You Got Served - Hellooo real football to discuss

Happy Tuesday, friends, and welcome to another edition of You Got Served.  I launched this recurring Tuesdayish feature when I joined IAOFM in January, and I explained what it was all about at that time.  Since we’re finding a lot of new readers lately, (our traffic has just been exploding), and just to do a quick reset for the existing reader base, I decided to do a quick couple paragraphs explaining the concept.

YGS is meant to be somewhat structureless, in the sense that I feel free to write about whatever football thoughts I have in a week.  While this is primarily a Broncos site, I’ve always been an around-the-league guy, and I’ll always talk about teams other than the Broncos, to keep everybody abreast of the NFL-wide scene, since no national NFL reporters really know what they’re talking about, beyond repeating what people tell them.

We’ll get into some technical football here, and I’ll always be aiming to point out non-obvious things that are happening on the football field and in the business environment around the game.  I’m going to talk about what I’m thinking about, in the style that works for me.  It’s what I’ve always done, going back to Shallow Thoughts and Nearsighted Observations.  Sometimes you’ll disagree with me, and sometimes I’ll offend your sensibilities, but I hope that at the end of the read, you'll feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth.

This is a continuous discussion that I’m starting for real right now, because we finally have real football to discuss.  I’m accountable for everything I say, and I’ll always note when I’m amending an earlier evaluation.  The political “discourse” of our day would have you believe that nobody should ever change their mind about anything, but that’s idiotic.  Conditions change, and so must our evaluations of those conditions, if we want to be intelligent people.  Zane Beadles can get dominated in Week 1 of his rookie season, and I’ll say he looks like he isn’t ready for prime time.  If he’s playing better by Week 9, once he moved to his natural position, I’ll say that he looks like a quality Left Guard, after looking overmatched early on.

Welcome to the rabbit hole, friends.  It’s going to be a very interesting 2011 season.  Ready…. BEGIN!

1.  I wrote a quick reaction piece on Monday about the Broncos’ signing of Derrick Harvey, and how much I liked it, especially in the sense of getting talent for little cost.  Later in the day, the Broncos did something that I liked even better, in trading for the equally cost-effective Brodrick Bunkley.  

I’m going to agree with The Dude that this was an excellent football move.  Bunkley has mostly played the nose for Philadelphia, and he holds up really well at the point of attack.  All this talk of Philly fans being down on Bunkley for “taking plays off” strikes me as funny, because how would 95% of them know?

I’ve said this before, but all defensive linemen “take plays off”, especially if their snaps aren’t managed well.  You’re asking a 260- to 330-pound man to be quick and explosive, and to bang aggressively into other large men, and then often sprint 10-40 yards on each play.

That’s not a natural thing to do when you’re that size of a man, so you see linemen getting tired, and not running as hard as usual when a play is running away from them.  This is why defensive line coaches are almost always drill sergeant types, and it’s also why teams like to use extensive rotations on the line, provided they have quality.  It’s simply the most physically demanding task in football, so when you see some douchebag reporter lament that a guy is taking plays off, keep that in mind.  Unless the guy is naturally lazy, he’d likely be going harder if he was fresher.  You can blame the front office for a lack of depth, and the coaching staff for not keeping to a better rotation.

Speaking of rotations, I’m really pretty pleased with how the Broncos’ DL group looks for this season.  The two starting DEs are obviously going to be Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil, who I think will complement each other really well.  Inside, my expectation is that Marcus Thomas and Brodrick Bunkley will ultimately be the starters, with Thomas as more of an Under Tackle, and Bunkley as more of a Nose Tackle.

Where it gets interesting is with the guys behind them.  Harvey will presumably be a LE behind Ayers, and I would think that Jason Hunter has a good chance to make the team too, primarily backing up Dumervil at RE.  I think Jeremy Beal is probably a practice squad candidate at DE this year, despite the love that some fans have for him. 

I picture Jeremy Jarmon being the swing DT/DE that a 40-front team always wants to have, and Kevin Vickerson making the team as the primary backup DT.  I make that as eight known quality football players on the defensive line, with probably one more DT spot available for somebody out of the Ryan McBean/Louis Leonard/Mitch Unrein/Colby Whitlock group.  I’m pretty confident in thinking that one of those guys can at least be a competent ninth man in the group.  McBean and Leonard have both played some NFL football, and the other guys will have a fighting chance too.

Suddenly, what looked like a weakness at one time looks like it might become a strength.  I think that the Broncos are going to hit the QB more frequently than they have in years, and that they’re going to be better up front against the run than they’ve been since at least the years of the much-derided Browncos.  Even better, with at least eight quality front-four players on the roster, Wayne Nunnely and Dennis Allen should be able to keep the rotation moving to the point where nobody is ever taking a play off because he’s tired.

