Tag Archives: NFL Free Agency

Three Teams Taking Advantage in the Off-Season

When discussing the NFL Off-Season hype that comes around every year, some teams use this time to make  “splash” signings, while others hope to fill  holes in their roster and others just bolster what they already have.  These three teams have taken advantage of free agency and the trade-block as best as they could in 2018.

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Leon Halip/Getty Images North America

Sometimes, the rich, do indeed get richer.  That is the story with the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.  While some teams are scrambling to sign a free agent quarterback, or positioning themselves in the draft to get one – the Eagles, have both a Super Bowl winning quarterback in Nick Foles,  and a quarterback who was (with debate) on his way to winning league MVP in Carson Wentz.   Already having one of the more balanced rosters in the league, the Eagles went and signed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (1 year, $2.6 million), re-signing their own linebacker, the versatile Nigel Bradham and trading with the Seahawks to land defensive end Michael Bennett.   All this did was bolster an already strong run defense that in 2017 allowed 4. 5 yards a rush, which was third best in the NFL and it will surely increase their sack number (which last year was at 36 for the season) and will add even more power to the league’s best defense in applying pressure.   When you’re already at the top of the mountain, you don’t have to jump any higher, just secure your footing, and that is just what the Eagles did.

2. Minnesota Vikings

Cindy Ord/Getty Images North America

The Vikings were thought to be the team that would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl until that NFC Championship game where they got thoroughly embarrassed by the Eagles.  The Vikings one issue was an obvious one.  When a team lets all three of their quarterbacks go and test the free agency market – it’s a telling sign.  The Vikings had just about every position on the field covered except for quarterback.  They did the only logical thing.  They went all in on the player who would demand the most money in free agency this year, former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.   They were willing to sign Cousins to a three year deal with $84 million guaranteed.  This is a gamble worth taking.  Cousins was working with a beaten up offensive line, and targets that were more often injured than capable of playing the game of football. Even then, he threw for over 4000 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.   Playing indoors for at least nine times a year (remember they have that one away game at Detroit which is also played indoors), playing for a smart organization and healthy/good players around him – is only going to make Cousins excel in Minnesota.  The offensive system will be something similar to what was run in Washington so the learning curve shouldn’t be a hurdle for him.  Aside from this signing, was also the ability to acquire defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a one year deal.  This is a low-risk, high reward type of deal for the Vikings who have a strong front and are hoping to get a season out of Richardson in which he can try to prove himself as a force in this league again.

3. Cleveland Browns

Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America

For all the excitement the Browns have generated this off-season, in my eyes this is more about the “hype” than actually making a difference.  Let’s be serious, after an 0-16 season, the only way to go is up, right?  The Browns realized quickly that they had no patience for DeShone Kizer at quarterback so they acquired former Bills QB, Tyrod Taylor.  Tyrod was used more as a scapegoat than anything else in Buffalo, and at least in Cleveland, everyone knows the problems come way before Tyrod had anything to do with it.  For Tyrod Taylor it’s a fresh start somewhere, where the expectations are low.   The Browns also traded for wide receiver Jarvis Landry.  Landry can get open, and he can catch.  What he does after the catch though, is usually get tackled.  Last year Landry racked up 112 receptions and could not get over the 1000 yard receiving mark.  That’s something that is hard to do while even trying to do it.  Pairing him up alongside a healthy Corey Coleman should go over well in Cleveland, if Tyrod Taylor gets the ball to them.  The Browns went all in on this offense as they signed right tackle Chris Hubbard to a five year $37.5 million dollar deal ($18 million guaranteed) to a guy who’s started 14 games in five seasons. . . The Browns also went a little nutty and signed running back Carlos Hyde, who was the 49ers starting running back for the last two seasons and has missed the 1000 yard rushing mark both times. . . but he was playing for the 49ers so we’ll give him a break on that.  It was just a weird signing because they already have Duke Johnson in their backfield and they could have drafted the more explosive, younger and versatile Saquon Barkley in this year’s upcoming draft.  If the Browns can follow these moves with a strong draft AND they are able to maximize the potential that is on this team – they can easily be the third best team in the AFC North. . .That’s an improvement at least.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Who Will Get Mad in March?

March Madness is usually all about College Basketball.  The Bracket Challenge.  The hype, the dramatics, etc, etc. . .  March is also the time when NFL fan-bases get over-hyped or overly depressed because NFL free agency has begun.

It’s usually fan-bases of bad teams that freak out.  If you’re a fan of the Jets, Bears, Browns, Giants or any other team that has a top-ten draft pick – it’s a nervous time.

But is it, really?

Source: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images North America

Every team enters the off-season with holes.  Whether it be because of lack of talent on the roster or someone is being paid too much.  Regardless of what it may be, free agency – in some people’s eyes – is the “quick-fix” to all their problems.  In truth free agency can be just what a team needs to get over a hump or take them to the promised land – for example, Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos in 2012 (jeez, that was already SIX years ago. . .).  Or even in 2014 when the Patriots signed corner back DOn the other hand, free-agency can be the equivalent of a broken water pipe being fixed with some duct-tape.  For examples of bad free agent signings just look up any of these Redskins signings: Albert Haynesworth in 2009, Adam Archuletta in 2006 or even Jeremiah Trotter in 2004.  .  .Oh those Redskins. . .

This season, there were names that every bad franchise’s fan base wanted them to throw money at.  So far some players have agreed to terms with teams wanting their services.  This includes “house hold names” like Albert Wilson, who has agreed to go to Miami for three-year $24 million dollar contract and Trey Burton who has agreed to a four-year, $32 million dollar contract.  Now, one isn’t saying that these men aren’t “good” and I could care less about the money they’re getting – BUT – fan bases all start to follow these type of guys on twitter and “all of a sudden” become experts on the “hidden talents” that players like these possess.

Source: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Come on, man. . .

Burton was the third best tight end in Philadelphia and Albert Wilson was probably a three or four guy in Kansas City.   If these are the caliber of players that will get fans in a frenzy because they “missed out” on these guys – then maybe, just maybe – you’ve lost it a little.

