Surprise! Matt Barkley Regrets Nothing

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times addresses the issues surrounding ormer USC quarterback Matt Barkley as he prepares to be drafted this week:

“The next player who regrets staying in school after his draft stock plummets probably will be the first. So it’s no surprise USC quarterback Matt Barkley wouldn’t change a thing.

‘‘No, no regrets that I came back last year,’’ Barkley said at the NFL combine. ‘‘Haven’t looked back once. Wouldn’t change my USC career for anything.’’

It’s difficult to define just how much Barkley lost by returning to USC for his senior year. After a stellar junior season, he was rated by some draft analysts among the top 10 players in the draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. rated Barkley with Robert Griffin III and said it’s unlikely he would’ve lasted past the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 (the Browns took Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden).

I watched Barkley do Jon Gruden‘s Quarterback Camp segment recently (below).  I thought it was funny that someone, probably his agent, instructed him to take notes as Gruden pontificated just so he wouldn’t have to sit there with a vacant expression and shake his head up and down like a bobble head doll.

It didn’t work.

The Issue of the 2013 Run Defense

Nathan Jahnke breaks down the team needs for the teams in the NFC North for Pro Football Focus. As he does so, he exposes these alarming facts about the Bears new linebacking corps:

“The problem is that [new strong side linebacker *JamesAnderson has not been great in run defense, and has in fact only been getting worse with a –6.7 PFF run defense rating in 2012, which was fifth-worst among 4–3 outside linebackers. Chances are [new middle linebacker D.J.Williams and [weakside linebacker LanceBriggs will play in the nickel defense, so Anderson’s main role will be stopping the run.”

“While [Williams] didn’t play much in 2012, in previous years he was consistently among the lowest rated run defenders in the league.”

We’re all aware that the Bears linebackers are an aging group. That alone justifies making the position a priority in the draft if possible. But when I start reading “weak against the run”, I get worried not about the future, but about 2013.

The cover two based scheme the Bears run is notorious for being weak against the run to begin with. Anyone who follows the Colts can tell you what it was like on occasion when Tony Dungy coached the team there. Defending the run was often their Achilles heal.

Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli did an outstanding job of avoiding this problem while they were here. A lot of that was good recognition and good, tough down hill play from the linebackers whenever they saw a run develop. Its too early to tell but if past history is representative of future earnings, but with this current group of linebackers the Bears may have see a problem in this area in 2013.

Facing Financial Reality

Teams seem more bound and determined than ever to eliminate dead money from their cap situations. In an interesting twist, consider the new contract that Darrelle Revis agreed toas a result of his trade from the Jets to the Buccaneers over the weekend. Via Mike Florio

“[It’s] a one-year deal with a series of five one-year, team-held options. If the Bucs choose to keep Revis, they’ll pay him $16 million per year for the privilege of doing so. If/when the Bucs decide that Revis isn’t earning his keep, the Bucs can cut him.”

The deal is reminiscent of the contract D.J. Williams agreed to with the Bears. He is actually being paid game to game this year.

The contract also reflects the new reality in the NFL. Players are having a hard time getting the money and the security they want this offseason. Jack Betcha at The National Football Post does a good job of explaining the situation as he tees off on the agents for these players for building unrealistic expectations.

“[T]here is still an unusual amount of high quality free agents on the street and it’s not always the fault of the system, the teams, the CBA or the player that they haven’t been signed and paid to date. Occasionally the agent is to blame and here is why:

“Agents can be guilty of overpricing the player to the marketplace. Before a client hits the free agent market it’s vitally important for agents to do their research for 10 months leading up to the beginning of free agency. It’s important to establish a value for your client and his position based on what the market will bare. Talking with GMs, pro personnel directors, the NFLPA research department and team salary cap managers can accomplish this.”

“This year was an interesting year in free agency because the two prior years (non-capped year included) were complete anomalies. They didn’t provide us with the best of comps going into this year. Additionally, there was only a modest increase in the cap, which was practically flat. With the addition of ten new GM’s over the last two years (who historically don’t make huge free agency signings), and cheaper draft choices under the new CBA, it was a perfect recipe for a soft free agent market in 2013 (as I predicted here).

“For those agents who were looking to hit it big this year, they may have missed the boat and did a huge disservice to their client.”

The Bears saw this problem last year with Olin Kreutz and now this year with Brian Urlacher. Whether its the agents or the players, both got greedy. The Bears offered more than they were worth on the open market. Instead of being grateful, both tried to get more from an organization the never overpays. It hard to say exactly where the blame lies but if their agents didn’t make them aware of the realities of the situation before hand, they are largely to blame.

In any case, I keep hearing that there are growing complaints amongst the players, the agents and the NFLPA about collusion. They probably aren’t willing to go public yet because they want to see what the market is like for veteran players after the draft when teams that haven’t filled needs go shopping again.

But I’ll be very surprised if it turns out that there’s any such thing going on. Much more likely, these entities only have themselves to blame for their problems in the market.