Peyton’s Dozen: The Odds on Who Will Land Manning

Ever since the Colts landed the first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, there has been speculation about if and where Peyton Manning would play again.  Yesterday, something I could’ve never imagined a year ago happened when the Colts decided to go into rebuilding mode and forgo paying Manning the bonus that was due to him today thus making him a free agent for the first time in his career.   And this is not just any free agent.  Peyton Manning has become the most coveted free agent in NFL history as the franchise he has been the face of for 14 years moves forward without him.   We are now aware that no Colts player will ever again wear #18 but the question is of course: which team will have a new #18 on their roster next season?

Multiple sources have mentioned that around 12 teams have been in contact with Manning’s representation and we know who some of those teams are, who some aren’t, and which teams remain a mystery.   We know that the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, and Kansas City Chiefs have contacted Manning’s representation.  We know that the Dallas Cowboys are not interested and neither are, clearly, the Indianapolis Colts.   It is also safe to assume that the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons, San Diego Chargers, New York Giants, and Pittsburgh Steelers.  I’m also fairly confident that the St. Louis Rams, Baltimore Ravens, and Chicago Bears will not go after Manning.  I also like to believe, that though there has been speculation, that the Texans will work to extend Schaub and develop Yates as opposed to cutting Schaub to bring in Manning.  So I do not believe the Texans are part of the twelve (but if they create the cap space and release Schaub they become a frontrunner).  However we can’t rule anyone out.   In my opinion, outside of a few, select teams that have elite NFL QBs, any team that does not at least ask itself the Peyton Manning question is doing themselves a great disservice.

So using what we know and what we don’t know I’ve broken down who I believe to be Manning’s dozen and their respective odds of landing the future Hall of Famer in descending order.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars

ODDS – 1:100

The Jacksonville Jaguars would love to sign their former rival for the next three years and develop the young Blaine Gabbert behind him.  I have no doubts about that.  It’s clear however that Peyton wants to win now because he only has somewhere between three and five years to win another ring.   The Jaguars definitely have the cap room and it could be attractive for Manning to play in Florida but the Jaguars have no personnel to put around Manning where he believes he could win right away.  A few years ago when the Vikings signed Brett Favre a lot of people referred to that team as a “ferrari without a driver” and I believe that’s exactly what Peyton is looking for.   The Jaguars can offer the contract but not much else.

11. Cleveland Browns

ODDS – 1:50

I give the Browns slightly higher odds than the Jaguars of landing Manning.   Once again this is a team in disarray but once that can afford Manning.  The reason I give them any kind of odds is because the Browns could potentially land one of Peyton’s former receivers in free agency (Garcon or Wayne), they have a stout and young offensive line and they have the draft picks to add playmakers to their roster now.  This is an AFC team in a smaller market which many say that Manning would prefer but I just do not see this happening.

10. Buffalo Bills

ODDS – 3:100

The Buffalo Bills are an interesting prospect.  This would put Peyton in the AFC in a small market with a passionate fan base and he would get the chance to play Tom Brady twice a year.  However, the Bills have made a huge commitment to Ryan Fitzpatrick.  This is a team that could make the playoffs with consistent quarterback play but I do not see the Bills making this happen nor do I see Manning wanting to play 7 home games a year in Buffalo and 1 every season in Toronto after 14 years of playing his home games in a dome.  They have the cap room, they have some playmakers, but I am pretty confident we will not see Manning in Buffalo.

9. Tennessee Titans

ODDS – 1:20

If the Titans have already called, I’m certain that Peyton Manning has listened.  He considers Tennessee a second home having played his college ball there.  He can look at Tennessee and see playmakers like Chris Johnson, Jared Cook,  and Kenny Britt.   They have a very athletic offensive line that Peyton would love.  This is a team that has some definite potential but once again I just do not see it.  Matt Hasselbeck had a really good year last year and I believe that the Titans are happy to play him another year and then move forward with Jake Locker who showed a lot of promise as a rookie.  I also do not know what Peyton’s feelings would be on playing the Colts twice a year after his ceremonious exit from the Colts but either way, I give the Titans a 5% chance but not much more than that.

8. New York Jets

ODDS – 1:19

The New York Jets have been linked to Peyton Manning for months and this is a team that is definitely talented and made it to back to back AFC Championships in spite of subpar quarterback play.  Manning is familiar with the Rex Ryan defense and would surely love to have that on his side.  He would play the Patriots twice a year and he would get to share a stadium with his brother.  He would have playmakers all around him but at the same time, there are a lot of issues with the New York Jets locker room.  New York is a large market and it’s his brother’s territory.   I personally think the Jets would be a great fit but I don’t see Peyton going to such an unstable situation or imposing on his brother’s turf.   Another big factor here is that the Jets would have to make some major moves to be able to even afford Manning.  They can’t afford him, it’s unstable, and I just don’t see it.

