Andrew and Sterling take an awards-style look at the crowded playoff picture. Plus, a special Thanksgiving Loser League announcement!
02 Mar 2009
compiled by Vince Verhei
Each weekend of the regular season, and on notable weekends of the offseason, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2009.
Bill Barnwell: How on God's green earth are the Redskins clearing enough cap room to(reportedly) go after Albert Haynesworth, Chris Canty, and Jason Brown?
And is Jason Brown suddenly the best interior lineman in football?
And so it starts. DeAngelo Hall re-signs with the Redskins: Six years, $54.5 million, $22.5 million guaranteed.
Estimates at the start of the session was that they'd have $8 million or so in cap space available. Unless they make a few more moves before swooping for one of the big free agents, I can't see how they'd be able to go after Haynesworth, et al. Then again, that's what I thought two weeks ago.
Mike Tanier: Tons of money for a flake. Sounds like another fantasy football spring is in store for the Redskins.
Doug Farrar: Redskins get Haynesworth. Initial word is seven years, $100 million, $40-plus million guaranteed. Per Adam Schefter.
Mike Tanier: Well, he's a great player and a good signing. Maybe THIS is the year that the Redskins go nuts in free agency and it actually works out for them.
Bill Barnwell: I really don't get the thing with Haynesworth where everyone is sure he's going to start dogging it once he gets the big deal. There seems to be this idea that he sucked before he stomped Andre Gurode and since then, he has been great, whereas it was more that he was a good player before that incident, sucked that year, and then has been awesome the last two years.
Either way, I'd rather give $40 million guaranteed to a guy who was arguably the best player on his side of the ball in football two years straight than give it to a quarterback who has four years of mediocrity and one good season on his record. Not to name any names or anything.
Sean McCormick: Bart Scott to the Jets. Presumably that means Ray Lewis finishes up in Baltimore.
Doug Farrar: Lewis told someone who told Schefter (per the ever-informative NFL Network crawl) that he's not going back.
Sean McCormick: He's probably overestimating his value on the open market. After all, at this point neither Washington nor Oakland can sign him, and Dallas doesn't seem inclined to. Where is he going, exactly? Cincinnati?
Bill Barnwell: Miami makes some sense. Maybe even San Diego.
Sean McCormick: I don't think Miami would pay Lewis what he thinks he is worth. San Diego probably could afford to plug him in for one or two years, but would they rather pay top dollar for a declining Lewis or draft one of the USC linebackers and go that route? It's a pretty strong year for linebackers, which you would think would lower the value of spending top dollars on a 34-year-old veteran, even one who is still playing at a pretty high level.
Bill Barnwell: I would agree with that, but San Diego isn't exactly being run logically at the moment. Replacing LaDainian Tomlinson with Lewis would also alleviate a lot of the PR hit they'd theoretically take for losing their franchise player.
Sean McCormick: That's true as well. Still, I suspect the coaches who would be most interested in taking on Lewis and the potential baggage he represents are the ones who have worked with him in the past. Marvin Lewis doesn't have a lot of cash flow to work with in Cincinnati, and he may not have the standing at this point to make that kind of major acquisition. Mike Nolan seems like more of a possibility, as he's just stepped on board (albeit as a coordinator), and Denver is never shy about spending on veteran players.
Bill Barnwell: OK Sean, here's one: What do the Patriots see in Chris Baker?
Sean McCormick: Baker can actually catch the ball, unlike Ben Watson?
Honestly, Baker is a very serviceable player. He's not big enough to be a great blocker, but he's not a liability, and he is a reliable short to intermediate target. Very good hands. His DVOA has been consistently high, but his attempts have generally been low, for the last few seasons because the Jets needed to keep him in to block, and then last year because Dustin Keller took over as the top receiving tight end.
Bill Barnwell: That's true. Watson seems to picked up Daniel Graham's magic hands after he left.
How do you think Baker fits into that offense, though? It seems like they already have a ton of short targets.
Sean McCormick: He's just an extra piece. Maybe a package player, someone who can be the receiving option in heavy sets and can be on the line or in the backfield when the Patriots move to a shotgun look.