2.  I wanted to quickly say that I am impressed with how the new Broncos management regime has been approaching player acquisition in the last week.  I think that they correctly observed that there was a lot of supply in the player market, after the fourth- and fifth-year players from last season weren’t granted free agency in 2010, and that there would be a demand that would be more limited than usual, because teams have already filled needs with the Draft, and because there’s a significantly shortened offseason.

Those conditions have created a very soft free agent market, except for in a few places, notably all of the Carolina guys, Johnathan Joseph, and Eric Weddle.  I would even say that Nnamdi Asomugha came in cheaper than expected, and DTs like Barry Cofield, Cullen Jenkins, and Brandon Mebane did as well.

When you have a large supply, and a moderate-to-weak demand, prices go down sharply.  That’s why you see so many players suddenly being willing to sign one-year deals.  They’re getting nervous about needing a job, and smartly realizing that having a job and some pay is better than having no job, and no pay.  They’ll try to play well this year and cash in next year, when the environment is a little better for them. 

By mostly waiting for the bigger names to fall, the Broncos have signed some quality depth guys for really limited financial exposure.  These players balance helping the team win some games now with striving toward the more realistic goal of being a serious contender in 2012, as a lot of the younger players mature.  I think John Elway, Brian Xanders, and John Fox are on the right track for 2011, when we can all hope that a scrappy and improved Broncos team has a puncher’s chance at winning the AFC West, but not be too disappointed if it doesn’t quite happen.

3.  So, it turns out that Captain Obvious and John Clayton were completely wrong about the Broncos’ cap situation, just like we’ve been saying here for a week or so.  Mike Florio (who is admittedly a tool) put out a cap space number this morning for the Broncos at $26.7 million, which stupidly includes the one-time $3 million exemption, which this team is unlikely to use in 2011.  That means that apples-to-apples, he’s saying that the Broncos have $23.7 million against the real cap of $120.4 million. 

Our own Doug Lee has been diligently keeping track of all of the contract signings, and up to the minute, he has our top 51 salaries totaling $100.9 million of spend against the $120.4 million cap, leaving $19.5 million.  That’s after bumping up all minimum salaries to the levels specified in the proposed new CBA, and it currently assumes minimum salaries for Willis McGahee and Marcus Thomas, in the absence of exact figures.  Let’s say that that leaves at least $16 million in actual space, once we get those numbers in hand.  We’ll update the number, as soon as we do, so you can know what IAOFM definitively thinks the cap space is.

Anyway, former Broncos GM Ted Sundquist told us on Twitter that we were right, and that the DP was wrong, and now you can see that that’s clearly the case.  The Broncos aren’t up against the cap, even with Kyle Orton remaining on the roster.  Remember what site tells it to you straight.

4.  Florio kind of stole my thunder a little in the above-linked article, because I was going to drop the bombshell that there’s no minimum salary floor for teams this season or next.  Since he beat me to it, I’m just going to explain it better than he did, and explore the implications of that fact.

Let’s put a number in our minds, okay?  Seven.  Is that easy enough to remember?  Okay, not seven.  How about $3.814 billion.  If you divide that number by 32, you get $119.2 million per team, which is 99% of $120.4 million, also known as this year’s salary cap.

This is slightly tricky, but I want to help everybody understand it.  It turns out that the cash basis salary cap that I was speculating on for a couple weeks is not the reality, although it would make more sense if it were.  The new salary cap works exactly as it always has, where bonuses are prorated over the life of the deal, and incentives are handled as likely or unlikely to be earned.  The only relief that teams got is that all dead money from prior to March 11, 2011 vanished off the books.  (That’s probably how Captain Obvious got confused, because he was being all passionate, and talking to people in the NFL, and not reading information that was publicly available.)

We’re going to skip the tricky part of the cash test, which is based upon the same $120.4 million number as the salary cap, and just consider the number that should still be in your mind.  ($3.814 billion, not seven.) 

Between the 32 teams, there must be an aggregate cash outlay to players totaling or exceeding $3.814 billion in League Year 2011.  If there isn’t, the NFL will have to pay the difference to players, and while I don’t think the exact mechanism for doing so has been formalized yet, the proposal I heard during the negotiations was that a lump sum would be paid to the union, and that the union would distribute it evenly among the players.

Now, let’s be clear.  That means that $3.814 billion in cash needs to be paid between August 4, 2011 (or whenever the League Year officially starts) and March 10, 2012 (or whenever the League Year officially ends.)  Salaries count toward that, obviously, and so do entire cash bonuses that were paid in 2011.  So, if a player just got a $10 million bonus on a 5-year contract, for cap purposes, it’s counted as $2 million per year, but for this cash test, it’s counted as $10 million outlaid in 2011.

