Before we start, shoutout to our very own Smackdad for giving me the inspiration to write this
Note: Darelle Revis's trade will not be discussed, as that seemed to stem all the way from the owner, and has already been thoroughly discussed. Nick Folk will also not be discussed as there is an article up right now for that.
Well, after a lengthy search following the pink slip of Mike Tannenbaum, Woody came to the decision to hire John Idzik. Before even this happened, I think it's fair to say most of us didn't have terribly sky-high expectations for what was to come. We were in a really undesirable cap state with a few contracts that we couldn't get rid of and one of the least talented rosters in the league, with a particularly bad situation at Quarterback, where we were paying significant money to probably the worst starter in the league. On top of this, we had several starters hitting the free-agent market and likely wouldn't have had the money to keep most, if any of them. We're in the middle of a rebuilding phase, and we didn't have a lot of assets to work with this past spring. As such, I think it was fair to expect a lot of minimal magnitude, low-risk high-reward contracts. For the most part, I think that's what we ended up getting.
I'll divide this into three phases: Free agents, the draft, and the current state of the team.
To begin with, Idzik did the seemingly obvious by cutting Bart Scott, Eric Smith, Calvin Pace, and Jason Smith. He also got rid of Tebow eventually after unsuccessfully trying to trade him. Quite frankly, all of these maneuvers were pretty obvious, so I don't think this warrants a ton of praise beyond having common sense. Any GM probably would've done all this. Sione Pouha was also eventually released, which I think was a good decision. He was a great dude, but I think the ship sailed on that. An elderly nose tackle with a back issue probably isn't going to be playing much more quality football.
Then, basically all the noteworthy free agents were left to walk. Dustin Keller went to the Dolphins (something I predicted before the off-season started). I don't really mind letting him walk. I've made it no secret that i've always been a fan of Keller, but think about it this way, he signed a 1 year deal worth $4.25 mil. For a 1 year contract, that's a pretty decent amount of money. More money than I think we gave anyone else as an average salary this spring. I think it's fair to think that even Idzik isn't putting all his eggs into this basket that's realistically more of an evaluation year than anything. Do you want to spend that $4.25 mil on a player who's gonna be a moderate asset for this one year, or would rather roll it over into next year when we have a chance to put a competitive product on the field? Keller wasn't a great player anyway. Laron Landry was also allowed to walk. This was a no-brainer I think. Landry is a good safety, but too up-and-down to be a great one, but he got paid like one. His achilles was also never given surgery so there is still the possibility that it flares up again. Mike Devito went to KC to the tune of $12.6 mil over three years. Devito is a great guy to have around and i'll miss him, but I can't really object to a team in our position not giving him that kind of contract. Shonn Greene went to the Titans; again, a no-brainer. He was an average back that wasn't worth giving another contract to. Yeremiah Bell went to the Cardinals on a small contract. Bringing him back couldn't have hurt but I don't really feel like it's a big loss either. Bell was a steady player but we basically replaced him with Dawan Landry. Now for the two guards: Matt Slauson to the Bears isn't a big loss. Brandon Moore not being resigned has upset some of the denizens of GGN, but let's notice that he hasn't signed with anyone yet. That's probably due to monetary reasons. Even if they've still been a good player, I can understand not wanting to give a sizeable deal to a player hitting their mid-30s. When you're in that range, your play can drop off at the snap of a finger, and you also start becoming more prone to injury. We've been victims of that mid-early-30s drop-off with players like Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, and Sione Pouha. As a whole, I think there was valid enough reason behind letting everyone that didn't come back go off. Some of them like Dustin Keller and Brandon Moore are debatable, but I don't really foresee it being a huge gaffe.
Of course, in the spirit of free agency, we get to make our own free agent acquisitions too. As stated before, I think it was right to keep expectations tempered with regards to who we went after. They'd all have some baggage associated with them, or be unproven players. The earliest and one of the more notable ones was David Garrard. It was true that he had to sit out the last two seasons with back and knee injuries respectively, but these were two different injuries, and he was a pretty decent player before they happened. It was probably worth taking a swing at him, but it probably would've been a safer bet to go after someone like Jason Campbell. The signing didn't work out. It's not a hugely destructive move or anything since his contract was really minimal to begin with, but I also think Idzik does deserve some criticism for not spending a little more to go with a safer bet. Not that it was a disaster either.
