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The Last Days of the McKay Era?…

March 29th, 2006 Comments off

Despite his denials, I have the feeling that Rich McKay’s name is going to be mentioned a lot more when it comes to whomever manages to succeed Paul Tagliabue as the NFL commissioner.

Most insight indicates that some dude named Roger Goodell who works in the league office is the frontrunner. But I think McKay is not far behind as the top runner-up. And because there is no timetable for this thing, I believe there is a good chance that McKay may depart the Falcons sometime to take over the position.

I’m not too worried about it right now, because McKay isn’t going to be hired before this upcoming draft. But it is somewhat interesting that McKay doesn’t seem to mind parting ways with draft picks, as if building for the next few years is not that big an issue. This off-season seems to indicate the Falcons are preparing for a Super Bowl run within the next year or two. I believe the Falcons best window exists in that time, and McKay seems to agree.

We’ve already parted ways with two pivotal draft picks, and I’ve heard the Falcons are interested in Eric Moulds, which might me we see another one get shipped away. Not exactly building for the future, when the core of your draft is going to be fifth, sixth, and seventh round picks, which are usually players that aren’t on your roster by their second and third years.

So I’m saying I wouldn’t at all be surprised if McKay is not the Falcons GM come April 2007. And I say, good for Mr. McKay. The only thing that worries me is, who do the Falcons turn to in his absence? Is the new dude, Bill Devaney, right now the front runner to succeed McKay? It would seem so.

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The Education of Michael Vick

March 29th, 2006 Comments off

One of the major criticisms I have of Michael Vick is the fact that he doesn’t seem to be making a lot of extra effort to get to know his receivers better. Peyton Manning seemingly set the precedent when it comes to the near-telepathic bond a quarterback can have with his receivers. Other passers are copying what Manning does, including Carson Palmer. It’s time Vick does it too. And Jim Mora indicated that he is doing so in the offseason.

Now, I don’t expect the same results of Manning, in that I expect Vick to be tossing 40 touchdowns in a single season. But it would be nice that if by the time training camp rolls around, Vick is nearly on the same page with his receivers. That was very evident last summer, that he and notably Jenkins and Roddy White weren’t on the same page. Part of that may be attributed to the fact that the starting lineup was not set yet, but he won’t have that excuse this summer. White and Jenks will be starting this season. One thing I did notice from Vick during the season, was that he was much more hesitant to tuck and run and probably forced some passes to those two wideouts in order to try and build a stronger rapport.

His rapport with Finneran developed over several years, from their shared days as backups in 2001, to both being promoted as starters in 2002 and beyond. The same with Crumpler, another guy he worked with on the second string from day one.

This is the vaulted third year of the West Coast Offense for Vick. It is the year that the light is supposed to come on. If not, according to those that teach the offensive system, it is unlikely to ever will. I think we got a preview of that from Vick’s outstanding month of November passing. Now that he should be developing a solid rapport with his starting receivers along with the top backup and the tight end, I really expect a big year from Vick. He may not wow us with a 100 passer rating, but I think we’ll see his first 3000-yard passing season.

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To Rich McKay: Do The Right Thing

March 21st, 2006 Comments off

And by that, I mean find a way to get John Abraham here in Atlanta. And as I see it the simplest way is to give the Jets what they want. And what is that?

A settled quarterback position. As I see it, this is the holdout. Let’s take this issue from the Jets perspective. They may have acquired Patrick Ramsey this past week, but their compensation sent to Washington definitely indicates how much stock they put in him. He’s there only to be a backup to another veteran, or keep the seat warm for a rookie for a few games before they yank on the leash.

In the Jets eyes, they see their best options at quarterback as being Matt Leinart or Matt Schaub. No, Vince Young and Jay Cutler are not in the equation. Other teams may be high on them, but not the Jets. Do I know this for a fact? No, but I have an extremely strong gut feeling.

