The Key To Roster Building In The NFL

I’ll preface this by saying:  you can’t do anything without a quarterback.  That’s obvious.  Everyone knows it, so there’s really not even much point in bringing it up, except if you don’t bring it up, then wise-asses will come on here and tell me I forgot about the quarterback position.

There are all kinds of different types of quarterbacks that can win you a championship, as evidenced by the last decade or so of NFL champions.  Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady are going to go down as all-time greats.  Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger likely won’t.  Doesn’t mean they’re BAD; just means that no one is going to put them in their Top 10 All Time Greatest Quarterbacks list.

For the record, my picks:

  1. Joe Montana
  2. Tom Brady
  3. John Elway
  4. Peyton Manning
  5. Dan Marino
  6. Steve Young
  7. Johnny Unitas
  8. Brett Favre
  9. Drew Brees
  10. Warren Moon

But, that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, the quarterback is crucial.  It’s too early to say where Russell Wilson will fall on that list, but I’d venture to say we’d still be ringless if he had to carry a team with an underperforming defense last season.

And that’s what the elite quarterback will afford you.  The elites – like Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Brees, etc. – can cover up for just a so-so defense.  Of course, the fact that all of those quarterbacks only have one championship apiece will tell you that a quarterback can’t do it by himself (and, truth be told, the years their respective teams won it all, their defenses weren’t that bad).

The more talent you have around your quarterback, the less perfect your quarterback has to be (hence why Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger both have two championships each).  But, the NFL has a salary cap, and teams have got to find a way to fit 53 players into that cap (plus a little extra to make up for injuries and such).  So, HOW you build around your quarterback is just about as important as the quarterback itself.

There isn’t exactly one specific way to run your team, but I’ll tell you this much:  you’re not going to get very far without a good defense.  That means one of two things:  elite pass rush, or elite secondary (or, ideally both).  Without really delving deep into things, I think it’s pretty safe to say that at least half of NFL teams are pretty happy with their quarterbacks.  I don’t think it’s out of the question to say that at least half of the teams have a guy under center capable of winning it all (assuming everything breaks right and they have a good team around them).  So, you figure that at least half the time, your defense is going to face a pretty good quarterback.

Now, if you’re going to build a defense to combat all those pretty good-to-great quarterbacks, you’ve got to have one of the two aforementioned qualities:  an elite pass rush or an elite secondary.  It’s all about disrupting the quarterback’s timing and forcing him to do things he doesn’t want to do.  If you’ve got the pass rush, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw early; if you’ve got the secondary, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw late (and hopefully give your adequate pass rush enough time to get home).  So, it would stand to reason that if you’re building your roster to win a championship, you’re going to focus the bulk of your defensive salary cap on edge rushers and/or the secondary.

What you DON’T want to do is start pumping a bunch of money down into your linebackers and interior linemen.  Unless that interior lineman is in the Cortez Kennedy/Warren Sapp mold, you’re probably overpaying.  You can find wide-bodies just about anywhere, on the cheap, no problem.  Ditto linebackers.  People will point to some of the quality guys like Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechly, and I will admit that those dudes are pretty awesome at what they do.  But, you know who else is pretty awesome?  Bobby Wagner.  He’s a second round pick making a fraction of what those guys are making and will make.  Bobby Wagner isn’t heralded in the least, but he’s still awesome.  And, I would venture that you can find a TON of Bobby Wagners in the draft, which will save you money in the long run over massive extensions for the Kuechlys of the world.

Take a look at the Seahawks.  We’ve pumped some serious money into Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, and soon we’ll devote a whole bunch more into Richard Sherman.  Pass rush & secondary.  Where are we finding savings?  How about three linebackers (Wagner, Wright, Smith) all drafted in the 2nd round or later, all still on rookie deals.  Now, the Seahawks MIGHT extend one or more of those guys when the time comes, but I bet they’ll be mid-range contracts that don’t kill our cap for years to come.

