Tag Archives: Houston Texans

NFL free agency 2017: As odd and frantic as ever

With the calendar finally turning over to March, NFL fans can celebrate the start of a new season. Well, those that like to watch the fire-sale frenzy that is free agency, at the very least.

As contracts expire and players are allowed to move freely to another team, it’s time for some smooching from GMs and coaches as they try to promise new hopefuls they’ll be big in their city. Most end with heartbreak but sometimes, they can be a match made in heaven.

Here’s a few thoughts on the first few days of free agency.

 

The best just got better

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The New England Patriots didn’t need any help in being good, NFL. You didn’t have to help them strengthen a team that won the whole damn thing last year, y’know?

They’ll never learn.

Bill Belichick is an absolute master of this game and strangely enough, it was two trades that actually impressed the most. Bringing in an exciting young receiver in former New Orleans Saints man Brandin Cooks to be their new number one option out wide for draft picks was a solid move even after picking up the almost-Super Bowl 49 MVP Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers.

Add to that the pickup of Pro Bowl corner Stephon Gilmore, from none other than a divisional rival in the Buffalo Bills, and former Green Bay Packers tight end Jared Cook to replace Martellus Bennett and that’s a nice little mix.

The focus shifts now to keeping Malcolm Butler and Dont’a Hightower, which would be a frightening thought to the rest of the NFL. Even with all the picks they used up, they could regain almost all of them by sending Jimmy Garapolo to the Cleveland Browns.

 

The poor got a little stronger

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Speaking of the Browns, they made baby steps toward climbing out of the basement.

They started with the offensive line, just in case they finally find someone to stand behind it. Kevin Zeitler weakens an opponent in the Cincinnati Bengals while adding a veteran to the group, J.C. Tretter is another solid addition and extension to Joel Bitonio finally puts this unit back to where they were before they lost Alex Mack last offseason.

Bringing in Kenny Britt was also a solid move, a relatively consistent performer over the last few seasons. Not trying to combine him with Terrell Pryor, especially when the former QB signed a reasonable deal with Washington, does seem a little odd but spend where you need to spend.

Some of that gigantic cap room was used on a blockbuster trade for Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler. While it’s likely they’ll bin the lobster as soon as possible, they bought a second round pick they can add to the pile of 11 selections in each of the next two drafts.

That booty should have enough value in it to tempt the Patriots to move Jimmy G to Ohio. With the champs moving so many picks, surely it’s only a matter of time?

 

There’s money if you’re an offensive lineman

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If you’re a decent lineman this March, you got paid.

Along with the aforementioned dynamic duo in Cleveland, the Los Angeles Chargers slapped a big deal on former Denver Broncos left tackle Russell Okung and the Minnesota Vikings paid a pretty penny to steal Riley Reiff off their fellow NFC North side, the Detroit Lions.

Neither of those played at a particularly high level last year but with needy teams come looser purse strings. Combine that with a draft reportedly thin on the ground at tackle and guard, anyone with experience with a bit of quality was treated like a diamond in the rough.

There’s no doubt some of these players have talent but to be paid $53 million over four years for Okung? That seems a little too steep of a price.

 

But there’s not so much for wide receivers

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Alshon Jeffery is a legitimate number one receiver in the NFL, yet teams looked at him like he’d kissed their wife right in front of them.

Credit to him for taking a prove-it deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, along with a “promise” to stay if he succeeds, but the PED violation hit his value harder than many expected it to. I mean, enhancing your performance is a big sin but players with worse records have earned plenty of bucks otherwise.

As it was mentioned earlier, the market for Pryor was also thinner than some anticipated. He looked a real threat since converting to a wideout but teams still stayed away from a potential one-season wonder.

Even DeSean Jackson settled for a secondary role as a deep threat in Tampa Bay, which shows there just wasn’t that much love for pass catchers this year. In fairness, the talent level was pretty thin too.

 

The quarterback market stay still, for now

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While the players were thin on the ground at quarterback in free agency, we are really still waiting for the big moves to happen, if they will at all.

Mike Glennon joined the Chicago Bears was the only real deal that has gone down so far. That’s not counting some backups signing up but that isn’t going to change a franchise overnight.

Jay Cutler was released into the wild and had a meeting with the New York Jets but there’s been no paperwork as of yet. He may look if anyone else pops their heads up and then decide if it’s even worth lacing up over a cushy retirement.

