So Brett Keisel is close to signing a five year extension, Aaron Smith is under contract until 2011, and we have rookies Ziggy Hood and Ra’Shon Harris both showing great upside. Does this mean we have too many ends with starting potential?! Not necessarily. Ziggy Hood is at least a season away from starting and Ra’shon Harris will take a couple of years to develop. However, this could mean Casey Hampton is gone. Big Snack is a monster of a man, much more than capable of holding his own at the point of attack. However, the once dominant two gap NT has become much more of a one gap player in the past 3 seasons, due largely to his lack of conditioning, in my opinion. He is still very dominant, however, normally a one gap tackle produces sacks, Casey comes out on obvious passing downs. I don’t believe he will take the hometown discount and that paired with Tomlin’s team-first attitude and last year’s conditioning debacle, I believe he will play for a new contract elsewhere. Here are a few possibilities for replacing him, feel free to disagree and I look forward to other ideas:
1. After the draft, John Mitchell and Dick Lebeau talked about using Ziggy all over the line, backing up the DE and Big Snack. With the scheme having shifted to a one gap NT anyways, Ziggy, a one-gap tackle in college with some pass rushing abilities would make perfect sense. Also, with a year in a pro strength and conditioning program and John Mitchell teaching him the DE position, he could potentially afford us the ability to return to the two-gap NT and just do the one-gap thing on obvious passing downs. This would give us some real potential. Harris could take the next couple of years to develop and replace Smith with he retires in 2011. Another DE project could be brought in the next couple of years to develop as Keisel’s eventual replacement.
2. Ziggy is primarily learning Smith’s LDE position, could Aaron Smith shift inside to NT for a year or two to allow them to develop a new NT. Think about it, aside from Big Snack, few people in this league hold up as well against double teams as Smith. He could still stuff the run, and then Ziggy could replace him as LDE with Harris as the backup with a couple more years to develop behind Keisel, or eventually overtake him leaving Keisel as a back-up, although developing behind him would be more likely.
3. Draft a stud NT, like Alabama NT Terrence Cody, 6’5’’, 360 lbs. He showed some dedication this offseason and lost some weight (claimed to play at 370 last year but was likely 380+). He looks good, is a big run stuffer, and is much more athletic than his size would suggest (can supposedly dunk) although he does run in the 5.5 range, not that that is all that important for the 3-4 NT.
4. If we lose Big Snack, look to the Original Poachers of Steelers’ castoffs, the Patriots. Vince Wilfork is in the final year of his contract, is has expressed some dissatisfaction with the lack of a new contract. Only 27 years old, and is much better conditioned and as good as Big Snack was at that age or quite possibly ever. If he can be had without breaking the bank (which is very unlikely with the number of teams going to 3-4) he would be a great addition. The Pats have many other DT and just drafted Ron Brace of Texas who has looked like a potential Wilfork replacement.
5. This is, IMHO, the most likely scenario, Next year we have Smith and Keisel at DE with Hoke at NT with Hood rotating in at all three positions and drafting a NT developmental project, say in the 5th round or so, kind of like what the Steelers would have done if Sammie Lee Hill of Stillman this year had been drafted, he would sit on PS for one year and then 53 for a year or two until the Miracle Worker (John Mitchell) molded him into a Steelers 3-4 NT.
Now, onto my WR thoughts and their effect on the final 53. So, Devand Darling of the Chiefs is out for the season with an ACL tear. He was starting opposite Dwayne Bowe, although he wasn’t all that hot anyways. Amani Toomer and Mark Bradley are behind him. We have an influx of WR and everyone keeps trying to figure a way to keep this guy or that guy, so I propose the "Behind the Steel Curtain" sin, let’s make a trade. I joke about the BTSC sin, as I have agreed that most of the proposed trades are preposterous, FWP isn’t going anywhere contrary to the outcry during the offseason. But, Shawn McDonald may end up the odd man out anyways, and would fit much better in the dink and dunk Chiefs system. He could be Scott Pioli’s Wes Welker. We are keeping our starters, Sweed as three and Wallace as four. We could then keep Logan as the emergency 5/KR/PR and keep a WR or two on PS or keep a Martin Nance or someone else as insurance. I think the Chiefs or one of the other WR hurting teams (Seahawks, 49ers) might give up a 3rd rounder for McDonald. What do you all think?