You Got Served: Free agency slowdown edition

Happy Thursday, friends. I haven’t had any time to write in a few weeks, and I was thinking it was a good time to check back in on free agency, and on some early draft thoughts.

After really moving the needle with their early signings, the Broncos have focused on some smaller moves of late, which may prove to be consequential.

I also want to take a look at some other happenings around the NFL, because it’s good to take stock of the competition periodically. That, and some things have been said and written lately that I don’t agree with. We’ll see what we’ll see on the other side of the jump. Ready… BEGIN!!

1. Since I last wrote, the Emmanuel Sanders and Will Montgomery signings have happened. I thought I’d start with some quick thoughts on both players. Sanders is a solid player who I think can be very effective for the Broncos this season, and over the three seasons of his contract. He’s not physically or technically exceptional in any way, but he can beat single coverage, and I think he’ll see a lot of it in Denver.

I think that Sanders’ signing likely takes the Broncos out of the running to draft a receiver early in May, just from a pure counting perspective. They only tend to take four wideouts to gameday, and they seem set to me with Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Sanders, and Andre Caldwell.

As for Montgomery, I view him as a replacement-level player, and not as good as what the Broncos got from Manny Ramirez last season. I consider his signing to most likely be equivalent of bringing in Dan Koppen; he can compete for the starting job, but really, it’s good to have two competent veterans in case one goes down.

2. The Broncos are now a team that doesn’t have any glaring needs, and can draft the best talent possible, and build some quality depth. I know, some of you are going to howl about middle linebacker and left guard, but the Broncos have guys on the roster (Nate Irving, Orlando Franklin/Chris Clark/Montgomery) who can competently man those positions.

I’d like to see somebody brought in to compete with Irving inside, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a first-round pick. I’m extremely confident that Nate can do very well as the starter, if he ever got a full chance to stay at Mike.

I’m leery of a highly-drafted MLB, unless he’s a guy who is going to stay on the field on third down. The way the Broncos are constructed, not many MLBs are going to. If they play a 4-2 nickel, which LB is coming off the field so the Mike can stay on? Is it going to be Von Miller or Danny Trevathan? Probably neither one; if the MLB isn’t going to be playing more than half the snaps, that’s not a position that warrants a first-round pick.

I also wouldn’t be against picking a guard in the second or third round, and throwing him into the competition mix. Wouldn’t it be interesting to say that Ryan Clady is the LT, and Louis Vazquez is the RG, and that Ramirez, Franklin, Montgomery, Clark, and a second-rounder (like David Yankey or Gabe Jackson) are competing, and that three of them will play LG, C, and RT? That’s a pretty solid eight-man mix, and I can’t even say who the gameday inactive guy would be.

I’d be looking more at secondary players (including safeties) or pass rushers at the end of Round 1, knowing that those are premium positions, where you really can’t have too many good players. Luckily, there are some guys to work with in the range of the Broncos’ pick. Assuming they’ll ultimately pick between 25 and 45, here are the 20 players that ESPN’s Scouts Inc rank in that range:

Rank Player POS HT WT College
25 Louis Nix III DT 6'2⅜" 331 Notre Dame
26 Timmy Jernigan* DT 6'1⅝" 299 Florida State
27 Kyle Fuller CB 5'11¾" 190 Virginia Tech
28 Ryan Shazier* OLB 6'1⅛" 237 Ohio State
29 Jason Verrett CB 5'9½" 189 TCU
30 Kony Ealy* DE 6'4" 273 Missouri
31 Dee Ford DE 6'2⅛" 244 Auburn
32 Jerry Attaochu OLB 6'3¼" 252 Georgia Tech
33 Kelvin Benjamin* WR 6'5" 240 Florida State
34 Morgan Moses OT 6'6" 314 Virginia
35 Chris Borland ILB 5'11½" 248 Wisconsin
36 Stephon Tuitt* DE 6'5½" 304 Notre Dame
37 Stan Jean-Baptiste CB 6'2⅝" 218 Nebraska
38 Demarcus Lawrence* OLB 6'2⅞" 251 Boise State
39 Lamarcus Joyner CB 5'8" 184 Florida State
40 Carlos Hyde RB 5'11⅞" 230 Ohio State
41 Davante Adams* WR 6'0⅞" 212 Fresno State
42 Scott Crichton* DE 6'2⅞" 273 Oregon State
43 Deone Bucannon S 6'1" 211 Washington State
44 Jace Amaro* TE 6'5⅜" 265 Texas Tech
45 Joel Bitonio OT 6'4¼" 302 Nevada

I see five secondary guys (Fuller, Verrett, Jean-Batiste, Joyner, and Bucannon) in there who all profile as early NFL starters, and also three quality pass rushers (Ealy, Ford, and Crichton).

