Posted February 07, 2014

Cover-Two: Offseason storylines to watch

NFL draft 2014, NFL Free Agency, NFL offseason 2014
(Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Could Eric Decker leave Peyton Manning in Denver for more money elsewhere? (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

With the 2013 season over, the 2014 league year right around the corner, and the draft following soon after, every team is getting ready to deal with the offseason process.

Many teams have tough questions to answer, while others will look to restock at several important positions. Still, other teams feature new coaches and front offices looking to enhance what they have been handed, or start spackling the damage they inherited.

In preparation, Audibles’ Chris Burke and Doug Farrar take a look at a few of the more interesting offseason subjects.

Most intriguing free agent

Chris Burke: Jairus Byrd, Safety

The Seahawks showed off the benefit of having a dynamic safety who is capable of ranging sideline to sideline or flying up into the box. Byrd is that type of player when he’s healthy and (at least in my opinion, though there’s an argument for T.J. Ward) is the top safety set to hit the market.

We’ve seen teams increasingly put a premium on that spot of the field — three of the first 33 draft picks last year were safeties, with five more taken in the top 100. There are a couple of notable prospects there this draft, like HaHa Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, but might some team load up a deal for the proven Byrd rather than roll the dice there?

He was banged up and not particularly happy during the 2013 season. When Byrd is on his game though, there may not be a safety shy of Earl Thomas capable of delivering as grand an impact.

Doug Farrar: Eric Decker, Wide receiver

Demaryius Thomas may have been the AFC champs’ number-one receiver overall, but Decker was right behind him in catches (87 to Thomas’ 92), yards (1,288 to Thomas’ 1,430), yards per catch (14.8 to 15.5), and touchdowns (11 to 14). Peyton Manning had two amazing receivers in Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne when he was in Indianapolis, and it’s not out of line to see Decker as Wayne to Thomas’ Harrison. Decker would be the most prolific receiver on most teams.

Decker has said he wants to return to the Broncos, but reports indicate the team will let him test the open market. Denver has two Thomases — Demaryius and tight end Julius — coming up on contract years, and there’s always the question of what this offense will look like when Peyton Manning retires. The team may believe it needs to allocate its resources elsewhere, which would make Decker a lead-pipe number-one receiver — in role and in contract value.

Most surprising cap casualty

Burke: Osi Umenyiora, Defensive End

Umenyiora is not alone at fault for the Falcons’ inability to get to the quarterback last season — he actually led the team with 7.5 sacks. However, Atlanta started laying the groundwork for life after Umenyiora late in the season by dropping 25-year-old Jonathan Massaquoi into the starting lineup.

Veterans Asante Samuel and Stephen Nicholas already hit the bricks as part of Atlanta’s offseason reworking of its defense. Cutting Umenyiora would save another $3.5 million for next season, which is money that could be used elsewhere.

Farrar: DeMarcus Ware, Defensive end/Outside linebacker

Ware is getting up in years, but letting him go would be an admission that Jerry Jones and son Stephen have mangled their cap situation badly over the last few seasons — which, of course, they have. Ware’s contract presents a $16 million cap hit in 2014, and Dallas would still be stung for $8.5 million if it releases him… but the Joneses may go for the “any port in a storm” philosophy and jettison their most productive pass-rusher over the last decade — a player who could still be very effective elsewhere if he can avoid injuries.

Draft prospect who will see stock fluctuate most

Burke: Mike Evans, Wide receiver

Evans has been a favorite of mine in this class since the 2014 draft process started, so I cannot envision anything swaying my opinion. And yet, the upcoming scouting combine, Texas A&M Pro Day and Evans’ individual workouts for teams could move him down the board a bit because it is a pretty safe bet he’ll run a mediocre 40 time. Add that to his still-developing repertoire of routes, and a few receiver-needy teams may turn their attention toward more polished products.

That is, at least until the draft draws nearer. When all is said and done, Evans’ upside as a physical receiver with great hands and imposing size will overwhelm the negatives.

Farrar: Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is also a candidate for this award, but Bridgewater is seen as the number-one overall prospect at this time. And with three months left until the draft, you can expect everything about Bridgewater — his height, size, throwing motion, ability to make every throw, offensive acumen and anything else people can come up with — to come under question. Bridgewater is the best player in this draft class at the game’s most important position, so he’ll probably rise back up to the top, but get ready for all kinds of churning when it comes to his name.