Bill Barnwell: Someone's who not just an extra piece: Kellen Winslow. The Bucs just picked him for what, at the moment, are undisclosed draft picks.
Seems like selling low, but I guess ManKok just wanted him out of the organization.
Ravens also pick up Dominique Foxworth for four years, $28 million, with $16 million guaranteed. Doug? I didn't see enough of him to really pass comment.
Doug Farrar: Good guy, but the Falcons weren't going to pay that much. He started at left cornerback the last half of the season in the wake of the whole DeAngelo Hall thing and provided reasonable consistency. Word is that the Falcons are interested in Jabari Greer. Thomas Dimitroff was looking heavily at secondary at the Combine.
Sean McCormick: Maybe the Browns thought they could sign Chris Baker.
I would have thought Braylon Edwards would be on the chopping block before Winslow.
Bill Barnwell: I love the Moran Norris thing. He has a great 2006, struggled in 2007, and then doesn't fit in the offense in 2008, so they cut him. He goes and plays for the Lions, and now the 49ers think they need to bring him back for $5 million. Right.
Mike Tanier: I don't think Haynesworth will dog it in D.C. While I have been joking in the lounge that he and Hall will start curb-stomping people after every whistle, I don't think that's an issue either. It's just the whole Redskins "one hole plugged, two more open" issue. I know they aren't done spending (heaven forbid), but isn't the offense the bigger problem?
And I think back to the year they signed Dana Stubblefield and Big Daddy Wilkinson and were supposed to dominate the league on the D-line. Boy, they have been winning the February Lombardi for years and years.
Bill Barnwell: I think the other issue is the Roy Williams thing -- they didn't really have a problem at defensive tackle, where Cornelius Griffin is a good (albeit injury-prone) player and they had an up-and-comer in Anthony Montgomery that they gave no time to this year.
Bill Moore: Patriots are also bringing in Leigh Bodden today.
Aaron Schatz: The chief appears! Driving back from my root canal (ouch), Peter King was on WEEI and noted that owner Randy Lerner was the only person in Cleveland who still wanted Kellen Winslow in the organization. Apparently, he just causes lots of locker room problems. Let's be honest, we're talking about a guy who may have missed a game last year with swollen balls from an STD. He's also had a motorcycle accident, not to mention the on-field knee injuries. King also said that he doesn't think Eric Mangini will keep anyone in Cleveland who doesn't fully buy into his team concept except for maybe Shaun Rogers. I'm a little stunned by how much bad mojo seems to be coming out of Cleveland, with players who just seem really unhappy with Mangini's interpersonal skills.
I think that the Redskins made the right move by cutting Shawn Springs instead of Carlos Rogers once they needed the money to pay DeAngelo Hall and Haynesworth, because of Springs' age and injury history. But I also think Springs is still an excellent corner and makes a very good signing for a team that can take a chance on that age and injury history. New England, which needs corners and loves veterans who are willing to take a "good chance at the Super Bowl" discount? Kansas City, which has lots of cap room and where he could be a third corner and tutor for Flowers and Carr? St. Louis could use a guy like Springs.
Bill Barnwell: I thought it was swollen balls from a Viagra overdose. And I mean... let he who hasn't... OK, yeah, that's not any better.
Patrick Laverty: Oh no, Kellen Winslow is dead in Russia?
Doug Farrar: Now all the Bucs have to do is re-sign Jerramy Stevens and they can have Dueling Noxious Jackasses at the tight end position. Sweet!
Vince Verhei: Not a trade, but I'm a little surprised that nobody's discussing Sage Rosenfels to the Vikings. Minnesota passing DVOA for the past three seasons: -23.2% in '06, -5.3% in '07, -4.9% last year. Rosenfels over the past three years: 42.3% in '06 (on just 40 passes), 24.3% in '07, 3.9% last season. The Vikings were division champions last season (granted, it was a weak division), and they should be significantly improved this season. I'm not ready to dub them NFC champs, but shouldn't this be bigger news?
Fred Taylor to the Patriots. Great fit; with the Pats he'll get 5 to 10 carries a game, and should be able to maintain fresh legs.
Ned Macey: There's no bigger Rosenfels guy then me, but A) I'm not sure he'll actually win the job and B) he does seem prone to the big mistake when he gets extended playing time. The Vikings need to develop an identity in their passing game, and then see which quarterback is a better fit, because they are pretty equal in terms of overall ability.
