Elverys Sports NFL Apparel Launch w/Joique Bell Recap

Editor Note: The Q & A from the event is available to listen to on the podcast stream at the bottom of this page.

Thursday July 16th, saw the official launch of Elverys Sports as the official supplier of Nike NFL Apparel in Ireland. The occasion was marked by the appearance of Detroit Lions star running back Joique Bell. Bell is fresh of his best season in the league, reaching career highs in carries, yards, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi previously of the New Orleans Saints, helped revitalise Bell’s career. Bell, proved to be an entertaining and charming character, fans and media regaled in his stories.

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He spoke of his long journey to his hometown Lions, progressing from Division II college team Wayne State University and five NFL teams in two years. His confidence never wavered, he simply had to bide his time: “Once I got there, and I play, I knew I could play in this league”, his confidence was certainly aided by two players who acted in an advisory and mentoring capacity in his early years. Marshawn Lynch, then of the Buffalo Bills, helped the young running back acclimatise to the NFL in his first training camp, the respect is still palpable with Bell referring to the Seahawks star as the best running back in the league. Bell and recently departed teammate Reggie Bush also share a close relationship. The NFL is known for its cutthroat nature, but Bell’s recollection of his friendship with Bush provided a touching moment. He recalled how he would spend hours watching Reggie Bush’s college footage, seeking to emulate the running back. He described Bush as kind and welcoming, openly greeting Bell on his arrival to the Saints in 2010. Bell would later return the favour when Bush joined him in Detroit in 2013.

Inevitably, the talk turned to the possibility of a London franchise. The Lions will make their second trip to London to play the Kansas City Chiefs having emerged victorious in a thrilling encounter with the Atlanta Falcons last year. Bell noted “I think the reality of having a team in London is relatively close.. probably before 2020”. The NFL is certainly increasing its commitment to London. Bell appeared to be quite positive on his London experience and the franchise option intrigued him. I still question the feasibility of a London team, but Bell’s words suggests that players are perhaps open to its possibility in the near future. Having played in the dreaded snow game in Philadelphia in 2013, the dreary winter weather of the British Isles will not upset Bell.

Looking towards the upcoming season, Bell was encouraged by this offseason. While the defence has certainly undergone some changes since last year he noted how the 2013 crew were the toughest he faced all year. The Lions are a very insular team focused on personal improvement: “We don’t spend this whole offseason saying we got to bet the Packers… one motto that we live by, every day you either getting better or getting worse”. In the face of young competition from Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, Bell does not appear to be worried. He is not a selfish player acknowledging the diverse skillsets his fellow running backs provide for the team, confidence emanates from the veteran running back. “When it’s my time, it’s my time.” Additionally, Bell and his fellow running backs were keen to nurture a strong relationship with their offensive line “if you take care of your O-Line, they take care of you”. Bell joked how he and Reggie Bush took the Line out for a meal over in London worth “half a year’s salary”. Personal goals don’t motivate Bell,(earlier in the offseason he noted how he hoped to get 1,200 yards rushing this season) but with additions on the offensive line and the sacrifices he has made this offseason he believes he can achieve his goals. Bell said all the right things noting how his focus was purely on team pursuits making the playoffs, and winning the Super Bowl: “My only concern is my team making and going deep in a playoff run”

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The media were graced by the charming and respectful side of Joique Bell but he also divulged some details of his more sinister playing side. While he may not be Chad Johnson, Bell is certainly capable of dishing out some trash talk, “I mightn’t start it, but I’ll finish it”.

It was both refreshing and fascinating to hear Bell talk about life after football as well as some of the details behind his offseason training programme. Bell is committed to his education and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree, he has no definite plan as of yet with coaching his son’s High School team and Front Office work among his options. Many players struggle with finances and boredom following their careers but Bell should not be caught in this situation. It’s rare to hear professional athletes discuss academic pursuits, Bell maximised his opportunity epitomising the idea of a student athlete. When you consider that Bell was also a father at the time, his success is certainly admirable.

While certain aspects of diet and nutrition for professional athletes would be quite well known, Bell certainly added a new wrinkle to our knowledge. Bell sends a lock of his hair to a company, who analyses the hair and will supply vitamins to fill areas he is deficient in. This is in addition to the standard blood samples given which further detail the recommended levels of certain food groups. During the season he may waver occasionally, but during the offseason he appears to live almost an ascetic lifestyle. I suppose not everybody can be Rob Gronkowski.

I would like to express our thanks to Anne Reid and Hopscotch Media for inviting myself and DJ to Dublin for the occasion. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event, Elverys are now the official supplier of Nike NFL gear in Ireland, so pop into your local shop or click here to buy your gear online http://www.elverys.ie/category/american-football/0000001419

This OTI Piece was written by Conor Philpott. Conor is a writer from Cork, Ireland and a big Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan (yes apparently the Bucs have Irish fans!). He has never played American football but is an avid fan and thinks playing Madden compensates for his lack of physical football experience. You can find him on twitter at @cphilpott95 where he will talk about a huge variety of sports.

The Brod View: NFL Mock Draft

This is one of the more interesting NFL drafts in recent memory. It neither presents the massive excitement that saturated the American sports media in 2014 nor does it fail to have some discussion points. The biggest talking point that has occurred over the past few months is about where Marcus Mariota will end up—Tennessee? New York? Washington? Cleveland? San Diego? Philadelphia? New Orleans? And where he is drafted will damage the game plans for many franchises. This is where the excitement lies. While Jameis Winston will definitely be drafted number one overall, this draft will surely be remembered as the Mariota draft (especially if he falls outside the top ten.)

Pick #1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)

It is quite clear that everybody thinks the 2013 Heismann Trophy winner Jameis Winston is remaining in Florida to play football. Despite several off the field issues—some of which has a Manziel-esque feeling—his ability to play in a pro-style offense in college means Tampa, who desperately need a quarterback, will be selecting Winston at number one.

