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Do defenses really wear out over the course of a game? Do defenses benefit from long drives that give them more time to rest on the sideline? Guest columnist Ben Baldwin investigates.

02 Mar 2009

Audibles: Free Agency 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.
2: 11.79
3: 10.34
4: 12.12
5: 10.97
6: 10.63
7: 12.09
8: 12.34
9: 12.86
10: 11.34
11: 10.22
12: 9.46
13: 11.48
14: 9.77
15: 8.66
16: 9.31
17: 9.02
18: 8.48
19: 11.15
20: 11.52
21: 9.89
22: 8.12
23: 9.55
24: 7.99
25: 6.92
26: 9.31
27: 7.79
28: 9.08
29: 6.62
30: 7.94
31: 7.51
32: 7.46

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.


CHRIS GOCONG: Make room!


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.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 02 Mar 2009

80 comments, Last at 20 Jan 2010, 5:34am by Damier Azur


by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 10:58am

Ned Macey

"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.

Mr Macey - I couldn't agree more. Notice Rosenfels stats are pretty much the same as Schaub's. In my mind teams make QB's more than QB's make teams.

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by Adam B. (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 10:59am

How do the Eagles replace Buckhalter -- through the draft, or are there competent, low-cost RBs out there to be signed? Because I don't believe Lorenzo Booker is The Answer.

by Dean (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 11:36am

The cupboard is pretty bare at RB. They'll have to draft a back or two. Three wouldn't be bad, either. Leonard Weaver is still out there at FB, and I feel like a one-man lobbying campaign to bring him in to Philly. I think he's everything we're looking for in a FB.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 11:19am

Re: Warner to SF. I just don't get this one, Warner has been very successful when surrounded with elite talent in St Louis and Arizona. The niners are not similarly blessed. Holt, Bruce, Pace and Faulk OR Fitzgerald and Boldin OR Gore and well not much. I could see some sense in waiting for the Rams to release Pace and Holt, bringing them to the bay and trying to recreate the greatest show on turf but if that was a part of a coherent plan then why didn't the niners keep Martz? If the niners do sign Warner then they won't get the same player the Cards had because they don't have good enough personnel, it's an odd move but does hamstring the cardinals. If this deal goes down I see it as a lose-lose situation.

Re: Crabtree and Andre Smith. Before the combine these two were legitimate top 5 picks, now, without playing a snap they're falling. It's mindless, you have years of film that said these two were excellent players but now they aren't because they didn't run about in shorts? I don't care if Crabtree might run a 4.5/4.6, it was fast enough for Rice and Fitzgerald, they guy can play. Any team that lets Crabtree pass because of concerns about a minor injury will regret it as much as the teams that let Adrian Peterson go. As for Smith, he will have to show that he can get in shape in some workout before the draft but apart from that he's a monster and I really hope he's on the board for the niners at no 10.

Fred Taylor was a great signing, he's the best running back in NE since Dillon still had gas in his tank.

Brown is a fantastic signing for St Louis, they have really struggled at center and he'll give the interior of that line some focus, they do still have Steven Jackson.

Moran Norris could help the niners but only if they fix right offensive tackle. A fullback is at the mercy of his line in the same way as a runner, if they're being asked to block defensive linemen without building up a head of steam then they're going to struggle. I felt that this was the biggest factor in Norris's down year in SF, the running plays were fouled up before he could really contribute (look at how well Hedgecock is playing in NY, after not being very special in St Louis).

by Temo :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 11:41am

If I were going to invest millions of dollars in a top-5 pick, I'd make damn sure I'm not getting someone who cares so little about football that he comes to the combine unprepared. And who got suspended by his coach for game.

As for Crabtree, obviously his film work is impressive. But he was also working in the same gimmicky system that produced Tim Couch. It's very hard to get context in college football when you're watching tape because so many of the games are against vastly inferior talent. How much credence do you give Crabtree for running a great route against a DB who's going to be operating a car wash after college? It's hard to say.

That's the real purpose of the combine, to put players in a situation where they're competing against each other on a level playing field.

"Then again, I'm a Bobby Carpenter believer." -- Barnwell

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 1:39pm

I reckon that the value of the combine is probably very overstated by fans. I've read several interviews with GMs where they say that the only really useful bits are the medicals and the chance to interview the players. What is the point of getting the players to run two 40 yard dashes? All that shows is how fast a guy can run TWICE, most NFL players have to do a little more than that in a game, the bench press is more relevant and that has no real bearing on the skills of a lineman. I've always thought it odd that there is no real endurance element at the combine.

The worry about Smith is that he might not be getting well advised and that he won't work hard enough. These are justifiable concerns but that's why I said that he will have to get in reasonable shape for his pro-day, if he can't do that then he is in trouble and clearly wouldn't understand what it takes to be in the NFL for long.

by JimZipCode (not verified) :: Mon, 03/09/2009 - 12:08pm

>> the bench press is more relevant and that has no real bearing on the
>> skills of a lineman. I've always thought it odd that there is no
>> real endurance element at the combine.

