American Futbol

A special thanks to Mark Muzzi (one of the inspirations in the “M&M Gems” name) for his assistance with this blogpost.

What if America's best athletes played soccer?

In the past couple of years soccer has made significant gains in vying for fans.  Last season the MLS averaged larger crowds than both the NBA and the NHL.  ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup in 2010 led to more people in the United States watching the event than ever before.  And the MLS Cup on Sunday promises to have the largest viewership the event has had in years.  While men’s soccer continues to grow in the United States, our success on the international stage is lacking. (We have of course experienced much success in women’s soccer.

I’m a firm believer that the United States has the best athletes in the world and I feel like the collegiate and professional leagues that we boast are perfect proof of this.  We have the best hockey, basketball, and baseball leagues (and football of course) in the world.  We have dominated Olympic competition in nearly every sport except men’s soccer.  Soccer is a sport where successful teams are defined by speed and athleticism which begs the question:

If America has the best athletes in the world, why has the United States been so unsuccessful at men’s soccer?

Seems like a difficult question but the answer is really simple: because in every other country in the world, the best male athletes play soccer – in America this just isn’t true.  Our best athletes are in the NBA and NFL which caused my friend Mark and I to think about the soccer team the United States would field in the World Cup if our best athletes did indeed play soccer.   In putting together this team, we focused on American athletes who play sports professionally (except for soccer of course).

America’s All-Athlete Soccer Team:

Goalkeeper: Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver; Arizona Cardinals

In soccer a goalkeepr’s job is simple (in theory at least) keep balls from getting in the net.  The most valuable commodity that a goalkeeper can have is a great pair of hands considering that they are the only player on the pitch allowed to use them.   Fitzgerald has the height, ability, and agility necessary to defend a goal and nobody can deny that he has large hands that can catch almost anything and was the obvious choice for goalkeeper.

Centre Back: Ed Reed, Safety; Baltimore Ravens

Ed Reed is one of the best safeties to ever play football and those skills would translate well to the soccer pitch.   In the NFL, Reed is notorious because of his vision and the ability he has to “see the entire field”.   He is also known for his speed and instincts that allow him to cover a lot of territory very quickly and always be near the ball.  As a center backer these abilities would suit him perfectly in his primary responsibilities: stop the other team from scoring and force turnovers.

Centre Back: LeBron James, Small Forward; Miami Heat

Oguchi Onyewu is the tallest player in U.S. National team history and is known as a hellacious defensive player.  But, athletically – he has nothing on LeBron James.  LeBron has great height and quickness.  Coming off the corners he would be nearly impossible to stop.  On the court he is known for his ability to make the big play on either end of the court.  As a centre back, James would swarm to the ball and make Fitzgerald’s life a lot easier.  He has the strength and the height needed for a good centre back combined with the instincts that would make him difficult to score on.

Left Back: Darelle Revis, Cornerback; New York Jets

If Revis Island can be where big plays go to die in the NFL, why not in the MLS or FIFA World Cup?  Darelle Revis possesses a rare combination of athleticism, speed, and depth perception.  He has instincts  that allow him to see how a play will unfold before the fact.  He is a master of reading body position and understands how that position plays into his opponent’s next move and his own.  A good fullback is expected to have a lot of stamina and be able to cover the flanks with blazing speed.  This is what makes Darelle Revis an obvious choice for this position.

Right Back: Eric Berry, Safety; Kansas City Chiefs

A couple years back I watched Tennesee play LSU on national television and I realized just how special Eric Berry really was.   His combination of speed, instinct, and agility was simply astounding to watch.  Even now in the NFL (before he was injured) Eric Berry seemed to always be at the point where the ball was.  Eric Berry is like Visa, he’s everywhere you want to be and that would make him an exceptional right back.  With an amazing awareness for where the ball is and ability to cover large amounts of the pitch very quickly, Berry would be a ferocious defender.

Center Mid-Fielder: Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback; Green Bay Packers

I still don’t think Jon Gruden has gotten off his knees yet from watching Aaron Rodgers dismantle the Vikings on Monday Night Football.  After that cacophony of praise I am having a hard time giving credit to Rodgers but there is no doubt he is a phenomenal athlete.  What makes Rodgers such a great quarterback in the NFL is his ability to distribute the ball and make the players around him better.  In a sense a center mid-fielder is the quarterback or point guard of his team.  There is no doubt that Rodgers is a natural leader and can distribute the ball.  On top of that anyone who has ever seen him run a bootleg knows that he has the speed and athleticism to lead his team down the pitch.  Watching Rodgers is like watching an artist at work.  He is deceptively fast and incredibly efficient.  Think of Spain’s Xavi here but even better.

