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Various and Sundry Offseason Observations

Drew Brees

An icon has retired from the game, but not before adding to some of his all-time NFL records. Drew is currently the all-time passing yardage leader, at 80,358 yards. Tom Brady, however, needs only about 1,100 additional yards to surpass him. No one else has exceeded 72,000 yards. Peyton Manning is third (71,940), Favre is fouth (71,838), and Aaron Rodgers is in eleventh place, with 51, 205.

Drew is also tops in completions, with 7,142, versus Brady’s 6,778, so it would likely take a good and entire full season for Brady to pass him. Brett Favre is third, and Rodgers is tenth (4,285). Brees is second to Brady in passing touchdowns, 581 to 571. Favre is fourth, with 508, and Rodgers is seventh, with 412.

By last season’s end, it was clear that Drew had lost his arm strength and throwing acceleration. I couldn’t help but notice that he had no more muscle definition in his throwing arm than I do. He’s obviously not a training room disciple, and that, I think more than age, shortened his career – if that term can be applied to a 20-year veteran. He leaves the game as one of the all-time greats, and one who has always conducted himself with class and humility.

Kevin King

What went wrong with King in 2020? I previously reviewed his combine marks from 2018, and they were excellent across the board, except for bench presses. By the playoffs last season, there was no way King could get within a tenth of a second of his former 4.43 dash time. His 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle times of four years ago were each 95th percentile or above. After watching him in the postseason, however, he’s gone from superlative to having below average agility, burst, and change of direction ability. For a 25-year old, that’s extraordinary.

In 2020, King was NOT on the team’s weekly injury report only three times out of 18 weeks – in Weeks 1, 4, and 5. His injury descriptions included: “Achilles” six times, including the divisional playoff; “quadricep” six times (Weeks 6-11); “groin” four times (Weeks 14-17); and “back” in Week 3 and in the week of the conference championship. I suppose either a back, groin, quadriceps, or Achilles injury could greatly affect one’s mobility, but going into that ill-fated game against the Bucs, the only injury disclosed was to King’s back.

I can only hope that this drop off in essential traits needed by a DB has to do with injury or physical problems that are fixable. If not, the Packers were foolish to pay him up to $6 million (perhaps the realistic number he could receive is well less) in 2021 – and he’ll very quickly be relegated to being a backup cornerback.

According to Howard, due to it having four void years, King’s new contract “looks like a 5 million dollar contract for one year of service.”

One thing for sure: after that futile performance against the Bucs, he’ll be a target of opposing offensive game planners whenever he’s on the field in 2021.

Even when he seemingly still possessed good athleticism, King was no better than an average pass defender. In his rookie year Pro Football Focus rated him 123 out of 131 cornerbacks; in 2018, he was 88th out of 135, and in 2020 he finished at 98th out of 141. Only in 2019, when he was rated 69th out of 138, did he grade out as an average DB.

When one combines his physical decline with his terrible tackling techniques and injury history, Brian Gutekunst seems to be one of the few KK believers on the globe.

Aaron Jones celebrates with Marcedes Lewis

Sep 22, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) celebrates with tight end Marcedes Lewis (89) after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Marcedes Lewis

While I’m all for the concept of continuity – keeping veterans on the team rather than constantly exchanging them for players from other teams – the 37-year-old’s new contract seems excessive.

Along with a bunch of other aging tight ends, Lewis was rated unimpressively by Pro Football Focus last season, tying for 32nd best out of 71 by PFF; Jared Cook was 24th, Kyle Rudolph was tied for 32nd, Jimmy Graham was 36th, Greg Olsen was 45, and Jason Witten was 50th. PFF rated Lewis lowest at receiving, pretty fair at pass blocking, and seventh best at run blocking.

Maybe tight end is becoming a young man’s position. It certainly has become more receiver-conscious than blocker-conscious. Somehow, Evan Engram was ranked 51st, but was still voted into the Pro Bowl.

I’m starting to think that Lewis is so likable and admirable that Packer Nation – and the coaching staff too – overrates the Big Dog. Others think it’s due to being a pal of Rodgers, which is conceivable. His contract is listed at $8M for two years. In mid-February I went on record as thinking he should be offered from $1.5M to 1.75M. Hell, he only got $2.25M last season.

My thinking, then and now, is that Lewis is basically a role player – that role being blocking. In addition, he’s less than a half-time offensive player: he partook of only 40 percent of the offensive snaps last season – and a player’s pay should reflect how much usage he’s expected to get.

As I sat down to write this, I had no intention of slighting Big Dog, but the evidence suggests that his new pay plan is out of his proportion to his on-field contributions. What gives, Brian?

Salary Cap Repercussions

Can we all agree that the rules concerning the salary cap, and many other league regulations as well, have been stretched beyond their breaking point? You almost need to be a CPA to know and be able to apply all of the provisions, exceptions, and loopholes (e.g. voidable years) that exist concerning the cap. That entire set of rules needs to be revamped and simplified.

In addition to the salary cap, the provisions concerning restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents keep getting more and more complicated. You can also add the provisions relating to compensatory picks (for players who become free agents and sign up with another team).