The bench press is a test of strength endurance. That's more relevant than a test of low-intensity cardio endurance.

by Josh :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 8:43pm

Wes Welker went to Texas Tech. Tech WR's also run more than WR's at other schools, and they probably have more practice+game reps than them as well.

by witless chum :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 2:21pm

Norris played pretty well in Detroit for 10 games or whatever it was. I was surprised he was a street free agent. I was doubly surprised the Lions brought in a guy who was better than replacement level, too, not that it, y'know, won them any games or anything. But the signing was after Millen's ouster.

by Steve (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 11:24am

Hats off to Tanier for that revealing (and hilarious) look inside the Philly locker room. Those poor, leaderless guys.

by Dean (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 11:28am

Nobody can touch Tanier when he's on. But Vince came reasonably close with the Palmer bit. Good stuff, both of you.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 4:48pm

Mike Tanier is the second funniest person alive. (Tim Minchin is the leader so far, and unless Tanier comes up with something on the par of "Rock and Roll Nerd" or "My Neighbor's Ass," that's not even going to be a contest, with all due respect.)

by Temo :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 11:26am

I think so far in FA most signings have been efficient, in terms of getting fair deals and guys going to teams that need them the most. (Still making up my mind on the D'Angelo Hall signing, though)

The Dawkins thing was a perfect example. He had almost no value to the Eagles, except as a fan favorite. There are plenty of good-character, talented veteran guys on that defense that missing their role player safety isn't going to hurt any.

On the Broncos, however, he has much more value since that team could use all the defensive leadership they can get. So not only is he a talent upgrade for them, he can serve as a coach-on-the-field for one of the worst defenses in the league last year. They get an immediate change in attitude on that defense that makes his contract, while probably expensive of his actual level of expected performance, worthwhile for that team.

"Then again, I'm a Bobby Carpenter believer." -- Barnwell

by Harris :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 11:30am

Bravo, Tanier. Bravo. I've been saying this all weekend: Brian Dawkins' greatest impact is not on the field, but on the collective psyche of Eagles fans. He has become the woobie for millions of people. He was going to have a hard time keeping Demps on the bench this year and Demps almost certainly would have become the starter in 2010 regardless. I really think that's a strange deal for Denver because they're giving Dawkins so much money he has to be an every-down player and he's just not an every-down safety any more.

Hail Hydra!

by Wait, what? (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 12:21pm

As someone pointed out on the Dawkins XP, Philly has shown a clear tendency to let guys go when they get too old/ineffective, and they usually make pretty solid judgments on when that time is. From a dispassionate perspective, it makes sense; we all know he's been in decline for several years.

But all that aside, damned if I'm not going to miss the guy, even if it's strictly sentimental at this point.

by Wanker79 :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 2:04pm

Agreed. In a blitzing scheme like Philly runs, having a safety who's a liability in coverage isn't a good plan. My only regret is that I would have really liked to see him retire as an Eagle. It's just not going to feel right seeing him in anything but midnight green (especially at the Linc).

by DGL :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 12:27pm

Tanier FTW.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 11:37am

"Patrick Laverty: Yeah, the Patriots are already scary thin at linebacker and they're trading away one of their useful ones?"

You're making the hugely incorrect assumption that Mike Vrabel is still useful. I love the guy, but he was wearing down at the end of 2007, and was toast all of 2008.

If he wasn't traded, he was getting cut.

by Temo :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 11:46am

Agreed. Vrable was a throw-in which saves the Patriots from having to bench or cut a guy who has done well for them in the past. I think may still be in danger of getting cut (we'll have to see how well KC's other LBs perform).

"Then again, I'm a Bobby Carpenter believer." -- Barnwell

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 11:55am

You guys are underestimating what a guy like Brian Dawkins brings to a team. How many times do you see a team lose to a vastly inferior team and some commentator comes on and says, "Oh, that was a trap game" or "They just didn't come to play this week"? Happens all the time, even to the best teams. Football is a highly emotional sport and it's impossible to keep the same intensity level through out a four month season. The difference Dawkins and guys like him make is, he's seen that happen and can jolt guys out of complacency or lift guys out of a funk, whichever is the case that week. It may only make a major difference once or twice a year, but that may be all the difference between a playoff team and an also-ran.

by Temo :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 12:10pm

I've seen the Eagles lose plenty of should-have-won-that game with Dawkins on the team. In fact, it's almost been a hallmark of their franchise in recent years.

"Then again, I'm a Bobby Carpenter believer." -- Barnwell

by SOBL (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 12:13pm

you're right kevin from philly, dawkins is always there with a spear to the back, helmet to helmet shot, helmet leading tackle attempt that takes him out of a play or a late forearm shiver hit on a ball carrier after he has hit the ground. You can't put value on that kind of leadership. Dawkins was a great safety, but his time had passed, kind of like Rodney Harrison with the Pats.

