Saturday, February 28, 2009

2009 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

"I have a feeling I'm free
From society's hand-picked hypocrisy."

The combine is over, and with free agency in full swing, I figured why not have this be the first installment of what will likely be many mock drafts. Again, free agency is not over just yet, so some team's needs may fluctuate in the coming weeks. Regardless, here are what are pressing needs for all 32 teams:

Team Needs:

AFC East:
  • New England: LB, CB, OT, S
  • Miami: WR, LB, CB, DT
  • New York Jets: QB, DE, WR, S, OT
  • Buffalo: DE, G, OT, TE, LB
  • Pittsburgh: OT, G, CB, WR
  • Baltimore: LB, WR, CB
  • Cleveland: CB, LB, RB, DE, QB
  • Cincinnati: RB, T, C, DE, WR
  • Indianapolis: DT, WR, OT, RB, LB
  • Jacksonville: OT, WR, CB, DT
  • Tennessee: WR, LB, DT, CB
  • Houston: S, DE, LB, G, DT
  • San Diego: OT, DE, S, DT
  • Denver: LB, DT, CB, C
  • Oakland: OT, WR, S, DT, DE, LB
  • Kansas City: DT, LB, DE, OT, G
NFC East:
  • Dallas: S, DE, LB, OT, G
  • Philadelphia: OT, TE, RB, S, WR
  • Washington: OT, DE, LB, G
  • New York Giants: WR, LB, DT, DE, S
  • Chicago: DE, OT, WR, CB, S
  • Minnesota: C, OT, CB, S
  • Detroit: QB, OT, CB, DT, LB
  • Green Bay: OT, LB, CB, DE, DT
  • Carolina: DT, QB, DE, WR
  • Tampa Bay: WR, DT, DE, QB
  • Atlanta: DT, S, TE, LB
  • New Orleans: S, LB, CB, DT
  • Seattle: WR, OT, CB, DT
  • Arizona: RB, C, LB, G
  • St. Louis: OT, LB, S, WR
  • San Francisco: LB, OT, S, CB, WR
Okay, so we have cleared up what each team needs, but even if they have a need at a certain position, it does not necessarily entail that they will use their first pick on their most pressing need. GMs have become aware of the fact that drafting on need more often than not does not lead to results. Instead, it leads to drafting a player way too high, paying him way too much money, and not getting the results you would expect from a player in the first round. So, the best available definitely has some precedence on what direction a GM will go in when they are picking in the first round. So, with all that being said, here's how I see the first round shaping up, and mind you, we haven't even hit March yet, so this is definitely subject to change:
  1. Detroit- Jason Smith, T, Baylor: Of course for months, we have heard about Matthew Stafford from Georgia as being the "clear-cut" #1 choice. I will tell you this right now, if the Lions draft Stafford, expect more results similar to Brady Quinn and less of Matt Ryan-like results. I will echo this over the next two months or so, but Stafford just doesn't have it. So, instead of taking a chance on a shaky-at-best QB, I think the Lions should go the safe route, i.e. offensive lineman. Jason Smith has vaulted Andre Smith to become the #1 tackle on the board. Not that Jason Smith isn't a bad player (he is a top 5 talent), but Andre Smith has helped Jason tremendously on account of the fact that Andre Smith is a moron. While the Lions need a QB (and apparently desperately after trading Jon Kitna today to Dallas), this is simply not the draft to do it in, and if they were to pick a QB, they need to go with Mark Sanchez ahead of Stafford.
  2. St. Louis- Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest: Even before the combine, many considered Curry to be the best prospect in the draft. After the combine, he sealed the deal. The great thing about Curry is that physically, he is just a freak, but he has the intelligence and the experience to play in a 3-4 or 4-3, which St. Louis employs. I know that tackle is a big need, but I just don't see any way of passing on Curry. As history has taught us, a linebacker who has a top 10 grade usually pans out (most recently with Patrick Willis).
  3. Kansas City- Everette Brown, DE/LB, Florida State: What's great about Brown is that he is of the OLB/DE hybrid style, which is one of the most attractive things a defensive end can have for him come draft day. Pioli has addressed his need at QB and OLB (you're welcome), so now, getting a guy that can play both end and linebacker makes a lot of sense here.
  4. Seattle- Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech: If Crabtree makes it this far, there is no way Seattle can pass on him at #4 despite the recent revelation of his foot injury. Their need at WR is absolutely gigantic, and for them to pass on Crabtree, who has proven in his two season at Tech that he could potentially be one of the best to play the game in some time, would be mind-blowing and borderline reckless.
  5. Cleveland- Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State: Sure, the Browns have needs basically all over the field, but Jenkins represents something that really doesn't come along very often: a shut-down corner who can make an immediate impact wherever he ends up going. This makes a lot of sense. A shut-down corner who already has a built-in fan base being a Buckeye? Very hard to pass on Jenkins if you are the Browns.
  6. Cincinnati- Andre Smith, OT, Alabama: The Bengals are the perfect team to take a chance on a player with questionable character...their entire team is made up of guys with questionable character. Obviously, that is not one of the first questions they ask in an interview. Consider that Smith is, talent-wise, the best tackle in the draft, the Bengals could take a chance here and fill a hole that they have serious question marks in.
  7. Oakland- Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri: The consensus about Oakland is that they are taking Crabtree if he falls to 7, and if he does not, the Raiders will pull the trigger on Mr. Everything, Jeremy Maclin. He returns, he rushes, and more importantly, he was Chase Daniel's #1 target at Mizzou. Maclin was projected to be in the top 20 but has since seen is stock rise dramatically to put him inside the top 10.
  8. Jacksonville- Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia: Before the start of the season, many had Monroe as the top tackle in this draft. Jacksonville desperately needs a big-time tackle to block for both David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew. Monroe also brings stability in terms of his size and character that you can depend on, especially when you are dropping a ton of guaranteed money for a top 10 pick.
  9. Green Bay- B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College: Raji's stock really caught fire down the stretch of the season, and now projects to be the first interior defensive tackle taken. With the Packers making the adjustment to a 3-4, they are going to need a tackle that can handle taking on both the center and the guard. Raji has the strength and speed to handle this type of role.
  10. San Francisco- Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss: I know that there has been speculation that the Niners may go QB here, but I really think that the San Fran front office will be a little gun-shy after taking Alex Smith #1 overall, then watching him completely fizzle. Oher is the safe pick and it fills a need. Oher was tremendous in the SEC, and he should see that kind of success translate nicely to the next level.
  11. Buffalo- Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas: In my opinion, Orakpo has the most potential upside of any defensive player on the board, even more than Curry. His ability to get around and sometimes through opposing team's tackles is something you rarely see, especially in the Big 12, where the tackles are built like houses. The Bills may look to score their tight end with this pick (if that were the case, it would likely be Brandon Pettigrew), but ultimately, this, again, fills a need considering they cannot keep their D-Ends healthy.
  12. Denver- Rey Maualuga, LB, Southern Cal: With the swarm of moves the Broncos made over the weekend, it had a lot of people scrambling to correct their mock drafts and correct the team needs that Denver had. What remains is that the Broncos simply had no run defense, and because D.J. Williams was hurt for most of the year, they did not have a linebacker that could make the tackles at the second level. Maualuga was a freak at Southern Cal, and with Williams returning, the Broncos could potentially have one of the best young linebacking duos in the league.
  13. Washington- Aaron Maybin, DE/LB, Penn State: Again, another hybrid guy here in Maybin. The 'Skins have obviously looked to improve upon their line this offseason with the acqusition of Albert Haynesworth. Still, they need help in getting a compliment to Jason Taylor at the end position. Also, Maybin will be a speed rush type of outside player, and when you combine him with Taylor, you will have a formidable pass rush, something the 'Skins were lacking last year.
  14. New Orleans- Brian Cushing, LB, Southern Cal: Despite re-signing Jonathan Vilma, the Saints definitely could use a boost at the linebacker position. Despite battling a couple major injuries in his college career (shoulder in '05, ankle in '07). Cushing showed incredible potential and was able to have a major impact on one of the better college defenses of all-time.
  15. Houston- Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU: Houston has relied heavily on the draft to help bolster their defense, and this year should be no exception. Jackson's biggest asset is his ability to help stop the run, something the Texans still need to improve on (23rd last year).
