Thursday, March 5, 2009

T.O. Out in Dallas

What it means for the Cowboys: Terrell Owens is a productive receiver on the football field, there is no getting around that fact. At the age of 34 he had 69 receptions for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns. While those are excellent numbers, Owens is not the dominating receiver he once was. He posted only two 100-yard games including a 213 yard performance against the 49ers. His loss will hurt the Cowboys as he had almost double the number of receiving yards of any other receiver on the Cowboys last year and more touchdowns than the rest of the receivers combined. Now those statistics are a bit misleading, Dallas tight ends and running backs accounted for over 1,800 yards receiving and had 10 touchdowns, so the Cowboys aren't without weapons. Also receiver Roy Williams, acquired during the year, can be a star receiver. Williams will hopefully be a bigger part of the offense now that he's had a full year to learn the system. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys add another receiver, because for all the talent that Williams has he's only had one 1,000 yard season. The true benefit for the Cowboys will be in their team unity, Owens was a disruptive force in the locker room. Owens has clashed with players and coaches alike and has frequently had his disputes made public further hurting team chemistry. The downside of losing Owens is what he did on the field. While the Cowboys still possess their share of play makers, those players will have to show they can succeed without Owens in the line-up. Owens drew the best coverage often freeing up TE Jason Witten and the running backs to make plays. Cowboys will need their receivers to step up and fill the void that Owens leaves on the field.

What it means for T.O.: Terrell Owens has burned a few bridges during his NFL career and it could come back to bite him now that he's on the open market. Two of the teams most in need of a big play receiver the 49ers and the Eagles, have been down the Owens road before and are unlikely to try again. Three other teams that have been looking at receivers, the Dolphins, Ravens, and Vikings, all will likely pass given past experiences with T.O. by some of their top personnel. Dolphins president Bill Parcells was the Dallas coach in 2006 when Owens came, and head coaches Jim Harbaugh (Ravens) and Brad Childress (Vikings) were in Philadelphia when Owens became a locker room problem there. That doesn't mean that no teams will jump in the Owens market but it isn't likely to get to a bidding war over his services. Look for a team like Oakland or maybe New England to explore the possibility.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Trade Center: NFL

The Deal: The Detroit Lions send QB Jon Kitna to the Dallas Cowboys for CB Anthony Henry

Lions: If you are an 0-16 team and you can get any value for your back-up quarterback then you are doing a good job. The Lions didn't need Kitna anymore as they now have Daunte Culpepper as a veteran quarterback. They will likely address the position in the draft or by bringing in a young quarterback as well. In return they got a pretty good player in Henry who had 6 interceptions in 2007. Henry should be more of a nickle corner at this point in his career and is big enough to slide over to free safety.

Cowboys: If you watched any of the Cowboys games last year when Tony Romo was hurt you can understand why the Cowboys wanted to upgrade their quarterback position. Kitna, who has put together a pretty decent NFL career, will now replace Brad Johnson as Romo's stand in. He will be a nice luxury for Dallas in case Romo misses any games next year. The Cowboys did give up a fair amount for Kitna in Anthony Henry. Henry is far from a shut down corner, but he can be a valuable third corner or even a starting free safety. Cornerback wasn't a position of strength for the Dallas to begin with and is now extremely thin.

Winner: The Lions are a slight winner here. Both teams filled a need but the Cowboys paid a hefty price for a player they hope will never see the field.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Trade Center: NFL

Usually when we think of trades in the NFL we think of War Room deals that take place during April's draft. This year we've already seen a few deals go down as the off season period commenced. We are going to analyze the trades and evaluate how each team did.

The Deal: Vikings trade a 4th round pick to the Texans for QB Sage Rosenfels

Texans: Sage Rosenfels wasn't going to supplant Matt Schaub as a starter so the Texans did a good job getting value for him. Though a 4th round pick isn't a huge addition Houston should be able to find a solid contributor in that round.

Vikings: While Rosenfels won't make Minnesota fans forget about Fran Tarkenton, he will be a major upgrade to the quarterback position. His arrival will push Tarvaris Jackson to the bench and Gus Frerotte out the door. Rosenfels should be a solid starter for the Vikings.

Winner: Both teams won here. The Texans got value for a player they didn't need and the Vikings now have a passing game to go along with Adrian Peterson.

The deal: New England Patriots trade Franchise QB Matt Cassel and OLB Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2nd round pick (34th overall)

Chiefs: Kansas City did a good job getting two starters for only an early 2nd round pick. Cassel should upgrade the 20th ranked pass offense, and is a better option than relying on a rookie. Having Cassel entrenched as a starter allows the Chiefs to focus on another need with the 3rd overall pick in the draft. Cassel will need to prove he's not a product of the Patriots system but should benefit from head coach Todd Haley's pass first offense. While Cassel grabs the headlines of this deal the real prize could very well be Mike Vrabel. The Chiefs defense was awful last season finishing 31st in yards allowed. The Chiefs pass rush was non-existent in 2008 managing only 10 sacks. Vrabel should help the team on both accounts. He may no longer be the dominate pass rusher he was in 2007, when he had 12.5 sacks, but he will be a welcome improvement. His leadership and experience can only help this unit.