7. Washington Redskins

ODDS – 1:13

Alright, now we’re into the teams that I actually think have a shot.  A lot of people have the Redskins as an odds-on favorite to land Peyton Manning.  They like to cite that great offensive line the Redskins have and the presence of Roy Helu, Santana Moss, Fred Davis, Chris Cooley, and Jabar Gaffney.  It’s clear though that Washington will have to add a true #2 wide receiver to attract Peyton.  Washington does have the necessary cap room and they have an owner in Dan Snyder who loves to spend money.  However, Peyton’s preference is the AFC and I really don’t think he wants to play Eli twice a year.   Washington loves to bring in five star free agents and has the cap room to reunite Manning and Wayne as well as a high enough draft pick to bring in some young playmakers immediately.  While I believe the Redskins will be one of the most aggressive suitors for Manning but I don’t believe Peyton will bite.   This is a team that definitely has everything necessary to attract Manning with the largest drawbacks being the fact that they are a large market NFC team that would play the Giants twice a year.  Many don’t believe that Manning is interested in playing for Washington but on paper they have a pretty solid chance.

6. Arizona Cardinals

ODDS – 1:8

Everyone that follows Can of Corn on Twitter knows that for months I have been lobbying for Peyton Manning to team up with Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona.  This is a team that went .500 last season in spite of Kolb’s terrible play under center.   Manning has mentioned he would love to play on natural grass again but he does appreciate the advantages of a dome.  Good news – Arizona is the only place that can offer both.   Manning has never played with a wide receiver as talented as Larry Fitzgerald and if the Cardinals can re-sign Early Doucet or bring in another wideout (especially Wayne) then this could be a real possibility.  Combine that with tight end Todd Heap and Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams in the backfield and this becomes a very attractive offense.  Manning and Whisenhunt have long had a mutual respect and admiration for one another and so this relationship could definitely work.

The problem is that right now the Cardinals are projected to have, at most, $10.2 M in cap room.   Even if they release Levi Brown and free up $16M , move forward without Kolb and free up the necessary cap room, the Cardinals are left with an even more questionable offensive line.  I love this fit for Manning and like the idea of him throwing to Fitzgerald.  I think the Cardinals will be major players and they are a team that can compete right away with Manning but at the end of the day – I really don’t see Arizona being able to do what’s necessary to attract Manning.   If the Cardinals had the cap room to afford Manning, they would be in the top 3 without a doubt.  There’s a strong mutual interest here between Manning and the Cardinals.  Now it comes down to money.

5. San Francisco 49ers

ODDS – 2:9

What NFL fan does not want to see Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne keep playing together?  The 49ers offer the opportunity to do that.  This is a team that has the cap room necessary to sign Peyton Manning and then also tighten up their WR corps and with a deep WR draft could use their first round draft pick on a rookie wideout or exchange that pick for Mike Wallace.  This is a team that was a few muffed punts from going to the Super Bowl last season and if they were to bring in receivers they could easily attract Peyton there and on the flip side, the presence of Peyton Manning would attract free agent receivers.  This is a dynamic team and Peyton would only be required to put up 20 – 24 points a game with that stout defense.  Jim Harbaugh says he believes in Alex Smith and is trying to extend him but you have to believe the 49ers have at least reached out to Manning and that he would be interested in heading to the West Coast.  Both the 49ers and Peyton are well aware of what each could accomplish together and I think this will be a very attractive option.   I just do not know how hard Harbaugh will pursue this one.  Thus far the 49ers have denied interest in Manning but it’s hard to believe that giving Alex Smith a three year $27M contract is that much better of an option than giving Manning a 3 year $42M deal.

4. Denver Broncos

ODDS – 2:7

If John Elway really wants to move on from “Tebowmania” this is the only possible escape.  If Elway really wants a quarterback that reminds him of himself, then there’s nobody better.  After all, a number one overall draft pick by the Colts going on to lead the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl is not unheard of.   The Broncos have some great young receivers on offense with Demaryius Thomas, Eddie Royals, and Eric Decker and the necessary cap room to sign Manning.  They are a playoff team with the necessary cap room to sign Manning and this is something that could really happen.  The Broncos have reached out to Manning’s people and with the Broncos being the reigning champion of a wide-open division I think they are an attractive option to Manning.

3. Seattle Seahawks

ODDS – 1:3

I really do not know why more people aren’t talking about the possibility of Manning landing in Seattle.   This is a team that could be very good with a great quarterback.  Manning would have a dynamic receiving corps with Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Mike Williams, and Golden Tate as well as Jon Carlson and Zach Miller at tight end.  The Seahawks just recently extended running back Marshawn Lynch after a career year.  This is a team with a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and with Manning could challenge the 49ers right away.  The Seahawks are considered a frontrunner to land Mario Williams but they could instead direct their focus to Manning especially considering their draft position would allow them a chance to land Melvin Ingram or another top tier rookie outside linebacker or defensive end.   There are some question marks on the offensive line but given the division they play in and the amount of playmakers, Seattle has to be considered a serious contender to land Peyton Manning.