I think the McDaniels trying to swap cutler for cassel move was secretly voided by the Comish so that Broncos fans did not tar and feather McDaniels.

by Harris :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 12:44pm

Brian Dawkins: Respected league-wide as a leader, humanitarian, stand-up guy and fearsome hitter.

Rodney Harrison: Regarded league-wide as a cheap-shot artist and often called the dirtiest player in the NFL.

Other than that they both play safety, these two have nothing in common.

Hail Hydra!

by SOBL (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 1:30pm

Harrison and Dawkins are similar in that they have declining skills and their time at peak has passed. Read my comment please. I never said they were similar style, just in status right now.

To say Dawkins was not a master of the helmet to helmet hit or late hits is a joke. Perfect example was when he went helmet first at brandon jacobs' forearm on Sunday Night Football after Jacobs had hit the ground in a late attempt to cause a fumble. The last 2-3 years he reminded me of the uncle that tries too hard at a touch football game and hurts a nephew. Now that you bring it up, Harrison was a good locker room presence and leader from most reports.

I'll be sure to remember Brian Dawkins as a humanitarian like Mother Teresa.

by Harris :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 2:25pm

So you just happened to suggest Dawkins was a dirty player before comparing him to a guy widely regarded as the dirtiest guy in the league but you don't mean to suggest they're in any way similar? Riiiiight. The guy has been playing for 13 years. You show me a 13-year veteran in the NFL who's never delivered a questionable hit and I'll show you a cheerleading coordinator.

Yes. Humanitarian. Google is your friend, dipstick.

Hail Hydra!

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 2:39pm

Flame War!!! I think dueling handbags at dawn is the only way to settle this, and no Prada, the zippers on those f****rs will take your eye out.

by Harris :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 2:54pm

Handbags are so declasse. I prefer to use my Jimmy Choos as Batarangs.

Hail Hydra!

by TheMattstapiece (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 5:11pm

Dawkins and Harrison are very similar, and thats not a bad thing (don't freak out philly fan). They are both big hitters and they both are past their prime. Don't be all sensitive about the character of either player; its a valid comparison.

Dorothy Mantooth is a saint!

by Adam B. (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 12:45pm

Yeah, that's how we followed up a 13-13 TIE to Cincinnati with a 36-7 loss to Joe f'n Flacco. Thank goodness we weren't complacent, or lord knows what might have happened.

I will miss Dawkins dearly. I would have overpaid for sentimental reasons. I would not have offered /this/ contract. That Denver game at the Linc is going to be fun ...

by the silent speaker (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 8:29pm

Wait, a tie? You can't have ties in the NFL, can you?

by AlanSP (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 12:13pm

"TRENT COLE: Guys, I forget ... I forget how to put on a helmet. Is this strap thing a chin strap or a scrotum strap?"

That line made my day

by Tom Gower :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 12:24pm

For the record, IIRC it was the other owners who rejected Finley's suggestion that every player be a free agent every year, and they didn't even get a chance to offer it to the players. That's how scared of free agency they were, and, well, fear is the mind-killer.

On the top pick value discussion:
1. Ned is right that it's not that so much that the top picks are greatly overvalued as the later picks are undervalued, at least if they don't totally bust out. Remember back in August or so when SI picked the "best teams you can under the cap" and half of each team was guys on their rookie deal? The guaranteed money for a top 5 pick is a little intimidating, but it seems high in part because the rest of the draft is so cheap. Note also that deals for first round picks are 5 or 6 years, and 5 or 6 legit years. Haynesworth got $41M guaranteed for what's essentially a 4 year deal, or $10.25M guaranteed per year. Ryan's guaranteed money seems like a lot, but it's $35M over 6 years, or less than $6M/year.
2. Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt made a very interesting point in a talk he gave last year-that every good team has a core of 10-12 key guys you build a rest of the team around, and these 10-12 guys are rarely if ever available in free agency, and even then generally for a good reason (e.g. Drew Brees, torn labrum). Look at the guys in free agency this year-Jason Brown, WhosYourDaddy, Chris Canty, Michael Boley, Derrick Ward-while decent players, these are complementary parts, not part of the core you build your team around. Of the guys in FA who could be core guys, Ray Lewis was at one point but isn't now, Bart Scott may be for Ryan's D but probably isn't in any other scheme, and then there's Haynesworth, who's only been consistently dominant in contract years. So, since you can't get those core guys in free agency, you have to get them in the draft. And, while you can find a core guy later in the draft, your best chance of getting a core guy comes in the top 5-10 picks. That's the point of picking in the top 10-to get a guy you can't get 20 picks later. Sometimes these guys are a little risky, but when you have a chance to get a core player you have to think very, very strongly about doing it.

by Temo :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 12:36pm

I've expounded on this before, but indeed teams seem to usually have a worse record in free agency when signing other team's players than in the draft, even among the "overpaid" top 5-10 players in the draft.

