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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Looking at free agency

Got into the office tonight and saw that the Atlanta Falcons had just released defensive back Asante Samuel. That got me to thinking, if I were looking for a free agent free safety or corner, who would I target?

Everybody knows the big names, but the Steelers aren't going to be in the market for a Jarius Byrd or T.J. Ward. That's just too expensive.

But Samuel would certainly be a guy I'd look at to move to safety if I were the Steelers.

Yes, he was benched last season as a corner by a bad Atlanta team. But the thing that jumps out to me about Samuel is 51 career interceptions, including six in the past two seasons with Atlanta when his coverage skills were clearly waning.

At 33, Samuel could give you at least two or three good years as a bridge at safety, while also giving you something Ryan Clark did not, big-play ability.

The Steelers need a true centerfielder, somebody who is capable of forcing some turnovers, and Samuel is certainly capable of that. His six interceptions in the past two seasons, by the way, are one fewer than Clark had in the past four seasons.

Who else would I take a long look at?

How about former Steelers killer Rashean Mathis?

At 33, Mathis' days of playing corner are probably behind him. But at 6-1, 195 pounds, he's certainly got safety size and his 30 career interceptions certainly look good.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let's not get older, this isn't a fix nor is it a bandaid.. I can't believe this is being talked about..

He was benched on a BAD ATL team..

Dale Lolley said...

He was benched as a cornerback. He's perfect for a shift to free safety ala. Rod and Charles Woodson.

It's all about the turnovers.

I might add that the Steelers have an aging quarterback. They need to make moves that will help them win in the next few years. Getting, say, six interceptions out of the free safety position would help greatly.

Patrick said...

Samuel would be horrible in run support, like pathetically so.

I'd sign him as a 3rd corner on the cheap, if anything.

Dale Lolley said...

I don't care so much about his run support. He'd just have to be adequate. The way they did things this year, Clark was playing 20 yards off the line.

They got into trouble with the long pass plays when he bit up to try to help in run support. That's when they allowed stuff over the top. They have to shore up the front seven to the point where the free safety doesn't have to worry about run support unless it's getting a guy to the ground - or at least slowing him up - as a last resort.

The main job for Samuel would be to get at least six interceptions and not allow anything deep.

In

phil said...

I wonder if career safeties resent the idea that their position is where cornerbacks go to die. Is it really a given that older cornerbacks make good safeties?

Dale Lolley said...

If they can catch and are smart, yes. That's the way the game is heading.

It's all about turnovers back there.

Dale Lolley said...

I might add that most NFL safeties were failed corners at some point in their careers.

fineline said...

How about starting some rookies? The defensive staff takes a lot of pride in not utilizing rookies. As Dale said the team has an aging QB.Do the Steelers have the luxury of waiting 2 or 3 years for players to develop? Art Rooney said a few years ago the coaches need to figure out how to get the younger guys on the field earlier.

Dale Lolley said...

Well, they had a number of rookies who played key roles this season. How'd that work out?

NineFingers said...

I like the idea...depending on the price tag of course.

Fineline said...

Jones and Williams got most of the playing time of the 2013 rookies. Williams was a low round pick nowhere near ready to start but they were forced to play him due to injuries. Jones beat out Worilds in training camp. Woriilds did next nothing for 3 and a half years. If they are going to use high picks on a NT or CB in 2014 then get them on the field. I think those are positions where rookies can get more time. Again, I'm just repeating what Rooney said.

Dale Lolley said...

IF they draft a nose tackle in the first - which I doubt - yes, he would play.
A CB would likely be the nickel back.

Patrick said...

Steelers have never had a FS like Samuel would be, and even though the game has changed, I really doubt they would consider a guy who can't tackle.

He played in Philly for awhile and his ability to tackle was a big joke in this city.

Mathis maybe, Will Allen is a better choice though.

Anonymous said...

I agree that if you want to bring in a veteran, stop-gap safety, it should be Will Allen.

Anonymous said...

I agree that if you want to bring in a veteran, stop-gap safety, it should be Will Allen.

Anonymous said...

Completely off topic, but after coming across this video on a non football site, it made think back to the SD-KC game and the NE-Cleve game. Just food for thought, but I find it interesting. Can't stand Harbaugh and was laughing at his antics on the sideline during this game,however now I understand why he was livid.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEp4r2q9tTA

Anonymous said...

What is this, Del Boca Vista?

"Well, they had a number of rookies who played key roles this season. How'd that work out?"

Even more veterans played key roles ... and we saw how well that worked out.

marc said...

"They have to shore up the front seven to the point where the free safety doesn't have to worry about run support unless it's getting a guy to the ground - or at least slowing him up - as a last resort."

I'm glad you said that dale. it's the reason they need a true NT to stuff the line and eat up blockers. even if he is only a 2-down player, the benefit to the overall defense is very significant. no matter who you plug in at FS, they won't be ball hawking on 2nd/3rd and short.

John Kang said...

Is Shamarko Thomas not ready to take over from Clark? Even with his few games, he at least has been in the system (and apparently picking both Troy's and Clark's head) for a year, as opposed to bringing in a FA safety.

Pistol said...

Guys Shamarko is a SS! watch his tape he was even a s/lb hybrid in college. he'll be taking over for troy when he hangs it up and playing the 3rd safety until then. He's gonna be a great in the box type.

