by Michael Lombardi
May 13, 02010
QUOTE: “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.” – Thomas Aquinas
Browns’ restricted free agents expected to sit out OTAs
The Cleveland Browns' restricted free agents -- including starters Jerome Harrison, Abe Elam, D'Qwell Jackson, Matt Roth and Lawrence Vickers -- are likely to skip the team's voluntary organized team activities, which begin Monday, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. This makes no sense to me, especially since the restricted market is over. For these players to earn the contracts they ultimately want, they’ll need to play well next season. In addition, playing well starts with being productive in the offseason. The Browns finished at the bottom of the league in many defensive categories and won only five games last year -- with these players in the starting lineup. If any of them are not with the team next season, will it cause the Browns to win only four games or not be ranked 31st in yards allowed?
The larger issue here for the Browns is why these younger players feel entitled to new deals -- regardless of what may have been promised to them in the past. The reason for their feelings centers on head coach Eric Mangini, who was in charge of the entire operation at the time. Some players (according to the agents) were promised (allegedly) that they would get long-term deals in the offseason. But since Mike Holmgren took over, old promises are not being kept.
This is similar to when Uncle Junior took over for Jackie Aprile in season one of “The Sopranos.” Junior decided to change the rules of the game but first sent in Mikey Palmice to let people know there was a new sheriff in town. Palmice, one of the best characters of season one, was the muscle to let everyone know Junior was not happy with the status quo. Since February, the Browns have let everyone know there’s a new sheriff (Holmgren) in charge and the team needs to focus on winning (novel concept) before anyone is rewarded with a new deal. I understand a player’s timetable for making money is very short, but when a player is restricted, he has very little market or leverage unless the team is willing to make an exception.
The best thing these players can do is start worrying about winning and playing well before they worry about new deals. If Mangini was not in the building, Holmgren would not have to deal with these issues, but since he’s still there, the players feel they have a compelling argument.
Holmgren, much like Uncle Junior, is going to have to flex his muscle and break up the card game. He will need to send a message to his team that none of these players is essential to winning -- particularly since all of them are more interested in their own deals than in helping the Browns get out of the basement of the AFC North. The easiest thing for any executive in the NFL is to deal with unhappy players who want long-term deals after the team has not won anything the year before. Holmgren needs to call Mikey Palmice.
Whisenhunt impressed with the Cards on offense
Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt has been impressed with what he’s seen from the Cards so far in minicamp -- which is a very good sign for quarterback Matt Leinart. The way Leinart plays will determine the team’s success in 2010, and Leinart seems to understand the level of expectations. Wednesday, he said, “People can say what they want about me, but I still haven't really proved anything yet. I haven't been out there, so I don't think you can make a fair judgment.”
Leinart is right, and he seems to be in the right mindset to embark on the challenges that await him. His view implies he does not feel the entitlement of being a first-round pick, which means he’s receptive to the coaching he is receiving. I am not sure if Leinart can be successful, but I do know he was never going to achieve any success until he changed his work habits, his feeling of entitlement and his commitment.
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