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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Domenik Hixon To Visit Panthers, Browns

Carolina will host Giants WR Domenik Hixon early next week.  Apparently the Browns have a level of interest, as well.

The 6'2, 200 lb Hixon appears to be out in New York, as the Giants appear to be headed younger at WR - and bracing for anything that might happen with RFA Victor Cruz. Hixon caught 39 balls last year for 567 yards/2 TD. profootballfocus.com, who listed Hixon as their 7th best available WR at the onset of free agency, and their best remaining player days ago, says Hixon caught a very high 67% of targets.  Hixon, a decent slot receiver as well, didn't get much time there over the last few years with Victor Cruz taking on the role.

The 28 year old German-born Hixon, if signed, would make two former Giants in a row, and actually, two Akron stars in a row, given that the team signed Chase Blackburn a few days ago.

Hixon is also a return man, putting him potentially in competition with Ted Ginn for a job if both are here.  The Panthers have younger return options, though not necessarily as good.  The same could be said at WR - Carolina has a need for experience at WR - having gone through the last two years with one experienced receiver, and a ton of youth around Steve Smith.  Nonetheless, the team has used 3 WR and shotgun sets as much as any other team in the league.

 Brandon LaFell has grown into a starting level player, but is a free agent after the year and there haven't been contributions from various other draft picks - Armanti Edwards (a 3rd rounder), David Gettis (6th), Kealoha Pilares (5th), or Joe Adams (4th) over the last three years.  That group would be tough to get rid of, since it could still be considered a talented bunch.  But, it's time to distinguish yourself from that group, with the vets Carolina has looked to receive.

At this point in free agency, it's a good time to get players like Hixon on one year deals, or two years if you want to get a bargain on a guy you want to stick around long term.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jordan Gross Restructures

Jordan Gross took an odd form of paycut today, in a form I'm still trying to totally understand.

Gross' 2013 and 2014 salaries are dropped to $1 million. Gross received $4.5 million in signing bonus to do so - spread out over new years of 2015-17.  So $900,000 is spread across each year.  But, 2015 and on will void if Gross is on the roster on the 5th day of the 2014 league year.

So, that gives Gross and the team two options.  One, renegotiate before that day in 2015, to change the contract to add those years in some form, or two, take the '15-17 proration in '14.  Even then, that's a cap hit of $4.6 million ($1 million base, plus 4/5 of the $4.5 million), much more reasonable than the over $10 million from this year.  

So, Gross gets money now, $4.5 million worth, and in exchange, the team has dropped over $15 million in salary - that may or may not have been earned by Gross anyway.   Essentially, he moves to a "prove it" deal this year.

Panthers Sign Chase Blackburn

If you had middle linebacker in the pool for what Carolina would pick up next, you win.

Carolina picked up LB Chase Blackburn, a former Giant from his 2005 undrafted free agency to last year.  The former Akron star started 15 games for NY last year at MLB, completing a career in NY that saw him start a total of 36 games.

He had 336 tackles and 4.5 sacks in that time, and notched a crucial interception in Super Bowl XLVI, picking off Tom Brady in the 4th quarter.  Last year, starting those 15 games, he had 98 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 defensed passes, and 4 forced fumbles.  The 6'3, 245 lb Blackburn was a 2010 special teams captain for the Giants, as well.   Chances are, he'll be top depth at LB, and certainly insurance on Jon Beason (new to SLB) and Luke Kuechly as well.

Still, it's an odd pairing, to put a two year deal into an aging player whose first full season starting was last year.  It could cost another Panther LB a job - possibly Kenny Onatolu, a special teamer who more or less fits the same role as newly re-signed backup WLB/special teamer Jordan Senn.

It could, of course, also mean a June -designated cut for Beason himself, which would save $5.5 million this year (and push $8 million of cap hit into 2014).  Either way, hopefully they're going to save those precious few draft picks for something other than more middle linebackers.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Guys: Salary

Cash amounts on the various new Panthers have trickled down to the
internet, via spotrac.com and other outlets. And it shwos an amazing
amount of good deals for the value.

Derek Anderson - $850,000 (should count against the cap for $550,000 in
a veteran exemption)
Tedd Ginn Jr. - $750,000
Mike Mitchell - $725,000
D.J Moore - $715,000
Drayton Florence - $620,000
Ben Hartstock - $620,000
Captain Munnerlyn - $1.1 million ($300,000 signing bonus)
Richie Brockel (EFA) - $555,000

All of these are one year deals. I don't have details on Dwan Edwards'
contract at this point, but it's not expected that Edwards got much more
than the $1.5 million that he received last year, if they added a second
year.

Excluding that deal, and assuming the other new salaries are not
exemptions - Drayton Florence is as vested as Anderson but makes less,
so he's likely not an exemption, for instance - I get $5.63 million.
So, they were able to get their top QB backup, a returner/receiver, a
potential starter at S, between the group up to two starting CB, and two
other blocking/special teams reserves for about 68% of Chris Gamble's
contract.

Or, about the amount they would've saved with a renegotiation instead
of running him off, but given his retirement, maybe a longer deal
wouldn't have helped.

But, as expected, Dave Gettleman's riding his one year deal idea
throughout the entire year. Can't wait to see what the guy does if he
were ever to have actual cap space, but that's dependent on getting a
couple of these guys to play just well enough to earn more one year
deals.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Edwards Returns

I see Dwan Edwards became official over the weekend.

Edwards, not unlike Captain Munnerlyn, was a free agent on a transitioning team - new GM, potentially outgoing coach - with an agent who'd talk big and say other teams were interested, offering deals, and so on.  It didn't end up mattering, with Edwards (again like Munnerlyn) waiting around for Carolina's counter offer.

So, Carolina had to cut three starters (Chris Gamble, Ron Edwards, and James Anderson) on defense, but have re-signed up to three (these two, and who knows if Haruki Nakamura has much shot at SS at his size), and that leaves up to 8 starters returning (assuming Munnerlyn does start).  The SS and other corner job appear to come from in-house options or the other recent signees.

So far, so good.

I like Edwards returning.  He was a less flashy option than Chris Canty (a Raven now) or Cullen Jenkins (replacing Canty in NY), and he has some limited ability against the run.  But, while his six sacks gets overblown (the Observer lackeys even mistakenly attributed those six as being second best on the team - come on, we can do better than that), he's a good player to return at a low price.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Secondary Shaping Up, Shifting Around

Carolina sat on its hands in the first few days of free agency, but
now, with just the smallest amount of resources, may have its secondary
finished.

CB Drayton Florence kicked things off. Yesterday, DJ Moore signed,
and in short order, SS Mike Mitchell was added. Then, Captain Munnerlyn
chose to stay. While none of them are incredible, there's a lot of
valid experience there. It appears the intent was always to have Moore
and Munnerlyn if able - Carolina's deal was a longer duration (if not

Along with Mitchell came the news that Charles Godfrey will flip over
to free safety. The move makes sense for various reasons - with Sherrod
Martin a free agent, Godfrey is the most athletic safety on the roster,
and has been the most experienced guy on the last line since 2010. Ron
Rivera cited good play at the end of 2012 at FS for Godfrey, when both
Martin and Haruki Nakamura had been hurt.

