Over the course of the 120-plus days of the NFL lockout, football fans have had plenty of time to debate —Will Cam be a bust? Can Plaxico, Randy Moss or T.O. still help a team? What team will win the award for most arrests during the NFL lockout? A). Cincinnati B). The field—predict and, most importantly, ask what if questions.
- What if Plaxico Burress never shot himself in the leg?
- What if the 49ers drafted Aaron Rodgers instead of Alex Smith with the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft?
- What if Brett Favre never sent that picture to Jenn Sterger?
- What if Michael Vick never threw that pass to Riley Cooper?
- What if the Giants cut Matt Dodge before Week 14?
- What if Kevin Kolb never got hurt in Week 1?
- What if Vince Young played under a coach who supported him?
- What if Scott Shanle, Will Smith, Remi Ayodele, Darren Sharper, Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter, Alex Brown or Roman Harper tackled Marshawn Lynch?
- What if Falcons never traded Favre?
However, out of all of the what if questions that have recently crossed my mind, one stands out.
What if there was a two-round free agency draft every offseason instead of the normal free agent signing period?
Look, I know there is a zero percent chance of this happening, and I'm not sure that it would actually work. But you can't tell me it doesn't sound exciting.
Not only would it help to create parity, but also it would even the playing field between teams and their players (there would be no LeBron and Bosh to Miami, or Carmelo to New York).
For instance, if a player (Carmelo) decides not to sign an extension with his current team (Denver), then, once his contract expires, he is dropped into the pool of players that are eligible for the NFL's Free Agency Draft. At that time, he no longer has any control over what team he will play for in the following season, because whichever team drafts him will own his rights.
How many players do you think would take that risk?
But, without further ado, here are the rules for the NFL Free Agency Draft:
1). Salary doesn't matter.
2). The order is based on the team's win/loss/tie record (worst to best)
3). No team is allowed more than one pick per round (no trading picks).
4). Serpentine a.k.a. "snake" draft style.
5). All free agents are available, except for those who have been franchised or re-signed by their team (tenders don't matter).
6). Once the two-round draft is complete, then the free agent signing period begins (today's version of free agency).
This is a no-brainer.
Even if the Carolina Panthers had a surplus of talent at the corner back position, they would still draft Nnamdi Asomugha with the No. 1 pick because, quite frankly, the 30-year-old cornerback is by far the most talented free agent in this class.
Don't be fooled by Asomugha's low interception totals in recent seasons—just three in the past four years—it's only because teams don't even bother throwing to his side of the field anymore.
According to STATS Inc., quarterbacks attempted just 33 passes against Asomugha all of last season. Of the 33 passes that were thrown his way, Asomugha allowed just 13 completions, 205 yards and NO touchdowns.
One could argue that heading into the 2011 offseason, the Denver Broncos' biggest need was at the defensive tackle position.
Luckily for the Broncos, the 2011 NFL Draft was loaded with defensive lineman—seven defensive tackles ended up being drafted in the first 41 picks of the draft.
After passing on Marcell Dareus with the No. 2 overall pick, the Broncos were expected to land an interior lineman with either the No. 45 or No. 46 in the draft, or maybe even both.
Instead the Broncos drafted a safety (Rahim Moore) and a big offensive lineman (Orlando Franklin), passing on Marvin Austin from North Carolina—who was projected to be a lottery pick before he was suspended for the entire 2010 NCAA season—and Oregon State's Stephen Paea.
Because the Broncos didn't draft a defensive tackle with any of their top picks, they must address their big need with the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft.
Thus, the Broncos select Barry Cofield, a 6'4" 306 pound nose tackle who has spent his entire five-year career with the New York Giants.
The addition of Cofield immediately improves the Broncos' interior defensive line, which allowed 2,471 rushing yards last season—the second most in the NFL.
The Buffalo Bills have a lot of options here with the No. 3 pick.
Obviously, if there were a top-notch quarterback in this crop of players, then the Bills would target him. But, unless you regard Matt Hasselbeck or Marc Bulger as an elite quarterback, this group of free agent quarterbacks is really weak.
With that said, the Bills continue to revamp their defense this offseason—seven of their nine picks in the 2011 NFL Draft were defensive players, including the No. 3 pick Marcell Dareus—by selecting Ray Edwards with the No. 3 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft.
Look, I know that Edwards has spent his entire five-year career as a 4-3 defensive end, and while I'm not saying his transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker will be easy, he has both the talent and build to be a dynamic pass rusher on the outside.
Don't think it's possible; take a look at Kansas City's Tamba Hali.
