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Out Of Bounds

Real sports insight that non-sports fans can understand.

Dallas Cowboys: Another Year, Another Borderline Playoff Team

March 15th, 2012 by Tim Wardyn

Notable Free Agent: WR Laurent Robinson

The Dallas Cowboys have always been that one team that everybody loves or hates (like the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Yankees and Detroit Red Wings). They also have been barely a Playoff-caliber team since the glory days of Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin back in the early and mid 90s. This year is no different. Same mediocre offensive line. Same underachieving defense (except DE Demarcus Ware). Same above-average QB Tony Romo. So how does Owner/GM/General Pain-in-the-Backside Jerry Jones remedy this?

By doing virtually nothing. He loves the big Free Agent signing or making the big splash at the draft, but it hasn’t translated to much. With the exception of rookie RB DeMarco Murray (who was a monster in the second half of the year…until he injured his leg and was placed on IR), his draft picks haven’t panned out. Last year’s 1st round pick WR Dez Bryant could turn out to be elite, but he has to stay healthy and out of trouble. First rounder in 2008 RB Felix Jones has health issues and the other 1st round pick CB Mike Jenkins has been less than stellar. You have to go all the way back to 2005 1st rounder Ware to find one that the team really hit a home run.

This year, Jones should draft one of the top offensive lineman or secondary players available because there is not much on the Free Agent market (aside from CBs Cortland Finnegan and Brent Grimes). I could honestly see him drafting someone like WRs Michael Floyd or Kendall Wright in an attempt to make a splash. But he doesn’t need receiver help, especially if he resigns WR Laurent Robinson. If Jones goes for one of the top WRs, the Cowboys will have to suffer through another mediocre season. If he is sensible and gets a lineman or safety, the team will be a little better off and in a better place when (not if) they make the playoffs. Jerry Jones just needs to set aside his ego and be sensible. It’s the only way the ‘Boys will get any better.

On the Clock: Philadelphia Eagles (Pick #15)

Arizona Cardinals: It All Depends on Peyton

March 14th, 2012 by Tim Wardyn

Notable Free Agents: DE Calais Campbell (Franchised), WR Early Doucet, QB Max Hall, QB Richard Bartel, OG Deuce Lutui

For Arizona, everything rides on Free Agent QB Peyton Manning. He visited the team and reportedly has the Cardinals as one of his top choices, which means the Cards really can’t do anything until Manning makes up his mind. If he chooses Arizona, the Cards instantly become a playoff contender and the favorites to win the weak NFC West. I’m not a big Cards fan, but I dream of a Manning-Larry Fitzgerald connection. Fitz is the league’s best WR and having the second Hall of Fame-caliber QB throwing him the ball (Kurt Warner being the first) could send Fitz and the Cards right back to the Super Bowl. Arizona would probably also land Free Agent WR Reggie Wayne and/or another Free Agent WR like Laurent Robinson.

As for the draft? I don’t think it matters who is starting at QB, they need a better offensive line. G David DeCastro would fit nicely. But for now, it all depends on Peyton Manning.

On the Clock: Dallas Cowboys (Pick #14)

Seattle Seahawks: Moving in the Right Direction

March 12th, 2012 by Tim Wardyn

Notable Free Agents: TE John Carlson, RB Justin Forsett, LB Leroy Hill, K Steven Hauschka, FB Michael Robinson

At the beginning of each of the past 10 seasons or so, the Seahawks start the year with high hopes and playoff aspirations, but almost every year (except two years ago) the ‘Hawks disappoint. Usually they are ravaged by injuries and this year was no exception. Mediocre QB Tarvaris Jackson was nicked up throughout the year. WR Sidney Rice was hurt almost half the year. Stud Tackle Russell Okung barely played at all and without RB Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Mode,” Seattle goes from 7-9 to 5-11.

