With the division "bloggers" over at ESPN.com digging into their bag of gimmicks, listing top 10 "building blocks" (players you'd choose if your goal was to contend for a title over the next 3 years) I set out to expand on their concept. Building an All-AFC South cast of starters, and now a 45 man gameday-roster that fits under the cap (with room to spare for the inactives).
QB: Still gotta have Peyton Manning (14mil), he's expensive, but the best QB in the league is worth it. On the principal that it's better to go out with a bang than a whimper my backup is the newly signed Rex Grossman (620k) In a league where Jim Sorgi, Cleo Lemon and Dan Orlosky make 1.3, 2.8 and 3.1 million a year, respectively, a QB who has had even short term success as a starter is a great deal for the league minimum.
RB: I chose MJD for the All-AFC South starters, but his new contract extension makes him 3 times more expensive than Chris Johnson or Joseph Addai, and the price of 5 Steve Slatons. MJD isn't THAT much better than the other 3, not by a longshot. So with MJD out in a cost cutting move, I'll pass up my former draft crush and the back I've fiercely defended for the last year, for Steve Slaton (552K). Slaton is the cheapest, was a better receiver than Johnson and weathered a workload that broke Addai down in 2007. The main hole is Slaton's game is as a pass blocker. Where could we find a tandem partner who can pass block? Joseph Addai (1.67mil), and I've got the cash, so let's grab all 3 starting backs still on their rookie deals, Chris Johnson (1.79mil)
WR: I was able to save on the backs, but there isn't cheap talent near the levels of Andre Johnson (7.2mil) and Reggie Wayne (6.96mil), Anthony Gonzalez is a great 3rd WR for relatively little (1.31mil), Kevin Walter (2mil) averaged 15 yards a catch while catchin 63% of his targets last year, both solidly above average.
TE: I'm all about the passing offense, meaning I'll lay down the nearly 10million for the two best TEs in the division. Dallas Clark (6.77mil), and Owen Daniels (2.79mil), A blocking TE and possible FB Gijon Robinson at the league minimum (385K) to fill out the TEs.
RG: Jake Scott 4.5mil, I didn't really want to spend at guard but the cheaper options are either coming off major injuries or aren't proven. To get guard value out of this pool laying out the cash for Scott is the surest way. I'll back him up with a 16 game starter at guard last year for a vet minimum deal Mike Brisiel (460K).
RT: All four AFC South starting right tackles cost between 4 and 6 million, so I'm making a position change, Tony Ugoh (941K). Ugoh is a powerful run blocker, who would now have much less pressure on him in pass pro.
DEs: Pass Pressure is VITAL and Mario Williams comes remarkably cheap this year at 2.65million allowing for splurging on Dwight Freeney (11.2mil), and Robert Mathis (6.86mil), Dave Ball (620K) is a cheap combo of size and pass rushing ability.
DTs: A 3 man team of undersized pass rushing DTs comes pretty cheap. Tony Brown (1.4mil), Eric Foster (385k), Jason Jones (761K) For some size and massive upside I'll take Amobi Okoye to rebound for (3.12mil), and round out the DTs with Antonio Johnson for some safe league minimum (385k) beef.
LBs: Can't run a Tampa-2 without a top cover MLB, Gary Brackett (3.08mil), DeMeco Ryans is more than worth the 1.4mil price tag to slide to the strongside, on the weakside Clint Session comes dirt cheap at 552K, Xavier Adibi (498K) was a favorite prospect of mine and is working his way into the Texans lineup as a cover LB, I'll round out the LBs with some size and run D from Phillip Wheeler (546K) and Zach Diles (474K)
CB: Cortland Finnegan is an easy choice for just 3.65mil, Kelvin Hayden at 6.68mil is fine for a young talented corner. Marlin Jackson will hold down the slot for 2.76mil. For a backup Fred Bennett has great upside for only 460K
FS: Antoine Bethea or Michael Griffin? Bethea or Griffin? How about both since Bethea comes cheap (552K), Griffin isn't too expensive for a Pro Bowl safety (2.2mil) and both have played as nickel corners.
SS: Gotta have Bob. Sanders costs 6.13mil, but is an All Pro lock and DPOY threat when he makes it through a season healthy. I'll back him up with a starting caliber safety and dynamite special teamer making the slightest bit above the veteran minimum (462K) Melvin Bullitt
K: Kris Brown has nearly the leg of Bironas (my choice when money was no object), and makes half as much (1.35mil)
P: 1.25mil for Matt Turk isn't too much ... I guess.
RET: T.J. Rushing (535K) with Chris Carr out of the division, André Davis' price tag over 4 million and the Jags return games more than a TD below average with Brian Witherspoon having taken over returning from MJD, T.J. is the best bet, even with last year a lost season due to a knee injury.
Total Cap Cost: 124mil (09 cap is 128)
Thanks to Tim at BattleRedBlog for tips on a few cheap useful Texans.