You Got Served: Stray football thoughts

Happy Tuesday, friends.  Since there was no Broncos game this weekend to comment on, I decided to just share some stray football thoughts for a while.  Since I actually had to closely watch the Miami game live last night, my normal Monday night writing time was short, so we’ll see what comes out.  Ready….. BEGIN!!

1.  I suppose I should begin with the “fire sale” concept, and whether the Broncos are having one.  I supported the trade of Brandon Lloyd, because clearly the team had decided that they weren’t going to pay him long dollars in the offseason.  Teams have to make organizational decisions, and frankly, we’ve seen a few work out pretty well lately.  I don’t miss Brandon Marshall, for example.  Did anybody see him playing like he just didn’t care Monday night?  That guy is a losing football player, and I don't miss him.

I rarely comment in the other guys’ threads, but I added one to yesterday’s Lard, because I thought some points about compensatory draft picks were getting missed.

A couple of thoughts about draft picks…

Compensatory picks for free agents lost after this year won’t come until 2013, and that’s a key thing to keep in mind.  If I can get a 4 in 2012, that’s a lot better than a 5 in 2013, which is generally considered to be worth a 6 in 2012.  (The NFL rule of thumb is that you have to discount picks one round per year into the future.)

Also, compensatory picks aren’t as valuable as normal picks, because they can’t be traded.  Acquiring the pick of another team has the added value of flexibility.

Finally, there’s no guarantee that a pick for Lloyd would be a #5, because the NFL doesn’t share their methodology on awarding compensatory picks.  PK’s guess is definitely of rectal origin.  The Broncos may lose Lloyd, and then sign somebody else who the NFL deems to be of greater or equal value, and there could be no compensatory pick awarded.  You never know.

I like Lloyd a good deal as a player, and Royal has tried hard and been a good citizen.  Since I have rebuilding fever, though, I’m cool with trading both in the next couple days, if we get some 2012 picks for them.  Kyle Orton and DJ Williams can join them too.

I decided to reprint that here, even though it's kind of like reweeting yourself in case anybody missed it yesterday, because it’s a bit non-obvious.  You can take the approach of the Chargers - which is to purposefully let most of your own guys walk after their rookie contracts while signing very few UFAs from other teams, and then take whatever you get every year in terms of compensatory picks.  If you get a five and a seven, that’s cool; it helps restock the roster, right? Counting on a specific return for a specific lost player is foolish, though.  It’s not like Major League Baseball where it happens automatically or immediately.

The Carolina Panthers had to watch Julius Peppers walk away in 2010 for big money from the Chicago Bears, and they were probably pretty sure they’d get a late third-rounder for him a year later.  They got the 97th pick in the 2011 Draft and took Sione Fua.  Peppers was on a super-expensive franchise tag that year, but it would have at least been worth exploring if the Panthers could have gotten a 2010 second-rounder for him at the 2009 trade deadline.  They had to know that they weren’t a Super Bowl team, right?

I like Brandon Lloyd as a player, and I think his unique qualities as a person are not problematic, even though it seems like most coaches dislike them.  I also see a guy who is 30, and who relies highly upon extraordinary athleticism that should be starting to decline any day now.  I probably would have offered the guy three years and $25 million, with about $12 million guaranteed, but I can see why the Broncos decided not to, and since that decision was made, I believe that they did the right thing in maximizing their return for him now.

As for Eddie Royal, he’s been a pretty good Bronco, and I’d be sad to see him go too.  If I could get another fifth-rounder for him, I’d do that deal, though.  Otherwise, I think I’d hang onto him, and after the season offer him something on the order of four years, $10 million, AKA Jabar Gaffney money.  As a WR, I think that’s what Royal has settled out to be: a solid pro, as disappointing as that is.  If he leaves, he leaves, but I don’t think his market is going to be as hot as Lloyd’s would have been, and I think that the Broncos would have a solid shot of keeping him for reasonable money.

