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In wake of signing/trade frenzy, a reminder: Free agency is overrated

I was thinking about all the cautionary tales we'd heard about free agency, about how even though the NFL was killing the salary cap, most every team was going to sit back and let the market settle because the pool of available players was so weak. No fourth- or fifth-year unrestricted free agents, which took 212 players off the market. And other than Julius Peppers, no real stars to throw sick money.

Well, nothing changed. Absolutely nothing.

Look at the number of players earning at least $2 million a year who changed teams on day one of free agency in 2009 versus 2010:

What changed? Nothing that I see. Two big defensive linemen, Haynesworth and Peppers. Two big linebackers, Scott and Dansby. Two fading backs, Taylor and Taylor. Two name safeties, Dawkins and Rolle. A few trades, none earthshaking. Good teams knew which important players to keep. Indianapolis kept an offensive cornerstone, center Jeff Saturday, last year, and a defensive leader, Gary Brackett, this year.

One more point about the value of splurging: In 2008, as a precursor to their Super Bowl seasons, Arizona and Pittsburgh signed no one from other teams in the first two days of free agency. In 2009, as a precursor to their Super Bowl seasons, New Orleans and Indianapolis signed no one from other teams in the first two days of free agency.

That's the thing about free agency: We celebrate it like it's a huge event, like if you get nothing done the opening 72 hours, your season's down the drain. Bills fans harmed themselves over the weekend. Bucs fan are mutinous. On Sunday afternoon, Washington GM Bruce Allen put free agency in perspective quite well, saying, "Free agency isn't a day, and it's not a weekend. We think free agency runs 'til the first day of training camp. Let's see who you have a couple of months from now, not just who you have after a couple of days. What difference does it make when you sign them, if they help you?''

I don't want to over-chart you, but check out this list of the top-paid wide receivers in free agency last year, and what happened to them:

Eight players who struck it rich, who combined to earn $58 million last year -- and none of the eight made the Pro Bowl, none of them had 80-catch seasons.

There's a clarion call out there, and it's screaming: Free agency is vastly overrated.

***

In order, here's the lineup for the rest of the column:

1. Sounds like Dan Snyder's doing what his football people tell him to do.

2. The Cardinals, more and more, are taking on a Steeler persona.

3. Jim Schwartz must be one heck of a texter.

4. I praise, I criticize, I wonder. The Bears and Ravens get noticed.

5. Mike McGuire says, "Please tell everyone, thank you.''

6. There's a reason Albert Pujols is good, and Bill Parcells finds it out.

7. Paul Zimmerman's not giving up.

8. Scott Fujita had $8 million reasons to jump Good Ship Saints.

9. For 8 million reasons, Brandon Marshall's not worth the sixth pick in this draft.

10. You know what I learned from the Saints' Super Bowl DVD? The reversal of the two-point conversion catch by Lance Moore was spot on by ref Scott Green --and Sean Payton loves him some Juicy Fruit.

Without further ado:

Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan seem to have a (fiscally conservative) plan in Washington.

I'm not sure it's going to work, but it's can't be much worse than the old days, when the Redskins won the NFL offseason championship every year but precious little else. Shanahan, the Redskins' coach with the power, and Allen, the new general manager, worked on a long-term plan for the team in their first month on the job and gave it to Snyder just before the Super Bowl. "He said, 'Good. Do what you guys think is best,' '' Allen said Sunday.

And the plan really included keeping the checkbook in the pocket on the first weekend of free agency? Really? Was Snyder apoplectic?

"No,'' Allen said. "He didn't throw anything at me. And he didn't throw a tantrum. He's fine with it.''

Allen believes in setting a plan for free agency, for instance, and not moving off it with the emotion of the moment. As with Julius Peppers. Were the Redskins interested in Peppers, the eighth-year Carolina defensive end who signed with Chicago? I believe they were. Absolutely. But I think they were interested in Peppers at a reasonable level of compensation -- say, $10 million a year. When they started hearing how desperate the Bears were for Peppers, I believe the Redskins knew they'd never have a chance at him. Same with several other guys they liked.

"What we did,'' said Allen, "is when we got the list of free agents with their phone numbers and agent phone numbers from the league [Thursday at midnight], and I highlighted the 40 or 50 we were interested in, and we started calling them. We left messages for some of them, talked to some of them, and told them we were interested. And we'll see where it takes us.''