  16. San Diego- Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia: The consensus from what I'm hearing is that despite having franchised Darren Sproles, and having Tomlinson already on the roster, the Chargers are still looking for help in the backfield. This would be a tell-tale sign that their confidence in LT in waining, and despite having a great playoff run, Sproles is probably not a 250-300 carry back.
  17. New York Jets- Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia: This was quite a dip from #1 where a lot of people have Stafford, but even so, I just don't see any QB being a franchise-type guy. With that being said, the Jets need something, and unless they sign Kurt Warner, they are going to be left to their own devices, i.e. Kellen Clemens, and it's obvious to me that the Jets don't believe Clemens will be their man for the long-term.
  18. Chicago- Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois: What I always found puzzling was why teams wouldn't draft guys that are hometown products and therefore, are way ahead of others acclamation-wise (the biggest one I can think of right now is the Niners passing on Aaron Rodgers, a bay-area kid, and going after Alex Smith). Davis will help the Bears in something that they have secretly been struggling with for years (last year, they were 30th in pass yards/game, 31st in completions, and 32nd in other words, people like to pass on them).
  19. Tampa Bay- Mark Sanchez, QB, Southern Cal: What I found to be amazing was that Tampa proctured up a three-way deal involving them getting Jay Cutler and Cassel going to Denver. Because this deal was made way too late, they missed out on getting a franchise QB. The next best thing would be to get Sanchez and have him battle out Brian Griese, Luke McCown, or whoever will end up being the starter in Tampa. With Kellen Winslow, he provides a nice security blanket for a young QB.
  20. Detroit- Percy Harvin, WR, Florida: I know, I know, Detroit takes another receiver in the first round, and hilarity ensues. Still though, when you look at the receiving corps, it's not looking too hot for the Lions outside of Calvin Johnson (John Standeford, Shaun McDonald...who?). Harvin, as evident from how Florida played without him (explosive) and with him (hydrogen bomb explosive), he is a playmaker, and he can get it done not only split out, but in the backfield as well. I do want to make a note that with yesterday's trade of Jon Kitna, it seems more and more likely that they will be going QB at #1. Stay tuned for more details.
  21. Philadelphia- Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State: I suspect that this year, especially with two first-round picks, the Eagles are going to be looking to help their offense out. Pettigrew is a guy who can step in immediately to replace L.J. Smith and be a nice check-down option for McNabb.
  22. Minnesota- Eben Britton, OT, Arizona: A lot of people were penciling in Josh Freeman here, but because of the trade with Houston for Sage Rosenfels, it appears like the Vikings' QB situation has been taken care of. The Vikings are probably going to lose Matt Birk in free agency, and because they are likely to fill the center position internally, a spot will open up likely on the right tackle spot.
  23. New England- James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State: There is a distinct possibility that the Pats would have drafted Laurinaitis last year had he declared after his junior season, but he decided to stay in school, and because of that, may have seen his draft stock slip a little bit. Still, it would be a great pickup at #23. Plus, we have had an Ohio State linebacker on the Pats for like a decade (Katzenmoyer, Vrabel), so why change a good thing?
  24. Atlanta- Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss- Atlanta was one of the surprise teams in the league last year, but considering they won't be surprising anyone next year, they are going to have to sure up their weaknesses. The Falcons were 25th in rush yards/game and 28th in yards/carry defensively.
  25. Miami- Clay Matthews, LB, Southern Cal: Believe it. With Matthews going to the Dolphins, the Trojans will have three linebackers taken in the first round. Without looking this up, I'm going to go ahead and say that that's never happened before, and if it has, it happened an awful long time ago. Matthews has seen his stock rise with his recent combine workout. Joey Porter was fantastic this year, but you can't expect him to put up the kind of numbers he did last year on a regular basis. Outside of Porter and the occasional play made by Channing Crowder, the Dolphins did not have very much production from their linebackers.
  26. Baltimore- Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina: The Ravens were so impressive in the playoffs last season. The defense will probably look different, but I still have faith that even without Rex Ryan as D-Coordinator, the Ravens will be solid when they don't have the ball. I think this would be an interesting pick for Baltimore because this would bring a different kind of element to the offense. They don't really have a big, physical receiver like what Nicks would potentially give them.
  27. Indianapolis- Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland: With Marvin Harrison out of the picture, Indy is going to have to find a few more options for Peyton Manning this season. With Reggie Wayne cemented as the #1 guy, the Colts will be looking to get a #3 receiver, or perhaps even a #2 with Anthony Gonzalez's play being somewhat inconsistent. Heyward-Bey is rising up draft boards after running a 4.3 40-yard dash at the combine, and the Colts will be looking to get the kind of production that last year's "fastest man" (Chris Johnson) provided.
  28. Philadelphia- Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State: With Correll Buckhalter going to Denver, the Eagles are hurting at the running back position. Wells would be filling Buckhalter's "change of pace back" slot, and with his size, he could potentially be a more physical threat than Buckhalter was.
  29. New York Giants- Larry English, DE/LB, Northern Illinois: I feel that English's stock will rise purely on his versatility. I can't even stress how much of an important factor that is, especially when you have a team like the Giants who are lacking in both the defensive end category (depth-wise) and the linebacker category (starter and depth-wise).
  30. Tennessee- Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers: Clearly, the Titans are in need of some help at the receiver position. They really don't have any dependable receivers on the roster. While Britt has a second-round grade, and questions about his character have been mentioned, Britt had a tremendous junior season, even better than his sophomore campaign, which many didn't even think was possible (sophomore season: 62 receptions, 1,232 yards, 8 TDs; junior season: 87 receptions, 1,371 yardsm 7 TDs).
  31. Arizona- LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh: With Edgerrin James almost certain to not be returning to the Cards next year, they clearly have a big need at running back. Tim Hightower did get some starting reps in place of James, but the Cards found out quickly that he did not have "feature-back" potential. McCoy may have that potential, and even if he doesn't, he will be effective in a time-share role with Hightower.
  32. Pittsburgh- Jamon Meredith, OT, South Carolina: The big question concerning the Steelers is definitely the tackle position. Marvel Smith is a free agent, and it looks like those two sides have gone their seperate ways. Meredith has played right tackle for the Gamecocks, so he could jump right in and be the opening day starter.
Again, all of this is subject to change. We have found out that the Pats traded both Cassel and Vrabel to KC for their second-rounder...and that's it. At first, I was scrambling around the internet looking to see if they may have gotten something more, but that was not the case. So, a day later, here's what I'm thinking: The Pats are heading into this season with a couple of holes, and there's no denying that. However, they have a really solid team, and in order to keep that solid team, they are going to need financial flexibility to do so. Right now, the Pats are around $20 million under the cap. What they will be looking to do now is to sign a veteran corner (Shawn Springs is reporting to Foxboro today, and Leigh Bodden already came last week), probably look for a short-term solution to outside linebacker (Derrick Brooks?), and most importantly, give themselves the best chance they can in trying to re-sign Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, and Logan Mankins, who are all big-ticket guys and who all become free agents next season. If the Pats had gotten a first round pick, they would have to commit to two first-rounders and be handcuffed with their guaranteed money. In getting "only" a second round pick in the deal, they will only have to commit $1-1.5 million a year compared to $8-9 they would have to for the #3 pick, or the $3-3.5 million they would commit had the proposed three way deal with Tampa had gone through. Again, I'm not sure if this is factual, but through mere speculation, you can at least attempt to make sense out of trading two important pieces of the puzzle for a non-first round pick.