Things, however, would start to turn back up again. Let's look at Mike Goodson next. There was that legal issue a couple months ago, but that seems to have settled down a bit and it doesn't look like it's going to work out too terribly, but I could be wrong. Either way, Goodson has notable speed and playmaking ability to add to a backfield. Something we haven't had in a while, and something our offense sorely needed. He hasn't done it with a ton of workload, but he's probably not going to be counted on for it after getting Ivory. It was on a smaller deal too. Great signing IMO. Next, Willie Colon. This is your typical injury-risk talented player. There's a pretty reasonable chance he's going to get hurt again, but he's definitely a good player when healthy. I like it, it's a low-risk high-reward type of move. Antonio Garay. Similar story, good player when healthy, but hasn't been healthy recently. It also gives us an alternative to Kenrick Ellis. Antwan Barnes; very small deal for a guy who can be a decent situational pass rusher, no issues there. If he can get Quarterbacks to step up in the pocket right into the grasp of Mo Wilks and Sheldon Richardson, thumbs up. Then we have Dawan Landry. I actually like this one. He's a pretty average safety, yes, but he understands Rex's defense and can help Josh Bush and Antonio Allen come along. Rex's defense is really mentally taxing on the safeties, so it's a good thing to have a guy back there who knows the ins and outs of it really well. I think he'll provide a steady veteran presence similar to Yeremiah Bell last season. Under-the-radar somewhat went the Ben Obomanu signing. I like that one, the guy is good in special teams and can actually stretch the field decently well for a #4 guy. I got no problem with that. And then we have Kellen Winslow. Again, a no-risk high-reward signing that I can't get down on for any reason. Also, i'll say this. There seems to be a vibe that last season that he requested a release from the patriots because of his knee pain. I don't necessarily believe that. If he had to leave the team due to injuries, he could've gotten an injury settlement and walked home with some money. I would think it's moreso him realizing that he wasn't going to get much play time with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in front of him, and hoping he could get more of a chance with another team. And the reason the Seahawks released him earlier was because he wouldn't take a pay cut from the substantial contract he was carrying around. Just something to consider. Anyway, as a whole, aside from Garrard, these are all pretty good low-risk signings that I think we can give Idzik the thumbs up on.
Speaking of Garrard, there have been a few other questionable acquisitions as well. Most notably Calvin Pace. He used to be a steady edge setter that could also give you a handful of sacks a season. Not anymore, he's in the bottom-tier of the NFL's linebackers and I would've rather seen what a younger guy can do. I mean, I can at least understand why they signed him, we could've used another linebacker, but Pace wasn't the guy to bring back. In a similar vein we have Stephen Peterman. He's a pretty subpar guard, and considering we drafted 3 offensive lineman I don't really see why we needed to sign him. I guess it's not quite as bad though, as he might get beat out by Brian Winters. Lex Hilliard was one of the worst fullbacks in football last season, yet he was resigned. I can see exactly why some people don't like this, but there practically no risk attached to it and he could easily be cut so I can't get too down on the FO for this one. And now it appears we're signing Braylon Edwards. Honestly, I was actually mildly surprised that Braylon managed to give us anything when we got him last season, but after seeing his efficiency on a per-snap basis and how it was shockingly similar to Clyde Gates and Chaz Schilens, I figured we were best off staying away. But it appears that we will indeed sign him. I don't like that. I know we still needed a veteran receiver but that also means a veteran receiver that's an upgrade over what we already have. So yeah, there have been a fair number of not-so-good signings by Mr. Idzik, but honestly, these are all so small in magnitude that I don't think we can call any of them disastrously bad. Nonetheless, they could've been done without.
If you're still reading, I applaud your patience.
Now, why don't we look at the draft? Well, you can't make any fair judgments on that for another 2 or 3 years, so I'll refrain from critiquing the players that we took too much. What I will say is that I really don't care that we didn't use a lot of our picks to address immediate needs. Drafting (2-3 depending on what happens with Aboushi) guards confused a lot of people, but it makes a lot more sense once you notice that Colon, Peterman, Howard, and Ducasse (if he even makes the roster) aren't under contract next season. Also, I think it goes without saying that you draft whoever you think is the best player available. I'll only directly comment on two players, Sheldon Richardson and Geno Smith.
That Richardson pick is the only one that I think is a bit questionable, BPA or not. He was allegedly the 4th best player on their board. I can't really get too down on Idzik for drafting someone who they thought would be one of the very best players of the draft with pick #13, but it creates a situation where not only do you have the issue of whether or not Richardson will work out, but now you're worrying about whether or not Coples is going to handle his new hybrid edge role. Although here's a theory that I came up with some time ago that only Broadway Jose seems to know of. Remember before free agency started when reports came out that Mike Devito was the priority free agent? That was a little perplexing to some of us. I think it's possible, however, that the plan all along was to move Coples to more of a DE/OLB role, but either 1. they wanted to make sure they still had someone to play 5-technique in the base before making that official or 2. they didn't want to reveal that until after the draft, as it would've dissolved a smokescreen. It could've been both. As such, an interior lineman was seen as more of a need by the team than an edge rusher. It's purely speculation, but it warrants thought methinks.
