Powers (San Diego): 2 years, 11 million with 4 million guaranteed

The Chargers and Colts essentially flip cornerbacks here, as is rumored to likely happen. Powers leaves one Pagano, Chuck, for his brother John, the defensive coordinator in San Diego and helps fill a big need at cornerback with Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer not expected back as free agents.

Greg Toler (Arizona): 2 years, 9 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Cardinals will show interest in most of these cornerbacks listed above, but I have them settling for re-signing Greg Toler. For what it’s worth, it was briefly reported Monday Night they had agreed to a 3-year deal ahead of free agency, before that report was retracted.

Brent Grimes (New England): 1 year, 3 million

The Patriots did re-sign Talib, but they also hit the bargain bin here as they desperately need defensive back help. Grimes is the type of guy they take a chance on and he’s been mentioned as an option for them. He’d upgrade the nickel back spot over Kyle Arrington if healthy.


Dashon Goldson (Philadelphia): 5 years, 40 million with 19 million guaranteed

Goldson is another 49er going to Philadelphia, where Tom Gamble is new VP of player personnel. The Eagles have money to spend and won’t be afraid to spend it, especially on massive need positions like safety. Goldson wants Eric Weddle money and while I’d argue he doesn’t deserve it, the Eagles might be willing to give it to him. Either way, he’s unlikely to end up re-signing with the 49ers.

Glover Quin (Houston): 5 years, 27 million with 12 million guaranteed

Quin was reportedly a franchise tag candidate before the Texans opted against it. The Falcons did a similar thing with William Moore and Quin should get a comparable, but cheaper deal than Moore, who got 30 million over 5 years. Right now, the most likely option appears to be that he’ll return to Houston. Wade Phillips loves him and the Texans love taking care of their own.

Chris Clemons (Arizona): 5 years, 22 million with 9 million guaranteed

The Cardinals have an obvious need at safety after cutting Adrian Wilson, but don’t appear to be in the bidding for Dashon Goldson. With Quin likely going back to Houston, the Cardinals could overpay one of the middle tier safeties in this draft class. Clemons was a solid starter in Miami last year and could get a fairly nice payday on the open market.

La’Ron Landry (Buffalo): 4 years, 19 million with 8 million guaranteed

Landry is another player following a former coordinator as he follows former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to Buffalo. They have a big need at safety after cutting George Wilson and Wilson, a solid player who was scooped up quickly, was likely cut because he’s not the type of in the box safety Pettine really likes. Pettine really got the most out of Landry last season and while he could stay with the Jets for the right price, it makes more sense that the Bills would be the ones who offer him the most money.

Louis Delmas (St. Louis): 3 years, 15 million with 5 million guaranteed

Delmas also follows a former coach, former Lions defensive backs coach Tim Walton is now the defensive coordinator in St. Louis and they have a desperate need for safeties. They’ll probably draft one and sign another. They won’t be in the market for a big money safety, however, after signing Jake Long, but Delmas is worth the risk despite his injury history on a contract with little guaranteed money after the first season.

Ed Reed (Indianapolis): 2 years, 10 million with 4 million guaranteed

Everyone likes to put Reed on the Patriots, but I think he makes more sense for the Colts. The Colts can pay more and probably need him more because of what his veteran leadership would mean for that team. Then, of course, there’s Chuck Pagano, his former defensive coordinator in Baltimore and a former coach with him at the University of Miami. The two are very close, as are he and Reggie Wayne, another former University of Miami player.

Gerald Sensabaugh (New Orleans): 3 years, 11 million with 3 million guaranteed

Sticking with the follow your old defensive coordinator theme, the Saints badly need defensive back help and Sensabaugh was clearly more valued by former Cowboys and new Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan than new Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin as the Cowboys cut him 1 year into a 5 year extension. The Saints figure to offer him the most money for that reason.

Charles Woodson (New England): 1 year, 4 million with 1 million guaranteed

Here’s the veteran defensive back I think the Patriots get and I like this fit better. Woodson not only fits what Belichick loves from a skill set standpoint, with his versatility and ball hawking abilities, but the Patriots desperately need defensive back depth and they love bringing in veterans at the end of their careers who want to win on cheap deals.

Kenny Phillips (Carolina): 1 year, 4 million with 1 million guaranteed

Phillips is another former Giant who goes to Carolina. The Panthers have many needs on defense, but are cap strapped and will need to hit the bargain bin. That’s where Phillips will likely find himself given his injury history. He’s talented though and makes a lot of sense for the Panthers on a one year prove it deal.

Patrick Chung (Baltimore): 1 year, 3 million with 1 million guaranteed

Chung also follows a former defensive coordinator as Dean Pees was once the defensive coordinator in New England and now holds that title in Baltimore. The Ravens don’t have a ton of cap room, but can afford to take a chance on Chung, who might just need a chance of scenery. If he can stay healthy and out of his coaches’ doghouse, he could be a cheap short term replacement for Ed Reed.

Adrian Wilson (NY Jets): 1 year, 2 million

The Jets also will have to hit the bargain bin for players this off-season. If there’s anywhere Wilson can still start, it’s in New York, where they have nothing at safety and love box types like Wilson. If they can turn Yeremiah Bell into an adequate starter, they can do the same with Adrian Wilson.