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Browns' Free Agency 2015: The Last Minute Preview

On Tuesday afternoon, the 2015 NFL free agency period officially opens. Since Saturday, teams have been able to begin talking to free-agents-to-be, however without agreeing to terms or explicitly discussing potential numbers. Nonetheless, expect to see a slew of big signings in the 15 minutes after free agency officially opens. It will be unlikely that any of these quick signings are by the Browns, as General Manager Ray Farmer tends to be a bit slower and more deliberate with his signings, although I guess you never really know. Do expect to see the Browns sign a few players over the next week though. If last year was any indication, a lot of these signings will be veteran players who can serve as role players and mentors and who will be on the somewhat cheaper side, although with just short of $50 million in cap space, the Browns could surprise everyone and make a big splash with a monster signing. Again, you never really know, definitely with a young GM at the helm. Anyway, here is who to keep an eye on this free agency period when discussing the Browns:

Browns’ Free-Agents-To-Be That Need To Be Re-signed:

Before we look at new players who the Browns could potentially sign, we need to take a quick look at players that the Browns need to keep in Cleveland. These are all guys who the Browns could let walk, but really shouldn’t:

CB Buster Skrine

Skrine reportedly wants to test the open waters, which seems to be a good decision. The Browns, however, need to keep him around. They will have to pay more for him than they otherwise would’ve, but I think he is easily worth the $8 million or so a year that they will have to dish out. Skrine has started the past two seasons and has been quite solid across from Joe Haden. As a bonus, he is an extremely talented nickelback, so if Justin Gilbert ever decides to start playing actual football, he can easily slide inside. Additionally, replacing him would end up costing just about as much as resigning him if the Browns want to sign a player close to his caliber. I expect him to be resigned, with a deal to the tune of 4 years and $30 million.

DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen

I like Kitchen a lot. He played well last year when everyone else on the line went down with injuries. He wouldn’t cost that much to retain. And he is an Ohio native who would most likely enjoy remaining close to home. Plus he is the owner of what was voted the best sack dance in the NFL. Offer him a nice little 2 year, $1.5 million deal, and let him stick around.

 S Tashaun Gipson

He is one of the top safeties in the league, has an absurd affinity for creating turnovers, and is only  24. There is no doubt in my mind that he will remain among the top players at his position for at  least the next five years, and as such, the Browns need to sign him to a long term deal as soon as  possible. It would be cheaper to do this now, and they could probably keep him around for as little  as $4 million a year, which in a couple of years will look like a steal.

S Johnson Bademosi

Although he made a couple of really stupid mistakes during games last year, he still is one of the best special teams players in the NFL, and would be simple to retain.

LB Craig Robertson

He played well last year. He will play well this year. And he will serve as a good backup when Christian Kirksey is fully ready to start. He should remain on the team next year.

TE Andre Smith

Depth is always appreciated. There is no need to show him the door.

WR Miles Austin

He played well last year until his kidney decided to misbehave. He obviously is not a long term option, but he is a serviceable role player and can serve as a mentor for whichever receiver the Browns draft this year.

Now that we have handled that, and maintaining the assumption that all of those players are resigned, the Browns have a few areas of need that they can address in free agency…

Wide Receiver

This is clearly a monster need for the Browns, especially with Josh Gordon suspended once again. Currently, the Browns have Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, and Travis Benjamin as the only experienced receivers on the roster. They will also should have Austin. It is safe to assume that the Browns will probably spend at least one pick in the Draft on a receiver, leaving them with five players who can have impact at the position. They will, however, still be looking to sign another one in free agency. The question is merely “who?”

Randall Cobb (Packers)

Cobb is clearly the best receiver on the market, but it would be stupid to bring him too Cleveland. At 5’10” and 192 lbs, Cobb is another slot-type receiver, of which the Browns already have two in Hawkins and Gabriel. Although Cobb, being the best slot receiver in the NFL at the moment, would clearly be an upgrade, he would not be a practical or smart use of what would amount to a lot of money.

