Browns’ moves confuse ESPN.
Browns made a couple moves yesterday and dammit I let myself get tweaked by a douche-y ESPN column. So I’m going to do the Dansby/Whitner eval and at the same time, I’ll try to help an ESPN national NFL writer grasp what’s going on in Berea. For Kevin Seifert is perplexed:
Speaking of age, the Browns got older at safety and linebacker with their decision to sign Whitner and Karlos Dansby, respectively. Whitner is a year older than Ward, while Dansby is two years older than D’Qwell Jackson. Dansby will turn 33 in November and the Browns still guaranteed him $14 million. It’s rare in this NFL climate to see that combination of numbers. The Browns were in a hurry on Tuesday. To do what? I’m not entirely sure, but to do something.
Ok, I can help Kev. The Browns are in a hurry “to win.” Now. Thus they are signing players who are good. Now.
Among a punditry who seem only to understand endless building for future,1 the concept of a 4-12 team signing a player over 30 is so mind-blowing, so threatening to the world order, that it must be attacked; so far off the radar that smug and smarmy is the kindest reaction Kevin Seifert could muster send Berea this morning.
Seifert isn’t the only one. Never a known as a Browns-o-phile, Walterfooball offered these nuggets:
On Whitner, (Grade B-): So, in typical Cleveland fashion, the team has downgraded a position with someone who has a greater contract. Oh, Browns… This deal isn’t bad though. Whitner is a two-time Pro Bowler who has missed just one game in the past four seasons, and at 29, he still has at least two quality seasons left.
On Dansby, (Grade C-): Sigh… same old Browns. Only inept teams like Cleveland would pay this much money to a soon-to-be 33-year-old linebacker who is almost certain to decline sometime soon. Granted, Dansby played out of his mind this past season, but he was on a 1-year deal, so he was extremely motivated to land another big contract. Cleveland naturally fell for this charade. … Once again, free agents who take big money to go to inferior franchises almost always disappoint. Dansby has shown that his No. 1 priority is money, so how motivated will he be while playing for a perennial loser? This is a disastrous move by Cleveland’s new front office.
Let’s see if we can help Seifert and Walter out and cut through the fog of these moves.
Late edit to add: Bill Barnwell also confused.
4. Cleveland replaces T.J. Ward and D’Qwell Jackson with Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby: The players the Browns signed are certainly bigger names, and they cost more, but they’re also older and have their own question marks. Whitner is something close to a disaster in coverage, and the track record of 49ers defenders after leaving San Francisco leaves much to be desired. Dansby barely got any attention after the Dolphins released him last year, and while he played excellent football for Arizona for much of the 2013 season, Cardinals beat writer Kent Somers noted that Dansby’s production coincided with the return of Daryl Washington to Arizona’s lineup.
Old friend Bill Barnwell mails in another one.2 Historically, Barnwell pays closer attention his Sloan-y new-school analytics than he does his eyes. How’d that DVOA-based “Colts must regress” prediction turn out, Bill? The guess here is that if the Browns had signed 33-year-old OLB Calvin Pace as Barnwell suggested3 the Grantland page would be friendlier to Berea.
Karlos Dansby: “Older at Linebacker.”
If you get paid to analyze football and if your comparison of Dqwell Jackson and Karlos Dansby yields, “Dansby is older,” you’re stealing. Below are four metrics measured by PFF for ILBs: pass cover, run defense, pass rush, and overall.
There is not one category where Dansby isn’t better than Dqwell. There isn’t one category where Dansby isn’t considerably better than Dqwell. For the national sports media pundit on-the-go, the handy ‘Overall’ grading is available and a quick look-see says: Dqwell Jackson #42; Karlos Dansby #5.4.
Dansby will be 33 in November; Dqwell will be 30 in September. So Dansby must be declining while Dqwell is… still in his prime? Welp. Here’s that PFF ‘ILBs-OVERALL’ ranking again, this time, year over year.
Year Dansby Jackson
2013 #5 #41
2012 #13 #41
2011 #11 #13
2010 #12 --
2009 #22 #27
2008 #29 #42
And did I mention War Damn Eagle? Quentin Groves is pumped to have another Auburn Tiger at linebacker.5 Wouldn’t be at all surprised if Groves moves into an inside linebacker and you see Dansby and Groves terrorizing the center of the field.
Browns are vastly improved at ILB with the Dansby signing and it’s not a build-for-the-future-cap-space-hoarding-trading-for-future-picks-developmental-project signing. It’s a we’re a good team now with a six pro bowlers and the window is open we’re jumping through it before it closes move.
