This year's trade deadline was extremely boring to follow. The biggest names dealt were SS Rafael Furcal to the Cardinals in a salary dump and OF Michael Bourne from Houston to Atlanta for Jordan Schaefer and others. Unless there are a flurry of deals announced after the 4:00pm ET deadline, Plaxico Burress signing with the Jets easily eclipses all of these moves in terms of importance.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
This may be the best free agency for a single team in NFL history. Not one, not two, not three, not four, but five significant free agent signings by one team: the Philadelphia Eagles. They have picked up four defensive starters and a solid backup quarterback to replace the departed Kevin Kolb. If they can get WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on track they should be the odds-on favorite for the Super Bowl.
Moves I loved:
Philadelphia Signs DE Cullen Jenkins: The rich just keep getting richer this free agency year. That makes four new starters for the Eagles defense and two of them (Babin and Jenkins) can really get after the quarterback and the other two (Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie) can make opposing quarterbacks pay for any mistakes made in the passing game due to increased pressure on the quarterback.
Cincinnati Signs CB Nate Clements: Losing Johnathan Joseph was tough, but the Bengals bounced back nicely with Clements, plus he can also return kicks. I don't know why anyone would want to play for owner Mike Brown, but Nate Clements has been a good soldier before playing for the disappointing 49ers and the miserable Buffalo Bills.
Peyton Manning Takes Less Money: Very rarely do you ever hear of an athlete demanding less money. The Colts have publicly stated, after Patriots QB Tom Brady received a record $18 million per year, that when the time came to negotiate QB Peyton Manning's contract that Manning will become the highest paid player in NFL history. However, no one ran that by Manning. When presented with a rumored $20 million per year contract, Manning insisted that they lower it to $18 million per year so that the Colts can have more salary cap flexibility. This is a win-win for fans because not only is it a "sacrifice," but we may see one extra commercial or Saturday Night Live appearance from the comical QB.
Moves I liked:
CB Richard Marshall Signs with Arizona: Despite giving up CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the Kevin Kolb Trade, the Cardinals may have signed a better CB in Marshall for less money. Nice fit, nice deal.
Kansas City Signs DT Gregg: Kelly Gregg was not a sexy name in free agency, nor is he a sexy man in real life. This dirty-work nose tackle will give the Chiefs more run stopping ability and will free up LB Derrick Johnson to make more plays.
Moves I hated:
None. And that is saying something.
Saturday night was a busy night for trades and might have seen more big names switch teams in MLB. Lots of moves including the Indians following up its trade for Kosuke Fukudome.
Moves I Loved:
Detroit acquiring RHPs Fister and Pauley: Doug Fister may be the most underrated starting pitcher in baseball despite his pitiful 3-10 record. He suffers from the worst run support in baseball (1.98 runs per game) and has a major league-leading three complete game loses. Throw in Pauley who used to be one of the untouchables in Boston and has been the primary set up man for the Mariners, and the Tigers have killed two birds with one stone. The price? OF Casper Wells, INF Francisco Martinez, and LHP Charlie Furbush also known as mid-level prospects. Low risk, high reward.
Boston Acquiring INF Mike Aviles from Kansas City: It is no secret that Boston is hurting at the shortstop position and Aviles has always been an underrated guy who plays both middle infield spots. This move did not get much attention from the mainstream media, but it is very possible that this move brings back the most return on investment. Boston did not have to give up any significant pieces of its vast farm system (INF Yamaico Navarro and RHP Kendall Volz) and got a bat that is well suited for the green monster.
Moves I Liked:
Cleveland Acquiring RHP Jimenez from Colorado: I don't know what's more surprising: the fact that the Rockies traded Ubaldo Jimenez or that the Indians were the team to get him. Colorado was rumored to be asking for a king's ransom and they got it from Cleveland by acquiring four prospects including the promising arms of Alex White and Joseph Gardner. The messages being sent by both teams is loud and clear: Colorado is rebuilding and Cleveland is going for it this year.
San Francisco Acquiring Orlando Cabrera from Cleveland: This may have been a salary dump for Cleveland to make room for Ubaldo Jimenez, but this is a steal for San Francisco. Cabrera is a winner. Plus, he provides excellent defense and a little pop from the shortstop position, which has been a position of need for the Giants. OF Thomas Neal is not going to see any time in Cleveland any time soon but San Francisco is positioning itself for another World Series run.
Pittsburgh Acquiring 1b Derrekk Lee: How long has it been since anyone can say that the Pittsburgh Pirates were buyers and the trade deadline? Exactly. I wasn't born yet, either. One of the best ballparks that no one goes to finally has increased intrigue with Lee coming over from Baltimore. I don't think Lee will make a huge difference, but the message it sends to the Pittsburgh fanbase is significant enough where it's a move that I like.
Moves I Hated:
Texas Acquiring Koji Uehara from Baltimore: Good for the Rangers for addressing their bullpen needs by getting Uehara from Baltimore, but the price they paid in RHP Tommy Hunter and INF Chris Davis was ridiculous. I don't understand why a team would trade a starting pitcher that has had success in the major leagues for a relief pitcher that has was battling for a closer role and lost...to Kevin Gregg. Throw in promising INF Chris Davis and you have the Orioles acing this trade when they were "selling."
