Three thoughts before answering your mail in the wake of the one of the most interesting weekends of an offseason in years:
1. The Seattle Seahawks got a lot better Monday when they signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh. He's caught more balls (294) over the last three years than any other receiver in football, and he's caught more balls (372) over the last four years than any other receiver in football.
Go back to 2007, when Seattle won the NFC West and finished seventh in the league in scoring and ninth in total offense. The Seahawks had a healthy Matt Hasselbeck, of course, but they also had a great, underrated possession receiver, Bobby Engram, who caught 94 balls and was invaluable to the offense because, as Hasselbeck told me, "He was always exactly where he was supposed to be when I'd throw it.''
In the West Coast offense, precision is so important because multiple receivers have to get to pivotal gaps in a defense. And Houshmandzadeh is one of the best route-runners in football. If he's supposed to run a 12-yard incut, he'll run the 12 yards exactly, and the quarterback can throw to a spot knowing he'll be where he's supposed to be -- just as Engram was there for Hasselbeck for several years.
Why did Carson Palmer spend so much time texting and calling Houshmandzadeh over the last few days? Because Palmer is a precision guy, a player who demands consistency from his receivers and doesn't get it all the time. Houshmandzadeh, five years younger than Engram (now a free agent and not likely to be retained by Seattle) and in his prime, is going to be the best thing to happen to Seattle this offseason.
By the way, Hasselbeck's back, according to coach Jim Mora, has passed all the tests and he should be ready to participate fully in the offseason program. That's where you'll see Hasselbeck and Houshmandzadeh form a bond that should be scary for the rest of the NFC West to defend.
2. Todd Haley has died and gone to heaven. "If Matt Cassel were there with the 34th pick in the draft, we'd run to take his tag off the board,'' Haley told me. The Chiefs, of course, got not only Cassel last weekend, but also a locker-room presence in linebacker Mike Vrabel. Cassel intimated Monday that Kansas City was the place he wanted to go above all other places, which surprised me; I thought once the Denver noise started happening he'd have much rather gone to be with former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Could Cassel be happier with former Pats VP Scott Pioli than he would have been with his former mentor? Maybe, just maybe, he wants to prove he's not a robo-QB for McDaniels.
3. What is Denver doing? A million a year for a long-snapper? Actually, the Broncos paid Lonie Paxton a million to sign, with a five-year deal averaging $1.06M a year, when they had a perfectly good snapper in house -- the reliable Mike Leach. Every year I see teams bring snappers to training camp, new guys with this same singular skill, and I can't figure for the life of me any good reason to take a spot on your roster for one of these players and pay him a million a year. It's indefensible, illogical.
And I haven't even gotten to the big story of the day in Denver: How on God's green earth, if you want to trade for Cassel, do you come to the party too late and then infect your own top quarterback, Jay Cutler, with uncertainty about whether you want him? A very bad weekend for the new regime of McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders.
Now on to your e-mail:
• LAND OF THE FREE, AND HOME OF THE PROFLIGATE. From Justin of Peoria, Ill.: "Regardless of the actual terms of Albert Haynesworth's contract, I believe we are seeing some disturbing developments. When America is suffering through a recession, it does the fan no good to see some of these contracts. Won't ticket prices and merchandise have to increase? These contracts are becoming ridiculous! It was not that long ago that five years and $21 million was considered a large contract. When the rest of America is struggling to make it, these contracts rub me the wrong way. I am beginning to become more of a college football fan."
As long as there's a Daniel Snyder out there -- or another owner willing to stretch the boundaries of salaries -- you're going to have mega-inflation in this business. You're protesting the way fans in any sport can protest -- watch something else.
• TODD HALEY IS NO WIZARD. From Kevin Octavio of Mill Valley, Calif.: "Todd Haley question: In today's column you note, 'The Chiefs now should have their quarterback of the future, assuming new coach Todd Haley's as good a quarterback tutor as he appeared in Arizona the past couple of years.' Why does Haley get a quarterback guru rep? Sure he got a MVP caliber year out of Kurt Warner, but Warner already had that ability. The development of Matt Leinart [or lack of] should be more indicative of Haley's QB development skills.''
Good point. But I'm not sure you can peg the lack of Leinart development on Haley. Leinart didn't get his chance this year not because Leinart stinks, but rather because Warner was too good. I think Leinart would have played well this year had he gotten the chance. How well, no one knows.
• THE DAN ORLOVSKY FAN CLUB CHECKS IN. From Aaron Bellwood of Plant City, Fla.: "A few stats on Dan Orlovsky: He basically played in eight games. He threw 255 times, completing 143, a 56 percent completion rating. He threw eight TDs and seven picks (his eighth pick was during cleanup duty where he only threw 1 pass the whole game). Of his eight games he threw 200+ yards five times and topped 70 QB rating in each of those games with three of them topping 90. All of this on a horrible team. My point is you are letting one play, his run out of the end zone, jade your thinking on a QB who was decent and has numbers similar to a few starting QBs.''
Dan Orlovsky is a nice third quarterback who, given a chance, might be able to play in the NFL at a competent level someday. He has given me no reason to think he deserves to get $3 million a year and be one of the highest-paid backup quarterbacks in football.
• NEVER. From Stefan van den Abeelen of San Luis Obispo, Calif.: "I was curious if you, or any of your colleagues, have ever been offered a job with any NFL franchise or the NFL itself. It seems that with the dedication to the game and the seemingly endless knowledge you have, teams would be eager to have a person like you in some kind of front office or scouting position. It's not uncommon to see football people become commentators (Floyd Reese, Matt Millen), but I was wondering if you knew of any examples of the opposite happening.''
Not me. Chris Mortensen got an offer to leave ESPN for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the mid-90s. He almost went, but turned it down. Marty Hurney, now the GM of the Panthers, got pulled by Bobby Beathard into the NFL because he thought he was a smart beat guy for the Washington Times 20 years ago. Ernie Accorsi was a sportswriter before he went to work for the Baltimore Colts and then went on to be GM for the Browns and Giants. It's do-able. A guy I think would be very good at the other side of it because he's smart and tireless is Adam Schefter of NFL Network. If he wanted to, he'd be a great GM someday.
• GOOD QUESTION. From Ryan of Scottsdale, Ariz.: "Do these players ever figure in the cost of living when they are deciding which offer is most attractive? Does Bart Scott have any idea that $7.5M a year in the Baltimore area gives you a much higher standard of living than $8M a year in New York?''
Sure, but there are other factors. Scott's wife is a fashionista, and they have come to Fashion Week in New York before. That was a factor in the decision he made.
• THANK YOU. From Dean Batson of Reading, Pa.: "Wow! Your blow-by-blow of the Chris Canty trade was superb -- genuinely fantastic writing. The story [and backstory] brought me right into the room with you and Brad Blank. Thanks for the insider's insight.''
Appreciate that, Dean. It was fun to follow, too. That's the kind of stuff I love to do.