There was an error in this gadget

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Carlos Rogers; Derek Anderson

The rush of free agency is over, everyone's in camp now (it's been under a week, which is crazy).

The Panthers killed off most of their needs, and did so quickly, with their own guys. Afterward, the impact names from other teams drained off the board - and at prices that some wish had meant more restraint from the Panthers.

Now that they're into camp, they're seeing what's there, and what's not. Two of the most major holes look to be filled soon, possibly with familiar but caustic names to many.

Derek Anderson looks to be the QB of choice, with the team meeting with him Monday. Anderson is familiar with Carolina's concepts, having played under OC Rob Chudzinski in Cleveland for two years. So he knows the Coryell concepts, linking him with various coaches and players acquired this year.

The team has been speculated to have more interest in Marc Bulger, an older free agent who spent his entire career under Coryell guys (Martz in STL, Cameron in BAL), but Bulger apparently holds out hope for a starting job or a return to the Ravens. He poses a less volatile situation than Anderson, who has had run-ins with media and doesn't seem to have as much to teach young quarterbacks. Anderson also has a lower completion percentage over time.

The corner spot is the other urgent situation for the team - despite statements today by Ron Rivera that the team was looking harder at their own players, the persistent injury of CB Brandon Hogan has prompted them to look at veterans.

Carlos Rogers of the Redskins (6', 190) was a 9th overall pick from Auburn in 2005. He started 41 games, has 299 tackles, and 8 career interceptions.

While I certainly would've preferred Josh Wilson from the Ravens, who replaces Rogers, there was a time where people viewed the former 9th overall pick as a top flight corner. Wilson is gone, but I'd still prefer Kelly Jennings.

Right now, it looks like he simply plays things too safely, giving up a high percentage of targeted passes. Hopefully, they can get something worked out with Rogers or someone, as Captain Munnerlyn could start but at the very least needs a push; and this team can't afford to go without three solid corners.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Camp Starts: Brayton Out, Gaither In

Omar Gaither, a former Eagles LB, has signed. The 6'2, 235 lb player adds the veteran presence depth Carolina wanted, after having signed its 3 starters. Dan Connor backs ILB, and rookie Lawrence Wilson backs weakside, so Gaither seems to make good sense as a SLB to start, but has moved around.

Here's what Profootballfocus had to say when calling him a bargain:

Omar Gaither, LB

The last time Omar Gaither got on the field for a significant amount of time he was making a big time impression before injury ended his 2009 season. His play in the first five games of that season was as good as any linebacker at the time. Sure, he isn’t the best dropping into coverage, but his work in 2009 (and 2008 before that) are the work of a man who needs to be on the field. Get the impression he could flourish in a number of defensive systems.

On the backside, the team cut DE Tyler Brayton, thrusting Everette Brown and Greg Hardy into the spot, and leaving the team a bit thinner (the undersized Eric Norwood is the 4th). But Brayton wasn't generating any rush (one of the lowest per snap in the NFL at end), and was up in age. Oddly, he was one of the two oldest remaining players after the 2010 purge (Kasay the other), and both are gone.

Also cut were Ed Johnson, DT; Hilee Taylor. I'm not actually sure how Johnson fit in this system - he never was much of a penetrator, and he was a bit of a stop gap. They could've seen how well he fit in this scheme, but with Edwards and two rookies as the top 3, theoretically the 4th guy would have to be young. Johnson was available last year so they can go to him as they need, but there will likely be other options too.

Taylor, a 7th round pick in 2008, did very little that anyone other than UNC fans ever noticed.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Midnight: Beason Paid, Olsen Details

The trade for Greg Olsen looked to have been in progress when it was broken by the Tribune; there were rumors that three different players could've been involved along with a draft pick. Those players were disparate and arrayed; Dan Connor (the most valuable), Armanti Edwards (the most bizarre), and Duke Robinson (the least likely to make the team, and the most fat).

It turned out he came over for a 3rd round pick. Would've been nice to get them down to a 4, but it's still a first round talent. Later this evening, he signed a 4 year, $24 million deal with $10 million up front.

Then, immediately after, they wrapped on a 5 year, $50 million deal for Jon Beason, of which he proclaimed himself to be the biggest MLB deal in the sport. The team had intended on an extension for years, first giving way to the Jordan Gross/Chris Gamble extensions and Julius Peppers fiasco, and then the CBA issues. So certainly, this was a needed contract.