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Everything was going as planned for the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded QB Kevin Kolb for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick, but even the most diehard of fans that bleed green for the Eagles have to be tickled pink when word broke that the Eagles also signed CB Nnamdi Asomugha. What did the five fingers say to the Jets....SLAP!
Moves I loved:
Nnamdi Asomugha to the Eagles: Just as everything was going as planned for the Eagles when they received a pro-bowl caliber corner for QB Kevin Kolb, the Eagles now have the most daunting CB tandem in Asomugha, Asante Samuel, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Try throwing on that. Especially with newly signed DE Jason Babin rushing the QB...yikes.
Mike Sims-Walker to the Rams: The Rams definitely needed to add a receiver and Sims-Walker should fit right into the system run by talented second-year QB Sam Bradford. With fellow WRs Donnie Avery and the yet-to-be-signed Mark Clayton presenting major injury problems, St. Louis needed to act and added a nice piece for Bradford. Say what you will about Josh McDaniel as the head coach in Denver, but he got results out of his offenses in both Denver and New England with unrealized potential at WR. Look at Randy Moss and Brandon Lloyd's before and after numbers with McDaniels. Sims-Walker may be next.
Jared Gaither to the Raiders: Coach Hue Jackson may have actually communicated with the "eclectic" Al Davis and talked some sense into him. The offensive line was Oakland's biggest weak spot last year and the drafting of Stefan Wisniewski and now the signing of Gaither, Oakland may have actually gotten better. Additionally, they let speedster Johnny Lee Higgins go to Philadelphia and not overpay him twice.
Ray Edwards to Atlanta: John Abraham finally has a pass rushing partner. Atlanta could not rush the quarterback last year and was forced to constantly blitz, leaving its secondary exposed against the likes of Green Bay. Plus, Edwards has a mean right hook.
Moves I Liked:
Brandon Mebane to the Seahawks: Seattle simply ran out of defensive lineman last year in the playoffs and got trampled by the Bears. Brandon Mebane was one of the Seahawks better performers last season and his return should be a big boost for what would have otherwise been a shoddy defensive line.
Stewart Bradley to the Cardinals: Arizona now has a guy from Philadelphia who is talented but could not find the field due to injuries on both the offensive side of the ball with QB Kevin Kolb and now on the defensive side with LB Bradley. Hopefully they will both stay healthy in the warmer climate.
Harvey Dahl to the Rams: The Rams had a quietly solid day by signing both Sims-Walker and Dahl. Dahl is an excellent offensive lineman with a mean streak. He ranks fourth on most personal foul calls against, but he makes up for them with consistent quality in both his pass and run blocking.
Dawan Landry to Jacksonville: Jacksonville is focusing on tackling this offseason with the additions of Landry and LB Paul Posluszny and who can blame them? Chris Johnson would still be running if the end zone didn't force him to stop.
Moves I Hated:
Carolina's Fully Guaranteed contract to Cam Newton: Nothing screams motivation like a fully guaranteed contract. Newton has found yet another shortcut and, this time, its to attaining his entire contract.
Another day, another trade. This time, the most talented player rumored to be available was dealt in Houston's Hunter Pence for four prospects including 1B John Singleton and RHP Jarred Cosart. Once regarded as the future of Houston's lineup, Pence will now join the likes of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley in what was already a stacked lineup. Additionally, Pence will provide solid defense in either corner outfield spot and hustle while running the bases.
For the Astros, they received decent value for the struggling Pence. They did not get the crowned jewels of the Phillies system in OF Dominic Brown or RHP Vance Worley, but Singleton is still a solid prospect. The Astros should be open to trading anyone on the team, including pitcher Wandy Rodriguez if the price is right.
In an unrelated note, the Seattle Mariners activated LHP Erik Bedard from the DL and can now listen to trade offers for the oft-injured lefty. As usual, look for the Yankees to be active in the market for a left-handed pitcher. We are in the calm before the July 31st storm that is the MLB trade deadline. Enjoy.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Day 3 was, in a word, head-scratching. The Cincinnati Bengals are head-scratchingly hypocritical by trading one disgruntled star and "not rewarding" another disgruntled star with a trade. Owner Mike Brown really has some questions to answer from his fan base why he traded Chad Ochocinco and not Carson Palmer. Bengals fans should not expect any big signings in free agency any time soon. Enough ranting, here are the facts:
Moves I love:
New England Acquires Chad Ochocinco: Sure, Tom Brady almost threw for 4,000 yards last year and had one of the more dynamic offenses last year, but no one had more than 1,000 receiving yards (Welker had 848 to lead team). When push comes to shove against the better defenses in the league, offenses need a home run hitter on the outside or out of the backfield, and New England had neither last year. Ochocinco will have nothing to complain about now and will just play football and fill the hole Randy Moss left.
New Orleans Signs Darren Sproles: I don't know why St. Louis was not more involved with the diminutive running back, but New Orleans found its replacement for Reggie Bush at a discount. The Saints may have the biggest stable of running backs, in terms of quality.
Philadelphia Trades Kevin Kolb (finally): The Kevin Kolb trade finally happened and the quarterback is heading to Arizona. This trade was a win-win with Philadelphia acquiring Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round pick and the Cardinals finally have a respectable quarterback to get wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald the ball.
Carolina Acquires Greg Olsen: Finally, Carolina made a move that makes sense. After grossly overpaying for defensive end Charles Johnson and running back DeAngelo Williams (still scratching my head on that one), the Panthers brought in a nice weapon for rookie quarterback Cam Newton for an undisclosed draft pick. Chicago defensive coordinator Mike Martz really does hate tight ends.