"Then again, I'm a Bobby Carpenter believer." -- Barnwell

by langsty (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 6:50pm

well said, my dude.

by Josh :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 8:46pm

There you go again, being all smart and stuff...

by MCS :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 12:15pm

I guess I'm the only one that is negative here. Yes, the chance of hitting an impact player means that you have to take a risk in the first round, but the risks are huge.

You use Matt Ryan as an example, but don't cite players such as Michael Vick, JaMarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, and Tim Couch. There is a huge potential for unproven (<-keyword) players to not be worth the investment.

I like the idea of limiting the rookie salaries and allowing free agency after two or three years.

The money should be given to the proven veterans, not the unproven rookies.

by Tom Gower :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 1:47pm

Maybe here's a better example. Take picks 26-35, inclusive, from 2000 through the present. Look at how many guys are currently part of their team's 10-12 core guys. By my estimation, and without quibbling over who, you're looking at maybe 5-8 guys-call it roughly a 10% chance of getting a core player. In the top 5, almost every year there's at least one huge impact player and some years there are 4 (in 2004, the top 5 other than Gallery was Eli, Fitzhulu, Rivers, and Sean Taylor (RIP)). Does the marginal improvement in the chance of getting a core player justify the financial difference? I have to think it does, and even if you disagree I think you have to admit it's at least a point worth debating.

Point of clarification-I think Reinfeldt was referring to the improved state of cap management that dates roughly to the new CBA in 2006-teams since then seem to have a much better handle on long-term management and seem to have avoided the cap troubles that plagued teams like the Titans and Ravens. Rare as it was then for core-type players to hit the open market, it'll be even rare in the future.

Note that this discussion has been a question of team investments, and is not a judgment on the equity of distributions between players. To the extent your argument for free agency after 2 or 3 years is to serve distributional interests between veterans and rookies, I'm not opposed to your idea, but I doubt it results in any greater movement of core players. One thing I'd note is that proven players may insist less on guaranteed money and be more willing to accept non-guaranteed yet fairly certain money (where the player essentially assumes injury risk and the generally minor risk of steep performance decline), whereas the predictability of the performance level of unproven players is less certain, so both player and team have an incentive to agree to more guaranteed money with less upside. Similarly, veteran players can and do negotiate higher guaranteed salaries of their own, though of course at some financial cost to themselves.

by MCS :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 3:27pm

I agree that it is a good point and well worth debate.

by Led (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 1:58pm

Hey Tanier and other smart Philly fans, what do you think about Lito Shepphard?

by Temo :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 2:51pm

smart Philly fans

huh? I'm sorry could you rephrase, I'm a bit lost on this point.

"Then again, I'm a Bobby Carpenter believer." -- Barnwell

by Crus :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 3:25pm

At his best (when the GM has inserted a fresh $100 bill in the slot in his back): A good cornerback with decent speed who will gamble on intercepting a pass and win a reasonable amount of the time, and sometimes at crucial moments or when playing Dallas. Decent return ability on Ints and special teams.

The rest of the time (when he feels slighted, has chipped a nail or his horoscope was unfavourable): A gambling cornerback who is a step slow or an inch too low on his jumps and thus is toast a reasonable amount of the time, and sometimes at crucial moments or when playing anyone but Dallas. Doesn't tackle well in run support, and isn't that enthused with the concept in the first place. "Isn't paid enough" to play special teams.

In short, if the problems he has are mostly mental then, if you can sort them out (by applying money and TLC), you'll get a decent cornerback who may be able to return to a pro-bowl level despite run support not being his strong point; if his problems are physical then he's probably permanent toast.

by AlanSP (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 8:59pm

You're underselling how good Lito is/was when at his best. His speed and return ability (on interceptions; he could never return punts worth a damn for some reason) were a whole lot better than "decent". And all that gambling did result in a lot of interceptions. He was sort of a poor man's Asante Samuel.

That said, he was just plain lousy this year for reasons that are beyond me. Rather than playing well enough to win his starting job back, he played badly enough to get demoted from nickel to dime, getting beaten out by Joselio Hanson.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 2:54pm

The Vikings may be the exception to that rule, Temo. Over the last five years, albeit under different regimes, they have signed Pat Williams, Antione Winfleld, and Steve Hutchinhson, elite players all. They acquired the elite player Jared Allen for high draft picks and then signed him to a huge deal, which is similar to a free agent signing. Bernard Berrion isn't elite, but he has real value. Darren Sharper and Madieu Williams have provided value. Fred Smoot sucked, of course.

In contrast, their draft picks in the time span have been very uneven. Adrian Peterson was a home run, but then there is Troy Williamson. Chad Greenway is good, but then there is Erasmus James. The 2nd round picks have been decidedly so-so, unless you go back to E.J. Henderson, and he was a late bloomer, albeit a late bloomer originally coached by the intrepid Ted Cottrell. True, Kevin Williams is great, and Bryant McKinnie good, but that is going back a ways.