#2: Tennessee Titans select Leonard Williams (DE, USC)

It’s the best pick of the draft versus the most marketable pick of the draft; Williams vs Mariota. The Titans are an organisation that desperately needs a star player and Marcus Mariota would fit the billing if it were not for the fact that the coaching staff seem high on Zach Mettenberger. However, Williams is one of the most explosive defensive linemen in the draft and certainly the most promising talent—one which could destroy Andrew Luck and the weak Colts O-line.

#3: Jacksonville Jaguars select Dante Fowler Jr (OLB, Florida)

This is as certain as the first pick of the draft. It seems unlikely that Fowler Jr will go anywhere else as he is perfect for Gus Bradley’s system. He could also be moulded into a defensive end or an inside linebacker. Adaptability is never a bad thing.

#4: Oakland Raiders select Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)

Many pundits believe that Kevin White will be the first wide receiver to be picked in the draft. While Oakland love drafting players with massive upside (e.g. Khalil Mack and Derek Carr from 2014), Cooper would definitely be the safer pick of the two receivers. Cooper is a touchdown machine, drawing parallels with Julio Jones, a former Alabama WR and current NFL superstar.

#5: Washington Redskins select Vic Beasley (OLB, Clemson)

Washington are now in desperate need for a playmaker on the defensive side of the field with Brian Orakpo leaving the team.. Beasley was a dominant player for Clemson, ranking first in his school’s history for sacks. He will be very effective on the pass rush, something that is much needed for Washington when facing the good QBs and offensive systems in the NFC East.

#6 New York Jets select Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)

The new General Manager Mike Maccagnan loves to draft pass rushers. He’s drafted the likes of Jadaveon Clowney and Mario Williams during his time as director of scouting at the Houston Texans. New head coach Todd Bowles loves aggressive defensive play and Ray’s selection could mean that the Jets will possess the most valuable defensive line in the NFL. The Jets could go for Mariota here, but they picked up Ryan Fitzpatrick in free agency and the staff seem reluctant to drop Geno Smith despite two years of poor QB play.

#7 Chicago Bears select Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)

If Kevin White isn’t available then Amari Cooper is the other option here. Chicago don’t necessarily need to go wide receiver in the first round, but a selection like White or Cooper would not only cater for a “team need” but they would be picking up a quality talent. White is not as NFL ready as Cooper, but a lot of scouts believe that he has a lot of upside and that’s why White will go in the top ten.

#8 Atlanta Falcons select Brandon Scherff (OG, Iowa)

For the second year running Atlanta will be selecting an offensive lineman in the first round. Many pundits believe that Stanfords’ offensive tackle Andrus Peat could go here instead of Scherff, but they would not be selecting the best OL man in the draft if they were to go Peat. Scherff offers something that Peat cannot; versatility—the guard from Iowa can also play anywhere else on that offensive line which is what Atlanta really need.

#9 New York Giants select Danny Shelton (NT, Washington)

Danny Shelton is the most attractive defensive/nose tackle heading into this draft and has the ability to play a dominant part in Steve Spagnuolo’s NASCAR defense. The Giants could trade down here for a safety or they could draft an offensive lineman instead.

#10 St Louis Rams select Andrus Peat (OT, Stanford)

Their latest QB acquisition Nick Foles is not very good under pressure and the St Louis O-line are not very good at protecting their QB. It’s an easy pick for the Rams. They could also do with improving the secondary and they really don’t need to draft a new QB if they already have Foles in place.

#11 Minnesota Vikings select Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)

Trae Waynes is what the Vikings need—a starting cornerback. The signing of 36-year-old Terence Newman from Cincinnati should provide no competition for the rookie, who should start from week one across Xavier Rhodes. He is a tough player both physically and mentally and loves a one-on-one challenge with a WR but he will concede a lot of penalties.

#12 Cleveland Browns select Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)

Apart from just having bad quarterbacks, the reason why the Browns have endured bad QB play in 2014 was down to the fact that the receiving corps were poor. And with Josh Gordon being Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron now at Miami, Cleveland need to draft a wide receiver badly to help out McCown or Manziel. They need a receiver more than they need a QB (ergo no Mariota.)

#13 New Orleans Saints select Randy Gregory (OLB, Nebraska)

Gregory should be a top ten pick on talent alone but his failed marijuana test means he drops out of the top ten. Even then, it could be considered overly optimistic to see the Saints draft Gregory here and it would not be surprising to see if they find a different pass rushing talent. However, the Saints will be desperate to draft a great defensive talent that helps replicate their defensive success in 2013.

#14 Miami Dolphins select Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)

Miami have only one good cornerback in Brent Grimes and that is it. The Dolphins need improving in the secondary and it would not be that hard to envisage a lot of corners being selected in the first round. Therefore Miami will select Jalen Collins, a rookie that has had very few starts at college level but has immense physicality which gives coaches something to work with.

#15 San Francisco 49ers select Arik Armstead (DT, Oregon)

NFL.com at this point has him as the best player on the board and considering the amount of talent San Francisco have lost this offseason on defense then it’s a simple case of one plus one equals two. Or in other terms, just take the best defensive player on the board.

#16 Houston Texans select Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest)

Kareem Jackson’s new contract means that cornerback isn’t the most urgent need for Houston but it does mean that Jonathan Joseph might not be re-signed after 2015. Therefore the Texans could build for the future here by selecting Kevin Johnson. However, it would not be surprising to go with what many analysts expect by drafting a wide receiver instead of a CB.