On the topic of Kyle Orton, I wish there was more of a market for him, and with D.J. Williams, I’m still hopeful that somebody wants to call for him today.  He has an expensive contract in terms of salary, and that hurts his chances of being moved. 

Honestly, today, I’m listening on almost everybody, not that it’s particularly likely that we’ll see another meaningful trade.  It’s all in the game, and it's not a fire sale.  The Broncos are in the early stages of a rebuilding process, and they know that a lot depends on how much Tim Tebow shows as to where they go next.  Getting something for guys who are going out the door anyway is a worthwhile exercise, because you're giving yourself a chance to have the players who you get from those picks develop right as the team gets good.

2.  The Raiders' trade for Carson Palmer is just reckless on a couple of levels.  Benglas owner Mike Brown has to be laughing his butt off this morning in his wood-paneled office.  He got a real starting QB in the top of the second round of this year’s Draft, and he managed to sell off Palmer for about $2.25 on the dollar.  Brown is supposed to be bad at this whole GMing thing too.

Palmer is going to be 32 in December, and the Raiders are paying $7.4 million (pro-rated from $11.5 million) for 11 games of his age 31 season, and then what?  They’re definitely locked into him for next year, because you paid so much for him, and he has a franchise player contract which calls for him to be paid $11.5 million in 2012, $13 million in 2013, and $14 million in 2014.

Unless Palmer has some magical and unexpected resurgence, I think it’s safe to expect him to be (at best) what he’s been the last couple of years, which is a league-average QB.  I have to wonder how the rest of the Raiders’ players take this move.  To me, it smacks of the Colts’ panic-signing of Kerry Collins, and there’s a strong chance that this is received as poorly as that was.

Jason Campbell has played pretty well this season, and he’s been talking about trying to come back and play in 4-6 weeks, as unlikely as that probably is.  I’m sure a lot of Raiders players appreciate the solid play and toughness that Campbell has shown, and this transaction screams that he’ll be forgotten about after this season as if he was never there.  Enjoy free agency, Jason.

This is the kind of move that may help the Raiders marginally in the short-term, but it’s a long-term disaster.  I’m a guy who often likes players better than Draft picks, but if I’m potentially giving up two first -rounders, the player coming back had better be young, elite, and have a reasonable contract.  (Like Jay Cutler, who once looked like he’d become elite, and subsequently didn’t.)  Palmer is none of those things, and this just doesn’t make sense to me.

3.  I’ve been thinking about Demaryius Thomas, and I really think that if he can maintain some good health, he can be exactly what Tim Tebow needs outside.  Thomas is big and has a wide catch-radius.  As much as Tebow’s inaccuracy is overblown, he’s definitely not a precise location thrower. 

Thomas can be a physical matchup nightmare like Andre Johnson, because players as big and strong as he is are rarely as fast.  Staying healthy is a skill, and while I don’t think we can blame Thomas for the injuries he’s had, I’d like to start seeing him avoid them a little better going forward.  He has a good chance to step right in and start being a key player, and in so doing, can change the narrative about himself that he’s injury-prone.

4.  One thing that the Broncos lack on their offense is a space player that scares anybody.  I’ve been calling for one for years, to no avail, but I’m persistent.  I have three guys in mind who play college football, and I think that they’ll all ultimately be second- or third-round picks.  Two of them were teammates of Tim Tebow at Florida.

a.  Jeff Demps - Senior, Florida - 5-7, 191

Demps is the fastest player in college football.  He won the 60-meter indoor and 100-meter outdoor national championships in 2010, and he’s run a (wind-aided) 9.96-second 100 meter, and is tied for the national high school record with a 10.01 that was not aided by the wind.  Demps is a legitimate football player and not just a track guy, as he’s averaged 7 yards per carry in his career.  He’s like a smaller Darren McFadden, where if he gets the edge, you’re in deep trouble.

b.  Chris Rainey - Senior, Florida - 5-9, 174

Rainey isn’t as fast as Demps, but he’s a more natural runner of the football, and he’s plenty fast enough.  Rainey is also the best natural receiver of these three, and he spent his junior year playing primarily out wide and in the slot.  Rainey will remind you of a shorter, skinnier Jahvid Best.

c.  LaMichael James - Junior, Oregon - 5-9, 195

James is closer to an every-down NFL back than the other two, but he’s still going to be part of a tandem at the next level.  He’s another guy who can make defenders miss in open space, and I think he’s got a good chance to resemble a taller version of Darren Sproles as a pro.