Hali racked up a combined 15.5 sacks in his first two seasons out of Penn State. However, in 2008, the Chiefs decided to move him from defensive end to outside linebacker to make room for rookie draft pick Glenn Dorsey.
Two years later, in 2010, Hali recorded 14.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and 51 tackles from his outside linebacker position.
Like Hali, Edwards has the size—he is listed at 6'5", two inches taller than Hali—and speed to successfully convert to an outside linebacker. And, at just 26-years-old, Edwards provides the Bills with a dynamic pass rusher for the next five to seven years—something the Bills desperately need.
The Cincinnati Bengals have a big decision to make with the No. 4 pick.
Either they select a running back (DeAngelo Williams) or offensive lineman (Carl Nicks) that will help the development of their rookie quarterback, or, they solidify their defense by drafting inside linebacker Stephen Tulloch or cornerback Jonathan Joseph.
Ultimately, the Bengals pass up on Williams, Tulloch and Joseph, and select the best offensive lineman in the draft, Nicks, who can step right in and take over as the starting left guard.
At just 26-years-old, the 6'5", 343-pound Nicks is a one-time Pro Bowler, who is among the league's most explosive blockers.
Not only will the acquisition of Nicks help to protect Andy Dalton, but also it will improve the Bengals league worst 3.6 yards per carry.
Look, I'm not trying to make an excuse for Derek Anderson's terrible performance in the 2010 season, but, really, how many quarterbacks do you think would be able to put up staggering statistics behind the Cardinals offensive line?
Maybe a few?
Knowing that the Cardinals allowed 50 sacks in the 2010 season,—the second most in the NFL—you would assume that the Cardinals made acquiring an offensive lineman in the draft a priority, right?
Wrong. Instead, Arizona used its eight draft picks on two running backs, two linebackers, and a cornerback, wide receiver, tight end and defensive tackle.
To make matters worse, the Cardinals' starting left guard, Alan Faneca, announced his retirement on May 10, and Deuce Lutui, Arizona's starting right guard, is a free-agent, which, in this scenario means that he is with all of the other free-agents—who weren't franchised—in the draft pool.
After having nightmares at the prospect of a backup starting at each guard position, and seeing flashes of how quickly David Carr's career fizzled after he was repeatedly slammed into the ground his rookie year, John Skelton demands that the Cardinals select Davin Joseph with the No. 5 overall pick.
The Cleveland Browns can go in a lot of different directions with the No. 6 pick.
With playmakers such as Santonio Holmes, Sidney Rice and Braylon Edwards remaining on the board—think about it, all Edwards has to do is remind the residents of Cleveland that he punched LeBron's friend in face...still don't think that the city wouldn't embrace his return?—the Browns have to decide whether to add a No. 1 wide receiver, or a pro-bowl caliber offensive tackle.
Although it's not a popular decision among the Browns fans, Mike Holmgren understands the importance of building a team from the line out—as evidenced by Cleveland's first two selections in the 2011 NFL Draft—and therefore, the Browns select Willie Colon with the No. 6 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft (Somewhere Eric Mangini is shouting that the Browns should have taken Abram Elam).
Because Alex Smith and Troy Smith are free agents,—meaning both are in the draft pool—the San Francisco 49ers have just two quarterbacks on their roster: David Carr and Colin Kaepernick.
However, even though quarterback is the 49ers biggest need, the No. 7 pick is simply too high to take either Matt Hasselbeck or Marc Bulger.
With that said, the 49ers narrow their decision down to six players: Santonio Holmes, Sidney Rice, Mathias Kiwanuka, Paul Posluszny, Aubrayo Franklin and Johnathan Joseph.
Obviously, Holmes and Rice are the sexy picks here, but the 49ers have other positions they need to address as well. Plus, Michael Crabtree should flourish in Jim Harbaugh's west coast offense, and Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn Jr. aren't bad No. 2 and No. 3 receivers.
A big problem for the 49ers has been their play at cornerback. Of course, one can argue that their secondary struggles are partially because of their lack of a pass rush, however, it would be foolish to think that either Nate Clements or Shawntae Spencer can lock down an opponents No. 1 receiver.
Thus, with the No. 7 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft, the 49ers select cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
The addition of Joseph immediately improves a defense that finished 24th in the league in passing yards per game (231.1), and provides San Francisco with a cornerback who can matchup against the opponents best receivers.
Do you want to know why Chris Johnson's numbers took such a hit last season?
Well, look no further than Tennessee's offensive line.