It’s easy for fans to say, get this guy – spend this money and fill that hole.  But the NFL is all about the right guys who fit in the right systems.  This is why an intelligent player like Richard Sherman, who’s only worked in one defensive system in his career, chose to sign with the 49ers who run a similar defensive scheme.   This is why teams like the Jets and Vikings are looking at Kirk Cousins to be their next quarterback.  Cousins just ran a west-coast style offense in Washington, and the Vikings and Jets (if we are to judge by their offensive coordinator hires) will be doing something of the same ilk.  Meanwhile, former Bears linebacker Christian Jones who played in a 3-4 defensive scheme is now going to play for the Lions who typically run a 4-3 defensive scheme, so if this signing turns out to be a bad one – there’s your first big clue as to why.

Listen, everyone loves free agency.  But when it comes to cursing out a general manager because he didn’t fill “a hole” with some over-priced shiny new object, there is no reason to throw a fit or curse your general manager’s family from now till eternity.  Oh, and it definitely doesn’t call for burning players’ jerseys.  That’s just stupid.  If we’ve learned anything it’s that winning teams are put together by smart people.  The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers pretty much get it.  They never want to over-pay for talent – they’d rather find those who can fit in their systems.

Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

So if you’re team is sitting on millions upon millions of dollars and not spending it like crazy in free agency, don’t flip out.  There’s a draft and there is also a coaching staff in place that is there to make players better – imagine that. . .

I mean, if you’re a Jets fan though.  Yeah, I’d be mad as all hell, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


NFL Free Agency, Pt. 2

Last week we discussed who should get paid, where they should land and who should be ignored.  We nailed Alshon Jeffrey landing with the Eagles, but what we didn’t see coming was his one-year price tag. For a young guy, only his fifth-season – signing a one-year deal worth $14 million seems to just short change his economic potential.  The Patriots made two moves, one in signing corner Stephon Gilmore, who we gave a “buyer’s beware” tag attached to his name, and then traded for Saints wide-receiver, Brandin Cooks – proof that the rich only get richer. . .

The move that made the most noise was the Cleveland Browns trade with the Houston Texans, and breaking it down, we’ll reveal why. The Texans traded quarterback Brock Osweiler, 2018 second-round pick and a 2017 sixth-round pick and in return the Browns gave the Texans a 2017 fourth-round pick, and helped relieve the weight of the Texans’ purse.  The Texans are set to save about $10 million in salary-cap space this season because of the move, and are also out of a bad marriage, which was the contract they gave Osweiler.  From the onset it looks like a landslide victory for the Texans, but for the Browns it was all about the draft picks.  The Browns have more cap room than anyone else in the league (I’m not a “cap” guy, but it’s in the area of $100 million in cap space) so even if they decide to cut Osweiler, it won’t affect their plans in the off-season – it was all about the draft picks.  It’s a pretty unconventional move, but these two had to means and desire to get it done.  The Browns would be better off just cutting Osweiler instead of actually starting him, and Osweiler will most probably land somewhere as a back-up for what he’s really worth.  .  .


This trade opens up the quarterback position for the Houston Texans now, who many feel are one-quarterback-away from at least getting to the AFC Championship game.  Currently, their quarterback position is filled with the likes of Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden.  The “dream” scenario would be to sign Tony Romo if he was to be released by the Cowboys.  Only problem is, that still hasn’t happened.  Romo’s relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is what’s basically holding it back.  Jones does not want to trade Romo to a team that he doesn’t want to go to – which is admirable but at the same time, teams who are interested (like the Texans and Broncos) don’t want the lucrative contract that comes with the talented, yet very injury prone veteran quarterback.  In all reality, the Cowboys could still hold onto Romo and keep him on as a back-up, and knowing Jerry Jones, that’s very much so a possibility.  . . Back to the Texans though. . .  if Bill O’Brien and Houston can’t land Romo, who’s the next best option? Nick Foles? RG3? Colin Kaepernick? Or maybe, just maybe – Jay Cutler?  Previously, in the NGSC article entitled “Where Does Cutler Go Now?” five different landing spots were mentioned (one of which was ‘retirement’ which may still happen) but the Texans were never quite entered that discussion until now.  The Jets are so far the only team rumored to be interested in the veteran QB, but if the Texans can’t land Romo – are they really going to go through another year of Brian Hoyer type (who just signed with the 49ers)?  Very unlikely.  Cutler would actually make sense, and this would be his most complete team to start for in his career.

The running back position is always an interesting one in free agency.  The league just doesn’t want to pay the big bucks to that position, which seems foul, but it’s just becoming smart business.  We discussed last week how Adrian Peterson didn’t show much last year, but his name will garner him attention,  but there are a few other backs that should be interesting, if not anything else, to follow.  Isiah Crowell is a talented, strong back with a lot of upside on the field, but got into some hot water for his tasteless take on police brutality on his twitter account last year.  He is a public relations nightmare waiting to happen, even if you were to just interview him.  BUT, in terms of business a team may be able to pay him less than what he’s worth and it can benefit them.  Seattle, might be a good landing spot for him.  They are looking to bolster their running back group and are rumored to have interest in Adrian Peterson (yikes).


A nice addition to any team would be Mike Gillislee.  Last year for Buffalo, he averaged 5.7 yards a carry and rushed for 8 touchdowns.  He’s perfect for teams that employ a split at the halfback position, although if he was asked to carry the full load, it’s doubtful he’d disappoint.  He played his college ball at Florida and the Jaguars like spending money at free agency, it could work out nicely for him to get a job in Jacksonville.


The “30 and Over” crowd at the running back position usually get the raw end of free agency.  Guys like LeGarrette Blount, Tim Hightower and DeAngelo Williams can still be productive but if a team  takes them on, it will be at a discount price and in a clear number two (even three) spot on the depth chart.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFL Free Agency Hype

On Thursday, 4:PM Eastern Standard Time, the NFL’s free-agency period begins.  This is when every homeless NFL player gets wined and dined by different teams or offered a chunk of money they can’t turn down to re-locate.  OR, this is when players will take a pay-cut anywhere in the league, just to be part of the league.  There is desperation on both parts actually, and maybe that’s where the intrigue lies.