Center Mid-Fielder: Chris Paul, Point Guard; New Orleans Hornets

Like Rodgers, Paul is a great ball distributor and makes his teammates better.  He is quick and has great feet.  He is a natural leader and understands match-ups.  There was no doubt in either of our minds that Chris Paul would make an excellent mid-fielder.  He has the speed and natural instincts necessary to master this position.

Left Mid-Fielder: Reggie Bush, Running Back; Miami Dolphins

If you want to understand the ability that Reggie Bush has to change direction and cover a lot of space very quickly – just go watch the USC vs. Fresno State game from his junior year.  When you see the play I have in mind you’ll know it – he somehow ran from one sideline to the other and back again to scamper more than 30 yards for a score.  He is naturally left-handed and left-footed which makes him a natural fit for this position.  Anyone that has seen him return a punt knows his ability to get up the field.  Mark described Reggie Bush as having “world class speed and agility.  Think [Tottenham Hotspur’s] Gareth Bale but more agile.”

Right Mid-Fielder: Devin Hester, Wide Receiver/Kick Returner; Chicago Bears

Devin Hester has an amazing ability to understand defense.  He naturally can find the ball and once he has it – find a seam that he can exploit to go the distance.  If you find Devin Hester unguarded with the ball breaking away down the right sideline – good luck stopping this guy because you won’t be able to catch him.  Hester could be a world-class right mid-fielder.

Centre Forward: Derrick Rose, Point Guard; Chicago Bulls

The centre forward has one job – to score goals.  If you ever watch the Bulls play, Rose has the ability to penetrate defenses and drive to the basket.  He has an incredible ability to shoot a gap and an understanding of angles to know what steps he has to take to get to the goal.  When you think of Derrick Rose translating his skill set to soccer, think Carlos Tevez.

Striker: Darren Sproles, Running Back; New Orleans Saints

Mark always likes to describe Sproles as having “phone booth quickness” and to be honest, I really can’t disagree.  Despite his size, this guy amazes me with his speed, quickness, agility, and ability to make guys miss.  I believe that he has the footwork necessary from the multiple times I’ve seen him tiptoe 40 yards down a sideline for a score.  As Mark put it, “If Sproles has any kind of skill, Messi can kiss it!”

The Subs

Reserve Goalkeeper: Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver; Detroit Lions

The only reason that Calvin Johnson is dubbed Megatron instead of the Freak is because “the Freak” was already taken (twice actually).  Calvin Johnson is a remarkable combination of size, speed, and agility and lives by the motto of “If you can touch it, you can catch it.”  I feel that Johnson would be incredibly difficult to score on and with his remarkable height, strength, and leaping ability – would be a prime candidate if you needed to throw someone in the game to head a ball in.

Substitute: Adrian Peterson, Running Back; Minnesota Vikings

Peterson plays the game of football with a sense of violence and urgency that could come in handy inside of the penalty box.  He is difficult to tackle and once he has momentum, incredibly difficult to stop.  Peterson has quick feet, is very shifty, and can change direction on a dime.  In a game his best fit would probably be as a right mid-fielder.  While not as quick as Rose or Sproles, he could also serve as a full back in his ability to attack a gap and naturally figure out where he needs to be in order to get to the goal

Substitute: Metta World Peace (Ron Artest), Small Forward; Los Angeles Lakers

There is no denying the athletic ability of the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest.  This was purely a Mark pic but I can’t deny the reasoning.  Artest would be great at getting to the ball and tipping it in when it bounces off the goal.  “Every team needs a garbage player” and nobody could feel that role better than whatever his name is this week.

There is no doubt in my mind that if our best male athletes were brought up playing soccer as opposed to basketball, football, and baseball – that our FIFA teams would enjoy similar success to our women’s teams.  The question has to be though – here’s our team:

WHO WOULD YOU PLACE ON YOURS?