As a happy byproduct, the team likes DJ Campbell at SS, and that's
Mitchell's better fit. Unlike 2011, however, when Godfrey spent a lot
of time in the box, I wouldn't expect either player to spend too much
time close to the line.

Mitchell, however, might move up as a TE-covering specialist if he
doesn't start at SS; Oakland used both he and starter Tyvon Branch in
that form, covering the new wave of spread TE that spends as much time
as a split receiver as anything else. Teams have struggled to adjust to
that in the NFL - it's a tough matchup, and it often comes out of base
personnel, leading to what some have called the "big nickel" alignment.
It uses a 3rd safety instead of a 3rd CB.

So, that may be a consideration versus the Jimmy Graham, and apparently
Tony Gonzalez, matchups this year. It's not yet something Carolina has
shown a lot, but it's something the Giants have employed to success.

So, for now, this is what I'd consider a current lineup for the
secondary:

RCB - Moore, Florence, Norman

FS - Godfrey, Nakamura

SS - Mitchell/Campbell

LCB - Munnerlyn, Thomas

With this, I think Carolina has a solid 9. If a CB or S comes along
that can really improve you, then go for it. If not, I think you're
allright - you have two incumbent starters in Munnerlyn and Godfrey, and
three guys who've started here in the past to fight for the other two
jobs with three newcomers.

And, if it doesn't work, 6 of the 9 players are free agents next year,
and Godfrey becomes cuttable that year as well. So, if the inexpensive
route doesn't work, you've only lost time.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Captain Munnerlyn Signs With....

Carolina!

The Panthers and Bears almost shuffled nickelbacks, with the Bears offering a one year deal to Captain Munnerlyn this afternoon.  Carolina apparently countered with a 3 year, 5 mil deal before matching the Bears' offer, and Munnerlyn took it, to stay.

This gives Munnerlyn the edge, in my opinion, to start in 2013.  Munnerlyn improved drastically in 2012 under new DBs coach Steve Wilks, after struggling heavily in 2011 as a first year starter.  While he lost the starting job to rookie Josh Norman, Munnerlyn flourished in a second chance after Chris Gamble went to IR, playing well at both the nickel spot on passing downs and RCB on early downs.  profootballfocus.com gave Munnerlyn a +6.4 rating in coverage.

If Munnerlyn does start, it at least does give two starters to return.  Gamble retired after being released - the pairing of Haruki Nakamura and Sherrod Martin isn't likely to see the light of day again, with Nakamura taking a pay cut to return and Martin being a free agent, replaced earlier today with Mike Mitchell.


Safety Mike Mitchell Signs

Safety Mike Mitchell, last of the Raiders, has signed with Carolina.

The 6', 213 lb Kentucky native went to Ohio University, starting 30 games (23 strong safety, 7 free safety). A second round (47th overall) draft pick by Oakland, Mitchell wasn't invited to the combine, and was viewed as a size/speed prospect after running a 4.39 at his pro day (along with good numbers in the vertical - 37.5", bench - 22 x 225).   His selection at 47 was a major surprise, with some teams and pundits having Mitchell as a late round, free agent type selection.  However, the Chicago Tribune suggested that the Bears had shown interest at 49, and there's suggestions other teams had him as a third rounder.

Mitchell started 9 games as a pro, playing behind standout Tyvon Branch.

Ted Ginn Visits

Former 9th overall pick Ted Ginn - from a 2007 draft that was clearly better to Carolina than it was to Ginn or then-Dolphins coach Cam Cameron - visited Carolina today.   The receiver/return man is a free agent, and fits the profile of player Carolina requires.

A receiver versed in the Coryell scheme, Ginn has elusiveness and has value as a kick and punt returner.  With legitimate 4.28 speed, he's a deep threat.  He hasn't shown incredible ability as a receiver, with a best of 56 catches for 790 yards in 2009 and 2 TD; he's caught a total of 161 balls, 12.7 yard average, 6 scores; he pitched in another 6 in returns.   He barely played offense last year, with the logjam of mediocre receivers in San Francisco.

Which, if you're debating whether he's worth the 9 pick the Dolphins put into him, it's not much of a fight.  If it's a debate on whether he's worth having on your team for the $1.2 million he made last year, yeah, I'd take that.

Carolina requires a veteran hand at WR.  I might want someone who's more able in the intermediate ball, or more physically imposing (Ginn is 5'11, 180), but for a guy who might play some outside receiver for a couple hundred snaps, I wouldn't mind Ginn on board.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

DJ Moore Signed

Carolina has signed cornerback DJ Moore to a one year deal, per Moore's
twitter account.

The Spartanburg native and graduate at Vanderbilt was a 4th round pick
in 2009 for the Chicago Bears, where he saw extensive time as a
nickelback over the final three years (and where he provided 10 INT).

At 5'9, 180, Moore isn't the biggest matchup guy, but has a nose for
the ball and will stay involved in the run game as well.

The move adds another potential starter to 2nd year Josh Norman and 4th
year Josh Thomas, each of which started at points last year, and veteran
journeyman Drayton Florence, a newcomer.

Carolina had made recent overtures to free agent corner Captain
Munnerlyn to return as well; the initial reaction on Moore's signing
might suggest that Munnerlyn isn't returning, but it may be too early to
know for sure. Munnerlyn started much of the year as well, and is a
very good roleplayer; I doubt, for the right price, Carolina would turn
down his return still.

To further the potential speculation on Moore, he also stated that he'd
be willing to move to safety in the recent past, before Chicago chose
not to pursue another contract. Carolina has a need at safety as well.

The Panthers aren't, by any means, rock solid at CB right now, and
appear to be stacking competition players to fill spots, inviting the
potential to take a cornerback at the right time in the draft instead of
requiring it as a need.

Panthers, UFAs Stand Off

After pre-free agency bluster by UFAs Captain Munnerlyn (along with
rumors from his agent) and Dwan Edwards, both players are suggesting
other demand - and yet, still waiting on Carolina.

Edwards was last offered a one year deal, $1.5 million (per Edwards
himself apparently), same as he had made in 2012. He has claimed other
offers, including a multi year deal, and while he's said that Carolina
must up their offer, he's still waiting.

Munnerlyn, as well, supposedly had interest from many teams, including
one NFC South team. I don't recall reading about offers, though talks
continued with Carolina; GM Dave Gettleman (I imagine it's time to stop
calling him the "new GM") was supposed to continue talking.

So, this is part of what Gettleman meant about the market flattening
out. The truth is, the big money's more or less gone. And, for better
or worse, these two free agents are aware they have a value to
themselves to stay - whether it's simply not moving in a still-iffy
housing market, or stability. I also don't know that Gettleman's
necessarily going to budge, so it could be a waiting game.