Washington had left tackle Chad Clifton from Green Bay in on Friday, but the Packers kept Clifton with a three-year, $21-million deal -- probably more money and more years than Washington wanted to offer. On Saturday, they settled for a less accomplished but more versatile offensive lineman, Artis Hicks, who has played four of the five line positions in his checkered career. He's 31, with much less wear (and experience) than Clifton.

They re-signed center Casey Rabach. The offensive line and offensive backfield are still positions of major need. But Allen's experience tells him some historically good players with a year or two left -- maybe Thomas Jones, for instance, in the backfield -- will be there when the money is more to their liking. "The music hasn't stopped, and there's still a lot of chairs to be filled,'' Allen said. At least the tune in D.C. is different this year.

***

Arizona feels the shake, rattle and Rolle of a weird offseason.

Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin are gone, and defensive cornerstones Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle are too. Kerry Rhodes is in, but the Cards have some recovering to do. Strange days in the desert, and Ken Whisenhunt has been channeling his inner Steeler to makes sure he doesn't start believing the sky is falling.

"When I was in the AFC Central with Pittsburgh and Baltimore -- now it's the AFC North, of course -- I saw the Steelers lose Carnell Lake, Levon Kirkland, Rod Woodson, Jason Gildon, I'm sure there were others, and what did they do? They developed their own players. There's a lesson in that. The good teams are the ones that have a plan, and our organization has shown it's good at developing young players.''

Part of that development plan, this year, was making a trade for a 28-year-old safety instead of developing one in-house. The first thing the Cards did when they knew they might lose the unrestricted Rolle is talk to the Jets last weekend at the Scouting Combine; might Rhodes be available? And he was, despite the Jets' protestations to the contrary. The Cards were surprised at the amount of money Rolle, who wasn't even the best safety on his own team (Adrian Wilson was), earned from the Giants, who signed Rolle for five years and $42 million.

As it turned out, Rolle and Dansby broke the bank, the same way those Steelers guys did when foes wanted to buy pieces of the Steelers by buying a starter. Now Arizona has to hope Steve Breaston covers for Boldin, Matt Leinart for Warner and Rhodes for Rolle. At linebacker, the developmental pool is weak, so the Cards will bring in former Steelers (surprise!) Larry Foote and Joey Porter this week. Porter's more of a freelance rusher, while Foote is a run player almost exclusively. The problem is neither does the sideline-to-sideline stuff Dansby did.

On the bright side -- there is one? -- Wilson and Rhodes should combine for an excellent 1-2 punch at safety. I talked to Rhodes on Sunday night, and he said he'd already gotten an enthusiastic text-message from Wilson. "We've got the two best safeties playing together in the NFL,'' Rhodes said. "I can cover, he can cover. I can blitz, he can blitz. I can play free safety, he can play free safety. I can play strong, he can play strong. It's going to be a great combination.''

It'll need to be.

***

I think Jim Schwartz has something up his sleeve.

Last year, the Lions' regular starters on the defensive line were Sammie Lee Hill and Grady Jackson inside, Jason Hunter and Cliff Avril or Dewayne White outside. Imagine if the 2010 Lion defense line was Kyle Vanden Bosch and Avril at end, with Corey Williams, acquired from Cleveland Friday, playing the nose and ...

Ndamukong Suh playing the other defensive tackle. Or Gerald McCoy, if Suh isn't on the board when the Lions pick secondoverall in the April 22 draft.

Schwartz has visions of a dynamic defensive front backed by one of the best young safeties in the game, Louis Delmas, a 2009 second-rounder who's instinctive and tough. But the one thing he needs is for Avril or Vanden Bosch, who slumped to a three-sack season in Tennessee last year, to become a big-time pass-rusher. And if Detroit goes the DT route in the draft, Schwartz needs either Suh or McCoy to become the slippery 3-technique tackle the Lions would project one of them to be. One thing's for sure: The Lions are going be tougher to block up front if they field a line like that in 2010.

By the way, Schwartz, Vanden Bosch's former defensive coordinator in Tennessee, flew to Nashville last Thursday to recruit him. Schwartz said as soon as his watch showed 11 p.m. local time (free-agency began at midnight Eastern), he was close to Vanden Bosch's home and sent him this text message:

I could be anywhere in the country tonite, but I am here in Nashville to see you. Can I get a half hour tonight or tomorrow morning?

