Posts Tagged ‘Cliff Avril’

2013 NFL Free Agency notes

2013 NFL Free Agency notes

I’m still not sure if the legal tampering window is helpful to the players. Seems more helpful to teams. Some teams were talking to agents over the weekend and implying that if your guy doesn’t take what we’re going to offer, we’ve got two or three others we can get for less money. One of the spots that could be happening is slot receiver, where Wes Welker (widely believed to be staying in New England), Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and lesser others clog the market. Another is tackle, with a plethora of candidates who could push prices down.

In NFL Films’ poetry in motion footage, the exclamation point on Boldin’s great postseason was added. Game 1 win over Indy: Boldin leapt in the corner of the end zone with Colts corner Darius Butler in clinging coverage, an arm pressed against Boldin’s chest. Boldin caught the ball, and took Butler’s arm along with it. Game 3 win over New England: two touchdown catches, including one with safety Devin McCourty all over him. “Way to go up and get it,” quarterback Joe Flacco said to him back on the bench. “That was awesome.” Game 4 win over San Francisco, in the Super Bowl: the key 3rd and inches, 15 yard conversion catch, fighting off Carlos Rogers to come down with a very tough catch that led to the eventual clinching field goal. A crucial play.

If the Ravens hold the line, they have to have immense confidence in tight end Dennis Pitta to become almost a Dallas Clark type presence in their offense. Peyton Manning came to rely on Clark as his slot receiver and go to guy on third down conversions, and Pitta may have to morph into that reliable guy if Boldin is gone. And, to my surprise, the Ravens, who could lose two valuable front seven players (Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe) in free agency, may have to look at a receiver or tight end in the first round of the draft. I just don’t think it’s worth saving $2 million to try to win without a supremely valuable weapon.

Get used to hearing from Dean Blandino. He’s the NFL’s new vice president of officiating. A 15 year veteran of the officiating department, Blandino becomes the first person to run the officiating department without having been an NFL official himself. He’s confident and well spoken. In one conversation, he said more notable things than I heard from three years of Carl Johnson in the office. Nothing against Johnson, but you get the feeling the league is going to trust Blandino, a longtime behind the scenes operative trained by Art McNally, Jerry Seeman and Mike Pereira, to be more of a Pereira type an out front spokesman for the league on all officiating matters than Johnson was allowed to be.

Blandino and I spoke Friday because I’m interested in the officiating orientation clinic (the Tom Beard Officials Academy) next weekend in Baltimore, organized through NFL VP Troy Vincent’s life after football programs. A current player (Bengals safety Chris Crocker) and 11 former players, including former Giants and Chiefs corner Mark Collins, will attend the Football Officiating Academy. “They’re all interested in learning about officiating,” Blandino said. “They have a unique perspective, having played the game at the highest level. When we look at a prospect, part of the evaluation is will he step up and make a big call? Will he be intimidated? They have a real leg up. Several of them have expressed they want to pursue it as a career. If they’re serious, it’s not going to happen overnight, but we are going to give them the tools and the resources.”

The league is likely to have top prospects officiate during live preseason games this summer, working multiple series while regular officials move to the sidelines. Blandino said that since the demise of NFL Europe, in 2007, the NFL has been unable to watch the next wave of NFL officials work anything but their college games. In NFL Europe, evaluators could train new officials in crew meetings, on the field working with new partners, and could judge how they adapted to the different NFL rules. Blandino said he hopes the top 21 college officials on the league’s short list of new officials will get the real treatment in the preseason, accompanying the crew to meetings, being on the sidelines during games and subbing in. “We’re looking at them actually working on the field, probably not in Week 3, but in other weeks, to give them the experience of what the NFL game is like,” Blandino said. “Then they will go back to work college football. That is very important to their continued development.”

Blandino will extend an olive branch to officials still bruised over the three week lockout last year. He is investigating having focus groups with current officials to discuss topics to improve officiating. Conditioning and training, for one, which was a point of emphasis by many league officials last year that didn’t get put in the new labor agreement with officials. “I want all officials to have a voice,” Blandino said. “If I have input to a system, I am more likely to buy into it. I want to improve the lines of communication. I hope we can have some brainstorming sessions.”

“Jeff was the ultimate teammate. Our lockers were right next to each other in the locker room. We sat by each other on plane rides to games, watching last minute film or discussing the game plan. At our lockers, we’d talk before and after practice about protections, blitzes, et cetera. Every time I audibled, he had to basically audible as well with a different line call, so he was as busy as I was at the line of scrimmage. I’m very proud of the QB center record we hold for most starts as a tandem. He always answered the bell every Sunday. Tough, smart, accountable, took a lot of pride in keeping me protected. It’s a privilege to have played with him for so many years.”

“We used to call him ‘Coach Manning’ and always bust him up about how hard he worked. He showed up early. He left late. He led by example. He never expected you to give anything that he wasn’t going to give himself. The relationship between a center and a quarterback is special. We loved each other but we could fight each other as well. We could bump heads and there was always a mutual respect. It never got any further than that. It was always on the field. The record that he and I set as center and quarterback, it’s probably my most favorite [record] just because as you look at it, it’s a combination of how many things we had to go through, how many things we had to stay healthy or battle through injuries to keep going. It is a tremendous honor to hold that distinction with him.”