Torrey Smith (Ravens)

Pair him with a talented first round pick and Hawkins and Gabriel inside, and the Browns suddenly have a rather potent group of wideouts. Smith would essentially be a more versatile and effective version of Benjamin. Speedy as all hell (4.43 in the 40), Smith is a receiver who specializes in the deep ball and would be able to stretch out defenses so that Hawkins and Gabriel could work underneath. Personally, I think he would be a great player to bring in, although he will be on the slightly costlier side. It would be cool to use an old Ravens player against them though. There is nothing worse than seeing a player you let go of completely wreck you twice a year.

Michael Crabtree (49ers)

Crabtree is an option, but not a great one. He’s been largely ineffective since tearing his achilles in 2013, and even before that he was pretty consistently disappointing. He may come on the cheaper side though.

Cecil Shorts (Jaguars)

The Cleveland-area native is ready for a change in scenery from Jacksonville, and may be drawn to come home. The Browns have shown heightened interest in him, and might even be willing to fork over a few extra dollars to bring him onboard. The only hurdle is that Shorts has said he is tired of losing and that he just wants to win. Cleveland isn’t usually viewed as a team that wins a lot, but there is the chance that the blind faith that Clevelanders and Browns fans learn could make him turn a blind eye to the fact that the Browns aren’t sure-fire winners. I think that this is the receiver the Browns are most likely to sign. Even more so if they decide to not bring Austin back.

Hakeem Nicks (Colts)

Nicks was clearly talented at some point, and someone is going to sign him hoping that they can find that talent again. But it shouldn’t be the Browns. The Browns need to take safer steps that clearly move them forward, and signing a player who sat behind an aging and less effective Reggie Wayne for the past year doesn’t fit into that category of decisions.

Brian Hartline (Dolphins)

Only a year removed from consecutive 1000-yd campaigns, Hartline could be a nice option for the Browns. Despite his ineffectiveness last year, expect Hartline to bounce back and put up respectable numbers no matter where he lands this year. He has already visited with the Browns, but has also been the subject of interest from a number of other teams. I don’t think the Browns like him enough to engage in some kind of bidding war, so unless he comes cheap, expect him to land somewhere else.

Defensive Tackle

Without a doubt the Browns’ biggest area of need this offseason. Luckily, there is a slew of talented players available both in the Draft and in free agency. Ahtyba Rubin likely on the way out, the Browns will need to pick up a big body during free agency.

Ndamukong Suh (Lions)

There is not a better tackle on the market. There is no arguing with that statement. However, Suh will not land in Cleveland. I would really love him to, as it is extremely rare to be able to sign a hall-of-fame caliber player in his prime, but I don’t see Farmer being willing to spend the cash that would be necessary. Suh is looking to become the highest paid defender in the league, and there are teams who are willing to grant him his wish, just not the Browns.

Nick Fairley (Lions)

Suh’s soon-to-be-former teammate might be second to only Suh in terms of talent among free agents at the defensive tackle position. When he’s motivated, he can play like one of the best linemen in the league. However that whole “when he’s motivated” phrase is key. Fairley has shown a history of getting easily discouraged, and when that happens his level of play falls substantially. Playing for a program with the ups and downs that the Browns have probably wouldn’t be the best fit for him. Additionally, schematically there are better options.

 Terrance Knighton (Broncos)

A better option schematically. Knighton is one of the top nose tackles in the league  and is stellar against the run. After housing the worst run defense in the NFL in  2014, the Browns need to focus on picking up a run-stuffing tackle more than a pass-  rushing one, and Knighton would be a great option.

 Dan Williams (Cardinals)

Another great option, and one that might come slightly cheaper than Knighton. He  has gotten better every year that he has been in the NFL, is just hitting his prime,  and seems to be the kind of high value signing that Farmer likes to try to make. I  could see the Browns spending a few dollars to bring him in.