Beason had one year left on his contract. He was an absolute bargain at 5 years, $6 million over the life of the contract; he had held out until signing, and then immediately stepped in and started leading the team (I remember very specifically that the late-reporting Beason was "able" to play through the fourth quarter in preseason games, to get up to speed) between then and now. And it looks like that will continue from here, for at least five more years.

Crazy, a day where a $10 mil per year extension to a franchise player doesn't fit on its own story.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

TE Greg Olsen, Traded From Bears To Panthers

Brad Biggs/Chicago Tribune broke the story that Carolina has traded for the former Miami Hurricane and Chicago Bears star.

The 6'5, 255 lb Olsen was a 1st round pick from Miami the same year Carolina drafted Jon Beason in the same round, from the same school. Both players were rumored to come to Carolina at the 14th pick, where Carolina was slated to pick. The team was reported to be in love with both players, and after a trade down (that netted Carolina Beason and fellow Pro Bowler Ryan Kalil, and the Jets CB Darelle Revis), they grabbed Beason at 25. Olsen, who had apparently grown up knowing John Fox, went 31st.

Now, Carolina has them both. Olsen, who caught 194 balls for 1981 yards and 20 TD in four years, had a high of 60 receptions, 612 yards, and 8 TD in 2009. He played for OC Rob Chudzinski in 2003 (Chudzinski, a TE, was a TEs coach there before he was Miami's OC that year), so he was certainly recruited by him as well. In Miami, and through his career in Chicago, Olsen has played in the Coryell offense, which has almost universally bred the greatest tight ends (though last year's Martz version pulled Olsen's productivity down, as it's never been very TE - centric).

So, he'll certainly have familiarity with what Carolina wants to do on offense, and will have Jeremy Shockey on board to aid in making things happen in the downfield routes and option routes/dumpoffs involved in working the middle of the field.

Olsen's expected to sign a new contract, and no details are available excepting that it involves a player (but not Steve Smith) and a draft pick (likely conditional, in 2012).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Evening Roundup: Wow

Today was intense. Of course I wrote articles from work, and before I could get home to paste them there were so many changes that most of them are invalid.

So they came in this morning having pulled the best DE in free agency, their own Charles Johnson, the night before. They set their sights on Deangelo Williams next, and you could assume that could be the whole day. It certainly wasn't.

While waiting on Williams, they pulled down probable starting NT Ron Williams. He's a roleplayer, a run stopper. But he's also a vet presence on the line.

They brought in TE Ben Hartsock. At first glance, Hartsock isn't the solution at TE, IMO. He's not a player that fits that second role. Hopefully they're not done, but he's probably a one year deal.

The shocker of the day was K Olindo Mare. It was always a fear that the Panthers would hold onto John Kasay, now expected to be unceremoniously cut, too long. And they made the right move in moving on, hopefully. Mare's age and shortened range don't bother me, and it makes sense that they went from one of the league's worst at kickoffs to one of the best. But it seems like they paid far too much for a somewhat limited kicker - 4 years, $12 milion. Was Mare so in demand? I doubt it. You give him a two year deal at most. I'm sure he is cuttable two years in, but there was no reason to go another two years anyway.

Then, after lunch, they locked in Williams. 5 years, $42 million. $21 milion guaranteed, half of the contract. It's a lot of money, and I would've been fine with him walking, but if he can stay healthy, he should continue to be very powerful, and he should benefit from the new zone power running as much as anyone (along with more catches).

Then, word came that they'd locked in both OLBs, James Anderson and Thomas Davis, to 5 year deals (Anderson's is $20 million - reasonable - and Davis' is assumed to be similar). Not bad. It may leave Dan Connor out in the cold - he's deserving of a spot - but a year backing up this trio is followed by free agency for him.

So now what? They have their LBs; they have their DTs, possibly; they definitely need a CB of some sort, and there are still top CBs and DTs still out there. Conventional wisdom suggests a vet QB, and I'd still prefer to bring back Dante Rosario or another FA than have Hartsock/Barnidge be our backup TEs.

But, it's been 48 hours and they've spent well over $140 million in future money, so have patience.