Moves I like:
Houston Signs Johnathan Joseph and Daniel Manning: I still contend that Houston needed Nnamdi Asomugha the most, but securing multiple quality players for the price of one is nothing to sneeze at. Joseph may not have the shut down abilities Asomugha does, but he does have better hands. Additionally, Manning at safety will provide some veteran leadership that is desperately needed for a Houston defense that is transitioning to a 3-4.
Moves I hate:
Bengals Trade Chad Ochocinco: I love this deal for the Patriots, but I hate it for the Bengals. Not only do they get terrible value back (a 5th and a 6th round pick), but they went against their own stupidly set principles regarding disgruntled players. The time to trade Ochocinco was two years ago when the rumored price was a 1st round pick plus a second round pick, but owner Mike Brown refused to trade players that are not happy. However, Brown is not adverse to cutting players that are happy with Cincinnati. This is an owner that just does not "get it."
Another day closer to the deadline and another trade announced. The Cubs have waived the white flag on another season and are accepting offers for anyone. Expect another post announcing the trading of outfielder Alfonso Soriano (perhaps to the Twins) if the Cubs will eat the majority of his contract. For Example:
Chicago Cubs Receive: Cleveland Indians Receive:
RHP Carlton Smith OF Kosuke Fukudome
OF Abner Abreu Cash
Analysis: This should be a lesson to teams like the Mariners who are refusing to trade Felix Hernandez despite the franchise's inability to compete. Not only are the Cubs getting two insignificant prospects from Cleveland, but they also are not dumping Fukudome's contract, either. Due to the cash that Cleveland will also receive, the Cubs will only effectively dump $775,000 of salary off of a guy they, for some reason, decided to give $48 million to. Ouch.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Day 2 of the 2011 NFL free agency frenzy saw trades and signings that were, mostly, really good. Even Seattle atoned for its terrible day 1.
Moves I loved:
- Seattle Signs Rice: the Seahawks may have lost their perennial quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck, but no matter if its Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst throwing the football, Sidney Rice will catch the ball. The six-foot-four receiver is a burner who also averages close to 17 yards per catch. Great signing.
- Philadelphia Signs Babin: One of the most underrated pass rushers last year in Tennessee, Jason Babin will get his money and his recognition in the pressure-based Philadelphia defense. Perfect fit at the right price.
- Jets Keep Holmes: Possibly the most important re-signing yesterday, but the Jets had to sign Holmes, even if it comes at the expense of acquiring Nnamdi Asomugha.
- San Diego Keeps Weddle: San Diego had the #1 overall defense last year and Eric Weddle was a big reason why. Now the Chargers can run out Bob Sanders (if healthy) and Weddle as one of the best safety tandems in what has become a passing league.
- Kansas City Signs Breaston: Not that the Chiefs needed a more explosive offense, but it just did. Breaston, who played well in Todd Haley's system in Arizona, will once again function as a productive slot receiver. Opposing defenses will have a hard time keeping the Chiefs off the board.
Moves I Liked:
- Miami Trades for Bush: The reason why the Dolphins trading for Reggie Bush is in the 'like' category is because I don't believe that you needed to trade for Bush. It was widely reported that Bush was going to get cut, and the Dolphins got inpatient and rushed into giving up a draft pick and a contract for someone who was going to be a free agent.
- New England Trades for Haynesworth: Another player with a troubled past joins the Patriots. How many times can this formula work in New England? Albert Haynesworth is going to be an expensive role player, but a good one nonetheless. Haynesworth does well as a pass rusher, and New England needs pass rushers, but there is the potential, however, that this move is a complete dud.
Moves I Hated
- Carolina Keeps Williams: The Panthers re-signed its oft-injured running back DeAngelo Williams, guaranteeing him $21 million! Why?! He has averaged less than 1,000 yards per season for a team that is going nowhere in the next few years. The move makes no sense and that money could have been spent in one of the many areas the Panthers have holes. Why they chose to spend it in a position that would have already seen a time share between the promising talents of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson is beyond me. Maybe the Panthers like logjams...
- San Francisco Cuts Clements: The 49ers had a terrible pass defense last year and they just decided to cut their best cornerback. Unless they land Nnamdi Asomugha, this was a huge mistake.
- Cincinnati Letting Palmer Retire: The Bengals are resting on principles that only hurt its fans. Instead of getting draft picks and/or players for quarterback Carson Palmer, they are going to get nothing, and put a sub par team on the field. Cincinnati is the only team in the AFC North not trending upwards and could find themselves in the battle for Andrew Luck, when they already drafted Andy Dalton. Additionally, what free agent is going to want to sign a contract to play for owner Mike Brown now?
What a busy day 2. Day 3 should bring us trades for Kevin Kolb and Kyle Orton. Stay tuned.
In the sea of football free-agency, baseball had 5 seconds of air time because there was not one, but two trades!
San Francisco Giants Strike Deal for Mets Outfielder Carlos Beltran:
The blockbuster of the day saw one New York baseball club strike a deal with a former New York baseball club.
