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Jaguars Sign Jermey Parnell (OT)
Deal: 5 Years, 32 Million (13 Million Guaranteed)

I had no idea who Jermey Parnell was. Upon research, he was a backup tackle for the Cowboys who stepped in for Doug Free. The line was good and he wasn’t a liability, but 6.4 million for five years for that? Wow. I know the Jaguars have to spend a lot this year due to the CBA, but this is far too long of a commitment for them.

Texans Re-Sign Ryan Mallett (QB)
Deal: 2 Years, 7 Million

Considering how Mark Sanchez got more money from the Eagles, and Josh McCown got more from the Browns, this isn’t terrible. 3.5 Million per year for a 2nd string QB isn’t bad, and he already knows the system in place. If Mallett is a starter and a capable one, this is great. If he’s a backup… this is still pretty good.

Chargers Sign Orlando Franklin (OL)
Deal: 5 Years, 36.5 Million (20 Million Guaranteed)

Franklin is a pretty good lineman with a lot of versatility. He blocked well for Peyton Manning and should form a solid tandem with King Dunlap. Not an elite player though, but all things considered the Chargers are filling a need with a good player.

Bills Re-Sign Jerry Hughes (ROLB)
Deal: 5 Years, 44.5 Million (22 Million Guaranteed)

The Bills have been slinging around big contracts for the last few days. Hughes will be the most explosive rush linebacker that Rex Ryan has worked with since Terrell Suggs, and if he can sustain his production, this is a good deal. But are we getting the Hughes we saw in Indianapolis, or the one in Buffalo? The contract is big enough to warrant those questions.

Bears Sign Pernell McPhee (ROLB/DE)
Deal: 5 Years, 40 Million (16 Million Guaranteed)

John Fox is a capable defensive head coach, so perhaps he’ll know how to deploy McPhee properly, but otherwise this seems to have shades of Paul Kruger. A rush linebacker from the Ravens who wasn’t in a featured role finding a large deal elsewhere? Last time it didn’t end so well for his new team… not sure if it’ll be any different this time around.

Raiders Sign Rodney Hudson (Center)
Deal: 5 Years, 44.5 Million

It isn’t the contract itself, or the player being signed that bother me. This isn’t a bad contract for Rodney Hudson who’s a pretty talented center. However, Stefen Wisniewski was one of the few talented free agents the Raiders had, who… also plays center. Continuity is a pretty strong factor for an offensive line, so disrupting it for a minimal upgrade in Hudson (Not a knock against him, but Wisniewski is in the same ballpark) doesn’t seem to be worth it. Even paying this for a guy who knows the locker room culture and the scheme would seem to be a better option.

Cardinals Sign Sean Weatherspoon (ILB)
Deal: 1 Year, 4 Million

This is a short contract that’s basically buying a lottery ticket. If Weatherspoon is back and healthy, he should form a solid tandem with Daryl Washington (if he isn’t suspended again). Then again… his injury history means that this was probably the best contract he could have signed this year.

Patriots Re-Sign Devin McCourty (S)
Deal: 5 Years, 47.5 Million (28.5 Million Guaranteed)

This is a ton of money but will likely be worth it to retain one of their top free agents. He isn’t quite as dynamic as Jarius Byrd (last season) or Earl Thomas, but he’s definitely in the discussion for the top overall safeties, and is on par with Eric Weddle from the Chargers. This isn’t a brilliant contract, but a top flight safety like McCourty is worth a contract this size.

Eagles Sign Byron Maxwell (CB)
Deal: 6 Years, 63 Million (25 Million Guaranteed)

For comparison, Richard Sherman’s contract he signed was a 4 year, 57.4 Million extension. So Maxwell, who was the #2 CB across from Sherman, just got a bigger contract (Although not as rich per year). Still, 10.5 million for a guy who’s never been asked to be the main guy is pretty insane. This is a huge gamble for the Eagles, who might know something we don’t, but there’s a huge chance that this will just collapse on them.

Eagles Sign Frank Gore (RB)
Deal: 3 Years, 7.5 Million (7.5 Million Guaranteed)

No details are known about the third year or the total compensation for Frank Gore at the moment, but 3.25 Million a year for a running back is at the higher end of the market. Frank Gore is pretty old and his carries will have to be managed carefully, but he has some mileage left in the tank. 10-15 carries a game for him coupled with Darren Sproles and possibly a third player (Chris Polk?) might mean that he’ll be able to make meaningful contributions for the Eagles for the duration of the contract.