Advertisements

The Know-It-All’s Fantasy Prep

The Know-It-All’s Fantasy Prep

 

Week 4 Weekend Player Updates

 

Kyle Stafford – @Kstafford32

You are either one of two people at the moment. You are sitting high and mighty at 3-0/2-1 or you are in a state of panic and disbelief at 0-3/1-2. I have been in both situations in the past. It can be easy for the team at the top to get complacent about their place in the standings and not work their team hard enough. You can also reach a level of discouragement being the guy at the bottom and want to just stop working your team.  The Fantasy Season is about 25% of the way thru. Don’t give up and don’t get complacent. There is a hard lesson I am learning in my Fantasy Baseball League at the moment, It’s not how you start, It’s how you finish……..

Digging for Gold:

Ending Week 3, injuries continue to be the trend. There are still players in the Free Agent Pool that can help, but in some cases you can’t fix a stab wound with a band aid…example Jamaal Charles owners.

Quarterback:

Matt Hasselbeck, TEN– Hasselbeck has put up very consistent fantasy numbers this season. He is averaging 300 yards a game and has two games of 20 or more fantasy points scored. You could see a drop in production with the news of Kenny Britt tearing his ACL and landing on the IR. Hasselbeck faces Cleveland, Indy, and Cincy over the next 5 games.

The Jets are turning into a passing team with Sanchez under center

Mark Sanchez, NYJ–  Sanchez is quietly having a solid start to the fantasy year. He has passed for over 330 yards twice, has thrown for 2 touchdowns in every game, and has a QB rating of 90.0 for the year. The only big negative for Sanchez is Interceptions. If he can cut down on the turnovers I can see him as a valuable start if the matchup is favorable.

Running Back:

Steve Slaton, MIA– It is still a mystery what happened to this former fantasy 1st round talent. Now that he was claimed by the Dolphins, he is worth a look. Slaton seems to have overcome his injury problems, but was the low man in a crowded Houston backfield. With Reggie Bush as an hourly injury concern, Slaton could pick up some valuable carries and targets behind rookie Daniel Thomas. Remember he once rushed for 1,282 yards, 9 Touchdowns with only 268 attempts. He also caught 50 balls that year.

Roy Helu could overtake the starting spot in Washington

Roy Helu, WAS- In a Mike Shanahan backfield, you never know who will emerge. Helu seems to be splitting carries with Tim Hightower, but it is a matter of how many touches he gets. He is a nice handcuff for Hightower owners, and could emerge as the #1 option.

 Wide Receivers:

David Nelson, BUF-  It’s time to drink the Kool Aid in Buffalo. Nelson has been a consistent target. If Buffalo could find him in the endzone more then he would be a top fantasy sleeper pick. He has had back to back 80+ yard performances, scoring 24 fantasy points in week 2.

With Kenny Britt on Injured Reserve, Nate Washington will be the #1 Wideout

Nate Washington, TEN– With Kenny Brit out for the year, Washington takes over the #1 Wideout spot. Titans have proven that they are not afraid to throw the ball, so Washington should receive an above average amount of targets. He has favorable matchups 3 of the next 5 games, and blasted Denver for 8 receptions, 92 yards, and a touchdown.

Antonio Brown, PIT- Last week I had Brown on my list for players that were on the decline. In Week 3 I noticed a trend. If you look at Brown’s targets, they have increased every week. He has 22 totals targets this year, more than Hines Ward at 18. He has also clearly out-performed Emmanuel Sanders the past 2 weeks. I am not a fan of Pittsburgh Wideouts, but Brown is worth keeping an eye on.

Tight Ends:

Todd Heap, ARI–  He has passed Jeff King as Kevin Kolb’s favorite Tightend. The Cardinals offense looked horrible Sunday, but Heap was able to grab 6 balls for 61 yards. He is not going to put up huge numbers. If you are looking for some low consistency to get you by, Heap is worth the look.

Brandon Pettigrew, DET– Finally broke out for 11 receptions and 112 receiving yards. As Stafford continues to grow this year, I see this connection becoming stronger.

 

The Ups & Downs:

Three weeks of football has displayed to us some valuable trends that show us a lot about how players are developing.

Players on the Rise:

Matt Schaub QB, HOU: After a disappointing week 1, Schaub has improved the last two weeks. He posted 373 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Saints on Sunday. As long as Andre Johnson is running routes for the Texans, Schaub will always have the chance to score big.

 

Manning carved up the Eagles for 4 touchdowns Sunday

Eli Manning QB, NYG: Against a stacked Eagle Secondary, Manning threw for 250+ yards and 4 TD’s. He was mediocre the previous 2 weeks, but he is starting to move on without Steve Smith.