Giants Received: Mets Received:
Carlos Beltran Zack Wheeler
$4 million cash
Analysis: The World Series champion Giants filled a huge void with Beltran's bat and speed by giving up its top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. Additionally, the Mets agreed to cover $4 million of the $6.5 million still owed to Beltran. If this was any other team, I would be screaming about how you should never trade a top pitching prospect for a rental player, but the Giants are littered with good pitching. In fact, when Johnathan Sanchez comes back, the Giants will have four starting pitchers in their rotation under the age of 30 (Lincecum, Cain, Bumbarner, and Sanchez). San Francisco will now have an abundance of outfielders (five for three spots) and will have to dole out playing time creatively. Look for the Giants to make another move involving one of the outfielders not named Carlos Beltran. As for the Mets, the firesale is on and SHOULD include the trade of Jose Reyes, but probably won't. Wheeler was a good bounty for a declining star who never truly lived up to his Houston and Kansas City days. The two big questions that remain for the Mets are: do they trade Jose Reyes and/or David Wright?
Blue Jays Strike Deal For Cardinals' Rasmus in Three-Team Deal:
The St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, and Toronto Blue Jays worked out an eleven-player deal highlighted by Colby Rasmus, Edwin Jackson, and Corey Patterson changing addresses.
Cardinals Received: White Sox Received: Blue Jays Received:
Edwin Jackson Jason Frasier Colby Rasmus
Octavio Dotel Zach Stewart Mark Teahen
Corey Patterson Trever Miller
Analysis: The Cardinals are taking a huge risk that Rasmus, the best hitting prospect to come out of St. Louis since Albert Pujols, doesn't achieve his potential in Toronto. Whenever a team gives up the best player in a deal, there's always a risk involved, but St. Louis has a track record of trading hitting for pitching (Ryan Ludwick for Jake Westbrook in last year's three-team deal). However, the deal does bolster the Cardinals rotation that lost its ace Adam Wainwright, and bolsters the bullpen with Octavio Dotel and Kyle McClellan being forced out of the rotation witht he addition of Edwin Jackson. Toronto has no downside in this trade because they didn't give up much, prospect-wise, to acquire one of the best five-tool talents in the outfield with Rasmus, but they did take on some financial dead-weight in Teahen. Overall, the risk is well worth the potential reward for Toronto. As far as the White Sox are concerned, this smells like a preliminary deal to trim some salary before general manager Kenny Williams strikes his big deal, perhaps for Mariners pitcher Jason Vargas or Erik Bedard. Time will tell on whether the White Sox are sellers or making room to be buyers.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Starting at 7:00am yesterday, free agency unofficially began. There was tons of speculation and some very interesting verbal commitments made. Here are the highlights of day 1 in NFL free agency.
Moves I Loved:
- Paul Posluszny to Jacksonville: Buffalo Bills fans are used to losing, but this one will sting. By far the Bills best defensive player when healthy, Posluszny will be captaining and bringing some bite to what was a toothless defense last year. He will have to make the adjustment from a 3-4 to a 4-3, but he is smart enough and talented enough to do just that.
- Takeo Spikes to San Diego: Spikes brings some toughness and leadership to what was a defense that lacked both when the times got tough. Reuniting Spikes with defensive coordinator Greg Manusky makes all the sense in the world in an effort to get off to a good start in San Diego, for once.
- Quintin Mikell to St. Louis: Losing O.J. Atogwe to Washington before the lockout began definitely stung St. Louis, but Mikell is a more than serviceable replacement who can provide some grit, toughness, and leadership to a young and emerging defense in the NFC.
- Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Leinart to Seattle: Letting go of Matt Hasselbeck was a bad enough mistake, but to replace him with what will be a revolving door consisting of Charlie Whitehurst, Tarvaris Jackson, and Matt Leinart just plain silly. Seattle was dating a 7 and dumped her for a 3, a 2, and 1. Doesn't make much sense at all.
- Philadelphia cutting Stewart Bradley: The Eagles better hope that Bradley does not go to someone in the division, like the Giants, because then this move will burn them twice a year. Bradley is a talented linebacker whose absence was definitely felt last year. If Bradley can stay healthy, this move will strongly benefit whichever team he ends up signing with.
Day 2 of free agency is set to begin with more mind-boggling goodness. In the words of the wise Jets linebacker Bart Scott, "CAN'T WAIT!"
Monday, July 25, 2011
In my previous articles about free agency, I did not even include the guys who could easily become cap casualties like Chad Johnson (formerly Ochocinco and Johnson), Marion Barber, Derek Anderson, and Reggie Bush just to name a few. Due to the fact that there will be hundreds of official transactions per day starting this Friday and even more rumors starting tomorrow (Tuesday), I just used the official free agent list with a couple of exceptions like Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb who are commonly considered to be trade pieces this offseason. These next couple of weeks will be organized chaos that will leave every general manager and player agent absolutely exhausted. However, it makes for great drama and entertainment for us, the fans! Cheers...and enjoy!
Last, but not least, is the division with the best team in football, the San Diego Chargers. Snapping back to reality, the AFC West is straight up terrible. If it weren't for the NFC West, this would be the worst division in football. Hopefully, someone has woken up Raiders Owner Al Davis and told him that the lockout is over for he abstained from voting on the new collective bargaining agreement. Furthermore, the Chargers could be one of the most active teams along with the New York Jets in free agency due to its high number of free agents, including its entire ILB and WR core. Needless to say that this division could stand to improve via this crazy free agency period.
