Sunday, July 31, 2011

Asomugha, Plax etc.

Asomugha going to the Eagles really strengthens their defense. Knowing that they are a blitz-at-all-costs defense, having three strong CBs in Samuel, Rodgers-Cromartie (acquired in the Kevin Kolb trade) and now FA Asomugha gives them the ability to gamble and not be badly exposed if the blitz doesn't get home. Eagles defense looks strong especially with the addition of some DL strength, DT Jenkins being the latest. On paper, they look loaded. Giants have to bring in their TE Boss and RB Bradshaw and get to work.

Plaxico Burress going to the Jets instead of the Giants was not a disaster, imo. Giants have a lot of talent at WR and Burress may not have played much. It took Michael Vick an entire year to get into football shape and, while Vick is a running QB, it is not a position that requires running. At WR, that's all you do - if it takes Burress a while to get into football shape, he won't be that productive. He was not a pure speed WR the first time around, and at 34, out of football for two years, it's hard to imagine him being as effective as he was in 2008.

I am not a Jets-hater, but I am annoyed that they got the FA signings backwards - they were supposed to sign Asomugha so he wouldn't go to Philly and let Plax go so he could sign with 49ers, Steelers or some other team that wouldn't hurt the Giants.

I can't figure out what's going on with Bradshaw and the other Giants FAs. What is taking so long? They have no other suitors, apparently, why not close a deal with Boss, Smith and Bradshaw?

Word is that Beatty is going into camp as the starting LT. His performance is a big key to the Giants success. If you protect the QB's blind side, you have a good QB and give him some weapons on offense, you should be able to score some points.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Coughlin extension

Thoughts on Coughlin extension

Giants have a policy that they don't like to leave coaches as lame ducks.... fir them that means coaching a team in the last year of his contract. The coach always uses as a prod / warning to the players that if they don't perform, they won't come back to the team next year. That threat (incentive?) to the players is out the window if the coach himself is not under contract for next year and can't follow through on it. Under that (somewhat dated) logic, the Giants gave Coughlin an extension. But the extension was only for 1 year which sends a big message to TC. If they had given a multi year extension, it would have emphasized their commitment to him long term as coach and their confidence in him that he can deliver another contending team. A one year contract sends a different message - win this year. make the playoffs and show us that you can bring this team back into contention. If not, I think this may be Tom's last contract. He has a lot of energy and does not seem burned out. But he is 65 years old and even if the Giants find someone to make another catch with his helmet, it could be near retirement for the coach.

Steve Smith, Kevin Boss and Ahmad Bradshaw

It has been very quiet on the negotiation with these three players, both from the Giants side as well as from other teams reaching out to the Giants FAs. Apparently there was mutual interest between Bradshaw and the 'Fins which disappeared when Miami traded for Reggie Bush. That would seem to give the Giants some leverage, because they are only negotiating against themselves. You still want to keep the player happy, but at what bite out of the salary cap?

Steve Smith
I think Steve Smith is in the same situation that Kiwanuka was in - very productive player, coming off a serious injury that has other teams worried. A player that caught 100+ passes two years ago that has not received a nibble from other teams, means that other teams are worried about the knee injury and he will probably come back to the Giants for a short contract with incentives, similar to Kiwanuka, so the deal is cap friendly. It also means that the Giants should ABSOLUTELY not pursue Plaxico.

Kevin Boss is a good player, but the Giants should be able to retain him for reasonable salary.

Preseason developments

Now I understand why the Giants signed a FB as a rookie undrafted FA (thought I read that they signed two, but only one appears on their web site). In addition to the release of Seubert, O'Hara and Andrews, the Giants also released FB Madison Hedgecock.

Giants are looking at bringing in an experienced punter because of the rocky ride with Matt Dodge last year. He only cost the Giants a trip to the playoffs with that punt in the Eagles game that he failed to get out of bounds.

Looks like Osi will be adding some drama to the camp this year. Osi is a very effective player and had a great year in 2010, getting 11.5 sacks, and forcing a fumble on nearly every one of those sacks (10). He even played reasonably well against the run, something that has not really been his strong suit in the past. Of course I'd like to see them bring him in, but there is a bit of a dilemma. Renegotiating in the middle of a contract because of a hold out gives every other player on the team license to do the same thing. On the other hand, Osi is a valuable player.