Vince Verhei: You really think Tarvaris Jackson is close to Rosenfels?
I don't think Rosenfels is the next Steve Young or Trent Green. He's a mediocre, journeyman, stopgap quarterback. But I do think he's clearly better than Jackson, who is a disaster.
Ned Macey: Well, Jackson's DVOA was 9.9% last year, his first with anything approaching a legitimate starting receiver. Also, let's just say I believe in the power of a talented No. 1 receiver to inflate a mediocre quarterback's numbers, and Rosenfels throws a lot of balls to Andre Johnson. See also Warner, Kurt; Bulger, Marc (when Holt still had legs); Culpepper, Daunte, or at a higher level McNabb, Donovan and Brady, Tom.
Bill Barnwell: There are rumors about Mike Vrabel being traded to the Chiefs. Thoughts?
Bill Moore: Reaction: Shock.
Patrick Laverty: Yeah, the Patriots are already scary thin at linebacker and they're trading away one of their useful ones? I don't get it. But "We Trust In Bill."
Aaron Schatz: Don't forget that the Pats drafted three linebackers last year. Expect to see a lot more of Shawn Crable this year, and maybe Barrett Ruud's brother Bo.
Doug Farrar: Maybe they have an eye on Cincinnati's Connor Barwin in the draft. Projects best as a 3-4 outside linebacker and played three years of tight end. He's totally that Belichick Swiss Army guy.
Ned Macey: I'm not a big believer in "We Trust in Bill" as a way to excuse all personnel moves, but have the Pats ever given up on a guy too soon? Not even whether the second-year guys will be more cost-efficient than Vrabel, but the guys who leave are just not even good. Ty Law's "Pro Bowl" performance with the Jets is the best year I can think of off the top of my head.
Patrick Laverty: Was Ty Law better than Asante Samuel this year or Adam Vinatieri for the last couple? Other than that, you do get into the Damien Woodys and David Pattens.
Aaron Schatz: The Patriots did not give up on Asante Samuel or Adam Vinatieri. They were outbid for those players. There's a difference between being outbid for a free agent on one hand, and trading or releasing a guy on the other hand.
Doug Farrar: Great leaping ocelots! Brian Dawkins is a Bronco?
Mike Tanier: I better not even turn on the freakin' radio around here.
Bill Barnwell: Kerry Collins, $16 million for two years from the Titans, say our chatters.
Robert Weintraub: Being a Bengals fan on free agency's opening day means never having to hit "refresh."
Admittedly, I'm interested in where T.J. Houshmandzadeh winds up. NFC North teams are circling, but Seattle makes more sense to me -- better quarterback, less media scrutiny, closer to his L.A. home and old college haunts. Also, it's interesting to witness the change of perception in Atlanta. A year ago, most people were lusting for Glenn Dorsey to shore up the interior D-line, and lambasted the Ryan pick. Now, the best stuffer of them all is available and says he wants to be a Dirty Bird, and Dimitroff shuts down the talk with extreme prejudice, saying they won't chase free agents, and there isn't so much as a murmur of dissent around town. Amazing what a shock playoff run and a little BeliScent can do for you.
By the way, Foxworth was decent but wanted way more money than the Falcs thought he was (Fox) worth, and I'm inclined to agree. That's a lot of millions invested today in a pair of cornerbacks (DeAngelo too) that the Falcons didn't want, and they have a weak secondary.
Bill Barnwell: Mike Florio's reporting that the Chiefs have acquired Matt Cassel to go along with Vrabel. No comment on what it's worth, although someone in the chat yesterday was saying the rumor was Cassel, Vrabel, and the Patriots' No. 1 for the Chiefs' No. 1, with another swap of picks or two in the later rounds.
Commenter says Peter King says Vrabel and Cassel for KC second-round pick.
That seems fair, although I expect the Boston media will scream bloody murder that they didn't get two first-round picks or whatever the rumor mill had Cassel's price at.
Sean McCormick: The hidden underside of the Sage Rosenfels deal is that it knocked the legs out from under the trade market for Cassel. Well, that is assuming that Detroit is intent on drafting Matthew Stafford.
