In a two part column, Assistant Staff Writer Mike Donnelly rates the NFL Offseason using a Richter Scale system. Be sure to check back Friday for Part II. – CG
While lying in bed and flipping through the channels the other night, I came across a Discovery Channel show about earthquakes (not the wrestler, unfortunately) and put the remote down. I was fascinated not so much by the earthquakes themselves, but by the tool they use to measure them: The Richter Scale. I think it’s great how they can measure any earthquake anywhere at any time and determine which ones were bigger than the others and give a definitive answer based on a 1-10 scale. Then a thought hit me: Wouldn’t it be great if we could measure everything in life and have an accurate ruling? And more importantly, how can I relate this to football? I’ve been meaning to put together an offseason review, so let’s go ahead and combine the two. I present the 2012 NFL Offseason Review, as graded by the Richter Scale.
(Please note I’ll be giving you the breakdowns of the real Richter Scale descriptions and the magnitude–or score–of each offseason move in it’s respective category)
Magnitude: -2.0 – 0 – “Laughable” (Yeah, I made this one up, but it’s surely worth mentioning)
-2.0 – Rams Hire Brian Schottenheimer as Offensive Coordinator – I can’t wait to watch Sam Bradford work with former Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer this year and keep tabs on all the “Is Sam Bradford a bust?” stories that will inevitably be coming out. Just wait, Rams fans, just you wait. And fantasy football players out there, stay clear of this train wreck. You’ll thank me later. Now let’s move on.
Magnitude: 0 – 1.9 – “Micro” (Not felt)
0.1 – Lee Evans signs with the Jaguars – There are a ton of free agent signings you can put in this “micro” category, but this is my favorite one. Not because it’s a good signing or anything (it’s not), but how is Lee Evans still getting work? For years people said “If Lee Evans just had a good QB throwing to him..” Well, it turns out, Lee Evans just isn’t that good, and his final year in the league will be spent having Blaine Gabbert skip passes to him. At least the lasting memory of him won’t be that of dropping a touchdown in the final seconds of a playoff game that could have sent the Ravens to the Super Bowl or anything. Oh wait, yes it will.
Magnitude: 2 – 3.9 – “Minor” (Barely felt, causes no damage)
2.2 – Brandon Jacobs signs with the 49ers – At this point Jacobs is more known for what he does off the field with his big mouth and delusions of being a professional racecar driver than for what he does on the field. I guess that makes sense, since what he does on the field these days is, well, nothing.
3.5 – Hines Ward and Matt Light retire - I bunched these two together because their situations are so similar: Once-great players who spent their entire careers winning with one franchise, whose play slipped dramatically seemingly overnight. Hines Ward became an afterthought in the Steelers offense last year, and Light was on the verge of being replaced by 2011 rookie Nate Solder anyway. Enjoy retirement, fellas.
Magnitude: 4 – 4.9 – “Light” (Noticeable, but no significant damage)
4.0 – Aaron Ross signs with Jaguars for $15 million - And that’s over three years! For Aaron Ross to deserve $15 million, the contract should span about 30 years, give or take a few. This doesn’t register a 4.0 because of Ross’s play on the field (that would be in the 1.5 range), but rather because of the impact it will have around the league. If Ross is worth $5 million a year, what is someone like Darrelle Revis worth? On a side note, New York fans everywhere are laughing at the Jaguars for signing Drew Coleman and Aaron Ross in back-to-back offseasons. Do some of these teams not have scouts?
4.1 – Ryan Tannehill and Joe Philbin are the new faces of the Dolphins - And you wonder why Dolphins fans stage rallies and protests outside the stadium to get GM Jeff Ireland fired? Tannehill went #8 overall! Really?! He’s likely to become the 73rd (or maybe it just seems that high?) quarterback to come in and fail since Dan Marino’s retirement. At least this is a better option than David Garrard, right Dolphins fans? Right? Ok, maybe not..
4.2 – Giants get Keith Rivers for a 5th round pick - A total win-win move for the Giants here. If Rivers stays healthy–which is a big if–they get a guy who was a top-10 pick just four years ago and has played well in his limited action between injuries. If he gets hurt again, it was still a worthwhile gamble for a team that is very thin at linebacker and they only lose a 5th rounder. Moves like this are why Jerry Reese is considered one of the best GM’s in the NFL.
4.4 – Falcons get Asante Samuel for a 7th round pick - Samuel is a limited cornerback, but he’s very good at what he does, which is cover people on the outside. The Falcons clearly need some help in the back end of their defense, and a 7th round pick is practically nothing to give up. Unfortunately for Atlanta, they have far bigger problems to deal with than their #2 cornerback situation–like figuring out why their quarterback hyperventilates and wets himself in the playoffs, for example.
