Thursday, March 05, 2009

Addition by subtraction

I won't say that Jerry Jones has learned his lesson - he gets too easily distracted by shiny baubles that have no real substance, but he has certainly done more to improve his team by ridding it of problem children than most teams have done this off-season by signing play makers.

In what has been the worst kept secret of the NFL's hot stove season, the Cowboys have finally parted ways with resident league narcissist Terrell "It's All About Me" Owens, making the Cowboys the third contending team to figure out that Owens, despite an enormous amount of talent, creates more problems than he solves.

Owens is quick to point out that he's not former teammate Pacman Jones, also eliminated in the recent purge, and has not had any off the field incidents. This is true.

However, he's ended up at odds with every coach, and quarterback he's every played with. He's divided every locker room. He has been a difference maker, just not in the way teams have hoped.

Everywhere he has played he has left a smoldering crater of a team.

He was not the difference that got the Eagles over the hump in the early Oughts - people seem to forget he wasn't even available for the playoffs that year. Overall, teams in the post season with Owens are 4-7 and in only three of those eleven games has he exceeded 73 yards in receptions. In the remaining eight playoff games he has averaged 44 yards per game.

For all his talent and his demand to get the ball, Owens was first in the NFC and third overall in the NFL with 10 dropped passes one season removed from leading the league in consecutive seasons with 25 in 2007 and 17 in 2006. For a three year stretch he's averaged 13 drops each season.

That doesn't even take into account the fact that Owens is also coming off a season in which he failed to break 40 yards receiving in eight games and had another two in which he didn't hit 70. The three games in which he approached or exceeded 100 - against Seattle, San Francisco and he had a meaningless 103 yards in the 44-6 embarrassment of a season finale against Philly. No one is confusing the defensive backfields in Seattle and San Fran with anything resembling quality.

Getting rid of the ball demanding distraction, yeah, this team just got better.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bargain shopping and other thoughts

After the signings of Fred Taylor and Chris Baker in the wake of the trade that sent Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to Kansas City, the Patriots have approximately $16 million in cap space to play with. Realistically, that's not enough with which to make a big splash given the fact that has to account for free-agents and the draft. If you figure half of that goes to the rookie pool and tying up Vince Wilfork to an extension accounts for about half of that (I wouldn't be surprised if they decide that it's either Richard Seymour or Wilfork and they decide it's Wilfork that's the more important player), that leaves about $8 million for free agents. They'll probably try to keep about $2 million to $2.5 million in space heading into the season to cover unemployed veterans for emergency signings.

That leaves between $5 million to $6 million to bring in free agents, which means bargain hunting. Keep in mind that these are rough numbers ganked from and I would say that we're looking at a plus or minus about 2 to 2.5 million.

So, who could the Pats get on the cheap - maybe on one year incentive laden deals?

Well, first you have to ask where are they looking to shore up - I'm guessing that we're looking at a receiver or two, a D-end/Linebacker sort, a veteran O-lineman and maybe a couple of defensive backs. I would rank the needs like this -

1. DB
2. Pass rusher
3. WR
4. OL

As such, here are some of the moves I could see the Pats making (not that they will, but none of these would surprise me) -

If Bill Belichick believes he can get them for the minimum plus incentives for games played, I wouldn't be surprised to see either Shawn Springs or Mike Peterson on contracts like that. Peterson, if he can stay healthy, would be a good platoon player to move in and out with Tedy Bruschi. Springs, when healthy, is a highly talented cover corner that can play the league's best receivers one-on-one. Another option to bolster the pass rush, also on an incentive laden contract, is Jason Taylor. I think it's unlikely, and I wouldn't be surprised if he fades into retirement, but I think he would be tempted by what he might see as his best opportunity to go out with a championship. Forget about Lawyer Milloy returning - it's not happening given the fact that the reasons leaked for his release are the same reasons that got him out of New England and Buffalo.

I would also look at maybe Darren Sharper or the likes of Daven Holly and Sean Jones who played under Romeo Crennel on the Browns to come in to bolster the defensive backfield.

With Jabar Gaffney gone to Denver, the Pats' third best receiver over the last couple of seasons has left the building. I would think that the braintrust is going to add here - maybe someone like Devery Henderson or Shaun McDonald. These are guys that have a lot of talent, can be deep threats, but aren't going to get a look if they're trying to get starter's scratch, because neither has shown they're anything more than a third receiver.

I'm not even going to venture a guess at the extra offensive linemen that they will try to bring in, but I'm certain they will given the fact they have every year since Belichick has been coach.

The other end of the rainbow...

At the other end of the spectrum is the Redskins who have fired off one of the dumbest contracts in the history of the NFL. Yup, I'm talking Albert Haynesworth.

Yes, the volatile Haynesworth has been one of the best nosetackles in the game, if not the best, over the last two seasons. In those two seasons he's rocked 91 tackles, 14.5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. Of course that was done on consecutive one year contracts (45 tackles per season, 7.25 sacks, and 1.5 forced fumbles).

When Haynesworth was on a longterm contract his first five seasons he averaged 36 tackles per season, 1.9 sacks, and had a total of 3 forced fumbles. This is not a guy that plays hard when he knows he's set from a financial perspective.

He's also played in 16 games only once in his career and has averaged just under 13 games per season and has averaged 12.3 games per season since his sophomore season.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Rapid fire

Given the events of the last couple of days, I guess Tom Brady's healthy and and gearing up for the season.

Great piece in the New York Daily News about the new Eight Men Out, the faces of the current baseball scandal and those players likelihood of getting into the Hall of Fame. It's not saying these guys are the only ones to use, it just notes that they have become the face of the scandal.

Just my opinion, but if any of the guys mentioned in that article get in, they need to make Pete Rose eligible for Hall consideration.

Good showing in his first game in green by Stephon Marbury. Here's hoping that it's not too early, or that there's enough time left before the end of the season for Starbury to revert to form.

I'm guessing that Scott Pioli trades away the third pick in the draft in order to get a pick later in the first round and recoup the second rounder he sent to the Pats.

While I think the Pats will go after a linebacker at some point in the draft, or a 'tweener defensive end, I believe that Bill Belichick believes that the likes of Vince Redd or Shawn Crable is going to have a breakthrough season in 2009 (Gary Guyton is more an inside backer). Crable showed flashes in last year's preseason of being a guy who could improve the team's pass rush.

Early returns on Junichi Tazawa from Red Sox training camp have been universally good. While I expect him to start at Portland, I wouldn't be surprised if he were in Boston by the end of the season.

It's interesting that knee jerk reactions to the Yankee spending spree was that they were favorites to win the East. Once pundits had a chance to sit back and look at the teams, most started putting the Bommahs as the second or third best team in the division behind Boston, and sometimes behind the Rays.

I don't think Herm Edwards ever gets a head coaching gig again. Consider - in eight seasons as a head coach he has amassed a 54-74 regular season record (39-41 with the Jets and a brutal 15-33 with the Chiefs), has an abysmal 2-4 playoff record, and his teams have averaged third place finishes (in four team divisions). Wrap that around a coach that turns 55 in a league that's moving away from recycling older coaches in favor of young assistants, and you've got a guy that might get a coordinator gig if he wants to stay in coaching, but he's not leading anymore teams. Have fun with the analyst gig, Herm.