It must be noted that the constant has been at qb; free agents and high draft picks have sucked alike, although none of them cost much money for the position.

by Temo :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 3:52pm

It's far from a rule, just something I believe (without concrete numbers) to be true on average for the NFL as a whole. The Patriots, for one, have also over time enjoyed greater success with FA than the draft, though they've done reasonably well in the draft as well.

Edit: Also, it must be mentioned that whenever a FA signing turns out to be a good deal for the signing team (and a bad deal for the former team), there is usually a reason. For the signings you have mentioned-- two players were high coveted FAs from Buffalo, who simply couldn't afford to keep them. One was the result of a poison-pill contract that the former team couldn't match, but would have otherwise.

My overall point about why FA signings don't pan out is that the free market in football suffers from a rather large information gap. Most of the value of a player is actually seen in practice and training camp. There's only so much game tape that teams can watch, but there's tons of time coaches and scouts can watch their players practice. Thus, in a bidding-style system with no external effect or biases, the team getting a player from another is in an impossible position in terms of getting the player for a fair price, due to imperfect information.

The Patriots have in the past had success in getting players who are perceived as too old or too limited and getting them to succeed in a particular system. The last time they signed a highly coveted player in his prime, Adalius Thomas, they did not get nearly the same value per dollar as they did from their other signings. The Vikings, I would argue, have benefited from a fluky conract situation and being able to bid against a team that could not reach a fair market price for the player (the Bills were well under the cap to sign Winfield or Williams, but couldn't afford them financially).

"Then again, I'm a Bobby Carpenter believer." -- Barnwell

by AlanSP (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 8:44pm

The Patriots, for one, have also over time enjoyed greater success with FA than the draft, though they've done reasonably well in the draft as well.

Huh? According to the Pats' depth chart, here's a complete list of their current starters that were acquired through free agency (other than undrafted free agents they signed out of college): Heath Evans, Sammy Morris, Adalius Thomas and Chris Hanson. Moss and Welker came through trades (as did Corey Dillon and Ted Washington way back when) and every other starter was either drafted or a rookie free agent. If you want to take a slightly longer view, Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, and Antowain Smith were important FA pickups, but even including those guys, that group pales in comparison to the guys they've drafted both in terms of quantity and quality (cf. Brady, Seymour, Wilfork, Warren, Bruschi, Mayo, the entire offensive line, and former standouts like Samuel, Law, McGinest, Milloy etc.)

by Briguy :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 3:01pm

Let's be honest, we're talking about a guy who may have missed a game last year with swollen balls from an STD.

Wait, what? How did I miss this?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 3:10pm

Which is a worse excuse for failing to earn a game check; swollen balls related to fornicating, or sore nipples related to body piercing, like David Boston?

by Josh :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 8:48pm

Tripping over your dog

Injuring your wrist because of porn

Injuring your hand in a guitar hero accident

by MJK :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 12:37pm

How could you leave out "Chopping your foot with an axe you found in the locker room"?

by tuluse :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 2:59pm

Injuring your wrist answering the phone

by Carlos (not verified) (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 4:33pm

I'm not so sure about the Econ 101 rule applying here

This is almost certainly wrong. Look at the baseball example when a few players escaped from the tyranny of the draft. They were paid like superstars, though they were unproven rooks, many years further away from contributing than their NFL counterparts.

The "flooded market" hypothesis is misplaced unless ALL players were FAs every year.

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.

I doubt anyone gives Jake Long $30 million

The reason Long became the highest paid lineman is not a sign that he was OVERPAID, it is a sign that the best linemen are UNDERPAID because they are UNAVAILABLE to receive market bids. If all rooks were FAs, Jake Long would clearly get paid even more.

Don't you all nominally run a business? '-)

by AlanSP (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 9:39pm

The reason Long became the highest paid lineman is not a sign that he was OVERPAID, it is a sign that the best linemen are UNDERPAID because they are UNAVAILABLE to receive market bids. If all rooks were FAs, Jake Long would clearly get paid even more.

He became the highest paid lineman including players who had negotiated deals as free agents or who had chosen to avoid free agency by signing extensions with their teams. That is, he was getting paid more than proven star players that were available to receive market bids.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 1:23pm

Another thing to remember when trying to apply standard rules of economics is something to which Sean alluded. Within the constraints of the salary cap and related rules, salaries are free to go up, but they are not free to go down. Owners can't simply decide that players in a certain class are overpaid: the players' association would be more than happy to use the templates set up by baseball to get a collusion ruling.

For that reason, Long's salary isn't simply an indication that perhaps other linemen are underpaid. It's more a reflection of the current economic system. Players and owners have compromised to the extent that the best drafted players are paid based on expectations, the best veteran players are paid based on past performance, some veteran players are paid based on a combination of the two, and everyone else gets what's left.

If you removed the cap and the rookie pool, it's possible that for a while, salaries for elite OL would skyrocket, and salaries for top rookies might also increase, but there would still be forces at some point that would rein in salaries, and after that, I don't think you could guarantee that top draft picks would still get huge salaries (or that top rookie FAs, in the absence of a draft, would get huge salaries).

