The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

Zubaz pants still exist Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Players report to camp on Wednesday, with practices beginning the day after that. The team's annual scrimmage at SAF@MH is less than two weeks away (Saturday, August 4), and presumably this time the starting QB won't be booed.

In a preview of training camp, the DP writers label the secondary as Denver's biggest question mark. But with four starter-quality corners in Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter, Drayton Florence, and Chris Harris, and rookie Omar Bolden getting the opportunity to learn from all of them, we'll call the front seven a much greater concern.

After the team got zero sacks from its starting tackles in 2011, will Justin Bannan (only 31 pressures in three seasons according to PFF) and Ty Warren (hasn't played since 2009) provide anything in the pass rush? Is Joe Mays really a starting Mike linebacker (highest stop rate among inside backers, but also the most missed tackles in 2011)? Will Wesley Woodyard hold up well if he's called on to start six games in place of D.J. Williams? What if D.J. is suspended longer after his DUI trial concludes? If he's cut?

It's just about time to start finding out.

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Bruce Smith sues league, Emmitt says he lied to team docs Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The Chargers released guard Kris Dielman from their reserve-retired list yesterday, which prompted some puzzling rumors the 31-year-old was considering a return to play.

Instead, the move is more likely a precursor to legal action from Dielman against the Chargers and the NFL for their disastrous handling of his concussion last season.

Dielman had suffered a head injury during the fourth quarter of an October matchup with the Jets, but remained in the game despite showing signs of a concussion. Following the game, team personnel determined him fit to fly cross-country, even though air travel is thought to worsen post-concussive symptoms. Frighteningly, Dielman suffered a grand mal seizure during the flight and was later hospitalized.

Of course, we can talk all we want about personal responsibility, but does anyone want to suggest that Dielman was in any condition to determine whether it was a good idea for him to get on a plane that evening?

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Kerry Byrne is still a statistical hack Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! I don't bother linking to Kerry Byrne anymore because the guy is a statistical hack, and his latest column is no exception. But it also mentions the 1998 Broncos, so I figured why not take a closer peek.

I should have resisted the urge, because it gets ugly, and fast.

As expected, the whole thing is a joke, because Byrne tries to make the case that in 1998, the SB 33-losing Chris Chandler had the best year that any QB had had in 42 seasons. Yeah, better than seasons by Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Steve Young. The guy completed 58.1% of his passes with a very high INT rate of 3.7%, and it's a historically peerless season?

Not quite. As usual, the problem with Byrne is that he picks a stat, declares it to be the best, and then claims it to prove everything thereafter. In this case Yards Per Attempt is his obsession. And yes, it's a good stat - as we always note, rate stats are far better than counting stats. But as we've also discussed plenty of times, there are better QB rate stats than YPA, including AY/A, NY/A and ANY/A, all from PFR. These figures all correlate better to winning than does YPA.

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Franchise tag conceived for Elway Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! We've mentioned here of late that the NFL's franchise tagging system has been bastardized a bit. Intended originally to keep iconic stars with the teams they are identified with, it has instead functioned recently as a way for teams to hang onto their most important free agent each year.

Clearly, this should almost never be the punter or kicker. But as Albert Breer notes, eleven specialists have been among the 55 players tagged in just the past four years.

Of greater interest to us is that Breer says Denver's Pat Bowlen was the owner lobbying hardest for the franchise tag 20 years ago, for the selfish reason of wanting to ensure John Elway would remain a Bronco for eternity.

Which of course is ironic - in that Dan Reeves drafted twenty-year-old UCLA sophomore Tommy Maddox that spring to eventually replace Elway - passing over Carl Pickens at a time when the Duke needed a top WR in the worst of ways. Jimmy Smith was taken a few picks after Pickens, but I have no idea if he was a consideration for Denver in the first round. Can any of our Broncos historians out there recall what the speculation was back then?

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Broncos should sign Clady, but there’s no rush Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Mike Klis reports that contract negotiations between the Broncos and the representatives for LT Ryan Clady are rather far apart. Klis says a deal is unlikely to be done by the beginning of training camp next week, but there is no significance to such a timeline.

Clady is under contract for 2012 at a $3.5M salary ($4.918M cap number), and the team can certainly use its franchise tag on him following the season ($9.3M this year, likely a shade higher next year), and they could do so again the year after that, if necessary. Time is on Denver's side, and as we view it, they essentially have a year to lock Ryan up with a long-term contract.

Presumably both sides would like to get something done sooner than that, but there's really nothing freakout-worthy here. If Clady wants to make more than $3.5M this season (yes, he deserves it, even if he's not been playing as well as he did his first two years), then he'll probably have to agree to a deal within the next month and a half. But midseason extensions happen too, so there's always that.

