Hi again. Back onto our soap boxes we go with some of the most pressing topics of the NFL free agency period. (There was a decent time gap between Torsten and Shaun, so some of Torsten’s comments are dated, blame Shaun.)
What is the best NFL free agent signing so far?
Shaun: I think this is a combo platter for the Raiders. Bruce Irvin adds another pass rusher to work opposite Khalil Mack. He adds championship experience to a young team with a lot of talent. The other is Kelechi Osemele. Osemele is one of the best run blocking guards in all of football, and the Raiders need help there. Their biggest weakness is in the running game, and Osemele instantly improves that part of the game even before they add a dynamic back to the mix. He is not a bad pass blocker either, which will help Derek Carr, who is proving to be the real deal at quarterback.
Torsten: If you ask me, it’s one of the most recent. When the Patriots brought aboard Chris Long with a one-year deal, they once again demonstrated that they are just that much smarter than everyone else. Sure, it’s probably easier to recruit players to a team with a consistent track record of winning. But rewind the clock two years, Long is considered an excellent all-around defensive end, not unlike you might expect from a guy once taken with the second overall draft pick. Sure, the last two years have been injury struck for him, but a guy with his track record, even at age 31, could have gotten more money and years. Instead, the Pats get him on the cheap for one year. If he stays healthy and pays off, it’s the genius move of the off-season. If he gets hurt again or experiences a surprising drop off in his level of play, it’s no big deal because the Pats are fairly deep at the position and there’s no commitment beyond this year. It’s the perfect high reward, no risk move.
What is the worst NFL free agent signing so far?
Shaun: Here comes another duo. The New York Giants overpaid for Olivier Vernon and anything above the veteran’s minimum is overpaying for JPP. Vernon was solid as the number two pass rusher opposite Cameron Wake, but now he is opposite the man who went in for more surgery in Jason Pierre-Paul. The stupidity of a fireworks accident aside, JPP struggled all year trying to find a glove/club that worked for him and has had many surgeries and lost multiple fingers, so of course they re-sign him.
Torsten: I don’t have to go very far down the list. I don’t think Malik Jackson is a bad player by any stretch, but if you don’t think his 2015 level of play was inflated at all by being between Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, you probably have some reevaluating to do. I get it, you’re Jacksonville. The offensive core of Bortles, Robinson, Hurns and Yeldon has you oozing with optimism. You just need that defense to keep up. But for the circa 90 million used to sign Jackson, they could have signed two or three solid players. Add to that the expected return of Dante Fowler, and thing look rosy. But no. 90 million for Malik Jackson. Jeebus…
What was your reaction when Brock Osweiler signed with Houston?
Shaun: There was nobody I was more sure of in the 2012 NFL draft than Brock Osweiler to the Broncos (outside of Andrew Luck at the top of the draft). They were coming off a year with Tim Tebow at QB, and John Elway had said they wanted a tall, strong armed, pocket passer, so Osweiler was the perfect fit. Even after they signed Peyton Manning I was pounding the table that it was inevitable Elway drafted Osweiler. Now, after winning the Super Bowl, Elway gets the chance to give the prototype he wanted the reigns to his team…and he gets away. When it finally happened, there was enough rumbling that it wasn’t a surprise, but leading up to it I was shocked that Elway let him get away.
Torsten: “Holy sh*t!” That’s it. That was my reaction. It wasn’t the fact that he signed with Houston – they were once again done in by ruinously bad quarterback play so it made sense they’d try to address the issue – it was the money, obviously. Upon closer inspection the money doesn’t appear to be quite as absurd as it did at first. But if we’re talking about initial reactions, “shock” would be a good way to describe mine.
Who should the Broncos get as their quarterback?
Shaun: With RG3 now in Cleveland, I actually think Josh McCown could be a really good fit. He and Sanchez could compete for the starting gig and draft a developmental QB at the back of the first or second round. Guys like Connor Cook, Dak Prescott, and Christian Hackenberg will almost certainly be there for their first pick, and one or two might be there at their second. Dak Prescott has been referred to as the right handed Tim Tebow, so that might be enough to squash his chances in Elway’s eyes, but a trio of Sanchez, McCown, and a developing rookie to go with their defense is enough to be a playoff team.