So they ask for a first round pick in the simplest way of acquiring enough ammo to be able to move up in the draft and get Leinart. That involves leapfrogging the Tennessee Titans, who are sitting pretty right now with the strong possibility Leinart falls to them at No. 3. Their best trade option as it stands is the New Orleans Saints, who have a relatively settled QB position with Drew Brees now and are targetting a player like Mario Williams, A.J. Hawk, or D’Brickashaw Ferguson with their top pick. They’d happily trade down a few spots and take whomever is still available, with the added benefit of acquiring another early draft pick to use on another top prospect.

Option 2 of course is to take Matt Schaub. It’s interesting to see Schaub put in the same class as Leinart. I wouldn’t do it, but I can understand why others might. I’m not 100% sold on Schaub’s potential to lead a team to a Super Bowl ring, but I am definitely impressed enough to believe it possible, and I can definitely understand if a team is more impressed with him than say players like Cutler or Young. The Jets get Schaub, he competes with Ramsey for the starting spot. Since both he and Ramsey have contracts that expire at the end of 2006, if it doesn’t work out, the Jets aren’t forced to stick with it for a long time as they would be with a rookie.

I like Schaub, and under normal circumstances I would say we should not part ways with him. Looking around the league, it’s a very big gamble to not have a competent backup quarterback. We suffered in 2003, and nobody wants that to happen again. But at the same time, when you are dealing with a player the caliber of John Abraham, I don’t consider those normal circumstances.

This is how I justify it: Schaub is very unlikely to be the starting quarterback in Atlanta in 2006, 2007, or beyond. That would frankly come down to Michael Vick dying, or getting hurt and Schaub pulling a Tom Brady-impression and leading this team to a Super Bowl, or Vick have a meltdown that would make Kordell Stewart’s head spin. When you deal in likelihoods, those are next to impossible in my mind. On the other hand, you have a player like Abraham. Abraham, a 4-time Pro Bowler at age 28 (in May), may not exactly be a young guy, but if Strahan and Jason Taylor are indicators, he can still be a Pro Bowl-level producer until his 32nd birthday and beyond. So, in my mind, that means you have not only a starter for another 4-5 years, but a guy that can be a Pro Bowler for another 4-5 years.

When you weigh it that way, at least you should be able to understand my willingness to part ways with Mr. Schaub and why I think McKay is making a huge mistake by not taking this risk.

Also consider that a player like Billy Volek is available. With the Titans poised to draft a QB in Round 1 (unlike the Jets, they’d happily “settle” for Young if Leinart is gone), he’s going to be out of a job soon. The Falcons went hard after Volek in 2004, before they went after Brees, but ultimately settled on Schaub. If it means giving up our 5th round choice or a conditional pick in 2007, then I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

What about someone like Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Brian Griese, or Joey Harrington? I know, not exactly inspiring names, but all are starters and with exception to Harrington, all have led teams to the playoffs as starters, which in my opinion is more than enough qualification to be a benchwarmer. Harrington makes the list because of his experience in the offense, as he is the player that is the least of a square peg. What about Jay Fiedler, Tommy Maddox, Tony Banks, or Jeff Blake? All are playoff-experienced quarterbacks, again something that I think looks very good on a resume to be a benchwarmer. Mike McMahon, Shane Matthews, Jamie Martin, or trading for Ramsey would be last resorts.

But the bottom line is the Falcons need to strike while the iron is hot. The availability of some of those names isn’t going to be forever, and if the Falcons can pull a trade sending Schaub and a 2nd rounder to New York, and grab Abraham and then find a competent backup to Vick by the end of the week, it would be a coup.

I would lose a lot of confidence in McKay if we lose out on a player that his presence along instantly upgrades our defense from bad to scary, because we opted to keep a guy that is probably not going to be with the team next year.

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A Cap-less future

March 8th, 2006 Comments off

It’s been a while since posting something here, because mainly I’ve been trying to hold until this CBA thing is resolved. It should now be resolved within the next 24 hours, since I don’t expect another extension, which would be third one.

