Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quarterback Carousel and Other News

With Peyton Manning touring the country and RG3 headed to Washington, I thought it might be time for some sprawling thoughts on the NFL. After all, this is the least engrossing NCAA tournament I've ever seen, baseball is still three weeks away, my two favorite NBA players have suffered season-ending injuries (Chauncey and Rubio), and the Heat have already won the next 3 NBA titles. Did I mention, I haven't even looked at a bracket yet this year?

I was going to delve into a "What happened to college basketball?" dissertation, but then I realized ... I don't even care. So let's talk about football.

The Draft is about six weeks away, but the top 3 picks are already set in stone. Indy will take Luck, Washington will take RG3, and the Vikings will pick left tackle Matt Kalil. I don't recall a draft ever being that clear a month ahead of time.

We've known Luck was going #1 forever, but it became officially official when the Colts released Peyton. Luck is going to be a star, but I don't know how good he'll be as a rookie. Can't wait to watch him.

In order to secure the #2 pick, Washington gave St. Louis their #6 pick this year and their first round picks in the 2013 and 2014 drafts, along with a future second-rounder. This trade will be great for one team and terrible for the other, and, if I may play the "obvious card," it will depend on how good RG3 is.

If Griffin totally sucks, combined with the Rams sucking again, St. Louis could be picking TWICE in the top 5 next year. Heck, they could theoretically have the #1 and #2 pick. With the new rookie wage scale, that wouldn't actually be a death sentence; it would be amazing.

But if Griffin is fantastic, and the Rams improve under Jeff Fisher, St. Louis could end up with two picks in the 20s. That would make this trade a disaster for St. Louis, because by giving up the #2 pick this year they lost out on Kalil, who will undoubtedly be one of the best offensive linemen in football as soon as next season.

Most realistically, Washington and St. Louis will both win between 5 and 7 games and the Rams will be picking 10th and 15th next year. Not bad. Plus, they could trade both of those picks up to #1 if they want to give up on Sam Bradford and take Matt Barkley.

The biggest winner in the RG3 trade was Minnesota, who gets Kalil at pick #3. The biggest losers are the Lions, Bears and Packers. Just sayin.

At pick #4, the Browns smartly bowed out of the RG3 auction and kept their picks. They are being criticized for not wanting to give up pick #22 in this year's draft in order to obtain a potential franchise QB, but the reality is they would've had to give up a 2013 first rounder as well, and that's probably a top 5 pick, maybe a #1 pick. In other words, I think Holmgren did the right thing; if the reward was Andrew Luck, I absolutely would have traded 3 first round picks to get him. But I'm not as sold on RG3 as everyone else.

Admittedly, I wasn't sold on Cam Newton either. But this is different. Newton dominated the SEC, which I've come to realize is a really big deal (do you realize Alabama's defense alone could yield 5 first round picks?). Griffin put up monster stats against Stephen F. Austin University, and I'm still not very impressed by that. Remember how Denard Robinson runs for 350 yards against Central Michigan every September? Isn't that basically what Griffin3 did last year?

We'll see. Maybe Griffin will be Cam Newton 2.0. He's smaller, albeit faster, than Newton, but with less of a cannon. Everyone says he can make all the throws at the NFL level, but I'll believe that when I see him play against NFL defenses.

With that said, let's review the crazy happenings of the last 48 hours.