#17 San Diego Chargers select Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)

The Chargers do not have a running back. They could draft elsewhere like Marcus Mariota (since Phillip Rivers may not sign a new contract), but to reject Gurley’s talent would be a big mistake from the Chargers front office.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs select Breshad Perriman (WR, Central Florida)

Perriman is the biggest “late climber” of this year’s draft after having an excellent showing at the scouting combine as well as exciting coaches and scouts alike with his game tape. Despite signing Jeremy Maclin from the Eagles, the Chiefs need to draft a receiver.

#19 Cleveland Browns select Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)

Malcom Brown could go as high as number seven in this year’s draft so he could be a steal at number 19. He’s a very physical defensive tackle that has the ability to be a defensive end too. He will be very useful for Cleveland as a run stopper as well as being a decent pass rusher.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles select Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)

It is unlikely that Mariota will fall below number 20, but it would be unsurprising if Chip Kelly trades up to acquire Mariota’s services. And then the dream team will be formed; Oregon QB teams up with Oregon head coach in Oregon’s offense. For Mariota it will be homecoming, because the biggest issue many scouts have is whether or not he can adapt to a pro-style system. Philadelphia is easily Mariota’s best fit.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals select T.J. Clemmings (OT, Pittsburgh)

Many analysts have raised issues with current 33-year-old left tackle Andrew Whitworth and are asking how long will he last in the NFL. While Whitworth is playing well, he needs to be moved to the inside of the O-line. The Bengals could draft a number of offensive tackles here so they may not necessarily sign T.J. Clemmings.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers select Landon Collins (SS, Alabama)

Troy Polamalu’s retirement this past week means that the Steelers definitely need to sign a safety in the first round and thankfully for them they have landed in a decent spot to land Landon Collins—the best safety in the draft. The Steelers could also go OLB at #22 if they wanted to sign someone like Bud Dupree to replace the recently retired Jason Worilds.

#23 Detroit Lions select Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)

The Lions absolutely need a defensive tackle and they need to draft one in the first round at all costs. Losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley is a crippling blow to their defensive line and the only way to repair that is by getting someone like Goldman in.

#24 Arizona Cardinals select Bud Dupree (OLB, Kentucky)

Aside from Calais Campbell, the pass rush was slightly inconsistent from the Cardinals—which is a shame because they have a good defense. Despite signing LaMarr Woodley from the Raiders, the Cardinals need to inject some fresh blood into their linebacker corps and Dupree fits the bill.

#25 Carolina Panthers select D.J. Humphries (OT, Florida)

No brainer. They need to protect Cam Newton more than anything else. The offensive line was extremely poor in the first half of the 2014 season and while things were starting to improve, Newton was still taking some big hits. Humphries is also a good run blocker.

#26 Baltimore Ravens select Jaleen Strong (WR, Arizona State)

Baltimore will need to pick up two wide receivers in this draft as Torrey Smith has left for San Francisco and Steve Smith Sr has turned 36. Yikes. Signing Jaleen Strong would be a good start as his size and presence means he has the potential to dominate cornerbacks and that would suit Joe Flacco’s vertical style of play.

#27 Dallas Cowboys select Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)

It would be a shame for the Cowboys to have the best offensive line in the NFL only for it not to be exploited by a star running back. Enter Melvin Gordon who would definitely start from week one over the nice but not overly brilliant Lance Dunbar and the underwhelming Darren McFadden. Gordon has the potential to be a bigger star than DeMarco Murray.

#28 Denver Broncos select La’el Collins (OT, LSU)

Peyton Manning is old and has neck issues. He needs protecting. Draft an offensive lineman. Simple. Anyway, Collins offers flexibility and he can play as a guard too as well as having an aggressive but positive attitude on the field. Downside: he’s not so good with his hands and feet—something glaringly essential for an OT. Coaches love him though and that’s why he will go in the first.

#29 Indianapolis Colts select Ereck Flowers (OT, Miami)

This is yet another team that really needs to improve the offensive line as superstar QB Andrew Luck took too many hits last season. Flowers may not be the best suited offensive lineman for the Colts as he is a better run blocker than pass protection, but his signing would mean major improvements on the run game—something which the Colts have needed since 2012.

#30 Green Bay Packers select Paul Dawson (ILB, TCU)

The Packers need to address the inside linebacker position and they could either end up signing Paul Dawson or Eric Kendricks to accompany Clay Matthews (who moved to the inside from the outside in 2014). Losing A.J. Hawk to the Bengals has not helped matters for the Packers too. Dawson is projected to go at round two, because he needs work with his tackling and run blocking.

#31 New Orleans Saints select Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Missouri)

If the Saints do sign Gregory, then it is possible that Green-Beckham (or DGB) may not be picked up by New Orleans due to the fact that he also has off-field issues. Green-Beckham is definitely a first round talent and the Saints need a wide receiver after losing both Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. DGB may drop to the second round or he could be drafted in a higher position—like Mariota, it will be impossible to tell where he may end up.

#32 New England Patriots select Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut)

A few NFL.com analysts have him going in the first round by squeaking in at number 32. Bill Belichick loves intelligent players and therefore he will like working with a player like Jones who has the right attitude to learn in the NFL.

This OTI piece was written by Brod Sutherland. Brod is from Bath, UK and is a massive New York Giants fan. He has recently started a blog that covers a variety of sports called “Armchair Analyst” and he also writes European football topics for our friends at lastwordonsports.com. He also supports Manchester City and Celtic football clubs. Follow him @BrodSutherland . And visit his armchairanalystblog.wordpress.com .

Off-Season Simulation: San Diego Chargers

Up until the start of free agency (March 10th), I will be doing off-season simulations for each team in the league in draft order. The off-season simulation entails free agency: cutting players and restructuring contracts, re-signing players, and signing free agents; and the Draft.

