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CBS: Good, bad and worse of NFL offseason
Good, bad and worse of NFL offseason
June 22, 2007
By Clark Judge
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Officially, it's summer. Unofficially, it's non-football season everywhere but Frankfurt and Canada. Which means it's the ideal time to dissect what happened before the NFL went on vacation.
I'm talking about offseason moves, and which acquisitions we like and which we don't. Now, before I get started, I'd like to get something straight: There will be no mention of linebacker Adalius Thomas or Nate Clements.
They were the top two unrestricted free agents in this year's market, so naturally they should make their next teams better. And they will. New England's flexible defenses are a perfect fit for the versatile Thomas, and Clements is an ideal partner for Walt Harris in San Francisco.
So what's not to like other than the cost of doing business? Now that we have that resolved, let's begin. Some of these guys are under the radar; some aren't. But all should make a difference - good or bad - on their new clubs:
Five Moves That Make Sense to Me
Wes Welker, WR, New England
There are all sorts of reasons to like this pickup: First of all, he's good. As a matter of fact, he was Miami's leading receiver in 2006. Second, he fits a need. The Patriots' wide receivers last season were as dependable as JetBlue. Third, he fits two needs. Not only can he catch, he can return punts. The Patriots ranked third in returns last year, and Welker makes them that much stronger, which means good luck trying to beat New England in a game of field position. Lastly, he played with Miami, which is in the same division as New England. The Patriots' gain is the Dolpins' loss, and don't knock improving your team at the expense of the competition.
Daniel Graham, TE, Denver
He's a perfect fit for the Broncos. Remember, this is an offense where Shannon Sharpe routinely caught 60-70 passes a year. I'm not saying Graham enters that stratosphere, but I'm saying he could. He once pulled down seven TD passes for New England, and he's tough when you need him most - with 21 of his 37 receptions the past two seasons for first downs. A scout I trust compared him to Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez, saying his pass-catching skills reminded him of Gonzalez but that he's a better blocker than the Chiefs' tight end. All I know is Graham is where he should be if he's going to get noticed. "When I first heard about this move," said one AFC player personnel director, "I winced. Denver just got better."
Thomas Jones, RB, N.Y. Jets
The Jets' concern last season wasn't their defense or a reconfigured offensive line or another Chad Pennington injury. It was a running game that fizzled. OK, rookie Leon Washington looked better on the field than he did in trading cards. But as a whole, the Jets didn't run as well as the Long Island Rail Road - and it's that 3.5 yards per carry I'm talking about. So the club traded for Jones, and yeah, he will make a difference. First of all, the Jets' offensive line is young and improving. Second, Jones doesn't have as much wear on his body as a soon-to-be-29-year-old should. Third, he's coming off consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and produced two 100-yard performances in last year's playoffs - including a 112-yard effort in the Super Bowl. No, he's not Curtis Martin. But he is an improvement over what they had, and he should make them better.
Willis McGahee, RB, Baltimore
People want to knock the guy because he averaged 3.8 yards per carry and had one 100-yard game in his last 11 starts. But some of that had to do with the Bills' struggling passing attack, with opponents stacking the box and daring J.P. Losman to beat them. And some of it had to do with McGahee himself. In fact, a lot of it did. He played last season with ankle and rib injuries, and that's putting it lightly -- he had two cracked ribs. Talk about tough. Still, he ran for 990 yards in 14 games. And he did it with Buffalo changing an offensive line that, until it was reshuffled at mid-season, couldn't - as my longtime friend and Bills fan, Rich Quodomine, says - "stop you, me and nine guys from the mailroom." If McGahee stays healthy, he gains 1,300 yards minimum for the Ravens and has them back in the playoffs.
Takeo Spikes, LB, Philadelphia
Ask anyone who followed the Eagles: The problem with the league's 15th-ranked defense was its linebackers -- particularly its outside linebackers. They didn't do much. So now the Eagles trade for Spikes, who struggled to recover from a 2005 Achilles injury, and think they have their problems solved. Well, they might. Spikes could be an attack dog for defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's attacking defense - provided, of course, he's healthy. At the team's May minicamp, Spikes said he felt better than he had in years, and teammate Jeremiah Trotter gushed about the guy after watching him fly around the field. If Spikes is himself, he makes this defense better. Significantly better. With the questions Philadelphia has on offense, that could be critical to its chances of repeating as division champions.
(tie) David Carr, QB, Carolina
You may be looking at the future starter for the Carolina Panthers. Carr didn't work out in Houston because the Texans couldn't protect him. It's as simple as that. The guy was sacked 249 times in five seasons, which works out to an average of 50 times a year, and that's one way to kill a career. The question is: Can he recover and be a winning quarterback? We won't know until someone puts a legitimate line in front of him, and someone just did. If nothing else, I like the idea of acquiring the top pick in a draft without having to surrender a thing. If it's a gamble, it's not much of one. And if the Panthers find that Carr is what Houston once thought - a franchise quarterback - they committed grand larceny. All I know is that for the first time since Jake Delhomme joined Carolina, the Panthers have a legitimate second option at quarterback.
(tie) Eric Steinbach, G, Cleveland
Since rejoining the NFL in 1999, the Browns haven't ranked higher than 20th in rushing. A year ago they were 31st, which caused the front office to do something about it - and no, it didn't throw a gazillion dollars at a premier running back. It spent them on Steinbach, who took advantage of an inflated market by gaining a whopping contract, though he fills an enormous hole. With Steinbach and first-round draft pick Joe Thomas, Cleveland finally may plug the real mistake by the lake - a porous offensive line.