Williams Signs

Deangelo Williams signed today, with Carolina outbidding Denver (as expected), and New York (which was a surprise, late addition). The deal is worth $43 million over 5 years. Williams was set to be a free agent.

The deal is expensive – over $8 million per year, half of it already guaranteed – but it’s cheaper than the franchise amount for RBs. I honestly worried, once three teams or more were interested, this was going to hit closer to $10 million. That franchise tender amount - $9.86 million – included some anomalies – Reggie Bush and Marion Barber, for instance, aren’t likely to play on those numbers. But, compared to the average of the top 5 salaries currently, it’s not a hefty contract if Williams can continue to be productive.

He’s battled injuries the last two years, which is a bit concerning. He’d be 33 at the end of the deal, which seems unlikely to be completed healthily. In the meantime, he’s still our best back, and it gives a heavy 1-2-3-4 punch for another two years. Jonathan Stewart, Mike Goodson, and Tyrell Sutton are free agents after 2012.

I anticipate the same hard-sell message to come across with Williams that they used on Charles Johnson – staff visit in person with an offer, and a pitch as to how he’ll be used. To this point, haven’t read anything about it, but it’s a nice touch from a class organization.

DT Ron Edwards, TE Ben Hartsock Signed

arolina signed Ron Edwards, a nose tackle from Kansas City, to a modest 3 year, $8.25 million contract today.

Edwards, 32, is a 6’4, 320 lb tackle going into his 11th year. He was a 3rd round pick in 2001 with Buffalo, playing in Gregg Williams’ pressure scheme. After 5 years with Buffalo, Edwards moved over to Kansas City, most recently fitting into their 3-4 but probably working out a bit better in the one gap scheme Carolina will put forth. Edwards adds a size and experience completely absent the last two years (excepting Hollis Thomas, who situationally bailed Carolina out a good bit), and continues to help fit what Ron Rivera’s said about requiring a better front to help linebackers flow downhill.

Edwards is a departure from past years as well – he is Carolina’s eldest defender at this point – and coming with that experience is a leadership needed (and missed) in the trenches. It’s hard to say whether Tyler Brayton – the other over-30 player in the front seven – will still be with the team at DE.

It’ll be interesting to see what else we do at DT, whether we bring back any other players; as of now, we have Edwards, rookies Fua and McClain, former 3rd round pick Corvey Irvin, undrafted FA from 2010 Andre Neblett, and Nick Hayden. If I were to guess to a depth chart and you were to simplify it to nose or under tackle, here’s what I’d figure:

NT: Edwards, Fua, Neblett

UT: McClain, Hayden, Irvin

Not all of those would make the team. There’s honestly room for another player (I don’t think the team has that much interest in Neblett or Irvin) since we’re light on rush players/3-technique type DTs, if they wanted ,which would push Hayden to inactive depth (should they keep 5 on roster instead of 4).

At first, to be honest, I read that the Panthers had signed Ray Edwards, the sought-after DE. I certainly wasn’t expecting that – I was expecting a player like Ron Edwards. That reaction aside, I wasn’t expecting an elite DT – I figured they’d put big money into one defender, possibly a DT or CB, and IMO preferably a CB (you can find roleplayers at DT if necessary, and I guess we have).

Carolina also signed TE Ben Hartsock, who's been on 5 teams in 8 years. He's an allright blocker, but rarely gets any time receiving. I'm underwhelmed by this signing, and kinda hope we keep working at TE.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Charles Johnson Signs

It's not official (and he can't "report" until next thursday, for some odd reason/rule), but Charles Johnson is in, and he confirms it. 6 years, $70+ million - it's been reported as 70, 72, 76 million in various articles. $30 million guaranteed seems to be the constant statement, and a hefty one.

Carolina made the heaviest push, not only offering more, but also bringing GM Marty Hurney (and some outlets suggested Rivera and/or position coaches) to Miami, where Johnson was stationed.**

Johnson himself said that family pushed the Georgia native (and Bulldog alum) to sign with Atlanta, and apparently Denver made a hard push. Carolina made it happen, however. Johnson suggests that deal was the best; he probably could've sounded more loyal about it on twitter, but he stays, and that's what's important; he also mentioned being interested in still facing Atlanta twice after what he feels was a snub in what they offered.