2. Miami Dolphins

ODDS – 2:5

We’ve heard it all, the Dolphins have the cap room to sign Manning and bring in another wide receiver.  Reggie Wayne wants to play in Miami and this could give Manning a 1-2 punch of Wayne and Brandon Marshall with Davone Bess in the slot.  Reggie Bush just had the best year of his career and is one of the best pass-catching backs in the game.  Peyton Manning has a home in Miami and the team has an owner that wants a star to latch his team onto.  This is a warm weather AFC team that would give Peyton the chance to play in the stadium where he twice appeared in a Super Bowl.   The Dolphins seem to be a really attractive option for Manning but the biggest question has to be the offensive line.  Outside of Jake Long, this offensive line is suspect.  Of course the 9th overall draft pick could allow the Dolphins to draft Iowa’s Riley Reiff or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin who could bolster this line immediately.  I think that Miami has a lot of attractive options.  I think Manning’s admiration of and friendship with Dan Marino plays a role.  While Miami has a great combination of playmakers, salary cap, and overall fit, there’s one team that has an even better combination of these things.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

ODDS – 3:7

There are a lot of commentators who have begun to mention the Kansas City Chiefs as an underdog or a dark horse candidate to land Manning.  The Seahawks are a dark horse, the Titans and Jets are underdogs, the Chiefs should be considered the favorite.   Anyone who has the Chiefs ranked lower than two is only kidding themselves.   There are a number of factors that make the Chiefs the odds-on favorite to land Manning in spite of the fact that they are “committed to Matt Cassel”.

The Chiefs have been projected to have as much as $50M in cap room next season which would be the 2nd highest in the NFL so they definitely have the financial flexibility to sign Peyton Manning and then to bring in anotherfree agent such as Carl Nicks or Jeff Saturday to solidify their offensive line.  The Chiefs have the necessary weapons on the offensive side of the ball with running back Jamaal Charles, tight end Tony Moeaki, and receivers Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, and Jonathan Baldwin.  Then there’s always the threat of the very dynamic Dexter McCluster who can play in the backfield or line up in the slot.   They have a good young defense as well with playmakers like Tamba Hali, Glenn Dorsey, Derrick Johnson, and Eric Berry.    Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel are both extremely familiar with Peyton Manning and with the restructuring of the coaching staff, this is a team that would be very open to letting Peyton Manning bring in his own offense.  This is a talented AFC team in a small market with a very passionate fan base and distinct home field advantage.   They play in the most wide-open division in the NFL.  This is a team that came within a game of the playoffs despite multiple injuries and inconsistent QB play.   Joe Montana finished his career in KC and got his team to the AFC Championship maybe Peyton can do one better.  If Manning really wants to be on an AFC team and become the first QB to lead two different teams to a Super Bowl win, this is a team that definitely fits that mold and can actually afford him.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

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2011 NFL Offseason Grades – AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON TEXANS

NFL DRAFT:

2011 DRAFT PICKS: J.J. Watt, DE (1-11); Brooks Reed, DE (2-42); Brandon Harris, CB (2-60); Rashad Michael, CB (4-127); Shiloh Keo, S (5-144); Taylor Yates, QB (5-152); Derek Newton, OT (7-214); Cheta Ozougwu, DE (7-254)

 

Selecting J.J. Watt in the first round was just the beginning of a defensive overhaul for the Texans.

Wade Phillips has to be excited about his new career on the other side of Texas after this draft.   The Texans put a strong emphasis on improving a defense that has some strong players but definitely needs improvement.  They started off with a great young pair of defensive ends.  Watt is definitely going to be more of a containment end meanwhile on the other end, Reed should be spending a lot of time behind the offensive line.   Keo and Michael could tighten up an ailing secondary.  I love this draft for the Texans, I really thought they would target the WR position at some point in this draft but at the same time,  I have a hard time looking at a single pick they made and thinking, “that was the wrong pick for them”.

 

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Johnathan Joseph, CB (Bengals); Danieal Manning, S (Bears); Mike Brisiel, G (Texans); Jacoby Jones, WR (Texans); Matt Leinart, QB (Texans)

KEY LOSSES: Vonta Leach, FB; Amobi Okoye, DT; Dan Orlovsky, QB; Bernard Pollard, S

While everyone was fighting for Asomugha, the Texans snuck in and grabbed the 2nd best cornerback in free agency

One thing is certain, the Houston Texans defense has been completely transformed in the offseason.  First they did an overhaul in the draft and then they went out and brought in some playmakers.  While everyone else was trying to land Asomugha, the Texans went out and signed the second best cornerback in free agency in Johnathan Joseph.  They strengthened that secondary even further with the addition of Danieal Manning as the safety position.  Bringing Jacoby Jones back was necessary and re-signing Matt Leinart was a big win for the Texans because he is one of the best back-ups in the NFL.   The biggest loss was, by far, Vonta Leach who is probably the best run-blocking fullback in the league.  Foster’s numbers could take a step back without Leach in that backfield.

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Anthony Costanzo, OT (1-22); Benjamin Injalana, OT (2-49); Drake Nevis, DT (3-87); Delone Carter, RB (4-119); Chris Rucker, CB (6-188)

 

Costanzo provides the big athletic tackle the Colts need to protect Manning's blind side

I can hardly remember a season when the Indianapolis Colts did not make the playoffs.   The reason is they find value as good as any team in the AFC.  Last season, Manning found himself constantly under pressure and Polian made the right move for the Colts in using his first two picks on offensive lineman.  Costanzo is a strong tackle who should fill in on the left side nicely and could be protecting Peyton’s blind side for the rest of Manning’s career.  Injalana is a lineman that could be plugged into either a tackle or guard position.  Drake Nevis was a good find for this team in the third and Rucker was a nice pick-up in the 6th.  The Colts probably did a better job of addressing all of their positional needs than any other team in this year’s draft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Peyton Manning, QB (Colts); Joseph Addai, RB (Colts); Melvin Bullitt, S (Colts); Jamaal Anderson, DE (Falcons); Antonio Johnson, DT (Colts); Eric Foster, DT (Colts); Ernie Sims, LB (Eagles); Tommie Harris, DT (Bears); Dan Orlovsky, QB (Texans)

KEY LOSSES: Clint Session, LB; Charlie Johnson, OT; Kelvin Hayden, CB; Daniel Muir, DT

The Colts made the biggest signing of the offseason by wrapping up their franchise quarterback.