Detroit defensive end Cliff Avril is going to be one of the hot guys when the free agency market opens for business Tuesday, and rightfully so. But what, exactly, will his new team (Cleveland? Denver? Tampa Bay?) be buying? Using total snaps played over the last three seasons, and sacks, quarterback hits and quarterback pressures over the same period, I compared Avril to the aging John Abraham, just cut by the Falcons in their salary purge. I judged each player over the past three seasons, capped by a statistic totaling the numbers that I call Pass Rush Impact. That’s the combined sacks, hits and pressures by each man, along with the percentage of PRI meaning how often per 100 snaps each man got to the quarterback.

I raise this issue not to criticize Avril, who would have value in any free market. He’s a soon to be 27 year old end with pass rush ability, and those don’t come free very often. But as is the case so often in free agency, the very best players (Wake and DeMarcus Ware, for instance) rarely get there . and what you’re left with are good young players like Cliff Avril and Mike Wallace, the best players in a market with a few cash rich suitors. They get paid for what their new employers hope they will accomplish more than what they’ve accomplished to date.

It’s such a different museum. It has Clemente’s Gold Gloves and World Series rings (Rieder has a close relationship with Vera Clemente, Roberto’s widow) and so many bats and gloves. But I loved the quirky things. The movie contract for a $2,000 cameo in the 1968 film The Odd Couple, for instance. The contract was returned to Clemente because he hadn’t initialed to affirm the role he’d play a famous ballplayer who’d hit into a triple play. He never initialed it because he said there was no way he’d ever hit into a triple play, and so there’s no way he’d allow himself to be portrayed in a major motion picture as hitting into one.

1. I think the trouble with trading for Darrelle Revis at any time before October is mind bogglingly simple: How can a team trade for Revis when it doesn’t know how healthy he is coming back from ACL surgery, and when it doesn’t know what it’s going to take to get him signed long term? If the Jets trade him during the early days of the new league year, which begins Tuesday, they’ll be dealing him having no idea what his true value is. And his true value won’t be known, really, until teams see him play in August and September.

NFL’s Top Five Free Agent Defensive Linemen

NFL’s Top Five Free Agent Defensive Linemen

The big guys who sniff out quarterbacks like coon dogs are fan favorites as well as some of the most highly paid defenders in the NFL and are always wanted and in vogue, no matter how defenses change in the NFL.

This year, the free agent market for big time pass rushers and run stuffers has been depleted drastically, with top free agents around the league getting the franchise tag slapped on them. The designation is designed to slow down movement of players to big money markets, and essentially binds the player to his team for another year, if certain conditions are met.

Players such as Michael Johnson of Cincinnati, Harry Melton of Chicago, Randy Starks of Miami and Anthony Spencer of Dallas all had the franchise tag applied to them, taking them off the free agent auction block in all probability.

Still, with March 12 the start of free agency, quite a bit of talent remains for teams looking for help on the defensive line. Here are my top five free agent defensive linemen.

1. Michael Bennett, DE Tampa Bay BuccaneersGetty Images

Bennett is the top pick because he is both an excellent pass rusher as well as a run defender. He had nine sacks this past season for a sorry defense, a third of the team’s total. He also had 41 tackles and three forced fumbles.

Bennett reportedly has a little agreement with the Bucs in which he will give them a chance to outbid his best offer. The Bucs have a strong incentive to do so.

He was an undrafted free agent in 2009 with Seattle, and the Bucs claimed him off waivers the same year. Since then, he has quietly prospered to the point he is now well regarded around the league.

2. Cliff Avril, DE Detroit LionsGetty Images

Avril is the best pure pass rushers among the free agents. He had 9.5 sacks this past season and 11 the year before that. But, he has a well deserved reputation for being weak against the run. Still, he could be very helpful as a situational player.

Avril has made it know he wouldn’t mind staying in Detroit, but he and the Lions have scarcely met this offseason. He’s been playing on one year contracts the last two years. He and the Lions were reportedly close on a long term contract last year, but the deal did not go through.

3. Richard Seymour, DE/DT Oakland RaidersGetty Images

Seymour’s contract was voided by the Raiders, who are going through something of a youth movement.

He’s a little older now at 33 and coming off an injury to boot, but Seymour is an ideal candidate for a nice, short term contract from a playoff contender with pass rushing needs. He has one of those un measurable assets, leadership. He is also a good run defender a three time All Pro and seven time Pro Bowler.

4. Desmond Bryant DT, OaklandBryant hasn’t received the some of the other, more gaudier players have, but the upside of his potential is there. He filled in more than competently when Seymour went down with injuries, and impressed a lot of NFL people.

He’s solid on both the run and getting to the quarterback. He fits the type players the Raiders want to keep and the word is they will try hard to keep him.

5. Dwight Freeney, DE, IndianapolisFreeney, 33, is another of those “older” players, in NFL years. He got up from a three point stance to standing up last year, going from defensive end to outside linebacker, as the Colts switched to a base 3 4 defense.

He had only five sacks, but that could be attributed to playing out of position. He still has quickness and a variety of fancy, pass rushing moves and a team with a 4 3 defense will take a serious gander at him. Again, a playoff contender with a pass rushing need to fill could be his new home.