Torsten: Not Mark Sanchez! Kidding. But not really. Look, Sanchez is good enough and experienced enough to justify being employed as a back up quarterback in the NFL. But he’s a risk-taker, and with that amazing defense, the Broncos just need a quarterback who will protect the ball so they can win the field position battle. I think they could win with Ryan Fitzpatrick short term, but the perfect solution isn’t on the market this year. Here’s what I tell Kubiak and Elway if I’m their personnel advisor or something. “Offer Buffalo a conditional 7th rounder for EJ Manuel, tell him your vision for the position (don’t turn the @#$%ing ball over) and have him compete with Sanchez for the job.” I really don’t think they need the media circus that would come with bringing in RG 3, or worse, Manziel in to compete for the job.
Homer Corner: What do you think of your team’s free agency (including trades) activity so far this NFL off-season?
Shaun (Patriots): When I first saw all the moves the Patriots were making, I loved it, but have soured in it some. They have a history of selling a year or two early than too late, but Chandler Jones can really disrupt a game. They deal him for a draft pick and Jonathan Cooper, who is an outright bust thus far in his career. They also trade for Martellus Bennett, who I like but is more of a mini-Gronk than an Aaron Hernandez type (murderer not included) that so many have talked about. I do like Chris Long, but they are bringing in a guy who is already a couple years past his prime. The guy I really do like is Shea McClellin. I loved him at Boise State but he really struggled with the Bears. His skill set allows him to be versatile, so a Mike Vrabel comp might be thrown out there, and if he is ½ the player Vrabel was it will be a steal.
Torsten (Rams): I think the jury is still out. I often get accused of giving the Rams unfairly low grades because of my dislike for Jeff Fisher, though hindsight almost always proves me right. So far though, I’d have to say they get a C+, with an asterisk indicating it could climb to a B+ or fall to an F.
They’ve done some things right so far. Not paying Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod the crazy money that the Giants and Eagles did was smart. Both are good players but not close to worth that kind of cap-crippling money, especially when they have good depth in the secondary. The commonly agreed upon biggest hole they have is wide receiver, but nobody on the market was worth spending money on, and they haven’t, s that’s good. Keeping Will Hayes was critical – he’s quietly one of the best players in the NFL at his role (rotational defensive line). Keeping Mark Barron was a good move too, even if they overpaid slightly. Cutting Chris Long, James Laurinaitas and Jared Cook was understandable, but here’s where the question marks come up. You can make the argument that all three players had begun performing at a level not commensurate with their salary cap number. This is probably accurate, especially in Long’s case because of injury, but all three guys were still performing at a “useful” level. On a business level, cutting them makes sense so you can replace them with equal or higher performing players at a more cost-effective level. But that only really applies if you actually replace them. So far they haven’t. Here’s how their grade could go up. They use their number 15 overall pick to grab Ohio St. linebacker Darron Lee to fill the void left by Alec Ogletree who slides to the middle for Laurinaitas, and they package their two second rounders to move up and grab Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence to fill the void left by Long’s departure, and then sign a veteran pass-catching tight end like Owen Daniels on the cheap. Obviously these are hypotheticals and the names, especially Spence’s in a deeeeeeep DL draft, are interchangeable. But this kind of drafting would make the early moves of free agency make sense. Here’s how their grade could drop. They expect Hayes to become a full-time starter at 31, expect Barron to take over Ogletree’s outside linebacker spot (which he did admirably in 2015) instead of the hybrid backer/safety role he’s better suited (and built) for, and expect young guys like Bryce Hager and Ethan Westbrooks to take huge leaps forward that they’re not ready for. Lastly, and because Jeff Fisher IS an idiot when it comes to roster construction, you can’t rule out that he packages their first rounder and both of their seconds to move up to first or second overall and select Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, because the thought of a Gurley/Elliott backfield is too much for his aging prostate to take.