Monday, March 18, 2013

RBs Somehow More Costly; 2015

Early in the offseason, Jonathan Stewart's oddly reconstructed deal put
a million more toward the cap.

This weekend, Mike Tolbert's contract cost the Panthers another two,
exercising a 2014/2015 option. The option isn't expensive overall - and
certainly nothing like Deangelo Williams', more or less cementing
Williams' fate by next year.

But, necessary as these might be, it's just weird that spending the
initial hundred million dollars on backs wasn't costly enough.



Also, Pat Yasinskas, who tends to report raw data without any
perspective, presents the stark number for 2015 that there's $107
million wrapped up in 19 players (none of them Cam Newton). I don't
know if Pat is looking for shock value, or just doesn't want to bother
understanding them - but that's not an accurate representation of how
things will happen.

For one, yes, the last year of a contract is always inflated. Carolina
signed a ton of people in 2011, of which the fifth year is 2015
obviously. I'm willing to bet that at least 75% of those contracts will
have changed or ended by then. Most of them, as I've stated here before
many times, are cuttable by next year at the latest.

Yasinskas gives a gloomy outlook with no perspective, and possibly no
knowledge. It does look stark, and a modest minute or two to reason
why, suggest that yeah, that's how things go. They overspent in 2011,
and the salary part of that inflates that year. But it may as well not
exist already. Those contracts won't stand.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

OL Coming; Other Notes

Carolina's hosting various fringe offensive linemen, most notably Kevin Boothe, a journeyman last with the Giants.  He's listed as profootballfocus's 7th best available guard - they note good run blocking, below average pass blocking, and a general positive in a lack of penalties.  Boothe is talking to various teams, including returning to the Giants.

Other linemen include former undrafted Panther Frank Omiyale - who played LT for a few games here, then got snatched up in '09 by the Bears, and then finished last season as a Seahawk, and Chris Williams, an OT that went a pick after Jonathan Stewart in the 2008 draft (two other linemen went between there and Jeff Otah).  Neither are currently starting quality.

Another former Panther, Geoff Schwartz, hit the market and didn't stay long; he's now a Chief.

Former Chargers Antonio Garay, Antoine Cason are off the market.   Waiting for the market to dry out has consequences, and that includes losing out on these solid starters - they would've plugged two short term holes on a defense that has room to improve.  But, that's part of waiting, and both were in enough demand to cost more if pursued.

Still, Carolina is pursuing options, which is progress.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Couple Quick Updates

*Derek Anderson is official, if I haven't posted that. No idea if
they'll want to keep Jimmy Clausen, but there's not a rush to make
anything happen either way.

*Dwan Edwards is being offered a one year deal, and supposedly other
teams are offering more.
I like that - Edwards' production feels inflated (6 sacks and barely 10
pressures), he's a run liability, and he's not the only DT on the
market. Carolina lowballing, and him suggesting other offers, gives the
intent of Edwards being willing to discuss options (and not
automatically taking the supposed better offer).

*Looks like funding will come from something other than a voted-on tax
in Charlotte for the stadium. Makes sense - the city was going to
deliver their part, and the team gets what I still believe to be a
somewhat deserved bump. If Dell can get a huge bag of cash from Winston
Salem to come for a couple of years and leave town, Charlotte can have a
little in the budget for the billion dollar enterprise on Mint St.

*Mike Goodson got 3 years, $7 million from the Jets. The former Panther
barely played for Oakland last year, but excelled in that time. If he
can keep the fumbles down, it's a good time to seize a good job there.

*it feels like the market is starting to flatten out. With some good
deals signed by safeties and guards, the starting level contracts are
drying up. Carolina should be heard from more in the next few days on
some inexpensive S, CB contracts, and hopefully, DT, G, and a 3rd WR.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

2010 Draft On Life Support

Remember when we thought the 2010 draft was the start of something big?

What ended up being a stopgap because of budgetary issues - not signing
a veteran backup QB, or veteran WRs, for instance - is coming to a head.
A draft that had up to 12 picks for the team,

Carolina, so far, has produced from that draft:

*a little less than a year's worth of starting QB - Jimmy Clausen,
something that everyone's more or less willing to forget;

*a few years' worth of starting WR in Brandon LaFell (118 rec, 1758
yards, 8 TD)

*A few trick plays out of Armanti Edwards, that included two
completions for 12 yards and finally pitched in 5 rec/121 yards last
year, and a career 7yd/punt, 19/kick return average.

*minimal contribution from Eric Norwood, who really looked like a
player, along with the three DBs picked in the 6th round.

*A monster 2012 from Greg Hardy at DE, and a solid 2011. Which is
excellent for a 6th round pick, but Hardy always had 1st round talent.
Any player that pitches in 10 sacks in a year as a draftee? That
player's doing well.

*No real contribution from QB Tony Pike, picked just to fill the
roster.

It's entirely possible that Edwards and Clausen, low on depth charts
but making a lot of money to sit in sweats another year, might be cut
this offseason.

So, outside of Lafell and Hardy, the 2010 draft existed mostly in 2010.
And those two are in contract years, so in a year, that draft could
completely not exist.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Where Do The LBs Fall?


It appears that James Anderson is gone; Luke Kuechly is, obviously, safe.  Jon Beason and Thomas Davis likely took steps forward on staying with Anderson’s departure.  Davis is cheap this year, and Beason costs a massive amount to cut.

But where do they fall?  How will they line up?

It seems the most likely is for Davis to stay at WLB, and Beason to go to SLB and take on more blocks (which might not be a strength).   But, it could flip.

And then, who backs them?  Jordan Senn is staying for the year, and he’s a WLB by trade.   Now the 4th LB, Senn is still mostly a special teamer.

Kenny Onatolu might get a reprieve – as another special teamer/WLB, he makes $775,000 – which could be a backup where they need something more; but, he might stay now.  I don’t know that the team needs more than 5 veterans if they’re keeping 7.   If they kept Onatolu, it might make sense to draft a MLB/SLB who plays strong at special teams.

There’s really no one waiting in the wings with youth at LB.  If the team didn’t have greater needs, backups might come from here, but maybe they can lure some priority free agents and see who’s most able to fit from that pool.

New Rumors: Anderson Stays, Barnidge Going, Florence Coming?

The Charlotte Observer suggests that Derek Anderson, backup QB the last
two years (and in my opinion, one of the better backups Carolina has had
in the last decade at QB), will return instead of joining Rob Chudzinski
in Cleveland or testing any third options.

I don't mind the move if it happens - Anderson's better than Jimmy
Clausen. I just don't know what they're trying to prove with Clausen,
who hasn't worn a uniform in the regular season in two years. Many
teams don't carry a 3rd QB, and Clausen's expensive to just sit on.
There doesn't seem to be any trade value either.

Probably headed to the Browns, however, is 3rd TE Gary Barnidge, who
does appear headed to Chudzinski's offense in Cleveland. The athletic
size/speed guy hasn't produced much in five years here, but has value in
the offense if he were needed. Carolina re-signed Ben Hartsock to a
deal yesterday, that may leave Carolina looking for a younger 3rd guy.


