AFC South: Taylor Mays

RFA fits? We try matchmaking

March, 5, 2010
After consulting with my blogging brethren, I was looking to play matchmaker between AFC South teams and restricted free agents. I was hit most by this:

Though they could have a shot at Earl Thomas or Taylor Mays in the draft at No. 20, Houston could have a really good chance to upgrade at free safety in the RFA department, allowing themselves to focus on other things -- running back, cornerback, defensive tackle, interior offensive line -- high in the draft.

Here are a couple options that look like they could be good:

St. Louis safety Oshiomogho Atogwe -- The Rams free safety finished last year on IR with a shoulder injury. But he was the team’s franchise player in 2009, and now falls back into restricted status. He was tendered to right of first refusal with no draft-pick compensation attached because otherwise the Rams would have had to guarantee his salary at 110 percent of 2009 level (near $7 million). Scouts Inc. says he’s aggressive, fast and especially good over the deep middle. Sounds like a good pairing with Bernard Pollard who’s solid stepping forward. With the right offer sheet the Texans could get him for no compensation.

Indianapolis safety Antoine Bethea -- He’s tendered at a first-round level and the Texans cannot give up No. 20 for him. But Rick Smith could call Bill Polian and offer him Houston’s second-rounder, No. 50 overall, and see what kind of reaction he gets.

Indianapolis safety Melvin Bullitt -- He's been at strong safety with Bob Sanders out, but has also seen nickel action in the past and seems versatile enough to me to shift over. If Houston believes Bullitt could split the middle with Pollard to form a quality tandem, Bullitt’s tendered at a second-round level, and they could try offering a third.

Other possibilities for Houston: Washington corner Carlos Rogers is tendered at a first but we've heard he could likely be had for a fourth or even a fifth; Carolina corner Richard Marshall is tendered at a second and could be worth a third or fourth; Seattle guard Rob Sims is tendered as a fourth-rounder and the Seahawks would liked to have gone higher. A team that needs interior help could consider making an offer?

Thoughts on the rest of the division:


The Colts aren’t prohibited by the final eight rule from shopping restricted free agents. It’s just that they are highly unlikely to do so.


I don’t see a lot for them. Defensive ends and receivers aren’t on the list or aren’t reasonably priced. Unsettled at free safety, they could like Atogwe but don’t have the second-rounder they could need for Bethea.


Oakland linebacker Kirk Morrison -- He’s got a third-round tender, so how about starting off by offering a fourth? If Keith Bulluck isn’t re-signed and the breaking down David Thornton doesn’t make it out of camp -- I expect them both to be gone -- the Titans need a veteran to go with Stephen Tulloch and Gerald McRath or they’d be too young. Morrison’s experienced and can run and anticipate. At 6-2, 240, he’d also add a little bulk.

Chicago kick returner/safety Danieal Manning -- Tendered at a third, the Titans could offer a fourth. (They should get an additional, untradeable third-rounder as a compensatory pick for Albert Haynesworth.) Manning could probably solve the kick return issues and might be able to handle punts too -- he did it at Abilene Christian. He would also add some depth to the secondary. An experienced free safety, he’d be insurance if Michael Griffin continued to tumble. He could work in the occasional dime package and provide an alternative to Vincent Fuller if the incumbent nickel got hurt.

Other possibilities for Tennessee: Rogers; Marshall

Mockumentary: Pre-combine check-in

February, 22, 2010
An initial installment of our periodic look at a variety of mock drafts.

Today we’re using Mel Kiper, Bleacher Report, Bucky Brooks,,, and KDraftonline's consensus.

Jacksonville (10 or 11)

Kiper: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech (11)

Bleacher Report: Brian Price, DT, UCLA (11)

Brooks: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida (10) Brian Price, DT, UCLA (10) Joe Haden, CB, Florida (10) Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State (11)

KDraftonline consensus: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech (11)

My thoughts: If there is a pass-rusher the Jaguars love here, it’s hard to imagine them going a different direction, especially without a second-rounder.

Tennessee (16 or 17)

Kiper: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida (17)

Bleacher Report: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida (17)

Brooks: Brian Price, DT, UCLA (17) Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech (16) Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee (16) Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech (17)

KDraftonline consensus: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida (16)

My thoughts: The more the whole world gives the Titans a defensive lineman, the more inclined I am to think they’ll wind up going cornerback.

Houston (19 or 20)

Kiper: Brian Price, DT, UCLA

Bleacher Report: Taylor Mays, S, Southern California

Brooks: Earl Thomas, S, Texas Earl Thomas, S, Texas Earl Thomas, S, Texans Brian Price, DL, UCLA

KDraftonline consensus: Taylor Mays, S, USC

My thoughts: Mays or Thomas would be a fantastic addition to a defense that needs free safety to be settled.

Indianapolis (31)

Kiper: Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State

Bleacher Report: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida

Brooks: Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State Mike Iupati, G, Idaho Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri Daryl Washington, LB, TCU

KDraftonline consensus: Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas

My thoughts: Predicting Bill Polian is incredibly difficult, because he’s as serious about "best player available" as anyone. At this point, I’ll say a defensive tackle would surprise me.
We know, within two picks, where three of the four teams of the AFC South will be drafting in the first round.

So let’s match up Mel Kiper’s most recent big board with some team needs and do the first of our super-early 2010 draft projecting. (You need to be an Insider to see it all, but I have clearance to share some details.)

Jaguars, 10th or 11th: The pass rush is clearly the most pressing issue, but the Jaguars are likely going to decide a new quarterback is a necessity as well. Based on what Kiper’s got lined up, Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Georgia Tech end Derrick Morgan are gone. There isn’t another quarterback in the top 24, but there are several ends -- South Florida’s Jason Pierre-Paul, Florida’s Carlos Dunlap, USC’s Everson Griffen and Michigan’s Brandon Graham.

Right now: Pierre-Paul, though he could need time to develop while the Jaguars really need immediate impact.

Titans, 16th or 17th: Decisions on their own free agents will have a big bearing on what stacks up as the primary needs, but they are predominantly on defense right now: a cornerback to compete to replace Nick Harper, a defensive end who can help generate pass rush, an outside linebacker to help replace aging vets and a return man who can settle special teams and provide some field position. Based on this board, the value is at defensive end, where position coach Jim Washburn could be voting for Griffen or Graham.

Right now: Graham brings the sort of effort that they’ve become accustomed to with Kyle Vanden Bosch.

Texans, 19th or 20th: If the Texans find the right pieces for three or four remaining needs they can really be poised to play well even with a tough slate of opponents. I say free safety, running back, defensive tackle and cornerback are the spots. They’d just miss on USC safety Taylor Mays in this scenario. Kiper says the best of the available players at those spots could be Cal’s running back Jahvid Best and Florida State corner Patrick Robinson.

Right now: Best may not be different enough from Steve Slaton, but he’d come into the league as a more explosive and better prospect.

Colts: Will have one of the last five picks of the first round based on their playoff results.