Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Here's What I Don't Get

Overlooking the fact that NFL teams consistently treat second- and third-round draft picks as if every player taken at that stage in the Draft is going to be Dan Marino running a 4.5, how is it that Daunte Culpepper, an upper-tier player at the most important position on the field, is worth a second-round pick, but John Abraham, an upper-tier player at a less important position, is apparently worth a second-round pick AND a quality quarterback prospect. I understand that Culpepper could be damaged goods and that reduces his value, but Abraham hasn't exactly been a model of durability either. I also understand that Culpepper cost the Dolphins a huge signing bonus, but Abraham will probably present the same challenge for the Falcons. The only distinguishing characteristic, as best I can tell, is that Culpepper completely burned his bridges with the Vikings and reduced his trade value as a result. The Jets and Abraham appear to be at an impasse in terms of his contract value, but they have the option of keeping him with the franchise tag again, so he has more value to them than Culpepper does to the Vikings.

As far as trading Matt Schaub is concerned, I'm not totally certain on his contract status, but if this is indeed his last year with the team and would be unlikely to re-sign because he wants to be a starter and knows that will never happen in Atlanta, then the Falcons ought to trade him now. It's nice having a solid insurance policy for Mike Vick and there are those of us who would love to see Schaub and Vick actually compete for the job, but I might as well start looking for real estate in Washington, D.C. on the assumption that I'm going to be tabbed by Dubya for the next Supreme Court vacancy. Vick is the starting quarterback, as the franchise has totally committed to him financially. Given that context, the team cannot commit too much money to a back-up and they have to take any chance they get to flip that back-up into a quality starter. If they indeed turn Schaub into Abraham, then their use of a third-round pick on the Wahoo will indeed have been an inspired decision. They got a cheap back-up for two years and then turned that back-up into an upper-tier starter who answers a major need. With Abraham in the fold and Lawyer Milloy under consideration at safety, the team could focus on the corner position with their first round pick and the offensive line (especially the left tackle spot) with their second-rounder. Assuming that T.J. Duckett is let go, then a back-up running back will be a priority with the third or fourth round pick, with a space-eating defensive tackle being one other priority. (Rod Coleman would benefit greatly from a Gabe Watson-type next to him, although Gabe isn't going to be around after the first round.) There, I've just plotted out the Falcons' entire Draft. You can now spend April 29 frolicking outside. You're welcome.

One other note on Matt Schaub: the fact that the Jets are so interested in him is quite a compliment, since his one start last year was against New England, a team whose defensive coordinator, Eric Mangini, is now the head coach of the Jets. He was impressed enough by that performance to have apparently identified Schaub as his #1 target. Maybe we can't chalk Schaub's performance in that game up to New England's battered secondary. Does Mangini see Schaub as his Brady, a tall, but relatively immobile passer who has decent arm strength, terrific accuracy, and a degree from one of this nation's two premier public universities? (You know I couldn't resist making that remark.)

12 comments:

Andy said...

I think there was a lot of surprise that the Vikings were able to get a pick that good for Daunte due to a lack of leverage. He was due a $6 million dollar roster bonus this month, so with their relationship shot to hell the expectation was the Vikes would release him rather than pay him that bonus. I guess the Dolphins were worried about letting Brees sign elsewhere without the guarantee of being able to sign Daunte when he became a free agent, so they gave the Vikes their asking price of a second round pick.

Michael said...

But shouldn't there have been such a market for an upper tier quarterback? That would have driven up Culpepper's value, regardless of the fact that Minny had to deal him. Why was Cleveland not involved? Or Detroit? Or Chicago? Or Arizona? Or Washington? Or Buffalo? Or Baltimore? Or Oakland? There are so many bad quarterbacks starting in the NFL, so it's inexplicable to me that the market doesn't seem to value a quality starter, unless either Culpepper's injury is going to be an issue going forward OR he was exposed as being an average QB who was made to look good by Randy Moss. That seems like a possibility to me. Then again, that would also be a reason to be skeptical of Drew Brees, since he got to play with the best runner in the NFL.