Good move for KC. They're in position to take arguably the best player in the draft in Aaron Curry, and they have added solid short- and long-term pieces to each side of the ball in the last two offseasons. They're positioned to rebound nicely.
Vince Verhei: I was flabbergasted the Patriots only got a second-rounder. If the Chiefs didn't want to throw in the first-rounder because it's the third overall pick, then fine, New England could have added a third or a fourth to sweeten the pot. Then they could have taken that third overall pick and traded down for extra choices.
Michael Lombardi on NFL Network, in breaking down this deal, just said flat-out that he'd rather have the early second-rounder than the top-five pick because of the finances involved. Which begs the question: If the salary scale of the draft is so clearly screwed up that lower picks are preferred to higher picks, isn't it time to seriously re- adjust the system?
Bill Barnwell: I agree with Lombardi. I'm a firm believer in the "quantity over quality" idea of draft picks. An early second-round pick gets a deal at around $4 million to $6 million. That top-five pick is from $25 million to $35 million. Absolutely, the system should be adjusted.
Patrick Laverty: Once I heard that the moment Jake Long was drafted last year, he was guaranteed to be the highest paid offensive lineman in history, I thought the system needed to be changed.
It'll be interesting when we see top 5 teams in the draft just saying "no thanks." Or trade the pick to the EFL Marlboro Shamrocks or something.
Ned Macey: I agree that the system needs to be changed, but I'm probably the only one who thinks that the early first-rounders are properly compensated and that the problem is that the true value of second-rounders is greatly depressed.
The one piece of FO wisdom, such that we have a shared opinion, that I most disagree with is the idea that you should always trade out of the early picks. In the past five-plus years, the salary cap has radically increased and very much changed the calculus for teams. Ask the Commish has a whopping three teams over the salary cap as the free agency period begins, and one of those teams just spent $100 million on the only difference-maker available.
The only team with a bunch of recent high first-round picks in any sort of cap trouble is Oakland. The Lions, 49ers, and Texans all are among the top 10 in cap room. How are they being hurt by any possible flops? Look at the Titans, they went 13-3 without Vince Young playing and still enter the offseason $35 million below the cap.
The big study on the value of early second-round picks crucially said two things. First, the quality of players continually decreases as you go down the draft. Second, the marginal value is highest at the beginning of the second round. Since very few teams are in any sort of cap trouble, if you care most about fielding the best possible team, then you would want access to the best players (like, say, a Jake Long or a Matt Ryan, who really crippled the Dolphins and Falcons last year).
The other factor is that since the salary cap has gone up, people can keep all their best players. Only one great player was on the market this season, and the Titans could afford to keep him under the cap but decided that they'd rather not spend what another team would offer. If very good players are not reaching the market in free agency, the only way to acquire them is through the draft, and the early first-round picks are, overall, the best players in the draft.
The only justification for taking the second-rounder over a first-rounder is if the owner wants to pocket the difference and not spend to the cap. The Patriots, for instance, are listed at $25 million below the cap. The third overall pick is better than the 33rd pick. For the Patriots to prefer the 35th is merely a way for Robert Kraft to keep more money (and given the quality of owner Kraft is, it makes me doubt any story that they would rather have the second-rounder).
Bill Barnwell: I definitely think that there are owners who don't want to spend to the cap limit, although Kraft isn't likely to be one of them. (Then again, ask him how his village is doing). I suspect that there are a bunch of teams whose real cap isn't the NFL's cap, but instead $100 or $105 million or so.
The other factor is that owners in any sport tend to be extremely risk-averse. Spending to the cap every year when you can win by only spending $100 million is a risk most owners aren't willing to take. Furthermore, the difference between a first-round pick and a second-round pick in likelihood of succeeding is huge, but not THAT huge. First-round picks average 9 games started per season over their first ten years or something similar; second-round picks average 7. You're obviously more likely to find an elite player with the first-round pick, granted, but with the second-rounder you're paying 10 percent of the price for, what, 80 percent of the player? That's a bargain.
I agree with your point that raising the price of other picks is the most logical explanation, and the one that best mirrors the reality of their value, but it's not going to happen.