Jimmy G can’t stop teasing us on Instagram and in fairness, that one will likely rumble on until the draft next month. New England will like to squeeze every last bit of juice from that deal until Cleveland have no option to throw in a sweetner.

The final chip to fall anywhere is Tony Romo. The Dallas Cowboys are hoping someone is willing to trade, everyone is giggling at their poker face and are waiting for him to be released and go on a Peyton Manning-esque tour.

That one could go on and on as well, but whether he ends up staying in Texas with Houston or follows in Manning’s footsteps to Denver, it will be the story of the offseason.

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Is Jay Cutler’s NFL career over?

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Cutler has had a pretty poor career with the Bears. Source: blacksportsonline.com

If there is one thing that is for certain in the offseason in the NFL, Jay Cutler will no longer be playing for the Chicago Bears. Their unhappy marriage that has been in counselling for the past few years looks to finally be heading for divorce as the NFC North team look towards a rebuild.

According to NFL.com’s Ian Rappaport, the Bears are looking as to whether there is any trade interest for desperate teams before cutting the 11-year veteran. Unless someone feels that strongly about the former Denver Bronco draftee that they’d throw a seventh-round pick their way, expect him simply to be kicked to the curb in early March.

However, the story doesn’t end there. After a number of tough seasons and coming off an injury-hit year, Rappaport also mentioned that Cutler is considering retiring from football. At 33 and plenty of money in the bank, he could quite easily walk away from the game if he wanted to.

But should he?

There’s no doubt that the quarterback position is the most important position in the game. You can’t really win the Super Bowl with a serviceable quarterback as a very minimum and with so many teams still needing a signal caller, the question becomes whether there are 32 men better than Cutler.

If you look at his recent stats over his career, you have to say no. Other than this season, where he only played five games, he has always had a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio including 21 TDs to 11 INTs in his 15-game season in 2015.

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Yes, even the majestic Brian Hoyer was better than him in spots last season. Source: Sports Illustrated.

Then you look at the statistics against the other two quarterbacks that deputised in his absence and you have to say there could be. Both Bryan Hoyer and Matt Barkley, who faded a little in his final two games, equalled or surpassed his output over the 2016 season, unforgivable against a journeyman and a youngster who has barely played any first-team snaps.

That wayward stance has followed Cutler for what seems like his entire career. There are moments where you think he could lead you to the promised land, others when the only place he’ll lead any coach is to the back of the line at the job centre.

Teams like the San Francisco 49ers, the Cleveland Browns, the Houston Texans and the New York Jets will surely take a long, hard look at him. He’s never had the greatest offensive line, which is likely to be the case again in any of those teams and a dearth of weapons to throw to will also impact his inconsistent arm.

He’s not always the most accurate thrower, he’s also not the greatest deep ball shooter so an offence would have to be built around that. Will one of those rebuilding sides see the worth in changing their game to suit that long-term? Probably not but a contending team like the Texans who need just one more push might see it as a solid short-term risk.

The real question for most of those teams will be is there better out there? Not really. That more speaks to the talent level in the NFL and that in the draft, although there are a few interesting prospects but the Bears will be in that fight along with them.

Leaving Cutler in that space will be an interesting topic to watch over the course of the spring. If a team tries to go for him, he should give it a go but if there’s only sporadic interest or backup opportunities, it might be time for him to ride off into the sunset.

He might fall off the horse and frown about that on the way out, but that’s Jay Cutler for you. He’ll at least never be dull.

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Who should win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year?

Watt deserved it last year, who's getting it this year?  Source: Houston Chronicle

Watt deserved it last year, who’s getting it this year? Source: Houston Chronicle

In one of the more difficult to predict awards that will take place just before the Super Bowl, usually the Defensive Player of the Year is more obvious by now. Realistically, there are at least five players that could arguably win the accolade so here’s a look at the contenders.

Special mentions to two players that would have been close, Charles Woodson has had a fantastic year but hasn’t maintained the success and Josh Norman might have courted too much controversy to be chosen.

 

JJ Watt

Watt has been great again but has his previous amazingness shadowed this season?  Source: NFL

Watt has been great again but has his previous amazingness shadowed this season? Source: NFL

Last year’s winner is unsurprisingly a front-runner again, as he was before the season even started. A real once-in-a-generation kind of player, JJ Watt is someone you have to gameplan for and then gameplan again when he ruins it.