Chargers Re-Sign Brandon Flowers (CB)
Deal: 4 Years, 36 Million (Unknown Guaranteed)

Brandon Flowers performed quite well for the Chargers this year on a bargain-bin contract. He won’t be cheap, but he’s a solid player that will team up with Jason Varrett for a pretty solid CB duo. This is about market value, and a far better contract than Byron Maxwell’s.

Dolphins Sign Ndamukong Suh (DT)
Deal: 6 Years, 114 Million (60 Million Guaranteed)

Wow. This is a pretty huge contract, and one that’ll eat up a lot of Miami’s flexibility from here on out. Is Ndamukong Suh worth quite this much money? No, but he’s close. He’s maybe half a step behind JJ Watt in terms of defensive impact, and Watt commanded 2.33 Million per year less than what Suh just got. The real concern is that with so much of the cap eaten up by Suh, that the Dolphins can’t build a roster around it. I don’t think there’s any questions as to if he’ll be productive and disruptive at the line, it’s just a matter of how badly he’s now hamstrung the payroll of the Dolphins.

Bills Get: LeSean McCoy
Eagles Get: Kiko Alonso

This is, as has been documented, a really interesting trade for a number of reasons. Some of the key points are…

What else will the Eagles get along with Kiko Alonso?: Alonso makes 8 million less than LeSean McCoy does, so the Eagles will have significant room to add another impact player. This might be more of “Mike Iupati and Kiko Alonso for LeSean McCoy”, or a similar impact player signed with the cap space shedded by moving McCoy.

What is the status of Alonso’s ACL?: There’s a number of reasons that the Bills would make a move like this, but it’s worth questioning how well Alonso’s recovered. If the Bills are moving a damaged player who’s lost some speed (and Alonso’s coverage skills are a huge part of his value), then the Bills did well to move him. A related note, if Rex Ryan doesn’t view Kiko Alonso as a good fit for his defense (Unlikely but possible), then acquiring someone of real value is also an excellent move.

Why did the Eagles acquire Alonso?: Is this more about Chip Kelly getting Oregon players, or finding the best fits for his team? Or is this just about moving a high priced player? Or, is this tied to cutting Trent Cole and Todd Herremans and this is about removing all of Andy Reid’s old players?

Overall, if Alonso returns to his form in 2013, this looks like a good trade for the Eagles unless Rex Ryan knew that Alonso was a poor fit for his defense. Rex Ryan wants to be a running team though, and McCoy will certainly help with that. There’s some real concerns with his NFL workload to this point and how much more McCoy has in the tank, but he should be able to produce for the remainder of his contract.

Bills Get: Vikings 6th Round Pick (2015), Matt Cassel (QB)
Vikings Get: Bills 5th Round Pick (2015), Bills 7th Round Pick (2016)

Basically, the Bills agree to move back just short of a full round in Round 5 and trade their 7th round pick in 2016 to acquire Matt Cassel. Cassel’s cap number for 2015 is 4.75 million, which is a relatively high number for a backup but a pretty reasonable cost for a starter, so the Vikings acquired a little bit of draft capital and saved just short of 5 million. If Teddy Bridgewater is the real deal, the Vikings can get a steady backup QB behind him for a slightly cheaper price than Cassel.

Buffalo does not have a lot of money tied up in its quarterbacks even with this deal, although LeSean McCoy’s deal means they’ll have plenty tied up in their running backs. Cassel’s a steady veteran but clearly not a needle mover at QB. He’s no better or worse than Kyle Orton really. He’ll give the Bills some options this year; they can see if EJ Manuel develops in 2015, or they can get a toolsy player in the 2015 draft such as Brett Hundley and give him a full year to mature and develop. Or, if they suck in 2015, Cassel’s a good veteran to learn from for the next Buffalo QB (Like what Bridgewater did).

I recently did a fantasy football mock draft. Now, considering free agency, the draft, and camp haven’t started yet, this is clearly far too early to get any real insights out of it, but there’s some early takeaways we’ll be able to get. Only two players (Myself and #9) were human players, the remainder were computer controlled from fantasyfootballcalculator.com’s database. At the end of the document is the full mock draft.

Observation 1: Running back is still a very difficult position to fill.