Patriots: New England did receive an early 2nd round pick for Cassel and Vrabel, but the real value the Patriots received was cap room. By making the trade the Patriots cleared over $15 million dollars in cap space and should now be able to be an active team in free agency. New England also did a good job getting value out of a player they didn't really need in Cassel, as Tom Brady is the starting quarterback. The problem with the deal is two fold; one: trading away a veteran leader like Vrabel can have repercussions on the field and in the locker room, two: by having that money tied up, even for just two days, kept the Patriots from trying to sign a number of top players. Losing Vrabel creates a hole at linebacker which was already a position of need. In terms of Cassel getting only a 2nd round pick is a pretty low return for a "Franchise player". It brings to mind the question that maybe it wasn't a good idea to Franchise Cassel in the first place since they weren't able to get a comparable value for him. The money they had tied up in Cassel could have gone into linebackers like Bart Scott or Michael Boley, a cornerback like Domonique Foxworth, and any one of the guards that have signed.

Winner: Kansas City has to be the big winner here. They added a solid young quarterback with upside and a veteran linebacker for only a 2nd round pick. Cassel alone should have been worth at least that much. The Chiefs did a great job not overpaying for a "Franchise player".

Sunday, March 1, 2009

3 Early Winners in Free Agency

Here are the three teams who have had the best off season's so far. Obviously things can change but these three teams are off to a good start.

1. Washington Redskins: Big Moves: resigning CB DeAngelo Hall, signing DT Albert Haynesworth (FA, Tennesse Titans), signing OG Derrick Dockery (cut, Buffalo Bills)

The Redskins have had a great start to the off season signing three starters all of whom are under the age of 30. It could be argued that all three are the best free agents at their position. Haynesworth being the best overall free agent and maybe the best defensive tackle in the game. Dockery and Hall are no slouches either. Dockery, who was originally drafted by Washington,, is a top run blocker and will be 7 years younger than the man he replaces, Pete Kendall. Hall, only 25, was a huge asset to the Redskins secondary when they claimed him off waivers from the Oakland Raiders last season. Hall can be one of the top corners in the league when he stays focused. The only negative to the Redskins off season so far is that Washington may have already spent all of their money available for free agency. The Skins still need to address needs at defensive end, outside linebacker and right tackle. If they can address at least one more of those needs with a second tier free agent the Redskins will have had a great off season. Grade: A The Skins signed three of the best players on the market, none of whom were with this team in Week 1 last season.

2. Miami Dolphins: Big Moves: re-signing OT Vernon Carey, MLB Channing Crowder, S Yereimah Bell, signing S Gibril Wilson (Cut, Oakland Raiders)

"If it ain't broke don't fix it" seems to be the Dolphins motto this off season as they have re-signed their top three free agents. Miami inked their three guys and signed safety Gibril Wilson, who had just been released by the Raiders, all before free agency began Friday morning. This allowed them to maintain leverage in negotiations, keeping the price down some what. Bell is the only one of these players that is older than 30 and he will just be 31 this next season. All four players are quality starters in the league. The other advantage with signing their guys early and getting Wilson before free agency began is that none of those guys could have been replaced internally and Wilson replaces their best available free agent safety Renaldo Hill. Carey is an above average right tackle and is a solid bookend to Jake Long. Crowder is a solid inside linebacker who has missed a couple games the past two years due to injury. He lacks the big play ability of other linebackers but is a sure tackler in the middle. The Dolphins secondary just got very dangerous this off season as Bell and Wilson are one of the best safety tandems in the league. Wilson will be three years younger than Hill and is a big upgrade to the 25th ranked passing defense. Both he and Bell excel at stopping the run and playing center field. While the Dolphins have protected themselves from losing any of their top players, Wilson is the only improvement they've made. The Dolphins still have to address issues on their offensive line, at wide receiver and at cornerback. Grade: A The Dolphins kept together a group of players that led to a 10 win turn around in 2008 and look to build towards taking the next step and advancing in the playoffs.

3. New York Giants: re-signing RB Brandon Jacobs, signing OLB Michael Boley (FA, Atlanta Falcons), DT Rocky Bernard (FA, Seattle Seahawks)

The Giants wasted no time locking up their offensive star, first by placing their franchise tag on Jacobs, then inking him to a multi-year deal. Jacobs was a key part of the Giants running attack that finished 1st in the league. Jacobs signing means the likely departure of fellow 1,000 yard back Derrick Ward. New York made the right decision in keeping Jacobs. While Ward is a good back, Jacobs can be a great back. His combination of power and speed is extremely rare in the NFL, and represents a nightmare for opposing defenses. The Giants strengthened their own defense with a pair of signings over the weekend bringing in Bernard and Boley. Bernard should help bolster an already impressive defensive line. He will join a tackle rotation that includes Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield. Bernard, who will be 30 next season, is no longer the every down tackle he once was but can still be a force in the middle. Boley, 27, is one of the better young outside linebackers in the league. Boley should be a big upgrade to a linebacking corps that lacked talent on the outside. Boley did struggle last season with a new defense so it will be interesting to watch how the Giants use him this year. The Giants still need to fill a few more holes but keeping Jacobs was a must for this offense. The defensive signings were solid but neither player is truly elite. Grade: A- The Giants have done well striking quickly and bringing in some good players. The key to this off season will be Boley, if he plays like he did last season it's a bust, but if he plays like he did in his first couple of years this could be a great signing.