Continuing our look at some of the decisions made on players over the initial burst of free agency in an uncapped year:
A new watchdog in Washington
The offseason – and the uncapped year in 2010 – is only four days old, but some have already started to notice a new mantra with the league’s highest-spending team over the past decade. As someone who grew up a diehard Redskins fan, I followed George Allen’s “The Future is Now” era, with a veteran-laden team in pre-free agency football. Now Allen’s son, Bruce, is developing the Redskins new philosophy, “The Future is not only now but later.”
The Redskins showed surprising – and in my opinion admirable – self-restraint in the opening days of free agency, a time they usually garner headlines. Even the courtship of Packers left tackle Chad Clifton was restrained compared to past recruiting, with the ‘Skins not offering enough to pry Clifton away from his incumbent team.
The Redskins used to buy up big-name players past their prime at above retail rates – their team in 2001 looked like a Pro Bowl squad, although from the Pro Bowl in 1996. Now they’ve actually made a statement about a new way of doing business, even prior to the bell ringing on Friday. I thought that the long list of players they released on Thursday, many of them former first-day free agents, was a declaration to the world that the stupid money days were over. Former splashes such as Antwaan Randle-El, Cornelius Griffin, Fred Smoot, Randy Thomas and Todd Collins were all shown the door, the same door that was opened to them with millions behind it a couple of short years ago. Thursday’s cut list from the Redskins may have been the most dramatic statement made yet in the 2010 league year.…
The deal given to Vince Wilfork by the Patriots surprised me for a few reasons:
• The use of the franchise tag on Wilfork was a way for the team to go year to year with a player who might need that annual motivation and to avoid a big cash commitment in an uncertain year;
• The Steelers had set up the Patriots with the team-friendly deal for nose tackle Casey Hampton, with $11 million guaranteed. The Pats went way past it with a reported $25M guaranteed to Wilfork. Certainly, it’s a far cry from the $41M guaranteed that Albert Haynesworth received last year, but in light of the Hampton deal, it’s a strong one indeed;
• Everything the Patriots do financially – even today’s expected re-signing of cornerback Leigh Bodden — is being closely watched by their bell cow, Tom Brady, whose contract expires this season. I expect them to keep some powder dry for that extension, especially after Peyton Manning and Drew Brees get their megadeals sometime this spring….
The Lions lair, minus Big Grady
The Lions have become true aggressors in the free-agency chase. They first locked up Nate Burleson with an eye-opening $25M deal, with $11M guaranteed, then went to work on their defensive line. Coach Jim Schwartz played the ultimate recruiting compliment to a player, showing up as the bell went off at midnight at the house of Kyle Vanden Bosch to visit and drink some wine (without a cap, no cap violation for the Cabernet!). While coach and player dealt with the wine flow, the team’s front office and agent dealt with the cash flow in hammering out a four-year, $26M deal, with $10M guaranteed. Vanden Bosch was rewarded for his team play and high character, things that former Titans assistant coach Schwartz remembered and rewarded.
Vanden Bosch will join a new defensive line being put together by the Lions. It will now include Corey Williams, a player the Browns gave up a second-round pick to the Packers to procure two years ago. I remember the trade well, as the Browns called me with several questions about Williams in their due diligence about the trade. I told them that Williams was a bit immature but a true talent. Williams did not live up to his contract and has been shed by the Browns’ new management.
Unfortunately, a casualty of these Lions signings is defensive tackle Grady Jackson, one of the most memorable players I’ve met. Jackson – as many front office personnel around the league know as he’s been with several teams as well as a few agents – is a bit of a high-maintenance guy, but a likable one. Now released by the Lions, “Tons of Fun,” as we called him, will be without the regimen and necessary conditioning of playing for a team. That’s unfortunate for someone of his size since he must now use self-motivation and discipline in battling weight issues that have been part of his life even while playing. I worry about Grady and sincerely hope he worries about himself.
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For a look at ten predictions for some of the top free agents left, check out this article from Bleacher Report.