The vets were guys on their last legs though btw. guys who they paid when they were still productive. You start a bunch of rookies in the NFL you pick in the top 5 wo question.

Love the Samuel idea fwiw until they groom a guy from this years draft.

kyle said...

marc,

They don't need a "true" NT. They need someone at that position who is good against the run and provides at least some pass rush. I posted that link to a story defending McLendon against the run and you had questions about his play in some of the gifs, which another commenter happily went through and described the mistakes (mostly V. Williams').

Louis Nix is not going to be any better than McLendon and in fact would most likely provide much less of a pass rush his rookie year.

The Steelers need a lot of depth but they also need to upgrade a few starting spots. NT is very low on the list of priorities since many NT types are liabilities against faster offenses and because McLendon was at the very least competent. Free Safety is a huge need. Inside Linebacker is a big need. Wide Receiver and Tight End are both bigger needs than Nose Tackle. I'd say even Defensive End is a bigger need. And I'd say that even if they kept Keisel and Hood.

As to Dale's point, I would only try to move an aging Corner to Safety if he has been a very physical player. Rod Woodson was more than a "willing tackler." I'm sure you're right that the Steelers want a centerfielder with ball skills but having someone who can pry the ball from a Tight End is nice too.

Anonymous said...

Woodly = NT!

Compairing Woodson/s with Samuel isn't right..

Picks would be nice, but liability isn't worth the risk. IMO

I respect your opinion Dale.. And thank you for the blog.

marc said...

kyle,
if memory serves, Williams was out of position on one play, but mclendon was still not effective in that play. and, imo, i did not agree with the posters overall analysis of those plays. not that any of us are professionals.

regardless, i don't feel McClendon demands double teams and that leaves an extra blocker for the next level or a blitzing LB. does he get double teamed sometimes because there is no one else around, sure. but teams do not prepare for the steelers and say, "hey, we need to double the NT if we want to control the line of scrimmage this sunday."

instead, they most likely say, "we can block their d-line one-on-one and anyone without a hat can hit the next level. we should have no issues establishing the run."

we will obviously find out next season how it goes. but, i predict they will continue to struggle against the run until they get a "true NT."

Anonymous said...

Dales what about Malcolm Jenkins? He is only 27 I think and played Free Safety in the 3-4 for New Orleans last year. Their first rounder from last year Vaccaro played alot last year but not at expense of Jenkins it seems. Still though, I doubt that the Saints would want him back with Vaccaro there. Jenkins has played reasonably well for them and has even gotten them some turnovers I beleive. He would be more than just a stop gap at 27 too. I feel like he could be another under the radar Ryan Clark type signing for the Steelers that could be a solid starter in our system.

Dale Lolley said...

I think Jenkins can still play corner and somebody will pay him a decent amount of money to do so.

kyle said...

marc,

Or teams see a "true" NT and say "double-team? nah, we'll just cut him" like everybody did to Hampton the last three or four years of his career.

Which rookie NT is going to demand a double team? And why wouldn't teams just cut him too? More and more teams are moving to zone blocking and cutting the freaks of nature on the Defensive Line.

Nose Tackle has been devalued, not quite as much as the Full Back but still quite a bit. That's not to say the position won't gain prominence again. People like to pretend that fads are forever and all changes are permanent.

None of the rookies this year look to be a sure improvement over McLendon. Williams/Garvin/Wilson collectively had a worse season than McLendon. He's not the problem. Even when he got double-teamed and the ILB was clean the ILB screwed up.

Steve isn't the problem and drafting someone who is not going to be immediately better or possibly never much better is not the solution.

marc said...

I'm not saying there is any great Nt in the draft. Just that they are going to struggle against the run until they get a real one.

kyle said...

Except they didn't struggle against the run when he was on the field. There were a couple big plays but they weren't running at him. Pryor went around the end. You would have trouble convincing me that Casey Hampton in his prime helps prevent any of the big runs against the Steelers this season. Now James Farrior in his prime...

marc said...

sigh, since when has anyone attributed pryor's run to mclendon? the steeler's defense got faked out on the play and didn't realize pryor had the ball until he was 10 yards downfield.

regardless, I simply disagree with you about the NT position and we will just have to wait and see what happens.

kyle said...

I mentioned Pryor's run because it was the first long run that popped into my head where I knew it happened on 1st down. It's illustrative because the Steelers' run defense wasn't awful (middle of the pack) by normal standards, just by the precedent they have set for themselves. They gave up a handful of long runs, which is highly unusual for a Lebeau defense. On very few of those runs was McLendon even on the field and when he was the play wasn't his fault. He wasn't the one missing tackles (another outlier for Lebeau).

You can disagree with me. That's fine. You can't disagree with the fact that the Steelers haven't had the NT on the field for even half of the snaps for quite some time. Their defense has changed. The days of Joel Steed and Casey Hampton may return but there are ways of stopping the run without them.

Anonymous said...

could troy move to FS? Ed Reed did so earlier in his career....

marc said...

kyle,

food for thought...

"McLendon, according to Football Outsiders, made his average tackle following a gain of 3.0 yards, the worst of any starting nose tackle in a 3-4 defense last season." - from ESPN article.