Yardbarker Horiz

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Market Size Relevant to CBA Negotiations

When the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations broke down in Washington, D.C., the first casualty was "truth".  Then the players got locked out.  Then came court cases.  It went south in a big hurry.

Since then we've only seen posturing as things need time to cool off before anyone can approach the bargaining table again.

Three years ago, the NFL owners decided to opt-out of the recently lapsed CBA.  The CBA is the "rules of the road" for the relationship between an NFL team and an individual player, covering everything from contracts to retirement to salary caps to practice limits.

The old CBA carried some significant challenges for General Managers, including a skyrocketing salary cap and unbalanced rules regarding team income from luxury boxes and stadium advertising.

It appears the owners may still be struggling with the disparity of incomes for the various franchises.  For example, the Cowboys get a nice chunk of change for all those new skyboxes in their new stadium, while smaller market teams (Buffalo, Green Bay, Kansas City, Tampa Bay) get much less for their stadium naming rights and box seats.  These are serious issues among the owners.

So it is no surprise in the final days before talks ended the owners were represented by a large market team (John Mara, New York Giants), a middle market team (Art Rooney II, Pittsburgh Steelers), and a small market team (Clark Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs).  This begs the question as to whether the owners have their own differences settled, or if the various market sizes have certain agenda items they wish to address.

If the owners don't have agreement among themselves, then an agreement with the players may not be coming anytime soon.  The NFL players union demanded to see team-by-team financials just before the talks broke down -- perhaps the players sense some blood in the water regarding the owner's disputes over money and were looking to define it.

How silly will this get?  The player's union has disbanded and now it appears players will be suing owners, using money the owners paid to the players.  A prolonged court battle is the last thing the opening of the 2011 training camps need.

So, NFL fans, I encourage you to enjoy the 2011 draft.  There may not be anything else but reruns for the rest of the summer.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Buccaneers Need Experience, Not More Youth, At DE

Great defenses keep the other team from scoring.  It's not about how many sacks they record (unless you're talking Fantasy Football).  The Buccaneers do not need a defensive end just to accumulate more sacks, they crave the disruption a fast end can create.

But do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need another young defense end? In 2009, the Buccaneers drafted Kyle Moore, a defensive end from the University of Southern California. That same year they also tapped the waiver wire and swiped Michael Bennett from the Seattle Seahawks and Tim Crowder from the Denver Broncos.

Currently the Buccaneers have 8 defensive ends on the roster, with Crowder and Stylez White being the old men of the group with just five years of experience each.  White, Crowder, Bennett, and Moore along with undrafted rookie Brandon Gilbeaux were all on the Buccaneers roster just after the 2010 draft.  The Buccaneers even tried 2010 draft pick Erik Lorig (a tight end in college) at defensive end for a while.  Lorig is still listed as a Defensive End on the current roster even though he played a substantial number of downs as a fullback last season.

Also during the 2010 season, Tampa Bay traded for Alex Magee, a 2nd year player originally drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs.  Magee came to Tampa as a Defensive End but is now listed as a Defensive Tackle.

Clearly Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik has been working on this position since he landed in the Big Chair at One Buccaneer Place.  But is there an answer for the Defensive End position in the upcoming draft?

Dominik may be better served to dip his toe in the free agent pool instead.

Taking a look a defensive stats from 2010, there were twelve defensive ends with 45 or more tackles; they are the most productive ends in the league last year.

Tackles Sacks Exp
Justin Smith SF 57 8.5 11
Glenn Dorsey KC 51 2.0 4
Charles Johnson CAR 51 11.5 5
Trent Cole PHI 50 10.0 7
Kenyon Coleman CLE 50 2.5 9
James Hall STL 48 10.5 12
Justin Tuck NYG 48 11.5 7
Calais Campbell ARI 46 6.0 4
Haloti Ngata BAL 46 5.5 6
Vince Wilfork NE 46 2.0 7
Jared Allen MIN 45 11.0 8
Darnell Dockett ARI 45 5.0 8

The average years of experience (last column) of these men is just over 7 years.  Note that there are certainly youthful achievers on this list.  An interesting fact stood out while assembling this table:  all the players in this list with 7 or fewer years in the NFL have spent their entire career with the same team.  None of the players in this list with more than 8 years of experience have spent their entire career with the same team.

My basic point, however, is none of the players in the list above have less than 4 years of NFL experience.

Current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Defensive Ends

Exp Tackles Sacks
Crowder, Tim 5 31 3
White, Stylez G. 5 36 4.5
Bennett, Michael 3 15 1
Moore, Kyle 3 18 0
Gilbeaux, Brandon 2 0 0
Lorig, Erik 2 4 0
Wilson, E.J. 2 0 0
Johnson, George 1 0 0

All in all, it appears the Buccaneers have a steady stream of young talent coming through the ranks at defensive end.  Both Bennett and Moore were drafted players and Crowder and White are productive.  In the Tampa 2 defense it is all about gap protection and avoiding the big play against you.  These men have proven to be a capable part of a strong defensive unit.

Are the current Buccaneer ends on the verge of a breakout?  The group has been more or less in place for a full season now, and they have reached the experience level where big numbers could be just around the corner.  Do they need a young defensive end?  Only if they are willing to give the player time to develop.  And they can because there are productive players ahead of them.

Should the Buccaneers be shopping for some immediate defensive end experience?  That is a big question -- one to examine in the near future.