Pro Football Focus ranked the Titan's offensive line as the 29th best unit in the league,—dropping them 18 spots from their rank in 2009. Additionally, they ranked the Titans No. 32 in run blocking, No. 21 in pass protection and No. 29 in most penalties.
Although neither tackle played spectacular, the Titans biggest area of concern is their interior line. And with Leroy Harris, the Titan's starting left guard, leaving to free agency, Tennessee has to grab a guard at No. 8.
Thus, with the No. 8 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft, the Tennessee Titans select Harvey Dahl.
Dahl, who was previously labeled as the NFL's "meanest player" by a CBS sports writer, brings with him a toughness that will immediately improve the Titan's interior line.
With the No. 9 pick, the Cowboys have to decide whether to address their need along the offensive line or on the defensive line.
Despite their selection of Tyron Smith in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Cowboys still have major needs along the offensive line. Doug Free and Kyle Kosier, who manned the left side of the line for the Cowboys in 2010, are both free agents, and Marc Colombo, Dallas' starting right tackle, struggles against quick pass rushers.
At the same time, the Cowboys have a major need at the defensive end position. With Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher all leaving for free agency, Dallas needs to find someone who can play next to Jay Ratliff.
Thus, with the No. 9 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select defensive tackle/end Cullen Jenkins.
Jenkins, a seven-year veteran from Central Michigan, is an absolute force at the line of scrimmage, and has the ability to play at both defensive end and defensive tackle in a 3-4 formation.
Not only is Jenkins great at stopping the run, but also he is a tremendous pass rusher who will complement Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware nicely. In just 11 games last season, Jenkins recorded a career-high seven sacks.
When receivers such as Brandon Banks, Anthony Armstrong and Roydell Williams are receiving a significant amount of playing time on your team, you know your in trouble.
Meet the 2010 Washington Redskins.
Aside from Santana Moss and Chris Cooley, the Washington Redskins haven't had a true playmaker on the outside since Laveranues Coles left in 2004.
That's why the Redskins are thrilled that both Santonio Holmes and Sidney Rice are still on the board at the No. 10 pick.
Despite drafting Leonard Hankerson—who has the potential to develop into a dynamic playmaker—in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Washington still needs to find a receiver who can replace Moss, whom is also a free agent.
Thus, with the No. 10 pick, the Redskins select the electrifying Holmes.
Holmes provides the Redskins a legitimate game breaker, who can change the outcome of a game in just one play.
In just 11 games with the New York Jets, Holmes caught 52 passes for 746 yards and six touchdowns along with two game winning catches (against Cleveland and Houston) and a huge 52-yard reception in overtime against Detroit to set up the game-winning field goal.
In 2010, the Houston Texans, simply, couldn't cover any one.
They allowed a league-worst 267.5 passing yards per game, and their touchdown to interception ratio of 33 to 13 (2.53) was among the worst in the league.
Needless to say, the Texans need to add a few playmakers to their secondary this offseason.
Houston took a few steps in the right direction by drafting cornerbacks Brandon Harris, Rashad Carmichael and Shiloh Keo in the 2011 NFL Draft. Harris, who some experts projected as a late first round pick, can contribute immediately in nickel packages, and has the potential to take over a starting spot by midseason.
Although the Texans did well to address their need at cornerback, they failed to draft a safety in the NFL draft.
That's why the Houston Texans are ecstatic to see Eric Weddle drop this far in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft.
Weddle, the consensus No. 1 free-agent safety, has improved in each of his four years in San Diego, and is developing into one of the game's best young safeties. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked Eric Weddle as the fourth best safety in the 2010 season.
Despite their pressing need at safety, the Minnesota Vikings can't pass up on the chance to add a young, talented pass rusher to their team.
Not only does Charles Johnson fill the Vikings' void at left defensive end,—left by Ray Edwards—but also he infuses some young blood into the Vikings' aging defensive line.
In 2010, Johnson's fourth season in the NFL, he tallied 11.5 sacks, 62 tackles and one forced fumble.
If there is a knock on Johnson, it's his inability to create turnovers. However, at just 25-years-old, Johnson has plenty of time to add stripping and swatting techniques to his already sound repertoire.
If the 2011 NFL season started today, the Detroit Lions would list Alphonso Smith and Aaron Berry as their starting cornerbacks...
Not exactly the most intimidating tandem, huh?
Neither Smith nor Berry is a bad cornerback, however, both are young players who are better suited to play as the No. 2 cornerback or nickel corner for the Lions, rather than the No. 1 cornerback.
Thus, with the No. 13 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft, the Detroit Lions select Brent Grimes.
