I'm back!!!! After some road tripping through California for new years and some time away from posting I am back and ready to get the off-season talk started. The Playoffs still have yet to begin but the off-season has officially begun for any and all teams not involved. The curse, or the bad part, we are not in the playoffs. The good part, or the gift, we are drafting 14th overall instead of being 21st or later. So let us get on to the blueprint of the 2012 off-season for our boys.
After a dismal loss to the Giants we can actually enjoy a moment of clarity. That is our gift for this season being over now. The curse is having to live with the fact that our team is not as good as we all thought they were at the beginning of the season. We will take a look at the needs of this team going forward and how we can address them going forward. I will not focus on staff yet although I feel some changes will be coming there, namely a possibility of a change in the coaching of the Defensive Backs and possibly the O-line (maybe...). Obviously though, in these days of the salary cap and when making any changes to a team, there is a risk/reward for each move or transaction, or as I will refer to as the gift and the curse. A gift and a curse I feel better reflects the outcome as any bad decision could be either a gift with much propserity down the road or a curse and a burden on the organization for years to come, a setback. So I will touch on re-signing players, targets in free agency, moves to be made in the draft as far as possible trades, and players to target with the first two picks. So sit back and enjoy this moment of clarity while it lasts.
So let us take a look at the players that we have on our roster with expiring contracts and I have crossed out the players that I believe we should just let go or have expressed a desire to test the market:
Martellus Bennett- Wants to test the market, let him
- Montrae Holland - Good back-up but we need better guards
Anthony Spencer- Almost, but run defense alone won't make you valuable enough...
Bradie James- Great team player, but probably run his course here
Keith Brooking- T2R? Time to retire?
- Mat McBriar - Old punter but a two time Pro Bowler, maybe bring in some competition for camp...
- Laurent Robinson - Most touchdowns on the team, can't stress enough how vital his re-signing is
- Tony Fiammetta - Another VITAL re-signing
- Abram Elam - Can we get a safety to replace him and how important is his defensive QBing?
Alan Ball- Can we please get a corner that can catch the ball?
Kevin Ogletree- Laurent Robinson is taller and faster and just left the tree in the dust...
- Clifton Geathers - Restricted free agent, might as well make an offer
- Jesse Holley - Good special teamer and clutch hands guy in a pinch
- Derrick Dockery - Probably a good back-up
This obviously isn't everyone but I think I have all of the players listed that we should re-sign. One thing to consider when releasing players, especially old ones, is the possibility of a the compensatory draft selections garnered by players leaving. I do not know exactly how they measure a player and what his compensatory value is, but I think if we were extremely lucky we might get a 4th rounder in return for Anthony Spencer and maybe a 6th Rounder for Martellus Bennett and maybe the same or a 5th for Bradie James. By letting some of these players go it also clears up some needed cap space. Marty B and Almost Anthony were way overpaid for their production so those would be good players to just let go. These things are the gift in this section, having more cap space from certain players leaving as well as possible compensatory picks. The Curse though is if they go somewhere else and do very well for the other team, especially if that team is an NFC East Rival. What if Almost Anthony went to Philly or New York and became a strong side linebacker there where he isn't really asked to rush the passer? Sure he is big for a 4-3 LB but it is a possibility...
2012 Free Agents
As of right now, these are the Free Agents that I believe we need to target when free agency opens up. This can change because teams could still resign their players before the time comes, but I can't predict any of that so I won't try. I have also listed their age that they will be next season or for the majority of the season at least. So here they are, your 2012 free agents of value to us in no particular order of value or importance:
- Carl Nicks - OG - 27 - Saints might not be able to offer another top dollar contract to another OG
- Ben Grubbs - OG - 28 - Might need to fight the Ravens for him...
- Chris Myers - OC - 31 - Good Center, but maybe a little undersized and old
- Calais Campbell - DE - 26 - Probably the hottest commodity this off-season, but will he re-sign?
- Jason Jones - DE - 26 - Injury issues but young, talented, and knows how to get pressure
- Cliff Avril - OLB - 26 - Can he stand up and play OLB in a 3-4, 10+ sack strong side rusher
- Robert Mathis - OLB - 31 - Can you teach an old dog new tricks, gets pressure from strong side
- Cortland Finnegan - CB - 28 - Good physical corner and from what I hear a good teammate
- Brent Grimes - CB - 29 - Another older corner but one of the more underrated d-backs this year
- Brandon Carr - CB - 26 - Probably better as a #2 but worth a look
- Laron Landry - S - 28 - We need a safety and dude is a beast and knows the NFC East
- Tyvon Branch - S - 25 - Young player that might need a little coaching, worth a look
The top guys on here I would say are Calais Campbell, Cliff Avril (my bet is he could transition as he did have a pick this year...), Carl Nicks, Jason Jones, and Laron Landry. That is also the order I would say is best. I think if we could grab any two of these players (mostly Calais Campbell and Cliff Avril) then it would REALLY open up the draft for us to pretty much select anyone. There is your gift in this scenario, filling needs with proven players Cap space is the problem though, and that is the curse. Paying a player and he plays well but not well enough to garner the large contract given, or begins to lose a step playing for you.
Draft Day Activity
Now let us discuss draft day activity. These scenarios are largely based on what happens in the compensatory draft picks that are awarded us as well as who we can snatch in free agency. So let us have a look:
Trade Up - This makes the most sense to do if we can grab at least two of those free agents that I mentioned in the last section, namely the top five I listed. For example, if you grab Calais Campbell and Cliff Avril then you just solved two positions of need already and the only one left is maybe getting younger and upgrading the cornerback spot. Trading up for a guy like Morris Claiborne in that scenario I think makes a lot of sense. If we got any other two then trading up might not be as attractive, however still remaining a possibility
Stand Pat - If we get only one of those top dogs in free agency, then standing pat would probably work best. Maybe you can only get Carl Nicks so you use your other pick to grab a pass rusher or grab another Guard in David Decastro, then you have a SOLID O-line except for maybe the Center Position. Or you can grab a pass rusher if you didn't get Avril or Campbell.
Trade Down - This is never an attractive option to me and I despise the talk of it before draft day because you have no idea who will be available when you draft. Someone very good could slide to you. However, OCC pointed out earlier a possibility of trading down and then trading back up which could possibly garner us the 21st and 22nd picks in the draft. Depending on who is still available, you might be able to grab OG David Decastro AND C Peter Konz (Any lineman out of Wisconsin is pretty much a lock to succeed for you). If the possibility of picking up two blue chip prospects is intriguing, if you don't mind your next pick being in the third round...
The gift in any of these scenarios is obvious. Trade up and get a player who turns out to be one of if not the best player in the draft. Trade down and get an extra pick and the player you really wanted is still there. The Curse is just as obvious and is pretty much just the opposite of the gifts. You trade down and miss out on a good player because of it or you trade up and he wasn't worth it. You just have to do your homework here just like anywhere else.
Rookies to Target
- Morris Claiborne - CB - LSU
- David DeCastro - OG - Stanford
- Melvin Ingram - DE - South Carolina
- Devon Still - DT - Penn State
- Dre Kirkpatrick - CB - Alabama
- *Brandon Jenkins - DE - FSU
- Mark Barron - S - Alabama
- Janoris Jenkins - CB - North Alabama
- Quinton Coples - DE - UNC
- Vontaze Burfict - ILB - ASU
- *Peter Konz - OC - Wisconsin
- Ben Jones - OC - Georgia
- Marcus Forston - DT - Miami (Fla.)
- Coby Fleener - TE - Stanford
- Ronnell Lewis - DE - Oklahoma
- Trumaine Johnson - CB - Montana
- Jared Crick - DT/DE - Nebraska
- Jayron Hosley - CB - VTech
- Cordy Glenn - OG - Georgia
- Markelle Martin - S - OkSU
*If he declares
I have these ordered from who I believe is the best player to worst as best I could. The draft, as always, will largely depend on who we can grab in free agency. I think I can speak for everyone in saying that I will be mad with rage if we sit tight this free agency period and don't pick up someone good, preferably one of the 12 I mentioned above. I am sick of us sitting by in free agency the past 3 or 4 years and doing nothing. If we can pick up even one good free agent then it will help us a lot in the draft. All of these players won't be available at our draft spot, so some would require a trade up or possibly us trading down to be a good value. It is all dependent on who slides and who doesn't. Be on the lookout for these guys at the combine, pro days and among the invites to valley ranch before the draft on April 26th. The Gift and the Curse need not be mentioned here. You just need to know who you are drafting, and by drafting a good player, you have a talented, young team.
So that is my blueprint for the 2012 off-season, along with the gift and the curse for each process. Sorry for not posting any pictures or anything as it took me enough time as it is to compile this information for your reading pleasure. I am anxious for the draft now to see who we are able to grab and how they will contribute next season. It is so nice that this time we won't have to deal with a lockout this off-season and we will be able to see how they are performing and coming along in mini-camps and OTAs and being able to sign free agents before the draft as well. Let the off-season talk begin!!!!