This offseason, Shutdown Corner's Frank Schwab and Eric Edholm will look into what is overrated and underrated in all aspects of the NFL. We fully expect your angry emails and comments that are sure to follow.
OVERRATED AND UNDERRATED: 2014 offseason pickup
Eric Edholm: Redskins WR DeSean Jackson
Oh, so you didn’t get enough crazy in Washington last season, you want more now? Strictly in football terms, Jackson is exactly what the Redskins need: one of the rare speedballs who can split safeties and tilt the field and change the way defenses play you. He also can take a short screen 30 yards in a blur, or string out an end-around and beat the end man on the line to the corner. Video-game speed, I call it.
But Jackson brings a lot more with him. Can we charge him a baggage fee for all of it?
Jackson is affectionately known as a coach killer. He drove Andy Reid nuts, which is hard to do. Chip Kelly was done with Jackson after a year. A few of his former coaches are torn: they love his talent but want to smack him upside the head sometimes.
Jackson is just a difficult person to deal with. Not all the time. He has his likeable moments, I am told. But it’s enough to be a problem.
So now the Redskins are handing him over, following a tire fire of a year, to new (first-time) head coach Jay Gruden.
Oh, they’ll make use of Jackson, and chances are, Robert Griffin III will profess his undying love for the guy early on when he’s catching bombs and making him look good. But here’s my prediction: After two years in D.C., Jackson will have worn out his welcome with a third head coach.
Frank Schwab: Packers OLB Julius Peppers
This was a tough one, because I like Peppers a lot and think he’s an easy pick for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But I’m not sure that Julius Peppers works here anymore.
Peppers had a very quiet year last season for the Bears. Maybe his problems were tied to the fact that the rest of the defense was awful, or it was just a one-year blip. But betting on a rebound for any player at age 34 after a down season is fighting a lot of history.
On top of Peppers’ age and 2013 decline, the Packers seem to expect a lot of him, playing multiple spots in an “elephant” position including standing up sometimes at outside linebacker in Green Bay’s 3-4 alignment, something he hasn’t really done before. Green Bay also expects a lot from him, considering his three-year, $26 million deal (one that could end up being one year for $8.5 million) and the fact that he was the only significant signing Green Bay made.
It’s possible Peppers has a good season, considering he had at least 11 sacks in 2011 and 2012 and he’s a great player. Maybe an expanded role will energize him. The Packers sure hope he has a lot left at age 34.
EE: Vikings DT Linval Joseph
I was tempted to get cute here and go with Arizona Cardinals guard Jonathan Cooper, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 draft who missed all of last season, but I’ll go the traditional route and pick a player who switched teams this offseason.
I also was tempted by the Falcons’ underrated pickup of nose tackle Paul Soliai, but I have to defer to Joseph because of age and price. The Vikings somehow managed to pry away a 25-year-old monster of a defensive tackle and somehow have it fly below the radar for many.
If you start to look what Mike Zimmer is building up front with the Vikings, this could be a front seven that eventually is on par with some of the great lines of the NFC West in a few seasons.
For relatively reasonable money — five years, $31 million, only $12.5M of it guaranteed — the Vikings got a 600-snap space eater who can clear pass lanes for Sharrif Floyd, Everson Griffen, Brian Robison and Anthony Barr to rush the passer and make plays. Not that Joseph can’t, but he certainly was at his best absorbing blockers, messing up schemes and allowing Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Co. make the money plays.
Signing Joseph was a steal, and it will prove to be one of the better value additions of this offseason.
FS: Colts WR Hakeem Nicks
Do you know how old Nicks is? I’ll give you a moment to think about it.
I understand why the market was slim for Nicks. He wasn't good last season, with no touchdowns and virtually no impact in the 15 games he played. He likely won't stay healthy for 16 games because he rarely does. He wasn’t always the best teammate in New York. But I didn’t figure Nicks would be practically begging for a job.
In 2010 and 2011, Nicks had 2,244 yards and 18 touchdowns in 28 games. He has a 14.9-yard career average. He is a former first-round pick and has shown the ability to dominate at the NFL level (and if you think "dominate" is too strong, take another look at his 444-yard 2011 postseason).
And he turned just 26 years old last January.
Unless you think that Nicks peaked at 23, you can find excuses for his poor play the last two years. The Giants as a team didn’t play well. The offensive line wasn’t great. Last year there was no running game to take any pressure off Eli Manning and the passing game. Nicks probably didn’t handle his first time in a contract year very well.
That’s how the Colts ended up stealing him for a one-year deal at less than $4 million. You’re telling me Nicks wasn’t worth that risk for other receiver-needy teams? (Carolina, anyone?) Nicks lands with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis at almost no risk to the Colts, and still hasn't reached what should be his prime years. The best-case scenario for Indianapolis is that Nicks turns it around, loves playing with Luck and signs a long-term deal. At worst, Nicks busts out and the Colts wasted one year and not even $4 million. Or maybe he has a good year and signs elsewhere, which isn’t that bad either. There's really no risk involved.
All told, it won’t be a surprise at all if in December we’re all struggling to figure out how the Colts ended up landing Nicks for practically nothing.
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