**Hurney also visited potential head coaches in the offseason by going to them instead of bringing them in. I wonder what that's about, but it seems to be paying dividends.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Davis; Players Speak; UDFAs

Thomas Davis is apparently not an unrestricted free agent since he sat all year on the PUP list. For this, I'm happy - if you lock him down long term, you have time. Same with Ryan Kalil, and Jon Beason. Wait until the madness ends and sign these guys then.

Of course, if they want, they can have Davis play at last year's $3.3 million one year deal, and do it all again next year. Fiscally that might be the smart thing to do.

Apparently Deangelo Williams wants to stay, per his blog.

Charles Johnson said the same on First Take.

Hopefully they're right (and they're gentle on the coffers, within reason). James Anderson and Thomas Davis said same within the week.

apparently undrafted FAs can agree to terms tonight, and some have here in Carolina. CB Kendric Burney, OT Byron Bell, ILB Nick Bellore, KO specialist Adi Kunali and former Cam Newton teammates Darvin Adams (WR), Ryan Pugh (C). I'm sure more will come tomorrow, along with at least half of our draftees signed.

Free Agent Mess

CBA is done - great. It's well overdue.

So now what? This week is going to be ridiculous. Check out this schedule:
*Doors open tomorrow
*Rookies and UDFAs can be signed starting at 10am, along with trades.
*apparently, a no-tampering change to free agency gives original teams no time prior to other teams contacting them. All teams can start signing friday, but not before; still, they can talk to anyone.

It'll be a mess. Some teams are already talking to players about cutting them. I'm sure plenty of teams are already talking to free agents.

Chances are, what that will mean for Carolina is overspending on what they want. So, if that's the case, put what you can into Charles Johnson, but not Deangelo Williams or James Anderson. No offense to the other two, but you have the ability to find players at LB to compliment what you already have.

I gotta admit, I had a nice article written on who I'd like to see us go get as undrafted FA rookies (Martin Parker, Schuyler Oordt, Kristofer O'Dowd, Deandre McDaniel), and how we didn't need to neglect our undrafted rookie pool. But, now, I say forget it - go after your own guys, and send a couple coaches after some other guys (Brandon Mebane would be nice).

Some players will inevitably be in the building Tuesday. Good. Regardless of what Carolina wants to do, or what they can pull off, it'll be nice just to have a team.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rivera's Plan: So Far, So Good

A big selling point for Ron Rivera, so the Panthers thought, was his lockout-ready 2011 plan.

It was smart, being the only coach who had contingency plans. Their owner, of course, did too - Jerry Richardson has been cap-mindful for three years, and most of his plans up to now were preparing for lockout.

So, with a lockout in place, Carolina waited. When it had its chance, it distributed playbooks, and the team did its best from there. With that said, it looks like it's time to enact Part Two.

A minicamp will apparently take place starting Friday, says a team claiming to quote Jeremy Shockey. This is on the assumption that there's an agreement this week, and then the team will start meeting ASAP.

A minicamp gives players the ability to start learning from the coaching staff instead of each other, and start getting an idea for what the team wants. It's hard to say what the long term plans are, but the regular season opener September 11 looks to be intact, along with all preseason games.

Last year, training camp opened July 28th, so a camp that runs July 22-25 would offer the ability to meet locally, break in time to give a few days off, and then start camp around the first of the month, first game roughly two weeks after.

What's not yet clear - who will participate? It will be a few days before free agency, and draft picks might not be the first priority to sign.

The intent seems to be that the first wave, 72 hours worth of the start of the league year, will feature the ability to re-sign free agents, and sign undrafted FAs. All this would seem to be after this first minicamp. So would draftees, and FAs, show up? or even be invited?

It's hard to say, but there's real football planned, so I'll take it.

Cap Room: Kalil

Would it make more sense to leave Ryan Kalil at his franchise number?

Carolina has more cap space than any team, and now Cam Newton might take up less. A chunk will go into re-signing players, rookies, and new free agents, but maybe the team doesn't want to tie too much of it up into 2011 contracts that will escalate it by 2013-14, when the team would hope to be hitting stride.

So, putting a Kalil contract off a year might work.

For one, you don't have time to negotiate, since they have 72 hours to make things happen before rushing into free agency and camp.