Tim Gerheim: I hear every year about how the system of compensating draft picks needs to be changed, but there is no system there to change. What players get paid is a matter of industry custom and market-clearing economic agreement. There is nothing in the world that says first-round picks have to be paid any amount. There's nothing that says they have to be paid more than second-round picks, except the logic that if they were picked first, they're more valuable, so they should be paid more. Every year teams gripe about how much first-rounders make, and agents probably gripe about how much second-rounders make, although it gets a lot less press, but every year teams and agents agree to contracts. The salary cap system defines the kinds of instruments they can use in their contracts (kind of) and dictates what the cap consequences of them will be, but it doesn't mandate who gets paid what, or that players get paid more than the previous year (except for increases in minimum salary, which is irrelevant for high picks). You can't change the system; only the teams agreeing to the contracts can change the contracts by pushing the prices down. If they don't want to do that enough, is there really anything wrong with the pricing?
Bill Barnwell: If the teams with the top five picks in this year's draft chose guys and then said "We're holding the line, no one gets more than $5 million guaranteed," what would happen?
Sean McCormick: They would be sued for collusion?
Ben Riley: I have a couple of thoughts about this subject, based on some of the research and collaboration I did last year with Cade Massey (of Massey & Thaler's draft-study fame).
The first thing to remember when discussing draft picks is the difference between absolute and relative value. Ned is largely correct when he says the value of a pick decreases continually throughout the draft, if you measure it based on a player's projected starts throughout his career. But the distribution is not perfect (the data below was provided to me by Massey):
First overall pick: 11.77 mean games started per season.
So, strictly speaking, the ninth pick in the draft is the best, if measured by historical performance. (Important caveat: This measurement doesn't take into account the performance during those starts, but trust me when I tell you the distribution of Pro Bowl players is even more random.) But, confirming Ned's general proposition, you can see the huge dropoff that occurs in expected starts from the beginning to the end of the first round
As we've been discussing, things get more complicated once you layer in the economic cost of signing high picks. This is where Massey & Thaler concluded that teams would be better off picking at the end of the first round, based on the risk/reward ratio of expected performance to guaranteed contract value. Yet, if this is so, it remains a puzzle to me as to why teams don't voluntarily drop in the draft -- there's no penalty for simply passing on your pick (though that might change quickly if a team employed this strategy). I think it's a mistake, however, to assume that because many teams have cap room, this means there are no competitive problems raised by rookie salaries. Teams are committing an extraordinary amount of guaranteed money to unproven products, and one or two major mistakes can create huge opportunity costs.
All that said, the irony here is that the draft actually *supresses* rookie salaries. A draft pick is an exclusive right to negotiate with a rookie free agent for one year. Any Econ 101 professor will tell you that restricting the number of parties that the rookie can negotiate with will inevitably reduce the "market clearing" price for said rookie. In other words, if there was no draft, teams would bid up the price of the top picks to the point that they'd make the market for subprime loans look rational.
Bill Barnwell: I'm not so sure about the Econ 101 rule applying here. Thinking back to the last few seasons... I doubt that anyone in this year's draft would receive compensation amongst the top five players at their position, as they likely will in the draft. I certainly don't think Matt Stafford would get $30 million guaranteed, or that Aaron Curry would get a deal approaching what DeMarcus Ware will get.
Last year, I doubt anyone gives Jake Long $30 million guaranteed or Matt Ryan $35 million. Maybe. But I doubt it.
Maybe someone gives Reggie Bush that much in 2006.
I think if you made the market for players coming out of college entirely free, you'd see the price of guys with late-first round/early-second round grades go way up, but the prices of the tippy-top guys would probably be around the same level or slightly below. I can't believe that teams would devote the money they could give to Albert Haynesworth to, say, Glenn Dorsey.
And another note: If anyone has the perfect situation to simply pass on the first overall pick, it's Jim Schwartz, who's likely aware of what a shitty situation this is for the team financially, and has pretty much the latitude amongst his fan base to do whatever he wants since it can't be worse than the Millen Regime. I just doubt he can convince Martin Mayhew, et al., to do it.