The Colts did not have the free agent flurry that other Super Bowl contenders did but they did do what every team strives to do – keep their core guys.  In doing so they made perhaps the biggest signing of the free agency period in re-signing Peyton Manning to ensure that he retires with the Colts.  Charlie Johnson was a huge loss for a line that had it’s fair share of struggles last season but the Colts anticipated his departure when they drafted Costanzo.   They also re-signed Joseph Addai who is a solid running back that fits well with what the Colts are doing.  On the defensive side of the ball, many of these signings make a lot of sense because the Colts have always been more about speed on defense than anything.  I would not be surprised to see them use Anderson more like a D-Tackle as opposed to a defensive end.  Either way, I see Indy’s pass-rush and rushing defense being drastically improved from last year.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS:Blaine Gabbert, QB (1-10); William Rackley, G (3-76); Cecil Shorts, WR (4-114); Chris Prosinski, S (4-121); Roderick Isaac, CB (5-147)

 

The Jaguars grabbed who I believe to be the best QB of the draft class with the 10th overall pick.

You’ve already heard me say it about the Vikings, and you’ve heard it about the Panthers and now you’re going to hear it about the Jaguars.  This draft’s grade is largely contingent on one thing – the success of the rookie quarterback the team selected.  I personally believe that Blaine Gabbert was the best quarterback of this year’s draft class and I believe he will be a pro-bowler.  He reminds me a lot of Ben Roethlisberger.   However, I do believe that Blaine Gabbert is rather raw.  Luckily the Jaguars have their quarterback of the present in David Garrard to play while Gabbert develops.  The rest of the draft was rather mediocre.  The real need the Jaguars needed to address was defensive end and for many the question will be – was it worth it to give up so much to land Gabbert or should they have stayed put and taken Adrian Claiborne? I believe the risk was worth taking in that they grabbed, who I believe to be, the best QB in the draft at the 10th spot making him the 3rd QB selected in the draft.

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Paul Posluszny, LB (Bills); Dawan Landry, S (Ravens); Jason Spitz, G (Packers); Clint Session, LB (Colts)

KEY LOSSES: Justin Smiley, G; Derrick Harvey, DE; Vince Manuwai, G; Justin Durant, LB; Clint Ingram, LB; Adam Podlesh, P; Trent Edwards, QB

Posluszny is a natural leader and is a nice addition to an otherwise weak Jaguars defense

Last year the Jaguars linebacker corps was awful but with the addition of Paul Posluszny and Clint Session, Jacksonville is all of a sudden fairly strong at this position.  Dawan Landry was a great pick-up for this team that was in desperate need of some help over the top.  Jason Spitz was also a good pickup for the line.  All in all, there were good pick-ups here but nothing great.  I feel like Jacksonville lost more than they gained.  I really expected Jacksonville to go after a defensive end (Charles Johnson or Ray Edwards anyone?), another cornerback, and a wide receiver in free agency but alas, they just didn’t pull it off.

 

 

TENNESSEE TITANS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Jake Locker, QB (1-8); Akeem Ayers, OLB (2-39); Jurrell Casey, DT (3-77); Colin McCarthy, ILB (4-109); Jamie Harper, RB (4-130); Karl Klug, DE (5-142); Byron Stingily, OT (6-175); Zach Clayton, DT (7-212); Tommie Campbell, S (7-251)

 

Jake Locker has been most impressive in the preseason.

On draft night, I thought Jake Locker was a reach.  I was certain that when Blaine Gabbert fell past San Francisco, he’d be going to the Titans.  I thought Locker was a late 1st round pick at best, but so far into this preseason, Locker has been a very impressive rookie quarterback and I may be completely wrong about him.   Like the Jaguars, this draft will be graded based on Locker’s progress.   However, Titans fans should forgive the reach for Locker because the Titans then got a first round talent in the second round when they took Akeem Ayers.  My only complaints about the Titans draft would be that they waited too long before drafting a defensive tackle and the team really needed to address the wide receiver position in the draft.  I still think Locker was a reach but now with some time to develop behind Hasselbeck, I believe he could be the QB of the future for Tennessee.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Matt Hasselbeck, QB (Seahawks); Barrett Ruud, LB (Buccaneers); Jacob Ford, DE (Titans); Shaun Smith, DT (Chiefs); Leroy Harris, G (Titans); Dave Ball, DE (Titans); Ahmard Hall, FB (Titans); Daniel Graham, TE (Broncos); Mike Munchak, Head Coach (Titans Offensive Line Coach)

KEY LOSSES: Vince Young, QB; Jason Babin, DE; Stephen Tulloch, LB; Tony Brown, DT

Hasselbeck was a strong signing, but does not make sense given the difference between his and Locker's styles.

