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Draft King Analysis
March 19, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

Reader feedback is always welcomed here on Draft King. Sound off with your thoughts on Twitter (@LouPickney) or via email at LouPickney@gmail.com.


The pieces are falling into place in the NFL, with most of the top free agents either having signed and Peyton Manning finally ending his decision-making process today by picking the Denver Broncos as his new home. There will be associated fallout: the possibility of Tim Tebow being traded, Alex Smith being on the market and likely to end up either returning to San Francisco or signing with the Dolphins. Or not: as I prepared this article for publication, news broke that Miami signed former Jaguars QB David Garrard.

With the NFL becoming such a passing-oriented league due to rule changes made for safety, there's more value than ever before in having elite wide receivers, pass-rushing DE/OLBs and shut-down corners. If you can pass effectively and stop your opponent's passing game in the NFL, you can win. The proof is in the pudding: just look at the big guaranteed money contracts given out in this year's free agency season along with what Detroit did to avoid a cap pinch with Calvin Johnson.

· WR Calvin Johnson (Lions) signed extension: eight-year, $150.5 million ($60 million guaranteed)
· DE Mario Williams (Texans) signed with Bills: six-year, $100 million ($50 million guaranteed)
· OG Carl Nicks (Saints) signed with Bucs: five-year, $47.5 million ($31 million guaranteed)
· WR Vincent Jackson (Chargers) signed with Bucs: five-year, $55.555 million ($26 million guaranteed)
· CB Brandon Carr (Chiefs) signed with Cowboys: five-year, $50.1 million ($25.5 million guaranteed)
· CB Cortland Finnegan (Titans) signed with Rams: five-year, $50 million ($24 million guaranteed)
· RB Arian Foster (Texans) signed new deal: five-year, $43.5 million ($20.75 million guaranteed)
· WR Pierre Garçon (Colts) signed with Redskins: five-year, $42.5 million ($20.5 million guaranteed)
· WR Stevie Johnson (Bills) signed new deal: five-year, $36.25 million ($19.5 million guaranteed)
· WR Marques Colston (Saints) signed new deal: five-year, $40 million ($19 million guaranteed)
· RB Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks) signed new deal: four-year, $31 million ($17 million guaranteed)
· OG Ben Grubbs (Ravens) signed with Saints: five-year, $36 million ($16 million guaranteed)
· CB Eric Wright (Lions) signed with Bucs: five-year, $38 million ($15.5 million guaranteed)
· WR DeSean Jackson (Eagles) signed new deal: five-year, $51 million (at least $15 million guaranteed)
· DE Red Bryant (Seahawks) signed new deal: five-year, $35 million ($14.5 million guaranteed)
· WR Robert Meachem (Saints) signed with Chargers: four-year, $25.9 million ($14 million guaranteed)
· WR Laurent Robinson (Cowboys) signed with Jaguars: five-year, $32.5 million ($14 million guaranteed)
· C Scott Wells (Packers) signed with Rams: four-year, $25 million ($14 million guaranteed)
· DL Kendall Langford (Dolphins) signed with Rams: four-year, $24 million ($12 million guaranteed)
· CB Terrell Thomas (Giants) signed new deal: four-year, $17.4 million contract ($11 million guaranteed)
· MLB D'Qwell Jackson (Browns) signed new deal: five-year, $42.5 million ($10.4 million guaranteed)
· QB Matt Flynn (Packers) signed with Seahawks: three-year, $19 million ($10 million guaranteed)
· OLB Jarret Johnson (Ravens) signed with Chargers: four-year, $19 million ($10 million guaranteed)
· DE Jeremy Mincey (Jaguars) signed new deal: four-year, $20 million ($9 million guaranteed)
· OT Jared Gaither (Chargers) signed new deal: four-year, $24.6 million ($8 million guaranteed)
· OT Eric Winston (Texans) signed with Chiefs: four-year, $22 million (unknown guaranteed money)
· DE Frostee Rucker (Bengals) signed with Browns: five-year, $20.5 million ($8 million guaranteed)
· DE Adam Carriker (Redskins) signed new deal: four-year, $20 million ($7 million guaranteed)
· C Mike Brisiel (Texans) signed with Raiders: five-year, $20 million (unknown guaranteed money)
· NT Sione Pouha (Jets) signed new deal: three-year, $15 million ($9.5 million guaranteed)
· OLB Ahmad Brooks (49ers) signed new deal: six-year, $37 million ($8.25 million guaranteed)
· WR Josh Morgan (49ers) signed with Redskins: two-year, $12 million ($7.3 million guaranteed)
· DL Jason Jones (Titans) signed with Seahawks: one-year, $4.5 million ($4.5 million guaranteed)
· CB Carlos Rogers (49ers) signed new deal: four-year, $29.3 million ($5 million guaranteed)
· DE John Abraham (Falcons) signed new deal: three-year, $16.72 million ($2.25 million guaranteed)
· WR Reggie Wayne (Colts) signed new deal: three-year, $17.5 million ($7.5 guaranteed)
· TE Jermichael Finley (Packers) signed new deal: two-year, $15 million (amount of guaranteed money unclear)
· OG Evan Mathis (Eagles) signed new deal: five-year, $25 million ($7 million guaranteed)
Laurent Robinson
Laurent Robinson signed a big money contract with the Jaguars. (Icon SMI)