(The off-season simulation programs are provided by fanspeak.com; All salary cap figures are provided by Over The Cap – overthecap.com)

Off-season simulations for other teams can be found at overtimeireland.com/articles; Season recaps for each team can be found at overtimeireland.com/podcasts.

The Chargers have $26.3m in cap space, but they don’t have any players who are worth cutting or restructuring based on their cap numbers. I was considering restructuring Donald Butler’s contract since it’s a and one, but it’s not worth it at this point in time.

Moving on to the next part of the off-season, the Chargers have plenty of players to re-sign. Let’s start with the big boys. I didn’t want to just give Marcus Gilchrist the franchise tag, and we ended up working out a $7m/year, 30% guaranteed, 5-year deal. I also kept Brandon Flowers in San Diego with a $8m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4-year contract. I re-signed one more defensive back: Shareece Wright ($3.3m/year, 25% guaranteed, 3 year). With Verrett being healthy again, he’ll move back to the slot where he belongs. The last starter on defense I brought back was Dwight Freeney. He had a good season in 2014, and at the finishing stretch of his career, he stayed for one year for $3m, 75% guaranteed. Andrew Gachkar and Ricardo Mathews help when they hit the field. As decent backups, they each signed a $1.3m/year, 25% guaranteed, 2-year deal, and a $1.7m/year, 50% guaranteed, 3-year deal, respectively. On to the offense, the Chargers need a new starting centre. Rich Ohrnberger can be that guy for $2m/year, 30% guaranteed, 3 years. The last guy I re-signed was Vincent Brown. With Eddie Royal testing the market, he can be helpful when healthy, which got him a $2.5m/year, 20% guaranteed, 3-year deal.

I only signed one free agent to start filling the holes on the roster. George Johnson has gotten some nice production in recent years. He agreed to come to San Diego for $3.4m/year, 30% guaranteed, 3 years: a cheap deal for what he can yield on the field. that all let time with $2.8m in cap space.

I filled the rest of the Chargers’ needs in the Draft:

Round 1, Pick 17 – DL Arik Armstead

Round 2, pick 16 – WR Dorial Green-Beckham

Round 3, Pick 19 – G TreJackson

Round 4, Pick 18 – LB Derrick Malone

Round 5, Pick 17 – CB Lorenzo Doss

Round 6, Pick 16  – DE Martin Ifedi

Arik Armstead can play outside and kick inside in sub-packages. That makes him a valuable player at the Chargers’ biggest position on need. The Chargers also really need another number one-type receiver. Dorial Green-Beckham fell into the second round do to his red flags, but I’m willing to take the risk due to his rare talent. An upgrade could be had at right guard. Tre’ Jackson will be able to compete for the job. Derrick Malone gives the Chargers some depth at outside linebacker in or inside linebacker. Lorenzo Doss is a possible gem in this draft. He can start out as the dimeback. Depth is still needed at defensive line, and Martin Ifedi was the best available player at that position.

Here’s how the depth chart looks after these moves:

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up. 

Off-Season Simulation: Atlanta Falcons

Up until the start of free agency (March 10th), I will be doing off-season simulations for each team in the league in draft order. The off-season simulation entails free agency: cutting players and restructuring contracts, re-signing players, and signing free agents; and the Draft.

(The off-season simulation programs are provided by fanspeak.com; All salary cap figures are provided by Over The Cap – overthecap.com)

Off-season simulations for other teams can be found at overtimeireland.com/articles; Season recaps for each team can be found at overtimeireland.com/podcasts.

The Falcons have a modest amount of money to fill their many holes — $27.3m. There isn’t much they can do to make cap room, as I only found it feasible to get up to $36.5m with the right moves. Sam Baker has been a big disappointment and has most definitely not lived up to his extension. Coming off an ACL injury, the Falcons could designate him as a post-June 1st cut, which would save $4.5m, but a restructure would save $2.8m. Without good depth at tackle, the Falcons could keep Baker in their back pocket at a cheaper price. Steven Jackson is another player with high hopes who hasn’t given the Falcons their due. Cutting him saves $3.75m. The rest of the players I cut each clear up less than $1m, but it all adds up. Peter Konz ($880k) is not athletic enough to play in a zone-blocking scheme, and Lamar Holmes ($660k) can’t seem to develop into the starting right tackle the Falcons had hoped he would. Nate Stupar ($570k) and Sean Baker (510k) are both replaceable on special teams by young players already on the roster.

There weren’t many players worthy of cutting, but the Falcons have plenty of players they should re-sign. Starting with über-reliable kicker Matt Bryant, I inked him to a $3m/year, 30% guaranteed, 3-year deal. TJ Yates can be a capable backup quarterback, and he decided to stay put for $2.25m/year, 20% guaranteed, 3 years. Sean Weatherspoon hasn’t been able to shake the injury bug, but he can be a good player. For some reason he wasn’t listed on the program, but giving him another chance on a $2-3m, 15-20% guaranteed, 1-year prove it deal is worth it. Eric Weems ($1m/year, 20% guaranteed, 3 years) and Antone Smith ($1.3m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4 years) add a lot to the team in their roles. On defense I brought back Dwight Lowery ($1.2m/year, 25% guaranteed, 3 year), Josh Wilson ($2.8m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4 years), and Robert McClain ($2.8m/year, 20% guaranteed, 4 years). Lowery and McClain can help as backups, and Wilson had a very good year as a nickelback. I tried to re-sign Kroy Biermann, who adds a lot in a limited role but not as a starter. However, he wants starter-money so I let him walk.