Five I'm Not Sure About
Leonard Davis, T, Dallas
He couldn't play tackle in Arizona, and he won't play there in Dallas. Instead, the Cowboys will use him at guard, which is smart. But at the cost of $50 million? Please. The guy had a reputation as an underachiever in Arizona, and I just don't see how a fat paycheck cures that. And I'm not alone. "He's not a guard," said one scout. "He's a tackle. And he's not a very good one. They grossly overpaid." We'll see.
Randy Moss, WR, New England
Everyone has an opinion on this guy, and they range from hallelujahs to condemnation. Moss hasn't done anything in three years, but let's be honest here: It would've been hard for Tom Brady to look good in that mess the Raiders called an offense last season. But at least Brady would've tried. Moss didn't. Some scouts think this is the perfect spot for him, a place to re-invent himself as Corey Dillon did in 2004. Maybe. But he's 30, and he does get hurt. Plus, there are character issues that make him a risk for any locker room. If someone can handle him, it's the Patriots and their head coach. The question is: What does Moss have left?
Darrell Jackson, WR, San Francisco
Sure, he fills a hole, but if he were all that valuable, do you think Seattle would've given up on him? When I visited the Seahawks last summer, coaches were frustrated trying to get him on the field. I think the same thing will happen in San Francisco. Jackson is talented; he's just not tough.
Patrick Kerney, DE, Seattle
My heart tells me this is an upgrade for the Seahawks, but my head says that if he's the player he's supposed to be the Falcons would've done everything to keep him. Kerney turns 31 this season, so he's not young. He's also coming off a torn pectoral that shelved him last season. "He's not the same guy," said one player personnel director. "He won't be as good as he was. And they just gave him a ton of money." Obviously, the Seahawks think he has something left. Stay tuned.
Matt Schaub, QB, Houston
Yeah, I liked him in Atlanta, too, but he started only twice, for crying out loud. So now we're to believe he's better for this club than the first pick of the 2002 draft? Maybe, but I want to see the Texans' offensive line first. They're the guys who turned David Carr into a piρata, and there's no guarantee the same thing doesn't happen to Schaub.
Dominic Rhodes, RB, Oakland
So the Raiders had one of the league's worst rushing attacks. Now Rhodes is going to change that? Call me skeptical. For one, the offensive line there stinks. If it doesn't improve, I don't care if Al Davis signs L.T. himself. It doesn't matter. Second, Rhodes was a part-time player in Indy. He's OK when he splits the position and has someone who can block in front of him. I understand that he takes turns with LaMont Jordan, and that's good. But where are the holes? Someone? Anyone?
Five I Don't Like
Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland
I understand the logic: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And nobody beat up on the Browns like Lewis. But that was when he was a step faster. Correction, two steps faster. And we have the evidence: In 2003 he had 16 carries of 20 or more yards; the past three seasons he had 11. Lewis can no longer run away from defenders. He can't run them over, either. Some people said the offensive line in Baltimore contributed to his declining numbers. Maybe. But if you buy that logic, then tell me why he should be more productive in Cleveland.
Ahman Green, RB, Houston
Another strange move by a club I just don't understand. Green hasn't been a productive back for a couple of years, and he's 30. He's also breaking down. He missed two games in 2006. He missed 11 in 2005. He produced five 100-yard games in his last 25 starts, averaging 3.8 yards a carry, but look more closely -- he averaged 3.2 over his last four starts last season. Ahman Green is fading, yet he's supposed to be the back the Texans never had. Good luck.
Kevin Curtis, WR, Philadelphia
There were a lot of people interested in him because he's a solid receiver, but he's a solid second or third receiver. The Eagles signed him to a six-year, $32 million deal, with $9.5 million guaranteed, which means they paid him money they wouldn't pay Donte' Stallworth. I don't know, but if I'm a defensive coordinator, Stallworth scares me more. I know Curtis can be a big-play receiver and should be an ideal addition to the Eagles' young receiving core. But I also know the club paid top dollar for someone who never had a 1,000-yard season and only once produced more than 479 yards in catches.
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Minnesota
Question: Just what, exactly, has he done to merit a five-year, $18.2 million contract? They could've had Daniel Graham. Instead, they settled for a guy who, in four years with the Giants, never had more than 12 catches in a season.
Bobby Wade, WR, Minnesota
Wait a minute: A five-year deal worth $15 million? For what? If I'm Zygi Wilf, I want to see my accountant. Now.
Tim Carter, WR, Cleveland
He drops too many passes. He's always getting hurt. And he didn't figure in the Giants' plans this season. Still, Cleveland traded Reuben Droughns to acquire him. One question: Why?
ClanRam ModCast: Episode Two
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Re: CBS: Good, bad and worse of NFL offseason
Re: CBS: Good, bad and worse of NFL offseason
Mr. Fleece you're right. The high praise on Welker doesn't make sense to me either. No one talked about him when he was in Miami, now that the Pats pick him up it's a brilliant move and he's this guy that's a top flight receiver. The same thing with Kelly Washington. He's never been anything in the NFL, but he goes to the Pats and they're so smart for bringing in such a talent, such a talent that's never been anything more than a #4 receiver and 3 when someone's hurt (or suspended). The Pats brought in a whole lot of nothing in with WRs. That includes Randy Moss. More is less I guess...
Re: CBS: Good, bad and worse of NFL offseason
The Cardinals were absolutely stupid for moving Davis to tackle, especially left (protected Warner and McCown's blindside two years ago and Warner's this year, or at least he tried to protect it). He is a big, massive run blocker, but not athletic enough to play tackle on pass plays. The Cowboys probably did pay too much for him, but with a new motive, and a position change, perhaps he will play well.