On average, there are about 2-3 players in free agency that can make an immediate positive impact on any team they are added to, a handful of players that can make a different on specific teams and the rest are just. . . guys.

The players that should be on everyone’s radar defensive end Calais Campbell, guard Kevin Zeitler and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor.  For eight straight seasons, Calais Campbell had been one of the more consistent defensive ends in the league, last years his numbers took a dive – but so did the whole Arizona Cardinals team.  Not just Campbell, the entire organization – was underwhelming.  A fresh start for Campbell is just what he needs.  A team with a need at that position and known to over-pay for veteran talent, the Redskins can be a nice landing spot for Campbell – or he can opt for life in sunny Florida and sign with the Jaguars, who will once again be packed with potential next season, and maybe need a defensive veteran like Campbell to take them to that next level. . . .

Offensive linemen are never fun to discuss, so we’ll make this one quick.  NFL.COM, pretty much nailed Kevin Zeitler when they described him as “a nasty-tempered blocker who wins with strength.”  A perfect landing spot for him would be Seattle, a team that needs to run the ball better and protect their quarterback Russell Wilson, who has been sacked at least 40 times in each of the last four seasons.

Terrelle Pryor may surprise some to be on the list of my top-three free agents, but consider what he did last year. . .on the Browns.  Every week a corner would try to talk down the competition they would face in a guy like Pryor and Pryor always showed up.  He somehow managed over 1,000 receiving yards although it was obvious he was the only source of offense the Browns had.  Rumor has it, he may stay with the Browns but – why?  So many teams – in nicer locations – can use a wide out like Pryor, like the 49ers or the Rams – or he can find himself in a better situation with a team like Carolina which would make sense from an offensive side of things considering Devin Funchess turned out to be  a let down last season.

Most people have a different player as the number one receiver, and that is Alshon Jeffrey.  Like Pryor, he may return to his original team the Bears, but there will be a lot of people vying for the services of a wide-out who has the best “locating” ability of balls in the league.  Jeffrey may want to abandon Chicago’s “rebuild” days and go to a team on the up-and-up like the Titans or even a team that lacks a true number one like the Eagles.  These are the only two teams that would become instantly improved with Jeffrey added into the mix.  He’s too sloppy for my liking in terms of route-running or running in general.  Nothing is ever really smooth with Jeffrey – let it be his play on the field or his conditioning. . . .

Tony Romo will most likely be let go by the Cowboys and let the era of Dak Prescott enter it’s second season.  Romo has been tied to two teams if that happens, the Broncos and the Texans.  Both are nice options, but the Texans just make more sense.  Tony wouldn’t have to leave the state of Texas and he’ll be part of a team with an offensive head coach, with more than enough weapons around him. Add to that, he’s got a very winnable division to make it an easy road into the playoffs.  Romo’s risk doesn’t come with talent, but injury.  If the Texans can keep him upright for a whole season though – this is a team that can make the AFC Championship game, with no problem.

Buyer beware of ANY FREE AGENT DEFENSIVE BACK.  Name ’em: Stephon Gilmore, A.J. Bouye, Tony Jefferson, Barry Church – the list goes on.  Corners are usually more a product of their system and chemistry within the entire secondary then anything else.  Even Darrelle Revis, while still in his prime, looked like a garbage signing when he was put into the Tampa Bay Bucs defensive plans.  Even if you’re running the same kind of defense, it’s always buyer-beware with secondary guys.  Too many times, we’ve seen safeties and corners, sign a huge deal and be an after thought by their second season with a team.

Don’t Touch It:  Adrian Peterson:  unless this all time great is going to play for a league minimum, don’t even bother.  Peterson was limited to only 37 carries due to injury last season and even then, he couldn’t muster even two yards a carry.

Best Buy: Pierre Garcon: He has always been a strong wide out, who blocks, runs good routes and has good hands.  He can help out a young quarterback in being that consistent piece within an offense, or he can be a deadly weapon in an already potent attack.  He’s always been under-rated because his numbers never match his talents, but he’s a guy who can really do it all.

REMEMBER THOUGH. . . this IS free-agency and quarterback Mike Glennon is a commodity who can get anywhere up to $15 million a year because of the quarterback market.

Free Agency is a time where bad teams get desperate and players get really over-paid.  Just hope that your favorite team doesn’t lose their mind come this Thursday. . .


G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Where Does Cutler Go?

There have been very few players as polarizing as Jay Cutler in recent professional sports.  I wrote an article almost exactly two years ago “The Perception of Jay Cutler,” in which a defense of his character was made.  And quite well, may I add.

Jay Cutler’s run with the Chicago Bears looks like it may very well be at it’s end.  After eight years with the Bears, Cutler has cemented himself as the franchises most storied quarterback, holding fourteen team records (including passing yards, passing touchdowns and quarterback rating).  Even with that, Bears fans (and for some strange reason even non-Bears fans) have an issue with Cutler.  The whole “he” hasn’t won anything conversation is laughable for all those Millennials and lazy sports writers, have made “wins” an actual stat for quarterbacks – no matter what kind of condition a franchise is in.  Cutler played for a Bears team that actually had guys like Johnny Knox and Devin Hester running routes for him at one point.  Yikes.

But this isn’t a piece to further defend a guy who has been incorrectly vilified in his career, this is to predict possible landing spots for the 33 year old gunslinger.  Keeping in mind that the Bears will most likely cut him before finding a trading partner for him.

1- New York Jets – This is almost too obvious.  If the Jets decide to not part ways with wide receiver Brandon Marshall, reuniting these “bickering brothers” may be something to look into.  Marshall has referred to Cutler as his brother numerous times and even when they blow up at each publicly it’s really not a big deal.  With that being said, the Jets are usually in the business of lying to themselves and believing they have a chance to get into the playoffs.  Teams that believe that, bring in veterans who are looking for one more run, at a good price.  Cutler would get killed by the New York media, but it’s a good thing that he really doesn’t care what you say about him. . . like, ever.