For example, teams are awarded compensatory draft picks, between rounds 3 and 7, based upon a league formula that emerged from collective bargaining agreement negotiations. The criteria includes: average salary per year (APY), snap counts, and postseason awards. Further, to qualify teams must end up with more qualifying free agents lost than gained in a particular year. Also, the number of compensatory awards handed down prior to each season is limited to 32, and no team may receive more than four such draft choices.

Bottom line: the emphasis on NFL football needs to be returned to the excitement that transpires on the field, not the maneuvering that takes place among attorneys and accountants in conference rooms.

Tags:
Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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7 Comments

  1. Howard March 29, 2021

    If I recall correctly Brees had a serious throwing shoulder injury in his early years. It was questionable if he would be able to continues his career because of the injury. That may be the largest contributing factor to Brees losing arm strength.
    .
    I still believe King just trained hard for the combine drills. The combine 40 time may have shown up on the field at times. The very good quickness and change of direction combine speeds posted by King have never translated to the field. This may be a caution about using pro day drill times, etc. this year. The 2021 NFL draft prospects have had a lot more time to train for specific pro day drills and have produced less game day film. Some have had a full year + to train on track type drills rather than the on field work. I like the series Paul has put out about potential draft picks. The analysis is based on no Pro day times, etc. only on football. It will be interesting to see the prospects that make big jumps after their pro days, and those numbers do not transition on the field of play.
    .
    To me M. Lewis may be good in run blocking, but I think Rodgers and the offensive linemen love him because they can shift their blocking scheme and put Lewis man up on an edge rusher. Lewis usually does a very good job in pass protection. I think there was one or two games last year I mentioned how good of a job Lewis did in pass protection. Is it worth the new contract value is the question.

    Reply
    1. PF4L March 29, 2021

      “I still believe King just trained hard for the combine drills.”
      .
      ^Very valid^
      .
      Players go to specialist and train specifically for the combine, losing weight for quick times, etc.
      Because moving up a round or two in the draft translates to serious dollars.

      One thing you always read with guys like this are “he doesn’t play to his speed” That’s because the weight went back on and he’s wearing full football garb.

      Kevin King could be the poster boy of a warning against combine hype.
      We see it all the time, and it happened with Rashan Gary also.

      Most scouts and GM’s know the physical attributes and athleticism of players before they get to the combine. But they are human and get caught up in the hype.

      You have to trust their college game tape because playing football is what you pay them to do, they don’t make their living at track meets.

      Reply
  2. PF4L March 29, 2021

    Rob noted about Kings appearance on the injury list. Valid as it is…
    .
    Check out ESB. if memory serves he has King beat hands down.
    It’s been awhile but i remember looking at it, and ESB was either on I.R. or the injury list about
    about 40 +/- games out of 48.

    We still like to keep players on the roster for years and years who don’t contribute. That’s ridiculous, turn the roster and find players who can help your team. Don’t just draft players and let them sit and rot for years.
    But…at least they got rid of J’Mon Moore after 1 year.

    Reply
  3. Ferris March 30, 2021

    What went wrong with King in 2020? Nothing…he’s just not a good player.
    NFL GMs and Coaches need to quote Maya Angelou to themselves over and over. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” That goes for character and play. King showed them many times but for some reason they didn’t believe it.
    King just sucks.

    Reply
  4. Mick March 31, 2021

    Let’s take a look at the inept drafts from 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2015, 8 players were drafted. None of those players are on the team. In 2016, 7 players were drafted, only Clark and Lowry are on the team. In 2017, 10 players selected; only King and A. Jones are on the team. Seven other selections are no longer with GB, but; only 3 out of those 7 starting elsewhere in the league. Add it all up; only 3 starters out of 25 picks; in 3 years. That is the definition of ineptness! The 2018 and 2019 drafts were better in comparison to 2015,16 and 17. Eleven players drafted in 2018, with 6 players on the team—- 3 starters. 2019, 8 players selected, all 8 are on the team—-again 3 starters. Now we know why so many players on the team are UDFAs’, also why Gute keeps sorting thru the practice squads around the NFL, sometimes finding players that haven’t played a game in 2 plus years; and trying to find bargain basement warm bodies to fill positions of need. Then, the abortion of the 2020 draft, which is yet to be graded; makes you wonder, doesn’t it? We all know the team is cash strapped, and cannot compete in the FA arena. If and when they can DRAFT STARTERS, they wouldn’t have to rely on over spending on free agency, or other teams practice squad players, as much. I realize there are other factors involved, salary cap, injuries, coaching changes,,,,, etc; but this team needs to upgrade it’s drafting because, we’ll see the real damage after Rodgers is gone.

    Reply
    1. PF4L March 31, 2021

      There are various reasons why those drafts failed Mick.

      One is not having an accountable front office.

      Another is, we aren’t exactly sure who fronted those drafts. we heard various reports.
      .
      The one and only thing i know for sure is….
      .
      For those years you’ve mentioned, Gute was highly involved in all of them.

      Reply
  5. PF4L March 31, 2021

    I look at those throwback uniforms and i remember a player that “sweats a lot ” down there…cough (in cold weather)

    Reply

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