We’re also saving money on our interior line.  Brandon Mebane has a $5 million APY, and that leads the team on interior line spending.  Tony McDaniel is on a short-term, on-the-cheap deal, and the rest of our interior guys are on rookie contracts.

Of course, the Seahawks could always use a little more pass rush security.  Maybe Cliff Avril gets extended beyond this year.  Maybe we hit on someone in the draft.  Maybe we pick up another team’s cast-off.  Or, maybe we just try to hold the fort and steal another team’s outgoing free agent next year.

The point is:  pass rush & secondary = big money players.  Linebackers & interior linemen = savings.

On offense, the Seahawks have proven that a run-first model isn’t entirely out-dated.  Nevertheless, their spending in this area kinda sorta is.

Marshawn Lynch has the fourth-highest average per-year salary on the team (behind Harvin, Thomas, and Okung).  His contact runs out after the 2015 season.  Nobody really expects Lynch to see the final year of that deal as it’s currently configured, because nobody really expects Lynch to continue playing at the high level he’s been at the last three or four years.  Plus, there’s the whole issue with Russell Wilson getting his money after the 2014 season (when the team can negotiate an extension and finally pay him what he’s really worth).

As you can see from all the free agent deals for running backs this off-season, they’re not getting the kind of money they used to get even 10 years ago.  It sounds crazy when you think of someone like Chris Johnson, who can only get a 2-year deal; he was once the best runner in football and he’s NOT THAT OLD.  Same goes for these other guys.  What kind of a deal would Ben Tate have gotten even five years ago?  Now, he’s playing for peanuts, as is MJD, Darren McFadden, and every other running back who hits free agency.

Why is that?  Because teams are reluctant to go with the one-back system and instead opt for a By-Committee approach.  Because injuries are a son of a bitch.  And because all too often, a no-name guy from the back-end of the draft will enter the mix in the NFL and be just as good, if not better, than these over-paid mama’s boys (Trent Richardson) who somehow still get drafted high.

All of this tells me one thing:  you’re foolish if you’re pumping too much money into the running back position.

The Seahawks have the luxury of paying Marshawn Lynch a high salary because they’re paying next-to-nothing for Russell Wilson (and the quarterback position at large).  But, when Wilson’s commanding around $20 million per season, you’ve got to find ways to cut corners somewhere.  I would wager the Seahawks will pull some of that money out of the running back position (which is a shame, because everyone loves Marshawn Lynch with a passion).

It’ll be difficult, for the Seahawks more than others, because we DO rely on the run so much to make our offense go.  The run sets up the play-action pass.  The run keeps defenses honest.  The run also reduces the risk of turnovers, because if we’re successfully running the ball, then we’re not throwing as much.  If we’re not throwing as much, then we’re not throwing as many interceptions.  Bing, bang, boom.  So, the Seahawks can’t throw just any ol’ scrub in the backfield and expect to succeed.

To do what I advocate, you have to draft wisely and you have to draft often.  Finding value in a guy like Christine Michael (if he does, indeed, turn out to be the elite runner we all expect) will set us up for a good long while.  Yet, even if we were saddled with only Robert Turbin and whoever else via draft, I’d be content.

Because as long as you put value and talent into your offensive line, it really shouldn’t matter who you have at running back.

Under my system – which incidentally is the one the Seahawks have been using – you’ve got to have a great left tackle.  Russell Okung fits that mold.  He’s not quite Walter Jones, but then again, who is?  You SHOULD be able to cut corners a little bit on the guard spots, as long as you’ve got a great center.  The Seahawks have Max Unger, who is pretty terrific.  I’d like to see a breakdown of the best centers and how often they’re involved in lengthy playoff runs, because I think they’re WAY more important than most people give them credit for.

Under almost no circumstances should you be paying elite money to a guard.  Unless you know you’re getting someone like Hutch in his prime.  At which point, you should probably find a value center and make due with a so-so right tackle.  Obviously, you can’t pay everyone, but you should probably have at least two guys who are worthy of high-paying contracts.