 

Ryan Mathews RB, SD: Mike Tolbert is not stealing Mathews spotlight as of late. The second year back is finding his was into the endzone and racking up plenty of yards in the process. Mathews has all the tools to do his best LT impersonation in San Diego, but has Norv Turner finally put his trust in him?

 

Wes Welker WR, NE: Count them up… 20 targets in one game! Wow… some #1 Wideouts have that many for the season so far. The Welker-Brady connection continues to thrive in New England and the sure handed Welker is putting up “off the chart” numbers. 16 catches/216 yards/2 touchdowns on Sunday. He is by far the top Receiver option in Fake Football at the moment.

 

Players on the Down:

 

Santonio Holmes WR, NYJ: He has been decent at best. Bothered by a sore quad in week 2, and too many forced balls his way have given Holmes a slow start to the season. He has the talent to bounce back, but currently Plaxico Burress is showing him up.

 

Santonio Holmes has not lived up to his potential this year

Steven Jackson RB, STL: The Rams have overloaded Jackson with carries since he was drafted and it is catching up to him. When he is 100%, he is easily one of the Elite Backs in the game, but with a lingering quad injury and a poor team around him, there is not much hope for this star.

 

DeAngelo Williams RB, CAR: Carolina was thought to be a run centered team in preseason. The emergence of Cam Newton has changed that. With less carries and Jonathan Stewart being the favored back, Williams should be stored away on your bench until fate turns in his favor.

 

Reggie Bush RB, MIA: With no Drew Bress throwing him the ball and no Sean Payton drawing up plays for him, Bush has looked below average at best in Miami. Rookie Daniel Thomas has taken over the #1 spot, and newly acquired Steve Slaton could also steal the show from Bush. High Powered Passing attacks is what appeals to his skill set and Miami just doesn’t have it.

Sam Bradford QB, STL: The trend of Spread Offense Quarterbacks coming out of the college is normally not good. Bradford seems to be following that trend this season. Granted, his team around him has not improved, but his costly mistakes are what have made him a Non-Fantasy Option.

 

Buy or Sell:

You should always be looking to buy low off another team’s rosters and sell high on your roster. Just don’t get trade happy. The goal is to upgrade your current position.

 

Buy Low:

Josh Freeman QB, TB-                        Freeman has a favorable schedule, and has shown improvement

Jimmy Graham TE, NO-          Is becoming the option Shockey never could fill

Phillip Rivers QB, SD-              Stock is down a little, a chance to buy low. He will produce

Reshard Mendenhall RB, PIT- Has had a slow start, but will come around

 

 

 

Sell High:

Darren Sproles RB, NO-          Top 7 RB, value will never be higher

Is Mike Vick worth the injury risk for your team?

Steve Smith WR, CAR-              Rookie QB, and tough schedule ahead

Antonio Gates TE, SD-             2nd season of foot problems, cannot stay on the field

Robert Meachem WR, NO-    Colston is on his way back, sell him before his targets disappear    

Mike Vick QB, PHI-                 When he is good, he is elite… BUT can’t stay healthy. See if you can get good value in return

 

 THE GOLDEN RULE:

Fantasy Sports is all about Perseverance. When you are down you have to work 10x harder than the rest of the league to get to the top…..and when you are at the top you have to work 20x harder or someone might catch you by surprise.

Questions? Comments? Follow Me on Twitter @KStafford32

2011 NFL Offseason Grades – NFC South

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

NFL DRAFT

2011 NFL DRAFT PICKS: Cameron Jordan, DE (1-24); Mark Ingram, RB (1-28); Martez Wilson, OLB (3-72); Johnny Patrick, CB (3-88); Greg Romeus, DE (7-226); Nathan Bussey, OLB (7-243)

 

It's very rare that you see the best running back in the draft fall all the way to the 28th pick.