 BJ Raji (Packers)

Although he hasn’t really been effective since 2011, he is a player that is talented  enough that he could bounce back. If he does, he could be a bargain.

Barry Cofield (Redskins)

At 30, he is past his prime and is coming off an injury-plagued season. Nonetheless, he is still one of the better run stuffers in the NFL. Also, having grown up in Cleveland Heights, he may be interested in coming home.

Stephen Paea (Bears), Henry Melton (Cowboys), Kendall Langford (Rams)

While all talented, they are more pass-oriented linemen. None would be a great fit in Cleveland.

Kendrick Ellis (Jets)

He has worked with Pettine before, and thus might be inclined to come play for him again. He would probably serve in a backup’s role as he never has really had a large impact in the NFL.

Tight End

If the Browns are going to spend heavy money anywhere during free agency, it will be here. With Jordan Cameron out due to concussion issues and only Gary Barnidge, Jim Dray, and Andre Smith on the roster, the Browns need to pickup a high impact player who can spark their offense and give them a reliable option in the middle of the field.

Julius Thomas (Broncos)

He is one of the top 3 tight ends in the NFL and, at 26, is in his prime. It is unusual for a player of his caliber to hit the open market, and as a result he will demand big bucks. He has had some ankle issues over the past year or so, but still creates absurd mismatches over the middle. He isn’t the best blocker though, so he might be better suited for a more pass-oriented offense.

Virgil Green (Broncos)

Thomas’s sooon-to-be-former teammate is also set to hit the open market, although the Broncos seem to be trying to keep him in the Mile High City. He’s a decent enough blocker, is athletic enough to make an impact, and could come on the cheaper side due to his limited playtime and experience.

Rob Housler (Cardinals)

 Personally, I think that he is the most exciting tight end available this year. At 6’5″  and 250 lbs, he can run a 4.46 second 40. So basically he’s a freak athletically who is  going to emerge over the next two years to become one of the top 5 tight ends in the  NFL. Underutilization in Arizona due to his poor ability to block stymied his  development a little bit, but used in tandem with a better-blocking tight end such as  Jim Dray, I think Housler could be a very effective option.

 Jermaine Gresham (Bengals)

On the other end of the spectrum, Gresham is just about the blandest option at this  position. He has always been alright, but never special. Unfortunately, he has been  linked to the Browns more than any other tight end this offseason.

Pass Rusher (OLB/DE)

With Jabaal Sheard‘s likely departure, the Browns need to secure themselves a new outside linebacker. Pettine wouldn’t be too opposed to bringing in a strong pass-rushing defensive end as well, and there are plenty of options on both fronts.

Trent Cole (Eagles)

Although he is on the older side, he has the versatility to serve as a DE or an OLB in the Browns system. He still is a solid player, although he would only be able to contribute for a couple of years. He visited the Browns this weekend, so a deal may be in the works.

Jerry Hughes (Bills)

A soon-to-be-former member of the talented Bills defensive line, he has been overshadowed by his teammates. Despite that though, he has still racked up 10 sacks a year over the last couple, and he might could be interested in a reunion with his old boss.

Brian Orakpo (Redskins)

His career has been marred with injuries, but when he is healthy he is still one of the better players at his position. His injury history could make him a bit cheaper, but he is definitely a risky signing. High reward is everything works out though.

Brandon Graham (Eagles)

At 26, he is just entering his prime. He has shown that he can be an effective pass rusher when utilized, racking up 5.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles last season for the Eagles. His ability to create turnovers makes him an enticing option that Farmer and Pettine might be drawn to.

Pernell McPhee (Ravens)

The highest-rated outside linebacker available this year, he racked up 7.5 sacks in limited (540) snaps last season. Although there is a risk that he is simply a product of the system, he has shown an immense amount of talent and his just entering his prime. I think that he would be a high-impact player for the Browns, although he may take a season or so to fully develop into an effective player in the Browns system. Nonetheless, the combination of him and Paul Kruger (or Barkevious Mingo if he finally breaks out) has the potential to be rather lethal.