Schwartz

Vanden Bosch invited him into the house, and he stayed until the player agreed to come to Detroit, essentially.

***

Opinions of the Week

The three best decisions teams made in free agency over the weekend:

1. The Bears being bold. What choice did they have? I'm not in favor of free-agent spending sprees because they rarely bear fruit. But even though Julius Peppers is an overrated player, he clearly was the best player on the open market, and the Bears have no picks in the first two rounds of the April draft, and they had to do something to improve a sinking team. We've been saying for years the Bears will be a premier defense if Tommie Harris can return to being the player he was earlier in his career, and if Brian Urlacher can stay healthy. That's still the case. Now the poor man's Reggie White is another piece to the puzzle. We'll see if Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli can make this fit. On offense, Mike Martz has a physical back, Chester Taylor, and tight end, Brandon Manumaleuna, to play around with.

2. Cleveland got a good right tackle, Tony Pashos, for smart money -- $3.4-million a year. The first weekend of free agency is not usually for spending wisely. But this decision was smart because Pashos is a strong, passable pass-blocker who should be a C-plus booked for left tackle Joe Thomas.

3. Green Bay held onto Chad Clifton. It would have been lunacy for a strong offensive team with a good young quarterback to lose both tackles in one offseason, so GM Ted Thompson did the right thing, even though it's not a great habit to be paying $20 million over three years to a well-worn, 34-year-old tackle you're in the market to replace. The good thing for the Pack: only one year, essentially, is guaranteed, at $7.5 million.

The three worst decisions teams made:

1. Ryan Clark being unemployed. I understand teams don't want to pay real money for a big-hitting safety who might have a short shelf life in the NFL. But there are few players in the NFL in the back end who hit as ferociously as Clark and who lead as responsibly and conscientiously as he does. I think he'd fit well with the Dolphins, the site of his visit today. And I also think the Steelers will miss him badly if he leaves.

2. New England not moving aggressively to get a receiver. There's still time, of course. And I'd be shocked if New England didn't come out of this market with a veteran receiver, with Randy Moss a health risk, Wes Welker unlikely to start the season after major knee surgery, and no player in reserve to take the pressure off Moss.

Jimmy Johnson is close to Bill Belichick, and I'm sure the Patriot coach has heard Johnson talk about draft picks as currency. Well, it's time to use that currency. The Patriots own a one and three second-round picks -- 22nd, 44th, 47th and 53rd overall. I can see Julian Edelman doing a fine impersonation of Welker, and I don't doubt last year's sizeable third-round pick, 6-foot-1, 212 pound Brandon Tate of North Carolina, will play some role in the passing game. But with Moss 33 and Welker's return date unknown, this team is crying out for a veteran receiver. It's time to use the picks built up over years of smart draft-day dealing to get a receiver. As iffy as Anquan Boldin is, if Derrick Burgess was worth a three and a five last year, Boldin certainly would have been worth the same. Sure, the Pats don't own a third-round pick, but easily could have used the lowest of their three second-rounders to entice the Cards.

3. The Giants paying Antrel Rolle like the best safety in football when he hasn't performed that way. Rolle was the second-best safety on his own team. How many times have you watched Arizona play and said, "Rolle controlled that game?'' Never. He's never had a 100-tackle season in five years (not that that's the measuring stick for a great DB). He has intercepted 12 passes in five season and forced three fumbles in 68 career games. I think he's a nice player, not a dominant one.

This is the second straight year the Giants have paid a free-agent defended franchise-player money. Last year it was Chris Canty's six-year, $42-million deal; now it's $37 million for Rolle over five. Canty was hurt much of last season, but GM Jerry Reese needs Canty and Rolle to be the players he paid for or he's going to feel heat for the first time in his short but illustrious GM career.

The three decisions that I think should happen soon

1. Someone should go after Tennessee RFA defensive tackle Tony Brown. He's good, 29 and has only a first-round tender. If I'm at the bottom of the first round with a DT need (Indianapolis, San Diego), I'd think seriously about stealing Brown.