I like Matt Hasselbeck and think he is a very good quarterback but I am baffled by the addition of him in Tennessee.   With the exception that both Locker and he have lived in the same state the last four years, the two have nothing in common.   I believe Hasselbeck’s skill set is closer to that of Christian Ponder.  I do have to commend Tennessee for landing a top free agent QB but I still don’t think he was the right choice here.   I like the addition of Daniel Graham as a blocking tight end opposite of Jarrod Page and I think that Barrett Ruud is the perfect signing to help a pretty young defense in Nashville.  On the coaching side of things, it is strange to see the Titans without Jeff Fisher on the sidelines but I do believe that Munchak was a perfect fit for the Titans given his history with the team.

 

 

 

The only team in this division that I really feel took a significant step forward was the Houston Texans.  The Colts stayed about the same as did the Jaguars and Titans.  Years from now, this could be the draft that does, however, change the face of the AFC South as the Texans revamped their defense and the Titans and Jaguars believe they got their franchise quarterbacks.  This will be an interesting year in the AFC South.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

 

 

 

 

 

2011 Offseason Grades – NFC East

Without further ado, offseason grades for the NFC East

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Danny Watkins, G (1-23); Jaiquawn Jarrett, S (2-54); Curtis Marsh, CB (3-90); Casey Matthews, ILB (4-116); Alex Henery, K (4-120); Dion Lewis, RB (5-149); Julian Vandervelde, C (5-161); Jason Kelce, C (6-191); Brian Rolle, OLB (7-237); Greg Lloyd, ILB (7-237); Stanley Havili, FB (7-240)

 

If Casey is half as good as his brother Clay, he will be remembered as an absolute steal in the 4th round.

Philadelphia had 11 picks in this year’s drafts and when I look at how they used it I see it as “honest”.  The Eagles were aware of their weaknesses and drafted position by position to tighten things up.  A lot of people considered Watkins a reach in the first round, but Andy Reid believes he can be a Week 1 starter.  Watkins has good strength and is an adequate pass blocker and run blocker.  The one thing I always noticed when he played at Baylor is he is a “play to the whistle” type player so I think he’ll fit in fine in Philly.  Jarrett was a good pick up to help solidify the safety position and Curtis Martin seemed like an obvious choice for a team that, at the time, was weak at cornerback position.  Making Alex Henery the first kicker off the board made it pretty obvious that Akers was on his way out (which surprised me).  They doubled up on centers late with Vandervelde and Kelce clearly acknowledging their need there.  Philly did a good job of drafting in positions of need, I just don’t know how many of these players will have an impact. I love the Casey Matthews pick.  He was a great player at Oregon and comes from a great line of impact players who were underappreciated in the draft.  If Casey is half as good as his brother Clay (who is a leader on the Packers’ defense) then he was an absolute steal in the 4th round.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB (Raiders); Ronnie Brown, RB (Dolphins); Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB (Cardinals); Cullen Jenkins, DT (Packers); Vince Young, QB (Titans); Steve Smith, WR (Giants); Jason Babin, DE (Titans); Ryan Harris, OT (Broncos); Akeem Jordan, LB (Eagles); Evan Mathis, G (Bengals); Jarrad Page, S (Patriots); Derek Landri, DT (Panthers); Anthony Hargrove, DL (Saints)

KEY LOSSES: Kevin Kolb, QB; Quintin Mikell, S; Brodrick Bunkley, DT; Leonard Weaver, FB; Ernie Sims, LB; Max Jean-Gilles, G; Dimitri Patterson, CB; Stewart Bradley, LB

Nnamdi Asomugha was the obvious prize of free agency but I'm a big fan of the addition of Ryan Harris to this Eagles' line

A lot has been said and just how unbelievable the Philadelphia Eagles’ offseason has been.  I have not seen this much hoopla about a team’s free agency since the 2007 Patriots when they brought in Moss, Stallworth, Welker, and Thomas, among others.  Last season the cornerback position was a glaring weakness for the Philadelphia Eagles but they shored up that position through free agency and trade by bringing in 2 of the top 10 cornerbacks in the league.  Mikell was a gigantic loss for the Eagles at the safety position but Page should make for a good replacement and I really do believe it would behoove the Eagles to, at this point, move Asante Samuel to the safety position.  Steve Smith was a nice risk to take given Maclin’s mystery illness.  I love the addition of Babin and Jenkins.  I really believe that they will benefit from Trent Cole in the same way Kevin Smith and Ray Edwards were able to benefit by the addition of Jared Allen.  Vince Young was a great pick up if for no other reason, then to do with him what they did with Kolb and McNabb – flip him on the trade market for higher value.  The most unsung of this group but maybe the Eagles’ best pick up was Ryan Harris at tackle who should solidify that offensive line for the Eagles but there still remain some questions at center.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Ryan Kerrigan, DE (1-16); Jarvis Jenkins, DT (2-41); Leonard Hankerson, WR (3-79); Roy Helu, RB (4-105); Dejon Gomes, S (5-146); Niles Paul, WR (5-155); Evan Royster, RB (6-177); Aldrick Robinson, WR (6-178); Brandyn Thompson, CB (7-213); Maurice Hurt, G (7-217); Markus White, DE (7-224); Christopher Neild, DT (7-253)