Tim Gerheim: Bill's right that Econ 101 may not apply here, in the sense that it's too simple to say that the player is restricted in the number of teams he can negotiate with. It ignores the fact that the team is restricted in the number of players it can negotiate with. It only gets to negotiate with one "first-round player," so the challenge to bargaining power exists on both sides. Both sides have a substantial opportunity cost to not getting the deal done: The player doesn't get to play, and the team doesn't get a first-round pick.
Patrick Laverty: I agree with Bill and Tim too. I think it was Charlie Finley who said that once free agency was created in Major League Baseball, he advocated for every player to be a free agent every single year. The players union quickly said "no." For obvious reasons. Flood the market and the value will go down. If there is a truly special player available to teams coming out of college, he may get bid up, but in years when there are a handful of good to great players, they won't get the same money as established players with All-Pro or future HOF resumes.
Ben Riley: I should be clear that I'm not talking about any rookie player in particular being able to command more or less in free agency than via a draft. It is undeniable that the market rate for picks one through five picks seems absurdly out of whack, much like CEO salaries. What I am saying is that, in aggregate, the total amount spent on rookies is almost certainly less than what it would be if *all *rookies were free agents. Matt Stafford might get less, but the Malcolm Jenkins's and the Michael Ohers would likely get more (please insert other mid- to late first-round picks if these two examples don't satisfy you).
It is true that the teams are restricted to negotiating with the players they have picked -- but the important difference is that the teams get to pick who they want to negotiate with in the first place. Moreover, the system was created by the teams -- ostensibly to create competitive balance, but (the cynical capitalist would posit) also to fundamentally alter the balance of power between rookie free agents and ownership.
The "flood the market" argument has no relevance here. Every player who is not drafted is an "undrafted free agent" who can sign with any team. The draft simply restricts the employment opportunities for the top 200 or so players every year.
Bill Moore: It was important for New England to free up some cap space, but I'm still shocked that Vrabel was included in this deal. Brady's improved condition likely zapped any value for Cassel. With Brady saying he thinks he can start by Week 1 of 2009, most teams knew New England had to unload Cassel.
That said, I would have thought they could have gotten the deal of Cassel for No. 34 done without having to throw Vrabel in the mix. He may be a 33-, 34-year-old linebacker, but the guy is good, and $3.4 million in cap space isn't particularly bad -- especially when you consider he will still account for $1 million of the Pats 2009 cap.
I believe Cassel signed the Franchise contract. Does that mean KC is obligated to pay him $14 million this year, or can they restructure? What is KC's cap situation?
Vince Verhei: Franchised players are always free to re-sign new deals, trade or no trade. Usually it's for less guaranteed money in Year One, but more guaranteed money over the course of the contract.
For example, the Giants franchised Brandon Jacobs, guaranteeing him $6.6 million in 2009. The contract he signed contained $13 to $15 million guaranteed, but spread out over four years.
So I'd guess that Cassel soon signs a four-year deal with KC, with $25 to $30 million guaranteed. Just a guess.
Bill Moore: Understand the economics, but I thought Jacobs had not signed the contract yet. I *thought* that once the franchise designation contract was signed, you couldn't cut a new deal. Is that wrong?!?
Bill Barnwell: There are two different franchise tags.
Non-exclusive: Players can negotiate with other teams. Teams can sign them to offer sheets and, if the former team chooses not to match, the signing team gives up two first-round picks.
Exclusive: Players can't negotiate with other teams. They may also get a higher salary, I forget how that portion works.
Everyone this year, if I recall correctly, got tagged as non-exclusive. Last year, everyone got tagged as non-exclusive except for Nnamdi. In general, teams don't feel the need to tag players as exclusive since most teams would take two first-round picks for any player on their roster.
Reports are coming out now that the Patriots could have gotten the 12th pick in exchange for Cassel from the Broncos, but I'm guessing Belichick sniffed that something was fishy there.
Sean McCormick: It sounds like Josh McDaniel may have really stirred things up with his failed attempt to swap out Jay Cutler for Matt Cassel. You would think it would blow over simply because Denver has no realistic choice save to hang onto Jay Cutler now, but still... it's not a good way to start your career.
Bill Barnwell: Cowboys just acquired Jon Kitna from the Lions for Anthony Henry. Sort of a useless deal for the Lions, who need guys in the secondary, but Henry's a tweener.