4.5 – Alex Smith gets upset with 49ers, signs 3-year contract anyway - The 49ers were clearly not too concerned with Alex Smith getting any big offers elsewhere. They sniffed around Peyton Manning, evaluated all their options, then figured they’d bring Smith back short-term and just look to replace him again next year. After watching his comical performance down the stretch against the Giants in the NFC Championship last year, I can see why they weren’t so eager to bring him back right away. I mean you could actually see the fear on his face as he fired passes directly into the turf 4 yards ahead of him. But still, a Super Bowl favorite signing their starting QB is going to cause some ripples, any way you slice it.
4.6 – Laron Landry signs with the Jets - (And to a lesser extent Yeremiah Bell, plus the drafting of Josh Bush and Antonio Allen to overhaul the position) An argument can be made that this should register lower, but the homer in me says otherwise. If you’ve watched the Jets safeties play the last two seasons, you’d understand why this is such a big move. Landry has good size, great speed, can jam tight ends, and actually make tackles. It will be nice to see a Jets safety out there that doesn’t require a sun dial to time his 40 yard dash. If –and this is another big if — Landry can stay healthy, he can take the Jets defense from being “very good” back to being “dominant”.
4.8 – Randy Moss un-retires, signs with 49ers - I love that this happened. Randy Moss is one of the most dominant receivers of all time, and he will likely be playing with a major chip on his shoulder this year. That being said, he’s sulked and slouched his way through games and entire seasons when he wasn’t the focal point of the offense and catching highlight reel touchdowns. Now he’s on the run-first, run-second 49ers. Should be interesting. I’m prepared for anything.
Magnitude: 5 – 5.9 – “Moderate” (Can cause slight to major damage)
5.0 – Bucs spend big for Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, Eric Wright - Another example of teams perhaps over-spending on free agents, but all three of these guys can help Tampa win. They likely won’t compete for the division title this year, but the signings of Jackson and Nicks will go a long way towards helping quarterback Josh Freeman progress into the franchise signal-caller they hope he can be. Plus, Tampa now has to be considered a potential target for big-time free agents. Hey, Greg Schiano always was a pretty good recruiter.
5.1 – Matt Flynn signs with Seahawks – I don’t necessarily think Flynn is going to turn into a star or anything, but how he plays these next few years will have a lot of impact on how much money future backups-hoping-to-be-staters can get in coming years, which is a pretty major thought. The last two high profile quarterbacks in that category, Matt Cassell and Kevin Kolb, have largely flopped, so let’s see if Flynn can buck the trend. Oh, and his performance will likely be the determining factor in whether or not Pete Carroll gets fired. No pressure. On the bright side, it sure beats having Charlie Whitehurst and Tavaris Jackson run the show.
5.3 – Patriots sign non-washed up veteran (Brandon Lloyd) and trade UP in draft- Whoa, talk about bucking some trends. The Patriots, for the first time in many years, sign a veteran player who is actually kind of in the prime of his career and can help Tom Brady on the field (Sorry, Ochocinco). Not only that, after years of trading down in the draft for future picks and taking project players, they shocked everyone and surprisingly took two defensive players with high ceilings that can come in and help their porous defense from day 1. Times, they are a-changin’! (Well, not changing that much. The Patriots are still going to be awesome. Also, Belichick couldn’t help himself and signed Joseph Addai. The washed up veteran signing streak lives.)
5.4 – Cowboys and Eagles bolster their defenses- I lumped these two together as well, because their moves are so similar. Both these NFC East contenders knew they had to do something about their defenses to compete against one another and the Giants this year, so they did. The Cowboys last year appeared to be running a charity on the field for opposing quarterbacks with their terrible secondary. To amend that problem, they signed CB Brandon Carr for big money and traded up in the draft for Morris Claiborne. On the flip side, the Eagles had no problems defending the pass, but their defensive front allowed holes big enough for trucks to drive though. So Andy Reid wised up and traded for run-stuffing Middle Linebacker DeMeco Ryans, and traded up for DT Fletcher Cox. Mission accomplished. The NFC East is going to be tough this year.
5.9 – Bears acquire Brandon Marshall and Michael Bush- After years and years of failing to provide Jay Cutler a solid NFL-calibre WR to work with, the Bears mercifully went out and got Cutler’s favorite receiver to play with, Brandon Marshall, for just two 3rd-round draft picks. How did they get an elite talent for so little? Well, other than Jeff Ireland being an idiot, it’s probably because Marshall allegedly assaulted yet another woman–this time in a bar–and might spend some time in prison. Should he avoid the slammer, Marshall gives them a legitimate receiving threat, while Bush will provide an excellent inside runner to pair with Matt Forte, who is coming off knee surgery.