While I am not a fan of the Cornhuskers, I'm a big believer in what Roy Helu, Jr. can accomplish in the NFL

Mike Shanahan has a reputation as someone who can develop quarterbacks but where does this come from?  He inherited a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback in John Elway and has not had a strong QB ever since.  That being said, QB is the most obvious weakness for the Redskins and I feel that they made a huge mistake in trading down when they could have drafted, who I believe to be, the best quarterback in the draft in Blaine Gabbert.  Any time you get the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback, you need to take it and I feel like this is a mistake that will haunt Washington fans for years. However, the Redskins did get great value in trading down and Kerrigan and Jenkins should do wonders for their front four.  The pick that Redskins fans should be excited about is landing Nebraska running back Roy Helu in the 4th round.  This kid is a strong running back who in college could easily break tackles and can accelerate in the gaps.  I really think that Helu has a bright future as a number one running back in the NFL.

 

 

 

FREE AGENTS

KEY ADDITIONS:Barry Cofield, DT (Giants); Josh Wilson, CB (Ravens); Stephen Bowen, DE (Cowboys); Santana Moss, WR (Redskins); Chris Chester, C (Ravens); Jamal Brown, OT (Redskins); Jabar Gaffney, WR (Broncos); Tim Hightower, RB (Cardinals), Donte’ Stallworth, WR (Ravens); Kellen Clemens, QB (Jets)

KEY LOSSES: Albert Haynesworth, DT; Donovan McNabb, QB; Carlos Rogers, CB; Casey Rabach, C; Maake Kemoeatu, DT; Phillip Daniels, DE; Jeremy Jarmon, DT; Vonnie Holiday, DE

Given their draft, trading defensive end Vonnie Holliday for Tim Hightower was a move that could pay dividends for Mike Shanahan

Mike Shanahan got younger in the front four completely rebuilding it this offseason.  He addressed this need with the first two rounds of the draft and then went out in free agency and signed Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen who is one of the better young defensive ends in the league.  Re-signing Santana Moss was a necessity and the addition of Stallworth and Gaffney bolsters that receiving corps.  Chris Chester was a really solid pick-up as well to help strengthen a weak offensive line.  I will continue to say that I feel like the McNabb trade was a bad decision for Washington because after passing on Gabbert and trading Donovan, the Redskins are without a QB.  I do like the Tim Hightower trade quite a bit for Washington and between Hightower, Helu, and Torain, Shanahan should find a tandem that he can work with in his famous “running system”.


NEW YORK GIANTS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Prince Amukamara, CB (1-19); Marvin Austin, DT (2-52); Jerrel Jernigan, WR (3-83); James Brewer,  OT (4-117); Greg Jones, ILB (6-185); Tyler Sash, S (6-198); Jacquian Williams, LB (6-202); Da’Rel Scott, RB (7-221)

 

The Giants had to be excited to find a cornerback like Amukamara available to them at pick 19

From a value standpoint, the New York Giants had an excellent draft.  I really did not think that Amukamara would fall past the Detroit Lions at 13 but he fell to the Giants and they were wise to take him.  Marvin Austin should help out that defensive line of theirs.  He fell because he lacks consistency but he has the talent to be an elite defensive tackle.  The two late picks of the Giants that I really like for them is James Brewer in the 4th round who has the skills to be a servicable tackle and could help out their O-Line but I feel that they did not do enough to address their aging offensive line.  Tyler Sash was a good risk to take in the seventh round.  He was a standout safety at the University of Iowa and was a cornerstone of a great defense.  In college he was an aggressive player who was a great tackler and had an ability to get his hands on the ball.  He has some parts of his game he needs to tighten up to play at the pro level but has the potential to do well in that Giants defense.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Mathias Kiwanuka, DE (Giants); Ahmad Bradshaw, RB (Giants); Ben Patrick, TE (Cardinals); Stacy Andrews, OL (Seahawks); Kevin Boothe, G (Giants); David Baas, C (49ers)

KEY LOSSES: Rocky Bernard, DT; Shaun O’Hara, C; Rich Seubert, G; Shawn Andrews, G; Steve Smith, WR

Re-signing Ahmad Bradshaw was the Giants' no. 1 priority going into the offseason

New York was so cash-strapped going into this season that they really couldn’t do much in free agency.  They were able to re-sign their top two priorities in Ahmad Bradshaw and Mathias Kiwanuka.  The Giants already had offensive line issues and now have lost Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert, and Shawn Andrews.  I do believe that David Baas is an upgrade for them over the aging O’Hara and I like the addition of Stacy Andrews but I feel this line has a long ways to go.  I do see the Steve Smith loss really hurting this team because, if nothing else, he took pressure off of Hakeem Nicks.  Overall the Giants were able to replace what they lost which still leaves the Giants looking pretty average in a much improved NFC.

