NFL Q&A with Allen and The Ace is a weekly column featured on TJRsports.com during the NFL Season. Allen and The Ace are big time NFL junkies and are Falcon and Packer fans, respectively. Each week the guys will ask questions and talk about the NFL.
Ace: It’s been 8 days since free agency started in the 2013 NFL League year and there have been some fairly active teams like the Dolphins and Seahawks, while there have been some fairly inactive teams like the Packers and Cowboys. This truly is a fun time of the year because we get to imagine what the new faces in new places will look like and how they will impact that team we saw last season. We also get to talk about the future of the NFL with the NFL Draft just over a month away. Your team sniped a free agent I’d have loved to see in Green Bay and that free agent was Steven Jackson. Huge pickup for the Falcons though, I really like the move.
Allen: Steven Jackson realized that there is no team that is destined for a championship run than the Falcons. Sure the Seahawks have made the barrage of great moves and the 49ers are still the top NFC team, but Atlanta has to be the most explosive offense in the league. Free agency has simmered down over the past few days, but it sure exploded during the first few days. There are still some big names out there that I’m surprised haven’t been signed yet. Eventually by next week, you’ll see most big names make their decision like Elvis Dumervil, Osi Umenyiora, and Ahmad Bradshaw.
Ace: The Minnesota Vikings signed Matt Cassel as their backup QB and Greg Jennings from their rival, the Packers.
Is Jennings the answer to what Christian Ponder needs, or will they see Cassel under center at some point during the year not due to a Ponder injury.
Allen: I'm not as down on Ponder as other people are. He isn't great by any means, but he's proven to be serviceable last year. He did go through a tough stretch in December, but that's what happens when you don't have many options to throw to. Nobody can dispute that Ponder didn't have many playmakers to throw to, especially when Percy Harvin went down with a season ending injury. Matt Cassel is a wise addition because he still has to be motivated to prove that he can start in the NFL. He's shown some ability in the past that he can be successful, even though it's been a few years. Minnesota was wise to add a backup quarterback that still believes he can start rather than an old veteran or an inexperienced quarterback. After the Joe Webb debacle in the playoffs, they will now be prepared if Ponder gets injured or struggles. Jennings was a great signing, even if they did overpay a bit. If they can add another wide receiver in the first round of the draft, the Vikings could have an explosive offense if Ponder can get his mechanics down and start to be more consistent with his accuracy.
Speaking of free agency, the Dolphins have been the most aggressive team in free agency. I'm expecting them to improve this year, but do you think they made a few mistakes in free agency?
Ace: They have been very aggressive and for a team that finished 7-9 last year in a division that includes New England, they need to be aggressive. Miami lost 5 games by 7 points or less last season and it comes down to scoring. They added some weapons to Ryan Tannehill’s fleet in Mike Wallace and a guy I’ve always liked tight end Dustin Keller, were both signed as #1’s at those respective positions. They drastically improved their linebackers by signing Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. I’m a little puzzled by the release of Karlos Dansby. They signed him to a rich deal in 2010, but he just came off a career season. I think that it was a mistake to let Reggie Bush go. He got a nice little deal in Detroit, but he’s had two great years in Miami and I think he was really starting to find his groove. He would of fit in nicely with Wallace, Hartline, Keller and more.
Allen: The last time that Miami made major noise in the off-season was when they signed Daunte Culpepper. That move clearly didn’t work out and Miami hasn’t really been in the spotlight since then. Sure they made the playoffs in 2008 with Chad Pennington having a great year, but the Ravens quickly eliminated them. Now they have to look at the AFC has a weak conference. Other than the Patriots and Broncos, there aren’t any true elite teams in the AFC. Miami could become a top team in the AFC if everything falls into fruition. Even though they overspent for Wallace and Ellerbe, those moves will go a long way in Miami’s future. With Miami playing a 4-3 defense, Dansby was expendable and don’t see him as an outside linebacker. Bush is very talented, but it was clear that Miami didn’t have plans for him and see potential in Lamar Miller.
What are your thoughts on the proposed idea to move the Combine, Free Agency and Draft back a month or so, would you like or dislike the plan? Would you tune into free agents making their decision where to play a-la high school athletes sitting in front of a few hats and putting on the hat of the college/team they will be playing for?