Denver Broncos Top Needs: Running Back, Defensive Line
Top Targets: Even though Denver already has high hopes for Knowshon Moreno, he has not given Denver anything to really believe in. A nice cure for that is to pair him with a guy who is used to sharing carries with a promising running back: DeAngelo Williams or Ahmad Bradshaw. Williams has plenty of experience with new Denver head coach John Fox in Carolina and would blend right into the fabric of the franchise. Additionally, due to the teams shift from a 3-4 to a 4-3, the right defensive line guys will be necessary. Drafting Von Miller was a great pick and Elvis Dumervile is due back from injury, but Jamaal Williams is not an effective option as a 4-3 defensive tackle, so the Broncos really need to find some defensive tackle help. Brandon Mebane, Pat Williams, and Barry Coefield would be good fits in John Fox's system.
Kansas City Chiefs Top Needs: Nose Tackle, Offensive Line
Top Targets: Even though nose tackle is their #1 need, look for the Chiefs to be very active in the offensive line market going after big names like Matt Light or Jermon Bushrod. If the Chiefs go after a nose tackle, look for them to go after Aubrayo Franklin or Gerard Warren. If they fill both needs, it will prove that last year was no fluke in Kansas City.
Oakland Raiders Top Needs: Non-Senile Owner
Top Targets: Look for Oakland to bring back tight end Zach Miller relatively quickly as their first order of business. As for everyone else, no one knows what owner Al Davis will do next, but my best guess is that he will look into replacing Nnamdi Asomugha with someone flashy like Antonio Cromartie and will most likely overpay him, as well. Go Oakland Abstainers!
San Diego Chargers Top Needs: Linebackers, Wide Receivers
Top Targets: The Chargers, like the Jets, will have a ton of work to do in the coming days. Eric Weddle appears to be the first signing the Chargers will make, but that might change if general manager A.J. Smith looks at the depth chart and realizes that there is no one at wide receiver or inside linebacker. Expect one of either Stephen Cooper or Kevin Burnett to be re-signed, but wide receiver is a much trickier position to project. Depending on what the outcome of Vincent Jackson's kicking and screaming is will determine the fate of Malcolm Floyd. One or the other will survive the salary cap chopping block, but not both. Expect the chargers to look into Randy Moss if the price is right, for he would fit perfectly into the Chargers' deep routes and big play offense.
This division has been ruled by the Colts ever since Peyton Manning entered the NFL. However, this could be the year that that changes. Houston looks like it is in prime position to take this division over with its high powered offense and a pass defense that can not possibly get any worse under new defensive coordinator Wade Philips. Free agency may put Houston over the top.
Houston Texans Top Needs: Anyone that can defend the pass
Top Targets: Nnamdi Asomugha makes all the sense in the world here, no matter what the price. that will give Wade Philips the ability to blitz from everywhere and anywhere knowing that one half of the field will be patrolled by the best cornerback in football. To put Asomugha in perspective, opposing teams have completed 52 passes against him....IN THREE YEARS! Yeah, he's really good despite not getting any interceptions last year. If the Texans get no one else in free agency, it would have been a success, however safety Gerald Sensabaugh will likely be a part of Wade Philips' plans having worked with him last year in Dallas.
Indianapolis Colts Top Needs: Safety, Running Back
Top Targets: With the oft-injured Bob Sanders now taking his medical records to San Diego, The Colts are left without any presence in the defensive backfield. However, signing Quintin Mikell would serve as a more than serviceable replacement for Sanders. Fantasy football players know better than anyone how frustrating the running back situation in Indy was last year. Both Donald Brown and Joseph Addai were extremely disappointing and even gave way to Mike Hart last season. Darren Sproles will certainly be looked at along with Ahmad Bradshaw and DeAngelo Williams. Whoever lands in that backfield will instantly benefit from Peyton Manning's exceptional play-action fakes.
Jacksonville Jaguars Top Needs: Linebacker, Safety
Top Targets: Eric Weddle would be quite the catch for what has been a consistently terrible pass defense, but it looks like San Diego is going to find a way to bring Weddle back. Quintin Mikell, Dawan Landry, and George Wilson would serve as nice consolation prizes, though. Jacksonville tried to bolster its linebackers by acquiring Kirk Morrison, but it never really panned out and Morrison will likely leave via free agency this year. Barrett Ruud, Stephen Tulloch, or reuniting with Mike Peterson would be good options to bolster what has been a failing defense.
Tennessee Titans Top Needs: Offensive Line, Veteran Quarterback
Top Targets: Look for the Titans to be a darkhorse in the race for Matt Hasselbeck or Donovan McNabb so they can usher in the Jake Locker era in Tennessee. No matter who plays quarterback, they will need a better interior offensive line to keep them upright, and for Chris Johnson to have some easier runs. Ryan Kalil, Deuce Lutui, and Harvey Dahl are the top candidates for what Tennessee needs.
The AFC North is the division that most resembles its fanbase: hard-working, blue collar players (even though they often make millions) who put the team ahead of their own personal goals. With that being said, look for the teams in this division to pay out millions upon millions in this year's free agency class.
Baltimore Ravens Top Needs: Offensive Line, Youth on defense
Top Targets: Look for the Ravens to give Matt Roth a call early in free agency to address what has been a lackluster pass rush outside of Terrell Suggs. Additionally, look for Baltimore to not allow Ray Rice to have another lackluster season and acquire more depth on the offensive line. Guys like Jermon Bushrod, Matt Light, and re-signing Jared Gaither will be top priorities for the Ravens this offseason.