With three second round picks, the talk turns to "what are they going to do with all those picks?" Well, there are a couple of options with that. First, and the simplest option would be to keep all of them. If that were the case, the Pats would be picking at #34 (from KC), #47 (from SD), and #58. Here is my projection as to where they may be headed with those three:
  • #34: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt: The Pats are going to continue to try and overcome the huge mistake of letting Asante Samuel walk by adding more pieces to the puzzle. At this point, they are just hopeful that one of these guys, whether it be Wheatley, Wilhite, or here with Moore, will pan out and be able to take a starting position.
  • #47: Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State: Just ask my Dad how much I love Williams. Every time Penn State was playing this season while I was at home, I said "look out for #2 (Williams), the Pats have to get him," but it's so true. Williams represents a Kevin Faulk-like guy that can do everything. Also, the Pats are in need of a #3 receiver after letting Jabar Gaffney go to Denver.
  • #58: Duke Robinson, G, Oklahoma: Robinson represents something that Stephen Neal just doesn't have. This guy plays real tough, is an absolute giant of a man (6'5, 330), and is a tremendous run-blocker. This would be a huge upgrade to the right side of the line.
Now, here are some possible things they could do with those three picks:
  • Trade Up: The Pats can package one or a couple of their second-rounders in the attempt to move back into the first. This would be a rare event for the Pats to move up on the board this early in the draft. However, if they were enamored with someone who could potentially go in that 26-32 range, then I have no problem with them doing whatever they can to get that guy. This would be especially true if they were targetting either Hakeem Nicks or Derrius Heyward-Bey, who will both likely be gone before they get to the Pats at the start of the second round.
(Just a random sidenote, I know that you've seen the draft pick chart before, but I figured I would put it on the site so you could re-familiarize yourself with it):