DALLAS COWBOYS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Tyron Smith, OT (1-9); Bruce Carter, OLB (2-40); DeMarco Murray, RB (3-71); David Arkin, G (4-110); Josh Thomas, CB (5-143); Dwayne Harris, WR (6-176); Shaun Chapas, FB (7-220); Bill Nagy, C (7-252)

 

Some say Smith was taken too early but if he plays well, you can never take a Pro Bowl OT too high

A lot of people criticized Dallas for not trading out of their pick to try and get more value at the offensive tackle position but the Cowboys got the man they wanted in Tyron Smith and 9th overall and I believe he was a perfect pick for the Cowboys.  I believed that the Cowboys needed to fix their offensive line issues and so the fact that they waited until the 4th round to continue to do that was confusing.  The Cowboys also should have addressed the cornerback position earlier.  Given the departure of Marion Barber, the DeMarco Murray pick makes sense in the 3rd round.  The best value pick here was Dwayne Harris who is a small, speedy receiver with great hands that should do nicely in the slot for the Cowboys offense and provide a great target for Tony Romo.

 

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENTS

KEY ADDITIONS: Jason Garrett, Head Coach (Cowboys’ Offensive Coordinator); Doug Free, OT (Cowboys); Kyle Kosier, G (Cowboys); Marcus Spears, DE (Cowboys); Jason Hatcher, DE (Cowboys); Gerald Sensabaugh, S (Cowboys); Abram Elam, S (Browns)

KEY LOSSES: Marion Barber, RB; Roy Williams, WR; Leonard Davis, G; Marc Colombo, OT

The best offseason move the Cowboys made was removing the interim tag from Jason Garrett's title.

The Cowboys had a down year last year in a season where many had them pegged to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.   With Tony Romo healthy again and a new head coach, this is a team that hopes to bounce back in a serious way.  Jason Garrett was the only man for the job and as one of the hottest head coaching candidates available, the Cowboys were smart to hang on to him before he left to go elsewhere.  Then Garrett turned around and brought in one of the best defensive minds in the game in Rob Ryan to help that Cowboys defense regain old form. Like the Giants, the Cowboys were limited by their cap situation but that did not stop them from re-signing most of their important players.  Roy Williams was going to be gone regardless and the Cowboys are sold on the future of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice (along with DeMarco Murray) in that backfield.  Sensabaugh is a good safety but the addition of Elam at that position was a great move by Dallas.  The loss of Marc Colombo does hurt, but Tyron Smith should prove to be an upgrade at the position.


When I look at the landscape of the NFC East, it’s kind of a mixed bag.  A strong Philadelphia Eagles team drastically improved almost overnight.  The Redskins have gotten stronger at some positions and weaker at others.  The New York Giants look like a team that will once again, just miss a wildcard spot, and the Dallas Cowboys didn’t do much but they did fire their head coach and they do get their Pro Bowl quarterback back in the fold which should make a huge difference.  As always, this is going to be a fun division to watch. 

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

Every Lockout Has A Silver Lining

I would personally like to thank Carolina Panthers’ wide receiver Jamorris Warren for giving me the opportunity to interview him.

On March 11th of this year, there was a collective groan across sports nation as the NFL owners confirmed our worst fear – there was going to be an NFL Lockout.  The idea that there might not be a professional football season to look forward to in 2011 was now a possibility.  For many players it meant having to organize work outs, and for those whose names aren’t as familiar to us – it meant having to find a second job.   For some players it was an opportunity to pursue other sporting interests such as boxing, the MLS, track, and professional bull riding.  The players held their breath uncertain of what may happen next.  The sports media grew worried and were anxious to generate football-related news.  The sector of the American public who find sanctuary on their couches every Sunday afternoon and Monday night for 17 weeks a year felt as if they too had been locked out and were being deprived.   The NFL had bolted it’s doors and in that moment, a window in the small town of Warrensburg, Missouri was opened.

Six days after the lockout was announced, Jamorris Warren stepped inside the Devine Indoor Pavillion on the campus of the University of Missouri. Warren was coming off of a spectacular season for the Division II Central Missouri Mules.  In his senior year he had set school records for receiving with 109 receptions for 1,458 yards and 20 touchdowns.   This 6′ 195 pound receiver who ran a sub 4.5 40 yard dash was the favorite target of Harlon Hill winner Eric Czerniewski as Warren helped lead the Mules to their first playoff win in school history.

On this particular day, more than 125 NFL talent evaluators, scouts, coaches, and executives representing all 32 teams had descended upon Columbia, Missouri but none of them were there for the wide receiver in a red Mules football shirt standing on the edge of the field.

Some were there to see the coveted defensive end Aldon Smith and others were there for the highly touted quarterback Blaine Gabbert.   Even a quarterback prospect with as much draft stock as Gabbert had, is useless without somebody to throw the ball to.  That’s where Warren came in.

Due to restrictions imposed by the NFL Lockout, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert (above) was forced to do his workout with Division II receivers as opposed to NFL players.

Due to the NFL lockout, Gabbert would not be able to do his Pro Day workout with current NFL Players (such as Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin or Rams wideout Danario Alexander, both Mizzou alumni) as is traditional.  Since Missouri had no draft eligible receivers, that option was not available to him either.  Gabbert’s camp was charged with finding wide receivers he could work with.  The result was a Division II all-star receiving corps from colleges around the state that included, among others, Jamorris Warren and his teammate, running back Anthony Stewart.