If you’re a bad team, get that left tackle with a high draft pick.  There is ALWAYS an elite left tackle coming out in the draft.  So, if you have a high draft pick, make that guy your first priority.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a wonderful coach like Tom Cable, so try to get yourselves one of those.

The model isn’t perfect, obviously.  The Seahawks had two great linemen and a bunch of injuries last year and really struggled to protect the quarterback.  That’s where your QB comes into play.  You can put a crappy QB behind an elite O-Line and make some hay.  You probably won’t win many championships, but you can consistently make the playoffs.  The worse your O-Line is, though, the better your quarterback must be.  Russell Wilson probably isn’t an elite QB just yet, but he was good enough to make up for all the injuries and inconsistencies we suffered last year.

And, of course, that leads us to the passing game.  You can run the football all you want, but unless you can throw the ball when it counts, you’re not going to go all the way.  Ask Adrian Peterson about that, I’m sure he’s got some stories to tell.

Like I said at the top, you need the quarterback, but it helps if he has talent to throw to.

Some quarterbacks – like Brees, Peyton Manning, etc. – will turn any receiver into a 1,000 yard threat.  Others – I’m looking at you Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, etc. – need their receivers to elevate their games.

Andy Dalton would be a poor man’s Kyle Orton if he didn’t have A.J. Green.  Kaepernick was God-awful last year without Crabtree!  And Jay Cutler’s a fucking mess WITH guys like Brandon Marshall, but just imagine how terrible he’d be without him.

Now, say what you will about our receivers, but I think they’ve been pretty great.  And, until Percy Harvin came along, they’ve been relatively cheap as well.

Again, a great quarterback will make up for a lot of deficiencies.  I have no doubt that someone like Russell Wilson makes someone like Jermaine Kearse a better football player.  It’s tough to say what Kearse’s ceiling would be in an offense that passes as much as New Orleans or Green Bay, but I bet it would be higher than you’d think if you had someone like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees throwing the ball around 35 times a game.

Our offense doesn’t need to over-spend at the wide receiver position, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.  If you can get someone like Percy Harvin, you probably should do it.  If you draft someone and he turns out to be the next Calvin Johnson, then you should probably do whatever it takes to keep him.

This can be a little tricky, because if your #1 receiver is making top quarterback money, AND if you happen to have one of those top quarterbacks, then you can get into a situation like they’ve got down in Detroit.  The Lions should probably worry about pumping their resources into an offensive line, or a secondary, to round out their team (and not, for instance, over-pay for someone like Golden Tate, but you didn’t hear that from me).

There are talented receivers out there in the draft and among the undrafted free agents, but you gotta be smart about it.  I would more than be in favor of an A-B-C salary structure for your top three receivers.  Your A-player gets the lion’s share, your B-player gets a healthy mid-level contract, and your C-player is probably a rookie or a young guy on a cheap deal.

In short, on offense, you’re going to want to pump a lot of money into the quarterback and the offensive line.  Stay away from overpaying running backs and tight ends (unless you’ve got one like Jimmy Graham that plays more like a wide receiver anyway).  And, just be smart about paying your receivers.  If you’re only going to throw 20-25 times per game, maybe don’t throw all your eggs into the receiver basket.  But, don’t leave the cupboard completely barren either.

The point of all of this is to say that the Seahawks are doing it the right way.  If you root for another team, and they happen to be struggling, then follow the money.  Where are their big-money contracts going?  Would they be better off putting that money elsewhere?  Are they making the same mistakes over and over?  Then, you might be a redneck Mariners fan, and get out of my brain.

It’s Official: Bishop Sankey To Turn Pro

It’s funny, when I first heard about Bishop Sankey, it was because he defected from his committment to go to Wazzu, specifically to come to the University of Washington.  I didn’t hold a lot of high expectations.  I mean, if he was nearly a Cougar, how good could he possibly be?