This year, he has 66 tackles, 13.5 sacks, five pass defences and a forced fumble, which is a little down from last year. They are still pretty damn good numbers but the knock will be that it’s not Watt numbers, maybe we expect a little too much from the genetic freak.

The face of the franchise, the spiritual leader of the team and the fans, Watt is an example every young player should follow. Dedicated, humble and someone who puts everything into every game, it’s very hard not to admire his ability on the field.

Even a cast can’t stop this monster, who will finally help his side potentially sneak into the playoffs. If he does, it will be difficult not to back him again this season.

 

Aaron Donald

Donald has been an absolute machine for the St Louis Rams.  Source: helmet2helmet.com

Donald has been an absolute machine for the St Louis Rams. Source: helmet2helmet.com

After winning the Rookie Defensive Player of the Year, everyone would take notice of Aaron Donald in his second year. A defensive tackle that can cut right through offensive linemen, he’s a dangerous man indeed.

The St Louis Ram has 64 tackles this season, 11 sacks and a fumble recovery. His numbers don’t really jump off the page like some others, but when you watch him play, it’s easy to see just how big of an impact he has on the game.

In the first game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks, he wrecked their running game. He had nine tackles, two sacks and two stuffs and essentially won the game when he denied Marshawn Lynch stone dead on fourth down in mid-field.

Donald has established himself as a big name and someone we will need to keep an eye on in the future. In a Rams unit that looks likely to be a potential juggernaut, he is the real centrepiece.

 

Khalil Mack

Mack is a stud and a young piece Oakland will build around for years.  Source: sportsworldreport.com

Mack is a stud and a young piece Oakland will build around for years. Source: sportsworldreport.com

What a breakout year for Khalil Mack, who was pretty damn good already, now he’s beginning to look special. The Oakland Raiders needed some new names and they certainly have one in the linebacker.

Mack has 60 combined tackles, 14 sacks and two forced fumbles, really impressive numbers as he has taken to Jack Del Rio’s schemes like a duck to water. A nightmare for any tackle, the youngster has been a real difference maker on a team that could barely create any pressure two years ago.

Against the Denver Broncos, Mack took over and dominated unlike anyone else has this season. Seven tackles, five sacks, a stuff and a forced fumble in a game where he created pressure on every play, it was a game that should be watched over and over again.

The fact that Oakland will miss out on the post-season might just hurt him a little, like it will others, but he is just as deserving as the others. The Black Hole will be a team to watch next season and Mack will be the one for teams to fear next year.

 

Tyrann Mathieu

Mathieu would have been so good to watch in the playoffs.  Source: azcental.com

Mathieu would have been so good to watch in the playoffs. Source: azcental.com

A real beast in the secondary and a nightmare for every quarterback in the league, the versatile Tyrann Mathieu has been spectacular on a great defence

In 14 games, he has made 89 tackles, 16 pass defences, five interceptions with one returned for a touchdown and a forced fumble. He has been used in the slot, he has covered tight ends, he has a sack because he can blitz, he’s a real all-rounder.

He’s a key cog in a really impressive secondary with Patrick Paterson, Jerraud Powers and Rashad Johnson. Mathieu helps glue it all together, he is able to play anywhere they need him and he can really wreck offensive gameplans.

A torn MCL knocks Mathieu out of the rest of the season and the post-season, which is a real shame. That may hurt not just his chances of DPOTY but also the Cardinals’ Super Bowl aspirations.

 

Luke Kuechly

Kuechly is a tackling machine.  Source: Bleacher Report

Kuechly is a tackling machine. Source: Bleacher Report

Not many would deny that Luke Kuechly is the finest inside linebacker of this generation and yet again, the 2014 DPOTY should be under consideration again.

On Sunday, the Carolina Panther recorded 15 tackles, with 10 being individual efforts and it was the fourth time he crossed double digits this season. Kuechly has 101 tackles in 11 games, with him missing some of the early part of the season due to injury.

Because of that, his numbers are down with just one sack but surprisingly, his four interceptions is a joint-career high with two games to go, he’s scored his first touchdown on a return and has forced two fumbles, a career high.

He just keeps getting better and better and is a leader on what can be a very good defence. If he was showing this form without missing any games, he might be ahead of the entire pack.

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