Saturday, March 11, 2006

Football Musical Chairs and the Domino Effect

The agreement between the owners and players association on the extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) set into motion a number of key personnel decisions facing the Raider organization. In many respects, some of the decisions made this week by the Raiders and the other 31 NFL teams will have a domino effect on final rosters. With the CBA extended through 2012, free agency went into effect this morning at 12:01 AM. The 2006 salary cap has been set at $102M or a $7.5M increase of the projected $94.5M cap number without a CBA agreement.

Say Goodnight, Kerry
With the release of Kerry Collins yesterday, the Raiders are currently $10.9M under the $102M cap figure.

The Nightmare of Epic Proportions
One scenario that the Raider Nation hopefully won’t face is the event that Collins is re-signed if the QB watering hole dries up.

QB Musical Chairs
Teams in the market for a QB;

Oakland – With the release of KFC, the Raiders are in the market for a #1 signal caller. Is the Culpepper trade dead in the water? Are either McCown, Kitna, Griese, or Ramsey the best alternative? Will Al shock the Nation by drafting Vince Young with the 7th pick?

New Orleans – Released Aaron Brooks; Persuing Brees; might draft Leinart

Miami – Suitor to Brees; potential trading partner for Culpepper

NY Jets – Need insurance policy for Pennington; Patrick Ramsey on radar; could draft Leinart depending on the result of the Brees sweepstakes

Baltimore – Need veteran QB to compete with Kyle Boller; Kerry Collins reunited with Jim Fassell; long-shot trading partner the Vikings for Culpepper

Detroit – Need a veteran QB to compete with Joey Harrington; Brees or Culpepper

Arizona – Considering trading for Culpepper; Denny Green has a good relationship with Culpepper and plenty of cap room to make it work

St. Louis – One of the teams rumored to be in the hunt for Culpepper; straight trade of QB Marc Bulger for Culpepper

QB’s in the market
Drew Brees
Daunte Culpepper
Josh McCown
Jon Kittna
Aaron Brooks
Brian Griese
Patrick Ramsey
Kerry Collins (PLEASE SIGN HIM Baltimore!)
Plus 1st Round of draft: Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Jay Cutler

Projections and Rumors
New Orleans wins the Drew Brees sweepstakes primarily by being able to guarantee the most $ while the other suitors (Miami, Detroit) lose out by offering incentive laden contracts. Look for the Saints to exchange their #2 pick for the Jets #4 pick and a later round pick. The Jets use this pick to take Matt Leinart with the Saints drafting D’Brickshaw Ferguson with the 4th pick. This is how I see the 1st 7 picks in the draft shaking out;

1. Houston Texans – Reggie Bush (RB, USC)
2. NY Jets – Matt Leinart (QB, USC)
3. Tennessee Titans – Vince Young (QB, Texas)
4. New Orleans Saints – D’Brickshaw Ferguson (OT, Virginia)
5. Green Bay Packers – A.J. Hawk (OLB, Ohio St)
6. S.F. 49ers – Mario Williams (DE, NC St.)
7. Oakland Raiders – *Michael Huff (S, Texas)

If both AJ Hawk and Mario Williams are off the board when it is time for the Raiders to use the 7th pick, one option to be seriously considered would be to trade down in the 1st round to a later slot in the 1st round in order to pick up an extra 3rd round pick. Players like Haloti Ngata (DT, Oregon), Broderick Bunkley (DT, FSU), Ernie Sims (OLB, FSU), and Gabe Watson (DT, Michigan) would fill a need and allow for the Raiders to use the additional pick to add depth.

Free Agent Targets
Besides targeting a QB in free agency, my best guess is that the Raiders will wait for the market to settle down before jumping in due limited cap space. Potential positions with a key free agent or two added would be SS, LB, DT, OG, RB. It will be important to concentrate on the younger free agents who are relatively inexpensive in comparison to a 1st tier, "superstar" type free agents.

SS – Tank Williams (Tenn); Adam Archuleta (St. Louis)

LB – Nick Greisen (NY Giants); David Thornton (Indy)

DT – Ron Edwards (Buff); James Reed (NY Jets)

OG – Stephen Neal (New England)

RB – Michael Bennett (Minnesota); Najeh Davenport (Green Bay)

Draft Contingency Plans

LB (AJ Hawk, OSU, 7th pick; Ernie Sims, FSU, mid to late 1st round; Demeco Ryan, Alabama, 2nd round, D’Qwell Jackson, Maryland, 2nd round)

OG (Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia, 2nd round; Darvin Joseph, 2nd round; Deuce Lutui, USC, 2nd round, Fred Matua, USC, 3rd/4th round)

DE (Mario Williams, DE, NC St., 7th pick)

DT (Haloti Ngata, Oregon, mid 1st round; Broderick Bunkley, FSU, mid 1st round; Gabe Watson, Michigan, late 1st round; Orien Harris, Miami, 3rd round)

SS (Michael Huff, Texas, 7th pick; Darnell Bing, USC, 2nd round; Donte Whitner, OSU, 2nd round; Daniel Bullocks, Nebraska, 2nd round)

RB (Joseph Addai, LSU, 2nd/3rd round; Maurice Drew, UCLA, 2nd/3rd round)

The 2006 season might be 6 months away but the next 6+ weeks' personnel evaluations are critical. The free agent signing period and 2006 draft will need to set the course for the upcoming season. Al Davis, Mike Lombardi, and Art Shell have a tall order in front of them but will be up to the task.

I bleed Silver and Black,

Calico Jack


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