2. Someone should sign unrestricted pass-rusher Adewale Ogunleye. He's 33, healthy and a professional pass-rusher, with 35 sacks over the past seven years in Chicago. This is the kind of signing a smart team makes in the next couple of weeks for low guaranteed money.

3. I'm doing a thorough physical on free agent cornerback Marlin Jackson, dumped by the Colts. And unless I think his knee won't allow him to start the season, I'm moving aggressively to sign him. He's now missed much of the past two years with injuries, but he's a smart 26-year-old corner the Colts thought so highly of that they picked him in the first round five years ago. Worth the risk. He'll visit the Eagles and Ravens this week, and I'd be surprised if he were unemployed Friday.

Lots of news this week about the effort with the USO to provide Army First Sgt. Mike McGuire and other active-duty soldiers with the kind of off-time recreation activities so many of them lack.

You guys rock. In the first six days of the Five For Fighting fund-raising campaign ($5 to help raise the morale of our men and women in the most out-of-the-way outposts), you've contributed $124,500. Thanks, thank, thanks!

We have now covered all the expenses for McGuire's company to receive the recreation equipment, X-box, video games, big-screen TV and weight-training equipment he and his troops wanted. If you'd like to contribute and missed last week, understand your assignment: All I want is $5 for our troops, and all you have to do is click on this link to help:

John Ondrasik, the one-man Five For Fighting Band, the man who gave us permission to use the name, is feeling it too. Ondrasik started a tour last week in the northeast -- it continues this week in Philadelphia, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta and Orlando -- and reports on the people who've come to see him: "Incredible! I have fans walking up and putting five bucks on the stage for your effort. The USO must be blown away. Congrats!''

Mike McGuire is euphoric about your contributions. "I don't even know what to say,'' he wrote from Germany, where his 135-troop Havoc Company, 40th Engineers, is training for deployment in Afghanistan later this year. "I am speechless, really. We are just soldiers. Never expected anything like this. Please tell everyone, 'Thank you.' I wish I could describe the emotions better. This just proves that the American people have not forgotten about the soldier. WOW!!!''

For those who missed the column last week announcing the effort, here are the details: I asked Mike last year if there was anything he thought I could do for him and his troops when they deploy. He said it would be nice if the base that will likely be invented for his company -- as are many in remote areas of Afghanistan -- could have some or the comforts that the big bases have: a TV with video games, and weight equipment for the soldiers in the company to use in their downtime. The USO graciously offered to be the accountant for the project, and to collect the money -- and Mike and I agreed that any money raised beyond the $20,000 or so for his company's equipment will be used for other platoons in other remote areas of the war zones.

You have raised enough money to outfit recreation areas for five more platoons. The USO has a goal of sending its "USO2GO'' entertainment/recreation centers to 200 platoons and/or companies in Iraq and Afghanistan. You've outfitted McGuire's company and five more. So: only 194 left. Let's not stop now just because McGuire's men have their stuff.

There's another way the USO has figured out for you to show you care. Of all the items the USO sends to remote outposts around the world, its officials hear constantly that the most uplifting are the words of encouragement from back home. As an additional way to support the Five For Fighting campaign , the USO has created a virtual wall that we will share directly with Sgt. McGuire. If you'd like, please take a moment and offer a few words to let those men know that they're in our thoughts back here. Click here to send your best.

Our goal? Not to get 200 USO2GO recreation outfits for the men and women who need a diversion from days and weeks and months a world away from home. But to get as many as our hearts allow us to give.

Next week in this space, I'm going to use some of the best Tweets I get from you on Twitter (@SI_peterking) about why you contributed. So please, whether you gave five cents or $5 or $50, I'd like to hear in 140 characters why.

"I have seven kids that live in five different states. I made some wrong decisions in my first two years in the league. Now I have to take on the responsibility of being a father to my kids. I can separate my personal life and off-the-field issues from football ... The mothers [and I] try to work out a schedule where I can see my kids. I talk to them on IChat and Skype. We try to find different ways for me to be in their lives, no matter how it is.''-- Antonio Cromartie, traded from the Chargers to the Jets on Thursday night, on some of his off-the-field issues that spurred San Diego to jettison him.

"The onside kick's an easy one. It's just ... you know, across the line of scrimmage, you know, to the side ... Normal set up, normal get off, and instead of kicking off, we kick it left.''-- New Orleans coach Sean Payton, captured by NFL Films video and audio crews just before the Super Bowl, telling referee Scott Green before the game to be ready for the Saints to perform an onside kick at some point during the game.