Their defense is exactly middle of the pack, which is no big deal when you play in the NFC West (where 8-8 can mean a playoff berth). So in this year’s draft the ‘Hawks need an upgrade on the offense. More specifically, they need a leader. Jackson is not a leader and there is no way QB Peyton Manning goes to the Pacific Northwest, so Seahawk fans; sorry I crushed your dreams. Seattle needs to draft QB Ryan Tannehill if he is still available. He is someone that the team can build around and, while he is not Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, Tannehill can be someone that the team can build around. If they can all stay healthy, the team will have a top 15 RB, top 20 WR and top tier left tackle and a top 20 TE in Zach Miller to surround Tannehill. Resign RB Justin Forsett to spell Lynch, FB Michael Robinson to open some running room and TE John Carlson and that optimism will creep back up for Seahawk fans. This time, however it will be justified.

On the Clock: Arizona Cardinals (Pick #13)

Kansas City Chiefs: Will RB Jamaal Charles Be Ready?

March 11th, 2012 by Tim Wardyn

Notable Free Agents: RB Thomas Jones, WR Dwayne Bowe, S Sabby Piscitelli, CB Brandon Carr, FB Le’Ron McClain

The Kansas City Chiefs have some decisions to make this offseason. One they already made. They placed a Franchise tag on Bowe guaranteeing him $9.5 million this season and giving the Chiefs another year to sign him to a long-term deal. Since they tagged Bowe, CB Brandon Carr is probably out the door, which is too bad because he was an integral part of the Chiefs 6th best pass defense in the league. They did sign former Raider CB Stanford Routt to take his place and the Chiefs also have CB Brandon Flowers and S Eric Berry signed long-term as well. Signing Carr long-term could’ve jeopardized signing Bowe long-term.

KC should re-sign FB Le’Ron McClain to open holes for stud RB Jamaal Charles, who went down with a season-ending ACL tear in the second game of the season last year. He is scheduled to be ready for training camp, but it usually takes until the first few games are out of the way before a player looks like his pre-injury self. Signing another RB like LaDainian Tomlinson to help ease Charles back would be wise.

As for the draft, the Chiefs rush defense was 26th in yards allowed last season despite drafting DT Glenn Dorsey and DE Tyson Jackson in the first round, two of the past four years. The remedy? Ultimately, sign free agent DE Mario Williams. But then they wouldn’t have anything for Bowe next year and he will certainly look for a big pay day if the Chiefs don’t offer him one during the season. So draft another defensive lineman. They have to get some pressure on the QB and Dorsey just isn’t doing it. I love DT Dontari Poe at this spot. He’s a physical freak and has power to burn. Maybe that will light a fire under Dorsey and make him work for his paycheck. Or maybe he’ll go the way of Albert Haynesworth. Get fat, take his eight-figure paycheck and saunter his way out the door in disgrace. For the Chiefs, here’s hoping Poe (or whomever is drafted) can help a run defense that should be better than it is.

On the Clock: Seattle Seahawks (Pick #12)

Buffalo Bills: Teetering Between Greatness and Irrelevance

March 10th, 2012 by Tim Wardyn

Notable Free Agents: WR Stevie Johnson, TE Scott Chandler, LB Kirk Morrison

The Bills took a step toward greatness (or at least decency) Monday by signing Johnson to a five-year $36.25 million contract. Johnson isn’t on the same level as, say, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald or Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (no relation), but Stevie Johnson is a top 15 receiver and the Bills need him desperately to open up the field on offense. They have a one-two punch at RB with Fred Jackson and scatback C.J. Spiller and a smart QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now all they need is a front seven on defense.

The D was ranked 28th in the league in stopping the run and they have had horrible luck drafting and signing players that were supposed to help. They signed LB Kirk Morrison (who averaged well over 100 tackles a year before 2011) last year to help a terrible linebacker corp. Their reward? Morrison tallied a whopping seven tackles in 14 games. That’s like signing WR Randy Moss, expecting a 1500 yard season and getting 15 yards. They also signed San Diego washout (and former Defensive Player of the Year) LB Shawne Merriman (nine tackles in five games).

There were two bright spots, however. They did decently drafting DT Marcell Dareus last year. Dareus played every game and recorded 5.5 sacks and 43 tackles on this anemic defense. It’s especially welcoming for a Bills team that just two years earlier drafted quite possibly one of the biggest 1st round busts in history; LB Aaron Maybin, who (in two full years with the team) registered an astounding 24 tackles in 27 games. Yep. The 11th overall pick in the 2009 draft averaged less than one tackle a game and sacked the QB exactly zero times. That’s flat-out embarrassing for Maybin and the Bills.