All three of these players would be great additions to any NFL team, but the Broncos especially need a home run threat on offense to start backing defenses off the line some, and to slow down pass rushes.  Do you want to jailbreak blitz when a guy like Jeff Demps is one missed tackle away from being gone?  Not really.  The Saints have been making good use of this concept for years now, first with Reggie Bush and now Sproles, and I’d like to see the Broncos copycat them on it.

5.  Speaking of the Saints, I heard an interesting discussion of them in passing somewhere recently, and I wanted to share some thoughts about them.  The discussion centered around the fact that the Saints seek specialization and not so much versatility in player acquisition.  If you look at their RB group, you’ll see what I mean.  Mark Ingram is the between-the-tackles guy, Sproles is the space guy, and Pierre Thomas can do some of both. 

At WR, it’s even more clear.  Lance Moore is a quick guy, who’s good at running option routes.  Marques Colston is a big, physical inside player who can catch in traffic.  Devery Henderson is a speedster who takes the top off a defense.  Robert Meachem is a good combination of the three and can really do anything that is asked of him within the offense. 

By hiring specialized skills, the Saints are able to be more sure about who they’re acquiring than a team who is projecting versatility and future skill development can.  The Saints wanted a between-the-tackles runner, and they drafted Ingram, who they were pretty certain was going to be effective at that role.  They don’t really care that much if he gets more dangerous in space or more accomplished as a receiver, because they have those skills in place.  It’d be cool if Ingram gets more versatile, but he doesn’t need to, in other words.

When I buy clothes and shoes, I specialize, so I guess what the Saints are doing works for my brain.  You know what specific functions you need to be able to do, and you buy what you need to cover all those bases.  When you lose the ability to cover a base, you replace that same ability. 

By doing this, a football team can mess with its opponents by varying its personnel tendencies.  If I put Henderson, Meachem and Colston trips left with TE Jimmy Graham alone on the right side, I’m probably going to see the safeties shade the offense’s left side pretty strongly, and that should leave Graham free to work against a LB.  This is just one example, but there’s lots of fun you can have with personnel groupings, and it’s even more pronounced when the opposing team knows that a lot of your personnel has really specialized skills.

We’ve seen that buying versatility can work, via the Patriots, but I really think I like buying specialization better.  It’s a sub-package league, and I just think that specialization maximizes a team’s bench strength in their various packages.

6.  Also relating to yesterday's Lard, I have to give props to Dolphins owner Steve Ross, a guy I usually like to beat up on.  It may be because the University of Michigan's business school is named after him, and because it continues to aggressively recruit me, even though I was always going to go to Cleveland State University for my MBA and I'm almost done, but I don't like Ross.  He overpaid for his team by about $300 million and then has tried a bunch of silly gimmicks to make money on it, including Gator Day and being an extreme hardliner in the lockout.  Why would I go to that B-school?

Anyway, the props come from the fact that he nixed the Kyle Orton trade.  I wish he hadn't, but by not accepting a non-answer as the long-term answer, Ross did a good thing for his team and his fan base, even if they're going to play the part of the pinata all season in 2011.  Truth is, they wouldn't have been much better with Orton, because it's a poorly constructed team with a mix of underachievers, malcontents, delusional "stars", and over-the-hill guys.  They probably would have won five games, though, rather than the one or two that I'm now expecting them to get.

That’s all the time I have for today, friends.  Check back with me Friday, and we’ll Digest us some Dolphins.  YUM!

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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