Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NFL Trade Deadline Advice for Ted Thompson

The NBA and MLB trade deadline is exciting because teams actually make franchise altering trades, think the Milwaukee Brewers trading for C.C. Sabathia, unfortunately that is not the case in the NFL.  Even with the NFL moving the trade deadline from the Tuesday following Week 6 games to the Tuesday following Week 8 games, I expected little to no movement.  Thanks to Hurricane Sandy's wrath, the NFL moved the trade deadline back two more days from Tuesday, October 30th to Thursday, November 1st.  This marks the latest NFL trade deadline that I can remember yet I would still be shocked if any team made a blockbuster trade.

Unfortunately if NFL teams are reticent to make trade deadline deals then Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson loathes making trade deadline deals because almost any trade would mean that Thompson would have to part with draft picks.  Normally I agree with Thompson but the Packers have some legitimate needs: a punishing running back, a mercenary middle linebacker, and a legitimate starting safety.  It is highly unlikely that the Packers will make any trades but here are five realistic ideas for Thompson:

Offer the Tennessee Titans a 6th round draft pick for Jared Cook (TE): At first glance this trade makes no sense because the Packers have a ton of depth at tight end (Finley, Crabtree, Williams, Taylor, and Quarless) and Cook is in the final year of his rookie contract (only earning $615,000 this season) but adding Cook would give the Packers another physical freak at tight end besides Finley.  Plus if Cook outperformed Finley then the Packers could decline their option for Finley for 2013 and move forward with Cook, Crabtree, Williams, Taylor, and Quarless.  At the very least it would be interesting to see if Cook and Finley could co-exist in 2012 right?

Offer the Buffalo Bills a 3rd round pick for Jarius Byrd (S) and a 6th round pick: The Bills came into 2012 with high expectations but their season is about to come to an end.  After losing to the lowly Tennessee Titans to drop to 3-4, the Bills go on the road to play the Texans and Patriots so the Bills will be effectively eliminated from playoff contention before Week 10 so they might as well get something for Byrd since he looks poised to leave via free agency following 2012.  There is no denying that Byrd is an upgrade over Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings.  That doesn't even factor in that the Bills should be motivated to move Byrd because they have a ton of defensive players signed to expensive long-term contracts: Mario Williams (DE), Kyle Williams (DT), Chris Kelsay (DE), Marcell Dareus (DT), and Mark Anderson (DE).  Again this trade makes too much sense for both teams, so it will never happen. 

Offer the Carolina Panthers a bag of balls for DeAngelo Williams (RB): Despite the fact that Williams is rapidly approaching 30, he is in just the second year of a five-year, $43 million contract that pays him $5.25 million dollars this season.  I actually think the Carolina Panthers would be the big winners in this trade because it would rid them of one of the worst contracts in the NFL.  So yes this is a joke, I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Offer the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 7th round draft pick for LeGarrette Blount (RB): It is sad that the 3rd string running back for the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be a better option than what is currently on the roster.  Blount has some issues (The Punch) and is by no means a long-term solution the Packers desperately need at running back, but Blount would give the Packers a big body built for situational touches in short yardage situations.

Offer the San Francisco 49ers a 5th round draft pick for Larry Grant (MLB) or Tavares Gooden (MLB): The 49ers have the best tandem of middle linebackers in the NFL in Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis so if any team can part with a middle linebacker, it is the 49ers.  I say Grant or Gooden because they are essentially fungible goods (quality middle linebackers only signed through 2012) so the Packers are essentially trading for a mercenary middle linebacker for this season because Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith are set to return healthy in 2013.  I doubt that the 49ers want to help a fellow Super Bowl contenders but it doesn't hurt to ask.

Offer the St. Louis Rams a 4th round draft pick for Stephen Jackson (RB): Much like the Packers previously flirting with trading for Randy Moss or Marshawn Lynch, this trade makes too much sense.  A 4th round pick might seem a little rich of a guy starring down the barrel of 30 that is set to earn $3.5 million for the rest of 2012 and $7 million in 2013 but the Packers need a running back that they can give the ball to on 3rd and 1.  Jackson is the running back that actually picks up the requisite yard for a first down.  With the Rams entering full rebuilding mode, any draft pick the Rams could get for the woefully overpaid Jackson is a win.