Grimes, a four-year veteran with the Atlanta Falcons, first emerged as a ball hawking cornerback in 2009 when he intercepted a total of six passes. However, questions regarding his inability to be a consistent lock down corner forced the Falcons to sign free agent Dunta Robinson to be their No. 1 cornerback.
With a target on his chest,—Grimes was targeted a league-high 124 times, according to STATS Inc.—Grimes allowed just three touchdowns, while recording five interceptions and 23 passes defended—the second most in the NFL.
According to the outspoken Roddy White,—who listed his top five cornerbacks in the NFL in an interview on NFL.com—Grimes is the fifth best cornerback in the NFL.
"Best feet in the game by far," White said. "Unbelievable athleticism."
"He's different from those other guys, because he's not handsy, not needing to get his hands on you to make plays. He can just sit back, kind of look back (into the pocket) and watch."
The St. Louis Rams couldn't have dreamt up a better scenario than the one that they are presented with here at No. 14 overall.
With Sidney Rice still available, the Rams waste no time in making their decision, and select the 6'4" receiver with the No. 14 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft.
Rice provides St. Louis, and, more importantly, Sam Bradford with a tall and dependable receiver, who has the ability to stretch the field—similarly to Plaxico Burress—and make highlight reel plays.
Just one year removed from his breakout season, in which he caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns, Rice has all the tools necessary to be an elite receiver in this league. Unfortunately, numerous injuries have prevented Rice from playing in all 16 games in three of his four seasons, and the hip surgery that he underwent during the 2010 offseason caused him to miss the first 10 games of last season.
However, if he can stay healthy, not only will Rice help with the development of Bradford, but also he will demand opposing defenses to pay attention to him, which will allow running lanes to open up for Steven Jackson.
Well, Miami's experiment with the Wildcat is officially over.
The Dolphins will be without their best two running backs—and the duo that perfected the "Wildcat" in the NFL—next season, as both Ronnie Brown's, and Ricky Williams' contracts have expired (sending them to the draft pool).
With that said, Miami must acquire a player who is capable of carrying the load and replacing both Williams' and Brown's production (whom combined for 1,407 rushing yards, 383 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2010).
Fortunately for the Dolphins, DeAngelo Williams is still on the board at No. 15, and he is more than capable of being a team's workhorse.
Although there are durability concerns surrounding Williams, there is no questioning his raw talent and ability as a running back. When healthy, Williams has proven that he is one of the game's elite running backs.
In case you forget, here are Williams' stats from the 2008 season—when he sharing the workload with Jonathan Stewart:
Rushing Attempts: 273 (ninth in the NFL)
Rushing Yards: 1,515 (third in the NFL—behind only Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner, who each had at least 90 more attempts than Williams)
Yards per Attempt: 5.5 (second in the NFL)
Carries for more than 20 yards: 15 (second in the NFL)
Rushing Touchdowns: 18 (first in the NFL)
Again, Williams produced these numbers while sharing carries with Stewart, whom finished with 184 rushing attempts in 2008.
It's shocking that Stephen Tulloch fell this far. But, hey, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren't complaining.
With the No. 16 pick, the Jaguars select a 26-year-old stud at middle linebacker, who finished second in the NFL with 160 tackles last season.
Despite his size,—he is listed at 5'11"—Tulloch is a beast in the middle. His above-average speed, combined with his quick feet, allows Tulloch to avoid blockers and chase down ball carriers.
Not only does the addition of Tulloch allow Jacksonville's LB Daryl Smith to move back to outside linebacker, but also it provides the Jaguars with another force in the middle of their defense to go along with Tyson Alualu.
I'll be honest; since 2010, Al Davis—or whoever is secretly running the show—has been one of the better general managers in the NFL (don't believe me, look at the 2010 and 2011 NFL Drafts). Instead of selecting players based on their speed, size and strength, Davis has been drafting complete football players who have the ability to produce right away.
With that said, I'll give Davis the benefit of the doubt that he is past his stage of seeking big-name, high-priced players who never seem to live up to their standards and, as a result, bring negativity to the team.
Thus, with the No. 17 pick in the draft, the Oakland Raiders select Brandon Mebane instead of Braylon Edwards.
Although he isn't nearly as popular as Edwards, Mebane is a big-time run stopper who will help to improve the Raiders rushing defense that ranked 29th in NFL last season.
In addition to his ability to defend against the run, Mebane has proven that he is a capable pass-rusher as well.
The San Diego Chargers can go one of two ways with the No. 18 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft. Either they select Aubrayo Franklin, an excellent run stopping nose tackle, or, they grab Paul Posluszny, a 26-year-old tackling machine.
