NFL Free Agency

Early NFL Free Agency: Sneaky Good Moves

The game of quarterback musical chairs is snagging the headlines early in NFL free agency like every year. If you do not have a quarterback who is at least competent, you have no chance in this league. However, every position matters. Here is a look at some sneaky good moves in the beginnings of the free agent frenzy.

Phil Dawson: Arizona Cardinals

Phil Dawson

Photo: sportsoutwest.com

Yes folks, a kicker. Arizona lost five games by one possession and tied another during last year’s seven-win campaign. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed 11 combined field goals and extra points. These things are not entirely unrelated.

Meanwhile, 42-year-old Phil Dawson missed just four total kicks for the 49ers. As crazy as it sounds, this may be a pivotal move in Arizona’s quest to return to the postseason in 2017.

 

 

 

Ronald Leary: Denver Broncos

Ronald Leary

Photo: hngn.com

Whoever winds up taking snaps for the Broncos next year will have much more protection. This is a heck of a start. Leary did not allow a sack while starting 13 games in Dallas last year. He has been a stalwart on the best offensive line in football since 2014.

Denver’s ability to sack the opposing quarterback in recent years is well documented. In 2016, the Broncos had just two more total sacks than their opponents. That is crazy considering the Broncos have both Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

Poor offensive line play is also one of the reasons Denver struggled to break 50 rushing yards in a game for parts of 2016. Do not be surprised if center Matt Paradis is the only starting offensive lineman that returns in 2017. Last year’s free agent offensive line signings of Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung proved to be disastrous for Denver.

To become legitimate Super Bowl contenders again, the Leary signing needs to be the first step in another massive offensive line overhaul in Denver. The Broncos have also added former Raiders offensive tackle Menelik Watson to the fold.

A.J. Klein: New Orleans Saints

A.J .Klein

Photo: zambio.com

As long as Drew Brees is in town, the Saints will always be able to score. However, they have finished outside the top 25 in total defense for three straight years. While a single player will not change that, Klein is a step in the right direction.

Playing behind Luke Kuechly limited Klein’s snaps in Carolina. When he did see the field, he was reasonably productive. Klein took part in 137 tackles in Carolina despite starting just 23 games in four seasons. Additionally, three years and $15 million is a fairly cheap price to pay a 25-year-old contributor from a division rival.

           

 

Kevin Zietler: Cleveland Browns

Kevin Zeitler

Photo: stripehype.com

It is no secret that the Browns need work everywhere, and the offensive line is no exception. Zietler was one of three early moves the Browns made up front. The former Bengal is now the highest-paid guard in NFL history.

While the contract numbers are eye-popping and the Browns have an alarming tendency to screw things up, signing a guard from a division rival who has given up just 11 total sacks in five seasons is never a bad move.

March is all about basketball. However, the NFL’s version of March Madness is certainly worth continuing to keep an eye on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the NFL, What is Wrong With a Tie?

We have had a tie game each of the last two weeks in the NFL. Lots of fans and media outlets are calling for some kind of rule change to prevent ties from ever happening again. As with many issues in sports, this is an overreaction. No one likes a tie, but they do happen once in a while. It is better than the alternatives. Here is why it is okay to tie.

Ties do not happen often- Since 1974 when the NFL started using an overtime period to break regular season ties, there have been just 22 games that have ended in ties. That is about one tie every two years. The drama in a tie game is the same as any other. If the ending is a little crumby once every two years, I can live with that. We have all seen a good movie with a bad ending or two. What is the difference? Also, prior to 1974 if a regular season game was tied after four quarters, it simply ended in a tie. No one died then, and I am certain everyone will be okay this time.

 

Overtime rules in the NFL are as fair as they have ever been- College football’s overtime system is a joke. With teams starting at the opposing 25 yard line, gaining a single yard is not necessary for a legitimate chance at a field goal. The first team that does not match or beat its opponent’s result on the previous “drive” loses. Now that is a terrible way to decide a football game.

 

The only thing worse was the NFL’s true sudden-death format prior to 2012. The team that won the coin toss could throw one 60 yard pass that drew a pass interference penalty and kick a chip shot field goal to win. Personally, I would rather have games end in ties than be decided by either of these two broken systems. Thankfully, the current NFL system allows both teams to possess the ball, unless the first offensive drive of overtime results in a touchdown or any type of defensive score. A field goal on the first drive does not cut it anymore. Perfection does not exist when it comes to rules in sports, but at least this system gives both teams a fair shot. It also lessens the importance of a coin flip and forces the offense to actually move the ball in order to win.

 

In the two most recent ties, the games were right there to be won for both teams. The box scores of the Cardinals/Seahawks and Bengals/Redskins ties show a combined total of five kicks that would have resulted in a clear winner, including kicks in regulation. Four of them were kicks from inside 40 yards, which were all missed. These games were laid at the feet of each team involved on multiple occasions. It is not the fault of the rules or the NFL that no one could bend over and pick them up.

photo from usatoday.com

photo from usatoday.com

photo from si.mmqb .com

photo from si.mmqb .com

I hate ties as much as anyone, but I hate determining a winner in a cheap way more. Rather than focus on eliminating the possibility of a tie, perhaps fans and coaches around the league should focus on eliminating the comically bad kicking plays that often lead to them.

 

 

 

 

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