Quarterback

I still would like to see Hoyer remain in Cleveland, but with the Josh McCown signing that is unlikely. That, unfortunately, means that the Browns have no starting-caliber quarterbacks on their roster. So that will be fun…    There is still the possibility that the Browns sign another signal caller in free agency, and they will no doubt take a quarterback at some point in the Draft, but I honestly cannot really tell what Pettine is planning here.

Offensive Line

The right side of the line is not the strongest, and I would love to see someone like Bryan Bulaga come in and take over for Mitchell Schwartz. Pettine, however, has suggested that he doesn’t see a huge need to upgrade the position, so don’t be expecting to see any big signings in this department. A few depth-oriented signings could be made here, definitely at the center position.

…And that’s about it folks. There will no doubt be players signed that I didn’t cover here, since that is just how the NFL works. However, above are lists of some of the better options in the areas where the Browns most need help. Hopefully Farmer can repeat the success that he had last offseason, when he made a number of smart signings that didn’t break the bank. I guess we will see soon…

Top Ten Terps From BCS Era in NFL

With the BCS era of college football in the rear-view-mirror (phew), I wanted to take a look back at the past decade and a half of Maryland football. As with any Division I college, many players had posted statistically outstanding seasons, had a memorable record-setting game, or made a defining play that will forever be associated with that player and school. However, I decided to direct my focus toward Terrapin success not in college, but at the next level.  I accordingly devised a list of the top ten players who once donned the red, black, and gold during the BCS era and found some level of success in the National Football League. I concentrated exclusively on the professional career of the player as opposed to the collegiate career. Individual productivity and accolades were balanced with longevity and the potential for future NFL success.
10. Madieu Williams, FS – The Terrapin defensive back was taken in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He started in 13 games his rookie year at safety and finished the season with 103 tackles and three interceptions. He was a solid contributor for the Bengals during his four seasons with the franchise, recording nearly six tackles per game and serving primarily as their starting free safety until he signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2008. Williams filled the same starting role with the Vikings from 2008-2010, recording close to five tackles per contest. After a stint with the 49ers in 2011 in which he did not see much playing time, he started all 16 games for the Washington Redskins in 2012. His nine-year NFL career spent primarily as a starter in the league sneaks Williams into the top ten.
9. Eric Barton, LB – Taken in the fifth round of the ’99 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, Barton had his breakout year in 2002 when he recorded six sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles, and 125 tackles (95 solo). Barton’s solid career continued through the 2004 season when he signed with the New York Jets as a free agent. From ’04 – ’08 Barton started 64 games at inside linebacker for the Jets and continued his steady production. Excluding time missed due to injury, he averaged 99 tackles and 2.5 sacks per season during his time in New York. Barton signed with the Browns prior to the 2009 season and played in Cleveland for two years. The 146th pick in 1999 proved to be a bargain and produced a very reputable 12-year NFL career.
8. LaMont Jordan, RB – Jordan gained national recognition in 1999 when he was named All-ACC First Team, broke the single-season rushing record at Maryland, and was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award. Jordan went to the Jets in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft but spent most of his time in New York stuck in the shadow of future Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin. Jordan did manage to produce when he saw action, averaging nearly five yards per carry and two touchdowns per season from 2001 – 2004. Jordan signed with the Oakland Raiders for the 2005 season and had a breakout year. Starting in 14 games for the Raiders in ’05, Jordan eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau, led all NFL running backs with 70 receptions, and scored 11 touchdowns (nine rushing). After a couple more seasons in Oakland mostly spent dealing with injuries, Jordan had a cup of coffee with the Patriots and Broncos in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Had Jordan been drafted by an NFL team with an immediate need for a starting running back and stayed healthy once he became a starter, he very well could have had several more seasons like 2005.
7. Shawne Merriman, OLB – I know, I mentioned that NFL longevity was taken into account. But what Shawne Merriman accomplished his first three NFL seasons was nothing short of remarkable. I also know that his production was tainted due to allegations and suspensions relating to steroid use. But this list is based on statistics, not morality or legality.
The outside linebacker was taken by the San Diego Chargers with the 12th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, and made his impact (pun intended) felt in the NFL immediately. He recorded six sacks through the first four games of his professional career. He finished the year with 10 sacks and 57 tackles, and was awarded Defensive Rookie of the Year along with being named to the Pro Bowl. Things took a darker turn for Merriman in the offseason, as reports of steroid use surfaced. Merriman served a four-game suspension to start the 2006 season, but still managed to have an outstanding season (17 sacks, four forced fumbles, 62 tackles). He finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting and was named to his second Pro Bowl. Merriman’s 2007 campaign was statistically the same story: 12.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 68 tackles, and a third Pro Bowl nod in three years. He missed almost all of the 2008 season due to injuries and this proved to be the beginning of the end of his NFL career, as he appeared in only 33 games for the Chargers and Buffalo Bills between 2008 – 2012. It’s difficult to say just how much of Merriman’s early production was due to artificial assistance, but had he been able to stay healthy he would likely be number one on this list by a substantial margin statistically speaking.
Not at all relevant to his playing career or the scope of this article, some of Merriman’s off-field headlines are quite intriguing, even aside from the Tila Tequila lawsuit. Earlier this year it was reported that the former Terps standout had joined the WWE in some capacity.
During his NFL days, Merriman made famous his “Lights Out” post-big-play dance. The light certainly seems to be out now.
6. D’Qwell Jackson, LB – The Terrapin linebacker was named First-team All-American and First-team All-ACC in 2004 and 2005, and was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. He was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft and started 13 games at right inside linebacker in his rookie season. Jackson put up impressive numbers his first three years in the league, averaging 116 tackles (77 solo) per season. In 2009 he suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him though the 2010 season. Jackson returned from the injury in 2011 and posted a monster season, his best statistically to date. The linebacker started all 16 games for the Browns and recorded 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, and 158 tackles (116 solo). Jackson started every game the past three seasons for the Browns and produced solid numbers. He was released earlier this year and has since signed a four-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts.