Allen: I don't see how it's a big deal. If you noticed, May and July are pretty quiet months when it comes to football. It wouldn't hurt to stretch those events a month, just for franchises to recover a bit more from the season. It doesn't mean much to me either way, but I wouldn't be totally against it. As for the free agents making a decision, that would be hokey and it wouldn't happen. Many people were annoyed when LeBron James made his free agent decision on national cable television. They were complaining about the decision before James made his decision. Now you expect people to view where free agents go by picking hats? It sounds unrealistic and I can't see many people tuning in, especially when the decisions are happening during inopportune times.
It wasn't a surprise that the Patriots signed Danny Amendola to replace Wes Welker. Do you think Amendola can replace Welker's production and become Brady's security blanket?
Ace: Yes, absolutely I do, but there’s one thing that goes along with it: Amendola needs to stay healthy. He’s been in the league for 4 years now and he’s played in 16 games once. Welker’s career started off a little like Amendola’s, but on year three and four he was 110+ receptions and 1,100+ yards. Amendola was hurt in the first game of 2011 and missed the entire season and he was hurt last season too. It’s hard to predict who will be Tom Brady’s target next season, but you would have to assume Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski will have a big impact this season. With the release of Brandon Lloyd, Amendola should have a breakout season.
Allen: The fact that Amendola was productive in one of the worst offenses in the league. The Rams don’t exactly any playmakers at wide receiver or tight end. He managed to make plays consistently when he was healthy. Nobody can question Amendola’s toughness because he’s one of the few receivers that takes tackles and never gives up on a play. He can be classified as brittle, but this was a smart move. The Patriots still need another receiver, but Brady should be embracing the new addition to the team. He may be bitter that his main target is gone, but Amendola should very well catch 100 passes this season. We’ll just have to see by December if he can actually stay healthy and live up to the contract.
Allen: The next part will be a list of most questionable free agent signings. We will wait another week before making a list of the best signings. For now, let’s go through the head scratching moves that will be based on the contract and player.
LT Jermon Bushrod- He was an average left tackle at best, yet he is getting $22 million guaranteed. Chicago desperately needed a left tackle, but Bushrod isn’t exactly the right answer. He’s not a great pass blocker and it was hidden due to Drew Brees getting the ball quick.
OLB Connor Barwin- After being mostly non-existent in 2012, Barwin managed to still get a 6 year deal for $36 million by the Eagles. Even though Trent Cole is declining, I don’t see how Barwin is an upgrade. He’s a hard worker, but he’s not very athletic. The fact that he only had 3 sacks last season with J.J Watt getting double-teamed almost every play is sad.
OLB Erik Walden- He may not be well known, but he’s on this list due to being vastly overpaid. How does a limited linebacker like Walden gets 4 years for $16 million? Walden was a liability in coverage and was caught out of positions several times. Green Bay fans couldn’t be happier that he’s off their team.
RB Shonn Greene- Tennessee was wise to add a backup for Chris Johnson, but they spent over $3 million a year on it? It’s pretty scary how Atlanta signed Steven Jackson for $4 million a year, yet the Titans gave a below average starter about $3 million a year.
TE Jared Cook- I’ve always been high on Cook, but the Rams may have gotten ahead of themselves here. He may be talented, but giving $19 million guaranteed to an underachiever isn’t wise. Cook may end up breaking out, but right now he hasn’t proved much in his career. Sure he’s been in bad situations, but great players manage to be successful in just about any situation.
Allen: We’ll have one more article for next week because there will still be plenty of news to cover. There are still a nice amount of pass rushers and cornerbacks left on the market. I’m sure Ace is probably waiting for the Packers to do something. I’m still on the edge of my seat wondering if Brent Grimes is going to be re-signed. The major stretch of moves has ended, but there is still plenty of players that should be finding new teams within the next week.
Ace: You covered most of mine, Walden’s especially, but there’s 1 move that I’m questioning but for another reason:
WR Wes Welker- 2 years, $12 Million from Denver. I honestly did not see that coming. It sounded like New England tried to keep him as well, but he ends up going from Tom Brady to Peyton Manning. Must be rough.
I’m sure I will be waiting for the Packers to do something, but odds are, they wont. I’d love to see Ahmad Bradshaw added to the mix or for them to snipe up a Brent Grimes. They’ll just draft a running back and a cornerback and be satisfied. If the Indianapolis Colts want to pay someone $16 million that can’t tackle, I’d love a contract offer. Heck, I’ll even take the league minimum. Until next week, thanks for reading!