· CB Stanford Routt (Raiders) signed with Chiefs: three-year, $18 million ($6 million guaranteed)
· WR Eddie Royal (Broncos) signed with Chargers: three-year, $13.5 million ($6 million guaranteed)
· WR Brandon Lloyd (Rams) signed with Patriots: three-year, $12 million (unknown guaranteed money)
· CB Richard Marshall (Cardinals) signed with Dolphins: three-year, $16 million ($6 million guaranteed)
· OG Steve Hutchinson (Vikings) signed with Titans: three-year, $16 million ($6 million guaranteed)
· OG/OT Adam Snyder (49ers) signed with Cardinals: five-year, $17.5 million ($5 million guaranteed)
· FS Thomas DeCloud (Falcons) signed new deal: five-year, $17.5 million ($4 million guaranteed)
· FS Reggie Nelson (Bengals) signed new deal: four-year, $18 million (unknown guaranteed money)
· TE Craig Stevens (Titans) signed new deal: four-year, $15 million ($4.5 million guaranteed)
· FS Dwight Lowery (Jaguars) signed new deal: four-year, $13.6 million ($4 million guaranteed)
· OT Jeff Backus (Lions) signed new deal: two-year, $10 million (unknown guaranteed money)
· DE Cory Redding (Ravens) signed with Colts: three-year, $10.5 million (unknown guaranteed money)

I realize that the above list is quite a bit to sift through, and there may be some contracts worthy of listing that I overlooked, but notice the overwhelming volume of big-money deals signed by wide receivers, cornerbacks, and defensive ends. This didn't happen by accident. Running backs Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch both signed new large contracts, though both have also proven to be a tremendous fit with their current team.

Look at the guaranteed money toward the top. Besides Carl Nicks (coming off back-to-back All Pro seasons) and Arian Foster (who was perhaps overpaid but who Texans brass want to have in house long-term), the players who received $19 million+ guaranteed were: DE Mario Williams, two cornerbacks, and five wide receivers. Even in that next tier down, it's mostly CBs, offensive linemen (especially tackles), WRs, and DE/OLBs landing big guaranteed money. This isn't a matter of chance -- it's an adjustment made by most NFL teams to the reality of the modern NFL.

In my estimation, the same application of judgment about increased value for certain positions (and decreased value for RBs and MLB/ILBs) will likely be reflected in the draft. Things changed forever after the Colts/Bears Super Bowl at the end of the 2006 season, where both teams used two-platoon approaches at running back, and it's no surprise that the starting RBs in the most recent Super Bowl were either undrafted (Ole Miss' BenJarvus Green-Ellis for New England) or a late round pick (7th round selection Ahmad Bradshaw out of Marshall).

One more thing to keep in mind with the above list of contract signings is that holding out is all but history in the NFL, and I mean that in its truest sense where it applies to a player who is under contract who refuses to report. It drives me crazy to hear unsigned draft picks described as "holdouts" when there is no contract from which a just-drafted player can hold out on in the NFL. But it's a distinct possibility that the extended holdout by Titans RB Chris Johnson in 2011 will be the last of its kind for some time in the league.

The reason for the holdout change is simple: under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, any player under contract who holds out is subject to a daily fine of $30,000 until he reports. That penalty was enough to motivate 49ers RB Frank Gore and Eagles WR DeSean Jackson to end their brief holdouts in 2011. And, ultimately, Gore signed a new deal with San Francisco before the 2011 season began (a four-year, $25.9 million deal) and, as shown above, Jackson finally landed the long-term contract he had wanted from Philadelphia earlier this month.


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