That one was easy. Whitner versus Ward takes slightly more research but we’ll arrive at the same conclusion.
Donte Whitner: “… a year older than Ward.”
Seifert must have been running his interns ragged to come up with this level of research. Once again, for the price of a PFF subscription it’s easy to get more granular. This time, in addition to comparing Ward and Whitner, we’ll also look at Jairus “6yr/ 54M/ 11M bonus/ 28M guaranteed“ Byrd.
When you look at these numbers, TJ Ward comes out on top, overall, over both Whitner and Byrd. Whitner/Byrd still top 10. Ward is tops in run defense, Whitner still a top 10 safety against the run and note the our ILB just got a lot better against the run. Whitner shows better in pass cover. Their size is almost identical, both 5’10”, both with shortish (30-31″) arms, Whitner is faster (4.5 for Ward, 4.4 for Whitner).
Whitner will be 29 in July; Ward will be 28 in December. Meh.
Here’s what I see: a net improvement in pass cover. 2013 Browns graded 25th in pass cover, it was a weakness. It is improved with Whitner. We lose some run defense. Note: if your safeties are crucial to your run defense, you’ve got bigger issues than safety-run-defense ratings.
And I know it’s a crutch to resort to the ‘local ties’ angle, but dammit — all things being equal — wouldn’t you rather have the Tarblooder who can’t wait to get back to Cleveland to play for the Browns? It’s only good.
Alrighty, my main thing was to get after Seifert and Walter. But as long as we’re here, let’s check:
Tracking against budget.
In my first planning post, I roughed out the costs needed to keep our core group of 2015 UFAs and — after taking care of Haden, Sheard, Taylor, Cameron, Hoyer — settled on $30M in cap space up for grabs this off-season. In the second planning post, I assigned some contract estimates for players/positions. The short net-net:
Browns are tracking on-pace to spend to cap without getting into a box that jeopardizes extensions for the 2015 UFAs.
ILB cap slotting.
- I had Arthur Moats with Stephen Tulloch money: 5 yrs/ 25.5M/ 11.3 gtd. /2.6 cap hit;
- Karlos Dansby: 4 yrs, 24M, 6M bonus, 12M gtd. /5.5M cap hit.
SS cap slotting.
- I had TJ Ward re-signing using Tyvon Branch as a template: 4/26/10.1 gtd/ 3.8 cap hit;
- Donte Whitner: 4 yrs, 28M, 9M bonus, 13M gtd. (cap hit unknown, estimate 4M).
The Whitner signing is neutral against what was expected at SS. The Dansby’s cap hits are being taken up front. My takeaway is that they’re going for fewer free agents of higher quality than what I was projecting. That’s cool.
About that hole at Guard…
So my Rodger Saffold idea was just a bit off. Turns out I low balled him by 50%.6 His salary was crazy proof that it’s better to be a tackle than a guard. The other prime guard target, Geoff Schwartz was signed by the Giants, so the top UFA guard prospects are off the board.
Unless the signing of elderly Karlos Dansby frees us to look at other older free agents like, say, this guy. –>
Alrighty, that’ll do for now. Revising my wish list, I’m now hoping for
- WR2, Sanders;
- OG, Colon;
- ILB2, Moats;
- CB2, A. Cromartie;
- No. Not Darrelle Revis.
- FS, meh/draft.
Also, check out a highly caffeinated podcast I did with WFNYCraig yesterday afternoon.
- If you can find a national writer who was critical of Banner’s draft trade-out last year and/or the Bess signing and/or the Kruger overpay and/or the Bryant redundancy, please send link. [back]
- He also mailed in the Browns blueprint where we get Brandon Spikes and Calvin Pace. [back]
- I know right? An old OLB? For the Browns? Does he not have access to the Ourlads Depth Charts? [back]
- If you want to play with the data, I have the PFF stats up on Google Docs here. You won’t be able to edit/sort and you can at least see it. [back]
- As am I. [back]
- Walter didn’t like the Saffold signing one little bit: Reggie McKenzie continues to destroy the Raiders. From the man who spent a first-round pick on a second-round corner prospect with a heart problem and refused to franchise anyone this offseason, McKenzie’s latest deal might be the biggest joke of all.
I don’t understand this. Why didn’t McKenzie just franchise Jared Veldheer, who happens to be better than Rodger Saffold? And does McKenzie really think Saffold can play left tackle? Because he can’t. He can’t even stay healthy. Saffold has missed 17 games in the past three seasons, so why would he suddenly remain healthy on the West Coast? [back]