First, lets focus on Franklin. Although he is not an effective pass rusher (four sacks in eight seasons), Franklin is one of the premier nose tackles in the league because of his ability to take on two blocks and, effectively, clog the middle.
In 2010, Franklin recorded the sixth best run stop rate (89 percent)—a statistic that measures the percentage of a players plays that were stops—among defensive linemen, according to Football Outsiders.
So, why wouldn't San Diego select Franklin here?
Well, for starters, the Chargers may have a more complete nose tackle already under contract.
Antonio Garay, San Diego's nose tackle, was one of the five defensive linemen who finished ahead of Franklin in run stop rate. In fact, Garay's 90 percent stop rate was the second highest among all defensive linemen.
Additionally, the 30-year-old Garay proved the he can get to the quarterback as he finished the 2010 season with 5.5 sacks.
With that said, Posluszny is the obvious choice for the Chargers.
Not only does he provide San Diego with an adequate replacement for Kevin Burnett, who is gone to free agency, but also Posluszny brings with him a toughness that will only help the Chargers' defense get better.
If the New York Giants want to get back to their ground-and-pound style of play, then they must select a running back with the No. 19 pick, because one thing is for sure, Brandon Jacobs isn't the Giants' running back of the future.
Although I like Michael Bush, and think that he can develop into an elite running back if given more opportunities, (i.e. Michael Turner) Ahmad Bradshaw has proven that he is capable of being a team's workhorse for an entire season.
In 2010, Bradshaw ran for 1,235 yards (fourth in the NFC) and eight touchdowns, while average 4.5 yards per carry. Additionally, Bradshaw improved in both his pass protection and receiving, as evidenced by his career-high 47 receptions in 2010.
Thus, with the No. 19 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft, the New York Giants select Ahmad Bradshaw.
Losing Davin Joseph to the Arizona Cardinals (in this scenario) is devastating for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers whom had one of the better offensive lines in the NFL in 2010. Although he didn't have a great year in 2010, Joseph, along with Donald Penn, is the cornerstone of the Bucs' offensive line.
With Joseph gone, Tampa Bay has a major need along the offensive line.
Donald Penn is set at left tackle and Jeff Faine is a great center when healthy, however, question marks surround the rest of the Buccaneers' offensive line. With a lot of uncertainty about who can play what position, Tampa Bay needs to add a versatile player whom can play both guard and tackle positions.
Thus, with the No. 20 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Marshal Yanda.
Although some say he lacks the size and strength to be a dominant right tackle, Yanda allowed just four sacks, three hits and 25 pressures in 16 starts as a right tackle in 2010.
However, as good as he is on the outside, Yanda is even better when playing at right guard.
The 26-year-old is already one of the best pulling guards in the NFL, and with his relentless work ethic Yanda will only improve.
The Kansas City Chiefs waste no time in deciding who to pick, quickly grabbing Aubrayo Franklin with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft.
Franklin, the best nose tackle in free agency, provides the Chiefs with a dominant run stopper who, because of his size and strength, takes on two to three blockers per play.
Not only does the addition of Franklin fill the Chiefs major need at nose tackle, but also it forces a team to block Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson and Tamba Hali with one lineman instead of two, which will lead to more quarterback sacks and pressures for Kansas City's defense.
The Indianapolis Colts have pressing needs at two positions: running back and safety.
Sure, the Colts can select Joseph Addai with the No. 22 pick, but is he really worth it when other quality players are still on the board.
Since his tremendous rookie campaign in 2006, Addai's play has worsened in each of the past four seasons (averaging just 734 yards per season), and the Colts have to decide whether they think he can be a featured back in the NFL.
Ultimately, the Colts decide to pass up on Addai, Michael Bush and Darren Sproles, and select safety Quintin Mikell with the No. 22 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft.
Mikell, an eight-year veteran, is coming off a career year in which he recorded 88 tackles, 15 pass deflections and three interceptions.
Like Colts' former great Bob Sanders, Mikell is known as a stout run defender who excels at playing in the box. And, much like Sanders, his ferocity as well as his tackling ability will immediately improve a Colts' defense that finished 25th in the NFL in run defense.
However, the addition of Mikell won't only help the Colts' run defense.
Mikell proved in 2010 that he is much more than just a one-dimensional safety by emerging as one of the game's best coverage safeties and finishing the season with 15 pass deflections—the second most among safeties.
Fear no more Eagles fans, Dimitri Patterson no longer will be a starting cornerback.