NFL Draft-Pick Value
Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Round 6 Round 7
1 3,000 33 580 65 265 97 112 129 43 161 27 193 14.2
2 2,600 34 560 66 260 98 108 130 42 162 27 194 13.8
3 2,200 35 550 67 255 99 104 131 41 163 26 195 13.4
4 1,800 36 540 68 250 100 100 132 40 164 26 196 13.0
5 1,700 37 530 69 245 101 96 133 40 165 25 197 12.6
6 1,600 38 520 70 240 102 92 134 39 166 25 198 12.2
7 1,500 39 510 71 235 103 88 135 39 167 25 199 11.8
8 1,400 40 500 72 230 104 86 136 38 168 24 200 11.4
9 1,350 41 490 73 225 105 84 137 38 169 24 201 11.0
10 1,300 42 480 74 220 106 82 138 37 170 23 202 10.6
11 1,250 43 470 75 215 107 80 139 37 171 23 203 10.2
12 1,200 44 460 76 210 108 78 140 36 172 23 204 9.8
13 1,150 45 450 77 205 109 76 141 36 173 22 205 9.4
14 1,100 46 440 78 200 110 74 142 35 174 22 206 9.0
15 1,050 47 430 79 195 111 72 143 35 175 21 207 8.6
16 1,000 48 420 80 190 112 70 144 34 176 21 208 8.2
17 950 49 410 81 185 113 68 145 34 177 21 209 7.8
18 900 50 400 82 180 114 66 146 33 178 20 210 7.4
19 875 51 390 83 175 115 64 147 33 179 20 211 7.0
20 850 52 380 84 170 116 62 148 32 180 19 212 6.6
21 800 53 370 85 165 117 60 149 32 181 19 213 6.2
22 780 54 360 86 160 118 58 150 31 182 19 214 5.8
23 760 55 350 87 155 119 56 151 31 183 18 215 5.4
24 740 56 340 88 150 120 54 152 31 184 18 216 5.0
25 720 57 330 89 145 121 52 153 30 185 17 217 4.6
26 700 58 320 90 140 122 50 154 30 186 17 218 4.2
27 680 59 310 91 136 123 49 155 29 187 17 219 3.8
28 660 60 300 92 132 124 48 156 29 188 16 220 3.4
29 640 61 292 93 128 125 47 157 29 189 16 221 3.0
30 620 62 284 94 124 126 46 158 28 190 15 222 2.6
31 600 63 276 95 120 127 45 159 28 191 15 223 2.3
32 590 64 270 96 116 128 44 160 27 192 15 224 2.0