The top ten running backs drafted in this draft were LeVeon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Eddie Lacy, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Marshawn Lynch, CJ Anderson, and Arian Foster. CJ Anderson has only half a season of work. Adrian Peterson wasn’t in the league for most of last season and we don’t know where he’ll play this year. Matt Forte and Marshawn Lynch are starting to get older and get a lot of mileage on them. LeSean McCoy had a crappy 2014. DeMarco Murray was put through the meat grinder last year, and Arian Foster cannot stay healthy whatsoever. That’s seven of the ten running backs in the list with SERIOUS question marks for 2015. That is not good.

Conclusion 1: An early pick to secure LeVeon Bell, Jamaal Charles, or Eddie Lacy might not be a bad thing this year.

Conclusion 2: Rookie runners might play a bigger than usual role this year. It helps that Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley are superior prospects to anyone in the last few years.

Conclusion 3: At least one of your first three picks has to be a running back if you want to be competitive this year.

Observation 2: Odell Beckham Jr. might make or break your team this year.

Yes, he was drafted by a human player, but he’s still the #9 rated prospect on Fantasy Football Calculator. Now, it’s POSSIBLE that he is the second coming of Jerry Rice just with lightning fast speed. However, attempting to extrapolate his 2014 numbers to a full 2015 season might be dangerous. Victor Cruz will take away a few of his targets as well. Expect similar numbers to his 2014 campaign, which still makes him very good, but defenses will have had a lot of time to study OBJ.

Also noteworthy is the general depth of the WR position this year. On top of some impressive rookies coming into the league, the current stable of WR’s is pretty damn good. Guys like Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, and Julio Jones will probably be around in round two, and I’m still not sold on OBJ being a superior option than any of them*. Remember that you cannot win your fantasy league in the first two rounds, but you can most certainly lose it.

Conclusion 4: An already deep class at WR is only getting deeper.

Observation 3: Quarterbacks are in general, being slightly devalued.

I took the first quarterback off the board with Aaron Rodgers at 2.7, which is later than it’s been in a few years. Peyton Manning went off the board at 4.2, and the 10th quarterback went off the board at 7.4. In an apparently QB driven league, that is fairly late. Whether this means you want to invest a little bit more to ensure getting a top QB prospect, or you can still wait remains to be seen. Guys like Phillip Rivers, Colin Kapernick, and Ryan Tannehill are being drafted as QB2’s, and have the potential to put up solid numbers for you this year. It’s doubtful that Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota will make a huge impact on the quarterback hierarchy for this year, but they could make interesting QB2 options.

Observation 4: There isn’t a ton of interesting sleeper potential… yet.

At this time, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of players that are shaping up as “under the radar”. Most of the late draft picks are guys past their prime or gambles for a rebound season. Remember to look into backups for injury prone players (DeMarco Murray says hello), second year players who might break out, backups where the starter/s sucks (Charles Sims says hello), younger players getting a change of scenery, or younger players who could still reclaim their old form (Robert Griffin III?). It is NOT hard to find a running back who can get you 8 carries for 34 yards, or a wide receiver who can get you 3 catches for 40 yards week in, week out. So if you’re drafting a guy like that, why bother? Go for the upside plays late.

mockdraft312015

With the signing of Josh McCown to a 3 year, 14 million dollar contract (With a lot of it frontloaded), it seems pretty safe to assume that the Browns don’t really intend on bringing back Brian Hoyer for the 2015 season.

Now, it’s very possible that the Browns think that Josh McCown is going to be able to start at a high level for them. They’re wrong. However, he’s a pretty good backup in the NFL and a consummate professional. Considering he was able to act as a stabilizing force for Jay Cutler, it seems reasonable that he could do the same for Johnny Manziel. Is a backup worth the contract that McCown got? Not really, but you’ll have to remember that the Browns don’t have a ton of cap space invested at the position. For what it’s worth, even if the Browns traded up to #1 overall to draft a QB, their three quarterbacks will have a combined cap hit of roughly 12 million dollars, which is less than what 13 teams spend for their starter alone*. In that context, the Browns have a bit more to work with in terms of cap space, making their payment for McCown less egregious.