The Bills also signed LB Nick Barnett last year and he rewarded them with a stellar year: 130 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions.

So how should the Bills draft? They need more help up front. Dareus and Barnett can’t do it all. Adding pressure on the opposing QB will help the secondary (led by CB Jarius Byrd) and their deceptively good pass defense. At the #10 slot, the Bills should be able to get a DT like Dontari Poe or Michael Brockers or a DE like Quinton Coples or Melvin Ingram. Regardless, there will be players to help the front seven for the Bills. I just hope they choose wisely.

On the Clock: Kansas City Chiefs (Pick #11)

Carolina Panthers: Playoff Contender?

March 8th, 2012 by Tim Wardyn

Notable Free Agents: MLB Dan Connor, TE Jeremy Shockey

Last year’s #1 overall pick, QB Cam Newton set a bazillion rookie records last year. Now the question is how to make the offense better.

Or is it?

The defense allowed over 370 total yards a game (25th in the league). They need help in the secondary and in the front seven. If they can find the cap space, they should make a play for free agent DE Mario Williams. When top-notch DE Julius Peppers left via free agency two years ago, the Panthers defense instantly went from the top third to the bottom third. Williams will make that kind of impact wherever he signs and if the Panthers are smart (and can finagle their salary cap) they will make a legit attempt to land Williams.

Regardless, they need to draft for the defense. Unless WR Justin Blackmon is still available (which could immediately make the offense a top five squad), they need help on D. DT’s Michael Brockers or combine star Dontari Poe would help right away. Shoring up the defensive line to put pressure on opposing QBs is a good start to getting this defense back on track. New Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera can make it happen, but he needs more to work with. That’s why focusing on the defense as a whole (and getting another receiver or two) is where the Panthers need to upgrade. It’s the only way to make them a more solid playoff contender.

On the Clock: Buffalo Bills (Pick #10)

Miami Dolphins: I Have the Answer to Their QB Problems!

March 7th, 2012 by Tim Wardyn

Notable Free Agents: QB Chad Henne, CB Will Allen, DE Philip Merling, DT Paul Soliai

I’ll put this out there now: The Dolphins are my team. I’ve been a Fins fan for well over a decade and it seems like there has been one major question mark on the team ever since Dan Marino retired. They have had a near-constant rotation at QB and now, they have to decide whether to resign QB Chad Henne or let him go and draft another “franchise” QB. I did not like Henne when the team drafted him and wasn’t terribly impressed with the four games he played last year (until he separated his shoulder). He has six more INTs than TDs for his career and last year he had a pedestrian 79.0 QB rating. Here’s the issue: Do you give him one more chance, break the bank to trade up and draft uber-athlete Robert Griffin III or trade down and take QB Ryan Tannehill?

The Rams are actively trying to trade the #2 pick, but I don’t think the Dolphins will pony up the huge price tag for (essentially) the draft rights to Griffin III. I think that they will try to trade down and draft Tannehill. Even if they can’t trade down, I think they’ll take him anyway. They need a QB to build this team around and most of the other pieces are in place.

I have a Gonzo plan: Sign Drew Brees. They had the chance to sign him before the 2006 season and chose to sign Daunte Culpepper instead. That was disasterous. Culpepper barely lasted the year, while Brees has won the Super Bowl and has become one of the elite QBs in the league. Brees is a free agent and he and the Saints are not really getting anywhere in their negotiations. If I’m the Dolphins, I break the bank for Brees, sign Will Allen to shore up the secondary and then draft RB Trent Richardson to pair up with Reggie Bush. That would instantly make the Dolphins a playoff contender and it would solve the QB problem and give the Fins the leadership that they desperately need.

Agree? Disagree? Tell me about it in the comments.

On the Clock: Carolina Panthers (Pick #9)

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Most Boring Team in Football?