Sankey had limited carries in 2011, as Chris Polk was still handling the bulk of the mail.  I didn’t think I’d see another runner like Polk for YEARS, maybe even decades.  I certainly didn’t think I’d see another runner like Polk the very next season!

You could argue that Sankey’s 2012 season was better than ANY season Polk ever delivered (and Polk finished his career as one of the very best Husky running backs of all time).  Sankey had 1,439 yards and 16 touchdowns (5.0 yards per carry), to go along with 33 receptions for 249 yards.  In his first full season as the lead Husky running back, Sankey proved he was someone very special.

And then he came back for 2013 and totally shattered everyone’s expectations.

You’re looking at the new single-season leader for a Husky running back.  1,870 yards and a whopping 20 touchdowns (5.7 yards per carry), to go along with 28 receptions for 304 yards and 1 receiving touchdown.  For the record, the last single-season rushing leader was Corey Dillon with 1,695 yards in 1996. 

Sankey averaged over 140 yards per game this year!  All but two of his games saw Sankey rush for over 90 yards (and one of those was against Idaho State where he ran for 77 yards on only 4 carries).  In his career, he’s had 16 games with 100+ rushing yards and 4 games with 200+ rushing yards.  His career day was against Cal this season, where he ran for 241 yards on 27 carries.

With ASJ (where rumors were running rampant that his financial situation was going to force him into entering the draft), I was 100% sure that he would not be coming back for the 2014 season.  With Sankey, I was still pretty confident that he’d leave, but I’ve been surprised before.  Still, when you consider the running back position and the pounding they take on a game-in, game-out basis, now is the time.  Sankey carried the ball a total of 616 times in the last two years (with an additional 61 touches through the air).  He was far-and-away the best player on this offense and almost to a fault we relied on him way too much.  It was necessary, of course, because we wouldn’t have been nearly as good without him.  I’m just glad he survived and looks to be in pretty good shape going into the 2014 draft.

They’re projecting him to be a 2nd or 3rd round pick.  That’s impressive considering NFL teams aren’t selecting running backs NEARLY as high (or as frequently) as they’ve done in decades past.  There are no injury concerns that I’m aware of, so there is no reason for him to fall like Polk did.  I think he’s going to be an elite running back in the league for many years to come.

Honestly, I think a team like Baltimore should look HARD at bringing him in and replacing Ray Rice.  I think he could step in TOMORROW and be a better running back than Rice.  Sankey has the running chops, obviously, but he’s also a quality pass-catcher and an elite blocker.  He should be an every-down back; I just hope he finds a quality organization (outside of the NFC).  Other teams who might want to take a look at him would be the Giants, 49ers (Gore isn’t getting any younger), Miami, and maybe even Houston (if they let Tate go in free agency and get rid of Foster’s oppressive contract).  As much as I’d like to see him in a Seahawks uniform, he doesn’t make a lot of sense.  We JUST drafted Christine Michael last year in the second round and he looks like he’ll be a game-changer in his own right, just as soon as he’s given a chance to produce.

I’m happy for Sankey.  He’s done everything we could have possibly asked of him in a Husky uniform; now it’s time for him to become a star in the National Football League.  I’m also not too concerned about the Huskies’ situation going forward either. 

I REALLY hope Deontae Cooper gets a shot to be our #1 back.  He was able to stay healthy throughout 2013 and put on a clinic in that Oregon State game.  It looks like his jets are back, giving him the burst to be a big play machine for us next year. 

We’ve also got Callier, who I still see as more of a change-of-pace back.  He also kept himself healthy in 2013, but looked a step slower than he did pre-injury.  One would hope that Callier will be back to full speed next year.

Finally, Dwayne Washington, in spite of some fumble problems earlier in the season, is another option with some quicks.  He, as well, worked some magic in that fateful Oregon State game, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him get a chance to show what he can do.