2- Miami Dolphins – Yeah, Ryan Tannehill is still there.  So what?  Reports had come in Miami last season that head coach Adam Gase was growing increasingly frustrated with Tannehill as the season progressed.  Tannehill’s numbers are smoke in mirrors and he still looks like a guy learning how to play the position.  Gase is a “Cutler guy” and they worked great together in Chicago but this would be a touchy situation to get into and would involve the Dolphins giving up on the young guy to roll with the injury prone older guy. . .

3- Denver Broncos – This would be a best case scenario for Cutler.  He would go back to where his career started and would have a playoff contender right off the bat.  With the receiving talents there just being left out to dry, they would welcome a guy like Cutler who can sling the rock.  Cutler wouldn’t have to try to hard to beat out Trevor Siemian for the starting job but Elway definitely wouldn’t look to break the bank for Cutler either.

4- Retirement – Jay Cutler has taken a beating over his career.  Physically and mentally.  He has made a lot of money, has three kids and a beautiful wife and usually makes his way doing charity work (especially with youth diabetes).  Cutler has made it known that  he wanted to end his career as a Bear, which you’ve got to believe was his goal since getting traded to Chicago but money and opportunity can still be offered for this veteran.  Aside from personal opinions – Cutler is still a starting quarterback in this league – but at a certain point, a man has to consider his options and his health.  If he is satisfied with it all, nobody can judge him for that.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC East Team Needs

Philadelphia Eagles: OL, DE, LB, CB,QB


Philly just seems like the most interesting place to start because, well – in all honesty, they are a complete mess.  They have holes all over the place and are shedding themselves of anything that reminds them of former head coach, Chip Kelly.   They might have to go offensive line in the first round of the draft to at least show a dedication to reconstructing something in the positive direction.  They signed former Houston Texans guard Brandon Brooks, to a five year deal which will pretty much wrap up the 26 year old guard in the prime of his career.  In the first round Ohio State’s tackle Taylor Decker should be available for them at pick number fourteen.  There are some pretty good prospects at guard that might’ve been available to them in the second round, but the Eagles’ next pick is in round three of the draft.  Since this is the case, they may want to grab what they can at the corner position here.  If they are lucky they’d be able to grab Miami’s Artie Burns – but Burns is an intriguing man with a strong story behind him and may go earlier than expected – but Minnesota’s Eric Murray might prove to be a strong pick in the third.  A physical corner with a nice feel for zone coverage.  With their second pick in the third round, they should look at  in-state favorite Carl Nassib, defensive end out of Penn State – or they may want to go with the better athlete in the third round like Charles Tapper out of Oklahoma.  Tapper forces turnovers and can get to the ball quickly – might be able to transition from defensive end to linebacker if need be . . .  No matter the guaranteed money or what coaches say, Sam Bradford has had his time to do something in this league and it’s evident he is not the “future” for any team.  Taking a quarterback late is never a promising look for a future “team leader,” but if the Eagles take a shot at Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson either late or as an undrafted free agent – it might turn out better than starting Bradford.  He’s got some mobility and a strong arm.   The Eagles really can go anywhere in the draft so it’s difficult to pin point exactly what they should do – best player available might be the way they go – this year and next year.


Washington Redskins: CB, RB, QB

Right off the bat, people will see “QB” in there and say “Why would they need a quarterback?  Especially after retaining the services of Kirk Cousins?!”  Well for starters, they franchised Cousins which means they are paying him a lot of money to see if he is worth the big time contract and secondly – before the season started, we were all questioning the abilities of Cousins.  With that being said – Cousins could’ve just gotten “lucky” last year or maybe just “figured out how to play above average in this league.”  Whichever it is, the Skins need some kind of insurance at that position next season. Colt McCoy is still there as a back up and that might be just as good as the names that are currently available like T.J. Yates and Tavaris Jackson.  If they want to take a gamble in the third round, NC State’s Jacoby Brisset could be a nice look and if they wait later – maybe a wild card like Oregon’s small – yet strong armed and athletic quarterback – Vernon Adams Jr might deserve some consideration.  The Skins have  a quality corner in Brashard Breeland, but they need to give him help on the opposite side of the field.  William Jackson, the corner back out of Houston ran a 4.37 at the combine, and even beforehand was considered to be a steal, even at the late first round spots. If Cousins plays as well as he did last year, the Redskins have more than enough talent to win the NFC East in back to back seasons.  .  .Do the Skins really have enough trust in running back Matt Jones to be “the guy” though?  Much like Cousins at quarterback, it wouldn’t hurt the skins to get some kind of “insurance” at that position.  There are always decent names in free agency at that position like Ronnie Hillman or Bobby Rainey.  It would be interesting to see the price tag that comes with Arian Foster though.  If healthy (that’s a big “IF”) he could be a huge impact on this roster as a whole and it might be worth it for the Skins to make that kind of play right now.



New York Giants:RB, DE, LB, CB, WR


The Giants are a team reeking of the word “desperate” right now.  General manager Jerry Reese hasn’t been too impressive with his mid to late round draft picks and he’s spending money left and right trying to rectify those mistakes.  The Giants have given a little over $100 million  in guaranteed money to Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Damon Harrison.  All three got five year deals and all three have expectations to hit that they never had to measure up to previously.  With that said, when a team breaks bank like that in free agency it almost always is a recipe for disaster.   With the tenth pick overall the Giants may have a shot at the best running back in the draft in Ezekiel Elliot.  Elliot would be the dynamo half back they’ve been looking for for nearly a decade.  The combo backfield of Shane Vereen and Rashard Jennings was less-than-amusing to watch and Elliot would actually fit in perfectly with this offense.  Afterwards, the Giants should be looking to stock up on defensive talent wherever they can get it.  Yannick Ngakoue of Maryland is an outside linbacker/defensive end hybrid that is going mostly under the radar but he could be an instant starter and that kind of quality on a bad defense is worth the second round pick.  He’s got length, speed and size – three things that most the Giants defensive players don’t have a combination of. . . Jaylon Smith of Notre Dame is scaring teams off because of his medical issues and slow recovery – but before this was being touted as a sure fire first-round pick.  The Giants usually have luck with players of this talent falling to them and if he’s there in the third they will definitely not pass on him.   The Giants’ secondary needs help in a big way.  Landon Collins played well as the physical safety they needed him to be and them paying Janoris Jenkins the big bucks, proves that they need help in a big way.  Maurice Canady out of Virginia is a pretty physical corner who might be a nice compliment on the outside – while a later round pick (fifth-round maybe) would be Florida’s Brian Poole, who might be able to rotate as a fill in spot-number-two corner while being a mainstay in the nickel spot.  Victor Cruz came back at a discount to be the number two wide-out but the truth is, he’s garbage now and won’t go over the middle.  A veteran free agent signing like Marques Colston might be a nice way to try to mentor the young hot head wide-out Odell Beckham Jr.  Beckham seemingly answers to nobody and although his talents conceal his mental lapses – it’s becoming a tired act that should finally be controlled by this team.