  • Make A Move Now: With Vrabel being put into the trade with the Chiefs, the Pats have an opening at outside linebacker, and if they decide not to get someone in the free agent pool (Brooks, Cato June, Freddy Keiaho), they may be looking to trade some of these picks to get someone more to their liking. Of course the big name being tossed around is Julius Peppers. Here's the thing: Carolina slapped the franchise tag on Peppers, which is worth $16.7 million. So, the whole "trimming the cap for the future" theory would be thrown out the window. If they get Peppers, they are going to immediately have to come to terms on a long-term contract that would not kill them as much in the short-term as the franchise tag would. Two other "franchised" OLBs include Karlos Dansby and Leroy Hill. Not saying that either of these two would have any chance of coming to New England, but when you look at the options, you have to look at the guys who have been franchised because they have been unable to come to terms with their current team on a long-term deal. Dansby to me is especially intriguing because he's just a phenomenal player, and would help the Pats in so many ways.
So that is the first of what will likely be many versions of the mock draft. With free agency, trades, and players rising and falling based on their pro days, it will be tough to stick by one of these until right before the draft starts. Still, it's an interesting way to track player movements and the varying degree of team needs. Hope you enjoy. Take care. Peace.


Friday, February 27, 2009

The Free Agent Flood Gates Have Opened

"And all of their lies and alibis they will have to swallow."

So I was fully aware of the fact that NFL free agency began today (sorry if I was not as forthcoming with you guys), but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how crazy this day could have been. I went to teach at 8:30, and in the span of six or so hours, about twenty players either re-signed with their teams, signed with a new team, or got traded. So, here's a little taste of everything that happened:

Washington definitely made the biggest splash today, making three huge deals. Of course the headliner was Albert Haynesworth becoming the first non-QB to net a $100 million deal. In addition to the $100 million he is set to receive over the next seven years, 41 of it is guaranteed. To put this is some perspective, Michael Vick (yes, that guy) currently holds the title of receiving the largest contract in NFL history with his 10-year, $167 million deal in which 37 (22.2%) of it was guaranteed. The amount of guaranteed money is absolutely staggering. Sure, Haynesworth was the prize of the free agent market, but was he worth this much? Of course, the 'Skins have somewhat of a reputation in being freewheeling spenders under the Daniel Snyder regime, so this can't be too, too surprising. Still, with Haynesworth's recent knee injury that kept him out of the last two regular season games this season, and the fact that he has not played a full season since '02 really makes me wonder if Washington may have overplayed their hand on this one. I was looking at Adam Schefter's columns about Haynesworth, and back just two months ago (Dec. 23 to be exact), Schefter wrote about how Haynesworth "may become the next $60 million man," and this was before the economy sunk even lower than where it was around Christmas. $40 million is quite a disparity coming from a well-respected insider that laid it down just two months ago. In no way would I say that Haynesworth is not a great player. He absolutely is, and is probably the best at his position. He's a tremendous run-stuffer, and his name was even being thrown around in the MVP discussion during the first half of this season. However, right here and right now...Washington, you got played. There is absolutely no chance in hell that Haynesworth does anything close to living up to this deal. There is nothing he can do really outside of getting 20 sacks and 50 tackles for a loss that will make him worth anywhere close to this. Also, thanks Daniel Snyder for making Vince Wilfork now completely unsignable for the Pats. Wilfork is on basically a Haynesworth-like level, albeit not completely there, he now can demand $80-90 million, which the Pats, as we all know, won't give him, thus robbing the Pats of locking up another All-Pro.

Then the 'Skins went and re-signed DeAngelo Hall to a six-year, $54 million contract, 22.5 (41.7%) of it is guaranteed. Obviously, the amount of guaranteed money will continue to grow due to the non-guaranteed contracts provided in the NFL, but offering over 40% guaranteed to Hall really makes you wonder about who is running the books in D.C. First of all, I thought it was a really good move by the 'Skins to claim Hall off waivers last year because a.) all of their DBs were hurt, and b.) Hall cost them about $300K-350K, so it was a good price to pay for a former All-Pro. However, these are severely different circumstances. First, Hall played good, but it looks as though his days of being an elite corner are behind him. Then what you have to do is look back at the last time Hall got a giant, mega-deal. You don't really have to look too far back in the past to find this because Oakland made this happen last year. In fact, the ironic thing about Hall signing a six-year deal now is that he, in theory, would have two contracts worth over $50 million that run the same length of time that would have been paid by two different teams. I don't remember this ever happening, and I assure you that I don't think the 'Skins should have made that kind of history here. Hall was a stop-gap solution that required Washington to spend little money and have no commitment. Why then do they put themselves in this kind of financial predicament? Obviously with the release of Shawn Springs, which basically coincided with the Hall re-signing, there was a hole at starting corner, and Hall is definitely an option to consider, but to pay him that kind of money up front after already faltering on a huge deal just a year ago really makes me scratch my head.

The final deal from Washington saw them bring back Derrick Dockery two years after he signed a seven-year, $49 million contract with Buffalo, a record at the time for a guard. Again, this does fill a need, but this deal is at least a somewhat savvy move. Dockery gets a five-year, $26 million deal with 8.2 (31.5%) guaranteed. A few reports coinciding with Dockery's release from Buffalo talk about how the opposing pass rushes were more effective against Buffalo's line this season than in years prior. Isn't that more of a reflection on the tackles and not the interior line? When you sign a guard, he, first and foremost, must be an effective run-blocker. In watching Buffalo last year, it was clear to me that there was nothing wrong with the inside of that line when Lynch or Jackson were driving right up the middle. So, I like this signing for the 'Skins, and I think it is a good idea to do anything possible to attempt to keep Clinton Portis healthy, which I think this may do.

The Pats were also active today. Before I get into the free-agent signings and what they potentially could be looking at, I have to comment on the Mike Vrabel trade to KC. Honestly, and this is just my opinion, but I really don't see it. Vrabel was hurt last year, but even so, the OLB depth is light. Sure, Shawn Crable should be healthy for the start of camp, and least we forget about bringing the immortal Tully Banta-Cain (who in all seriousness I love) back into the fold, but there is really no one on the roster (yet) that can do what Vrabel does for them. Also, Adalius Thomas caught the injury bug last year, and knock on wood, but what if something like that were to happen again? The pass rush was bad enough as it is, but now you take away probably the best pass rusher on the team, and suddenly, you're left with a major hole.