March 6th, 2012 by Tim Wardyn

Notable Free Agents: T Guy Whimper, K Josh Scobee

The Jaguars are a team that I can’t get excited about. Their defense is actually decent (they were in the top ten in total yards allowed), but I challenge you to name a starter. Rookie QB Blaine Gabbart has nobody to catch anything (no one had more than 460 yards receiving and that was TE Marcedes Lewis) and RB Maurice Jones-Drew is the only player who is worth anything. They don’t call him “Pocket Hercules” for nothing. He’s a 5 foot 7 inch 200+ lb. bowling ball who had over 1600 yards rushing last year and he is the only redeeming player on this team right now. The Jags need about everything and unless they knock this draft out of the park, they are going to be several years away from relevant.

As for the draft, a top-notch DT, LB or CB is probably their best bet to shore up their defense. WR Justin Blackmon probably won’t be available, so make the defense a potential top-five squad and then go all out drafting for the offense.

On the Clock: Miami Dolphins (Pick #8)

Washington Redskins: Can This Mess Be Fixed?

March 4th, 2012 by Tim Wardyn

Notable Free Agents: QB Rex Grossman, RB Tim Hightower, LB London Fletcher, TE Fred Davis, S LaRon Landry, G Kory Lichtensteiger

Owner Dan Snyder and coach Mike Shanahan have done wonders screwing this team up. Snyder signed DT Albert Haynesworth to a mammoth $100 million contract only to watch him decide that he didn’t have to work for that money and become the world’s best paid backup. Snyder signed QB Donovon McNabb two years ago, watched him slowly deteriorate, gave him a $78 million dollar extention mid-way through the season and then watched Shanahan bench him one week later and release him at the end of the year.

Shanahan, for his part, proclaimed his love for QB John Beck during the Preseason last year only to spend the year switching back and forth between Beck and QB Rex Grossman, who is now a free agent. He had a carousel of Running Backs. Tim Hightower tore his ACL halfway through the year and is probably out of DC through free agency. Ryan Torain is a walking injury and second-year player Roy Helu Jr., when given the opportunity was actually pretty good considering the ongoing QB fiasco.

The ‘Skins are either going to franchise TE Fred Davis if they can’t get a long-term deal done, which will shore up one position. They are in talks with the Rams for the #2 overall pick so they can take QB Robert Griffin III, which could be disasterous for the soon-to-be rookie. They don’t know what to do with the players they have. How would they handle someone as talented as Griffin III?

If they stick with the sixth pick, they should take someone to help top-teir DE Brian Orakpo. DT Michael Brockers or DE Melvin Ingram would both fit the bill, but look for Snyder to give way too much to the Rams for the #2 pick and ensure Griffin III a rookie season in hell.

On the Clock: Jacksonville Jaguars (Pick #7)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: What happened?

March 3rd, 2012 by Tim Wardyn

Notable Free agents: CB Ronde Barber, S Sean Jones

This team was an exciting young team rising to the top of the NFC in 2010, then in 2011, they just stopped. QB Josh Freeman looked like a confident dual-threat in 2010 and suddenly transformed into someone who was timid and indecisive. RB LeGarrette Blount, when he wasn’t injured, wasn’t the ground and pound back he was his rookie year in 2010. WR Mike Williams went from a star in the making in 2010 to a mediocre option in 2011. And the entire defense was just weak.

So where do the Bucs go from here? Their coach, Raheem Morris went from Coach of the Year in 2010 to fired after last season. Will a new coach (former Rutgers head coach) Greg Schiano’s regime help? The Bucs better hope so. They spent their first two picks last year on the defensive front seven (DE Adrian Clayborn and LB Da’Quan Bowers) and the #3 overall pick two years ago on the D-line (DT Gerald McCoy) and they were still dead last in rushing yards allowed. Their offense left their mojo in 2010 and the team was just listless.

Word has it that former Giants receiver Mario Manningham will join the Bucs, which will help, but the offense needs to find their swagger and fast. The Bucs need more help on defense and the players they have on offense should keep the team competitive.

That’s why the Bucs need to draft some help in the secondary and hope their offense can get it together. CB Morris Claiborne is the best bet since 15-year veteran CB Ronde Barber and S Sean Jones are probably gone anyway. They need to revamp their secondary and Claiborne can do that immediately.

The biggest thing for the Bucs is to get their swagger back and remember what made them so good back in 2010. If they can do that, then they’ll at least have a decent shot at an 8-8 record.

On the Clock: Washington Redskins (Pick #6)