We’re loaded, is what I’m trying to say.  Barring injury, running back (and the running game in general, with Cyler Miles at the helm) will be the strongest part of our team in 2014.  Coach Pete has the dedication to the run that we, as Husky fans, have come to rely upon.  This isn’t a time to mourn the loss of Sankey.  It’s time to celebrate all that he’s done for the program and wish him well in his next life.  We’ll be fine.  And clearly, so will he.

8 Down, 15 To Go: Injury-Plagued Seahawks Steal A Win In Houston

After a win like that – where the Seahawks came back from a 20-3 halftime deficit to win in overtime 23-20 – the impulse is to scream out from the rooftops, “THAT WAS THE GREATEST GAME EVER!”  But, of course, that’s not true.  Maybe it was the greatest ending to a game, or the greatest HALF ever, but if you want to be in the running for greatest game ever, don’t make me feel fucking miserable for 30 football minutes.

I don’t know what happened!  Houston got the ball first and we quickly forced a punt.  Then, we came right down the field and got ourselves a three-point lead.  That’s followed by a Houston drive ending with an interception and we were all on cloud nine.  How does it go from that to the Texans generating 20 straight points while we can’t do a God damn thing?

The first-half defense left a lot to be desired, no doubt about that.  Had that continued through the whole game, it would’ve been a blowout and we would have tumbled pretty far down the national power rankings (not that that’s something altogether important, but still).  There would have been a lot of questions about this team.  Is this REALLY a Super Bowl team?  Will this team ever consistently win on the road at 10am?  Does the coaching staff have control of its players?

You know, all the usual bullshit.  Sports writers trying to put their spin on things the only way they know how:  by dredging up the same inane topics whenever a good team has a bad game.

Here’s what we know from what we saw yesterday:  the defense really couldn’t stop the run for the longest time.  The defense had the wrong people covering their tight ends, who were catching everything in sight.  The defense – after those first couple of drives – didn’t get any pressure on the quarterback for the longest time.  There are plenty of things to get to, so let’s start at the top.

Houston is a very good rushing team.  Arian Foster, when healthy, is one of the top five running backs in the league.  Ben Tate might be the best backup running back in football.  This is a team, like the Seahawks, that is dedicated to the run.  Therefore, their offensive linemen are geared to run block.  It’s going to take quite the feat to shut them down with your front four.  The Seahawks, unfortunately, don’t have their world-beater front four that clogs up running lanes like they did in 2011.  Even with Red Bryant still on the end, the line is a little more finesse, a little more interested in pressuring the quarterback.  Stopping the run in 2013 involves more linebacker contributions.  And, truth be told, yesterday the linebackers weren’t the greatest.

As you could plainly see whenever K.J. Wright or Malcolm Smith got beat by Owen Daniels or Garrett Graham.  Those two guys accounted for 11 receptions, 141 yards, and a touchdown.  They were open all damn DAY!  Finally, towards the end of the game, it looked like we were throwing Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell on them, so at least we know the coaches are paying attention and actually made an adjustment.

The most damning thing for this team was the fact that we couldn’t get a man anywhere near Matt Schaub.  It looked like we were a little in-between for most of the second and third quarters, concerned about the run (which was really gashing us) and still trying to get in Schaub’s face.  Our front four isn’t quite good enough to allow us to have our cake and eat it too, so thankfully we ratcheted up the blitzes when it mattered most.  Many of the great quarterbacks in the NFL flourish under pressure.  A defensive blitz is an opportunity for a quarterback to take advantage for a big gain.  Not for Matt Schaub.

It’s interesting.  This game went from being all about the Texans and how they are a legitimate contender for the Super Bowl to Matt Schaub and what are they going to do with him?

