Friday, February 21, 2014

Free Agent Breakdown - Defensive Ends/OLB's

The NFL has been redefined by the spread offense and quarterbacks who aren't afraid to put the ball in the air.  To quote G n’ R, throwing for 300 yards is so effing easy.  Because of this, defensive end/outside linebacker has become one of the most important positions in the league.  The Defensive end class of 2014 is one of the deeper position in free agency this season, which is highlighted by a few Super Bowl winners, a couple Pro-Bowlers and some serious young talent.  I evaluated six guys on their potential skillset helping the Washington Redskins vs. how much yellow they will line their pockets with.     

One of the glaring deficiencies in the Redskins defense was their ability to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  Addressing this issue in the right way would be a very bold step in the right direction towards fixing our seemingly unfixable defensive personnel issues.  Though Bruce Allen will be meeting with Brian Orakpo’s agent, it’s no given that’s the direction the team truly want’s to go.  Also, don’t expect the Skins to give the hometown payout.   They will evaluate him for exactly what he is worth.  If Orakpo’s payout number is unreasonable, he won’t be the answer in free agency If we don’t pay 98, a bad ass defensive could work as well or better for the Redskins than an outside linebacker. 

The idea of a 3-4 defense has convinced many ‘Skins fans that we must acquire an outside linebacker to fill the position that Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan play. (OLB)  This is just not the case.  If you were to calculate the percentage that the Redskins had 3-4 personnel on the field you would be amazed; it’s 38%.  The Redskins spent the other 62% of games in nickel or dime personnel groupings,  which means the defense is in a 4-2 front.  This is four down lineman with 2 linebackers behind them. Essentially it’s the offensive personnel that dictates what defense is on the field; just because you run a 3-4 scheme doesn’t mean you line up in it every play. (In the picture below the OLB's on the left would assume the E position on the right.)

Look around the league and you see more and more guys who can make the transition back and forth between rush end and leverage playing 3-4 outside linebacker.  The NFL game is all about comparisons and a great one for this situation would be Demarcus Ware.  Ware came out of Troy St. as a stout, can do it all defensive end.  As a stud athlete it took Ware no time to become one of the most effective OLB’s in the NFL. Ware, at one point was at one point voted the best player in football by his peers.  While it has been nearly impossible for teams to run the ball at his side, 94 established his self as one of the most elite pass rushers of all time playing in the 3-4.  He is a defensive end, playing linebacker. 

The solution to the most important position on the Redskins defense might very well be paying a very good defensive end much less money than Orakpo simply because he is not considered the TOP free agent at his position.  The Skins could also pay a great defensive end close to the same about as they would pay Orakpo and conceivably get better results in the pass rush.
Regardless, it seems to me the more options you have in free agency, the less you bend over negotiating with players.  

Lets get to it! Drumroll..... Here are my top picks.

5. Shaun Phillips 
Denver Broncos #90 
Phillips is 32 year old defensive end who took a contract of a million dollars last year.  He was a one year fix for the Broncos last season and would likely be a one to two year solution somewhere else this year for the same price.  
What I love
- 10 sacks for last year and has multiple ten sack seasons.                                  
-He is versatile and transition easily from 3-4 backer to end.  Thrived        
 3-4 scheme in San Diego. He also plays the run better from the leverage of the 3-4
-He would be cheap and effective.  I'd pay 1 to 2 million a season.
What I hate
-Seems to lack play awareness and gets caught up watching the ball.  Easily misses bootleg looks. 
-He's aging and would by no means create any long term solution.  

4. Michael Johnson
Cincinnati Bengals 93

Johnson is a huge potential guy out of Georgia Tech who underachieved in 2013.  His sack total dropped from 11.5 to 3.5 after being franchise tagged by the Bengals.  This stat alone is going to hurt his top end money in free agency, possibly making him relevent in the Skins search for a pass rusher.  I see Johnson as a consistant double digit sack guy for a long time.  
What I love 
-Super quick burst off the ball 
-Long arms gives him the ability to lock out tackles and tight ends in the run game.  
-Super quick feet combined with a nasty rip move makes him tough to block on the back side of plays.
-Great block shedding ability.  Uses his hands well and rarely ends plays with someone on him. 
-Solid pass rush moves including a double hand swat, a shoulder pulling swim move and a useful speed rush. 
-With his speed and length could easily make the transition to being a top 3-4 backer
What I hate 
-Get's displaced at times on the front side of run plays, especially against double teams. 
-Can give up his chest while trying to work pass rush moves
-Gets himself too far up the field while rushing the passer and takes himself out of a lot of rushes. 