D'Qwell_Jackson

Jackson was one of few bright spots for a team that generally struggled to find itself in the win column for the past decade, and there is no reason to believe his NFL success will not continue in Indianapolis.
5. Randy Starks, DT – After three standout years at Maryland (202 tackles and 17.5 sacks), Randy Starks decided to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL Draft in 2004. The defensive tackle was taken in the third round by the Tennessee Titans and saw time in 14 games his rookie year, starting eight. He became a full-time starter in his second year and recorded 47 tackles and three sacks. Starks started only 16 total games over the next three seasons with Tennessee and Miami, but it seems his NFL career has taken off since 2009. The former Terrapin started every game but three from 2009-2013, and averaged 4.5 sacks and nearly 40 tackles per season. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and 2012. Starks, now 30, should still have a few more productive years in the league.
4. Torrey Smith, WR – Smith decided to forgo his senior year at Maryland, entered the 2011 NFL Draft, and was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round. The speedy wide receiver hit the ground running (pun again intended) as a rookie in 2011. Smith turned in a breakout performance against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3 when he caught his first three NFL receptions in the first quarter. All three were touchdowns, including a 74-yard bomb from Joe Flacco. He finished the season with 50 receptions, 841 receiving yards, and seven scores. Smith posted eerily similar numbers in 2012, grabbing 49 passes for 855 yards and eight touchdowns en route to becoming a Super Bowl Champion. After Anquan Boldin was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a couple of used footballs prior to the 2013 season, Smith stepped into the #1 receiver role. Even with a Ravens offense that comically struggled to move the ball at times last year, Smith eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving mark (65 catches for 1,128 yards) and scored four touchdowns. Barring serious injury the sky is the limit for this all-around hometown success story.