"I'm proud of my players for doing that. This was the best team-building exercise we have ever done.''-- Texas A&M-Commerce football coach Guy Morriss, a former coach at Kentucky and Baylor and a longtime NFL player, who, in a police incident report, supported his players' removal of every copy of the student paper from campus outlets after the East Texan reported two of Morriss' players were arrested on drug charges.

The theft and disposal of a reported $1,100 worth of college newspapers angers me because I worked up to 10 hours a day for much of three years at The Post, Ohio University's independent student paper. I know the effort that goes into putting out a newspaper, regardless of the size or scope, and if school fathers at Texas A&M-Commerce have any guts, they'll sanction Morriss and his players seriously for this act of abject theft of school property. Shame on you, Guy Morriss.

"Chad Clifton could help fix the offensive line in Washington. If he is part of identical quadruplets.''-- Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio, on the Green Bay left tackle who momentarily flirted with the Redskins before re-signing with the Packers.

Last Monday, Dolphins president Bill Parcells, a huge baseball fan, stopped by the Cardinals' training facility in Jupiter, Fla., before going to the office. It was 6:50 a.m., and Parcells went looking for his good friend Tony LaRussa.

Parcells walked by the Cards' weight room. There was one man there. Albert Pujols.

"And he hadn't just gotten there either,'' Parcells said. "He was working hard, sweating. There's a reason why the great ones are great.''

This was the aggravating part of my weekend: My wife and I went to New Jersey to see friends and run some errands over the weekend, and I wanted to see how the new Giants Stadium was looking. So we dropped down onto the Turnpike, got off at construction-addled Exit 16W onto route 3 west for the 10-minute jaunt to Montclair, and immediately I felt it. Guy on my tail. Really on my tail. I'm driving 45 in the middle of three lanes, keeping with the flow, and he angrily weaves to the right, bursts past and, with not enough room to get ahead of me, weaves back to the right, taps his brakes and I tap mine and we all drive on. Aaaah. Back in Jersey!

This was the enjoyable part of the weekend: having lunch with Paul Zimmerman and his wife Linda in Morris Plains, N.J., Saturday. Matt Millen came over from eastern Pennsylvania to eat with us, and it was great to see Millen and Zim sit next to each other, with Millen spinning some of the craziest yarns I'd ever heard. (Next time you see Millen, ask him about helping a cow give birth on his neighbor's farm. That's a keeper.)

The good Dr. Z cannot speak coherently 15 months after his series of three strokes, so he was mostly a listener Saturday. But whether it was Millen and I going over our list of greatest running backs of all-time, and Z frowning and shaking his head if we didn't have Marion Motley high enough, or giving a thumbs up to my wife's incredible toffee, I could see what's still inside the man and how hard he's trying to let it all come out. A great afternoon.

"Good to see you, Z,'' Millen said, arm around his shoulder as we left. "You look good. Keep going, buddy.'' As Linda assures us, he will.

"Boldin to Ravens would be great!! That's my guy, plus he's a hell of a player ... You think it's going to happen, Peter? What're the chances?''-- D_Stallworth, new Baltimore receiver Donte' Stallworth, at 5:56 p.m. EST Friday, after I'd Tweeted the other day that the Ravens were close to signing Anquan Boldin.

1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of the kickoff of free agency:

a. Carson Palmer on the possible addition of Terrell Owens to the Bengals, via a text message to Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson: "If any qb can deal with extravagant wrs, it's me."

b. Be careful what you wish for, Carson. I mean it.

c. Thomas Jones will visit Kansas City today. All the factors argue against anyone giving Jones real money. He carried the ball 376 times, including playoffs, last season at 31. What 32-year-old back is worth any sort of money, coming after three straight seasons in which he carried it more than 900 times? I say it's Jones -- because he will be supremely motivated to stick it to the Jets for jettisoning him after three straight standout years. I'd pay Jones, then team him with Jamaal Charles to try to get 175 between-the-tackle carries out of him.

d. I admire the Panthers for firing Jake Delhomme. He was so bad in the last year plus one game that it had to be done -- yet Delhomme's such a leader and a class person that it had be torture for John Fox and Marty Hurney.