With the exception of maybe Cleveland, nobody was more impressive the first night than the Saints.  I was shocked when they had Cameron Jordan just sitting there for them with the 24th overall pick.  What I always noticed about Jordan when he played at California was his long arms that made it next to impossible for anyone to get around him to the outside.  He has great speed and size and a work ethic that comes from his father Steve who spent 13 years in the NFL as a tight end with the Vikings.  To be able to follow up the Jordan pick by trading up to land the best running back in the draft in Mark Ingram 28th overall was an unbelievable value.  The Saints didn’t fare as well in later days, neglecting the huge need they had for an offensive tackle but in regards to value I was definitely impressed by the pick up of Martez Wilson in the 3rd round.   He was a great run-stopping linebacker at Illinois who I thought would go in the mid to late 2nd round but some off the field issues and a 2 injuries (a herniated disc 2 years ago and a stabbing last year) probably led to his fall into the 3rd round.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Abrayo Franklin, NT (49ers); Darren Sproles, RB (Chargers); Lance Moore, WR (Saints); Roman Harper, S (Saints); Clint Ingram, LB (Jaguars); Jermon Bushrod, OT (Saints); Scott Shanle, LB (Saints); Zach Strief, OT (Saints); Alex Barron, OT (Cowboys); Will Herring, LB (Seahawks); Fabian Washington, DB (Ravens)

KEY LOSSES: Reggie Bush, RB; Akin Ayodele, LB; Remi Ayodele, DT; Jeremy Shockey, TE

Franklin is a big, physical nose tackle who transforms the Saints' rush defense overnight.

While everyone was distracted by the Philadelphia Eagle’s Miami Heat-like stockpile of talent, few took the time to notice the impressive job that the New Orleans Saints did in free agency.  They were able to land the biggest defensive line prize of the free agency period in Abrayo Franklin.  Franklin is a largely unknown player but he is one of the premier nose tackles in the league who should fit nicely into Greg Williams’ scheme down in New Orleans.  In a division that boasts Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Johnathan Stewart, and LeGarrette Blount, stopping the run is a must.  They traded Reggie Bush away for a 2nd round draft pick and then were able to pick up the exact same player, maybe a better version, in Darren Sproles for a lot lower price tag than Bush would have demanded.   They brought in Fabian Washington and Clint Ingram to tighten up that Saints secondary and then did the most important thing that any team can do in free agency, they re-signed their top free agents.

ATLANTA FALCONS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Julio Jones, WR (1-6); Akeem Dent, LB (3-91); Jacquizz Rodgers, RB (5-145); Matt Bosher, P (6-192); Andrew Jackson, G (7-210); Cliff Matthews, DE (7-230)

 

The Falcons clearly think that Jones can help them win now.

For the Falcons, this draft will be mostly gauged in the future on the success of Julio Jones.  The Falcons sold the farm and then some to trade up and grab him so it’s clear that they believe he is the missing piece that can help them win now.  If he does nothing more than open up the field more for Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Michael Turner – that alone could help the Falcons take the next step.  The Akeem Dent pick in the 2nd round makes a lot of sense and I like the addition of Jacquizz Rodgers in the Falcons backfield.  I see him being more of a pass catching back which could be a nice change of pace for the Falcons offense.  I am also a fan of the Cliff Matthews pick in Round 7.  Many have scrutinized this draft and while the price paid for a player with a high ceiling and good chance of getting injured was high.  I like the “all-in” move.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Ray Edwards, DE (Vikings); Justin Blalock, G (Falcons); Stephen Nicholas, LB (Falcons); Mike Peterson, LB (Falcons); Tyson Clabo, OT (Falcons); Eric Weems, WR (Falcons)

KEY LOSSES: Michael Jenkins, WR; Jamaal Anderson, DE; Jerious Norwood, RB; Harvey Dahl, OT

Ray Edwards will once again be in a defense where he plays opposite an All-Pro defensive end.

I really like what Atlanta did in the free agency period.   They did the first thing they needed to do, re-signed the large majority of their free agents.  The loss that probably hurts them the most is the departure of Harvey Dahl who was a very physical force on that Falcons line in previous seasons.  Then the Falcons went out and made the move they needed to by getting the second best defensive end on the free agent market in Ray Edwards.  There has been a lot of criticism that Edwards was a product of being opposite All-Pro Jared Allen on the Vikings front four.  Great – now he’s opposite All-Pro John Abraham.  The Falcons needed containment help in a division that has Drew Brees, Josh Freeman, and now Cam Newton.  I think Edwards is a perfect fit here and will have considerable success in Atlanta.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Adrian Clayborn, DE (1-20); Da’Quan Bowers, DE (2-51); Mason Foster, ILB (3-84); Luke Stocker, TE (4-104); Ahmad Black, S (5-151); Allen Bradford, RB (6-187); Anthony Gaitor, CB (7-222); Daniel Hardy, TE (7-238)