With that being said, if McCown can’t be a good player, what can we expect out of Johnny Manziel? His performance in 2014 was abysmal. A 42.0 QB rating is only marginally better than a quarterback who throws incomplete on every pass (39.6). Manziel’s 5.1 QBR places him 79th amongst all players who threw a pass last season, behind individuals such as Brandon Bolden, Ryan Nassib, Bilal Powell, Russell Shepard, Ryan Lindley, Case Keenum, and Darren McFadden. None of those players are even remotely franchise quarterbacks, and many of the players I mentioned are not in fact, quarterbacks by trade. Is there hope? Maybe. I suppose. I won’t pretend to have secret information on that. The odds however, are long and he’s starting from a truly awful point in his sophomore campaign. Rehabilitation is NOT helping his cause, although it’s very needed for him as a human, the fact is that he’s not getting the same resources in a rehab clinic to improve his football skills and ability to read defenses, which were amateurish in 2014.

In terms of further upgrades, it’s not clear what’s in store for the Browns this year. They COULD package their 1st rounders to move up for Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston (More likely the former), but then their time table to compete gets pushed back a year, and neither of these prospects are a slam dunk. They could wait and take a slightly lesser prospect like Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty, or Garrett Grayson, but all three are fairly raw prospects who’ll need development time. However, all three will likely be available with a second or third round draft choice, allowing the Browns to capitalize elsewhere on the field. I will predict that the Browns will stay the course, considering they’re giving Manziel 1st rounder cash and had somewhat limited time last year. However, with little to show for last year (Could not beat out a pedestrian Brian Hoyer for the starting job, was awful when the job was handed to him, etc.), and with few receiving weapons surrounding him, the Browns seem like a prime candidate to regress this season, even with a modest 7-9 record in 2014. The Browns might be in a position in 2016 to look at adding a franchise QB then, with Rust Belt/Midwest players Cardale Jones, Christian Hackenberg, and Connor Cook all projecting to be 1st round caliber quarterbacks.

* – Using an estimated cap hit of 5.1 million for the #1 overall pick, 4.67 for Josh McCown, and 2.25 for Johnny Manziel

Recent proposals are strongly considering a return to freshman ineligibility rules that were changed in 1972, giving a mandatory “Year of Readiness” for all athletes in Football and Men’s Basketball programs. Ostensibly, this is done to prepare student athletes to manage their responsibilities for a full year so their graduation rates can improve as well.

It should be obvious that the NCAA pitch line can be trusted as far as it can be thrown, but that does raise the question as to what the motivation would be for such a program in place.

If the purpose of a mandatory redshirt year is to allow a student athlete to acclimate to being a student… then why is this only being done for Men’s Basketball and Football? Little surprise that these are the two revenue generating sports, but athletes in other programs dedicate just as much time to those sports as football and basketball players do. Is there something unique about these sports that requires another full calendar year before they can play in live games? Not particularly.

Are the stresses of trying to manage a practice schedule and/or travel so stressful that a student needs a full year to adjust? I don’t see this as being a particularly viable answer. Plenty of students hold part time or full time jobs while being full time students. I will acknowledge that practice and game time is strenuous, but the stress is not dramatically greater than a student who is independent with a litany of bills to manage along with their course load.

Does a mandatory redshirt year improve revenue for Men’s Basketball and Football? I don’t see how. Simply put, would it matter if Jahlil Okafor lit up college basketball in 2015 or 2016? If Derrick Rose had to sit out a full season’s worth of games, would that have made him play at Memphis for more than one season? The answer to both questions is pretty clearly no. Mandatory redshirt years would also be pretty clearly harmful for college football programs. As of right now, the NFL requires players to be three years removed from high school before they can be eligible for the NFL. If one of those years is erased by a mandatory redshirt, you’ll possibly be losing out on a full year of electric play from a large number of athletes. Todd Gurley’s most impressive statistical season was his Freshman season. It seems hard to think that having a potential star on the bench is going to help bring in more dollars for college sports.

On a related note to this, while Freshmen seem to occupy a lot of headlines (Especially in basketball), they often need time to break out. Especially in football, redshirt freshmen and true freshmen playing as starters is fairly uncommon. Usually players who crack the starting lineup as freshmen are… pretty damn good. Coaches are only going to put their best on the field. If that means the freshmen are on the bench, then so be it. And if the freshmen don’t see the field or the court, how is that different than a mandatory redshirt? While recruiting may need some serious reforms, true freshmen don’t often see the football field, regardless of how highly touted they were as prospects. That isn’t to say that they DON’T, but it isn’t common. Most of the ones who do often times do so because they are legitimately the best option that the team has.