In free agency I filled some voids without always giving an enormous contract to the top player available. Jermaine Gresham agreed to be the new tight end for $4.4m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4 years. Jerry Hughes will give an immediate lift to the pass rush fir $10.7m/year, 30% guaranteed, 5 years. Last year the Falcons wanted to pursue Brian Orakpo, and this time they had the chance, bringing him down south for $3.7m/year, 20% guaranteed, 3 years. Quintin Demps had his best games wit the Giants last season while playing as free safety. He’ll play that role for the Falcons for $3.6m/year, 30% guaranteed, 4 years. That shores up the safety positions. To finish off the free agent signings I brought in a couple of ex-Seahawks to reunite with their old defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Byron Maxwell, who signed a $7.4m/year, 30% guaranteed, 5-year deal, will give the Falcons a good, young cornerback tandem beside Desmond Trufant. The other former Seahawks is Brandon Mebane, will add a lot to the defensive line rotation in both the run game and pass rush. After signing all of these players, $2.5m remained on the cap.

This is how my draft went:

Round 1, Pick 8 – DE/OLB Dante Fowler

Round 2, Pick 10 – ILB Benardrick McKinney

Round 3, Pick 9 – T Cedric Ogbuehi

Round 4, Pick 8 – RB Ameer Abdullah

Round 5, Pick 10 – G Jarvis Harrison

Round 6, Pick 9 – DE/OLB/TE – Lynden Trail

Round 7, Pick 8 – WR Levi Norwood

Round 7, Pick 32 – DE Cedric Reed

The Draft went exactly to plan. Dante Fowler is one of the best pass rushers in the class and can play the Leo role in Dan Quinn’s defense. I was really hoping McKinney would last to the second round. Hopefully, he can solve the Falcons issues at inside linebacker. Cedric Ogbuehi might not play next season, but he will be a really solid player in this league. Ameer Abdullah will give the Falcons a nice running back tandem alongside Devonta Freeman. Jarvis Harrison will add some depth to the offensive line. Plus, this reunites him with fellow former Texas A&M teammate Jake Matthews (and Ogbuehi). The already existing communication will smooth the transition if he Harrison has to come into the game. Lynden Trail is an interesting pass rush prospect who might also try out as a tight end, which should excite the Falcons. Levi Norwood rounds out the passing attack, and Cedric Reed might not have so much to offer, but he was the best player available to be Mr. Irrelevant.

Here’s what the depth chart would look like reflecting these moves:

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up. 

Off-Season Simulation: Denver Broncos

Up until the start of free agency (March 10th), I will be doing off-season simulations for each team in the league in draft order. The off-season simulation entails free agency: cutting players and restructuring contracts, re-signing players, and signing free agents; and the Draft.

(The off-season simulation programs are provided by fanspeak.com; All salary cap figures are provided by Over The Cap – overthecap.com)

Off-season simulations for other teams can be found at overtimeireland.com/articles; Season recaps for each team can be found at overtimeireland.com/podcasts.

With Peyton Manning’s $4m payout, the Broncos are $18.7m under the salary cap. This season is Super Bowl-or-bust for them, and by cutting Tony Carter, saving $1.55m, they’ll have enough money to sign the players they need.

First, the Broncos have to re-sign their own players set to hit free agency. Terrance Knighton and Orlando Franklin are already moving on, but Julius Thomas would stay if they offer him top money. $9m/year, 30% guaranteed, 6 years would do it. Next up is Rahim Moore. It would really hurt the Broncos to create a hole in the secondary, so they have to pay Rahim Moore, who agreed with me on a $6m/year, 30% guaranteed, 5-year deal. Nate Irving will be a highly coveted free agent as well. $4m/year, 40% guaranteed, 5 years could keep him in Denver. Wes Welker’s career is fading, but Peyton Manning could still use him for one or two more runs. Welker re-signed for $3m/year, 25% guaranteed, 2 years. Will Montgomery had an okay season last year at centre, and the Broncos don’t have a better option. I kept him for $1.5m/year, 20% guaranteed, 2 years. The last free agent I kept was Quinton Carter ($1.5m/year, 20% guaranteed, 4 years), who’s a decent backup safety and a good special teamer.

In free agency I was focused on getting a new starting guard and defensive tackle. The Broncos love taking players from the Patriots, so I signed Dan Connolly for a $4.5m/year, 25% guaranteed, 3 years.I tried getting one of the better defensive tackles on the market, but I kept getting outbid by a significant margin. So’ I thought I’d just focus on that position in the Draft. After all of my signings I was left with $900k.

Here’s how the Draft went:

Round 1, Pick 28 – DT Eddie Goldman

Round 2, Pick 27 – DE Trey Flowers

Round 3, Pick 28 – CB DJoun Smith

Round 5, Pick 7 – C Andy Gallik

Round 5, Pick 28 – QB Cody Fajardo

Round 6, Pick 27 – ILB Bryce Hager

With the first two picks I bolstered the defensive line, which was the Broncos weakest position heading into the Draft. Next I got a dimeback, D’Joun Smith, who is also a good special teamer. Andy Gallik could step in at centre if Will Montgomery doesn’t play well. With the Broncos’ second pick in the fifth round I got quarterback Cody Fajardo. Once Peyton Manning retires, he and Brock Osweiler can compete for the starting job. With the Broncos’ last pick in the Draft I got some depth at inside linebacker in Bryce Hager.

Here’s what the depth chart looks like after these moves:

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up. 

Off-Season Simulation: New England Patriots

Up until the start of free agency (March 10th), I will be doing off-season simulations for each team in the league in draft order. The off-season simulation entails free agency: cutting players and restructuring contracts, re-signing players, and signing free agents; and the Draft.

(The off-season simulation programs are provided by fanspeak.com; All salary cap figures are provided by Over The Cap – overthecap.com)

Off-season simulations for other teams can be found at overtimeireland.com/articles; Season recaps for each team can be found at overtimeireland.com/podcasts.

