I, like most of you am sick to my stomach. I went from hopeful for a winning season, to punching playoff tickets, to praying for the playoffs, to complete and utter disgust in a matter of weeks. Is there solace? Of course there is. We defeated five teams that will be in the playoffs in the coming weeks and held our own in games (Colts and Eagles come to mind) that we would have gotten blown out in last year. Now the question is...what do we do for next year?
QB. Low ball Kyle Orton. I know. It's a terrible thing to do to a guy who has given this team all he's had over the past 9 months - but frankly, why pay him a lot when few other teams will be willing to? Is he the QB of the next 5+ years? It's more than possible. Is he the QB of 2010? Almost definitely. So we give him a 3-4 year incentive-laden deal that he'll probably take. The only other guy who has a shot to QB this team in 2010 is Tom Brandstater - who while I love - is still at least a year away. 3800 yards and 21 TD's doesn't necessarily earn Orton the title of "franchise" but should earn him another year to prove himself. All talk about Bradford or even Canfield is likely B.S for two reasons. 1. We have too many other pressing holes to address replacing a more than adequate QB. 2. If McDaniels and Xanders didn't think it was worth drafting a QB earlier than the 6th round last year, when Orton could have very well been a bust-in-waiting. Why do it now? What we'll do: Simms out, Brandstater moves up to #2, and we sign a veteran 3rd stringer (Charlie Batch? Chris Redman?) or UFA.
HB. To be honest, I was a little disappointed this year with our running game - most of which is at the fault of our OL which we'll get to in a moment. I thought we'd be a power running team - and we were for the first half of the season. Then we faded. Part of that falls into the laps of playcalling (as happy as I was with Orton's numbers, I'd gladly put some of those yards in our ground game) and parts fall on an injured Ryan Harris and a small interior line. No matter what, this unit is carrying some dead weight. What we'll do: Keep Moreno and Buckhalter show going. Trade Hillis (I liked him as a short-yardage back, but that was with a different coach in a different system) and drop LaMont Jordan. Bring back Mike Bell or sign Houston Texan Ryan Moats during Free Agency AND draft Andre Dixon of UConn or Charles Scott of LSU in the latter rounds.
Receivers and Tight Ends
Royal will be there. Gaffney will be there. Daniel Graham will be there. We'll be ok. I have some questions about how much Stokely has left in the tank, but I also have faith that Lloyd or McKinley can step in. The big questions are Marshall and Scheffler. Scheffler is gone. He's frustrated, and he has every right to be. He just doesn't fit in this system and if we can get a pick or two for him - I wish him well. What we'll do at TE: Sign Jeff King, formerly of the Carolina Panthers, as a Free Agent. Marshall is a big question. I still wouldn't be shocked to see him stay, but at the same time if the Ravens come in with a 1st and 3rd, he'll be gone. What we'll do: If we were to get those picks, there are a lot of options in the draft as far as big, athletic receivers - LaFell, Benn, Thomas, etc. But here's a thought. If we get a 1 and a 3, the first place I'd call is Arizona and ask what they want for Boldin. If it's a 1st and 3rd, you walk away. If it's less, you listen because rookie receivers are a crapshoot - and Boldin, for all his problems and yapping, has never shut himself down.
We're going to have a new LG and maybe a new center by September. Clady and Harris are safe, supposedly Kuper has McDaniel's favor - but Hamilton and Wiegman were just overpowered. What we do: Go after another Patriot, Logan Mankins, who has been the best player on that line over the past few seasons and C/G Jason Spitz of Green Bay or draft J.D Walton of ASU or Ted Larsen of NCS as the center of future and Mike Iupati (Idaho), Mike Johnson (Bama), or Jon Asamoah (Illinois) as a guard of the future.
As it was in 2008, run defense is what ultimately did us in. LeKevin Smith and Vonnie Holliday are likely out and we just need more size/talent. What we'll do: Sign Johnny Jolly (who has played NT and DE for Green Bay this year) and draft Tyson Alualu from Cal.
Easiest prediction to make. 1. Sign Doom long term. Period. That should be our #1 overall priority. 2. Andra Davis was great, but we need an upgrade. I'll bet anything that if Rolando McClain is available - he's our top pick. Aside from that, I feel okay with letting Ayer's develop as the LOLB and having Haggan rotate in. That being said, I'd like to see us drop Andra Davis for another rookie (Micah Johnson is a huge inside guy who could be available late) or a versatile veteran.
This is the strength of the team. I wouldn't be shocked to see us stand-pat here. McBath was my favorite rookie this season, Bruton may have a future at SS, and I haven't given up on Alphonso Smith yet. We can look to the future here, but I expect Bailey, Goodman, Dawkins, and Hill to have another great year in 2010. What we do: Draft Texas Tech CB Jamar Wall and either VT's Kam Chanellor or LSU's Harry Coleman.
I think we improved dramatically this year in the return game. Prater is a legitimate option at kicker. Now if we only had a punter. Mitch Berger is gone. What we do: Give Britton Colquitt a long look. I thought he deserved the starting job before getting cut in September, he deserves another look.
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