3. Anthony Spencer
Dallas Cowboys #93 
I played against Spencer for a bunch of years and would assure anyone that when healthy, he is the real deal.  He gets the Robin to Batman comparison because he has played next Demarcus Ware in Dallas, but Spencer could kick the shit out of Robin.  Spencer is a true 3-4 OLB and would instantly fit in a Jim Haslett defense
What I love 
-Comes across as a guy that understands the game and what offenses are trying to do to him.  He is as much of a football player as an athlete
-He has a physical, high motor, beat the hell out of guys mentality.  He was much more physical than Demarcus Ware and players had to bring their "big boy pads" when blocking him.  
-Knows how to take on run schemes at the point of attack and is silly, elusive on the backside of plays. 
-Has a great mix of power to speed as a pass rusher and could scare the shit out of tackles when a rusher.  
-Can actually drop into pass coverage on early downs and be effective 
-An IR season usually means his market value drastically drops.  I would pay somewhere around 5 million a year in a two year contract. 
What I hate
-Um... Micro-fracture surgery is a huge deal.  Considered a 50-50 proposition to be truly healthy again.
-Can be predictable as far as his moves.  I remember writing that any time he was on my right side he would attempt to cross my face with a quick up and under.  When on my left side he would never do this, instead try to bull into me, seldom working moves. 
-He's a Cowboy.  Maybe a minus, maybe a plus if we convert him to a 'Skin. 

2. Lamar Houston
Oakland Raider #99
Houston played as a defensive end in Oakland, but very rarely put his hand in the ground.  Seems much more comfortable in a two point stance, which would make for an easy transition to OLB.  He's a 300 pounder that plays with serious quick's, but would be unbelievable as an OLB at 275.  I'd bet he's looking for a contract that he wont get from Oakland and will take around 8 million a year from someone else.  If it's Washington, he would be cheaper that Orakpo and just as much as a player.  Not to shabbies.  
What I love
-Best run stopper available.  Ask Logan Paulson how tough this guy is to block on the front side of plays.  
-Works a ton of moves in the pass game including a Dwight Freeny ninja spin.  Bad ass with a bull rush and plays with hat under hat leverage at all times.  
-Sick up and under move coming off a speed type rush.  He has the ability to stick his foot in the ground and instantly burst.  
-Can move around the line of scrimmage pre snap with ease and could play multiple positions. 
-Great attitude.  Guy who plays like he loves the game.  
What I hate
-Would need to gain a little speed/quickness to become a truly elite pass rusher.  i.e./ Lose a little weight. 
-If I was Oakland I would want this guy back, buy maybe they offer Orakpo more since he just destroys silver and black QB's. 

1. Michael Bennett
Seattle Seahawks #72 

Go get this guy!  Yea, there will be a bunch of teams on the table for him after his post season, but his combination of power to speed is as good as anyone in the league.  He rotated around up front for Seattle this season and didn't play every down, tho when he did he was extremely effective.  As good or better than any player in the league at pressure per attempt according to pro football focus.  
What I love
-Considered one of the best run stoppers in the game coming out of Tampa Bay.  The dude straight get's it done in the run game.  
-Multitude of moves in pass rush with an awesome mix of power and finesse.  
-Played his best games under pressure.  
-Will be the best available talent for the price at this position this offseason.
-Bennett on the home town discount.  "This ins't Costco, this isn't Wal-Mart, this is real life."  Seattle cant pay him and they're going to miss out.  Thing is, Bennett isn't going to get what he is really worth. Look for this 28 year old baller to sign for somewhere around eight million a season.  Less than he is worth for what I fell is a pretty sure bet
What I hate
-Not signing Bennett

Go Nuts Pick up : Greg Hardy 
Carolina Panthers #76
This would be my #1, #1.  He is without question the best player at the position last season. (15 sacks) Not the best free agent DE, the best DE.  The only reason I bring this up is that if the skins want to even consider paying Orakpo upwards of 12 million dollars a season, then just pay the best 15 million a season.  If I were going to spend 80,000 on a Porsche for its performance than why wouldn’t I just spend the extra 20k to get GTS?  The whole Hardy thing is unlikely because the Redskins overspending past, but I ask?  Can you let your fears decide your fate. 

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Jesus Chris do they listen to you in the front office because they should everything I've read and heard from you has been spot on. Keep it up brother. Hail

This is great Chris! Whens the rest of the FA breakdown coming!? Love hearing your insight.

Could you do a write up like this for all positions of need for the skins? That would be awesome!

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