e. Good to see, by the way, John Fox. You've been Mr. Recluse.

f. Justin Bannan's a nice signing by Denver, but he won't be a big star. When role players leave Baltimore, they rarely shine.

g. No excuses not to be great, Karlos Dansby.

h. Same with you, Julius Peppers.

i. Good save onGary Brackett, Colts.

j. And on Chad Clifton, Ted Thompson.

k. Scott Fujita did not want to leave New Orleans. No way. But when the Browns gave him $8 million guaranteed over three years (three years, $14 million total), Fujita just had to say yes. He wouldn't have gotten half that with the Saints. Now he'll be a great role model type for a young defense and work alongside looming star D'Qwell Jackson for a year or two.

l. Chester Taylor will be the best thing that ever happened to Matt Forte.

2. I think this is a good get for UMass-Lowell: The commencement speaker for the Class of 2010, on May 29 at 10 a.m., is Roger Goodell.

3. I think I've always admired the work of Aaron Schatz of footballoutsiders.com, and I recommend his intelligent takes on pro football. Good example: Schatz posted his 2009 Football Outsiders awards the other day, and this was his line on Darrelle Revis winning FO's defensive player of the year in a rout over Charles Woodson, after the vote of 50 media members actually gave the NFL award in a rout to Woodson: "I'm not sure what the guy [Revis] had to do to actually win Defensive Player of the Year, maybe kill Randy Moss with his bare hands on national television while simultaneously picking off a Tom Brady pass using only his teeth.'' I wish I'd thought of that. Great work.

4. I think the more I hear about the players at the top of the draft, the more I think the Rams should use the first pick on one of the two top defensive tackles (Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy), then trade up to the mid-20s with their second-round pick to nab Colt McCoy, the Texas quarterback. You think he'll be there with the first pick in the second round? Not sure of that. Not sure at all. I think he'll end up going in the 20s.

5. I think we all have to be careful about rushing to judgment on Ben Roethlisberger after he was accused of sexual assault by a 20-year-old woman in Milledgeville, Ga., near where Roethlisberger has an offseason home. It's the second time in seven months that a charge of sexual assault against Roethlisberger has come to light, the first coming from a Nevada woman last July.

So without being judgmental ... if Roethlisberger is without fault, it still is utterly preposterous he puts himself in these situations. If Roethlisberger is without fault, he has to re-think who he associates with, and he has to re-think whether it's a very good idea to be hanging around college bars at 2 in the morning. If Roethlisberger is at fault, the issues are entirely different. If he's at fault, he has got to grow up. So we'll see.

6. I think NFL Films did a heck of a job on the Saints' Super Bowl video -- with one exception. The video comes out Tuesday, and I highly recommend it for the (as usual) inside-the-game aspects that you'll never see anywhere else. I got a chance to preview the DVD this weekend, and the only thing the video doesn't capture, in my opinion, is how different this Super Bowl title was from all the others.

This Super Bowl was a win as much for the community and Saints Nation as it was for the team. And though NFL Films touches on that several times in the sometimes transfixing video (interviewing local luminaries like Anne Rice about the meaning of it, and Drew Brees as well), it missed the chance to immerse the video in the local emotion of it. I thought the Tuesday Super Bowl parade deserved more than the credits rolling over it at the end of the video. [It turns out the Saints are going to put out their own DVD of the parade and other local events, and so NFL Films was not allowed to include much of substance from the parade. A shame.]

Here are some of the highlights from the Saints' season and the Super Bowl DVD that I liked, and that I'm sure you will:

a. Four men dressed as priests in white robes at one game ... and one of the "priests'' is holding a crucifix with a beer coozy around the middle of it. That's right -- a beer coozy, the foam thing that keeps beer cold. Just classic.

b. You'll see from two more NFL Films angles how easy a time Brett Favre would have had running for the first down on the play he threw the interception to lose the NFL title game. I know he said he couldn't have run for it, and maybe he couldn't -- but from my view, he had such an open field in front of him, he easily could have made the five or six yards that would have made the winning field goal by Ryan Longwell conceivable.

c. What a year Pierre Thomas had. He's the most underrated player on the team, easy.

d. What a playoff season Reggie Bush had. They have to keep him, even at $8 million for the year, in 2010.