Dallas Cowboys: LB, DE, QB, RB


The Cowboys have the fourth pick overall in this year’s draft.  Not bad for a team many projected to be one of the NFL’s best in 2015 and failed miserably at achieving that.  The Cowboys are in a tough spot though.  When quarterback Tony Romo plays – he looks like an MVP candidate and everyone loves the Cowboys, BUT when Romo goes out with an injury, they play horribly and become the butt of everyone’s jokes.  The Cowboys won’t be spending a first round pick on a quarterback but maybe the second round wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) be that far fetched.  Ohio State’s Cardalle Jones might fit in well here.  Behind a strong offensive line and a capable receiving group, the athletic Jones, won’t have to “do too much” but learn how to be coach-able through it all.  Dak Prescott out of Mississippi State may be the more polished version of Cardalle Jones and in a time of “Greg Hardy and Dez Bryant” in the Cowboys’ locker room, a natural leader with a level head, might help out as a building block for Dallas’ future.  Back to the fourth overall pick though. . . The Cowboys should have their choice between some great linebacker prospects: UCLA Myles Jack, Georgia’s Leonard Floyd and Alabama’s Reggie Ragland.  Ragland might be a reach at number four as he is mainly projected to go in the “teens” of the first round and the choice of Floyd or Jack depends on how well Dallas can trust Jack coming off of a knee injury that ended his 2015 campaign.  Floyd on the other hand is a 6’6″ 244 pound man-child who played extremely well this year and enters the draft as one who can start right away and impact the game right away.  The Cowboys need an answer behind Romo so they can utilize their best strength which is running behind the offensive line.  While folks were enamored with Alabama’s Derrick Henry running the ball, it may be Kenyan Drake who turns out to be a  steal for any team in the third or fourth round.  He has decent hands and is a strong runner who is more elusive than advertised.   Drake would easily beat out the backfield on the Cowboys as is, and would be a rookie of the year candidate behind this offensive line.


G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC South Team Needs

New Orleans Saints: DE, LB, TE, WR


It seems that the Saints are going to continue to milk this head coach/quarterback combo of Sean Payton and Drew Brees for at least another year but it won’t matter, because this duo is a far cry from what it once was.  While the offense does need help, it’s the 27th ranked defense that will get most of the attention.  The secondary was flamed last year, but mostly because the pass rush was pitiful.  With the number 12 draft pick in the first round this year, the Saints will probably have to choose between the likes of Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson and Clemson’s Kevin Dodd.  Robinson is the bigger of the two and has some range being able to play defensive tackle and defensive end.  Having that kind of versatility might be key for them, and if not, they can get Dodd, who is a “straight up” edge rusher.  Due to his character issues, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Ole Miss, may be available to them in the second round.  Sure, he’s a head case, but he’s also an amazing athlete, and if he can keep his head on straight, Nkemdiche can be an All-Pro in the NFL.   Keeping this focus in the first two rounds is a step in the right direction for the Saints defense.  New Orleans lost tight end Ben Watson in free agency to the Ravens, but they signed a younger tighter end in Coby Fleener.  Fleener, surprisingly didn’t max out his potential playing with his college quarterback Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and maybe a fresh start in a tight end friendly system is what he needs.  The Saints have two good, young receivers in Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks, but neither of them are “big” receivers.  The Saints can look to get some bigger, veteran wide-outs at a cheap price like Nate Washinton or a Hakeem Nicks.  The Saints needs a viable red-zone target at that position – even a late round gamble on Tennessee’s Marquez North (6’2″, 223) might be worth the risk.


Atlanta Falcons: LB, DE, S, TE


The Atlanta Falcons were pretty much in the middle of the pack on defense and slightly below average offensively.  Put that together and you get a collective “shrug” from NFL fans who barely noticed the Falcons all year.  Head coach Dan Quinn is a defensive minded coach who knows he has mainstays at the quarterback, wide receiver and running back spots, which may be enough for him to go big on defense in free agency and in the draft.  Many were surprised to see former Seahawk  Bruce Irvin not sign with Quinn and the Falcons but since he didn’t, this means Alabama linebacker, Reggie Ragland – could be the seventeenth pick of the draft.  Emmanuel Ogbah, defensive end of Oklahoma State, could slide into Atlanta’s favor as well, but Ogbah might need time to develop where Ragland is more good to go, now.   If the Falcons get lucky they can use their second round pick on Ohio State safety Vonn Bell, who plays well against the run and good-enough in the secondary.  Free agent safties James Ihedigbo and Bacarri Rambo just sound like less than stellar signings were used to the Falcons making, but let’s just hope this is a new regime/new method under Dan Quinn. . . The Falcons have had a void in that tight end position since the retirement of Tony Gonzalez and with what’s left in free agency and late round picks – it looks like it might be another year to struggle at that spot.  Western Kentucky tight end Tyler Higbee might be a sneaky fifth round selection for Altanta – Higbee had 563 yards and 8 touchdowns for the Hilltoppers last season and offers some nice size at 6’6″, 250 pounds.
Carolina Panthers:  WR, RB,


