A couple of moths ago I predicted which free agent pick ups the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and Tennessee Titans would have to make to push them over the hump either to getting to the playoffs, get to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl. I predicted that the 49ers would go after WR Vincent Jackson to help make it to the Super Bowl in 2012, Oakland should sign CB Brandon Carr to get them into the playoffs, the Cowboys should sign SS LaRon Landry to help them into the playoffs, the Titans should sign Carl OG Nicks to help them get into the playoffs, and the Patriots should sign CB Cortland Finnegan to help them win the Super Bowl in 2012. All of these teams were on the cusp of success, but all fell a bit short. Now that that the majority of the 2012 free agent pool has dried up and the NFL draft is in the rearview mirror, it's time to revisit how just how accurate my predictions were.
1. San Francisco 49ers – Vincent Jackson, WR
San Francisco was on the cusp of going to their first Super Bowl since 1995. I had predicted that they would go after a top tier WR this off-season to help push them over the hump in 2012 to get to the Super Bowl. Although S.F. did not sign Vincent Jackson (Jackson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), they did sign former New York Giant WR Mario Manningham and free agent WR Randy Moss (who sat out the 2011 season). S.F. did not stop addressing the WR position as they used their first pick in the 2012 NFL draft to take A.J. Jenkins, a speedy WR from Illinois. Although I had the player wrong, it seems that S.F. was most interested in improving the wide receiver position, and Manningham has the chance to really step-up his game in S.F..
Prediction Grade: A
2. Oakland Raiders – Brandon Carr, CB
The Oakland Raiders were on the cusp of making the 2011 players. My pick for the Raiders of Brandon Carr, who signed a huge contract with the Dallas Cowboys, was a bit of a pipe dream. New GM Reggie McKenzie did not inherit the most organized team in terms of financial responsibility. Former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis was known for give lucrative contracts to questionable players (Do Javon Walker and DeAngelo Hall ring a bell?). McKenzie is looking to bring some stability to Oakland so one can understand why he didn't want to break the bank on a top tier player. McKenzie, instead, signed many players at discount rates. Oakland was able to sign former 49er CB Shawnte Spencer, former Green Bay Packers CB Pat Lee, and former St. Louis Rams CB Ron Bartell. Oakland addressed the CB position, but not to the extent I was predicting.
Prediction Grade: C
3. Dallas Cowboys – LaRon Landry, SS
The Dallas Cowboys were on the cusp of winning the NFC East before they lost to the Super Bowl 46 Champion New York Giants in week 17. Many analysts felt that Dallas' secondary was the biggest issue holding them back. Dallas may have had the best off-season in terms of upgrading their secondary. Dallas did not sign LaRon Landry (Landry signed with the New York Jets). Dallas did sign former Kansas City Chiefs CB Brandon Carr and drafted LSU standout CB Morris Claiborne. There were several safeties available in free agency, but Dallas focused on upgrading the CB position from day one. Dallas only signed one free agent safety, Brodney Pool formerly of the New York Jets. Pool is a seven year veteran with decent size and instincts. He may not be the top tier safety I was hoping Dallas would sign, but he is an upgrade from what Dallas was working with in 2011.
Prediction Grade: C
4. Tennessee Titans – Carl Nicks, OG
The Titans were on the cusp of gaining a wild card entry into the 2011 playoffs. Tennessee was pretty quiet during the 2012 off-season. This was somewhat surprising considering their most dynamic weapon, RB Chris Johnson , struggled to live up to the contract he signed in 2011. The Titans should have been looking to make a huge splash for their offensive line, but after missing out on OG Carl Nicks (who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) their options to make drastic improvement were limited. The Titans didn't go without as they signed former Minnesota Viking OG Steve Hutchinson. Hutchinson was injured for the 2010 season and most of the 2011 season, making him a bit of risk. Hutchinson was not the game changing OG I thought the Titans would target, but he is an upgrade to their other options.
Prediction Grade: B
5. New England Patriots – Cortland Finnegan, CB
New England was on the cusp of winning Super Bowl 46, but their defense was exposed for what it was: a group of players that were not ready to take on even a semi elite wide receiver corps. I had predicted that NE would have to add a top tier CB to be competitive in the NFL in 2012. I thought Cortland Finnegan, who signed with the St. Louis Rams, would fit in great with the New England Patriots. The AFC east, with the departure of Brandon Marshall, has the most intimidating wide receivers, and that may have been the main reason why Bill Bellichick did not go after a top level cornerback; in fact, the only cornerback the Patriots signed in free agency was former Miami Dolphin Will Allen. Allen, a former first round draft pick by the New York Giants, has never lived up to his first round selection, and doesn't qualify as a game changer for the New England defensive backfield. The Patriots didn't even draft a cornerback until pick number 224 in the seventh round when they drafted Alfonzo Dennard out of Nebraska. New England decided to focus more on their defensive front, so my prediction of them upgrading their defensive backfield fell way short.
Prediction Grade: F
Overall Prediction GPA: 2.2.
I didn't do too bad with my predictions overall, but I will have to focus more on the mindset of the coaching staff and not the team needs to be more successful in the future. New England Patriots head coach Bellichick is a defensive mastermind, and his decision to get players to improve getting pressure on the quarterback should not have been overlooked. Rookie mistake on my part!