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Grading the NFL offseason

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NFL OFF-SEASON REVIEW: Vikings' front office earns top kudos

Brian DeLucia, OURLADS.com / Special to FOXSports.com

The dust has passed on the first month of free agency as preparation for the 2005 NFL Draft heats up. Here's an outlook on how the landscape of the NFL has changed thus far, and which teams have made the savviest and sorriest moves this winter.

Best GM/Front Office — Minnesota Vikings

I praise the Vikings for being bold. Mike Tice saw he couldn't win the big games with Randy Moss, which led to a major shakeup in personnel.

While I am not normally a fan of spending money in free agency for the sake of big names, I like how Minnesota attacked the off-season. They already have a solid core of young players on both sides of the ball, which made it the right time to bolster the roster for a NFC title run.

Defensive end Pat Williams will be a strong complement to linemate Kevin Williams along the front four. Cornerback Fred Smoot and safety Darren Sharper give the Vikings a lot of credibility and matchup potential in the secondary. As a result, the Vikings will become a better defense against the run and display more consistency in the secondary. That gives the Vikings more balance across the board.

Now the pressure is on Mike Tice to lead this team to the NFC championship game.

Worst GM/Front Office — Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks went into the off-season a mess. They had too many key players with contracts that expired and no direction within the front office. Fortunately, consultant Mike Reinfeldt was eventually hired full-time to come to the rescue in helping negotiate contracts and the salary cap. But they were making major contract decisions without a long-term general manager in place until Rich McKay's right-hand man, Tim Ruskell, was hired away from Atlanta.

Losing cornerback Ken Lucas was a blow to the young core they've been trying to build around. Overall, there hasn't been much momentum this spring in Seattle. And the major question is whether Ruskell is the answer to steer the ship?

Best Free Agent Signing — Derrick Mason, Baltimore Ravens

Derrick Mason and Baltimore became a natural fit. The Ravens have struggled to find consistent production from the wide receiver position over the past several years. That's not a good thing when trying to develop a raw quarterback in Kyle Boller.

Mason isn't a burner and won't stretch the field, but he is a very productive target in the intermediate passing game. He runs good routes and knows how to get open. That should provide some identity within the passing game and take pressure off Todd Heap at tight end.

Mason also brings much-needed leadership and professionalism to the offensive side of the ball.

Worst Free Agent Signing (tie) — Dexter Coakley, St. Louis Rams /

Morlon Greenwood, Miami Dolphins

Dexter Coakley is a natural fit within defensive coordinator Larry Marmie's scheme and his veteran presence addresses a big problem area for the Rams' defense. On the downside, Coakley turns 33 in October and not many linebackers stay healthy as the approach their mid-30s. Can the Rams squeeze out a season or two of productive play from Coakley? Stay tuned.

Another linebacker move that raised some eyebrows was Houston's signing of former Dolphins linebacker Morlon Greenwood. Greenwood plays hard and brings a lot of speed to the Texans' defense, but they are paying a lot of upfront money for a linebacker who has no track record as a true playmaker.

Best Budget Saver — Carolina Panthers letting Muhsin Muhammad depart

The smartest move for the Carolina Panthers was deciding not to pay elite money for Pro Bowl wide receiver Mushin Muhammad. Muhammad had a career season in 2004, but his track record is spotty for the money he commanded. His departure allowed the Panthers to maintain flexibility under the cap.

With that wiggle room, the Panthers brought cornerback Ken Lucas and offensive lineman Mike Wahle into the mix to fill two critical spots. Lucas provides much needed size at cornerback against the run while Wahle is a major upgrade at guard along the offensive line.

Worst Budget Buster — Oakland Raiders signing Derrick Burgess

I like former Eagles linebacker Derrick Burgess when he's healthy. He's active and can make a lot of plays, but has never played a full season in the NFL due to injuries. In free agency, that's a huge red flag when evaluating veteran players.

Biggest Free Agent Gamble — Kendrell Bell, Kansas City Chiefs

When healthy, Bell is a very active and explosive defender. As an inside linebacker, he displays good range and power against the run. He also displays good upfield burst on the blitz. Unfortunately, he doesn't upgrade their pass coverage from the middle. The big question on Bell is whether they have damaged goods or a Pro Bowl caliber linebacker. He's missed a lot of time with injuries in recent seasons.

In addition, there has to be some concerns on how he'll fit into the chemistry of this football team. Pittsburgh wasn't sad to see him go.

Safest Free Agent Signing — Kareem McKenzie, New York Giants

The Giants made a big splash on the free agent market to address some glaring holes, including along the offensive line. McKenzie isn't a star by any means, but he's a proven right tackle who will stabilize a major liability for the Giants' offense. He's a tough run blocker who can also match up against most pass rushers. McKenzie also plays hard and puts time into preparing for opponents.

Free Agent Leaving the Shadows — Edgerton Hartwell, Atlanta Falcons

Edgerton Hartwell was overshadowed by the presence of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in Baltimore. Hartwell solidifies the Falcons at middle linebacker with his physical skills against the run. In addition, Hartwell will grow into a leadership role that should make a major impact on the Atlanta defense.

Impact Trade — Randy Moss from Minnesota to Oakland

By adding Randy Moss, the Oakland Raiders have put together an offensive nucleus that has the potential to become very dangerous. Moss creates a lot of matchup problems on his own and will make life comfortable for quarterback Kerry Collins. The controversy that follows Moss is nothing new to the Raiders, but they must learn to play defense this season to justify adding Moss.

Toughest Cap Cut To Replace — Derrick Mason leaving Tennessee

The Titans lost more than just a wide receiver when they cut Derrick Mason. They lost a leader who helped keep their passing game glued together. He isn't the most talented receiver, but quarterbacks Steve McNair and Billy Volek could always count on Mason being in a certain spot on the field. His consistency will be missed.

Under The Radar Addition — Duane Starks, New England Patriots

The Patriots have the ability to revive Starks' career in their system after his injury-laden stint with Arizona. Starks is a good athlete at cornerback who can play tight coverage and tackle well when healthy. Although he's not very big, Starks can play press coverage and has the smarts to play off the ball. Starks had a tendency to play his best in big games, of which New England has played plenty in the past few seasons.

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I prefer the Bengals being left out of articles such as this. When mentioned in the past, it was always about something negative for the team. And WTF is OURLADS.com anyway? I've never heard of it, or this Brian dude.

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lance mcallister has a guy from ourlads come on and talk about the draft every once in a while, so its ok with me

Well seeing how ol' Griz here has heard of the site, it suppose it has some credibility going for it. Guy's in college don't just surf any ol' site ya know! :rolleyes:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Guys - every single team's coaching/scouting staff has a copy of Ourlad's Draft Guide in their war rooms on draft day. They've been around forever.

They are the most commonly used source/reference by NFL teams according to Jerry Jones, who should know. So yes, they are quite legitimate.

As for Brian DeLuca, he made a name for himself years ago and I have done some work for him scouting UC players here in Cincy back in '97-'98 on a volunteer basis, nothing special but noteable I guess. I would trust Brian's POV more so than Kiper or even Jerry Jones at this point. The guy knows what he's doing and has a passion for it.

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lance mcallister has a guy from ourlads come on and talk about the draft every once in a while, so its ok with me

Well seeing how ol' Griz here has heard of the site, it suppose it has some credibility going for it. Guy's in college don't just surf any ol' site ya know! :rolleyes:

haha thanks billy but lance is a sports talk guy locally in cincy one of the best in town now

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