It seems that the most convincing argument in favor of a mandatory redshirt year is that it would cloister student athletes in the most visible sports, sheltering them from publicity. It isn’t the most ignoble concept… but it does little to help them in the real world. Most freshmen that would be under the harsh spotlight are disproportinately likely to also be under this same spotlight when they hit the NBA or NFL. And imagine how THOSE leagues would respond if their touted rookies weren’t allowed to play. While there’s a lot of things wrong with the NCAA as it stands, trying to hide their youngest athletes for a year doesn’t seem like it’s going to fix anything that ails them.

Tough week last week, 2-3 on the picks for the first losing week so far.

Spreads are listed for the team I’m betting on and they are also bolded for your convenience! Check out the Betting Compendium for a full list of trends to help make your picks.

Green Bay Packers (-4.5) @ Buffalo Bills
– Possibly a let down game, but Aaron Rodgers since his SB Win has a winning record ATS and the line seems fishy to me.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Atlanta Falcons (+2)
– Home underdog, the Falcons can’t look past the Steelers since they’re in the lead for the worst division race in history… no strong lean here otherwise.

San Francisco 49’ers @ Seattle Seahawks (-10)
– Seahawks are catching the 49’ers at the right time, and Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson simply own Kaepernick.

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts (-6.5)
– Andrew Luck, at home. JJ Watt doesn’t play quarterback (yet).

No advice on fantasy sleepers at this juncture since it’s so late, but I do just want to remind viewers a few things.

1. If your games matter now, this is not the time to get cute. The Cardinals just put Andre Ellington on IR, but that doesn’t mean Stefan Taylor is automatically a must-start, since the Cardinals have had an awful rushing attack all season long.

2. If you’re in a keeper league, now’s the time to pounce on waiver wires that might pay dividends next year if you can. Guys like Manziel, Adrian Peterson, etc. may all be available and be much more useful next year than this year.

3. Do recall it’s just a game… unless you’ve put money down in your league. Then it’s war.

Remember, from the previous rules, there’s one representative from each conference, and no more than three total teams per conference. If you can’t crack the top 3 of your conference, you don’t deserve a shot at the championship. So who gets in?

Alabama (SEC Champ)
Oregon (Pac-12 Champ)
Florida State (ACC Champ)
Ohio State (Big Ten Champ)
Baylor (Big 12 Champ)
Memphis (AAC Champ)
Marshall (CUSA Champ)
Northern Illinois (MAC Champ)
Boise State (MWC Champ)
Georgia Southern (Sun Belt Champ)
TCU (At-Large Big 12)
Mississippi State (At-Large SEC)
Michigan State (At-Large Big Ten)
Ole Miss (At-large SEC)
Arizona (At-Large Pac-12)
Kansas State (At-Large Big-12)
First Four Out: Georgia Tech, UCLA, Arizona State, Clemson

Playoff Home Series
Georgia Southern (Sun Belt Champion) @ Alabama (SEC Champion)
Memphis (AAC Champ) @ Oregon (Pac-12 Champ)
Northern Illinois (MAC Champ) @ Florida State (ACC Champ)
Marshall (CUSA Champ) @ Ohio State (Big Ten Champ)
Boise State (MWC Champ) @ Baylor (Big 12 Champ)
Arizona (At-Large Pac-12) @ TCU (At-Large Big-12)
Kansas State (At-Large Big 12) @ Mississippi State (At-Large SEC)
Ole Miss (At-Large SEC) @ Michigan State (At-Large Big Ten)

In order to understand the draft a bit more deeply, we must first consider what is “normal” in the NFL draft process. Not every draft pick is a winner, and even with hundreds upon hundreds of college athletes who are draft eligible waiting to be selected, teams still manage to screw up and draft a guy who ultimately, doesn’t do much to help their team.

What this means is that we need to understand exactly how often draft picks fail, in order to get an idea for what our targeted improvements will be. It does take several years for a draft pick to be considered a success, so the 2014, 2013, and 2012 draft classes are safe from evaluation. Before that though, and we’re still going to wanna see. Read More »

Just as a little bit of a different take, I figured that I was the only football writer who hadn’t weighed in formally on Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson… so I probably should.

First and foremost, by no means do I think either of these men are good people for their actions. If I was a friend I would start to distance myself from him, and I’d only accept one of their jerseys as a gag gift. With this being said, the only reason they’re suspended today is because of the ineptitude of the NFL and the desire to martyr these two players to appease the public. That’s it. Read More »

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