Patterson, who Grantland's Bill Barnwell ranked as the 24th least valuable player in the NFL, was arguably the worst starting cornerback in the NFL this season. In the nine games that he started, Patterson was targeted 77 times and gave up 44 completions for 620 yards (14.1) and five touchdowns, according to STATs Inc..
It's never a good thing when your No. 2 cornerback is allowing quarterbacks to complete passes at a rate of 57 percent.
Thus, with the No. 23 pick, the Philadelphia Eagles select cornerback Brandon Carr, whom is one of the best No. 2 cornerbacks in the league, along with Chris Carr, Terrell Thomas and Stanford Routt.
Carr, who is just 25-years-old, finished with the third lowest burn rate percentage (39.8) among the cornerbacks who qualified last season—minimum 50 targets—, behind only Darrelle Revis and Routt, according to Yahoo Sports!
Additionally, Carr led the league in pass deflections with 25, and has proven that he can down any team's No. 2 wide receiver. Pair him up with Asante Samuel, and opposing quarterbacks will have plenty of trouble finding open receivers.
The New Orleans Saints' offensive line took quite a hit this offseason. With starters Carl Nicks, Jermon Bushrod and Jonathan Goodwin all hitting free agency (draft pool), the Saints are left with three holes to fill along the offensive line.
Fortunately, for New Orleans, Doug Free is still on the board at the No. 24 pick.
After starting at right tackle for the Dallas Cowboys in 2009, Free was moved to left tackle in 2010 to replace Flozell Adams.
Despite a few struggles (he committed 11 penalties), Free exceeded all expectations and turned in one of the better seasons by a left tackle.
Although he isn't the best running blocking tackle, Free is dominant pass blocker, which ultimately will provide Drew Brees with even more time in the pocket.
In 668 pass block snaps, Free allowed just five sacks, seven hits and 21 pressures, for a pressure rate of 4.9 percent, according to Scouts Inc..
If Seattle is hoping to follow up their impressive 2010 season with another postseason run in 2011, then they first need to find a quarterback whom is capable of getting the job done.
Because, simply put, Charlie Whitehurst is not that guy.
In five starts last season, Whitehurst passed for 507 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. His quarterback rating of 65.5 would be good for 31st in the NFL if he had qualified,—player must attempt at least 14 throws per game—worse than both Derek Anderson (65.9) and Brett Favre (69.9)...
Although Matt Hasselbeck didn't put up spectacular numbers in 2010, he proved that he is still more than capable of leading a team to victory.
In the Seahawks' two postseason games, the 35-year-old quarterback combined to pass for 530 yards with a completion percentage of 59.3. Additionally, the quarterback posted an astonishing to seven to one touchdown to interception rate, and finished the postseason with a quarterback rating of 102.4—the third highest among quarterbacks in the postseason, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning.
With starting cornerbacks Josh Wilson and Chris Carr gone to free agency (draft pool), the Ravens need to add a cornerback at some point this offseason to pair with rookie Jimmy Smith.
However, cornerback isn't the only position that Baltimore must address.
Baltimore also lost three starters along its offensive line to free agency, including Marshal Yanda (Tampa Bay) whom is one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the NFL.
With Yanda, Jared Gaither and Chris Chester gone to free agency, the Ravens have holes to fill at right guard and right tackle. Baltimore's selection of Jah Reid in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft helps, but doesn't solve the Ravens' problems.
Sure, Reid may develop into a solid offensive tackle at some point in his career, but in an offense that is predicated on running the ball, the Ravens need someone whom can step in right away.
Thus, with the No. 26 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select Tyson Clabo.
Although he may not be as talented as Gaither, Clabo is an extremely talented right tackle, who is one of the most durable players in the league (something Gaither can't attest to being)—Clabo has started in Atlanta's last 61 regular season or postseason games.
Clabo, who was voted to the 2010 Pro Bowl, is a great run blocker and should immediately improve the Ravens' run game.
The Atlanta Falcons have already lost three of their starters from the 2010 season to the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft—Harvey Dahl, Brent Grimes and Tyson Clabo.
With Dahl (Tennessee) and Clabo (Baltimore) gone, and Justin Blalock in the free agent pool, the Falcons are without their starting left guard, right guard and right tackle heading into next season.
With that said, Atlanta has an influx of young talent at both guard positions, and although Dahl will be hard to replace, the Falcons most pressing need lies at defensive end.
John Abraham had a tremendous year at right end for the Falcons (13 sacks), but how much longer will the 33-year-old be able to maintain his high level of play?
