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Beware the Ides of March

Mill Woods

Posted on February 21, 2019 10:47

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With NFL Free Agency right around the corner, teams and fans are both excited and fearful. Teams who make the right moves will vault into the ranks of contenders; teams who botch their decisions will pay the cost starting in September. And just look at the talent out there available to hungry teams for the right price!

In September 2018, I reluctantly put the Pittsburgh Steelers on my list of the 12 teams I predicted to make the playoffs. I say 'reluctantly' because there was already trouble brewing in Steeltown. The Steelers stumbled out of the gate immediately, and, over the course of the 17-week regular season, they showed me again and again that I should have trusted my skeptical side.

The Steelers' main problem is an unraveling team esprit de corps. Immediately, the Le'Veon Bell problem proved to be bigger than just a brief holdout. Soon, there were also signs that team spirit was being eroded by the talk around massive star Antonio Brown. Both players are now hot prospects on the free agent market, and the Steelers' future as a perennial contender is in serious doubt.

Bell and Brown are just the tip of the iceberg. Dozens of top players around the league are there for the taking. But players and teams must mesh; whoever is able to achieve this synchronicity will likely jump a level or two in the ranks of contenders.

Look at this partial list of exciting players that may be traded or change teams due to free agency; these are my favorites, but certainly not the entire crop:

Brown and Bell of the Steelers

QB Teddy Bridgewater and RB Mark Ingram of the Saints

QB Nick Foles, DE Brandon Graham and CB Ronald Darby of the Eagles

OG Roger Saffold of the Rams

OT Daryl Williams of the Panthers

OT JaWuan James of the Dolphins

TE Jared Cook of the Raiders

WR Terrell Williams of the Chargers

LB Terrell Suggs of the Ravens

LB Dee Ford of the Chiefs

DT Ndamukong Suh of the Rams

DT Sheldon Richardson and LB Anthony Barr of the Vikings

DE Ezekiel Ansah of the Lions

DE Trey Flowers of the Patriots

S Earl Thomas of the Seahawks

S Lamarcus Joyner of the Rams

S Landon Collins of the Giants

S Tyrann Mathieu of the Texans

You may notice that my list is heavy on defensive players. Well, that low-scoring game just played in Atlanta should remind us all of the importance of a stout defense. The defenses of the Rams and Patriots were the true MVPs. The Rams' D played well enough to win the game. For the Patriots, if you have to pick one name, how about Trey Flowers?

My other major focus is this: there is often a severe shortage of proven talent at the guard and tackle positions. These are the players who make it possible for Tom Brady and others to be successful.

Many of the players who are technically free agents will be re-signed by their current teams; that's why I did not list players like Jadeveon Clowney and DeMarcus Lawrence.

Yes, the NFL draft is coming. But if I were a GM, I would be focusing on proven NFL talent. Free agency will elevate some teams and sink others! Stay tuned.

 

 

Mill Woods

Posted on February 21, 2019 10:47

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Source: USA TODAY
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