Torrey_Smith_posing_with_the_Lombardi_Trophy

3. E.J. Henderson, LB – The two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year and Ed Block Courage Award winner was selected out of the University of Maryland by the Minnesota Vikings in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He was nationally recognized as the nation’s best linebacker and arguably the nation’s top defensive player overall. In his second NFL season, Henderson stepped into the starting role at linebacker and remained there for the majority of the next eight years. He spent his entire NFL career as a Viking and started 105 of the 125 games he played with the team. Henderson forced 12 fumbles and tallied 751 tackles over the span of his nine-year NFL career. The Terrapin linebacker was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2010 after recording 105 tackles, three interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. He averaged seven tackles per game started for his NFL career.
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E.J. Henderson had the unique opportunity to play alongside his younger brother Erin, who was also a standout linebacker at the University of Maryland. The brothers played together from 2008, when Erin was drafted by the Vikings, until E.J.’s retirement in 2011.
2. Kris Jenkins, DT – The Terrapin defensive tackle was drafted in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers and became a star by his second year in the league. He became a full-time starter that year, recorded seven sacks, 44 tackles, and earned his first of four trips to the Pro Bowl. He had similar production in 2003 (45 tackles and five sacks) and earned his second Pro Bowl nod while anchoring a defense that helped the Panthers reach the Super Bowl. After spending almost all of the ’04 and ’05 seasons on injured reserve, in 2006 Jenkins picked up right where he left off. He recorded 41 tackles, three sacks, and was selected to his third Pro Bowl. He spent the remaining three years of his career as a New York Jet and was elected to the Pro Bowl again in 2008 (50 tackles, 3.5 sacks). Had Jenkins been able to stay healthy in 2004 and 2005, he may very well have gone to five or six Pro Bowls in a seven-year span. His illustrious NFL career including four Pro Bowl selections is the best of any defensive player produced by the University of Maryland during the BCS era.
1. Vernon Davis, TE – “The Duke,” as he was known as during his college days, was drafted sixth overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. After three relatively quiet seasons in the league and a 2008 dispute with then head coach Mike Singletary that led to the coach’s infamous, “Cannot play with them, cannot win with them, cannot coach with them” post-game rant, the tight end broke out in a big way in 2009. He racked up 78 receptions for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns, tying the single-season record for most TDs by a tight end (a record broken by Rob Gronkowski in 2011). Davis was awarded his first of two Pro Bowl selections and became the highest-paid tight end in the league after the 2009 season . He followed up his head-turning 2009 season with solid efforts in each of the next four NFL seasons. He averaged 59 receptions, 814 receiving yards, and just under nine touchdowns per season from 2009 – 2013.
It needs to be mentioned that much of Davis’ success came with former 49er quarterback Alex Smith at the helm. While Smith seems to have turned himself into a formidable starter over the past few years, he’s not exactly Peyton Manning. But Davis quickly established himself as Smith’s most reliable target in 2009 and the two enhanced each other’s play. Other parts of the San Fran quarterbacking shuffle B.K. (before Kaepernick) included Trent Dilfer, Troy Smith, J.T. O’Sullivan, and former Terrapin quarterback Shaun Hill. Davis has produced some of the best numbers in the game at his position despite playing with a below-average quarterback most of his career.
With Colin Kaepernick behind center, Davis’ production has continued and looks to be on the rise. The former Terp earned his second trip to the Pro Bowl in 2013 after accounting for 850 receiving yards and matching his career-high in TD receptions, with 13. With Kaepernick locked up as the quarterback of the future, Davis’ individual success will continue and likely will include more selections to Pro Bowls and Fantasy Football teams for years to come.
 
While Maryland has produced few NFL superstars compared to other Division I schools over the past 15 years (hopefully this will change in years to come…coughStefonDiggscough…), many Terrapins produced during the BCS era have put together substantial and noteworthy NFL careers. Players like Kris Jenkins and E.J. Henderson have left significant marks in the NFL, while Torrey Smith and Vernon Davis will continue to pursue and achieve NFL stardom while adding to their legacies.
 