Cornerback Drayton Florence is a new name, however. Apparently headed
to take a physical, a signing may be imminent. The 32 year old corner
had a tough 2012, with issues from a forearm injury and a separate
concussion issue. He played in 8 games, starting 3, last year, and has
experience in the slot, but can do either. He did have 3 INT each of
his last two years in Buffalo, and started each game; he had TDs in each
year as well, and seems to play the ball (and the run).

It's an odd choice - but an inexpensive one. Yes, going from Chris
Gamble to Drayton Florence is a downgrade. He's a body, and they're not
done. But let's hope the end result improves between now and then.

Charged Up: Two San Diegans May Come

Though there's nothing that Carolina has specified, or that has been rumored, look for the team to at least talk hard with former Chargers CB Antoine Cason and NT Antonio Garay.

Cason, a free agent, isn't bulletproof - his QB rating was over 100 last year when being thrown at.  But he played well over his head in 2010 for Ron Rivera, and continued it after Rivera left (but DBs coach Steve Wilks was still there).  For full disclosure, Rivera did bench Cason in 2009 after a difficult stint in the slot; Cason is an outside corner.

Garay was a find by the Chargers in 2009, Ron Rivera's first full year as coordinator in San Diego, and had a massive 2010, stout against the run and under-rated rushing. Re-signed in 2012, he struggled with a move to LDE and only played in 8 games; still, he can play and the injury wasn't a major concern.

That would cover some needs short term, long enough to get some youth in there behind them.  I wouldn't complain much about it, anyway.

Good Time To Be Broke

(or, alternately, "sometimes nothing's a good hand". I might've used
that one already, recently.)

With free agency off to a mammoth start, and Carolina having already
spent its money in 2011, now comes the waiting game. And that's where
you can really make a difference.

Sure, Miami improved by massively overspending for Mike Wallace.
Contenders like SF and Seattle have made improvements with Anquan Boldin
and Percy Harvin (who also got paid in a big way), but at a high cost.
Cleveland seems intent on spending all it can, early as possible.

And that's just not where the best stuff happens. Sure, if you have to
have a Mike Wallace, you're not going to get him in mid-April at a
budget cost. But when you hang $11 million a year on a player, you
inevitably increase a failure rate, too. If Wallace signed for a two
year deal that was fairly lucrative, it wouldn't really matter if he
fits the west coast offense. It wouldn't matter if he were used mostly
as a deep threat. Now he's the premier guy in the Miami offense, the
only guy who has to be respected - the guy who'll have to make Tannehill
look great in year two, the guy who'll have to do it without any running
game (so far). Now it absolutely matters if he can run the drag, if he
can go over the middle every time. If he can carry the whole team, even
though that's terribly unrealistic. Every drop is a bipolar swing of
epic proportion.

Carolina's looking for veteran roleplayers, including possibly at wide
receiver. There have only been hours since free agency officially
started at 4pm yesterday, and they're not after the guys who go to the
highest bidder. It'll cost them a couple middle-class guys (Chris
Canty, for instance), but they'll hopefully get some guys who are very
good that will still be there in two weeks. There, they might find a
value at WR, and be able to afford the DTs, CBs, and FS they need, too.
With enough luck, they might even end up with some depth.

Or not. Who knows - they could pick up a couple DTs at the end of the
month that have good credentials, and it could be a disaster. But they
won't be stuck with that player three years from now, having to decide
whether it's worth taking a hit to ditch the guy (they'll have enough of
that with their own this year and next).

This actually isn't that far off from Marty Hurney. Carolina hasn't
been active in free agency since 2007-08, and then '11, and most of
those were roleplayers, too.

And to credit Dave Gettleman, he hasn't pretended Hurney didn't exist -
he hasn't pretended everything Hurney did was wrong. It's obviously
easy, when a new guy's here, to say "this is how we do things" and
people marvel at it, expecting it'll be completely different. I don't
think Gettleman will be falling over himself to pay millions to more
linebackers and running backs, but the approach won't be so far off
overall, either.

They won't be falling over themselves trying to get the high bid in
today. In a few weeks, the high bids won't be so high. It just
requires patience.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hartsock Returns; Phillips Gone

LB Jason Phillips is now an Eagle, and TE Ben Hartsock has returned to the team on a one year deal.

Both are roleplayers. Hartsock won't be mistaken for Greg Olsen anytime soon, but his 6.7 rating for run blocking was sixth best in the league per profootballfocus.com.

Best of luck to Phillips, a good player who Carolina just couldn't find room to keep.

James Anderson Cut

LB James Anderson, a 2006 3rd round pick from Virginia Tech, has been
cut.

Anderson, who was the lone LB standout in 2010, signed a 5 year, $22
million deal that was the least of the three LB deals of 2011; due to
earn $2.9 million, Anderson's salary is now gone.

spotrac.com has him as a standard cut - which accelerates his 2014 and
2015 bonus to this year for a net of $200,000 savings. That savings
wouldn't be worth it (you can't replace him with a rookie free agent for
that money).

The other option is a June designation - which would push 2015's bonus
proration to 2014 (to go, of course, with 2014's portion staying there).
That would save $3 million. It'll be interesting to see which way they
go with the cut, since a June cut saves more now, but that bill does
come due.

Anderson's career was disappointing until his first starting season in
his fifth year of playing - 2010 was record breaking for team tackles in
a year. It came without Thomas Davis, and came with Jon Beason moving
around from WLB to MLB. He didn't stand out in 2011 with Beason and
Davis hurt, and 2012 was pedestrian as well. 2013 will come with
Anderson at a new address.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Chris Gamble Retires

In a very interesting move, Chris Gamble decided to call it a career.
The cornerback, a 1st rounder in 2004, played for Carolina his entire
career (9 years), and has chosen to not start a new team. Through his
agent, Carl Poston, he's chosen to call it a career.

He'd come under - well, I guess it wasn't really criticism, but notice
- from Darin Gantt. It wasn't really a negative, but the suggestion was
he never really left a footprint. That, for being here those nine
years, he wasn't outspoken, or flashy, but that he did his job well and
didn't cause trouble overall.

And, now, with talent still in the tank and not much wear on him, it
appears he's got the ability to walk away on his terms. Maybe, if
Carolina does need him, he can be had in September.

Gross Working On Restructure

Jordan Gross leaked that negotiations were under way to reduce his cap
hit. Reading through the way it's presented by the Observer, it's hard
to say whether they're trying to add years, restructure by moving bonus
without adding years (somewhat tough to do, I guess, since Gross has
only this year and next on his deal), or if they're simply asking him to
reduce salary without any guarantees.

It may be a reduction in salary to keep playing in '13 and '14, at
least as a starting point. If they're willing to part with Gross, they
save $8.4 million.

I'd imagine they're interested in adding years, so they can spread
money around a bit - and since Gross' proration ends this year, there's
room to do it. But clearly the team doesn't want to put ten million a
year into him anymore either, and I can understand that. Gross is a
steady but not incredible presence anymore, and at 33, it's hard to say
what he has left.