If Cam Newton is truly Super-Man, than the Super Bowl proved that Super-Man needs a Justice League.  Sure the Panthers defense was tremendous this season, but the offense went as far as Cam Newton could carry them.  Enough is enough already – give the league’s MVP some help out there!   The Panthers had the built in excuse at the start of last season that their number one wide out – sophomore receiver Kelvin Benjamin – was out due to injury.  Be cautious of Benjamin though.  It seemed that by the second half of his rookie season, defenses in the league started making life difficult for him.  The problem is, the Panthers have the next to last pick in the first round and might miss out on the stud receivers in this draft.  If the football gods favor the Panthers, TCU’s Josh Doctson will be there, but with the Vikings, Steelers and Packers all drafting before the Panthers, it’s highly doubtful.  In truth, they may find some value in signing veteran wide outs like Marques Colston or Anquan Boldin – even if just on one year deals.  A nice sleeper pick for the Panthers could be the wide receiver out of UMass, Tajae Sharpe.  Sharpe provides nice size at 6’2″, 194 – but more importantly has impressed scouts with his route running and his good hands (aren’t we all tired of Tedd Ginn getting wide open and dropping perfectly placed passes from Cam Newton?).   Jonathan Stewart had a nice season, but to expect that kind of production from him again is almost insane.  There are more than enough free agent veteran backs that can fit into the mix – Tim Hightower, Ronnie Hillman and LeGarrette Blount to name a few.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB, DE, WR, OT


Dirk Koetter (who?) has taken the place of former head coach Lovie Smith to lead a team that, for the most part doesn’t look terrible on paper but on the field – different story.   With the ninth pick in the first round of the draft, the Bucs have a good shot at fulfilling any of their team needs immediately.  Florida’s cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is the  popular “can’t miss” prospect and it would help shore up a secondary that desperately needs it.  Yes, it’s understood that Alterraun Verner and Brent Grimes are there. . . it’s understood so much in fact that drafting Hargreaves at this spot is a must if he is available.  They might want to address this position again later in the draft by taking Oklahoma’s Zack Sanchez or Mississippi State’s Will Redmond.  Aside from the corner spot, the defensive end needs an upgrade as well.  Acquiring Robert Ayers in free agency was a nice move and it also might have included a little bit of brain washing on the part of the Bucs. . . Corey Wooten has been on Chicago and Detroit and has been pretty average at best, but he might serve well as a rotational piece if just for his size and athletic combination.  Quarterback Jameis Winston is going to need more around him and they should just toss a veteran receiver and a few late round picks for him to work with.  Former Green Bay Packer James Jones might be worth a look.  After being cut by the Giants last season, he was instantly signed by the Packers and had a surprisingly productive season.   Stamford wide receiver Devon Cajuste, can be a nice fifth or sixth round pick for Tampa.  He adds more size to this receiving core at 6’3″, 233 and is a smart route running wide out.  Even a late round pick in Baylor’s Jay Lee might be a nice investment.  Remember this is a receiving core that will have wide out Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to grow with, it could work out nice for the Bucs.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC North Team Needs

Detroit Lions: WR, DT, OT


The Lions were blindsided by the sudden retirement of stud wide receiver Calvin Johnson.  He figured that being healthy and rich at his age was better than the stress of being a member of the Detroit Lions.  With that, the Lions had a gaping hole in the wide receiver department.  One day after Johnson’s announcement the Lions signed free agent Marvin Jones to a five year, $40 million contract.  Pairing Jones up with Golden Tate is nice, but it’s a far cry from any wide receiver duo who just lost the likes of Calvin Johnson.  . . Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked 44 times last season and the Lions had the NFL’s worst rushing attack at 83.4 yards a game.  The Lions also have issues on the defensive side of the ball.  The acquisition of Haloti Ngnata was “underwhelming” to say the least and the hole left in the departure of N’Dmakong Suh is evident.  The Lions need to not overpay for anymore talent, as they did with Jones and in the draft go with the credo of “best talent available.”   It might be tempting to go with a wide receiver pick early in the draft but with so many holes at both sides of the line of scrimmage they would be better off trying to get veterans like Anquan Boldin and Marques Coltson for “the cheap.”  The Lions would be ecstatic if they acquired Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankings in the first round, but that’s if he lasts to the 16th pick – Detroit may be looking at Alabama lineman Jarran Reed or Louisiana Tech’s Vernon Butler.

Chicago Bears: OT, WR, CB


The Bears addressed their linebacker needs in free agency.  More impressive was how general manger Adam Pace didn’t overpay for the likes of Danny Trevathian (the 25 year old linebacker signed for four years, $24.5 million) and Jerrell Freeman at 3 years, $12 million.  They even added to their pass rush by acquiring the talents of former New England Patriot defensive end,  Akiem Hicks.  If the Bears are looking to add to this 3-4 defense and if Shaq Lawson from Clemson is still there, he’ll be hard to pass up on.  At the eleventh pic of the draft, the Bears will most definitely miss out on the top two corner backs in the nation in Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Ramsey, but picking up one of the “second level” corners at this spot may be a reach.  The Bears can cross their fingers that in round two that University of Houston’s, William Jackson III will be around but they might have to wait for the fourth round  on a sleeper like Will Redmond out of Mississippi State.  While all the attention is on the Bears trying to re-create the “Monster of the Midway,” this team still has to answer the call on their offensive line.  The Bears released Jermon Bushrod and would like to move Kyle Long back inside, where he is dominant at the guard position.  Tackles  Ronnie Staley of Notre Dame, Jason Spriggs of Indiana and Germain Ifedi of Texas A&M could be getting looks from the Bears if they decide on the tackle position early – if not, the Stamford product, Kyle Murphy might be someone they look at in the later rounds.

Green Bay Packers: DT, TE, DE


If Shaq Lawson doesn’t go to Chicago early in the draft (which he most likely won’t, the Bears will surely go tackle) the Green Bay Packers might make that pick later in the first round to wreck havoc on the Bears down the line.  The Packers front seven was worked last year and was bailed out more times than not by their aggressive secondary.  It’s not in the Packers DNA to spend bucks in free agency, they usually do their damage in the draft.  Tight end is a spot they tried to fill in last year with Richard Rogers, but if Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is available it will be an easy decision for Green Bay who saw last year they needed to get more weapons for Aaron Rodgers.   The Packers surprisingly have more holes than people care to talk about as defensive tackle is a position they may have to look at in the later rounds which means a guy like Anthony Zeddle of Penn State or DJ Reader, another Clemson defensive player, could be a pick for them in the fifth or sixth round.  And hey, what about the big-fat-elephant in the room?  Yeah, saying Eddy Lacy disappointed the Packers last year would be an understatement.  Still the Packers won’t give up on him but they should look to do something in terms of depth at the running back position.  James Starks – is what he is.  A free agent signing of Joique Bell might be what this team could be looking for.  He won’t come with a high price tag and he has proven his worth in the league.