Jamaal Anderson, the No. 8 overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, clearly isn't the answer (4.5 sacks in his four-year career), and Kroy Biermann isn't much better.
Thus, with the No. 27 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft, the Atlanta Falcons select Cliff Avril.
In just 13 games last season, Avril recorded 8.5 sacks, 33 tackles and one forced fumble.
Additionally, he was the most productive pass rusher on third and fourth downs in the NFL, with a pass rushing productivity of 23.36, according to Pro Football Focus. To put that into perspective, James Harrison finished with a pass rush productivity (PRP) rate of 20.31, while DeMarcus Ware recorded a PRP of 17.88.
You know its bad when Mike Wright, whom most football fans have never heard of, leads your team in sacks.
It's even worse when his total is just 5.5 sacks.
In fact, Wright, and outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain (5) were the only Patriots who finished the 2010 season with five or more sacks.
That was the story of the 2010 New England Patriots, who were plagued by their inability to get to the quarterback.
In their 28-21 postseason loss against the New York Jets, the Patriots' defense didn't even touch Jets' quarterback Marc Sanchez.
New England finished the game with neither a sack nor a hit on Sanchez.
In order to revert back to their championship form, the Patriots must acquire a defensive end or outside linebacker who can pressure the quarterback.
Thus, with the No. 28 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft, the New England Patriots select Manny Lawson.
Although Lawson hasn't put up terrific numbers in his five-year career (just 14.5 sacks), he seemingly found his grove last season with the 49ers.
He finished with a mere 2.5 sacks, however, he ranked eighth among edge rushers in pass rushing productivity with a PRP of 12.10, according to Pro Football Focus. And, despite rushing the quarterback on just 217 snaps, Lawson managed to disrupt the quarterback 34 times.
Additionally, Lawson has played his entire career as the outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme so he won't have any trouble adjusting to his role with the Patriots.
The Chicago Bears would love to grab Braylon Edwards with the No. 29 pick. However, with Pittsburgh and Green Bay—two teams that are looking to add depth to their offensive line—picking before their second pick, the Bears would be smart to address its needs on the offensive line here.
Chicago landed a great value pick by selecting Gabe Carimi with the No. 29 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, however, the rest of the Bears' line—which surrendered a NFL most 56 sacks—is below average.
Although J'Marcus Webb played relatively well for a seventh round draft pick, he still allowed 11 sacks and the sixth most quarterback pressures among offensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.
Roberto Garza is an above average right guard, however, he'll have to play at center to fill in for the loss of free agent Olin Kreutz.
But, the Bears biggest question mark lies at left guard. Chris Williams, the Bears first round pick in 2008, has been a disappointment thus far in his young career. In 2010, he allowed three sacks and finished with a sack median rate of 2.75, according to AOL.news.
For the Bears to improve, they must add a lineman who is an upgrade over Williams.
Thus, with the No. 29 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft, the Chicago Bears select Justin Blalock.
Blalock, a 27-year-old guard, is a tremendous run blocker who uses his size and strength to seal lanes for the running back. Despite his limited lateral quickness, Blalock is a good at protecting the quarterback because of his power.
Of the Jets' top four receivers from the 2010 season, just one is under contract through 2012: Jerricho Cotchery.
Without Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith, who are all free agents, the Jets lack talent, size, speed and depth at the wide receiver position, which is a recipe for disaster for an already mediocre offense.
With that said, the Jets desperately need to acquire a playmaking receiver this offseason; not only because it will give Mark Sanchez another option to throw to, but also because teams will be forced to respect the Jets passing game, and therefore, won't be able to stack eight or nine players in the box.
Although Braylon Edwards is still on the board, the Jets grab Malcom Floyd with the No. 30 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft.
Don't get me wrong; Edwards still has the potential to be a No. 1 wide receiver on a team, but all too often it seems as if he is uninterested in what is going on.
Look, I understand the Jets aren't a pass-first team, but Edwards simply disappeared in some games.
In fact, he caught two or fewer passes in seven of the Jets regular season games.
Now, does that sound like the stats of a star receiver?
Meanwhile, at 6'5", Floyd provides the Jets with a legitimate deep threat, who can beat a defense deep on any given play. According to Pro Football Focus, 82 percent of the 77 passes thrown to Floyd were 10 or more yards down the field.
Despite catching just 37 passes, Floyd finished the season with 717 yards receiving in 11 games for the San Diego Chargers.
If he adds some bulk, and continues to develop, Floyd can be one of the better receivers in the league for the next five to seven years.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line woes have been well-documented.
And for a good reason.