Now I’m trying to imagine what the world would be like with a salary cap-less NFL. Most compare it to baseball, and thinking in those terms this is what I’d think it would be like.

In baseball, the Yankees and Red Sox are the richest teams. Their revenues are highest and their rivalry makes them extremely competitive towards one another, doing their best to attract the best and most expensive talent. An analog in the NFL would be the Redskins and Cowboys. They too sport a storied rivalry, and their owners: Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones have shown few reservations in the past about spending big bucks to get players regardless of their abilities. Snyder has earned the nickname “Snyder-brenner” by some due to his close business mindset of George Steinbrenner.

Where do the Falcons fit into this puzzle? I would suspect that because of Blank’s riches, and the fact that the team plays in Atlanta would make the Falcons one of the upper echelon teams in terms of payroll and attraction to free agents. Atlanta is home to more black athletes than any other city in this country, and a large chunk of NFL players have a home here. Blank, I believe in terms of wealth and worth is second only to Seattle’s Paul Allen among owners.

But even with those factors, I don’t see the Falcons being able to compete with the Redskins, Cowboys, and other high revenue teams because they don’t own their own stadium. Teams like those along with the Eagles, and Patriots cash in a lot because of the revenue their stadiums generate. If the NFL went uncapped, I would suspect that Blank would begin plans to build a new stadium for the team. Goodbye Georgia Dome, so that is one big change. And then that makes you wonder if the Falcons will build an indoor stadium or outdoor one. I’m sure that whatever decision is made, a big factor will be Blank’s ability to attract Super Bowls here and other venues (which leads me to believe it will remain an indoor one). I would probably equate your typical year for the Falcons would have them somewhere about where the Braves are in payroll. I believe this past season, they ranked 10th in payroll in the league.

I know in 2007, a player has to have six or more years to become an unrestricted free agent. But I’m not sure if that continues in 2008 and beyond (I’m assuming it does). If that is the case, the spending sprees that come in baseball are less likely to occur because you won’t be having the brunt of top notch free agents being 26 and 27 years old. Teams spend big money on those guys because they typically have 5-7 years left in the league of playing at a top level. Instead, you’ll get a lot of 28-30 year olds on the open market, and teams won’t be as willing to give out those 8-figure signing bonus to guys that may be able to contribute at a top level for 2-3 more years.

So in mind, a cap-less NFL presents greater opportunity for players to remain with their original teams for the entirety of their career. By Year 4 or 5, a player is going to be poised to hit the free agent market soon, and teams are likely going to pony up some money to extend their contracts for several years so they can keep those guys into their thirties. But I could have the opposite effect. As I said before, players won’t have as much leverage anymore in terms of their market value, so teams may be less willing to give big dollars to guys and let a majority of their free agents walk.

Also, I think the $100 million contract for a quarterback is going to be a very common phenomenon. In 2001, only two passers qualified here: Favre and Bledsoe. But since then, guys like Culpepper, Vick, Manning, McNabb, and Palmer have joined the club. Tom Brady, Chad Pennington, among some others have received deals of $60 million or more recently, so I think in a cap less NFL almost any QB worth a damn would be getting huge contracts. Also guys like Marvin Harrison, Shaun Alexander, and Randy Moss wouldn’t be the only non-QBs to get deals of $60 million or more. More running backs, wide receivers, defensive ends, and cornerbacks would also get contracts in that range. Projecting 7 or 8 years down the road, you would see probably 50 or so players with these kinds of contract, when that number is limited to about a dozen or so now. Eventually, the NFL would look a lot like baseball. We are currently at $100 million payrolls in the NFL, but when you factor in no cap and signing bonuses aren’t prorated anymore, you are looking at teams having payrolls of $200 and $300 million or more. Right now, if you multiply the current $94.5 million salary cap times all 32 teams, you have about $3 billion just going towards player salaries. When you divide that by the total number of players in the league, the average salary is about $1.6 million.

It makes you sick when you think about it that way, that no matter what happens with the CBA, the rich will find someway to get richer.

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