Minnesota Vikings: WR, SS, OG


The Vikings are everyone’s “sleeper” team or the team someone you knew said to “watch out for.”  Whatever, nonsensical notion one wants to compound with the Vikings, the truth is they have a solid roster and just need to fine tune some of their points.  With the 23rd pick in the first round, the Vikings may have to look at the wide receiver spot.  They really don’t have a threat at receiver (calm down Jarius Wright and Stefon Diggs fans. . .) and Cordarrelle Patterson has proven to be nothing but a disgraceful first round bust.  The Vikings can do something interesting here though.  They can go after TCU’s Josh Doctson who has the looks to be a number one receiver in the league, or they can pull the rug out from under everyone and draft Braxton Miller, who brings the versatility they had in Percy Harvin and they thought they could attain in Cordarrelle Patterson.   The Vikings may use two or three picks in this draft to bulk up their offensive line.  If they get lucky they can land a stud like the big guard out of Stanford Joshua Garnett.  Alex Redmund out of UCLA is a late round guard who is a little bit of a project but could work out well, even as a rotational guy in his rookie year for the Vikes.  If free saftey Harrison Smith could get a running mate with him in the secondary it could prove to make this defense even better.  In the third or fourth round the Vikings can look at a guy like LSU’s Jalen Mills.  If for no other reason, he’s used to be a grown man wearing purple. . .

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


Grading Free Agency, Pt. 2

*You can find Part 1, here: http://geesteelio.com/?p=369 – detailing the free agent signings of Ndamukong Suh, Frank Gore and Byron Maxwell, Rodney Hudson, Stephen Paea and Jeremy Maclin.


Ryan Matthews – Philadelphia Eagles

Naturally, we start with Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles.  It seemed as if the Eagles were locked in with Frank Gore at running back until Frank Gore backed out to sign with the Colts.  Ryan Matthews seems to be the guy who will replace the void left by Lesean McCoy.  Matthews’ history shows that he doesn’t fair well when replacing a fan favorite – as he was supposed to be the one to carry the load in San Diego after Ladanian Tomilson.  Matthews has shown flares of being a capable back, but injuries have derailed his career for the most part.  Questionable signing here by Chip Kelly considering the rigorous practices and uptempo play-style of this Eagles offense.  It will be a miracle if Matthews lasts 10 games this year.

Grade: C-

Torrey Smith – San Francisco 49ers


While most are looking to leave San Fran, Torrey Smith has decided to sign a 5 year, $40 million contract to play for the Niners.  Smith has incredible speed and good size at 6’0″, 200 pounds.  While in Baltimore, Smith totaled over 1000 yards once in four seasons which was also his highest reception total in his career at 65.  He makes the most with every catch and is able to average about 16 yards per catch each season – which is the stat that makes him attractive to the 49ers.  Nobody really knows if Colin Kaepernick will take another step in the positive direction, but Smith can only help.  This move also reunites Smith to play alongside Anquan Boldin (Ravens teammates in 2011).

Grade: B

Julius Thomas – Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville, for as bad of a football team as they are, somehow they pulled off a free agent surprise by netting a deal with Thomas.  This is a risky move on both parts.  Thomas is entering a situation with an unproven quarterback entering his second year in Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars are paying a guy who’s toughness has been questioned and who’s stats can be mostly attributed to playing in a great offense with one of the best ever throwing him the ball. . .  Playing with Peyton Manning makes any wideout / tight end, more in tune to route running and communication but is Jacksonville really the place where that can be exhibited?  Denver also wasn’t too happy with Thomas only wanting to play at 100% and never wanting to “give it a try” when coming back from injury.   Jacksonville could’ve spent the money they spent here on an offensive linemen.

Grade: C

Jeremy Parnell – Jacksonville Jaguars

Oh, excuse me Jacksonville – you are putting money to the offensive line.  Nice to see.  Jacksonville has money and they probably over-paid for a guy who split time in Dallas on the offensive line, but considering the success of the that O-Line, Jacksonville figured they had to make a move at some point to bolster this unit. Five years and for $32 million might seem a bit high for a guy nearly 30 years old who’s been a part-time starter but hey – guess you gotta start somewhere. . .

Grade: C-

Derrelle Revis AND Buster Skrine – New York Jets

The Jets were an absolute joke in the secondary last year as every young corner on the roster never panned out and every signing appeared to be the wrong one.  Buster Skrine was signed to a 4 year $25 million dollar contract and there is no doubt he is elated to leave the mess that is the Cleveland Browns.  Skrine is a heavily penalized corner, but the Jets like his aggressiveness and figure him to be a perfect nickel man for this defense.  Although the Skrine signing is okay , the crown-jewel is the Jets getting back their guy in Darrelle Revis.  When the Jets traded Revis in 2013, the fan-base couldn’t comprehend how it could trade away it’s best player in years.  It was business. . . and nobody conducts business better than Revis, who signed back to the Jets for a five year, $70 million contract with nearly $40 million guaranteed.  The Jets front line is still a force in the league and having bolstered their corner position will only help.  Safety is still a question-mark and there is still a possibility of them signing  Antonio Cromartie as the number two corner.  Sure they over-paid for Revis, but Revis makes sure that everybody does. 

Grade: A

Andre Johnson – Indianapolis Colts


In Part One, the Colts were given an “A” for bringing Frank Gore on board and now the Colts have gone out and acquired former Texans wideout Andre Johnson.  Johnson is the Texans all time receiving leader but now leaving on bad terms with the team, the veteran has decided to pony-up with the division rival Colts.  On paper this looks like a massive upgrade to the Colts receiving core and although Reggie Wayne showed last year he wasn’t the Wayne of yesterday, Johnson is almost in the same boat.  Wayne had to make way for T.Y. Hilton, while Johnson had to make way for Deandre Hopkins.  Three years and $21 million seems a bit too steep for a team that has an intriguing young wideout in Donte Moncrief to go along with T.Y. Hilton.  This team has a stud in Andrew Luck, the running game help should’ve been enough.  They need to focus on defense or it will be the same story as last year.