Mike Tanier: Meanwhile, in the Eagles clubhouse after Brian Dawkins left:
TRENT COLE: Something is wrong. I feel... leaderless.
MIKE PATTERSON: Me too. I feel unmotivated. Rudderless. Empty. Someone should call a meeting to talk about it.
CHRIS GOCONG: But who? Only leaders can call meetings. We have no leaders. No leaders whatsoever!
ASANTE SAMUEL: You are right. I am just a Pro Bowl caliber player who spent years playing for the most successful franchise of recent history. I cannot possibly fill the void.
SHELDON BROWN: Nor can I, a veteran who has been with the team for years.
DONOVAN McNABB: Everyone knows I can't do it, because I am weak, selfish, lazy, temperamental, incompetent, and secretly evil.
TRENT COLE: Guys, I forget ... I forget how to put on a helmet. Is this strap thing a chin strap or a scrotum strap?
CHRIS GOCONG: Who will bang his fist on the ground and make crazy gestures when his name is announced? Without those gestures, we cannot possibly win.
SHELDON BROWN: I ... I can try. When they call my name, I will smile and blow kisses to everyone, wave my hand gently. That will work right? Please, tell me that will work.
MIKE PATTERSON: My God, why won't anyone call a meeting?
ASANTE SAMUEL: Woe unto us. Our only hope was to keep playing an aging safety whose skills have been in decline for years, a guy we had to hide in coverage. He may have been a step too slow. We may have had to keep Quentin Demps in deep coverage to protect him, but Dawkins' leadership was the only thing that kept this defense together!
CHRIS GOCONG: Guys, how do we get out of the clubhouse? Dawkins always led the way. Without him, we may never figure out how to leave this room!
MIKE PATTERSON: I'll never see daylight again. I'll never see daylight again.
SHELDON BROWN: That wooden thing, with the knob and the hinges. I think it holds the secret to our escape. Trent, try to do something to it.
TRENT COLE: I cannot. I am not driven enough, not intense enough.
BRIAN WESTBROOK: C'mon guys, aren't we getting carried away? Brian was a great player, but he was well past his prime. He was turning into a role player, and he probably only has one year left as a starter. Yes, his leadership meant a lot to all of us. But we are all professionals, and there are plenty of veterans on this roster who know how to win. There's me, Sheldon, Asante. Mike, you and Trent are young veterans now, and you can do your part to keep everyone focused and ready to play. Even Donovan might conceivably play a leadership role, as insane as that sounds. So let's wish Brian well and get on with our lives. What do you say? Guys? Guys?
TRENT COLE: I think I am going to go wedge my head behind the toilet and sob.
MIKE PATTERSON: Me too
CHRIS GOCONG: Make room!
BRIAN WESTBROOK: Sigh.
Bill Barnwell: I can't top that.
Andre Goodman: $25 million for five years. For a guy who was waiver bait last year. Huh?
Aaron Schatz: I'm surprised there hasn't been more talk about the Falcons losing two-thirds of their starting linebackers. Who replaces Michael Boley and Keith Brooking for them?
Doug Farrar: Neither move was really a surprise. Boley didn't fit the new defense and Brooking was at least one step too slow. I see them going draft/depth at both outside linebacker positions, with the real focus on nose tackle. They want quicker guys to fly around with the linebackers, which means they have to get more stout up the middle. Curtis Lofton was a Lofa Tatupu-level awesome pick last year; now Tom Dimitroff has to do it again. He was adamant at the Combine that the team wasn't going nuts in free agency, and he knew who he was going to lose. Probably the only shock was losing Domonique Foxworth to the Ravens for less money than the Falcons were offering. That put them on a bit of a ledge defensively -- it's a lot to replace.
Plus, they don't have the extra picks they got in the DeAngelo Hall fleecing last year.
Vince Verhei: I don't see either guy as being irreplaceable. Boley was coming off the bench by the end of last season. Brooking has been remarkably healthy (hasn't missed a game in eight years), but was never as good as his reputation and turns 34 in October.