LD said...

Cleveland thinks they caught lightning with Frye. Detroit just signed Kitna (and still have too much invested in Harrington and the 3 WR first rounders to spend too much). Chicago believes in Grossman (and I do too). Arizona thinks McCown can be a good QB (his numbers suggest he can be, and that's with a terrible running game - now they add Edgerrin james). Washington drafted a QB in the first round last year. Baltimore just signed Kerry Collins (and Boller had a couple of slightly better games toward the end of last season). Buffalo also just used a first rounder on a QB 2 years ago (and remember, Brees didn't emerge until after his third year). Oakland should've been competing for Culpepper's services, and they probably did. But after the Dolphins, Saints, Jets and Raiders, there aren't that many teams without servicable QBs or plans in place. (who else? Dallas? Tampa Bay?) Plus, with 3 franchise-rated QBs available in the first round, I'm almost surprised there wasn't less of a market. The Saints could have just gone with Leinart. The Jets and Titans need QBs and will probably get them in the draft. The way things have shook out, Oakland might grab the third QB in the draft.

Now, I'd probably take the position that Culpepper and Brees (if health is assumed) are far better QBs than any of the draftable QBs and better than more than half the current starters in the league. The problem is that for those mediocre players (Harrington, Boller, Simms, Henson, McCown, Losman, etc), the teams have invested so much money on them that they almost need to wait out another year or so to see if one of them makes that Brees-like leap. There should be a market for QBs, but this year there just isn't, and I think it's situational.

Also, I agree with your assessment of trading Schaub almost entirely. I worry about trading the second rounder, and I hope the Falcons can probably negotiate that down to a third (the second round will have a lot of good players in it this year - in fact, I'd say players 14-60 in the draft will all be about comparable).

andy said...

Culpepper also might be seen as a bit of a turd/poor decision-maker now, following the Love Boat incident, him firing his agent and saying he doesn't need one, and originally asking the Vikes for more money following a bad season and before he's proven how well he will recover from his injury.

Looking at profootballtalk.com, there's talk the Saints could still take a QB at No. 2 since Brees' contract is structured with a huge option bonus following this season, so he may just have a one-year audition before he's back in the same situation as he was in San Diego.

The same site also doesn't believe the Falcons will trade Schaub as the relationship with Vick seems to be deteriorating.

chg said...

As a football fan living in metro Atlanta, it's great to hear that the relationship with Vick is deteriorating. Hopefully the Falcons are starting to recognize that there are serious reasons to doubt that Vick will ever develop the quarterback skills or leadership ability necessary to lead a team to a title.

As a Panthers fan, it's horrible to hear that the relationship with Vick is deteriorating. Hopefully the Falcons will recognize Vick's value to the franchise's ticket sales and profile around the league, as well as athletic ability that could potentially redefine the position.

Michael said...

LD,

Conventionally, I think that you're right about most of the quarterback situations you listed. But let's evaluate whether the CW for a team like Chicago is actually right. They have a good enough defense that they could win the Super Bowl with better play from their offense. Should they wait for Rex Grossman to mature, knowing that the NFL only allows them to have a narrow window to keep that defense together before the parts get too expensive? How long should Buffalo keep trotting J.P. Losman out there? And what's wrong with Washington signing Culpepper, going for it in the next two years, and then structure the deal to get rid of him after 2-3 years once Jason Campbell is ready to play? The point is that Washington, Buffalo, and Chicago were all killed by their QB play last year, so for them to stay out of the market when two good starters were available is a mistake. And why Baltimore and Detroit opted for half-baked options instead of trying to get actual quality at the position is beyond me.