It's all speculation, though. One problem with that scenario is that we would bear the costs of escalated salaries, and I think that even NFL owners are smart enough to realize that there's a limit to what we can bear, even once the economy recovers.

by crack (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 8:39pm

This is not true, as long as the teams aren't getting together in a metaphorical room and deciding that certain positions are over paid they can individually decide not to pay for free agents at that position.

by Boston Dan :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 5:44pm

In the Boston area, the second guessing by fans is fast approaching the levels not seen since Pete Carroll roamed the sidelines.

In the last 48 hours I've heard a lot of Matt Schaub, Daunte Culpepper and AJ Feeley trade comparison talk.

Many fans are convinced that they could have negotiated a better trade. A small minority believes the Mariotti / Fiori fueled conspiracy-to-help Pioli storyline.

These are the same fans that were slaughtering B.B. after week one in 2008 because Cassel was the #1 backup.

by Bobman :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 5:51pm

Hey, FO staff,

Was this column so expensive or difficult to compile? I hope not because it is one of the best and most enjoyable I have read here in a while--it gives the reader the impresson of sitting around in his TV room before a game, having a conversation with a dozen of his most knowledgeable football friends (even if some are evil Pats fans).

Please keep random audibles coming in the offseason every couple weeks.

Oh, and Mike Tanier, aha! I just KNEW Donovan McNabb was secretly evil, and now I have it in print to prove it! The fool should never have let it slip!

And what's with the Kellen Winslow swollen balls issue? I had not heard that one! Time to Google my day away. Bad enough why my wife says "why are you Googling 'large-breasted nymphos' (it's a band, honey, I swear) but when I Google 'Kellen Winslow's swollen scrotum' she's really gonna have a talk with me.

And thanks to Will Allen, David Boston's nipples are next on my kinky NFL scandal radar.... These guys are paid well and get rammed by 250 lb juggernauts trying to dismember them, and yet they're worried about sore nipples? Can an exczema flare-up be far off? Unless said nipples are shooting out arterial streams of blood, gently put on a bandage and get your ass back on the damn field!

by Biebs (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 6:19pm

I don't get this idea that the #3 pick is worth less than the #34 pick. If I understand it correctly (based on Minnesota not getting a pick in a few years ago) couldn't the Patriots simply sit on their #3 pick until they are ready to use it, whether it's at #3, #13, or #18? I'm sure the NFL would not be happy about it. But I don't know of any rule that says the Pats have to pick #3. If the Patriots pick got outright skipped that's one thing, but I believe they can run in and make their pick at any point in the draft after #3, even if it means waiting a few guys for the value of their pick to decrease.

The chart is an interesting thought, but seems like it's a little too random for me. For one thing, non QB top 5 picks who bust out of the league often play most games in the first few seasons. Also, 1st - 3rd pick overall I imagine is heavily weighted down by QB busts who manage to bounce around the league.

by Blotzphoto :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 7:35pm

"Rob, as our resident Bengals fan, what's your take on this guy?"

I'll step up for Bengalfan. TJ leaving the Jungle will mean be bigger blow to us than his arrival in the Soggy Northwest will for the Seahawks. He's been an incredible security blanket for Palmer these last two seasons as Chad Johnson's production has declined. He'll do anything to catch the ball, I'm amazed he's never been seriously injured considering the hits he takes from Carson's so-so accuracy on crossing patterns. So Matt Hassleback will love him.

Word here in Bengal land today has us kicking the tires on Laverneous Coles, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of our in house replacements for TJ. Or a sign that we plan to trade Chad, which I think would be a baaaaad idea.

by Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 12:35am

I take it the spike in the 19th/20th picks is no coincidence. Teams who've been building well, just missed out on the playoffs and think "Now if only we improved this spot we're into the playoffs!"

by Subrata Sircar :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 5:15am

Amusingly enough, nobody wanted free agency every year when it was proposed by Finley. The owners didn't want it because they were (rightly) scared of having to pay market rates for talent. The players were afraid that eventually, the owners would realize that it's worth (slightly) overpaying for the very best talent and shortchanging everyone else, resulting in the evisceration of baseball's middle- and under-classes.

The irony is they're both right. The A-Rods and Haynesworths of the world get top dollar because they're worth it, while the adequate folks get replaced by younger, cheaper talent. (This is aided in baseball by the minor-league systems and teams having control over a player's first six years in the bigs.)

Both of these are consequences of the facts that pro sports pick from the far, far right side of a bell curve - the guys on the very end are considerably rarer than the next level down, and so on - and that you have a limited number of slots for players on the field. In other words, while 10% of the price for 80% of the performance is a bargain in terms of value/dollar, it's still only 80% of the performance.

Fill a roster with players like this and you'll be lucky to finish 6-10, because being consistently overmatched at the high-leverage positions means consistently losing. Now, find a star QB, pay him what he's worth, pay a couple of top linemen, and then fill your roster with undercosted guys with upside, and then you might have something ... much like the Patriots, in fact.