Now, Geno. I think it's awesome that we snagged the (mostly) consensus best quarterback in the draft in the 2nd round without having to trade up. I think Idzik should get some props for making the right decision when they were on the clock. Quarterback was by far the biggest trouble position on this team, and this pick is at least an attempt to remedy that. Whether or not he pans out is a completely different argument, but even if Geno doesn't end up being the long-term answer, his selection at least signifies the end of Mark Sanchez being the franchise's baby. You don't take a quarterback in the high second round if you're happy with the guy you have. This is a good thing, I think we've seen enough of Mark Sanchez at this point to know that he isn't a quality NFL starter. In fact, he just kind of stinks. He may be a wonderful person for all I know, but the fact is he isn't a good quarterback at all.
I'll also use this spot to comment on Chris Ivory, given we got him with a draft pick. I like this quite a bit. Ivory is an electrifying talent that, like Goodson, brings playmaking ability to the offense that we sorely needed. Yes, he is an injury risk and I honestly don't expect him to stay fully healthy. That being said, I do think this was a very good acquisition and that he'll provide a positive presence to the offense this season.
Let's take a look at where this team stands now. Starting with the offense. At Quarterback, we have a competition between a terrible veteran and a rookie who's a complete enigma right now. It's not a steady situation. It could have been made better by trying to get a veteran like Jason Campbell to provide a known commodity that doesn't completely suck. I think we're fine at running back. There were other options out there aside from Goodson and Ivory, but i'm fine with those two. At fullback, i'm basically just hoping that Hilliard loses to our amazing 7th round fullback (superbowl ahoy!!!). I would've liked to see more of an effort made at this position. If we're gonna focus on the running game, It would've been nice to add another fullback to provide space for guys like Goodson and Ivory who are dangerous with room to run. Vonta Leach is still available but there seems to be no interest there. The receiver position isn't any better than last season. I'm under the mindset that whatever we get out of Santonio Holmes is a bonus, so we're depending on Kerley stepping up again and Hill hopefully improving. Obomanu is a nice #4 but he's not going to make a meaningful difference, and Braylon is really just a washed-up shell of his former self. I would've liked to see Idzik go after someone else after losing out on Brandon Gibson. There were tight ends to be had this off-season, but all of them seemed to be out of our price range. I can't really get too down on Idzik for not wanting to pay big money to guys like Jared Cook and Delanie Walker. Winslow's knees are largely going to determine how well off we are at this position. The offensive line should be fine if Colon stays healthy. Granted, there's a very real chance that doesn't happen, so if it does, we could be in a bit of trouble.
Defense: I think we're set at Cornerback, we've got a talented group of players to work with. You can't deny that there were other options out there to bolster the safety position aside from Dawan Landry, but I don't actually have a huge issue with this. I think in an evaluation year like this, it's fine to see what you have in younger guys like Antonio Allen and Josh Bush. Same with ILB, let's see what Davis can do. Although in that situation I think we could've found someone to provide competition in case Davis can't handle a full time role. As far as outside linebacker, that's largely going to depend on how Coples handles his new role. I think we know that Pace sucks, and I would've rather seen us spend a little more money to get someone like Victor Butler. Although I think it's fair to think that Barnes can be an upgrade over Aaron Maybin. The defensive line looks pretty talented to me, although how well the unit plays as a whole is going to depend on how quickly Richardson picks things up and If Kenrick Ellis can get some consistency with his pad level.
So, as a whole, what does this all mean? Well, I think Idzik certainly had his fair share of good signings and moves this off-season. I also think there were some not-so-good signings and positions where more effort could've been made to bolster them. I've acknowledged that I don't think Idzik's putting all his eggs into this one basket, but there were more players to be had at positions where we could've used more players. Overall though, i think we got about what we expected. An off-season consisting of low magnitude signings that could end up paying dividends with no real big-ticket acquisitions. I can't definitively say whether or not this off-season was a success without seeing the product on the field, but I think Idzik's signings, even if not always good, had a semblance of logic behind them. Players like Calvin Pace and Braylon Edwards may stink, but they were brought in because those were positions of need. There also wasn't an excessive amount of moving money around to create short-term space and try to get a big-name free agent we couldn't afford. He worked within his means to try and fill holes. I think if Idzik can at least continue to make moves that are logical, we may be able to bring the franchise back up. We shall see in the coming years.
If you read that whole thing, you get a virtual cookie from me.
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