Andy, I wouldn't take PFT too seriously. They're wrong more than they're right, in my experience. The Falcons are completely wedded to Vick by virtue of the contract he signed in 2005. They can't possibly cut him without taking a titanic cap hit, so they're only option is to work out any rift they have with him. If the offensive coordinator can't make it work with him, then they'll fire him rather than get rid of Vick. I'm losing faith in Vick, but I'll also concede that the offense is badly designed for his talents. Of course, an offense designed for his talents would also land him on the injured list within eight weeks, so he might just be an unsolvable conundrum.

Michael said...

CHG, before last year, Vick always played his best games against Carolina. Don't get all "clouded by recency" on us.

Fox said...

I think you're underestimating just how many questions there are about Culpeper. He has had 3 great seasons and 3 (or is it 4?) really crappy ones, in which he was a turnover machine. And all of the guys who preceded him as Vikings QB with that same offense (Cunningham, Jeff George, Brad Johnson in his first stint there) put up pro Bowl numbers too so it seems as likely as not that the key component was throwing to Moss (and Carter for a while), not Daunte's talents.

And let's not forget that his knee was SHREDDED--he tore all the ligaments and will be out until at least the middle of next year. Rumors from my Minnesota friends are that the reason Daunte wouldn't rehab at team headquarters is because he didn't want them to see how poorly it's going.

LD said...

I agree that Culpepper/Bress would be a better fit for Washington, Buffalo or even Tampa Bay (I think Grossman, if healthy, could be as good as Carson Palmer was this year, so I wouldn't include the Bears here - if he's healthy). But the problem is that Washington and Buffalo already are paying too much for their not-yet-ready QBs. It's the same problem San Diego had. They're paying 7-10% of their cap for a QB who isn't on the field. They can't turn around and spend another 7-10% of the cap for Brees or Culpepper without crippling themselves in other areas. Detroit and Baltimore (who, I was mistaken about, hasn't yet signed Collins, though they probably will) decided to keep the 7-10% guy on the bench and added a 2-3% guy for a year. If the 7-10% guy emerges (and I think Boller has a 1 in 4 chance of doing so, Harrington 1 in 20), then they're in great shape. If he doesn't, they make a big move a year later and retain some cap flexibility.

I think in a cap-less world, all of those teams would've been players for Brees and Culpepper. But because of the money committed to QBs that just aren't ready for the field, many more teams just couldn't compete for the two top QBs on the market. And it was pretty clear that Brees wasn't going to come cheap.

If nothing else, this year's free agent QB market proves (if it already hadn't been proven) that first round QBs (or any other player) absolutely MUST be a sure thing. Paying that high a number for them to sit is crippling. Rivers forced the Brees move; Boller, Harrington, Losman, and Ramsey/Campbell all limit their teams from getting someone better because of their huge salaries.

peacedog said...

I'd have a hard time chosing between you and Posner for the Court, if it was up to me.

FWIW.

Hobnail_Boot said...

New Orleans is going to look mighty dumb in 2 years when Leinart is an all-pro QB for either the Titans or Jets.. and the Dolphins will look mighty dumb for taking the human fumbling machine a.k.a. Culpepper.

As far as Schaub goes, the Falcons are in prime position. Remember that in a trade situation, the team with the greater need is the one who ultimately loses. The Falcons could trade Schaub for a top-line defender and 2nd round pick if they are patient.

I'm a Realist said...

The Saints had too much of a need right now to not sign Drew Brees. Aaron Brooks didn't get the job done, and they have Todd Bouman as the #1 quarterback on their roster. They needed a quarterback to step in and play right away, and they got the best one available. They could still pick Leinart (although, I think it would be a mistake to do so), but it will be at least three years before he could put up "all-pro" numbers (based on recent history...i.e. Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, etc.).

Besides, there are several quarterbacks available later in this draft that have the potential to develop into NFL-caliber quarterbacks: Brodie Croyle, Charlie Whitehurst, and Drew Olson come to mind. Besides, quarterback may be the marquee position, but the supporting cast is just as important. There is a losing mentality in NOLA that needs to be addressed now...not in three years.