First off, I'd like to say thanks to all the MHR staffers and contributors who have created THE best Denver Broncos forum in the world. I started reading in 2009 thanks to an obscure link on the Yahoo! Sports page and have never regretted clicking the "Open" key that day. This is my first fan post (hopefully not the last), so any constructive criticisms or ideas would be greatly appreciated. So with that out of the way, let's get to the meat...
"Would you like the Filet or the Porterhouse sir?" For any of you who have been to a prominent steakhouse, you know this question as a serious inquiry that causes grief, pain, and anger at not being able to have both. Both are two of the priciest, and most tender, cuts of beef you can find on the market. For vegetarians and other unenlightened individuals, the filet (almost called filet mignon) is a cut from the smaller end of the tenderloin in cattle. It's widely considered the most tender cut of beef (coming from the tenderloin which has less connective tissue than other cuts due to the muscle not being weight-bearing) which also makes it the most expensive cut. The Porterhouse (related to the T-bone), on the other hand, is composed of a cut of the tenderloin which is attached, via bone, to a large strip steak. Due to it's large size, and composing of two of the most premier cuts (tenderloin and short loin), it's a prized commodity in steakhouses and fetches quite a large price.
Now the question you may be asking is, "What does this have to do with football?" Well besides it being the season of grilling (which sadly I cannot participate in due to my apartment complex being made entirely of old wooden structures), it's also the season of "what if's" for football fans around the globe. With training camp still weeks in the future, it's the perfect time to examine all the should've(s), would've(s), and could've(s) to make the time pass quicker. With this edition of "Would You Rather", I'm going to focus on an argument that's been going on recently through the blog due to Demaryius Thomas' upcoming contract; would you rather have the highest paid/elite player at a position, or two cheaper blue chip talents?
Here's the ground rules for my research: I only took stats from 2013 and am focusing ONLY on contracts for the 2014 season. I'm not going to look at the contracts as a whole (so sorry for those who cashed in with the largest contract for their position), but rather their cap hit for 2014 (to take into account bonuses and other additions). All cap hit numbers were researched from overthecap. I'm also ignoring QB's (they're worth every penny and two QB systems are unheard of in the NFL). Also, I'm ignoring all players still on their rookie contract since, under the new CBA, their cap hits are very team friendly. In addition, center will also be a position that's ignored due to the lack of information I can find and the gap between the top few contracts (there's a 33% drop between the top cap hit and the 2nd). Now then, without further ado....
2013 stats: 14 games, 1266 yards, 4.5 avg, 90.4 yards a game, 10 TD, 3 fumbles,8 20+yards
27 rec for 171 yards, 1 TD, 2 fumbles
2013 stats: 16 games,1339 yards, 4.6 avg, 83.7 yds a game, 9 TD, 2 fumbles, 9 20+ yards
74 rec, 594 yards, 3 TD, 0 fumbles, 5 20+ yards
2013 stats: 15 games, 1287 yards, 5.0 avg, 85.8 yds a game, 12 TD, 4 fmbles, 6 20+
70 rec, 693 yards, 7 TD, 0 fumbles, 8 20+
The Filet or Porterhouse? Choice...Porterhouse. By far the hardest choice to make on the offensive side of the ball, with both options having plenty of arguments for why they're the best choice. I'm going with the tandem of Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles. While A.P. is the premier back in the league (and also half machine), what offensive coordinator wouldn't be drooling at the thought of having two of the most versatile backs in the league lining up in their backfield. Both are very capable runners who have the explosiveness to take it to the house whenever they touch the ball, and both also possess great hands and instincts in the passing game, giving their prospective quarterbacks a safety net (or be the primary receiver in Charles case). In a time where two back sets are as rare as original summer time movies, an offense posting these two runners could create nightmare mismatches for opposing defenses.
2013 stats: 16 games, 73 rec, 930 yards, 12.7 avg, 58.1 yards per game, 11 20+, 5 TD, 0 Fumbles
Brandon Marshall (Bears), $9.4 million cap hit ($7.3 million base salary)
2013 stats: 16 games, 100 rec, 1295 yards, 13.0 avg, 80.9 yards a game, 12 TD, 16 20+, 0 Fumbles
2013 stats: 16 games, 82 rec, 1332 yards, 16.2 avg, 83.2 yards a game, 9 TD, 25 20+, 1 Fumbles
Mike Wallace being the highest paid WR is a product of being last year's marquee free agent and signing a monster contract (how did that go for you Ireland?). Not seeing Calvin Johnson here pains me, but Megatron is in the season before his cap number rises to $20 million, and while I'm tempted to drop Larry Fitzgerald in here (cap hit $8.6 million), it's another unfair number considering that figure rises to $23 million next year. Also WR is the hardest position to find value in, considering a majority of the best WR are still in their rookie deals (Demaryius, Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffrey, AJ Green, Julio Jones)
The Filet or Porterhouse? Choice...Porterhouse. The easiest choice on the list by far, Wallace has yet to truly prove himself as the premier number 1 WR in his offense (Brian Hartline actually produced more in 2013). While that could be blamed on the lack of originality and creativity in the offensive scheme last year, Wallace still lacks precise route running and struggles against more physical corners. Although it was a tough choice between Jackson and hometown favorite Wes Welker, Jackson is a truly gifted (although troubled) WR who can return kicks, stretch the field, and is always a threat to bring it to the house. Even though Jackson's cap hits rise to $9 million, the next couple years, that's still a deal, and practically still equals only $18.4 between the two of them. Brandon Marshall (another troubled WR, but one whose managed to rein in his tendencies for bone head moves in his early years), on the other hand, brings a physical style of play that's almost unmatched in the NFL. His ability to outmuscle corners for jump balls and aggressive route running make him extremely difficult to cover and tackle. Marshall and Jackson would create a tandem forcing opponent's secondaries to cover EVERY inch of field opening up plenty of running lanes for RB.