So, the next move has to be a careful one. Hopefully there's a
realistic midpoint the two can find, so that Carolina isn't completely
starting over (or relying on finding a LT at 14 instead of picking the
best player). Or worse, patching the line up with a David Diehl type
player.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Gamble Cut

Chris Gamble was cut, after offseason expectation that it would happen.

The savings is $7.9 million, without much proration to accelerate.
It's expected to be the largest cut Carolina makes (the team would save
more by cutting Jordan Gross, but that isn't expected), and is only the
second starter to be cut (behind Ron Edwards).

Gamble was a top flight CB in 2011, and statistically ranked very well
in 2010 despite a non-performance related benching for a game that year.
He struggled a bit with injury in 2012 before being dropped on IR.

He's also the only first round pick to be cut in recent memory (2001's
Dan Morgan was cut in 2008; 2002's Julius Peppers left in 2010,
obviously, but that's not a cut).

I'm personally sad to see Gamble, who I still believe to be very
talented, leaving. There's no indication of whether Gamble had been
approached to negotiate (pay cut, add years, anything else). I don't
know that the team will have a better cornerback on staff next year, and
I don't know

The team did get along without Gamble at the end of the year, thanks to
a good rush, strong LB play and Charles Godfrey, along with the good
coaching of Steve Wilks to bring up the game of some other CBs down the
line (while Josh Norman faded, pending FA Captain Munnerlyn and
youngster Josh Thomas did a good job). But with Gamble gone, Munnerlyn
a free agent, and Haruki Nakamura expected to return as a backup only,
Carolina has three spots open on a secondary that can't afford to get
worse.

And today, it did.

Stadium Deal Takes Hit

I've largely stayed away from the stadium dealings. I never felt like
the team was moving or listening to LA. I never anticipated much issue
with them staying, or with them getting money to renovate. It's time to
do that, and it's time to ensure they stay. To me, having dealt with
seeing convention and meeting dollars flying around for years, this
isn't unusual - and while I'd prefer the city of Charlotte (of which I'm
not a citizen) or state to not spend money on foolishness, they will.

There's no denying it. They will. So, I guess, selfishly, I kinda
enjoyed that not only would it help my team out, but that it would come
from new money in visitor taxes, moreso than out of the general fund.

And in the grand scheme of things, if my opinion is to be known,
getting $140 million (I don't have the exact figure) to stay 30 years
(the last 16, and the next chunk just to round it off) comes out to $4.6
million a year. Do you think LA would pay that for a 30 year run with a
team? Do you think Baltimore would've? Absolutely. The franchise and
stadium were privately built, and good for them. To not have state
intervention for the first two decades doesn't seem that bad.

I wasn't really aware until this morning that Deadspin, clearly with
the help of someone near the organization, published financial reports
for the team suggesting a $112 million profit over two years.

Not ideal. The team counters, saying the net was more like $20 million
(and I'm sure, without having read that all the way through either, that
they'd argue that a net gain of $20 million on a billion dollar business
isn't that incredible.

But, the team's looking for government money to renovate, and that's a
tough sell. More than that, it's embarrassing for Richardson, who
spearheaded the early renegotiation of the CBA and suggested the players
were getting too much of the pie. Furthermore, the league as a whole
demanded that documents like this not come out. And there's no doubt
Carolina doesn't make the profits others do - no way Jerry Jones built a
billion dollar stadium on layaway.

Even the Deadspin documents don't bother me personally that much. A
team that generates around $100 million in local revenue per year is
worth a massive amount to the local economy. If you only prorate the
$140 mil over the 15 years the agreement ran through, that's $9 million
to ensure $100 million. Which is still a good deal for the city
(outside of the idea that cities really do seem to enjoy extending their
credit on bonds and new taxes like this). Compare that to $200 million
from just the city for Atlanta, reached in agreement this morning.

Is it ideal? Shouldn't the Panthers be able to compete without the
city money? Absolutely. But the business they're in at the city level,
it's subsidized. People throw money at other money to get that money
into hotels and into meeting rooms. You don't want to know the money
Charlotte spent getting the DNC here.


So, I don't know. The team did a good job getting itself to this
point, with the faux-LA meeting and the collateral earned from the
lockout. But it didn't see this coming, and like it or not, I don't
know that the public funding option survives this. Hopefully
Richardson's path from here is a reasonable one, because a spiteful
owner might start talking to LA - or the next owner might.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Phillips Off The Table

There have been suggestions (potentially from Charlotte media)
regarding Kenny Phillips - I'd take those off the table. This
afternoon, there was a report that the Giants were making overtures to
Charles Woodson, in part because they'd tried and failed to re-sign
Phillips:

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/giants/2013/03/phillips-ready-to-test-free-agent-market

Phillips testing the market sounds far too expensive for this team.
So, time to move to potential second level targets - recently cut Gerald
Sensabaugh, for instance.

As well, Giants CB Corey Webster has taken a paycut (not restructure)
to stay, getting rid of another potential target. However, I also don't
really believe Dave Gettleman is going to be all over former Giants,
either. Bargains don't really come with outward attachments to former
players.

Sharrif Floyd Gaining?

Florida DT Sharrif Floyd is gaining on the pack again, it seems.

And I don't understand it. I still don't see him as even the top DT.
Star Lotuleilei's recent scare caused his potential fall, Jonathan
Hankins apparently fell from 2nd in between the season and workouts, and
Floyd had gained over the other athletic DT, Sheldon Richardson.

On tape, I don't find Floyd better than Richardson, much less
Lotuleilei (I am not a cardiologist). Floyd's a stout player, not
unlike Richardson, when he gets on a guard's shoulder and goes upfield -
he's probably better at playing further out than the 3-technique (5, or
if a team wanted to move him around, at 7 on run downs), so there's
value, though I haven't seen Richardson play outside and his longer legs
tend to make more sense outside than Floyd's.

Physically, they tested similarly - strong enough, fast enough. Floyd
seems to be a better rusher (Richardson just didn't finish pass plays as
much) and ran a very quick 40, but both have very quick first steps.
Richardson's longer arms will help more against guards in disengaging,
and he'll likely bat more balls.

I can see Richardson having to really earn a high spot in meetings - he
had disciplinary issues related to academics, but he plays smart, so
it's hard to say what happened there. Floyd doesn't have that negative,
so who knows. But I don't buy him as a #1 overall. That's just a bad
idea.



Now, this is just rumor - it's clear that the Chiefs, who hold the #1
overall pick and squandered the 33 pick to San Francisco for Alex Smith,
don't know who to pick. Luke Joeckel was considered the top pick, but
while the Chiefs have let RT Eric Winston go and current LT has been
franchised, there's a lot of concern about Albert at RT, much of it
coming from the temperamental Albert himself.

To his credit, Albert has some reason for concern - with a (highly
paid) single year on the table, there's no security. A year at RT,
where he doesn't fit, could harm his stock.