I don’t know how Schaub threw that pick-six to Richard Sherman, but I’m glad he did it.  If you go back and re-watch the game, you’ll see a hyper-confident Matt Schaub early on, when the Texans were moving the ball with ease.  Then, take a look at him in the fourth quarter, especially after that interception.  He looked like a broken and defeated man – and that interception only TIED the game.  You could tell right there that unless there was some flukey play or ill-timed penalty by our defense, we were going to win that game.

When you think of quarterbacks, you think of three types:  the greats, the game-managers, and the awfuls.  It’s pretty easy to see where just about every quarterback fits.  But, when you look at someone like Matt Schaub, you come to the realization that there is a fourth type.  An in-betweener.  Not quite great, but not just a simple game-manager.  The team doesn’t just rely on him to “limit mistakes” and let the team around him win games.  Sometimes, they have to hop on and let Schaub carry them to victory.  AND, sometimes he succeeds!  But, he fails just enough to drive everyone crazy.  Fans will never fully believe that he’s the guy to give them a championship, in the same way that Cowboys fans will never fully believe in Tony Romo.  The same way that Chargers fans don’t believe in Philip Rivers.  Probably in the same way that Bengals fans (in a few years) will feel about Andy Dalton.  I don’t know what you call these types of quarterbacks, but they’ve got to be some of the most frustrating to have.  They’re good, so you can’t just dump them at the drop of a hat, but they’re not good enough to take you all the way.  I hate to say it at a time where we’re celebrating a 4-0 start, but Matt Hasselbeck was probably one of those guys.

Luckily, we’ve got Russell Wilson now, and the man is a straight-up winner.

I keep thinking that there is no way Wilson can impress me more.  His leadership, his poise, his talent level, his grit and determination, his elusiveness.  It’s all been on display for a year and a quarter now, but yesterday might be his most impressive effort to date.  And that’s not just hyperbole based on the newness of this win!  Our offensive line looked like 2009-levels of bad.  You remember that year, right?  We’d lost Walter Jones and Tim Ruskell refused to replenish the line through the draft, so we were left scrambling.  I don’t know how we EVER sustained a drive yesterday, except maybe the Texans got tired from getting free runs at the quarterback all the time.

Russell Okung, who has been lost since the 49ers game and won’t be back until late this season, was a pretty big loss.  Breno Giacomini, our right tackle, who got injured in last week’s game, made our job that much tougher, because we were playing with two replacement tackles instead of just the one.  But, Max Unger ALSO going down last week really took the cake.

For the most part, all five of our linemen looked like they’d never played football before.  Pancakes Carpenter looked absolutely miserable at times in pass protection.  The Texans were employing your most basic of stunts and our guys didn’t know WHO they should block, so they did the prudent thing and blocked no one.  Russell Wilson had, like, negative three seconds per pass attempt to try to throw the ball.  And, what’s worse:  it looked like the coaching staff didn’t anticipate this would be coming!

The Texans blitz something like 80% of the time.  They’re one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL, with one of the best players in the NFL in J.J. Watt.  We were coming into the game with one guy on the line playing in the same position he started the season with (J.R. Sweezy).  What did we counter this with?  Giving Kellen Davis an inordinate amount of playing time so he could lead both teams in penalties.

Why wouldn’t your immediate thought going into this game be:  let’s reintroduce the zone read and slow down their aggression by having Russell Wilson run the ball?  That should have been Day 1, Item 1 of the game planning this week!  What, you’re worried about Russell Wilson taking hits?  If you’re worried about Russell Wilson taking hits, how about don’t put him in a pocket protected by a paper mache line???  The guy was going to take hits either way.  But, if you wanted any semblance of a passing game, you needed to make their ends worry about contain, instead of trying to take someone’s head off.

This game was, if nothing else, the greatest test of our depth.  Whenever you can lose some very-important starters – especially along your offensive line – and still come away with the win while getting some younger guys valuable experience:  that’s the ultimate high.  But, I wouldn’t recommend making this a trend if we want to go anywhere in the playoffs this year.