In the past two seasons, Pittsburgh has allowed a combined 93 sacks—64 more than Indianapolis has allowed.
Although the Steelers actually cut down the number of sacks they allowed in 2010 (from 50 to 43), they still allowed the eighth most sacks in the NFL. And with Willie Colon gone to free agency (Cleveland), the Steelers number of sacks allowed should only increase.
That's why the Pittsburgh Steelers select Jared Gaither with the No. 31 pick in the 2011 NFL Free Agency Draft.
Although he missed the entire 2010 season due to an upper back injury, when healthy, (and according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, Gaither has fully recovered from the injury...not that anyone will believe him) Gaither is one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL.
From 2008 to 2010, Gaither pass blocked on 1,006 snaps. Of the 1,006 snaps, Gaither allowed just 39 total pressures on the quarterback, and finished with a pass blocking efficiency rate of 3.06—the third best among tackles from 2008 to 2010, according to Pro Football Focus.
Aside from Willie Colon, Gaither is the most talented offensive tackle in this crop of free agents. However, the risk of him re-aggraviting his back injury may cause some teams to shy away from signing Gaither.
Let's be honest; the defending Super Bowl champions don't have many needs heading into the 2011 NFL season.
However, if there is one position they need to address, it's at defensive end.
Cullen Jenkins is gone to free agency (Dallas), and Ryan Pickett and Justin Harrell aren't anything special.
Thus, with the No. 32 pick in the 2011 NFL, the Green Bay Packers select Stephen Bowen.
Although he didn't start for the Cowboys until this season, Bowen emerged as a dynamic pass rusher in 2009 when he recorded 25 total quarterback disruptions in just 346 pass rushes, according to Pro Football Focus.
Bowen continued his success in 2010, and was rated as the third-most effective defensive end—among defensive ends in a 3-4 base—in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
No. 33—Green Bay Packers: Jason Babin, DE/OLB (Tennessee Titans)
No. 34—Pittsburgh Steelers: Josh Wilson, CB (Baltimore Ravens)
No. 35—New York Jets: Ryan Harris, OT (Denver Broncos)
No. 36—Chicago Bears: Braylon Edwards, WR (New York Jets)
No. 37—New England Patriots: Lance Moore, WR (New Orleans Saints)
No. 38—Atlanta Falcons: Jammal Brown, OT (Washington Redskins)
No. 39—Baltimore Ravens: Chris Carr, CB (Baltimore Ravens)
No. 40—Seattle Seahawks: Michael Huff, S (Oakland Raiders)
No. 41—New Orleans Saints: Dawan Landry, S (Baltimore Ravens)
No. 42—Philadelphia Eagles: Mathais Kiwanuka, DE (New York Giants)
No. 43—Indianapolis Colts: Michael Bush, RB (Oakland Raiders)
No. 44—Kansas City Chiefs: Steve Smith, WR (New York Giants)
No. 45—Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Darren Sproles, RB/KR (San Diego Chargers)
No. 46—New York Giants: Zach Miller, TE (Oakland Raiders)
No. 47—San Diego Chargers: Mike Sims-Walker, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars)
No. 48—Oakland Raiders: Antonio Cromartie, CB (New York Jets)
No. 49—Jacksonville Jaguars: Raheem Brock, DE (Seattle Seahawks)
No. 50—Miami Dolphins: Shaun Ellis, DT/DE (New York Jets)
No. 51—St. Louis Rams: Anthony Adams, DT (Chicago Bears)
No. 52—Detroit Lions: Mike Brisiel, G (Houston Texans)
No. 53—Minnesota Vikings: Plaxico Burress, WR (New York Giants)
No. 54—Houston Texans: Ike Taylor, CB (Pittsburgh Steelers)
No. 55—Washington Redskins: Matt Leinart, QB (Houston Texans)
No. 56—Dallas Cowboys: Takeo Spikes, ILB (San Francisco 49ers)
No. 57—Tennessee Titans: Kirk Morrison, MLB (Jacksonville Jaguars)
No. 58—San Francisco 49ers: Marc Bulger, QB (Baltimore Ravens)
No. 59—Cleveland Browns: Carlos Rogers, CB (Washington Redskins)
No. 60—Arizona Cardinals: Quincy Black, OLB (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
No. 61—Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Snelling, RB (Atlanta Falcons)
No. 62—Buffalo Bills: Matt Light, OT (New England Patriots)
No. 63—Denver Broncos: Kevin Burnett, LB (San Diego Chargers)
No. 64—Carolina Panthers: Stylez G. White, DE (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)