Now, remember, there’s a very soft free agent market right now, and there are a lot of teams sitting on a lot of cap space.  This is due to football reasoning, not financial reasoning, for the most part.  I expect that the NFL will begin pressuring teams to spend cash by around November, so that they’ll hit this number.  I would think guys like Ryan Clady, Brandon Lloyd, Robert Ayers, and Eddie Royal would make good candidates for bonus-heavy extensions during the season, and that every team would be able to find some guys to pay.  The NFL will be creating the Osi Umenyioras of tomorrow; guys will be happy to get bonuses early in their careers, but they’ll be mad that they delayed free agency a few years later, and they’ll want out of their deals.

5.  Speaking of Umenyiora, the Broncos are reportedly one of five teams talking to the Giants about him.  I don’t think it’s a very good fit, because while he’s an outstanding pass rusher, he’s a complete liability against the run, and I just don’t think that this team would be willing to give up a high pick and $10 million per year for a player like that.  May Buddhist God bless whatever team does want to do that.

6.  I was thinking that I should address the Eagles and their impressive financial commitment to winning a Super Bowl.  They’ve brought in a couple of very good players, and all of a sudden their backup QB Vince Young is saying that it’s a Dream Team. 

Every Eagles fan I know is crowing about how this thing is a lock, and I’m reading MSM “debates” about whether Philly is suddenly the NFL’s answer to the Miami Heat.  Have you ever noticed how the MSM asks these questions that can’t be answered, and then calls it a debate?  Like, come on stupid trolls everywhere!  Comment in our comments section on that nobody will ever read!   Awesomest comment ever?  FIRST.  You can’t beat that one.

And then watch Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle on the stupidest TV show ever devised, and see if you can guess what percent of SportsNation thinks the Eagles will win the Super Bowl!  It’s August 2, and this is a very relevant topic before a single preseason game has been played!  Super Bowl fever!  Catch it!

As for the Eagles, they signed two excellent players (Nnamdi Asomugha and Cullen Jenkins), and another (Jason Babin) who had a clear outlier season in his walk year, and may or may not be able to duplicate it.  Their new backup QB has been on the cover of Madden, and has a big name, but he’s a backup.  The Eagles also acquired “Pro Bowler” Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has the skills to be really good, but played pretty badly in 2010. 

Here’s the thing about the Eagles: there’s no guarantee that they’ll be any better in 2011 than they were in 2010, even with all of these deals.  Football teams are not made up of their individual parts like basketball teams are.  There’s a lot more at play in football than which guy is playing which position. 

Nobody has ever won a Super Bowl by winning free agency.  Look it up; it has never, ever happened.  Also, no team has ever won a Super Bowl because they had a great Cornerback, which is why I always say that CB is not a premium position in the NFL. 

The Eagles are going to have a chance to win the Super Bowl, but that was always the case.  I think their personnel got better in some places, but I’m not sure their team did.  I think that teams are going to pound them in the middle with their running games, and that Mr. Bunkley and Stewart Bradley are going to be sorely missed.  As far as I’m concerned, the Eagles are one of about 10 or 11 teams that look like they could make a run to the Lombardi Trophy, but they’re not in any particularly higher company than that.

7.  Retired for John Elway

8.  Finally, I wanted to quickly address a disagreement that I had with Andrew Mason on Twitter the other night.  He said that he thought that Josh McDaniels' downfall as Head Coach of the Broncos was carelessly trading away Draft picks.  I think that's completely absurd.  Yes, the Laurence Maroney trade worked out poorly, but no Head Coach has ever gotten fired for making a bad trade.  And don't even start with me about Hillis, because that was a completely defensible trade in the moment in which it was done, it just ended up turning out poorly.

Josh McDaniels got fired because there was extreme negativity around this football team, because he didn't win enough, and because he refused to kiss Woody Paige's ring.  Woody and the rest of the crack staff at DP (excepting our friend Lindsay Jones) beat the negativity drum constantly, and it got to be too much for Pat Bowlen and Joe Ellis to take.  Josh flipped off the local poobah, and the local poobah ran him out of town for not winning quickly enough.

Yes, Josh made a couple of questionable trades and siginings while he was in Denver, but he was trying to balance winning with establishing a long-term successful program.  I wouldn't get fired from my day job for forgetting to book a $50,000 accrual one month, and Josh wouldn't get fired for turning one fourth-round pick into a useless RB and a sixth-round pick.  It's completely silly to think that any business would act so tactically and unstrategically as that.

That’s all I have for today, friends.  Keep checking us out, and tell a friend to do the same.  We’re working hard every day to be the best Broncos site in the world, and we’re happy to have all but a few of you with us as readers.

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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