So, I don't know. Kansas City clearly doesn't know who they're taking
(people that claimed it was a terrible year to have the #1 pick in 2011,
well, right now I'd easily take 3-5 people over anyone that might fit in
KC), and I don't know that it'll be Floyd. My only worry there is that
Floyd going #1 overall would kick off a massive flood of DTs in the top
12, where some teams could use bodies, diluting the chances of getting a
good player at 14 (or in the second). At this rate, if Floyd makes it
that high, Richardson will get sucked in behind him; Lotuleilei will
inevitably still be high on someone's board. That could leave Carolina
reaching for one of the NTs (Hankins, Jenkins) too high, or going
without.

Senn Signs: Logjam at LB

Special teamer Jordan Senn signed a one year deal with Carolina before
free agency.

Media calls special teams a strength, and Senn was a captain for the
unit last year (it didn't feel like a strength, but apparently, a lot of
improvement happened after Richard Rodgers' somewhat rocky start). Senn
made 15 open field tackles, adding 9 as a reserve LB.

Senn's in his fifth year here, coming aboard mid-2009 to help salvage a
terrible special teams unit. It's anticipated he's playing on a minimum
deal. It's a fairly smart move, wrapping up their special teams ace at
a low price and aiming for continuity in the third phase of football.
If Carolina can build on last year, and find a better way to stop the
run, they can start controlling the pace of games.

Senn joins a logjam at LB - rookie of the year Luke Kuechly is in the
middle; they return three other multiyear starters in Jon Beason, Thomas
Davis, and James Anderson. Right now, it doesn't appear any are due to
be cut - it would cost for Beason and Davis, Anderson would only save
$200,000 unless he was cut as a June exemption (moving $2.8 million into
2014).

So, assuming none of them get cut, then you have 5 guys locked in.
Special teamer Kenny Onatolu would look endangered at that point,
making $775,000. Not a ridiculous amount, but five veteran linebackers
would appear to be enough, and they would anticipate getting special
teams work out of whichever linebacker isn't starting at OLB.

In addition, the team has Jason Phillips as a free agent, who I'd say
isn't expected to return. Phillips has earned his opportunity, winning
a job in camp and then leading the team in special teams tackles (16).
But there isn't cap space or even just room on the roster for six or
seven veteran LB. Inevitably, with 5 experienced guys, the 6th (and if
needed, 7th) guy would need to be an inexpensive young guy.

So, while many positions remain talent poor - currently, DT, CB, OL, TE
are works in progress - LB looks all but settled six months in advance.
Pending where they put Jon Beason and assuming he's in full health.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Polian on Dead Money

Balancing dead money is a major part of the cap management process. For
the uninitiated, player A receives a bonus to sign. That money is
spread out, up to five years, across the life of the contract. If/when
that player gets cut, the rest of that spread comes back to bite you.

Bill Polian - former Panthers/Bills/Colts GM, who'll talk to anyone who
listens, anymore* - suggests that dead money is "built in". That teams
anticipate that money, and know in advance when they might have to deal
with it. It makes sense to have contingencies in place, but I'd never
really thought about it this way. It makes sense to structure contracts
to where you can live with future dead money,




I'm honestly surprised that guarantees weren't treated differently in
the new CBA - but with players and owners haggling so hard over overall
money, they didn't deal with this at all. I don't have a great solution
- offset deals are still a battleground, so guaranteed salries aren't
the way to go, really, and players would never agree to year - to - year
paid bonuses (it's not guaranteed if you don't get it in advance) or,
even worse, the fallacy ideal of the incentive-only contract (Ricky
Williams killed that one years ago).

And, players aren't going to do large deals without large bonuses. So
with a relatively large but flat cap, you essentially have to balance
the upper and lower classes, and the dependable starter middle class
seems to become

There's also a general fallacy of the most responsible teams - Ravens,
for instance, who just gave a very un-Raven contract to a QB that never
passed for 4000 yards, or Steelers, that have some huge contracts and
might have a ton of money into WR this year - that supposedly lock a
bunch of core players up early (notably, the Eagles have massive amounts
of debt and not much to show for it, from their signings two years ago).
There's nothing that suggests a Patriots rule of fiscal responsibility
(like a huge contract to Jerod Mayo). All of those old ideals are out
the window. Those teams still do a good job, but that world is gone.
Most teams have to spend big for big talent, and big talent means
guarantees.

Which means dead money.

*as an aside on this - I don't mind Polian most times. Not unlike
former Packers cap/contract guy Andrew Brandt, who turned himself into a
somewhat successful ESPN analyst (and launched the useful National
Football Post), Polian's perspective is unique and often useful. But,
Polian seems intent on getting a headline every few days, including
floating that idea about widening football fields, that other execs had
later suggested were handily dismissed and wasn't necessarily Polian's
idea to further.

A Short History On Franchising

Carolina's only used the franchise tag a few times - and it somewhat
relates to how they're in their current mess. I'll add a little
commentary along the way.

Starting out, Carolina didn't use the franchise tag option for years -
their first chance at the process was the ill-fated signing of someone
else's franchise player - Washington DT Sean Gilbert. It was a rare use
of the full process for Carolina, opting to send two future #1 picks
instead of the supposed deal Washington suggested, the 14 pick (which
should've gone to an OT



Carolina's first chance for using it would've been for OT Blake
Brockermeyer in 1999. Carolina was cap strapped, and I honestly don't
remember whether there were serious negotiations with Brockermeyer. The
franchise tag would've been cap prohibitive - the level of player
involved there included very minor signings like Steve Tovar, and the
biggest contract I believe was the one year, $1.2 million deal to
Patrick Jeffers (to my knowledge, the only RFA signing Carolina has ever
stolen - correct me if I'm wrong).

This relates back to 1998 for various reasons - Dom Capers had rapidly
overspent cap space, and he'd overextended for little return on the
various DL he'd put in. Had he drafted just one good lineman out of
various wasted picks in 1997, 1998 instead of chasing more front seven
players, George Seifert wouldn't have been patching up a line with the
likes of Clarence Jones, dropping a 2nd rounder on Chris Terry, or
having to sign Nate Newton on his last legs (truth be told I was never
really happy with the overly soft pair of Frank Garcia and Matt Campbell
either).

So, long story short, Brockermeyer walked, and wasn't effectively
replaced until Todd Steussie in 2001, well after plenty of damage had
been done to Steve Beuerlein.

So, it makes sense that since the first franchise tag Carolina used was
under John Fox, that they'd have tagged a punter. Todd Sauerbrun was
tagged in 2003, and after signing a new deal, was gone by 2005 (in a
great trade, that gave Carolina a late pick plus six good years out of
Jason Baker, and then one terrible year out of Jason Baker, which led to
Carolina actually drafting a punter).