As far as draft picks go, the Patriots can pick up undercosted talent with their later picks, and can succeed that way as long as their stars remain stars. When Tom Brady starts to show the effects of being married, or Richard Seymour loses a step, they can't count on finding another Brady at the bottom of the draft - they'll have to settle for less or bite the bullet and pick up a top prospect.

by crack (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 8:45pm

Free agents every year makes little sense from either side. Mark Cuban said players should sign bunches of 1 year deals to maximize their payouts, but he missed the injury risk. Owners need to balance fixed costs vs. injury risk themselves. Length of contract is negotiable as a risk/reward for both sides. Except in the NFL. Basically after the draft players play on an team option year to year. The initial guarantees are gone, the better cap managers don't even bother with traditional signing bonuses anymore they pay their guarantees up front so they face no cap hit for cutting players.

by Kalyan :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 7:08am

Some thoughts on NFL rookie contracts:

1. Define the bonus & salary amounts for rookies in Round 1 & 2. #1 pick gets $7.5 mn signing bonus. #64 gets $3 mn. Reduction of $70k from #1 to #64. Salary for #1 for 2 years is fixed at $1.25 mn per year. Salary for #64 for 2 years is fixed at $0.5 mn per year. Reduction of $12k per year from #1 to #64.

2. At the end of 2 years, the clubs can sign these players before free agency starts or franchised tags (transition tag cannot be used) or released

3. Thus, #1 in NFL draft makes $5 mn per year for first 2 years; #10 makes $4.56 mn /year; #20 - $4.06 mn/year; #30 - $3.6 mn/year; #40 - $3.14 mn/year; #50 - $2.56 mn/year; #60 - $2.19/year; #64 - $2 mn/year

4. Current rules will apply for players in Round 3 onwards

5. The year on year increase % for #1 to #64 is equal to the salary cap increase %. For eg: 2008 Salary cap was approx. 116m while 2009 is going to be 123 - 6.03% Thus the gtee & annual salary of Round 1 & 2 players in Year 2 draft would have increased by 6.03% over Year 1 draft.


This is just the start. We can add other Terms & Conditions or change the overall numbers but i am comfortable with these nos for the NFL rookies. This system will ensure that teams don't get punished for having busts or break the bank for unproven players or see camp hold-outs. Players who excel can either see a record contract at the end of 2 years on par with then standards or get to free agency.

Any comments?

by MJK :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 12:50pm

Some of this sounds pretty good. I've long been a proponent of smaller, but shorter, rookie deals, with the rookies becoming something like ERFA at the end of a short deal.

But I wouldnn't fix set salaries/bonuses for specific draft slots (which is problematic because the type of player drafted in a given spot depends on factors that have nothing to do with his precieved value or talent...like what the team drafting in that spot needs, and what the other talent level in the draft at a given position looks like).

Instead, I'd do one of two things... Either:
1) Just make the rookie pool a lot smaller, and have a little more teeth. Right now there is theoretically a limit on how much of a team's salary cap can go to rookies...but it flexes with the number (and height) of draft picks teams have, and can be circumvented by clever contract wording and bonus structures. Instead, if you just said the total amount of salary going to rookies cannot exceed, say, 10% of the salary cap (or maybe even total salary payout in a given year) regardless of wherther it was a "signing bonus", "escalator", "option bonus", etc, and didn't tie it to the number of draft picks, you would force the high end draft salaries down.

2) A better option would be to set rookie pay scales the way the franchise tag works. Don't look at draft position, look at player position order taken, and tie it to some fraction of a position salary in the NFL the way the franchise tag works. So the first CB taken in the draft would automatically get, say, 25% of the CB franchise number that year. The second CB taken would get 22%, the third 20%, and so forth.

by MCS :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 1:22pm

What about tying salary to round rather than draft slot? Every player taken is the first round gets paid the same. Every player in the second round the same, etc. That way, teams can trade based on need without the ramifications of cost. They can look to fill a position without worrying that they will have to pay more for the QB than they would for a FB. If they want to tie up first round money on a FB and pass on the marquee DB, so be it.

I feel like I'm missing something with this logic, but I can't see it.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 2:51pm

The only real issue I see with this is the fringes of rounds. I guarantee that picks #28-32 would be trying to trade back out of the round.

by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 2:17pm

Ben Riley - "It is undeniable that the market rate for picks one through five picks seems absurdly out of whack, much like CEO salaries."

In the 19th century Carl Menger taught us that value is attached at the margin. There is a premium paid to have the most valued resources in the NFL, especially when the difference between winning and losing in the NFL is so slim. In " Any given Sunday coach Pacino had a fitting " It's a game of inches" speech.

In business it is much the same. Having a visionary Steve Jobs type CEO is worth his weight in gold compared to some of the inept leadership out there. Some of these CEO's are in charge of hundreds of thousands of jobs, hundreds of billion dollars worth of capital, and yes, are paid millions.

