Time for another "it's-too-early...but-it's-NEVER-too-early" offseason plan!!
This one comes with four steps. And we'll start with...
Step 1: Head Coach -- Bill O'Brien
Even before the report came out that we reached out to BOB as a potential head coach for next season, he was on the top of my list of coaching candidates. He's young, with NFL experience (under Belichick, no less), and the way he handled walking into a disaster of a situation at Penn State says a lot about his character. As an offensive and quarterback guru, whoever we draft as our QBOTF will be in good hands. I also believe the consistency between BOB (who coached Brady) and the presumed carry-over QB in Cassel (who backed up Brady) will only benefit how our drafted QB picks things up.
Step 2: Extending Everson Griffen
With a new coaching staff in place, we'll turn to free agency. But before we venture out, we must not let our #1 priority hit the open market. Everson Griffen has expressed his desire to stay in Purple, but it's up to the FO to make it happen. With Jared Allen on the wrong side of 30, Griffen is the obvious successor at RDE -- and he has proven he can be productive in limited snaps. He warrants a sizable contract, and is young enough to be a staple on our DLine for years to come.
Step 3: Landing FA-to-be Alterraun Verner
I'll preface this by saying it's entirely possible Verner doesn't even hit the FA market, as the Titans would probably be wise to slap the franchise tag on him. However, there's no guarantee they would be able to work out an eventual extension, a la the Bills and Jairus Byrd -- so they may just cut ties if they know Verner will command a larger amount than they're willing to spend. It's time for Spielman to make a splash in FA and lock up Verner -- coupled with Rhodes, we would have an outstanding young tandem at CB, and perhaps a more stable secondary than we've seen in a looooong time.
Step 4: The Draft
Woot!! I've kind of grown tired of doing mocks, as there are too many unpredictable factors with trades (especially with Spielman at the helm), and I've found that I typically end up getting disappointed because the players I have man-crushes on go to other teams. But since it's the season of giving, I'll go for it:
Rd 1 -- DT Ra'Shede Hageman (Minnesota)
It's no secret we've lost our disruptiveness on defense -- and I want to restore the historic nature of our DLine. Hageman is pegged as a late 1st rdr right now, but I think he could easily go in the Top 15 (especially with Louis Nix III undergoing knee surgery last month, and perhaps considering a return to ND for his senior year). Hageman has a ton of potential, and would command double-teams in the trenches. If we can collapse the pocket on a consistent basis with Hageman and Floyd, it will leave a lot of sacking opportunities for Robison and Griffen.
Rd 2 -- QB Tajh Boyd (Clemson)
I've already gone into some detail on what I'm looking for in a franchise QB -- and Boyd fits the bill. There's certainly an amount of risk/reward, given Clemson's option-based offense. Though again, with BOB running the team and the safety net of Cassel starting, it will give Boyd time to adjust and learn. I believe if he drops the option game completely and focuses on being a pocket passer, he has everything to succeed -- while still having the athleticism and scrambling ability to make plays with his feet, if necessary.
-- TRADE WITH COLTS -- (we give both 3rd rdrs to move back up into the 2nd)
Rd 2 -- SS Deone Bucannon (Washington State)
For starters, the Colts currently only have five picks in the draft in Rds 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 -- and one of those picks (presumably a Day 3 pick) is going to the Rams for the Josh Gordy trade. So with only four picks, the Colts might look to trade back and acquire more -- that's only a theory, but this is a wish list, dammit.
Bucannon is one of the better safeties in this class, and he's an all-around player -- strong run support, efficient tackler, good ball skills, heavy hitter. With the CBs shored up via FA (and with all due respect to Sanford, and even Sendejo, who has looked decent in limited play), we need a suitable compliment to Harrison Smith. Bucannon may ultimately go earlier, but if he fell this far I should think the Vikes would want to move up to get him.
Rd 4 -- DE Larry Webster (Bloomsburg)
Perhaps this is a reach... but we have a colorful history of drafting eventual starting DEs in the 4th rd, so it seems fitting. Webster is raw, which allows us to groom him behind our starters just like we did with Robison and Griffen.
Rd 5 -- OG Ryan Groy (Wisconsin)
GROY IS MA' BOY. He's been my man-crush since the beginning of the college season. Extremely underrated, and held up against good defensive talent (vs ASU, he was frequently one-on-one with Will Sutton and shut him down). He shines in the run game, and obviously that is our focus. I think he will slowly climb boards as we lead up to the draft.
Rd 6 -- RB Zurlon Tipton (Central Michigan)
Tipton missed a good chunk of this season with a broken ankle, but came back strong with a 200+ yd game to close out the season. After a beastly 2012 campaign (nearly 1,500yds, 5.9avg, 19 TDs), he'll be a guy to watch with Gerhart hitting free agency.
Rd 7 -- QB Brock Jensen (North Dakota State)
Why?? Hell, why not?? Might as well groom a couple QBs at the same time. Jensen may not be elite, but he's a fighter, a leader, and a winner. He could eventually fill our backup QB role, and who knows... if he develops, maybe he'll start a couple games, and/or we could flip him for picks down the road.
Note: I realize I didn't draft any LBs. That was by design. With BOB as the HC, it's entirely possible he will have ideas on how to best utilize Mauti and Hodges, being former PSU players. We may be deeper at LB than we think.
So, what do you think??