Cincinnati Bengals Top Needs: Safety, Running Back
Top Targets: With Cedric Benson getting into trouble with the law again, look for the Bengals to allow him to sign with another team. Especially since guys like DeAngelo Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Ronnie Brown will also be available. To help shore up its pass defense, look for Cincinnati to target a guy like George Wilson, Tom Zbikowski, or Melvin Bullitt.
Cleveland Browns Top Needs: Wide Receiver, Defensive Line
Top Targets: Cleveland decided to pass on Julio Jones and focus on defense in the draft. Now, it's time to land a top flight wide receiver to help out promising young quarterback Colt McCoy, who had a surprisingly nice season last year with very little help. The Dawg Pound should be holding up signs saying Sidney Rice or Bust. If not Rice, Terrell Owens, Malcolm Floyd, or Steve Breaston would fit in nicely in Cleveland. Also look for Cleveland's new-look 4-3 defense to add a veteran to help the younger players adapt to the new playbook. Defensive end Ray Edwards would go a long way towards supplying some stability to what has been a shaky defense the past few years.
Pittsburgh Steelers Top Needs: Cornerback, Running Back
Top Targets: Pittsburgh needs to re-sign cornerback Ike Taylor before looking at anyone else. Taylor has been an anchor on the defensive back seven along with Troy Polamalu. To go alongside Taylor, look for Pittsburgh to target a lesser known guy like Paul Oliver, Roderick Hood, or Chris Houston. I know it's strange that a team with Rashard Mendenhall needs another running back, but Mendenhall's fumbling problems could be a product of overuse. Someone like Darren Sproles, Kevin Smith, or Tim Hightower to help take the load off of Mendenhall.
If not for the lowly Buffalo Bills, this division would be the most difficult in football and not the most top-heavy. Unfortunately, I happen to live in an area where all I hear about is how hard the Bills play and that they give 12-4 effort but wind up 4-12 every year. This division will also see a lot of free agent action because the Jets have the potential to lose a multitude of key players (Cromartie, Edwards, and Holmes) and the Patriots have issues with Logan Mankins (again) and Banta-Cain just had surgery. Not to mention the fact that the Dolphins may be losing their entire backfield with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams as potential free agents. Only safe bets here are that the Jets and Patriots will make smart moves.
Buffalo Bills Top Needs: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Top Targets: Buffalo can not let linebacker Paul Posluszny leave. Even though he can not seem to stay healthy for an entire season, Posluszny has looked like a captain of that defense for the next decade when he plays. Buffalo hit a grand slam by drafting defensive lineman Marcel Dareus to help free up more space for a player like Posluszny to make more plays, but there needs to be some more depth in the front seven. Guys like Stephen Cooper, D'Qwell Jackson, and Ernie Sims are guys that can step in and make a difference in week 1. Whether or not the Bills decide to go that direction is a completely different story.
Miami Dolphins Top Needs: Quarterback, Running Back
Top Targets: The Dolphins are the darkhorse team in the Kevin Kolb sweepstakes. If they could land him, it would go a long way correcting what was a truly disappointing 7-9 record last season. If not, look for Miami to bring in a veteran like Kyle Orton, Donovan McNabb, or Matt Hasselbeck to challenge Chad Henne for the starting gig. To help support whoever plays quarterback, Miami could target a veteran running back in free agency like DeAngelo Williams, but should also take a look at guys like Michael Bush, Reggie Bush, and Ahmad Bradshaw should they be available.
New England Patriots Top Needs: Pass Rushers, Wide Receivers
Top Targets: It's hard to criticize the Patriots due to their recent success, but it seems like they have yet to cash in on all of those draft picks they have acquired over the years. The window is closing on their Super Bowl window and they need to make a splash in free agency if the salary cap allows them to. With news coming that pass rusher Tully Banta-Cain has undergone surgery recently and may not be ready to start the season, the Patriots are in desperate need of an elite pass rusher. Should he be available, Cullen Jenkins could be the best threat the Patriots have had defensively since they traded away Richard Seymour to the Raiders. As far as wide receivers go, don't rule out a reunion with previously disgruntled Randy Moss as a possibility along with Terrell Owens, Sidney Rice, and Malcolm Floyd.
New York Jets Top Needs: Wide Receiver, Cornerback
Top Targets: Hard to say a team needs a cornerback if it already has Darelle Revis, but Rex Ryan's unique pressure-based defense depends on having two lock down cornerbacks who excel in man-to-man coverage. Antonio Cromartie was a perfect fit opposite Revis, but has stated that he will follow the money and not the best chance to win, and the Jets will need to get creative if they want to sign Cromartie and stay under the cap with its other need: wide receiver. Santonio Holmes, Brad Smith and Braylon Edwards are set to become free agents and the Jets can ill-afford to lose both of them. My guess is that they will re-sign Holmes, but that leaves a gaping hole on the other side of the offensive formation. The Jets will not have the cap space to make a big splash like Sidney Rice but look for them to target a solid #2 guy like Mark Clayton, James Jones, or even T.J. Houshmandzadeh if the price is right.