  • Brandon Marshall punches a woman in a club at 4am, then gets traded to the Bears the next day for 3rd round picks. But because the word "allegedly" is used, he won't get in any trouble. What a bunch of bull. As a Lions fan, I should be worried that the Bears addressed their biggest weakness, but I'm still not sold on Jay Cutler as a winning quarterback. It's not like those Cutler-Marshall Bronco teams were making the playoffs.
  • That said, Marshall-to-the-Bears gives the Lions one more reason to fix their secondary. Unfortunately, we lost Eric Wright to Tampa, and Cortland Finnegan (who had the Jim Schwartz connection) signed with St. Louis. The other marquee CB was Brandon Carr, who signed with Dallas.
  • Other worthwhile CBs, such as Carlos Rogers, Terrell Thomas, Rashean Mathis, re-signed with their current teams. So in other words, the Lions better address the CB issue in the draft.
  • Two names that haven't popped up yet on the Free Agent Tracker are Stephen Tulloch and Cliff Avril. It will be very tough for Detroit to keep both guys, especially after shelling out $132 million ($60 guaranteed) to Calvin Johnson. Speaking of which ...
  • Yeah that's a lot of money. But there's not a person on the face of the planet who can do what Calvin Johnson can do, and in terms of supply & demand, it makes sense for him to be paid accordingly. As a Lions fan, I'll gladly pitch in $50 towards this contract. The dude earned it, and kudos to the Ford family for keeping Megatron in Detroit.
  • The concern whenever somebody signs a monstrous deal like this is that laziness will follow. You could ask Albert Haynesworth or all the a-holes on this list about that. But Calvin isn't that kind of guy. I have no worries about this deal.
  • I think Avril will be gone soon. Pass-rushers get insane money these days (Charles Johnson got what, $72 million last year?). Whoever signs him for 5-years, $65 million is going to realize that he isn't the same player without a certain Suh next to him. I say good riddance. Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young can get the job done for 10% of the money.
  • However, if we do lose Avril, make no mistake: Schwartz will spend our 1st round pick on a DE, and defend himself by saying KVB is getting old and we just lost Avril, and we'll all nod and say "Yeah, that makes sense," while realizing that means another season of Backus and Alphonso Smith. Kind of like what happened last year with Fairley. Remember, at all times, Schwartz is thinking to himself "Sacks, sacks, sacks, sacks ..."
  • If we lose Avril, that likely means we retain Tulloch, who will probably take less money to stay in Detroit anyway. That means we've got the 3 starters at linebacker (Levy, Tulloch, Durant) figured out for 2012. Also, don't forget we've got LeShoure coming back at running back, which is like having another 1st round rookie.
  • Other noteworthy free agent deals from around the NFL:
  • Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks (1st team All Pro guard) to the Bucs - 5 years each.
  • That's two splashy moves for the Tampa offense, who also has the #5 pick. They could add a stud CB (Claiborne) or RB (Richardson) with that pick, or a much-needed pass-rusher. Tampa is making some noticeable moves with the abundant cap space they have, and they deserve credit for stealing a key player from a division rival. However, I'm going to plagiarize and say: " Players who come from great franchises and go to bad teams solely for the money seldom pan out." I have my doubts about Nicks, and to a lesser degree, V-Jack. Maybe the reason Nicks was so good on the Saints had something to do with Drew Brees? And maybe Jackson benefited from having Philip Rivers throw him the ball?
  • Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to the Redskins; Robert Meachem to the Chargers; Laurent Robinson to the Jags. All of those guys got WAAY too much money. Other receivers, such as Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, and DeSean Jackson, stayed with their teams, and were all paid properly. I'm really surprised Wayne isn't following Manning to Denver/Tennessee/Arizona/Miami.
  • I'm not even going to mention Randy Moss and his 1-year deal with the 49ers. Let's wait and see if he even makes the team.
  • Madden Cover Boy Peyton Hillis spent last season faking illnesses and pissing off the Cleveland front office, then signed with KC as a backup running back for a whopping 1 year, $3 million. The Curse lives.
  • A whole bunch of backup quarterbacks moved around - Chad Henne to the Jags, Jason Campbell to the Bears, Kyle Orton to the Cowboys. Each one of these signings will end up being important in the inevitable events of injuries to Romo and Cutler and the benching of Blaine Gabbert.
  • A ton of really good players re-signed with their current teams. Ahmad Brooks with the 49ers, Dqwell Jackson with the Browns, Sione Pouha with the Jets, Nick Hardwick with the Chargers, Red Bryant with the Seahawks, Paul Soliai with the Dolphins, Mathis with the Colts, Finley with the Packers, Cole with the Eagles, Foster with the Texans. The one I disagree with the most is Steve Johnson re-signing with the Bills for 5 years, $36 million. Never pay a #2 receiver like he's a #1 receiver.