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Rice, Forte get their scratch; others told to go scratch Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The deadline for teams to sign their franchise players to long-term deals was yesterday afternoon, and a few contracts got done just under the gun.

Baltimore did what they absolutely had to do, by signing running back Ray Rice to a five-year deal which includes $24M in guarantees and a total value of $35M. Incentives can potentially lift that number to $40M. Likewise, the Bears finally rewarded their runner/receiver, giving Matt Forte more than $17M in guarantees as part of a four-year, $32M deal.

But what about value? The numbers say Baltimore paid about market value for Rice, while Forte got more than he is worth. And now that these guys are under contract, what about trading them for a bounty of draft choices? Obviously that would never happen, but as always, great food for thought from Burke.

Jacksonville also locked up their tagged player, as kicker Josh Scobee agreed to a four-year deal with $4.75M in guarantees and a total value around $14M. Those figures are both higher than those given Matt Prater by the Broncos ($4.25M, $13M).

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Doom, where’s your valet? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! According to KDVR, the incident which resulted in star defensive end Elvis Dumervil's Saturday arrest in Miami was a heated argument.

Over a freaking parking spot.

Here's what KDVR is reporting:

A police report detailing the incident and Dumervil’s arrest won’t be available until Monday, but initial reports suggest an argument about a parking spot between Dumervil and another individual escalated to the point that Dumervil may face a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Obviously, we can only hope no charges will ultimately be filed, as Dumervil's agent suggests. But even if that's the outcome, there's always a chance the Ginger Hammer views this as a second transgression by Elvis and suspends him for a game or so. And the likelihood of Appeals Court Judge Goodell potentially overturning a potential ruling by Judge Goodell is rather slim, if we get to that point.

Update 9:20am ET: Vic Lombardi tweeted the following early this morning:

Some clarity in the Dumervil case. The dispute wasn't over parking spot. The car carrying Elvis cut off by another car. Other driver female. Also male passenger in other car involved in the ruckus. No charges were filed. Elvis attorney expects full exoneration. Plenty more details when the police report is released tomorrow. If it's released.

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Tear down that statue Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Still reporting from the 17th annual Manning Passing Academy, Mike Klis details some of the family dynamics between father Archie and his three sons Cooper, Peyton, and Eli. The four are sharing a hotel suite throughout the camp; Eli calls Peyton his best friend and says he appreciates having a brother he can turn to for advice to help him in his own career.

Klis, who had told PFT that Peyton was throwing at 85-90% a couple weeks ago, today says that "based on zip, length and accuracy, Peyton Manning can’t throw the ball any better than he did here Saturday night," for whatever that's worth.

Wyoming's Brett Smith is one of the 40 college QBs serving as coaches at the camp, while Syracuse's Charley Loeb won a competition among them yesterday.

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Drew Brees: Selfish bastard or Randian hero? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Andrew Brandt shares all the details on the Drew Brees contract, which is essentially a three-year, $61M deal.

As for talk of Brees being "greedy," why shouldn't he be the highest-paid player? After all, he was a free agent and is younger and healthier than Peyton.

His legal battle over the franchise tag was about much more than Drew Brees - it was an issue for all tagged players, and an important victory for the players and the concept of free agency.

Because, think about it - was Brees free this offseason to go wherever he wanted? No, he wasn't.

Granted, it's players like Drew Brees for whom the franchise tag system was first created, and the whole point is about teams getting to hang onto their iconic stars. And, it's only right that he got paid the going rate for an elite, all-time great QB still in his prime. We're not going to say the players "knew the risks" of playing the violent sport and then criticize them for seeking big bucks, right? Because wouldn't that be ridiculous?

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Thank You, Larry Zimmer Lard

Happy Friday the 13th, Broncos fans!? Congratulations go out to Matt Russell, Denver's director of player personnel and the closest thing to a GM at Dove Valley, who has been elected to the CU Buffs Hall of Fame.

During his playing career at Colorado, Russell was a first-team All-American and won the Butkus Award, which is given annually to the nation's top linebacker.

Also to be inducted in November is Larry Zimmer, the longtime voice of the Buffs and former longtime Broncos radio man.

Having grown up pre-internet, pre-DirecTV, and far away from Denver, Zimmer was one of my few connections to what was actually going on out at Mile High and elsewhere. Sundays for me involved listening to WFAN's Ed Coleman and his NFL in Action show, waiting for the occasional phoned-in updates from in-stadium reporters like Lee Frankel (sp?) detailing the latest exploits of Elway, the Amigos, Sharpe, Mecklenburg, Atwater, Smith, Gaston Green, and even Rod Bernstine. 

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