Normally, I’d be pretty thrilled with having the final BYE week of the NFL season.  But, this year, I dunno.  Seems like we could use a week off to get guys healthy sooner rather than later.

I’ll close with my Individual Game Balls, a new feature that I’ll probably forget about after this week.

First up, Doug Baldwin for his sideline tippy-toe catch for 24 yards on third down at our own 5 yard line.  If either foot is an inch closer to the sideline, that’s an incomplete pass and we’re probably punting away the game.

Next:  Russell Wilson, for somehow staying alive, but also for that 4-yard scramble on 4th and 3 near the Houston goalline to convert a first down.  One play later, we scored a touchdown to bring the game to within 7 points.

Then, there’s Marshawn Lynch, for making chicken salad all day against another elite front seven.  I keep expecting this team to run into some easier defenses, but will we see one before we face the New York Giants in week 15?

Of course, who could forget Richard Sherman?  He dropped a sure pick in the endzone earlier in the game.  But, in the fourth quarter, with less than three minutes to go in the game while still down a touchdown, Sherman jumped in front of a pass intended for Owen Daniels (solid strategy to start putting cornerbacks on their tight ends, considering the linebackers weren’t doing dick) and brought the rock back to the house 58 yards.  It single-handedly tied the game and saved my fantasy football bacon all in one move.

Finally, my co-players of the game:  Steven Hauschka, for nailing the game winner in a hostile environment (when he, along with everyone else, expected their coach to “ice the kicker”), and Kareem Jackson, the Texans DB who unnecessarily roughed Doug Baldwin on that final drive to put us down to Houston’s 36 yard line to set up that game-winning field goal.  Without their combined efforts, we may never have won that game.  We might currently be sitting *shudder* 3-0-1.  Ties … ties are the WORST!  What is this, soccer?

A Companion Post: Who Might Want Beastmode Besides Seattle?

One thing I failed to explore in the previous post is:  what’s the market look like for a guy like Marshawn Lynch?

Yes, the Franchise Tag is a good cost-cutting tool when trying to re-sign a player.  But, a complete and utter lack of teams desiring to sign an over-priced running back is probably the best thing the Seahawks could ask for.

Of course, on Lynch’s side, you’ve got the age-old adage:  it only takes one.

So, let’s just go around the league.  For starters, you can count out the NFC East.  Dallas has any number of quality young backs already locked in (including super-stud DeMarco Murray who is sure to be a fantasy god for years to come).  The Giants appear to be set with Bradshaw and whoever else behind him.  The Redskins have a nice little stable of young backs.  And the Eagles have Shady McCoy (and, I imagine, not a whole lot of cap room to boot).

In the NFC North, I’m banking my life-savings (and one of my fantasy keepers) on the fact that they will retain Matt Forte.  Minnesota obviously has one of the very best backs in the league.  The Detroit Lions, however, could be interesting.  All they’ve got on their roster right now is Jahvid Best, and he’s a fucking injury waiting to happen!  It’s certainly NOT a good sign that he ended his season with concussions last year.  And, you’d have to think that for a young team trying to cultivate this bad-ass attitude, a guy like Beastmode would slide right in nicely.  Even MORE interesting are the Green Bay Packers.  You’ve got a team with an all-world quarterback, with a shitload of receivers, and with absolutely no running game to speak of whatsoever.  Ryan Grant is a free agent who has played his last game with the green and gold; James Starks is good, but he’s no Beastmode.  I gotta think Lynch might be just the piece to put the right balance into that explosive offense.

The NFC South will be no competition.  Atlanta still has a lot of money tied up in Michael Turner.  New Orleans drafted the top running back last season (and they have other money tied up in three or four other guys); plus, theirs is not an offense that would make any sense for a guy like Lynch.  Carolina still has three running backs (including the guy who takes snaps from the center).  And Tampa is a young team that will never in a million years put in the money it would take to get Lynch.

As for the other teams in the NFC West:  San Francisco has Gore, St. Louis has Jackson, and Arizona has Wells.  They all seem pretty committed to their guys.