In my last post, I said that the OL reshuffling would be interesting -  would they start Petrus (or find another LG) or would they slide Diehl inside and look for Will Beatty to step up and take the LT position? Giants are planning for the latter - finally turning the starting position over to Beatty and sliding Diehl in at LG. Diehl is still a valuable asset because he will have played all 4 position on the OL. If Beatty stumbles or gets hurt, the Giants have a decent backup ready to go. Giants value OL-men that can play several positions on the line; it is a smart approach and it has served them well over the last few years. Kevin Boothe was signed as a backup and he can play G or T also. When MacKenzie's contract expires at the end of 2011, Giants could slide Diehl out to RT and slide Petrus in at LG.

I don't know how accurate these numbers are, but if you poke around the web and the blogosphere, it looks like the Eagles are waaaaaay under the salary cap. One number I saw had them at about $35M under the cap. How does that happen? I guess they have a relatively inexpensive alternative at QB in Vick, and that position often chews up a lot of cap space. Eagles are also quick to pull the trigger on getting rid of veterans whose contract expires instead of giving them big renewals. You have to be very good at selecting and evaluating talent to keep refreshing the departing players with skilled replacements and Andy Reid seems to be really good at it.

I love Plaxico, there's a lot of nostalgia there, but Giants have needs at other positions (LB for one). There is a lot talent at WR on the team and Burress would probably not start, so i don't get why the Giants want to bring him in. Would the Giants be better throwing this money at Plaxico or trading Osi, free up a little more cap space and making a run at Asomugha? I am not starting a rumor here or implying that the Giants CBs are weak, but my point is you should spend valuable cap space on your needs. I consider Plaxico a luxury.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2011 Free Agency - Cap Casualties

With the lockout over, as has been reported everywhere, this will be a very active period of time in terms of player movement and transactions. Three years worth of FA's are being accelerated into one year and the period of time to sign these players is compressed from about 4 months down to a few days. Because the player's end of the defined revenue pool dropped to 47% in the new CBA, the salary cap actually dropped this year from what it was in 2009. (2010 was an uncapped year because of the opt out by the NFL owners.) Giants have a bunch of free agents, and were over the salary cap and had to release a bunch of OL-men.

Seubert and O'Hara are the two best C's on the OL, but both are aging, coming off significant injuries, consume a fair amount of cap room and there was no way they could be retained. Shawn Andrews, while he looked good when he was on the field last year, was far from a guarantee to remain healthy with his chronic back issues and he would not accept a restructure of his contract, so he will be released. Same is true with Rocky Bernard, who will be cut. (Bernard is probably the only real bust FA signing of the Jerry Reese era.) Giants drafted two DTs in the second round of the last two drafts in Linval Joseph and Marvin Austin and it stands to reason that they will have to play and make a contribution this year along side of Chris Canty.

There was a report both on ESPN and in the Sacramento Bee that the Giants had come to an agreement with the very fine C/G of the 49ers, David Baas. On the one hand, the OL has been a very stable, very consistent unit for the Giants over the last several years. But there is also no doubt that they have declined somewhat over the last few years and it is time to make them younger, more athletic and better. Baas will surely play C and the right side of the OL seems set with Snee and MacKenzie. But the left side could see some change. Petrus, Beatty and Diehl will probably occupy the two slots. If Diehl keeps his LT position, perhaps Petrus starts at G. If Beatty outplays Diehl at LT, maybe Diehl slides into the LG position.
It is a real question about what to do at RB. It sure looks like the Giants are making a strong play for Bradshaw, by making all the cuts and by trying to renegotiate Brandon Jacobs' contract to free up even more space. They might be able to make a deal with Steve Smith, because teams will be reluctant to make him an offer coming off knee surgery. I still say that while it is a nice emotional story, it makes very little sense for the Giants to go after Plaxico. They have lots of weapons at WR - Manningham, Nicks, Smith (if he is retained), Barden, Hixon, draftee Jernigan and lots of other talent in Clayton, Hagan and Cruz. GiantS should not invest in Plaxico and instead should find themselves a LB. If Smith comes back, it is completely stupid to re-sign Burress, but even if Smith does not come back, it seems like a waste.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