More imporantly, an $11 million cap figure might be more beneficial than a new deal assuming you expect one. A reboot in 2012 for a new Kalil contract gives the team value then, when they know what that cap will look like.

Large one year deals might be a new thing, but could be a new norm if things go with the cap as I assume. Why not offer 2-3 contracts to pending free agents that pay them like franchise players? The long term risk is not there, the short term is shock value and not really weight bearing.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Random Thoughts Into Free Agency

It goes without saying, but it'll be said plenty more: Pre-free-agency will be about Charles Johnson. Gotta have him.

I'm OK with James Anderson or Thomas Davis (wow, how much has the lockout helped this guy?), but if we can't get both, I'm OK with Dan Connor at SLB.

Jeff King won't return. He just won't. Now, Dante Rosario may, but that may end up what the market will bear otherwise. Rosario fits, with the versatility of the offense and targets to secondary players. He was a top 3rd down guy for us.

Ron Rivera's a hard nosed and fair coach, but he hasn't shown much loyalty. He didn't pickup a bunch of Eagles when he moved to the Bears; he didn't pickup Bears for SD. I don't think that's against anyone he's coached, just that he likes making new players. He certainly did it with SD, where his best team was after Shawne Merriman and Antonio Cromartie were gone.

To that end, while I don't mind at all that Sherrod Martin or Jordan Pugh might move to corner in that situation, I wouldn't stay up waiting for Eric Weddle to come here.

I like the idea of Josh Wilson at CB. Link shows why. Guy can cover, but is still learning it.

Captain Munnerlyn, on that same vein, could play in this defense. He and Wilson would make for a lack of height, though. If we can get a starting CB, that seems to be worthwhile, and there are a few. But if not, Munnerlyn fighting for a job is just fine by me, as he finally started to play the ball last year.

I expect Steve Smith to stay. I don't expect a starting level OL or WR signed, which probably means at least one will happen.

I have no reason to expect Deangelo Williams to be here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

72 Hours

It looks like a new CBA is finally at hand soon, after three years of worry over it. Along with that comes free agency - there will be no right of first refusal, and teams will only have 72 hours of pre-negotiation with their own players before they're free agents.

For Carolina and its 26 free agents, you can see how that will be difficult. If you were to not sleep (and under the idea that you were pushing it all for that 72 hours, not the open of FA, which I find unlikely), that's still under 3 hours time per free agent.

If you remove Kalil (franchised), Richard Marshall (not likely to return), and Craig Null (not at all interesting), you get 3.1 hours per free agent.

If they're smart, they have realistic offers for minor free agents - they have bigger contracts for starting level players. They have Marty Hurney and Ron Rivera make calls and the followup is with lower level guys (Mark Koncz, pro personnel; Rob Rodgers, cap; assistant coaches), and leave the bigger FAs face to face with president Danny Morrison and owner Jerry Richardson while using a centralized Hurney to negotiate.

Those pre-made contracts as offers create a starting point, and you can go from there. But it would allow the team maximum contact with those players in the 3 day window, and allow a team rep to followup with 2-3 players per rep to make sure there's personal contact.

The Panthers must lock down Charles Johnson, and if reasonable Deangelo Williams and James Anderson would be great, too. But losing out on other players - Thomas Davis, for instance - is not something that needs to happen either.

With a 72 hour window, I have a hard time seeing Steve Smith involved in trades right now.

Friday, July 15, 2011

DT options

Carolina won't stand pat with just the two 3rd round picks at DT, and the remainder (outside possibly Andre Neblett) won't really matter. Here are some interesting names at DT in free agency:

*Brandon Mebane, Seahawks - loved him coming out of Cal, and hasn't disappointed. He's stout against the run, but did have one great year pass rushing (5.5 sacks, 2 ff) on a bad team in 2008.

*Aubrayo Franklin, 49ers - strictly a NT, but a great one. Comes from a 3-4 background.

*Barry Cofield, Giants - can play either 4-3 spot, had 10 QB hits last year (second to only Shaun Rogers at DT), had a very high 54 tackles. He's played under Steve Spagnuolo in what's essentially the Jim Johnson system.

*Stephen Bowen, Cowboys - 6'5, 308 lb 3-4 end who stepped up in Marcus Spears' absence. He had 3 sacks as a backup in 2009, only 1.5 as a 9 game starter in 2010 but came to play as a major run stopper. Scheme isn't that far removed from ours. NC native.