The Patriots are once again the red, right now $5.4m above the salary cap. However, they can easily free up plenty of space by declining Darrelle Revis’ option. Doing so would put them $14.5m below the cap. That gave me enough money to re-sign the players I wanted to bring back.

The top priority was signing Devin McCourty. The Patriots decided to use the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostowski, but I was still able to re-sign McCourty for $8m/year, 35% guaranteed, 6 years. Next up was Darrelle Revis. He still wants to stay in New England, and I was able to do so with a $8m/year, 30% guaranteed, 5-year deal. That deal would likely have some incentives in it, like getting three interceptions or things of the sort that he didn’t do last season. That way those incentives don’t count against this year’s cap. The Patriots easily move on from running backs. I decided not to pursue Stevan Ridley, but I did re-sign Shane Vereen for $4m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4 years, because he’s a different type of running back than the others on the roster. The offensive line was reshuffled a few times last season. Dan Connolly is set to hit the market, and the Patriots tend to let players go when they feel like they’ve contributed enough. Connolly had a really bad season last year, so it’s time to move on. Re-signing those three players left me with $2.5m.

Here’s how the Draft went:

Round 1, Pick 32 – DT Carl Davis

Round 2, Pick 32 – G Josue Matias

Round 3, Pick 32 – WR Nelson Agholor

Round 4, Pick 2 – ILB Stephone Anthony

Round 4, Pick 32 – DE Geneo Grissom

Round 6, Pick 2 – G/C Shaquille Mason

Round 7, Pick 2 – TE Wes Saxton

With Vince Wilfork gone, the Patriots really need a replacement to minimise his production loss. Carl Davis is like Wilfork, but just smaller. He’s a good start to replace him. To replace Dan Connolly, I drafted Josue Matias. It would be hard for Matias to play worse than Connolly did last season. I expect him to be a solid pro anyway. The Patriots have been looking for an upgrade at wide receiver. I didn’t get one in free agency, but Nelson Agholor should be a nice option on the outside opposite LaFell. In the fourth round I got depth at inside linebacker and defensive end. Stephone Anthony could be even good enough to start, and Geneo Grissom has potential as a pass rusher and adds a lot to special teams right away. As I mentioned before, the offensive line got reshuffled a few times last season, so the Patriots need some depth there. Shaquille Mason can be the backup centre and also adds the ability to play guard. In the seventh round I got the best player available. Maybe Wes Saxton has something special in him.

Here’s what the depth chart looks like after the off-season simulation:

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up. 

Off-Season Simulation: Indianapolis Colts

Up until the start of free agency (March 10th), I will be doing off-season simulations for each team in the league in draft order. The off-season simulation entails free agency: cutting players and restructuring contracts, re-signing players, and signing free agents; and the Draft.

(The off-season simulation programs are provided by fanspeak.com; All salary cap figures are provided by Over The Cap – overthecap.com)

Off-season simulations for other teams can be found at overtimeireland.com/articles; Season recaps for each team can be found at overtimeireland.com/podcasts.

The Colts were one game away from the Super Bowl, but they still have $2.5m/ in cap space to improve their team, and they have plenty of work to do. After restructuring Arthur Jones’ contract, saving $4m, and cutting Donald Thomas, freeing up $3.25m, I’ll have enough money ($49.8m) to make the signings I want.

Reggie Wayne can still contribute to this team, so I brought him back for one more year for $5m — half of that being guaranteed at signing. I also brought back returner Josh Cribbs for $1.25m/year, 20% guaranteed, 3 years. Cory Redding is another raging player still going strong. After a bit of negotiating we agreed on a $4.5m/year, 40% guaranteed, 2-year deal. Safety is the most problematic position for the Colts. I re-signed Mike Adams, who’s still good enough to start, for $2.2m/year, 30% guaranteed, 2 years. Sergio Brown is a decent backup safety, so I wanted to bring him back as well, which cost $2m/year, 20% guaranteed, 5 years. Darius Butler is pretty good in the slot, and since the Colts are already thin at cornerback I didn’t want to let him go. So he signed a $3.5m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4-year contract. On to the fun part: free agency.

Since I had so much money at my disposal, I went after the big names. Hopefully that’ll make the Colts good enough to make it to the big game. After a bidding war with some teams, Ndamukong Suh agreed to come to Indianapolis for $14.25m/year, 30% guaranteed, 6 years. That’s the biggest deal for a defensive tackle, and the Colts badly needed one. Next I signed DeMarco Murray. We haggled on the price, but we finally agreed on $8.5m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4-year deal. Now the Colts finally have a good running back to compliment Andrew Luck and take a load of pressure off of him. Pernell  McPhee has plenty of Baltimore ties with the Colts organisation, which made it easy for him to come for $7.7m/year, 25% guaranteed, 5 years. He and Robert Mathis will strike a lot of fear off the edge in opposing quarterbacks. After signing McPhee I got help at safety. Antrell Rolle is raging, but coming to the Colts and a strong roster for $7m/year, 30% guaranteed, 2 years, will give him a chance at a ring. With the rest of the money I had left, I got help on the offensive line. Justin Blalock is a big upgrade for $5m/year, 30% guaranteed, 3 years. That’s what good help will cost. After all of those big signings I was left with $3.3m on the cap.

I made a few more tweaks in the Draft:

Round 1, Pick 29 – CB Jalen Collins

Round 2, Pick 29 – T Jake Fisher

Round 3, Pick 29 – WR Breshad Perriman

Round 4, Pick 29 – S Damarious Randall

Round 5, Pick 29 – ILB Taiwan Jones

Round 6, Pick 29 – DE Corey Crawford

Round 6, pick 31 – G Miles Dieffenbach

Round 7, pick 27 – DT Leterrius Walton

The Colts need a starting cornerback opposite Vontae Davis. First round pick Jalen Collins is a good one to fill that spot. Gosder Cherilus had a really bad season last year. Jake Fisher should be a very solid pro at right tackle. The Hakeem Nicks experiment didn’t work. Breshad Perriman can come in as a nice fourth option. Since both safeties the Colts have are old, I drafted Damarious Randall in the fourth round. Hopefully he can grow into a starting safety. Inside linebacker is a very thin position for the Colts. Taiwan Jones gives them some depth there. Depth was also needed on the defensive line and at guard, and that’s what I filled with the last three picks with Corey Crawford and Leterrius Walton and Miles Dieffenbach.