  • A couple of superstars are pissed about the dreaded "franchise tag." Namely, Drew Brees and Matt Forte. Both will play for their respective teams in 2012, but maybe not very happily.
  • The two most important free agents are yet to be signed, and will hopefully make a decision within the day. Peyton Manning, of course, and Mario Williams. Both among the 10 best players in football, both coming off season-ending injuries. Manning, as you know, is deciding between the Broncos, Titans, Cardinals, and maybe Dolphins. Williams seems headed to either Buffalo for max money, for Houston for loyalty and the hometown discount. I don't have any solid predictions, just total guesses. I see Peyton going to Nashville and Mario to Buffalo. I'm just glad both guys are staying in the AFC.
  • Just as I was typing this list, the Saints made a huge move to replace Carl Nicks, signing Ben Grubbs from Baltimore, who might actually be the best guard in football. They got him for less money, and Tampa is in a collective state of nausea right now.
  • So if Peyton goes to Denver, what does that mean for Tim Tebow? Does he remain the backup? Does Denver bring in a real backup and make Tebow the trick-play-guy-and-two-point-conversion-specialist? Or does Denver trade him? Well, as John Clayton reported, the Tebow-heads-home-to-Jacksonville deals are off the table now that Henne is there. But like I said earlier, I think Manning is staying in the AFC South, and Elway will have to suffer through another season of Tebowmania.
  • Presumably, if Manning doesn't sign with Arizona or Miami, Kevin Kolb and Matt Moore are likely to keep their jobs, especially the highly-paid Kolb. But what about Matt Flynn? The 6-TD game against Detroit (you know, the game that forced us to play New Orleans in the first round instead of the Giants, who we would have probably beat and caused the idiotic Eli-mania to never happen) has made Flynn into a crazily-coveted "franchise" quarterback, which is hilarious when you realize that he was 0-2 as a starter in 2010, including a loss to Detroit where Green Bay scored only 3 points. But oh well, the Flynnsanity is gaining steam.
  • Washington is off the table, and the likely landing spots are either Cleveland or Miami. I have no clue what will happen, but whoever doesn't get Flynn will probably draft a quarterback pretty early.
  • After Luck and Griffin, the top QB available is Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M. If he escapes Cleveland at #4 and Miami at #8, he could fall to Seattle, who can't even get an audience with Manning or Flynn, at pick #12. But my guess is that Pete Carroll is going to freefall into oblivion, secure the #1 pick next year, and start over with Matt Barkey.
  • After Tannehill, there are three or four quarterbacks who will be considered in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd rounds. Kirk Cousins from MSU, Nick Foles from Arizona, Brandon Weeden from Oklahaoma State, and some dude named Brock from Arizona State. I like Weeden as the only guy with any potential in the NFL, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him picked late in the 1st round, maybe by Cleveland at #22 if they pass of Flynn/Tannehill. Or maybe Denver at pick #25 if they don't get Manning. That would make Twitter explode once and for all.

Detroit picks 23rd, with lots of CBs and OTs available. The top two corners that might be available (Jenkins and Kirkpatrick) are both in trouble with the law. I don't want to mess with that. I'd rather upgrade Stafford's blind spot with Mike Adams from Ohio State, or Jonathan Martin if he's available. I wouldn't be angry if we picked an OLB (Courney Upshaw maybe) or even a guard (DeCastro from Stanford would be awesome).

Once we get closer to the Draft, I'll have a better idea of which way Detroit will be leaning. I really miss Tom Kowalski at a time like this.

Also, today is the NBA trade deadline, so the Dwight Howard Saga will hopefully come to an end. Although, I think he wants to stay in Orlando until the end of this season, so that when he signs with the Nets in the offseason they aren't ravaged like the Knicks were in order to get Carmelo. They'll keep Brook Lopez, Marshon Brooks, and their 1st round pick, three assets they would have to trade to get Howard. In other words, he is absolutely, positively SCREWING Orlando. But you know what, the Nets aren't winning the title in 2012 even if they add Dwight, and he knows this, so good for him for being intelligent and giving himself the best chance of taking down the Heat in next year's playoffs as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. It's cowardly, calculated, and completely selfish. In other words, he's learned from LeBron.

That's all I got. Go Lions.

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