Replacing Charles Johnson

Let's just call this Plan Z - and agree that Charles Johnson was our best player last year (I'll hear alternate arguments). Plans A-Y should all be focused on ways to re-sign Johnson, to not leave a huge gaping hole in the already airy Panthers DL.

But, this article is the dark, dark place in which Charles Johnson is no longer a Panther, and Carolina's attempting to pick up the pieces. Hopefully, a theoretical article is the only place this would happen.

So, now what? You have plenty of money to throw around you didn't expect to have, and you have to come up with rush. Let's start fresh and throw Tyler Brayton to the wolves, too.

*Ray Edwards - Next best option, Edwards is a fine player on a great line, but it's hard to say how much of it's help from the Williamses at DT.

*Raheem Brock, Seahawks - Brock slimmed down a bit form his Colts days, and no longer has to rush inside. Oddly, his bulk and versatility might work a bit better if the team did any 3-4, but Brock was just a better player as a thinner end (9 sacks versus an annual 4 sack average), and would work out just fine at left end. He has ties to DC turned DBs coach Ron Meeks.

*Jason Babin, Titans - a former 1st round bust, Babin somehow had 12.5 sacks last year. Buyer beware, but Babin could fit at end and drop into coverage if you believe he can pull off a repeat performance after 18 sacks in the seven seasons prior. Did play for Sean McDermott in 2009.

*Cullen Jenkins - Kris' brother, so not likely, but Jenkins can still play DE or DT, which makes him an ideal left end in a 4-3 base and can play outside, obviously 3-4, or at DT. Likely the most expensive option, also the most fun.

*Shaun Ellis, Jets - has plenty of age, but better at being Tyler Brayton than Brayton is. He's got leadership ability as well. He just can't offer you another five years.

Keeping Anderson?

Plenty of Carolina picks have come out saying that the team wants to keep them, but I haven't heard from James Anderson.

Jon Beason isn’t Dan Morgan by any stretch, and Anderson doesn’t have the productive longterm history that Will Witherspoon did in four years here. But the Panthers do face that type decision again. In this case, there seems no conceivable way the Panthers don’t extend Beason. Anderson, however, seems likely to be allowed to walk.

I’ve long dismissed the idea of James Anderson staying. With a year as good as he had, he’d get paid. But I don’t want to dismiss things too quickly. Thomas Davis is a wildcard, giving the team a second near-elite level player to continue to work with Beason, if you’re assuming he’s healthy. You can’t always assume that, so you run the risk of swinging wide in both situations – don’t pay Anderson, and you could end up with Beason, rookie Lawrence Wilson, and hefty amounts of nothing else. Pay him and you have three highly paid linebackers and not enough elsewhere.

Anderson did almost nothing in his first four years – wasn’t good enough in coverage to steal any time, and was unable to do much with his time when he did play (he was a starter with the preseason squad in 2008 or 09, I believe, and looked OK there, then failed to make impact on the starting spot on the other side when available. Still, limited time in 2009 made Anderson a player that deserved more time, and he did his best with it (the struggle between John Fox and owner Jerry Richardson over playing young players helped cause 2010’s disaster and Fox’s downfall). Despite being small for strongside linebacker, Anderson made plays last year. He did it against the run and pass alike – making numerous stops behind the line of scrimmage, making 2nd on the Panthers’ sack list last year with 3.5 and having 19 total pressures on 127 attempts (which means Anderson probably blitzed around 1 out of every 6 base plays).

To give some background on that, Beason (mostly playing OLB, I’d imagine, for these blitzes) had 90 blitzes and had 6 total pressures. Beason’s numbers are low – it’s his least effective ability – but Anderson’s numbers are high, especially for a 4-3 OLB. It’s not as if able blitzing will somehow be wasted with Ron Rivera.

At any rate, Anderson made plays. He led the team in tackles as well, less likely for a SLB in this offense, with 130 tackles. There were plenty of mis-steps, however, and while this is where the hard info stops, it did seem like there were a lot of missed tackles, a lot of quick knifes through blocking that missed the runner.

