Monday, February 9, 2009

Teams in a Pickle

With the football season just ending, the offseason is pushing into full swing with the free agency period just around the corner. There are a few teams out there who could find themselves not improving in the offseason, but actually getting worse. Here are the top 3 teams in the worst position this offseason.

1. The Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens ended last year with the second best defense in the NFL. Only behind the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. However, this offseason is sure to not be pretty. 3 of the Ravens top defenders are set to be unrestricted free agents, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Bart Scott. And the Ravens surely do not have the money to re-sign all of them, in fact, they will be lucky to secure a long term contract with one of them. The leader of the big 3 in Baltimore is none other than Ray Lewis. Lewis has been constantly touted by team-mates as not only the leader of the defense, but the vocal leader of the entire team. However, Lewis is getting old, setting to turn 34 in May. The Ravens must have some concern about how much longer he can play at such a high level. While on the other hand you have the 2 young and talented linebackers, Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs. Suggs has came out and said that he would take a pay-cut in order to keep their defense in tact, however Lewis said the opposite. Lewis is not in favor of a home town discount saying "I don't play less, so they shouldn't pay less". The Ravens have recently came out and said that they will pay whatever it takes to keep Lewis in Baltimore, so that could mean bye-bye for Suggs or Scott, or quite possibly both.

2. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers are projected to be the 25th out of 32 teams as far as 2009 cap room. The problem with that is, they have 2 pro-bowl starters that need to be re-signed. One anchor on each side of the ball, Defensive End Julius Peppers, and Left Tackle Jordan Gross. The Panthers can only put the franchise tag on one of these great players, so one will be leaving with no return for the team unless they can soon reach a long term deal. Peppers has recently expressed his will to leave Carolina for a team that runs a 3/4 so that he can stand up and play Outside Linebacker. Given that, chances are the Panthers will tag Gross, who is considered possibly the best tackle in the NFL, pay him a huge salary and let Peppers walk out the door. If that scenario happens, that would make 2 talented defensive linemen free agents this year with both him and Albert Haynesworth most likely to be available.

3. The Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are just coming off one of the most successful seasons in the history of their franchise, losing in Super Bowl 43. But the question that now remains is will their success have any continuity? Well the Cardinals are set to have a number of key components of their Super Bowl team become Unrestricted Free Agents. To start off, their quarterback Kurt Warner is not only a Free Agent, but also considering retirement. On the offensive side of the ball they are also losing Running Back J.J. Arrington and blocking back Terrelle Smith. On the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals may lose some real talent. The Unrestricted Free Agents on defense include Bertrand Berry, Antonio Smith, Karlos Dansby, and Clark Haggans. To top off all these people leaving, Pro-Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin has been very public in the past about wanting to leave Arizona even though he has one year left on his contract. 

This years off season should be a very entertaining one and keep checking in on my blog to stay posted. Also don't be scared to leave some comments if you have an opinion.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

From the Year of the QB to --- the Year of the LB

The value being placed on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL now is higher than perhaps ever before. With the top 3 defenses all playing in the conference championships and the number 1 defense (the Pittsburgh Steelers) winning the Super Bowl, the statement "Defense wins championships" has never proven more true. There is so much need to beef up defenses around the league, and look no farther than this years NFL Draft.

At the end of the 08-09 college football season, the draft boards looked sure to be quarterback heavy, with 2 Heisman trophy winner's sure to be declaring for the draft. Most people assumed that the top 3 quarterbacks would surely be declaring for the NFL Draft. I mean after all, Sam Bradford was voted AP player of the year, won the Heisman Trophy, and the Davey O'brien award.

And then there's Tim Tebow, the first Sophmore to ever win the Heisman trophy. Just after winning the National Championship, it was nearly a sure bet that Tebow would enter the Draft, having accomplished nearly everything there is to accomplish in College Football. To top it all off, there is Colt McCoy. Many thought Colt McCoy was the 2nd best Quarterback to be entering the draft, only behind Bradford. McCoy finished second in the 2008 Heisman balloting again behind only Bradford. He also led his Texas team to a Fiesta Bowl championship over powerful Ohio State. 

So with these 3 talents all being eligible for the 2009 NFL draft, surely it would be a quarterback draft class that could rival that of the recent Manning - Rivers - Roethlisberger class. However, all 3 prospects decided to stay in school at least another year. So with so much talent not entering the Draft, what position will now be the heaviest?

The answer comes from the incredible talent of this years Linebacker Draft Class. Teams around the NFL this year are going to be able to get their hands on some very talented Linebackers. 

The leader of this incredible linebacker pack in my opinion is the fierce linebacker out of USC, Ray Maualuga. Maualuga plays with extreme emotion and is one of the hardest hitting linebacker's in college football. He was the 2008 Chuck Bednarik award winner given to the best Defensive player in the Nation. Maualuga lost his father due to brain cancer two days before the 2005 BCS National Championship game. He is often seen wearing "RIP, DAD" on his eye black stickers. Maualuga is often compared to playing like the fierce Troy Polamalu. I think he play's much more like the Baltimore Ravens Ray Lewis in that he is a vocal leader and knows how to make the people around him play better. 

Right behind Maualuga is the extremely talented James Laurinaitis out of Ohio State. James is a 3 time All American and the 2007 Butkus Award winner given to the nations top college linebacker. Laurinaitis is often forgot about in this draft class but is surely one of the top players available. The style of Laurinaitis's play greatly resembles that of the young linebacker Patrick Willis. Laurinaitis plays extremely smart, fast and has phenomenal tackling technique.

At the Outside Linebacker position there is also a handful of players with a lot of talent. One of the most valuable I think is Brian Orakpo. Orakpo is an Outside Linebacker who has extreme talents in rushing the passer. Orakpo has the speed to get around tackles, and the power to split the gaurd tackle gap. Another player with a similar style to Orakpo is the Outside Linebacker out of FLorida State, Everette Brown. Brown also has great pass rushing ability and both are players who can come in and be 12 sack players in their rookie years. To add to their draft value, both have the ability to play OLB in a 3/4 and DE in a 4/3. 

Some other OLB that are suited to stand up in both a 3/4 or a 4/3 are 2 players by the name's of Aaron Curry and Brian Cushing. Curry is a fast and powerful outside linebacker out of Wake Forest who by many is considered the top OLB in the country. Cushing, like the previously mentioned Maualuga is also out of USC. Both players can play sideline to sideline and get after the passer when needed. 

Come draft day, all these players are names to watch as I feel all 6 could be starters come September. In my opinion, Maualuga and Laurinaitis will be dueling it out for the Defensive Rookie of the Year prize. Teams in need of some defensive help only have to look to this years draft to find some real talent.

Don't forget if you like what you read to donate to my college fund. That's why I have this blog.