Jason Brown, a young, pro bowl caliber lineman who has been starting for 2-3 years, signed a 5 year deal for $37.5M, with $20M guaranteed. Meanwhile, we just paid more than half that much for someone the same age who didn't appear to be a starting caliber lineman in his one year as a starter.
Not that it's a big surprise that we didn't go after a huge free agent like Brown, but I don't like the way our offense has been handled so far this off-season. Despite the SB run against 3 wildcard teams, our offense struggled immensely for long stretches last year. While they played well in the SB, they had a chance to put the game away with a few first downs and couldn't do it against a lousy defense.
Through endless discussions on this board, three problems have consistently come up: Ben holding onto the ball too long, the offensive line being terrible, and the offensive playcalling, identity, and scheme. Some people say the line sucks because Ben holds onto the ball, some say Ben holds onto the ball too long because the playcalling sucks, some say Arians can't get the offense to go because the line sucks. The point is that the offense sucks and one or three of these things is the problem. If we're looking to improve the offense, it's obvious that Ben has tremendous upside to go with his more annoying traits, while Arians and the OL haven't demonstrated clear strengths that offset their faults. The OL sucks at pass blocking and run blocking, and they frequently have mental mistakes and penalties. Even when Arians puts together a decent game plan, by the third quarter it usually fizzles out into dull and ineffective plodding, allowing the other team to make it interesting.
So why not try something radical this offseason? How about some fresh offensive thinking - fire the crappy OC, even if we did win the SB? How about a new OL coach? How about cutting ties with with the deadweight on our OL? What's the risk - is a second or third round guard starting on day one going to play worse than Kemo did? How about a rookie RT? Why couldn't we have done something like this to fix the OL: Franchise our best lineman, Starks, and try to sign him long term. Let Kemo walk and try to sign an upper tier FA like Brown - he would be a HUGE upgrade, and he's so young that he's a better investment long term than Faneca or Kemo, who may never be an average starter. Draft an OL early, and sign or draft several other guys for depth (Essex, for example). We could be looking at a line like this: Starks (good), Brown (very good), Hartwig (decent), Stape/Colon (okay to decent), and a first round RT (good). Give that line a year to gel, and our OL will be a strength instead of a liability.
Instead, we're just treading water, and we're only saving $3.5M a year. Arians is still Arians. Kemo had 3 years to overtake Simmons and couldn't do it, so now we're going to hand him a lot of money and hope he suddenly starts to improve? Look how Darnell Dockett and Jason Jones abused him late in the season. At this rate, should we have any doubt that Colon will be our starting RT in 2009? I say no.
Yeah, our offense was good enough to win the Super Bowl, but it was a below average offense by almost any metric. Our defense is great, but it's not going to be this good every year. Also, the major contenders aren't going to fold every year. Our road to the SB would have been a lot harder if we played the Titans, Colts, Patriots (w/ Brady), and Giants. We're building a team made to lose the AFCCG instead of establishing itself as the team to beat every year. I guess it could be worse, but this doesn't seem to be more than an extension of Cowher's time here.