The worst division in football created a playoff team without a .500 record in Seattle (7-9) that looked to be the worst playoff team ever, but they won a game! That's the beauty of football and a one-and-done playoff format. Hopefully, this division gets a little better and challenges the AFC West for the worst division in football, but free agency will help determine that.
Arizona Cardinals Top Needs: Quarterback, Quarterback, Quarterback
Top Targets: Arizona needs a quarterback. I repeat, Arizona needs a quarterback. I can not overstate that. Arizona is not a bad football team except at the quarterback position, which really brought the team down. It has been widely reported that Kevin Kolb will get traded to Arizona. Whatever Arizona gives up in that deal to get Kolb (i.e. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), it will need to get that back via free agency. Regardless of who they give up, look for Arizona to add some offensive line to help protect the investment in Kolb.
San Francisco 49ers Top Needs: Wide Receiver, Defensive Line
Top Targets: The reason why quarterback is not on this list is because San Francisco has made it abundantly clear that Alex Smith will be its starting quarterback going forward by giving him a playbook before this 132-day lockout. One thing that makes every quarterback better are good wide receivers. Michael Crabtree has been a disappointment so far and Vernon Davis can only do so much as a tight end, so look for the niners to go after guys like Braylon Edwards, Steve Smith, or Sidney Rice to provide Smith with a big, dependable target. Also, despite drafting some pass rushers in the draft, San Francisco could use a run stuffer in the middle like Gerrard Warren.
Seattle Seahawks Top Needs: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Top Targets: Seattle is fooling itself if they believe that Tavaris Jackson can replace Matt Hasselbeck. One thing is clear, the Charlie Whitehurst trade was not a good one for Seattle. On the defensive side, stopping the run has to be priority number one, and that starts in the middle. Seattle would really make quite the splash if it lands Pat Williams, but could settle for someone of Shaun Cody's ilk.
St. Louis Rams Top Needs: Wide Receiver, Running Back
Top Targets: St. Louis was one of the most improved teams last year, but just didn't have enough to squeak into the playoffs. Outside of Steven Jackson and rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, the Rams did not have any offensive punch last season, and there are some significant free agents on the offensive side of the ball. Look for St. Louis to bring in Darren Sproles to help lift the load off of Jackson. Additionally, Donnie Avery will come back from his season ending injury last season to provide some help at the wide receiver position with Laurent Robinson, but no one really scares opposing defenses enough to stop keying in on Jackson and Bradford. Look for St. Louis to be a part of the Plaxico Burress race as well as Sidney Rice, Vincent Jackson (should he become a free agent), and Malcolm Floyd.
Everyone in this division seems completely turn themselves around in one year, so that means that Cam Newton is going to lead the Panthers to the promise land this year! Seriously though, here are some predictions that have a better chance of being correct.
Atlanta Falcons Top Needs: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
Top Targets: Atlanta made the sexy trade during the draft to acquire Julio Jones, so I don't think that the new salary cap will be free agent friendly for the Falcons. Look for the Falcons to make more low key signings like Doug Free if Dallas makes a mistake and lets him hit the market. Perhaps the Falcons make a run at Charles Johnson to help John Abraham get to opposing teams quarterbacks.
Carolina Panthers Top Needs: Defensive Line, Wide Receiver
Top Targets: I am on record saying that the Panthers made a huge mistake not taking defensive tackle Marcel Dareus first overall in this year's draft. Instead, they opted for the overhyped Cam Newton who may or may not translate to the NFL. Now, the Panthers are looking at having one of the worst defenses in the NFL if they lose Charles Johnson that will allow opposing teams to tee off on Cam Newton in obvious passing situations. It's a good thing that Newton knows how to run for his life. The Panthers can target anyone and it would be an improvement. No need to list individuals. First priority should be to re-sign Charles Johnson.
New Orleans Saints Top Needs: Linebacker, Safety
Top Targets: Before New Orleans addresses its needs, they need to first deal with Reggie Bush. Depending on whether or not they can rework his contract or if he eventually gets cut, Darren Sproles may become a nice target for the Saints. Regardless, the Saints do need to shore up what was a "Snookie on Bourbon Street" sloppy defense. Guys like Rocky McIntosh and Clint Session are names that might pop up on New Orleans' radar.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Top needs: Offensive Line, Defensive Backs
Top Targets: Re-signing guard Davin Joseph could go a long way towards solidifying Tampa Bay's offensive line, but Doug Free could also be an option for Tampa. Ike Taylor, Johnathan Joseph, and Richard Marshall could be guys to help in both coverage and against the run.
Home to the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, the NFC North might be the most competitive division in football with the Detroit Lions making huge strides towards being a respectable franchise. Could be the division where everyone wins at least 8 games. Here's how the division's free agency picture looks.
Chicago Bears Top Needs: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
Top Targets: Look for the Bears to re-sign the not-so-lean and mean Olin Kreutz who gives that offensive line its toughness. However, the Bears need to keep quarterback Jay Cutler upright for those long routes that offensive coordinator Mike Martz loves to call. Other good options for that purpose are Doug Free, Carl Nicks, and Ryan Kalil. On the defensive side, getting to the quarterback needs to be a priority because the Bears are always stout against the run with their linebacking core. Jason Babin is a hard working defensive end that could go a long way towards making the Chicago defense the toughest in the league, but Charles Johnson, Ray Edwards, and Cliff Avril could also work out nicely.