The end result is money – Anderson can probably earn a fairly decent salary. Is he a special player? No, so if another team (St. Louis, as a logical suggestion) wants him more you have to let him go. Is he your third best LB still? Has he passed the playmaking Davis while hurt? Do you keep him to make sure you have at least one starting WLB (assuming Anderson is, in fact, a good fit)?

I’ll take him if he’s here. I’ll wince if it’s for too much money. If he walks and we find a random, cheap but experienced linebacker, we’re probably not in bad shape.

So what if we don't keep him?

Right or wrong, let's say Anderson is gone. Now what?

You need a player that can do it all - rush, hit the TE, cover, take on blockers, and think on his feet. Here are some options.

*Dan Connor - existing backup MLB did have 15 tackles from SLB in 2009, and played outrageously well inside (see also: He has the bulk to chuck the TE. He doesn't get enough credit for athleticism, with his 4.60 40. I just don't know if he can rush - he did have 5 and 6 sacks respectively, in his final two years, but one of those two was at MLB.

*Matt Roth, Browns - big 3-4 OLB who regularly plays on the line of scrimmage, is used to having contain and doing linebacker duties despite rush abilities. He's not elite, but he does everything well and gives you scheme flexibility.

*Antwan Barnes, Chargers - the 5th year, 6'1, 250 lb journeyman happened to have his best year last year, a one year stop with the defense that Ron Rivera made best in the land. He's a rush guy, and played mostly in nickel, but he can get at the passer.

*Manny Lawson, 49ers - local guy, 3-4 OLB. Maybe he hasn't turned out quite as well as you might hope, but raw talent is there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rookie Wage Scale

Enough sources suggest that a new CBA is close, but the rookie scale is a sticking point still.

Both sides seem to want to limit the length of the contract, assumedly seeming to back into a 5 year deal that gives a 5th year option well in excess of the average value of the deal.

Obviously, this impacts the Panthers and Cam Newton greatly. Newton won't be getting a $12 million average deal - the groundwork is laid for a 4 year, $22 million deal. With a 5th year option, and assuming the 5th year does prorate part of a bonus (meaning more bonus, in an agent's eyes) that's probably still a $14 million bonus, and it comes with a $13 million 5th year option based on the Players' suggestion (the owners, I believe, suggested closer to 4), giving a 5 year deal of $31 million (or, owners, $26 million). Either way, it's a far cry from what Sam Bradford received, so it helps Carolina (and the league).

What I don't yet understand - and we'll miss out until these contracts mature - is how they can be extended, or if they can be. A successful Newton may or may not want to play out a 1 year $14 million deal when he could sign for more.

As an aside, it's funny that the 5th year of a deal - 2015 in this case - is what might be holding up 2011. More funny is that it benefits both sides - veteran players and owners/teams - to have high level rookie contracts

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kerry Collins: Gone

At one point in the offseason, there was that feeling – Kerry Collins is available. Why not? Those wounds have healed, he’s a competent veteran. Of course, it was never to be, with Collins doing what he does best one final time by retiring this week.

That’s a hard assessment, but it can’t be denied that Collins’ history includes some effort failures. It was good to see him pick himself back up, and have success in various spots. He should be proud of his statistical accomplishments and longevity, long after the preseason 1997 hit by Bill Romanowski dealt a near-knockout blow to his career and our franchise.

I’m not the guy to defend Kerry Collins. He made his share of mistakes – partying instead of studying, making stupid and racist comments to teammates, and franchise quarterbacks don’t come to their coach and say they have no heart left. He earned his exit, even if it was a stupid move on Dom Capers’ part.

But, by 1998 it was time to talk new contract, the team had thrown a new offense on Collins, and there were heavy expectations because of defensive spending. All of that fell on Collins, right or wrong, and it smothered him. The WCO is a good offense, which could fit Collins’ abilities. Collins had around 1000 yards in four games, and the offense was starting to work better than it had in 97. The four losses weren’t on him. For him to react that way was no better than the way that Capers did, but he didn’t cut himself.

Collins, after forfeiting his franchise position with Carolina, bounced around. Quarterbacks with potential tend to do that, and sometimes they get by on reputation...Collins had certainly damaged his reputation enough by that point.