When I say "yet," I am referring to the fact that immediately, everyone is now proclaiming that this is all a part of some grand scheme that Belichick is planning out, and you can't really blame them can you? The only person that can outsmart Bill Belichick is Bill Belichick. So, there has to be a greater purpose to this move considering Vrabel's value and the fact that he is in the last year of his deal that is paying a respectable $4 million this year. So what is or could be going on? Well, there could be multiple things. First, and what could be perhaps the most intriguing option, is the rumored Carolina deal involving Julius Peppers and Matt Cassel. Of course, this is predicated on two things. One is that Carolina is willing to part with one of the faces of their franchise for a quarterback who has only played one year that will replace another face of the franchise (Delhomme). The second is that Peppers clearly has stated that any team that is trading for him will have to give him a long-term deal. Considering what went down with Haynesworth, my guess is that it will run someone about $80 million to sign up Peppers for six to seven years. With Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork about to become free agents next year, is that the kind of thing the Pats are willing to commit to? Of course in a fantasy world where teams would be playing year to year and they had no worries about future salary escalations, this would be a great trade for the Pats (assuming Brady is ready to go). However, financially, it may not make as much sense. The Pats are right up against the salary cap (under by $3-4 million for the time being), and with the two aforementioned Pro Bowl defensive players hitting the market next year, they may need to stockpile some kind of munitions stash for when they need to pay these guys. To me, there needs to be some logical thinking about how to replace Vrabel, and I'm just not sure Peppers is the answer. So, what else is there? Well, a couple of guys to keep an eye on are Keith Brooking, Derrick Brooks, Marcus Washington, and Cato June. Brooking and Brooks are both cap casualities from their respective NFC South employers (Tampa and Atlanta), both have at least eleven years of service (Brooking eleven and Brooks fourteen), and both have been wildly successful in their careers so far (Brooking a five-time Pro Bowler with his last appearance in '05, Brooks an eleven-time Pro Bowler who was named to the team this year), and both will get fairly short-term deals at an honest price (think of these two as Hondas for the sake of discussion). Then there is Washington and June. Washington was released by...Washington, and will be entering his tenth season. Washington is actually more of a middle linebacker than an outside guy, so his lack of flexibility in a 3-4 may hinder him. Still, if the Pats ever decided to bump Jerod Mayo to the outside, Washington is a tackling machine (recorded at least 80 tackles in four of the last six years), but has seen a decline in his production lately (I say "four of his last six" because the last two, he was under 50). Still, my guess is that Washington will be somewhere in the $2.5-$3 million figure, and assuming that Vrabel is not the last of the subtractions from the team (LaMont Jordan and Deltha O'Neal both had $2 million tags on them), then he is certainly attainable. In my mind, Cato June is a wild card. After a great campaign in Indy (recorded over 100 tackles in each of his three full seasons there), he signed on with Tampa, where he had marginal results (69 and 67 tackles respectfully in his two years there). Again, here's a guy who projects more as an inside guy (only has one sack in his entire career), but yet I feel like he has the versatility that perhaps a guy like Washington does not. June is almost built more like an outside linebacker (June is 6'0, 227 compared to Washington who is 6'3, 244), so I can see if the Pats were to try and develop June as more of an outside threat. What is clear to me is that all of a sudden, a need that the Pats really didn't have before (starter-wise, not depth-wise) has turned into a pressing one, with really no one on the team who is even close to the level that Vrabel is at, no matter how old or how many seasons Vrabel has played. In other words, it's puzzling...for now.

A move that everyone is unanimously in favor of however was the signing of Fred Taylor to a two-year deal. Again, it is pretty much a given that LaMont Jordan will be let go, leaving a vacancy in the backfield. Taylor is set to earn $5 million over the next two years. As shown in the Maurice Jones-Drew era in Jacksonville, Taylor has seen his health problems go down and his production go up (everyone today replaced the last sentence I just said with "he still has some tread left on the tires," which I think is kind of a back-handed's like "well, you're good right now, but inevitably, the tread will wear off and your career will go careening into the guard rail of post-NFL greatness"...and that's just not a nice thing to say I think). With Taylor in the fold, it looks like the Pats will once again be back to the three-headed running attack (and yes, I know, it was started by the Giants of '07 that beat the Pats...I know). If Laurence Maroney ever decides to play a whole season, this could once again become a running attack that is productive and not just there to be a decoy. I really like Taylor's game, and when you throw in Morris and Faulk, you're looking at guys who really have done everything in their careers, so they are able to step back and say "yes, I can take on a more limited role if it gets us closer to the ultimate goal, a championship." Taylor, believe it or not, is right outside the top 15 in terms of career rushing yards (11,271 yards in eleven years). So, again, everyone is raving about this deal up here, and I can't blame them.

