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
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
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
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
2. The Cardinals, more and more, are taking on a Steeler persona.
4. I praise, I criticize, I wonder. The Bears and Ravens get noticed.
6. There's a reason
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
Without further ado:
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
They re-signed center
"When I was in the AFC Central with Pittsburgh and Baltimore -- now it's the AFC North, of course -- I saw the Steelers lose
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 (
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
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.
Last year, the Lions' regular starters on the defensive line were
Schwartz has visions of a dynamic defensive front backed by one of the best young safeties in the game,
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:
Vanden Bosch invited him into the house, and he stayed until the player agreed to come to Detroit, essentially.
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
2. Cleveland got a good right tackle,
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
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
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
1. Someone should go after Tennessee RFA defensive tackle
2. Someone should sign unrestricted pass-rusher
3. I'm doing a thorough physical on free agent cornerback
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.
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
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.
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.''
"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.''
"I'm proud of my players for doing that. This was the best team-building exercise we have ever done.''
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
"Chad Clifton could help fix the offensive line in Washington. If he is part of identical quadruplets.''
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
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
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
"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?''
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of the kickoff of free agency:
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
d. I admire the Panthers for firing
e. Good to see, by the way, John Fox. You've been Mr. Recluse.
g. No excuses not to be great, Karlos Dansby.
h. Same with you, Julius Peppers.
i. Good save on
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
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
3. I think I've always admired the work of
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
5. I think we all have to be careful about rushing to judgment on
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
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
c. What a year
d. What a playoff season
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
g. Sean Payton presaged the Manning first-half touchdown pass to
h. You'll love the cinematography on the one-handed sack by
i. In the second half, Payton walks to defensive assistant
j. Great reversal by Scott Green on the two-point conversion pass to
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:
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
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
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?
And how about these two questions from Ireland's partner on the carpet to the greatest actress of our time,
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,
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:
e. Thank you, Academy, for voting the Best Supporting Actor to the "Inglorious Basterds'' Nazi,