NFL 2011 Season

If you read the papers, the blogs and the various media outlets, you will surely see that the NFL and NFLPA are putting out the vibe that negotiations are progressing productively. The two sides project an image ranging from unbridled enthusiasm to cautious optimism. On the one hand, there is way too much money to kick away by either side holding out for a better deal and a few extra percentage points of revenue to come their way. This argues strongly that a deal will be made. On the other hand, when it comes to labor negotiations, we can refer back to the old Yogi Berra-ism, paraphrasing goes something like: "it's not over 'till it's over". Until the deal is agreed to and the ink is dry on the contracts, the deal could just as easily go south as come to a happy conclusion.

The major issues in the negotiation seems to come down to three items, IMO: (1) the split of revenue between the players and owners and secondarily, what revenues are included in the defined revenue pool; (2) whether there will be revenue sharing among the owners - this was included in the last CBA and the big market, hard line owners are dead set against it; (3) how much money will be devoted to retired players for benefits, medical coverage, etc.

Item 1 above, the split of revenue, is most important and probably the easiest to resolve. The other two items, revenue sharing and retired players benefits are issues that could really blow things up, because they represent divisions within each negotiating team rather than a divide across opposite ends of the negotiating table. Like I said, the fat lady hasn't started singing and this opera is still going.

There is one feature of the proposed deal that has been leaked to the media outlets and presents very interesting decisions for the various teams in the league and specifically for the Giants. Players will become UFAs after only 4 years of service, instead of 5 in the previous deal. In fact, in 2010, the last uncapped year of the previous deal, service years for UFA was temporarily raised to 6 years. This means that this year, there will potentially be a ton of FAs as compared to other years. Players that have reached 4 years of service after 2010, players that have reached 5 years of service after 2010 and players that would have been FAs after 2009, but for 1 year rise to 6 years in 2010, will all be FAs coming into 2011. That is 3 times the normal allotment of FAs and there will surely be a much shorter signing period for all these FAs to find new teams. I am a believer in supply and demand, and with the supply greater, it stands to reason that prices will be driven down. Of course, not all FAs are created equal, so the big name studs will still get their money.

For the Giants, they have decisions to make about several players. The rookie class of 2007, including Kevin Boss, Ahmad Bradshaw and Steve Smith could all become FAs under the new 4 year service rule. Aaron Ross was also drafted in 2007, but has a 5 year contract, so he will not become a FA. Barry Cofield and Matthias Kiwanuka are also surely going to become FAs as they have the requisite years of service even under the old CBA.

It is a difficult call for each of these players. Bradshaw has progressed, but he is not irreplaceable. He is neither a bruising, power runner, nor is he a pure speed burner. He has been productive, but my gut feel is that the Giants can find another RB. Steve Smith had a wonderful season a year ago with 100+ catches. But he is coming off a serious knee injury and with lots of depth at WR, with Manningham, Nicks and Barden returning; and with draftee Jerningan as well as Hixon and Cruz set to rejoin the team, it seems that the Giants should not make a big offer to Smith. Boss, on the other hand, might benefit from the lack of depth at TE. Boss is also a 'tweener - not a great pass catcher and not a great blcoker - but Beckum has not showed productivity and Boss may get overpaid because of lack of roster depth at the position.

Cofield also could be a casualty because of roster depth at DT, even though he is an excellent player. Giants have Canty and Bernard at DT and two 2nd round draft choices made in the last two years - Linval Jospeh and Marvin Austin. How many DTs can you carry; especially with Justin Tuck moving inside on some passing downs? For Kiwanuka - assuming he has recovered from his serious neck/disc issue, he may benefit from the Giants propensity to keep as many good pass rushers on the team as possible. JPP is still green and Osi's status has to be considered a little tenuous, so the Giants may try to keep Kiwanuka. With that neck injury, other teams may be loath to sign him, so Giants could get him for a moderate asking price.

The big question is what to do about the OL. More on that in future posts.