Here’s what the depth chart looks like to reflect all of the off-season moves:

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up. 

Off-Season Simulation: Dallas Cowboys

Up until the start of free agency (March 10th), I will be doing off-season simulations for each team in the league in draft order. The off-season simulation entails free agency: cutting players and restructuring contracts, re-signing players, and signing free agents; and the Draft.

(The off-season simulation programs are provided by fanspeak.com; All salary cap figures are provided by Over The Cap – overthecap.com)

Off-season simulations for other teams can be found at overtimeireland.com/articles; Season recaps for each team can be found at overtimeireland.com/podcasts.

The Cowboys have a lot, and I really mean a lot, of starters they have to re-sign. However, they only have $3.2m in cap space after franchise-tagging Dez Bryant. They can easily create a lot of space by restructuring Tony Romo’s and Tyron Smith’s contracts, freeing up $12.8m and $8.5m, respectively. That gives them $25.7m in cap space, which just just enough for me to re-sign the players I wanted to bring back.

The top-priority was inking DeMarco Murray. We agreed on a $8m/year, 40% guaranteed, 4-year deal. The Cowboys have the best offensive line in the league, and keeping them together is essential to sustaining their success. Doug Free will get a big deal on the open market, but Jeremy Parnell played really well in Free’s absence. Parnell signed a $3m/year, 35% guaranteed, 4-year contract to be the starting right tackle. Next up was bringing back some of the defensive lineman who played really well last season. Anthony Spencer wanted more money than I was willing to spend on him, so I let him walk. However, I re-signed Henry Melton ($5m/year, 25% guaranteed, 5 years) and George Selvie ($2.5m/year, 25% guaranteed, 5 years). Now the linebackers. All three staring linebackers from last season are set to hit the market. Rolando McClain had an incredible breakout season, so I definitely had to bring him back. We agreed on $4m/year, 30% guaranteed, 5 years. Justin Durant was also very solid and signed for $3.25m/year, 30% guaranteed, 4 years. Will Sean Lee coming back healthy, I didn’t necessarily need to re-sign Bruce Carter, since he wasn’t as good as the other two linebackers. But I wanted to have another option in case someone got injured. He only cost $2m/year, 30% guaranteed, 3 years. Sterling Moore is solid as a slot cornerback, and those are hard to find in this league. He signed a $3m/year, 20% guaranteed, 6-year deal, which is a higher contract for a slot cornerback. The last guys I re-signed are special teams aces, and they go a long way into the success of a season. C.J. Spillman re-signed for $1m/year, 20% guaranteed, 4 years, and Dwayne Harris for $1.6m/year, 20% guaranteed, 5 years. All of these guys came back on long-term deals, which will keep this team good for the duration. Plus, aside from DeMarco Murray’s deal, they’re all very affordable.

I had $2.2m left after re-signing all of those players. Since there weren’t any needs on the roster, I decided not to sign any free agents and leave the add-ons to the Draft.

Here’s how that went:

Round 1, Pick 27 – DL Arik Armstead

Round 2, Pick 28 – S Jaquiski Tartt

Round 3, Pick 27 – CB/S Eric Rowe

Round 4, Pick 28 – WR Jamison Crowder

Round 5, Pick 27 – QB Sean Mannion

Round 7, Pick 19 – DT Marcus Hardison

Round 7, Pick 26 – OLB J.R. Tavai

More players are always needed on the defensive line, and Arik Armstead will make the Cowboys even better than they already are at the position. The most worrisome positions on the Cowboys roster are safety and cornerback. So with the next two picks I got Jaquiski Tartt, who can step in if a change is needed, and Eric Rowe, who has versatility at cornerback and safety. Next I got a speedy slot receiver. Jamison Crowder will add another side to the Cowboys’ lethal offense. The Cowboys should start looking for a replacement for Tony Romo. Sean Mannion could develop into that guy down the road. In the seventh round I added more depth to the defensive line and outside linebacker with Marcus Hardison and J.R. Tavai.

Here’s what the depth chart looks like after these moves:

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up. 

Off-Season Simulation: Seattle Seahawks

Up until the start of free agency (March 10th), I will be doing off-season simulations for each team in the league in draft order. The off-season simulation entails free agency: cutting players and restructuring contracts, re-signing players, and signing free agents; and the Draft.

(The off-season simulation programs are provided by fanspeak.com; All salary cap figures are provided by Over The Cap – overthecap.com)

Off-season simulations for other teams can be found at overtimeireland.com/articles; Season recaps for each team can be found at overtimeireland.com/podcasts.

The Seahawks can be very flexible this off-season. Right now the have $21m in cap space, and although I wouldn’t cut anyone on the roster to save money, they have loads of candidates for restructures. Since a bunch of players recently signed extensions, they can save a lot of money this year, with minimal repercussions on future caps. However, I was able to make all of my off-season moves with the $21m.

First, I re-signed Tavaris Jackson to a $2m/year, 20% guaranteed, 2-year deal. O’Brien Schofield has been solid off the edge, so I wanted to being him back. He signed a $2.5m/year, 20% guaranteed, 4-year extension. Both Legion of Boom safeties got injured at the end of the postseason. Jevon Johnson is the backup, and he’s been fairly decent when on the field. Plus, he can help on special teams, making him an important player to bring back, which cost only $1m/year, 15% guaranteed, 3 years.