Nothing happened again for a while - they did transition tag Deshaun
Foster coming off his rookie deal, and in the most true narrative you
could ever find for Carolina, they were tagging a running back who was
in a hospital bed. Foster had been hurt after two preseason carries in
2002, missed most of 2004, and here he was, after getting hurt in 2005,
transition tagged in 2006. He'd make it through the end of 2007,
spawning the current running back logjam.

Carolina waited through 2008, this time tagging Jordan Gross. He
played the year out with the tag, but then came to an agreement. That
deal, plus a late 2008 deal with Chris Gamble, were both designed with
the specific intent of keeping both players and giving the team
flexibility with Julius Peppers. And of course, Peppers never signed.

So, in '09, he was tagged. And that didn't work out so well. So far,
the $17 million Peppers earned has been the single biggest salary
Carolina has ever paid, but it was for naught - I don't know how eagerly
Carolina tried to trade, but clearly Peppers had a very small list of
teams that he'd play for. And none of them bit. So a year later,
Peppers walking directly caused various dominos to fall, and 2010 became
a disaster.

That 2010 spending freeze helped cause 2011. Carolina had tons of
pending free agents right on the eve of the weirdest free agent period
in league history - coming off an uncapped year, and without the ability
to pre-negotiate with their own free agents, Carolina had to choose.
Charles Johnson, Ryan Kalil, or Deangelo Williams?

So they chose Kalil obviously, and threw tons of money at the other two
(and any other Panther who Drew Rosenhaus repped). And now we're in cap
hell. Of course, that's not related to the use of the tag - to choose
to keep one guy which has worked out more or less - it's related to
overspending in general, and whether or not it was necessary to keep
Williams, specifically.

It's also just related to luck - having to sign Johnson because you
hadn't signed Peppers, made more difficult by Peppers himself but not
helped by the CBA; choosing to sign everyone you can keep to not look
cheap, and maybe being prideful that it wasn't the roster, it was the
coach; and honestly, just the bad luck of not getting to sign Kalil or
Jon Beason in 2009 when it would've been much cheaper.

So, that's the tag. They're not tagging anyone this year, obviously,
and without enough good talent coming out of the 2009-11 drafts, they
won't tag anyone in the near future either. Unless Brandon LaFell
somehow explodes into an amazing receiver as the 3rd option in a more
run-based attack this year, Greg Hardy is the only high value player
with less than two years left on a deal, and Hardy would be expensive
either way.

The new CBA provides an option year for first round picks, and that
would hold off Cam Newton through the end of 2015 if no other
negotiation happens; same for Luke Kuechly at the end of 2016.



Now, in general, I'd caution the use of the tag. Trades rarely happen
with the tag; I'm looking back at the 2008-2010 franchisees, and not
that many of them remain impact players. Gross is allright, Jared Allen
still matters, and Terrell Suggs is still relevant, from '08; Suggs and
Peppers from '09, and you could argue Darren Sproles; Only Richard
Seymour still impacts from 2010; Haloti Ngata, Peyton Manning, Kalil,
and maybe Marcedes Lewis from only two seasons ago. That's out of 33
tags. Last year's list is more relevant, but in general, a kept
franchise player has to impact you longterm.

So, in my opinion, tagging anyone over 30 should be for short term use
(keeping a Wes Welker, but not wanting to pay him longterm) or QBs (the
new fad is kickers, and age tends to be irrelevant for the position), or
anyone you're willing to be stuck with for six more years.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Caution on Captain

Captain Munnerlyn's talking to the press about wanting to stay; his
agent is suggesting Carolina can't afford him. Rumors have him joining
another NFC South team. So, they've gone into full-on hype mode as free
agency comes onto the horizon.

It's a tough situation that requires the lack of attachment that new GM
Dave Gettleman promised when hired. Munnerlyn played four years at
South Carolina, and was a cult fan favorite for being an overachieving,
undersized 7th rounder who ended up starting.

After a very tough 2011, Munnerlyn somewhat came into his own under
Steve Wilks, as did various other DBs last year, despite losing the
early season battle with rookie Josh Norman. Unlike '11, when he only
looked good in the slot, he improved in both areas, and has always been
a football player playing corner.

So hopefully, Carolina knows that value. He can start if needed, but
his best value is in the slot. If someone else believes he should start
(say, a strict cover 2 team) or wants him as their punt returner (where
Carolina has other projects), then they'll probably have more money to
spend, and Carolina's back to the drawing board.

But I'd reserve caution on getting wrapped up in the expected cut of
Chris Gamble that the team doesn't overpay to keep a really good
roleplayer in Munnerlyn. The team does appear to be in need of various
resources at corner - which might keep some away from a needed upgrade
at safety - but they can't put too much into returning Munnerlyn if so.
As it is, it might appear on paper that there's a greater need on the OL
and DT than DB, unfortunately, if going by need.

So, it'd be nice to have him. It'd also be nice to pay him what he's
worth.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dynamic Opinions On Players

I'll change my mind occasionally, and hopefully that's allowed.
Without a specific ideal on a full story for various guys, it's just
going to be a few snippets on these guys.

*Dwan Edwards - it appears Carolina is leaning toward keeping Edwards,
and I'll just say this. I hope it doesn't keep them from adding other
under tackles, and I hope it doesn't come at too high a price. I had
some misgivings about keeping Edwards when it looked like he had a
contract in 2013 of $4 million. I have similar issues with a longterm
deal with Edwards, unless it's at a low price.

He brings pressure, but not necessarily as much as you might hope for.
I've seen mention that he only got 8 pressures to go with his 6 sacks.
It's not as easy as saying "he had more sacks than anyone at DT outside
of Ndamukong Suh." He's also just not that good against the run, and to
me, that's as critical. I know that a good rush DT is better than a
situational guy, in that you have some rush for those 1st, 2nd down
passes. But there's a lot of value in getting to 3rd down and you're
not having to decide between a run stopper or an end at DT on 3rd and 2.

*Chris Gamble - PFF strikes again.
See, 2011, Gamble was good. But most people didn't buy in. He didn't
have enough INT. So then, 2012 comes and he flips to LCB, a bad fit for
him, and when he got hurt, PFF said he had the lowest yards per route
run of any CB at 0.45. Neat stat.

So then they value him on production versus salary***, in which they
call him the most overpaid. Fair enough to a point, since his
contract-ending salary is high/he had injuries. But the part that got
me was that they stated his catch percentage had gone up 20%. And to
me, those don't jive. How had he, at one point, given up the least
yards per route run while also having a high completion percentage?
Sure, he was playing off more at LCB, and the early 2012 team in general
had too much loose cover 2/cover 4 shells. But catches are yards.

Either way, I'm starting to resolve myself to the idea that, while the
team can't get a Gamble-level player at CB, they might be able to pull
off a starter nonetheless, so I'm more willing to let Gamble go now.
Partially due to yet another isolated bit of sabermetrics that doesn't
tell the whole story on the player (I don't currently have access to see
what his QBR was, for instance), but it looked inevitable anyway.

The problem is, with that money, they're going to have to find two
starters, not one. That's going to be the difficult part.