I know I mentioned Matt Cassel before. Here's what I think would be some interesting moves that could be looked into if the Pats:
  1. Detroit gets Cassel; New England gets a 2009 first-rounder (20), third-rounder (82), and a 2010 seond-rounder (this would basically be parlaying the Roy Williams trade to Dallas into Cassel)
  2. Kansas City gets Cassel; New England gets 2009 second-rounder (34), 2010 first-rounder and third-rounder (I get the feeling that Pioli will not be wanting to trade many of his higher picks in his first year on the job, so you tack it on to next year's tab; also, who knows exactly what pick the Chiefs are giving to the Pats with the Vrabel trade?)
  3. St. Louis gets Cassel; New England gets Torry Holt, a 2009 second-rounder (35), and a 2010 third-rounder (okay, how bad ass would it be to have Torry Holt and Randy Moss on the same team?...put it this way, all the worries people would have about outside linebacker would start to subside for at least a few weeks)
Other notable splashes today:
  • Brian Dawkins to Denver: In a report that came out late on Friday, Dawkins appears to be headed to the Broncos. This was after Josh McDaniels pried away Correll Buckhalter from Philly and J.J. Arrington from 'Zona. With Dawkins in the fold, it officially puts the rest of the AFC West on notice. Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams will be back at full-strength, the offense is now even more potent...look out for Denver.
  • Bart Scott to the Jets: Obviously Rex Ryan becoming the coach of the Jets did not hurt one of the big Baltimore free-agent linebackers from signing in Jersey. Still, you have to wonder about something. The choice was really between Scott and Ray Scott better than Lewis even in Lewis' advanced stage of his career? All things considered, I will be shocked if Scott isn't released within two to three years, as I believe that, while he is definitely has talent, he is also a product of the system, and therefore, if he is asked to be "the guy" with the Jets (considering Calvin Pace has not and will not play up to his contract, and David Harris, while being very gifted, is still very young), I'm not so sure that he will be able to take on that kind of responsibility.
  • Kellen Winslow traded to Tampa: This is a very intriguing move to me on both ends. First of all, Tampa clearly upgraded its offense by obtaining a top-5 tight end for a 2009 2nd rounder and a 2010 5th rounder. Despite Winslow's injury concerns and the problems he had on and off the field in Cleveland, this is a really small price to pay considering the fact that the Bucs really have no impact players on their offense. Also, considering Tampa's QB shuffle, it stands to reason that the tight end will see a lot of looks. Then, on Cleveland's end, exactly what were they thinking here? Is this the first of some house-cleaning tactics that the new regime is taking on (the tandem of Mangini and GM George Kokins have been dubbed "ManKok"...that's one of those things you just have to say)? To me, Winslow was one of the very few players on the Browns that you knew what you were getting from when he was on the field. The guy is a playmaker, and considering Braylon Edwards decided to basically give up on himself last year, a playmaker is exactly what the team needs. Now they are going to be looking for help in a free agent market that will not yield the kind of pass-catching tight end that Winslow is. So, I think it was just too soon for Cleveland to kind of give up on Winslow like that.
  • Tennessee re-signs Kerry Collins: This isn't so much about Collins. I mean good for a 36-year old QB to get a two-year deal after coming off one of his better seasons ever, but to me, this has more to do with Vince Young than anything. What are Tennessee's plans for him? He's basically done with the Titans for the time being barring a Collins' injury. Is he available? If so, you have to wonder if anyone would take a chance on having Young be their QB. The guy is only going into his fourth season. He obviously has had a tumultuous run in Nashville, but I really don't think that it is all over for Young. I really think he has the potential to be a something special in the right environment, but at the same time, he is definitely a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, and this signing couldn't have helped his ego in knowing that he will be the backup if the stays in Tennessee for the next two season.
Top Free Agents Still Available (accompanied by's star-ranking):
  1. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Cincinnati *****
  2. Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona *****
  3. Matt Birk, G, Minnesota *****
  4. Jermaine Phillips, S, Tampa Bay *****
  5. Chris Canty, DT, Dallas ****
  6. Marvel Smith, OT, Pittsburgh ****
  7. Derrick Brooks, OLB, Tampa Bay ****
  8. Antonio Smith, DE, Arizona ****
  9. Cato June, OLB, Tampa Bay ****
  10. Rocky Bernard, DT, Seattle ****
That is pretty much all that we know right now. Stay tuned for more as it comes in. Have a great weekend everyone. Peace.