You know who scares me more than any other team in the NFL?  The New England Patriots.  Think about it, they were THIS close to winning it all this past season!  What were they missing?  What are they ALWAYS missing?  A balanced offensive attack!  Let’s face it, Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger.  Yes, I know the Patriots like to skimp on their running backs (just as they like to bank draft picks for future drafts), but at one point or another, they’re going to have to cash in before it’s too late.  That crack about Tom Brady not getting any younger:  the same can be said for him not getting any BETTER.  Tom Brady is as good as he’s ever going to be; it’s all downhill from here.  One of these seasons, his skills are going to erode.  He’s not going to see the open receiver soon enough, he’s going to force more and more balls into coverage, he’s going to take more and more hits from ferocious defenses looking to take out the guy while he’s on top.  The Pats could sure as shit use a guy like Lynch to take off some of the load.

And, don’t look now, but Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are both free agents.  They’re not going to hand the ball off to Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen 30 times a game!  Why WOULDN’T they make a huge push to get Lynch and start dominating the Time of Possession in every game?  What’s the downside here?

Elsewhere in the AFC East, the Dolphins are tied up with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, the Jets seem pretty happy with Shonn Greene and whatever young buck they’re going to slide behind him.  And, of course, the Bills have Jackson and Spiller (plus, duh, they’re the team that traded Lynch in the first place).

In the AFC North, you know damn well Baltimore is re-signing Ray Rice, so forget about it.  The Steelers would be an AWESOME fit for a guy like Beastmode, but they’re still stuck with Mendenhall (plus, they NEVER fork over money on free agents).  Cincy won’t fork over the money it’ll take either.  And the Browns – in spite of his sub-par season – will most likely re-sign Hillis (plus, they’ve got a stable of young backs they could easily throw into the mix should Hillis go elsewhere).

The AFC South has three teams that are simply non-starters.  Houston has not one but TWO massively effective running backs (Foster, who’s a fantasy god; and Tate who – as a backup – nearly ran for 1,000 yards).  The Titans have Chris Johnson and his massively insane contract.  And the Jags have one of the better all-around guys in MJD.

The Indianapolis Colts, however, are a God damned wild card and I just don’t like it!  Now, for starters, if they opt to keep Peyton Manning, then you can just skip to the next paragraph right now, because they won’t have two cents to rub together.  But, let’s say they let him and his $28 million walk:  suddenly, they’re in play!  They will have a rookie quarterback starting from Game 1.  They don’t have a single running back worth a good God damn on their team.  And, the organization will have to do something for its fans to make up for the fact that they just let go of a Hall of Famer (especially if he goes to another team and starts kicking ass again).  I wouldn’t put it past the Colts to do something drastic; mark my words.

In the AFC West, we’re talking about teams who are all pretty much set.  The Chiefs will be looking for Jamaal Charles to bounce back from an early-season season-ending injury in 2011.  The Broncos still have Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno.  And the Raiders will still have McFadden; if they re-sign Michael Bush, then all the more reason for them to NOT sign Lynch.

So, aside from the Seahawks, we’re talking about four potential teams:  Detroit, Green Bay, New England, and Indianapolis.  All have ample reasons to sign a back like Lynch; all have ample reasons to not do a damn thing.  There will be other, cheaper options out there (Hillis, Bush, Mike Tolbert, Cedric Benson, Tashard Choice, Justin Forsett, Ryan Grant) for teams like New England and Detroit to snap up, if they so choose to go the tightwad route.  Really, it’s tough to know exactly WHICH of these four teams would be the most likely, considering I don’t know what their cap situations are like.  If I were Green Bay or New England, though, I’d think long and hard.  Both teams were DAMN close this past season.  Both teams had very similar, pass-first types of offenses.  And both teams lost to the same team (the Giants) which could have been avoided had they had a running game.

Something to think about as these Beastmode negotiations continue.