Kevin Carter meets the Freak:
Kevin Carter is moving to Music City and, with him, go the Stillers last, best hope for upgrading their DL pass rush.� The chances were never good; as long as they cling to the 3-4, the Stillers will have few options for that unit.� This year, their DE FA choices began with Marcellus Wiley and ended with Kevin Carter.� Taylor, Rice, Holmes and the rest are all 4-3 players; Wiley and Carter were the only men available with the size/track record to have an impact in the Stillers scheme-o-choice.
Wiley went out early and, really, the Stillers were never in contention.� Maybe they could have been; had the FO cut Kirkland along with, Dirt, Witman, Henry and the rest, possibly, they could have anted up.� In the end though, Marcellus was Left Coast bound and, beyond that personal preference, the Stillers had no chance in a bidding war with the Bolt, who began the FA period 15-20M below the cap.
Carter was another matter.� The Rams franchised this player early but let it be known that, for the right price, that tag would be no obstacle.� The bidding began at multi-first round picks, dropped through a first and a mid-round selection to close at the Titan deal.� That was a single first round selection, #29 overall.� Now there�s a bidding war that the Stiller�s could have won; 16 trumps 29.
Let�s see what the Titans gave up.� Remember, they lost DE Holmes and CB Walker in FA; they cut any number of over-priced, brittle WR.� At #29, they would have had to choose between, say, DE Delawrence Grant, CB Will Allen or Nate Clements or WR Wayne, Chambers, Morgan or Chad Johnson.� Kevin Carter will have more impact over the next 1-3 years than any of those players.� The Titans are contenders now; this move gives them their best shot to win before the Eddie George Era winks out.
I�m not big on giving up draft picks; I like to think that good drafts build good teams.� Still, it is worth considering what the Stillers would have given, had they shipped their #16 to St. Louis. Since they�ve cut Henry and Kirkland, the consensus is that the Stillers are looking at LB and DE, in some order.� The 3-4 scheme eliminates DE Smith, Carter and Reynolds and it is highly likely that, by #16, DT Warren and DE/DT Seymour will be gone.� That leaves Stroud and Lewis on the D-line and Dan Morgan at MLB.� If Morgan is gone, and I think he will be, the Stillers will reach at DL or, God help them, take MLB Bell or Torrance Marshall.
With the possible exception of Morgan, Carter would have helped the 2001 Stillers more than any of the players listed.� I�d add Morgan; in my opinion, Kevin Carter was the best D-side player available at #16. Put it this way, give me Carter and, say, Casey Hampton in the 2nd and I�ll take my chances at LB whether on the 2nd day or during the wave of June cap cuts.� The franchise tag for DE is about $5.4M; for LB, it is $4.7M.� It follows that the LB in June will come cheaper than DE of equivalent ability.
PFW guru Joel Buschbaum reportedly described Carter as, at his best, better than any of the DL available this spring.� That is true but insufficient.� At his best, Carter had 17 sacks in �99.� That made him better than any DE in the NFL.� At his worst, in his contract-wracked �00 campaign, Carter had 10.5 sacks.� I don�t see Seymour or Warren getting there, do you?� 10.5 is the same number Wiley put up in his break-out 2000 campaign.� At his worst, Carter is as good as (nearly) any DE in football; at his best, he is untouchable.
Age isn�t at issue.� Carter is 27, one year older than Wiley, two years younger than Bettis.� I�d say he has 3-4 seasons left.� By 2003, Seymour or Warren may be more effective; I wouldn�t bet on it though.� Cap room should have been no obstacle; it wasn�t for the Titans.� As of yesterday, RealNFL had the Stillers at 2.59M below; they had the Titans at 66K.� That�s right, sixty-six thousand dollars below; the Titans were capped out but signed Carter anyway.
Of course, this is a familiar pattern.� In �99, the Stillers passed on Jevon Kearse to select Troy Edwards.� At #16 overall, the Titans got the defensive rookie of the year.� This year, the Stillers (in essence) passed on Carter at #16 to draft, well who knows?� It may be Morgan but don�t hold your breath.
You�ve got to wonder how Russ Grimm and Mike Mularkey are feeling today.� Somehow, they�ve got to deal with a DE tandem of Carter and Kearse.� There may be a fair number of two-TE sets when the 2001 Stillers meet the Freak and his new friend, KC. �Re-alignment can�t come too soon since, whatever happens, the Titans will be out of the Stiller�s division.� Since at least �99, it has been obvious that, on the field or in the FO, the Stillers just can�t compete with the juggernaut built down in Nashville