Then again the average NBA salary ( is 5.5 mil), Tom Cruise can make 20 million dollars pretending to be somebody else in a movie, and Katie Couric gets 15 million to read the news.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 2:55pm

"In business it is much the same. Having a visionary Steve Jobs type CEO is worth his weight in gold compared to some of the inept leadership out there."

Completely agree. I also agree with Ben though, Its not the Steve Jobs making $5m a year... its the guys who can't even do the job and are still getting $5m a year.

by ChicagoRaider (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 3:38pm

Really, would you rather have a top tackle from this year's draft, or Jake Grove at five years for $30 million?

There is enough insanity to go around in both free agency and the draft.

by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 4:06pm

Rich- You mean like Juwan Howard signing a 100 million dollar deal?

Economics tells us that wages reflect productivity, but in the instance of say andNFL draft pick, the productivy is highly uncertain. A lot of the salary depends on what you did in the past, your role, your expecations, productivity projections.

I come to FO for football information and entertainment, not class warfare comments.

by DrunkenOne :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 4:36pm

Its a rollercoaster ride being a Skins fan. Big free agent signings every year, and every year those free agents suck

by Brecken (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 5:21pm

Re: - 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.

The Vikings tried this in 2003. They knew they wanted Williams and waited 2 picks. But then for negotiations I thought the agents said he was a #7, not #9 pick (as well as the others insisting on a deal for the #7 over #8, etc.) Not so clean for them to avoid it, unless you mean to skip the pick altogether. I have the feeling if they waited until the 15th pick (say), they might still have to pay #10 money. And the other teams that got re-arranged by this would be ticked as well...

by ChicagoRaider (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 6:35pm

Well, you have what baseball does, which is use first top picks to take less-than-the-top players because of anticipated signing problems. Has anyone ever taken someone thought to be a #15 pick at #1, and then paid him like #15?

by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 5:29pm

What about Brady Quinn being picked last first round but wanting early first round money from the Browns?

Drunkenone- The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again but expect different results. SEE Dan Snyder.

by Zippy (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 7:45pm

Comparing picks 1-10 with picks 30-40 (1980-2000) using profootball-reference's draft query tool shows
Picks 1-10:
103/210 are primary starters for 8+ years
109/210 play in one or more Pro Bowls
52/210 play in 4+ Pro Bowls

Picks 30-40:
52/231 are primary starters for 8+ years
57/231 play in one or more Pro Bowls
19/231 play in 4+ Pro Bowls

Looks like the dropoff in the later picks is in finding the big stars who go to Pro Bowls forever. Whether they deserve to go to the Pro Bowl all those years is another story.

by Kevin Eleven :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 10:20pm

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."

The players didn't turn Finley's idea down, as other 23 MLB owners laughed it out of the room and it was never proposed. The other owners were fixated on restricting player movement, logic be damned.

I think we can all agree that the "make them all free agents" idea would be harmful to practically any sport. But if we're only talking about college players entering the NFL, it would make total sense for the owners in a sport with a salary cap- but the NFL owners of 2009 wear the same blinders that the baseball owners of 1975 did.

by Verified (not verified) :: Wed, 03/04/2009 - 9:51pm
by CaffeineMan :: Thu, 03/05/2009 - 5:17pm

No XP on these yet, so I figured I'd put this here:

According to Shalise Manza Young of the Providence Journal, the Pats have signed Shawn Springs. No terms yet available. I like this one, depending on the money.

According to Adam Schefter, the Pats have traded (!) with the Eagles for Greg Lewis. Don't have firsthand knowledge about the guy, but this seems like a WTF, given the comments from Eagles fans on this board (fast, but has lousy hands). He's only due $650k next year, so I guess it depends on what they Pats gave up. I'm hoping it's only a seventh rounder. What say you, Eagles fans?

Well, now I'm seeing speculation that it's a 5th rounder. Hmph. I can't say I'm happy about it, but I guess it's not a so much of a risk that it's worth getting too upset about.

by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 03/09/2009 - 10:47pm

Do the top draft picks make more starts because they're better players than the lower picks in round one, or do they make more starts because they are on poorer teams with the added pressure of getting the top picks onto the field?

If I were a GM, I'd take a pass within the top five. I believe you can exercise your pick at any point. I'd target a spot for my guy lower in round one where I thought I could still get him. I might get my five pick at the 12th position and save millions. It sure would be an interesting debate with the player's agent as to whether the player was the fifth pick or the 12th pick.

by replica Rolex (not verified) :: Sat, 01/09/2010 - 3:16am

I don't get this idea that the #3 pick is worth less than the #34 pick. If I understand it correctly (based on Minnesota not getting a pick in a few years ago) couldn't the Patriots simply sit on their #3 pick until they are ready to use it, whether it's at #3, #13, or #18? I'm sure the NFL would not be happy about it. But I don't know of any rule that says the Pats have to pick #3.