As a senior Warren set UCM records with nearly 1,500 yards receiving, 109 receptions, and 20 touchdowns.

Everyone may have been there to watch Gabbert throw but Warren knew that the NFL lockout had given him the chance to show the NFL how well he could catch.  ” [Blaine Gabbert’s Pro Day] … was a great opportunity for me to showcase my abilities in front of all 32 teams and several GM’s.”  Jamorris took full advantage of that opportunity. Gabbert had an impressive workout for the scouts but some overthrown passes that Warren was able to reel in caught the attention of the scouts on hand.  He snagged up every pass thrown his way.  A series of acrobatic grabs turned the heads of those in attendance.  One particular catch, a one handed grab near the sideline, even garnered some applause from those at the Pavillion.

Afterwards many scouts who had, most likely, never heard the name Jamorris Warren or of the University of Central Missouri, now had this small school receiver on their radar.  The NFL Lockout had presented Warren the chance to work out with a potential number 1 draft pick and he had shown 32 teams that he was a big time talent. Coaches and GMs pulled him to the side after the display and only confirmed something that Warren had long known, “they told me that there was a place for me in this league.”

Warren's ability to catch the ball turned the heads of many NFL scouts at Missouri's Pro Day

Warren’s coach at UCM, Jim Svoboda, had previously served as the offensive coordinator for two National Championship teams at Northwest Missouri State and the quarterbacks coach at UCLA before coming to Central Missouri.  He once said of Warren’s ability to catch the ball that he had, “fabulous hands.”  “I’ve been around some kids with great hands,” Svoboda said “but he may have the best hands I’ve seen.”

While the media talked about Gabbert and Smith and speculated about where they may land in the draft, Warren took his newly found draft stock and got to work feeling like he was one step closer to his dream of playing in the NFL.

When the NFL draft rolled around in late April, Warren took it as an opportunity to spend some time with loved ones.  He watched the first night and saw Aldon Smith go 6th overall to the 49ers and his friend Blaine go 10th overall to Jacksonville.   He watched the second and third day with his family that weekend.

Warren was excited as the third day of the draft came believing that he could go in the 6th or 7th round. He saw Abilene Christian’s wide receiver Edmund Gates, who his Mules had beat in the second round of the playoffs, go in the 4th round to Miami.  And then in the 7th round, the Vikings selected wide receiver Stephen Burton from West Texas A&M (who had lost to UCM in the first round of the NCAA-II playoffs) and Warren was still on the board.

The Houston Texans announced the final pick of the NFL Draft and Warren was still without a team.  “Not getting drafted didn’t bother me,” Warren said, “because that’s been the story of my life – proving everybody wrong.”  When asked if he felt that being from a Division II school had put him at a disadvantage Warren replied, “Teams will find you no matter the level of play.  I can say it [coming from a small school] made me hungrier and more determined to be successful.”  He was complimentary of the experience he had at Central Missouri and mentioned that the coaching staff there had played a large role in his success.

Traditionally, NFL teams would have reached out to players like Warren who went undrafted to offer them rookie free agent contracts after the draft had concluded. Unfortunately, the same lockout that had created the chance for Warren to get noticed had now created uncertainty for him as to whether or not he would find a team.

After finishing his senior year at UCM, Warren returned to his hometown of Belle Glade, FL and spent the summer working out at Glade Central High School, which he had once attended, and the Test Football Academy in Boca Raton.  He knew that the lockout had to end and when the call came he wanted to be ready for play in a faster game.  He worked hard all summer with the confidence that when play resumed, some team would give him the chance to make every other team regret ever passing on him.

On July 21, the NFL officially lifted the lockout and returned to work as usual.  Shortly thereafter, teams started calling Warren and less than a week after, he signed on with the Carolina Panthers.

There are still many questions as to whether or not Warren can make it in the NFL but he has already drawn comparisons to another MIAA conference wide receiver who went undrafted – Missouri Southern’s Rod Smith who went on to become an integral part of a Denver Broncos team that won two Super Bowls.  For now, the long wait to find an NFL team is over for Warren.

Warren knows, however, that the journey that started with a rare NFL lockout opportunity is far from over. He is fully aware of how much harder he will have to work as he adjusts to the speed of the game and perfects his skill sets so that he can compete at the pro level.  He has enjoyed the opportunity to learn from established receivers like Steve Smith and Ricky Proehl in camp and he often takes advantage of the chance he has to learn as much as possible from them.  “The great thing about having guys like … [Proehl and Smith] here is that I can pick their brains.  I really utilize that.”

Many are going to talk about the disadvantages of the NFL Lockout and how the rookie class was affected by the shortened offseason training activities (OTAs).  For Warren though, the NFL lockout created a unique opportunity for him to showcase his talents before the entire NFL.  If not for the labor dispute, he may not be fighting for an NFL roster spot in Spartanburg, South Carolina this week so for him shortened OTAs are better than none at all.

While Warren  received calls from the world champion Green Bay Packers and the St. Louis Rams, he is excited to be apart of a Carolina team that some believe, after a strong draft class and re-signing all of their major free agents, could come out and surprise people this year.

And maybe that’s why the Panthers make sense for Jamorris Warren – he has been surprising people his entire life.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!