Detroit Lions Top Needs: Cornerback, Linebacker, Anyone who can cover
Top Targets: Nmandi Asomugha is the only guy that could solve the Lions pass defense by himself, but Asomugha has stated that he wants to go to a team that could contend immediately. Another option could be, Even though he can't catch, Carlos Rogers. He is an elite cover corner and will be able to give the Lions scary-good defensive line more time to get to the Quarterback. Other options could be Johnathan Joseph, Eric Wright, or Drayton Florence. At linebacker, Stephen Tulloch would go a long way to provide some leadership for what is an inexperienced linebacking core. Other good options would be Barrett Ruud, Rocky McIntosh, or D'Qwell Jackson.
Green Bay Packers Top Needs: Defensive Line, Linebacker
Top Targets: Cullen Jenkins will be the key to the Packers offseason. If Green Bay is able to resign the elite 3-4 defensive end, then the packers can shift their attention to creating some depth in the linebacking core and the offensive line. Look for Green Bay to stay relatively quiet in the free agent market (other than Jenkins) and look for more depth guys like Thomas Howard, Jacques Cesaire, and Marcus Spears on the defensive side of the ball and Deuce Lutui, Olin Kreutz, and Jonathan Goodwin on the offensive line.
Minnesota Vikings Top Needs: Quarterback, Wide Receiver
Top Targets: Look for Minnesota to aggressively pursue quarterback Donovan McNabb with plan B being Matt Hasselbeck to help usher in the Christian Ponder era in 2012. No matter who is throwing the ball, there needs to be someone to catch it, and with top target Sidney Rice becoming a free agent, there needs to be a focus on getting guys that can catch the ball. There are a ton of options from the big names of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Santonio Holmes to the lesser known Malcolm Floyd, Steve Breaston, and James Jones. No matter which way the Vikings decide to go, they must go one of those routes.
NFL Free Agency is going to "begin" today. Teams will be able to negotiate with players, but not officially sign them until the players union officially reforms this weekend. Rumors will be flying all day, every day. Here are some predictions on who goes where and why. We start with one of the toughest divisions in football: the NFC East.
Dallas Cowboys Top Needs: Safety, Offensive Line
Top Targets: At safety, Eric Weddle is the best option for new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's aggressive defense, but Michael Huff, who has played in Rob Ryan's defense in Oakland, might be a more fiscally responsible for the Cowboys because Dallas will need to spend money solidifying its offensive line, specifically at tackle. Look for Dallas to make a run at offensive tackle Jeromey Clary.
New York Giants Top Needs: Running Back, Linebacker
Top Targets: The good news for the Giants is that there are a number of solid options at linebacker in this free agency class. From James Anderson and Thomas Davis as outside linebackers to Barrett Ruud and Stephen Tulloch as inside linebackers, the Giants will have their pick of the litter. At running back, re-signing Ahmad Bradshaw should be New York's first order of business. If not, the Giants can make a run at DeAngelo Williams, Ronnie Brown, or Darren Sproles, but Bradshaw is a better fit than all other options in a year where familiarity is as important as talent.
Philadelphia Eagles Top Needs: Cornerback, Linebacker, Pass Rushers
Top Targets: Philadelphia is one of the real possibilities for the crown jewel of this NFL offseason: Nmandi Asomugha. If the Eagles decide to go for a more cost effective option, Antonio Cromartie, Brent Grimes, and Jonathan Joseph are available, but are a significant drop-off from Asomugha. The Eagles will also target the same linebacker targets as the Giants.
Washington Redskins Top Needs: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Top Targets: Head Coach Mike Shanahan has created quite the mess at the Quarterback position alienating his best option in Donovan McNabb in favor of "Sexy Rexy" Rex Grossman and John Beck. If I knew what Washington was going to at Quarterback, I would be a very rich man. However, I am not, and the mystery will continue all the way through training camp culminating in what will most likely be a revolving door at Quarterback throughout the season. On the defensive line, Cullen Jenkins makes a whole lot of sense for a defense that could not create turnovers. Jenkins is a relentless pass rusher and could create more space for upstart Brian Orakpo. Other nice fits could be Marcus Spears, Shaun Ellis, or Mathias Kiwanuka.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Hello everyone, I am back and better than ever. In case you have not been following me on Facebook or Twitter @SportsByGotti, I got married and bought a house and could not be happier with both. Now that the sports world will be picking up speed in the upcoming weeks with the NFL returning soon, the MLB trade deadline, and the impending season cancellation in the NBA, we have stuff to talk about! Times, they are a-changin', and whenever NFL training camps open, free agency will be opening as well. This could be the busiest day in sports history, transaction-wise, with hundreds of moves happening per day. With the proposed collective bargaining agreement, teams will have to reach new salary cap minimums and roster sizes prior to preseason starting, and there will be plenty of cuts and additions. In the coming days, I will do a free-agent preview for each team. Additionally, there will be daily reactions to any trades made in Major League Baseball, and if anyone wants to read my coverage on the Flames and/or Hurricanes in the NHL, go to the CBS sports website and my player outlooks will be posted for those two teams shortly. Finally, for the rest of you fantasy sports nerds like myself, I will be live blogging throughout the fantasy football season based on the "1127 out of business" league on ESPN (you can view this league, but not touch). As always, fantasy sports questions are welcomed on SportsByGotti the website, the Facebook, and/or the Twitter. As New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott famously said, "CAN'T WAIT"