If you really want a linebacker, there are four of them (Shazier, Attaochu, Borland, and Lawrence). Personally, if Shazier is there, he’d be the first guy I’d take. I normally don’t like Ohio State guys that much, but he can really run and hit, and in a scheme like Denver’s, he can play inside.

In total, when you add in the bigger defensive linemen, the receivers, and the offensive tackles, it would be hard to imagine a better 20-man group for the Broncos and their needs. For that reason, I can definitely see the Broncos pulling a 2012, and moving back into the second round.

3. As for other goings-on, the DeSean Jackson saga is only slightly interesting for me. Here’s why I have any interest at all – the discussion about it has gone completely off the rails. Here’s the only fact that matters – Chip Kelly didn’t want the guy on his football team, and he made that pretty well known even before the NJ.com article about gang ties came out.

Did the Eagles help NJ.com write that article, to provide cover for cutting Jackson? Maybe. Did the article surprise them, and force them to cut the guy earlier than they’d planned to? Maybe. It doesn’t matter which came first, the chicken or the egg. The fact is, the coach didn’t like the player, and didn’t want him on his team. It happens all the time, right?

Richard Sherman is clearly an intelligent guy, but he wrote a flawed article on The MMQB. He takes the position that Jackson was dropped BECAUSE he hangs out with gang-affiliated people, and that that’s wrong, because everybody stays close to their homeboys. Then, he compares Jackson’s affiliation with these people with Riley Cooper’s drunken foolishness of last year, and says, why does one guy stay and one guy go?

The thing is, the whole comparison is a straw man argument anyway. The Eagles didn’t say they cut Jackson because of his unsavory friends. In fact, they were shopping him on the trade market for weeks before that article came out. There’s no indication at all that the article affected any part of the decision, except possibly the timing.

In a larger sense, it’s somehow become common knowledge that Jackson was cut because of the article. I think that the coach just saw some negative traits, and didn’t want to pay $10 million to a known malcontent with (well-documented) questionable professionalism. I’d consider firing that guy too, and I think most of us would.

4. Another thing that I think is just wrong is the notion that the Raiders are having a terrible offseason. I just don’t see it, and when people lazily give them an F, because they’re the Raiders, and because their owner looks like he should be working at Wal-Mart, I just have a problem with that. We need to know our enemies, right?

First of all, while the Raiders didn’t get a quarterback who is on par with the rest of the division, they got one who is competent enough to compete every week. Matt Schaub had a bad year in 2013, but remember, he has made Pro Bowls (legitimately) in the past. I think he had some early troubles, and his confidence was shaken a little bit, and then it snowballed along with the problems of the rest of the team.

I can’t prove that Matt Schaub can be a good starting QB in 2014, but I think it’s a lot more likely than the proposition that Matt McGloin can. Schaub knows how to play, and he’s performed at a high level, over a significant sample of games in the past. He was a very worthwhile acquisition, given the cost.

I love the signings of Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew for the Raiders. I think they’re going to run the ball 500 times this year, and do it very effectively. The problem with McFadden is that he breaks down a lot, but when he’s healthy, we all know he can be dynamic. Jones-Drew has lower mileage than you think, and he’s ready for a fresh start.

LT Donald Penn and RT Austin Howard will be quality starters on either end of the line of scrimmage. G Kevin Boothe should probably start inside. WR James Jones becomes their best player outside. You don’t think those four guys, and the two RBs, will help Schaub?

DE Justin Tuck, DE Antonio Smith, LB LaMarr Woodley, CB Tarell Brown, and CB Carlos Rogers are all quality veterans on defense. Bringing back Charles Woodson was another good move.

These are not splashy signings, but they are a lot of quality veterans who can play competent football. I think the Raiders portend to have an above-average offense, that can really run the ball, especially if they draft a Sammy Watkins.

Defense is supposed to be Dennis Allen’s forte, and if he can get his group playing well, the Raiders could be on to something. What if D.J. Hayden emerges as a lockdown corner in his second season? What if Sio Moore makes a big leap in his?

If they draft well, and if some of their player development efforts pan out, I could see the Raiders competing to finish second in the AFC West this year. It’s not like San Diego or Kansas City have improved very much.

That’s what I have for today. What do you think?

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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