2013 stats: 16 games, 73 rec, 851 yards, 11.7 avg, 53.2 a game, 8 TD, 13 20+, 0 Fumbles, 44 for 1st
Brett Celek (Eagles), $4.1 million cap hit ($4 million base)
2013 stats: 16 games, 32 rec, 502 yards, 15.7 avg, 31.4 a game, 6 TD, 13 20+, 1 Fumbles, 22 first downs
Jacob Tamme (Broncos), $3.5 million cap hit ($3 million base)
2013 stats: 16 games, 20 rec, 184 yards, 9.2 avg, 11.5 a game, 1 TD, 0 20+, 14 for 1st, 0 Fumbles
While Gronk may own the biggest contract for a tight end, his first 3 years are pretty cap friendly while his last two years see a big hike in the cap hit ($11 million in 2018 and $12 million in 2019). And like Fitzgerald and Megatron, it's tempting to put him in the place of Celek but considering his cap hit rises to $8.7 million next year (and never drops below $6.7 million) it would be cheating...a bit.
The Filet or Porterhouse? Choice...Filet. Tight End was yet another position (like WR), where the majority of talent are still in their rookie deals (Thomas, Cameron, Rudolph, Graham). The top contracts are all held by overpaid underachievers on weak teams (Mercedes Lewis, Greg Olsen, Jared Cook) or aging stars getting long in tooth (Gates and Davis). However, in the choice between Witten or Celek/Tamme, I'd take Witten. Witten has been the safety net for Romo's whole career and has the uncanny ability to find the soft spot in the secondary and sit in it for a checkdown. Even though his career is nearing an end and there was a drop in production last year, Witten still enjoyed the 2nd highest TD count in his career. It was a tough choice though, Celek and Tamme (although not having anywhere near the production of Witten) made good use of limited time playing, converting over 70% of their receptions for 1st downs.
Disclaimer! Offensive line play is notoriously hard to truly grade with all of the major sites having different scoring equations. I also lack a money tree to pay for premium stats on those stats so had to resort to trolling the internet for the hopes of finding some way to rank/review these players. I watched some tape but sadly feel my analysis of the offensive line part of this article is underwhelming. I also focused primarily at the player with the highest contract to try to get a feel for their worth to their team. So please bear with me.
+35.2 rating from PFF, (footballoutsiders=18th best run blocking, 17th best pass blocking), (PFF 12th best line, 6th PB, 18 RB, 20th PEN), gave up 49 sacks as a team (bottom 1/3 of league), best team in NFL when running behind LT (however only 11% of runs accumulated here), 1383 yards for rushers, 4.0 average
Ryan Clady (Broncos)- $8.6 cap hit ($8 million base salary)
Joe Staley (Niners)- $3.4 cap hit ($2.7 million base salary)
+27.7 from PFF
The Filet or the Porterhouse? Choice...The Filet (but it was a close one). Offensive lines are tricky things to rate, especially play across the line by individual players. Looking back at the Brown's season last year, this line really struggled BUT I think it's more an indictment of who was running the football (McGahee was the bell cow with a pathetic 2.7 avg) and the immobility of their QB (Weeden and Campbell aren't exactly know for their ability to move around in the pocket). Add in the fact that their best WR is a better deep ball player than route runner meant this line often had to hold up under extreme distress. But Joe Thomas still stood out as the backbone of this group with great RB and PB grades. Even at 29 Joe Thomas is one of the premier LT in the league and well worth the money. With the choice between JT and Staley/Clady, I'd go with Thomas. He's never missed a game in his career, and he's been a perennial Pro Bowl and All Pro player. The shocker with this research...how much of a team friendly contract Joe Staley has (his greatest cap hit only goes around $6 million).
2013 stats: (PFF) 8th PB, 16th RB, 5th PEN (offensive lines), ranks 10th in league when running behind Mid/G (45% of rushes), 1473 yards for rushers, 37 sacks allowed
Louis Vasquez (Broncos): $7.3 million cap hit ($3 million base salary)
The Filet or the Porterhouse? Choice...the Filet. As much as I wanted to go with the combo of Vasquez/Asamoah, after looking through some film, it's hard to pick against Evans. Evans is a powerful RB who also excels at PB, giving Drew Brees the time to pick apart defenses.
Overall, after looking through the best offensive players, I find that with the skill positions (TE, WR, RB), I'd prefer going with the two blue chip players rather than the "elite" player. Especially with the RB position at such a low premium in today's league, it's easy to find talent for relatively cheap. However when it comes down to the offensive line, I find it's more important to have the dominating player capable of plowing running lanes open and shutting down opponent's pass rushers. So if I'm not along the lines, I'm feeling the meaty Porterhouse to satisfy my need to get a little of everything but, when I'm in the trenches, the filet suits my need for having the best available.
What do you think MHR? Do you want the Porterhouse or the Filet?
Coming soon...Defense Edition