***(I find this a somewhat interesting, but unuseful, stat since it
depends most signifcantly on what you're getting paid. Consider Greg
Hardy is on a rookie contract, he's going to have more production than
Charles Johnson, who's the highest paid guy. Though Johnson was 10th
underperforming, simply because he gets paid a ton, and honestly, they
had him valued similar to his actual pay. But the idea that any starting
player is worth only $800,000 is silly. Almost as important as how
you're being paid is where in your contract you are, and whether or not
you renegotiated salary away in that year, neither of which has a lot to
do with performance. They should consider running it against the median
salary of the contract.)


*James Anderson - He appears to be the odd man out at LB, but I'm not
anticipating any movement - and I'm not expecting him to start. It's an
odd mix - he'll make a lot to be depth, but maybe he'll become an
excellent special teamer. Given that Jon Beason should be back in full
health, but it's not just a given, maybe it's smart to have Anderson for
less than you could replace him with. So, maybe he and Haruki Nakamura
are a part of the core of special teams, and that can't hurt.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Two Coaching Points

Two quick things now that I've noticed them:

*The zone read is considered a "wrinkle" not a "staple", according to head coach Ron Rivera.  I've got mixed feelings on this - there's no doubt Rob Chudzinski was too complex, and that the backs need to get more downhill runs. There's still a want on my part for a couple of things there - the Pistol formation, and for Shula not to go too far the other direction and become boring.

*Rivera suggests that the report on offering assistant coaches only a one year deal is false.  Rivera praised owner Jerry Richardson for giving him the things that he needed to move forward.  So, Rivera promoted guys that he knew in a familiarity situation, but it did get rid of the best excuse for not landing some good assistants.

It's hard to say where to go on this one.  Rivera's still somewhat of a lame duck in a way, and him having the ability to provide multiyear deals doesn't mean it was an attractive job longterm.  Winning erases those doubts, so hopefully the moves work out.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Spotrac Has Carolina At The Cap

Fiscal sports website spotrac.com has Carolina at $123.4 million, putting them just north of the now-expected $123 million salary cap.  Initial reports had no changes on the limit, at $120.5 million; then it went up a few times to its current resting spot. So, Carolina has a minimal amount of moving necessary to create breathing room.

They'll also need to create some room for exclusive rights FA Richie Brockel, but since he can only sign here, and Carolina holds his rights, they don't need to make room right away.  The $4.3 million or so that will cost to sign draft picks won't count until they're signed.  

RFAs - restricted free agents - can often cost a lot, since they get a significant bump to even be tendered at their original draft status.  Only Andre Neblett appears to be worth keeping, and it's hard to say whether the team will choose to put around $1 million into a player who doesn't really look to contend for a starting spot and certainly isn't above replacement.  Neblett finished 2011 strong - being the primary reason that the defense started to improve in the last few games, and was a notable exception in the finale when they were being blown out (I imagine losing Charles Johnson didn't help either, of course).  

But he got caught with performance enhancing drugs, and then just didn't play that well.  Profootballfocus.com has him rated by far as the worst pending FA for performance (and he had only 251 snaps to receive such a negative rating, based on each play cumulatively). It's interesting that he, Dwan Edwards (UFA) and Ron Edwards (cut) are the three worst names on that list. 

So, it appears for now, that $400,000 is all it's going to take.  Long term, of course, other deals will take money, and I doubt they're completely done before free agency starts anyway.  But, that's where they are, since the various media types aren't prone to getting this right.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ron Edwards Cut Official

Carolina's making some headway finally, nipping at the cap issues in
slightly larger increments. Starting NT Ron Edwards, one of the few
outsiders brought in on the 2011 spending spree, was released today.
The move was expected, and I'm sure Edwards himself knew it was coming.

Having lost him for 2011 with a torn tricep in camp, Edwards made it
through 11 games this year without making that much of a difference.
The 33 year old held the point of attack most times against the run, but
didn't end up proving worth the investment. Carolina will likely look
for another nosetackle in free agency at a low cost, and will probably
consider drafting a backup - Andre Neblett, Sione Fua, and Frank Kearse
played the position without being remarkable, either.

The release of Edwards saves $2.5 million. Depending on what set of
numbers you believe, that would put Carolina at $4.1 million over the
cap; my numbers differ. As of today, I had Carolina at $6.6 million;
the supposed $2.4 million from restructuring Greg Olsen and $2.5 million
from dropping Edwards would leave the team at $1.7 million.

And that's without the recent cap altering (rumors have it at $123
million now). So, some room's been made today, either way, and they
still have some work to do.

Olsen Restructures

Greg Olsen restructured his contract today, providing $2.4 million in
cap relief this year.

The team took $3 million of salary and spread it across the remaining
years of his contract.


I had Carolina at $6.7 million on 2/20. That would put Carolina at
$4.3 million adding Olsen's restructure, and about 3.7 million including
the still under-reported Haruki Nakamura restructure.

The Observer claims $6.6 million as of right now.

Either way, as of yet, no one's actually been released. Ron Edwards
will inevitably be released, along with $2.5 million total savings.
There's yet to be any news on moves with Jordan Gross (salary $8.7
million, cap hit $11.7 million) or Chris Gamble ($7.95 million salary,
cap hit $10.95 million). Either could be restructured or cut; I don't
buy that Gamble is an automatic cut.

Either player could provide more than enough cap space if cut, but
either would also require a lot of resources to replace. I'd prefer a
restructure and added years on both players, personally.

DL Future: Edwards, Edwards, Hardy

The Charlotte Observer states that the team is "likely" to return Dwan
Edwards, the team's starting under tackle, and that they're interested
in offering Greg Hardy a long term deal. It's hard to suggest how
reputable the info is, but it's not a stretch that the team would want
to keep Hardy, and they've talked with Edwards.

Hardy, a two year starter, had 4 sacks in 2011, but led the team in
pressure. He exploded in the weight room in the offseason, adding 20
lbs, and then provided 11 sacks in 15 games this season, second on the
team.

The article also suggests the likely cut of Ron Edwards, the team's
other starter inside, and would need a new nose tackle to start. If the
team keep the other Edwards at a decent price, in my opinion, they'd
still need to put a good draft pick into another under tackle,
3-technique type lineman. At 32, Edwards doesn't have a longterm
future. Behind him, there's nothing interesting on the team at this
point.

At end, of course, there's depth. Behind Hardy and Charles Johnson,
there's Frank Alexander; Antwan Applewhite is a free agent, but a
roleplayer like that can be had cheaply. They have Nate Chandler, a
widebody who plays more end than tackle despite his size, and sets the
edge well; they have Thomas Keiser, a physically unimposing backup who
has a knack for making plays (he has 4.5 sacks, a defensed pass, and an
INT, in 12 career games).

I'm a little torn on keeping Dwan Edwards; he didn't seem to get as
much pressure as he's given credit for (8 pressures and 6 sacks), and
he's not that good against the run. Again, the team can't stand pat at
DT right now. But Hardy, yeah, I'll take a few more years of him.