What will Texans do with No. 1 pick?

Burke: Take a quarterback.

Are we really going to have this debate for the next three months? The Texans have two dynamic receivers in place in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, a top-tier running back (when he’s healthy) in Arian Foster, solid tight ends, decent line play …

They need a quarterback. Period.

Look, Case Keenum’s arrival was fun for a bit and Matt Schaub was at least adequate in the past, but if this team can find its Andrew Luck — and, granted, there might not be a QB of Luck’s talent level here — it is a playoff contender again.

Bringing in Jadeveon Clowney is a fun thought, especially when one considers him paired with J.J. Watt. Teams that finish 2-14, though, cannot afford luxury picks. The only other real option on the table, aside from a QB pick, would be to trade down if there’s an overwhelming offer on the table. If Houston could drop a couple spots, add a couple additional high picks and still think QB, it should entertain that possibility. Otherwise, just play it smart and get a starting quarterback.

Farrar: Take a quarterback — as long as you believe he’s your best bet.

Yes, the Texans need a quarterback. And yes, new head coach Bill O’Brien will provide a hospitable environment for that quarterback. But as much as some Texans fans would love for Teddy Bridgewater to be that first-overall pick, it’s also entirely possible the team’s brain trust sees Clowney, or Jake Matthews, or someone else as the best player available. And if that’s the case — especially if O’Brien believes he can either make do with Case Keenum or find a lesser-known prospect at some point in the draft process — the Texans will be well-served to stick with their board… no matter who’s on top.


I am not saying Keenum is the answer for QB in Houston but how does a guy get written off so quickly based on starting 9 games (and was benched for 3 and half quarters in two of them)?  I could see if ALL 9 games were terrible but this guy set the NFL record for best 3 game start by a first time QB in NFL history. IN NFL HISTORY!  He played average in the fourth game (aprrox. 80 QBR), below average to bad in the next two, and then really stunk it up in the last one. He didn't even play the fourth quarter in two of his last three games.  As such, at best, we have 8 and half games of evaluation where half of those games were impressively good, yet all we hear is how he OBVIOUSLY isn't the answer.

To that end, you have guys like Tebow (though I like him), Gabbert, Flynn, Foles, Pryor, Tannehill, Locker, and Geno Smith put up worse or equal stats in their first 9 games yet they were given either more opportunities to start or were given more games to prove themselves. Gabbert shouldn't even BE an NFL QB yet up until this year (his 3rd) he was still a starting NFL QB. Foles has proven to be hood but if we looked at his first 9 games, he never would be getting the chance he is getting now with Philly.  Ditto for Tannehill. Heck, even the great Peyton Manning only won 3 games in his first season as a starter. Where would he be if Indy had given up on him after that season?

Also, I hear a lot of people throwing out the fact that he led the league in yards lost due to sack when, the truth is, at 2-14, that stat isn't just on the QB. That's a team effort right there; the QB doesn't block for himself!  And while it is true that the amount of yardage lost can be contributed mostly to the QB, I can't blame a rookie QB for trying to buy time with his legs. And lastly, while j see sites like to throw that stat up in relation to Keenum, it is funny that you don't ever hear them throw out another stat that is mostly on the QB; he led the league in deep ball completion rate. The league. Russell Wilson and Manning (both Superbowl QB's) were 2 and 3 in that category. Now what does that mean? What do you think about Keenum now? I imagine that it doesn't get mentioned often because it makes Keenum look (gasp!) good and promising which is something pundits don't want to do.  But in doing so, it exposes the bias that short and/or QB's from non-powerhouse conferences have to deal with.  Keenum gets blasted for having 4 and half bad games out of 9 and Russell Wilson drops to the third round while Gabbert gets to QB an NFL franchise into the ground because he came out of the SEC (Missouri). Unbelievable.


The Seahawks organization now has a proven record and to do a repeat in reaching Super Bowl 49 is going to be a challenge. Can they do it? I believe so. They will attempt to keep the team intact, but there are many young players out there that hope for a chance to compete for a spot, especially with the Seahawks. I believe the Seahawks will have an excellent group of young talent to select from and under the guidance of Carroll and his staff another SB victory team will emerge.


Throw in Jared Allen and this year's FA crop will be flooded with DEs.