I firmly believe that this could soon be the most feared defensive end pairing in the NFL

 

I cannot say enough good things about how well Tampa Bay drafted this offseason.  They went out with their first round pick and drafted Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn.  A player who can play either the defensive tackle or the defensive end position.  Either way he’s a game changer.  Then the Bucs took what I consider the most low-risk/high-reward pick of the draft in taking Bowers in the 2nd round.  Prior to getting injured, Bowers was considered to be a top 5 draft pick.  The Bucs needed DE help and responded by taking two of the top ten defensive ends in this year’s draft.  The late pick that I love of theirs is Ahmad Black.   At Florida, Black was a hard-hitting safety who had excellent awareness and great instinct for finding the ball.  Tampa probably should’ve addressed secondary concerns earlier but could not have done better in the 5th round than Black.

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Quincy Black, LB (Buccaneers); Davin Joseph, G (Buccaneers), Jeremy Trueblood, OT (Buccaneers); Michael Koenen, P (Falcons)

KEY LOSSES: Barrett Ruud, LB

 

The Bucs needed to re-sign Davin Joseph to have any hope of competing in a very tough NFC South.

As many good things I can say about their draft, I can say as many terrible things about the Buccaneers free agency period.   They re-signed the majority of their impact free agents but the only really significant signing they made was luring Michael Koenen away from the rival Falcons.  When your best free agency move is grabbing a punter (while yes, Koenen is a very good punter) you know your free agency has been less than desirable.

 

 

CAROLINA PANTHERS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS:Cam Newton, QB (1-1); Terrell McClain, DT (3-65); Sione Fua, DT (3-97); Brandon Hogan, CB (4-98), Kealoha Pilares, WR (5-132); Lawrence Wilson, OLB (6-166); Zack Williams, G (6-203); Lee Ziemba, OT (7-244)

 

The Panthers have entrusted the next 10 years of their franchise to Cam Newton.

Much like the Falcons and Julio Jones, the whole Panthers draft will be weighed in the future of Cam Newton.  While I find him to be an incredible athlete, I do not believe he has the intelligence or discipline to play the quarterback position.  I still feel like Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, Blaine Gabbert, or Patrick Peterson would have all been better choices.  But now it is up to Newton as to whether or not he will succeed, it’s not a question of talent but of work ethic and leadership.   The majority of the Panthers draft in taking players like McClain, Fua, and Wilson (who clearly fill needs) follows the same pattern as Newton.  These are all players with great potential but the question is whether or not they pan out.  Three years from now this will be remembered either as an excellent draft or a terrible one.

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Charles Johnson, DE (Panthers), DeAngelo Williams, RB (Panthers); James Anderson, LB (Panthers); Thomas Davis, LB (Panthers); Greg Olsen, TE (Bears); Jeremy Shockey, TE (Saints); Ron Edwards, DT (Chiefs); Omar Gaither, LB (Eagles); Olindo Mare, K (Seahawks); Derek Anderson, QB (Cardinals); Ben Hartsock, TE (Jets); Ron Rivera, Head Coach (Defensive Coordinator, Chargers)

KEY LOSSES: Matt Moore, QB; Dante Rosario, TE

Re-signing Charles Johnson was the best move the Panthers could have made in free agency

Like the Saints, the Panthers had an unbelievable (but highly unnoticed) free agency period.  What I love about what the Panthers did is they started off by finding their head coach in Ron Rivera who I believe perfectly fits the tradition of defense that the Panthers have.  I thought this was an excellent hire.  Then they turned around and re-signed every single one of their high profile free agents, they got Steve Smith excited about being a part of the Panthers, and just recently they extended Ryan Kalil.  From their they got to work, they went from having no good tight end to having the best tight end receiving corps in the league in Olsen, Shockey, and Hartsock.  They brought back the best defensive end in free agency in Charles Johnson and re-signed DeAngelo Williams (which I didn’t think they’d pull off).  Then they brought in Gaither and Edwards to improve their front 7.  And while often overlooked, they brought in Olindo Mare as a great replacement to the aging John Kasay.  Overall a fantastic job for Ron Rivera in his first free agency period.

 

 

Overall, the NFC South as a whole probably improved the most of any division.  While I am not a huge fan of what the Bucs did in free agency or the Panthers did in the draft, all four teams in this division should be considerably better next season.  I am excited to see how this division plays out.

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