Other Notable Terrapin faces around the league:
Darius Heyward-Bey, WR – The Oakland Raiders shocked the football world when they took the Maryland wideout with the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft. The shock lasted only as long as it took to remember Al Davis was the owner of the Raiders. But the old man with diamond-studded eyeglass chain was impressed enough with Heyward-Bey’s college career and his 40-yard-dash time at the combine to make him a top-ten pick. He had a solid 2011 season (64 receptions, 975 receiving yards, four touchdowns), but has seen very little NFL success otherwise. The receiver recently signed with the Steelers after spending the 2013 season in Indy watching Andrew Luck make a star out of T.Y. Hilton.
Domonique Foxworth, CB – The former Terrapin cornerback was taken in the third round of the 2005 Draft and played in the NFL for six years with the Broncos, Falcons, and Ravens. Injuries shortened his playing career, but Foxworth pursued other career avenues. He replaced the jersey with a suit and tie when he became the president of the NFL Players Association from 2012 – March 2014.
Josh Wilson, CB – Drafted by the Seahawks in 2007, Wilson started 12 games in ’08 and made 76 tackles and a career-high four interceptions. He started nine games with the Ravens in 2010, and started every game at cornerback with the Redskins from 2011-13. He recorded 76 tackles per season during his time with Washington. Wilson has signed with the Atlanta Falcons for the 2014 season.
Jon Condo, LS – The long-snapper of the Oakland Raiders since 2007 is a two-time Pro Bowler (’09, ’11).
Nick Novak, K – Went undrafted and bounced around the league from 2005 – 2008, but seems to have found a home in San Diego with the Chargers. Novak has made 79 field goals over the past three years with a success rate of 86.8%.
Adam Podlesh, P – Drafted in the fourth round in 2007 by Jacksonville, Podlesh served as the Jaguars’ punter from 2007-10 (so he was used quite a bit), for the Chicago Bears from 2011-13, and has signed with Pittsburgh for the 2014 season. Punters are people too.

Three Things I Know About the NFL After Week 3

First thing’s first; I got crushed in AHTP Pick’em League. I was near the top of the league after two weeks and fell all the way to 12th place. As completely unacceptable as I find that fact, I’m not really very broken up about having a terrible week. I figure if the Browns can have 13 terrible weeks every season, I can get away with an early hiccup.

Torrey Smith is My New Favorite Player

Just before midnight on Saturday night, Tevin Jones’ Yamaha motorcycle veered off of a Virginia country road and hit a utility pole. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Jones was 19 years old.

For those who may not know, Tevin Jones is also Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith’s little brother. I have a little brother. I cannot imagine what Sunday morning and afternoon was like for Smith. Finding out that your brother is gone. Leaving the team hotel to drive to Virginia to be with your family in the wake of such an unimaginable tragedy. Then deciding to make the trek back to Baltimore to play in a football game.

I know there are those out there that think Smith’s decision to play that game was the wrong one. That being with family and focusing on the grieving process is the only acceptable way to deal with what happened. I think Smith made the right decision, and not because the Ravens pulled out a victory or because he led the comeback against the Patriots by making big plays all night. I think Torrey Smith made the right decision because it was his decision.

And, for what it’s worth, I find comfort in the fact that there are men who find motivation, perseverance, and peace in the responsibilities that they bear in the name of their team. It doesn’t matter if the team plays on a football field, baseball diamond, battlefield, or boardroom, teams can heal better than anything except time.

Teams bond through work and competition. Teams celebrate together, commiserate together, and – when life makes it necessary – teams grieve together. I have no doubt that by the time you read this, Torrey Smith will be back with his family in Virginia helping them begin the most difficult journey of their lives – right where he belongs.

Just like he belonged in Baltimore Sunday night.

Bill Belichick is a Liar

I know this news is shocking, but we finally have proof!