Again I would be shocked if Thompson made any of the aforementioned trades but it is undeniable that adding any of the players discussed above (besides Williams obviously) are the type of realistic acquisitions that could catapult the 2012 Green Bay Packers to the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

2012 Green Bay Packers Should Play Some 4-3

We all know the Green Bay Packers’ offense led by Aaron Rodgers can pick up big chunks of passing yards with great flourish, just look at how they dismantled one of the premier defenses on the road last week against the Texans to hand them their first loss of 2012.  Unfortunately, the defense can give up big chunks of passing yards with similar spectacle.  In order to strengthen the prospects for another Super Bowl title, this has to stop.  One way to strengthen the defense in this area is to play some snaps in a 4-3 defense as opposed to the traditional 3-4 defense.

Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers changed the formation from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense when the Packers hired him in 2009.  Initially, the Packers transitioned smoothly to the 3-4 scheme.  After letting defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins leave via free agency before the 2011 NFL season though, the Packers struggled to create a consistent pass rush from the defensive line.  As a result, the Packers gave up 4,796 passing yards last year, which is the most in NFL history.  Since the Packers finished the 2011 regular season with a 15-1 record, we can chalk up some of those lost passing yards to opponents who attempted to minimize the point differential created by the stellar Packer offense.  The majority of the yards, however, are due to the fact that the Packers did not create enough pressure on the other team’s quarterback.  The Packers cannot retroactively re-sign Jenkins, so they need to consider other options in order to have an effective pass defense for the rest of 2012.

General manager Ted Thompson addressed the Packers’ lack of pass rush when he selected defensive end/outside linebacker Nick Perry from USC and defensive lineman Jerel Worthy from Michigan State with the Packers' first two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.  Those first two selections by Thompson marked the start of an unprecedented six-pick run of drafting defensive players.

The SackSEER 2.0 Model developed by Football Outsiders projected Perry to be the most effective pass rusher coming out of the 2012 NFL Draft. While that projection seems impressive, it is important to remember that the model factored in Perry’s collegiate production as a defensive end in a 4-3 defense, not the 3-4 defense used by the Packers.  Worthy is a versatile player that could play either defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense or any position along the defensive line in the 3-4 defense as long as he gives 100% effort in the NFL.  Both Perry and Worthy project as versatile players in the NFL that can play in almost any defensive scheme on a long term basis, but they look like better fits for a 4-3 defensive scheme in the short-term.  Perry even expressed an interest in playing defensive end in a 4-3 scheme as opposed to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme before the 2012 NFL Draft.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Packers should change their entire defensive scheme based on a couple of rookies.  The Packers now have a number of new players that fit a 4-3 scheme though, so they have the ability to play a few snaps a game in the 4-3 defense.  This will benefit the Packers because it will give them another way to attack teams defensively and help stymie strong offenses.  Plus, allowing rookies to play in schemes where they are comfortable will assist them in making a smooth transition from college football to the NFL.  That smooth transition only serves the Packers well in the long run.

I know the Packers only played a traditional 3-4 defense for roughly 1/3rd of all their defensive snaps in 2011, but lowering that number a little by increasing the number of snaps they play in a 4-3 defense in 2012 plays to the Packers’ strengths and will keep opposing offenses on their toes.  If that doesn’t convince you yet, the Packers lost their two best middle linebackers for the season already. Desmond Bishop got hurt in the preseason and D.J. Smith got hurt last week against the Texans.  All of a sudden the Packers only have one traditional middle linebackers on their roster in A.J. Hawk.  Besides Hawk, the Packers will have to lean on a number of backups with little game experience playing middle linebacker.

Let me be clear, I am not advocating a wholesale shift from a 3-4 to a 4-3, but if the defensive line and linebackers can create a little more pressure via a 4-3 scheme for a handful of snaps a game, it will allow the secondary to continue to create turnovers while surrendering less yards.  The Packers should at least experiment with a 4-3 defense with B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Jerel Worthy, and Nick Perry along the defensive line and Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, and Erik Walden at linebacker.  A few snaps a game in a 4-3 defense might be a solution to some of their defensive woes.