He had success in the 2000s, with a Super Bowl and some success there, but not enough to fend off a high pick – which became Eli Manning. It’s a tough situation, and better quarterbacks have been through it – Drew Brees was replaced once (actually, within the trade that gave the Giants the rights to Manning), Joe Montana couldn’t even outlast it way back when – but had Collins been a Panther in that same situation, or originally drafted by NY, the sentimentality of it, that franchise mystique, they probably don’t wheel and deal for Manning from the 4th spot (whether that’s a mistake or not is hard to say, but I’d still view it as true).

If you need any clarity on whether a modestly successful Collins could’ve stayed in Carolina through a 2003 season on his given career path of the time? Jake Delhomme survived an extra year after a worse collapse. If Collins could’ve made it through the 96 NFCC game, and taken them to another Super Bowl (he and the franchise both went, obviously, at different times), he has tenure. Outside a big contract, it’s tough to get tenure as a 6+ year quarterback otherwise.

He stopped in New Orleans for a bit before the Giants – great place for a guy with drinking issues – and followed that successful NY stint with Oakland (where you’d figure he and Randy Moss could put together a deep game), and then Tennessee – where he somehow found himself a backup, then had a bigtime 13-3 season and a Pro Bowl bid, and then of course was back on the bench the following year.

I’ll go further than the statement about not being replaced in the mid-2000s by a flashy name in the draft – if Collins had gone to two Super Bowls, with one team, or even just had his level of longevity with Carolina, he’d have a steadier footing for the Hall of Fame right now. He has a lost Super Bowl and 40,000 yards, and that’s it. A championship or two, or even just another appearance or two with one team, in this modern day of Free Agency, might’ve mattered, and being successful on one team probably means another Super Bowl or two (he made it deep into the playoffs three times, with one appearance, so it’s not really that huge a stretch honestly). It changes Collins from an aching athlete at middle age, to regional hero and marketable name. More money, sure, but most definitely a raised level of accomplishment.

So, to make this relevant to Carolina, take heed Cam Newton – you’re saying and doing the right things right now. This isn’t a one year job, and for most it is (just ask Jimmy Clausen). This takes your best, your all, every time. I can understand finding a lack of realistic want for a young franchise like Carolina – it’s hard to live or die a team without realistic tradition longterm – but at the most basic level, their success is your success. Even a level of success later, with someone else, is realistically making do, a lessened level of long term failure. Falling out of favor with your drafted team – the one that expects you to be their franchise, their face – means a lot more trouble than just a little extra work. It’s a lot harder road from here. There may be continued opportunity, but it’s a much harder road.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Newton - 90% of playbook installed?

Cam Newton has supposedly done game-line run throughs with the playbook, per Chris Weinke. Link gets you to the story, a decent one by the Observer.

It's good to hear. It's not replacement for actual installment, with the coaches and with his teammates (it would probably have been smart to invite at least the young guys, LaFell, Edwards, Pilares, and Gettis, to work out, but maybe they were invited), but it's a start. At least, when it's installed, Newton has a base to learn from, which is more than a lot of young players will have.

At the very least, it means that Newton will be able to work with coaches on what they want to stress, not an entire education. Maybe more time will be spent on pre-snap reads, working from center, and installing plays that they intend specifically for Newton.

Though, it's hard to believe that Chudzinski's famed 900-page playbook doesn't have anything or everything needed. Again - about that - the Coryell offense isn't about memorizing 900 different plays. It's about the combination of plays, of terminology. If you understand the terminology, you know the offense and what everyone's doing in it.

The idea that others have access to the playbook is misleading - if it were such a huge secret, players would just be IR'd to be kept instead of let go.

It's also weird, knowing that the coaches had to read about this through the newspaper.

Weinke has, at the very least, taken his assignment as a backup quarterback to heart. He wore a headset more than a helmet, and passed up a chance in 2006 to move onto another team to try to start when he decided to stay. Having tutored Newton after the draft (what happened to George Whitfield, anyway? Not that I have complaints), Weinke is gaining a name as a football coach with the third-party IMG training facility. I'm glad to see Weinke landed on his feet, and if he chooses to step away from IMG, it'd be nice to have him as a coach. It's sentimental, but you like to see guys grow into coaches the way Sam Mills did, or Ron Rivera did in Chicago. If I had it to do in 2007, I'd have definitely tried to hire Pete Metzelaars, now the OL coach in Indy.