The proof is in a statement he made during his Monday press conference:

“From the sideline I saw the ball go pretty close to the upright. I couldn’t obviously tell from where I was at where exactly it went,” Belichick said in a statement at the beginning of his Monday news conference. “But I saw players waving that it was no good, then I saw the officials giving the signal that it was good, and I just wasn’t sure from where I was standing whether the ball, when it went over the crossbar, was above the upright or in between or not in between the upright.

“So by rule, if the ball isn’t over the crossbar, and it’s either inside or outside of the upright, that’s reviewable. If it’s over the crossbar, over the top of the upright rather, then it’s not reviewable. I couldn’t tell, from my angle, when the ball crossed the crossbar, where it was. So I didn’t know whether or not that play was going to be under review or whether it wasn’t.

“So when the game was over, I went out and I was really looking for an explanation from the officials as to whether or not the play was under review. I did try to get the official’s attention as he was coming off the field to ask that, but I really wasn’t able to do that.”

It’s the last sentence that strikes my suspension. Belichick said,“I did try to get the official’s attention as he was coming off the field to ask that, but I really wasn’t able to do that.” But what Belichick meant was, “GET BACK HERE BEFORE I GO TELL Ray Lewis THAT I HEARD YOU CALL HIM A MURDERER, YOU BLIND #@#&$# @(#*$!!”

I had no rooting interest in that matchup between the Ravens and Patriots. It was a great game that was continuously marred by the referees inability to control the proceedings, the game ending field goal was only a microcosm of what went on Sunday night. Hell, it’s a microcosm of what’s been going on since the beginning of this preseason.

I’m not sure if that field goal was good. I’m not sure if the referee underneath the right upright is sure if that field goal was good. (I’d be more confident, but he didn’t make the call until he looked around) I’m not sure if reviewing that call would have changed anything. I AM sure that a group of referees that were in control of the game, there wouldn’t be any drama about a coach having to explain himself for grabbing a ref.

Belichick is hated by lots of fans for lots of reasons, but I’m giving him a pass for this. Roger Goodell might not, but there’s a chance that he’ll be too busy fining Ryan Mundy. (I’m not even going to apologize for the gratuitous Steelers joke)

This is a Good Season for Bad Football

This season has already been a crap shoot, and I’m not just saying that because of my bad picks week.

The Packers just spent the first half getting shut out in the first half (No, I’m not going to still be writing when the game is over. Also, the Seahawks are 15-17 at home since 2008, so let’s stop pretending Seattle is such a gigantic Hell for opposing teams) and the supposedly dominant 49ers got smooshed by the allegedly terrible Vikings.

Not that the only good teams in the NFL come from Green Bay or San Francisco, but these performances have me convinced that we’re going to see more of what the New York Giants did last season; winning their division with 9 wins and making a surprising playoff run.

I crunched a ton of numbers, looked at all the score differentials, and even checked the first three weeks of the last couple of NFL seasons. What I found is that this year really isn’t some gigantic anomaly. Sure, it’s less top and bottom heavy than lots of seasons, but there isn’t enough “proof” to run around all willy-nilly and yell about the sky falling.

The truth is I’ve watched a lot of football so far this season, and after some poor week three performances, I’m just not sold on greatness coming from anywhere. Sure, there will be great players and plays, but where are the great teams?  Nowhere, really. Someone will probably piece together a record that looks great relative to the rest of the league, but there won’t be any transcendent squads showing up in 2012.

Why? Half parity and half replacement refs is my guess. It’s harder to be smarter than everyone else in this generation of football executives (but pretty easy to be the dumbest guys in the room, to which Cleveland fans can attest) and the refs are stunting every momentum change with bad flags or no flags. There are currently three undefeated teams; the Texans, Falcons, and Cardinals. Houston and Atlanta have a shot at being very good, but it’s conceivable that Arizona won’t even make the playoffs.

The NFL is slowly taking on the character of the rest of the professional sports leagues;  I’ve decided just to sit back and watch the upsets and choke jobs roll in on the tide; discontent, excuses, and terrible decisions playing the role of driftwood and seaweed.