e. Sean Payton to his offense on the sideline before attempting the fourth-and-one in overtime of the NFC title game, the two-yard plunge by Pierre Thomas: "You got the call here right? I love this call. I don't like it. I love it ... Hey, don't think. Ball security, Pierre.''

f. In the Super Bowl, Scott Fujita, miked, came to the sideline in the first half and reported on the progress about the mantra that was the defensive gameplan against Peyton Manning: "I'm getting Peyton good, man. Got three shots now.''

g. Sean Payton presaged the Manning first-half touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon, right over sub corner Usama Young. "Saw that one coming a mile away,'' he said.

h. You'll love the cinematography on the one-handed sack by Dwight Freeney and wonder to yourself: Imagine if Freeney were healthy for that game. What kind of difference would he have made?

i. In the second half, Payton walks to defensive assistant Joe Vitt, one of his most trusted coaches, and said pointedly: "Dallas Clark's got 149 yards now. Let's not let their best player beat us! That's a sin.''

j. Great reversal by Scott Green on the two-point conversion pass to Lance Moore. You can see it clearly -- Jacob Lacey kicks the ball out of Moore's hands when he has possession and has the ball stretched over the goal line.

k. Payton to an inactive player late in the game: "I want a piece of Juicy Fruit! Is this Juicy Fruit? ... It's good.''

l. Not that it would have mattered, down two TDs inside the two-minute warning, but you never know: Reggie Wayne dropped a touchdown in the end zone that would made the game a one-touchdown match with enough time left if the Colts could have converted an onside kick. Those are the breaks.

7. I think I haven't spoken to one coach or personnel man in the last three days who thinks Seattle would be smart to deal the sixth pick in this draft for Brandon Marshall. It just makes no sense. He's a great player, potentially, but you're giving up a cornerstone pick in the best draft in years and paying an incendiary player at least $8 million a year on a long-term deal. No question Marshall could justify the faith if Pete Carroll shows it in him. But the operative word there is "could.''

8. I think I don't understand one thing about the Cardinals' deal of Anquan Boldin: They had the Chiefs on the hook, and K.C. had to be willing to give its third-round pick to be in the discussion; The Chiefs' third pick was the 68th pick in the draft. Even if Kansas City wanted something minor in addition, isn't the 68th pick better than the 88th pick that Baltimore gave -- along with the Ravens giving their fourth in exchange for the Cards' fifth rounder to even out the deal? That's 20 slots in a very good draft.

9. I think Greg Olsen is right -- he won't be a featured player in the Chicago offense, and I understand him being upset that Mike Martz is running the show now. But I also think the Bears would be foolish to deal Olsen for anything less than a pick in the first half of the second round or better. You never know how long Martz, and the entire coaching staff, will last.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Can those people on the red carpet please think of a question with some smidgeon of intelligence? Kathy Ireland asked the star of "Precious,'' Gabouray Sidibe, "The world is hanging on your every thought right now ... What can you share with us?'' WHAT!!!!! What world is hanging on anything that any of these people say walking on a red rug into a big theater? Said Sidibe, looking shocked at such an incredibly bizarre question: "What can I share with you?'' she said, her mind racing to try to think of something, anything, she could. "I don't know. I have no idea. Uh, my excitement.''

And how about these two questions from Ireland's partner on the carpet to the greatest actress of our time, Meryl Streep: "What's your favorite part about [being here]?'' And: "What else are you looking forward to tonight?'' You've got the great Meryl Streep up there, and that's what you think to ask?

b. Disappointing big, big, big episode of "The Office.'' I'm always warned about spoiling the show for those of you who have DVRed the thing but not watched it yet, so let me make my three problems with the show known without being exact. One: Pam is too smart and too caring about her child to be so crazy to delay her trip to the hospital for the dumb reason that she uses, over and over again. Two: Dwight's the best, but doing what he does because he sees a spot of mold? Don't buy it. Three: It's not funny.

c. You can start dominating any time now, Ilya Kovalchuk.

d. Coffeenerdness: Great to be back in my Upper Montclair Starbucks for a while over the weekend, and to see so many familiar faces. The more things change, the more they stay the same: Martin's still the mayor of the place.

e. Thank you, Academy, for voting the Best Supporting Actor to the "Inglorious Basterds'' Nazi, Christoph Waltz. Incredible job.

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