Grade: D

Orlando Franklin – San Diego Chargers

The Chargers are now acting like a shark smelling blood in the water.  Maybe the Chargers see that the Broncos are vulnerable and they can still make enough moves to be better than the Chiefs and Raiders.  If Peyton Manning’s late season performance was a preview to how he’ll play this up-coming season, that would make Rivers the best quarterback in the division.  The Chargers decided to protect one of the least mobile QB’s in the league by acquiring former Bronco, Orlando Franklin.  Franklin plays guard but is versatile all through the line of scrimmage and in his four seasons with Denver he has only missed one game.  The Chargers also re-signed King Dunlap so it seems that protecting Rivers for this year and beyond is (and should be) a team priority.

Grade: B+

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Grading Free Agency, Part 1

The NFL free agency period is one of the most hyped moments of the off-season.  Every team uses free agency as a means to better themselves before the draft, making their draft day decisions a little clearer.   We have seen teams in recent history like the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins, make huge splashes with free agent signings, only to fall short come season’s end.

Ndamukong Suh – Miami Dolphins: 


The moment the Lions decided they no longer needed Suh, that was the moment the man known as Ndamukong became the prize of this year’s free agency frenzy.  He instantly adds credibility to even the weakest of defensive lines but the Pro Bowl defensive tackle joins a unit that was already good, but with the addition of Suh, they are noticeably elevated.  With (now) former Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick leaving Miami by ways of a 5 hour drive north up to Jacksonville, this left an obvious opening for Suh.  Keeping in my that Suh is a definite upgrade from Odrick,  just how much better will this move make the team as a whole.  The Miami Dolphins have offered Suh a contract worth about $114 million and this might hurt them because the real need for an upgrade was on defense.  With no wide receivers, running backs and questions with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback the Dolphins ignored their real needs.

Grade: C

Byron Maxwell – Philadelphia Eagles

We all knew the Legion of Boom would take on a different look going into next season because Byron Maxwell was going to head  elsewhere to get paid.   Philadelphia, who has been keeping things interesting to say the least in the off-season, decided to give Maxwell the payday he wanted to the tune of 6 years for $63 million.  The Eagles defense is more opportunistic than it is good.  Maxwell no longer  will be able to “hide” behind the team-mates he was playing with in Seattle.  Even then, saying “hide” sounds as if someone is saying he “can’t” play — the truth is, we all really won’t know how good he is as a team’s number one corner until the season goes under way.   Seeing him play against Odell Beckum Jr. twice this season should show if that signing will pay off for the next 6 years.  It’s a lot of money thrown to a position in which a player’s talents are only exhibited in a system that he’s comfortable in.

Grade: B

Rodney Hudson – Oakland Raiders

Offensive linemen are the perennial Rodney Dangerfield’s of the NFL because they “get no respect.”  The Raiders are seemingly parting ways with their center Stefen Wisniewski, who is a free agent this year  and have decided to pay for an upgrade at the position with former Chief Rodney Hudson.  According to Pro Football Focus, Hudson is the third highest rated center in the league.  This is nothing but good news for Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who the franchise is banking on to be their guy for the next decade.

Grade: B+

Pernell McPhee – Chicago Bears

Much like (but not as forgotten as) offensive linemen – defensive specialists, are also lost in the shuffle when it comes to free agent buzz.  The Chicago Bears in announcing that they are turning into a 3-4 defensive scheme, have now signed one of the best 3-4 linebackers in Pernell McPhee.  Pro Football Focus ranked him as the second best linebacker in the league amongst that scheme and did so while playing behind the likes of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil on the depth chart.  The Bears need help in pretty much every area of the football field, but lining up McPhee with Willie Young and Lamaar Houston should make for a nice start to what the Bears want to build defensively.

Grade: B


Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts

Yes, the Eagles have been busy.  After trading LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, it was obvious that the Eagles were looking to shave money at that position.   It seemed it was all but done, the Eagles and Gore agreed to a three year deal, in which $7.5 was guaranteed over the first two years. Then, the Colts called. Gore is exactly what the Colts offense needed because we all know how they didn’t need to trade a first round pick to the Browns for running back Trent Richardson.  Gore is still a strong back, who can do it all: tough yardage, pass block and catch out the backfield. Quarterback Andrew Luck is without a doubt a stud, but this offense became too predictable without a viable running attack.  Gore’s deal with Indy is reportedly 3 years for $12 million – that’s a bargain in the first two years of this deal, easy.  Colts did not overspend and in the process picked up a great piece that this offense desperately needed

Grade: A

Stephen Paea – Washington Redskins

The Stephen Paea signing is such a Redskins thing to do, that it’s almost hilarious. . . if it wasn’t so tragically Redskins-ish.  Paea was a perennial under-achiever with the Bears and played pretty well in the last season of his contract.  The Redskins jumped on Paea’s contract year performance and offered him a four year deal.  It seems the Redskins organization never questioned why the Bears, who are turning into a 3-4 defense wouldn’t have looked to keep the 6’1″ 300 pounder.  He’ll be released or be a “depth guy” in two years.

Grade: D-


Jeremy Maclin – Kansas City Chiefs

In other Eagles related news, it appears Chip Kelly and his staff in Philadelphia will not lose sleep with the departure of Jeremy Maclin.  Maclin is a good route runner, with nice speed and can upgrade a wide receiver core which didn’t record a touchdown reception all of last season.   He’s paired up once again with his original head coach Andy Reid, who he started his career with.  Last season Maclin took a gamble on himself, coming off of injury and signing a one year deal with Philadelphia resulting in his most productive season racking in 10 touchdowns and over 1300 yards with 85 receptions.  Maclin can be the guy that opens up this Chiefs offense.  Yes, even with Alex Smith at quarterback.

Grade: A

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio