Alright folks, Part II is here. I'm looking at addressing the defensive needs, but there's an offensive wrinkle based on my top free agent addition....
I'm moving Ratliff to defensive end. It's a move that should have been done for the last few years, but we just didn't have anyone to take his place. Well, I'm done with watching a 3-4 defense that doesn't have a force in the middle. D O N E! It's been ridiculous to think this defense can be a top unit, for an entire season, with Ratliff in the middle. He wore down fast this past year. I like Josh Brent's potential (this will be his first full offseason). but I'm not willing to just trust he can handle the job.
Therefore, I've decided we're not going into 2012 without a big NT. Paul Soliai is my top free agent target this offseason and if we can land him, our first round pick goes to DeCastro (see, I can surprise you on draft day just like JJ...except I surprise in a good way). I didn't want to write that in Part I because if we can't get Soliai, I'm taking Dontario Poe in the first. I expect Poe to tear up the Combine and wow everyone. The 3-4 D needs a guy like Wilfork, Raji, or Ngata. I think the Poe decision won't be needed though. Soliai will be available since the Phins appear to be switching to a 4-3 so DeCastro is now part of the line. Soliai won't be cheap so if we have to keep McGee as a backup instead of signing a veteran, so be it.
2012 lineup - Soliai, Brent
Now that we have Soliai at NT and Brent to rotate with him, I expect Ratliff to have one of his more productive seasons as an end. I'm not sure if I'm the only one, but I like what Lissemore showed in December when he registered two sacks. I think he's still improving and could work out very well opposite of Ratliff. I also think Hatcher could have registered another sack or two, but seemed to lose a little after getting banged up so he'll battle Lissemore for the starting spot. Geathers also appears to have potential upside and while I don't like Spears, he'll stick due to his contract. Coleman is gone.
2012 lineup - Ratliff, Lissemore, Hatcher, Geathers, Spears
We all love Ware because he is what we drafted him to be...a QB wrecking machine. Not all of us love Spencer because so far he's what some feared he would be...Almost Anthony. Whether or not to resign Spencer has been an ongoing debate. One argument for keeping him, that I haven't seen yet, is this (my apologies if someone has brought this up). As much as everyone wants improved play opposite of Ware, there's no guarantee that a rookie will play better in all phases.
Could he improve? Of course, but do we have time to let that happen and can the improvement be guaranteed? Now, I'm not just stuck on Spender. I will look at other veterans such as Ahmad Brooks and Wimbley (if he's cut). I'm not giddy at the thought of resigning Spencer, but I'm hoping with improved play by the front three, the QB won't be able to step into the pocket as much and that may just give Spencer (or another vet) enough time to register another two or three sacks.
2012 lineup - Ware, Spencer/Brooks/Wimbley, Butler, Albright
We have finally moved on from the slowest ILB tandem in NFL history. Sean Lee is a STUD and would have been in contention for Pro Bowl and All Pro honors had he not hurt his wrist. Bruce Carter has a lot to prove, but it's hard to argue against his upside and we have to give him an opportunity to show us he can succeed before we worry about replacing him. I also like the fact we were able to retain Orie Lemon on the practice squad. He'll be a part of the 53 man roster in 2012.
I'd pursue a quality linebacker that we could get at a reasonable price. Dan Connor has a lot of injury concerns which may bring his price down and if he doesn't start, he may be able to stay healthy enough to contribute. D'Qwell Jackson has played for Rob Ryan in the past and was injured much of 2009 and 2010 (played in every game of 2011) so his price may be down as well. My top choice would be Channing Crowder as I think he'd be a great fit for this defense and could rotate with Lee and Carter. We also lack a true pass rusher at the inside linebacker position and he has the ability to improve that area.
2012 lineup - Lee, Carter, Crowder, Lemon
OMFG (Oh my football gods - just to clarify I'm keeping the content decent) how can we STILL be talking about how terrible our safeties are?! I'm convinced that if Woodson came out of retirement, we would see an improvement with this unit. Elam, are you kidding me? No interceptions? Not even a pass defensed?? Good grief. Yeah, he made a lot of coverage tackles, but could that be because everyone caught the ball when he was around? Elam is gone and I'm not bringing him back. Sensabaugh was a good signing since filling two holes at safety in a complex defense would be too much to ask and he's at least shown some decent ability when healthy. I like Church and McCray, but it's looking like they're career backup/special teamers so I'd use our 3rd round pick on Markelle Martin. If I have to, I'll use our 5th round pick to trade up because I really like his game. If we want better safety play, we have to stop hoping a 5th round pick or later will bring us a starter, which is what we've done for years.
2012 lineup - Sensabaugh, Martin, Church, McCray
KABOOM! That's right, time to blow this position up. Well, actually it's far past that time. Walker, Newman, and Ball are gone. I wish we didn't resign Scandrick before he tested the waters because we could have gotten him to stay for less. But, he's here and signed to a deal we have to stick with for at least two years. That leaves us with three positions to fill. I'm going to bring in a veteran and use two draft picks. I'd look at signing, in this order, William Middleton, Terrell Thomas, Tracy Porter, or Richard Marshall. The first rookie will come with our second round pick we would have used on Ben Jones if we needed to. I lean on our board to tell me who to pick out of Gilmore, Boykin, Leonard Johnson and Minnefield. I personally would take Gilmore or Minnefield because of their size. Having an early round CB will give us some leverage when negotiating with Mike Jenkins and if he chooses to leave in 2013, it won't cripple us. I'd then use a pick in the 4th and select the best CB remaining and I'm hoping that would be Dwight Bentley.
2012 lineup - Middleton, Jenkins, Scandrick, Gilmore, Bentley
So, presuming we get Soliai, here's our team. I'd have loved to upgrade Spencer, but I thought addressing the secondary needs far outweighed that.
QB - Romo, McGee, Rookie (I don't like McGee, but would keep him if needed to sign the other FAs)
RB - Murray, F. Jones, Tanner
FB - Fiametta
TE - Witten, Phillips, Rookie
WR - Austin, Bryant, veteran, Radway, Holley/Harris/Holmes (best of)
OT - Smith, Free, Parnell
G - DeCastro, Kosier, Nagy, Arkin, Holland
C - Saturday, Kowalski
NT - Soliai, Brent
DE - Ratliff, Lissemore, Hatcher, Geathers, Spears
OLB - Ware, Spencer, Butler, Albright
ILB - Lee, Carter, Crowder, Lemon
S - Sensabaugh, Martin, Church, McCray
CB - Middleton, Jenkins, Scandrick, Gilmore, Bentley
BPA between ILB, OLB, DE, or C/G (compensatory pick)
5th rounder used to trade up for Martin
QB or TE
QB or TE
So, there ya go. One of a million possible scenarios.