Aaron Schatz: Do we have any thoughts from our Seattle contingent on T.J. Whosyourdaddy? Seems to me the Seahawks just picked up Bobby Engram, only younger. Unfortunately, "younger" still means 32.
Doug Farrar: It's a good signing in that Houshamazood can actually take the field consistently, doesn't drop balls, doesn't blow out his knee every time a blade of grass hits it the wrong way, and is better than the bag full of SEC second-day receivers that team president Tim Ruskell thought would perform at an unrealistic level in 2008. He'd be a No. 2 in a competent offense -- for Seattle, he goes in as the No. 1 right away. I think his 164 DYAR in 2008 was more than every Seattle receiver combined, so that's a good place to start.
And yes, it probably does mean the end for Bobby Engram. Which I think is a mistake. Moreover, it may mean the end of that "Seattle has to draft Michael Crabtree" talk. I was OK with Crabtree as a 6-foot 3 receiver with a 4.55 40 with the fourth overall pick. But as a 6-1 guy who won't run at the Combine or his Pro Day? I mean, Ruskell generally needs all the help he can get when it comes to receiver evaluation. Time to draft an offensive lineman with that high pick! If Houshmandzadeh means that Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe find their names on Seattle's card, I like the signing even more.
Two concerns, though -- how will he do as the main receiver without a primary target to take the attention, and should we be worried that his YPC has decreased every year since 2004? Rob, as our resident Bengals fan, what's your take on this guy?
Ben Riley: Yes, he'll be 32 by the time the season starts, but he's trapped in a 27-year-old body! All kidding aside, the reality is that Houshmanzadeh has never possessed elite speed, so his age is less of a concern than it might otherwise be -- and if the Seahawks can get the same sort of production from T.J. that they've gotten from Bobby Engram over the same age span (i.e, age 32 to 35), they'll be ecstatic. He'll also provide Matt Hasselbeck with the nice, leaping red zone target he's lacked since Joe Jurevicius left town. Finally, it's worth remembering that this is a team that still has Billy McMullen signed to the active roster; unless Crabtree is the second coming of Randy Moss or Marques Colston, the Hawks needed immediate help at this position.
Vince Verhei: I think, as Doug noted, that the biggest impact of the signing is that it will lead to the drafting of a lineman, not a receiver, with the fourth pick. In the short term, sure, he's now their best receiver, but given the rest of the roster, so what? The team seems to think the window of opportunity with Matt Hasselbeck is closing; I think it's closed, and that he won't be on the next great Seahawks team, and neither will Walter Jones. And neither, for that matter, will Houshmandzadeh. (I'm not concerned about T.J.'s yards per catch last year; I think that's entirely due to playing with Fitzpatrick the Meek at quarterback.)
I'm frankly more intrigued about what's going to happen in Cincinnati. They were dead last in points last season (29th in DVOA), and now they have lost a starting tackle and Housh, and Chad Ocho Cinco could be next. Carson Palmer will be returning, but I have this vision of him walking into the huddle, looking at ten faces that belong in the Arena League, and walking right back to the sideline, shaking his head.
Doug Farrar: Very true about the window. If the Seahawks made this deal with the thought that they're a couple of key guys away from a deep playoff run (which is my fear), they're completely delusional.
Will Carroll: What's left on the free agent market? All I've heard today is that the economy will force smaller deals now that the top tier is gone and that the Pats have a bunch of cap room, which scares Indy media. I could use some rational thought.
Bill Barnwell: Pats' cap room is going towards resigning their defensive line. They've already been asking Moss to renegotiate his deal in order to allow them to re-sign James Sanders.
You're gonna see something a lot like what happened in baseball, I figure -- the top guys get the top money, and teams start figuring out that replacement-level guys aren't worth that much and pay accordingly. Best UFAs left on the market are Ray Lewis (priced himself out of deals everywhere), Kurt Warner (probably signing with SF), Matt Birk (probably re-signing with Minnesota or retiring), Jon Runyan (same thing with Philly), Leigh Bodden (rumored to be heading to NE), and Jeff Garcia (waiting for the Warner deal to play out).
Doug Farrar: If Warner signs with the 49ers, Michael Bidwill is officially the dumbest person on the planet.
80 comments, Last at 20 Jan 2010, 5:34am by Damier Azur