I wanted to re-sign Kevin Williams, but he wanted too much. So I let him test the market, and he ended up coming back for one more year for $2.75m, 30% guaranteed. Now on to the needs. Jordan Cameron has been linked to the Seahawks among speculating media and fans. We went back-and-forth on his value, but we eventually agreed on a $5.8m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4-year deal. Cary Williams recently visited the Seahawks. With Byron Maxwell set to take more money elsewhere, I signed Williams for $4.3m/year, 25% guaranteed, 3 years. Guard is the weak spot on the offensive line for the Seahawks. I ended up deciding to bring in Daryn Colledge for $3.3m/year, 25% guaranteed, 3 years. These moves left me with $4.1m in cap space.

I filled the rest of the holes on the roster in the Draft:

Round 1, Pick 31 – WR Dorial Green-Beckham

Round 2, Pick 31 – G A.J. Cann

Round 3, Pick 31 – RB Jay Ajayi

Round 4, Pick 31 – CB Senquez Golson

Round 5, Pick 31 – T Sean Hickey

Round 6, Pick 5 – LB Derrick Malone

Round 7, Pick 31 – DE Zach Wagenmann

The Seahawks would be a lot better on offensive if they had a big number-one receiver. Dorial Green-Beckham was the best one available at 31, and he definitely fits the bill. The Seahawks would just have to make sure he stays out of trouble. I fixed one of their guard positions in free agency, and the other with A.J. Cann in the second round. He could be the best guard in this draft class. Marshawn Lynch’s future is unknown at the moment, but it would be radical to use a first- or second-round pick on a replacement. However, getting a running back in the third round is okay. Jay Ajayi is a strong downhill runner like Lynch. So when he does move on, Ajayi could fit right in. The Seahawks keep losing cornerbacks in free agency. Senquez Golson gets them a little better in the slot. The offensive line had plenty of injuries last season, so the Seahawks need depth. Sean Hickey is a tackle, but he should also be able to play guard if he has to. Another position that needed some depth is linebacker, and Derrick Malone physically fits what the Seahawks linebackers are asked to do. With the penultimate pick of the Draft I took the best player left on the board: Zach Wagenmann. It never hurts to add another lineman.

Here’s what the depth chart looks like after these moves:

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up. 

Off-Season Simulation: Green Bay Packers

Up until the start of free agency (March 10th), I will be doing off-season simulations for each team in the league in draft order. The off-season simulation entails free agency: cutting players and restructuring contracts, re-signing players, and signing free agents; and the Draft.

(The off-season simulation programs are provided by fanspeak.com; All salary cap figures are provided by Over The Cap – overthecap.com)

Off-season simulations for other teams can be found at overtimeireland.com/articles; Season recaps for each team can be found at overtimeireland.com/podcasts.

The Packers have $26.2m in cap space, and although they have a few expensive free agents to re-sign, I didn’t think it was worth it to cut players or restructure contracts to save money.

I only re-signed two of the Packers’ big free agents, letting Randall Cobb hit the market. Tramon Williams agreed to a $7m/year, 25%, guaranteed, 3-year deal, which is about what he would’ve gotten on the open market. Acer a bit of negotiating, Bryan Bulaga signed a $6.3m/year, 30% guaranteed, 6-year contract — the 4th biggest deal for a right tackle. Next I brought back John Kuhn, who is one of the most important Packers, for $1.5m/year, 40%, guaranteed, 3 years — the 5th highest deal for a fullback. The Packers are very thin at inside linebacker. Jamari Lattimore was decent in the time he played, so I re-signed him for $1.5m/year, 20% guaranteed, 4 years, hoping he’d be good enough as a starter. Matt Flynn is probably the best option at backup quarterback for the Packers. He came back for $1.3m/year, 25% guaranteed, 2 years. The last players I re-sign were two cornerbacks who both are crucial to the team’s success. Devon House ($2.3m/year, 25% guaranteed, 5 years) is a fairly good slot corner, and Jarrett Bush ($2.3m/year, 20% guaranteed, 3 years) is an ace special-teamer. I was still left with enough money to sign any free agent, which was my plan.

Nose tackle is the Packers biggest hole on the team, and getting a really good one would make the team a whole lot better. Ndamukong Suh might be inclined to come to Green Bay and face his former team twice a year. I enticed him to come with a $14m/year, 30% guaranteed, 5-year deal. If another team would’ve signed him instead, plan-b would’ve been to sign Nick Fairley for about $5-6m cheaper. After signing Suh I was left with $2.8m in cap space.

Here’s how the Draft went:

Round 1, Pick 30 – ILB Benardrick McKinney

Round 2, Pick 30 – WR Phillip Dorsett

Round 3, Pick 30 – DE ZaDarius Smith

Round 4, Pick 30 – LB Kwon Alexander

Round 5, Pick 30 – G Jarvis Harrison

Round 6, Pick 30 – T Austin Shepherd

Round 7, Pick 30 – RB Terrence Magee

After releasing A.J. Hawk, the Packers needed a replacement at inside linebacker. Benardrick McKinney is possibly the best option. Phillip Dorsett is a little smaller than Randall Cobb, but he’s very fast and could play the same role he did. Plus, Dorsett’s a lot cheaper. The Packers needed some depth at defensive and and linebacker, so I got Za’Darius Smith and Kwon Alexander, who both could end up being good enough to start. Depth was also badly needed on the offensive line. Jarvis Harrison and Austin Shepherd bring that. In the seventh round I went with running back Terrence Magee. James Starks will hit 30 soon. Maybe Magee can eventually replace him.

Here’s what the death chart looks like after these moves:

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up.