In memory of Mosi Tatupu

First, a recognition of the passing of a wonderful guy in Mosi Tatupu, who died Tuesday at age 54.

In 1992, I was part of a venture called the Professional Spring Football League and was trying to get the team in Boston going, the New England Blitz. Our head coach was Steve Grogan (as good a guy as there is), who was putting the band back together from the Patriots with coaches including Steve Nelson, Roland James and Mosi. Although we didn't last long before the money ran out on the league, I became an instant fan of Mosi, who brought a great spirit and teamwork to the group.

I never met anyone who ever had a cross word about Mosi, who just made people smile and laugh. RIP, Mosi Tatupu.

Why did the Chargers and Eagles release two of their all-time greats in LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook?

Age is not a running back's friend. There’s no doubt that this is the toughest position to reward with second and third contracts. In Green Bay years ago, I strongly recommended that we not reward Ahman Green – a wonderful player, good person and friend -- with the type of long-term contract he was looking for when he became a free agent. We lost him to the Texans, which was tough at the time, but I would have felt worse had we matched Houston’s offer.

The Chargers and Eagles are two organizations that, while they value loyalty, do not let sentimentality get in the way of tough decision-making regarding players. Both players have shown the effects of age at a position that requires constant stopping, starting and colliding.

The Chargers did a renegotiation with Tomlinson at this time last year, as did the Eagles with Westbrook a couple of years ago, but these were simply deals that put off the inevitability of this day. I would be reluctant to reward any running back after his rookie contract unless totally convinced of what every agent says about their backs: "He doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear."

Although the subject of earlier eligibility for college players into the NFL is for another day, I truly understand the argument when it comes to running backs. Many end up spending their most productive years as unpaid college players.

The Tomlinson and Westbrook contracts join the growing graveyard of second or third contracts of running backs that are prematurely terminated and/or should never have been done in the first place. Among them: the deals for Jamal Anderson, Eddie George, Corey Dillon, Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James, Larry Johnson, Deuce McAllister, LaMont Jordan, Jamal Lewis, Green, etc. -- and perhaps even more to come such as Brandon Jacobs, Willis McGahee and Clinton Portis.

Why are the Panthers not protecting Julius Peppers with a franchise tag rather than letting him become the most sought-after free agent of 2010?

This has been a marriage headed for divorce for some time. The Panthers are still kicking themselves for placing the franchise tag on Peppers last year, watching him take $18 million of their money while not wanting to be there. Now, in a year when the team will watch its spending more carefully, it’s in no position to allocate $20M to Peppers, a number that would become guaranteed the moment he signed the tender. Still stung by the extension given to Jake Delhomme, which has a guaranteed $13M remaining, the Panthers can't get out from under the weight of their financial albatross fast enough. Peppers will move on and the Panthers will be fine. This was a separation waiting to happen.

Why did the Patriots place the franchise tag on Vince Wilfork?

The team provided a nice statement about trying to negotiate a long-term deal with Wilfork. Not sure I believe that. Wilfork obviously had high demands, looking at the market created by Albert Haynesworth at his position last year at this time, and the Patriots clearly wanted to proceed with caution. A year-by-year approach suits their interests with the beefy Wilfork, and the franchise tag is the perfect vehicle for that. Of course, everything the Patriots do has to be factored into their plans – or lack thereof -- for Tom Brady, now in the last year of his contract and certain to take notice of coming mega-deals for Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

Why are the Packers going to place the franchise tag on Ryan Pickett?

There’s obviously a trend going on with these beefy defensive tackles – Wilfork, Pickett, Aubrayo Franklin, perhaps Casey Hampton – in which teams are deciding to pay as they go for $7M rather than commit to the $20M or more guaranteed that these long-term deals usually require. And with players who may be vulnerable to weight issues, it makes some sense.

“Grease,” as Pickett is called, has been an important and popular player for the Packers. Teammates rally around him, and he may be the most respected player there on defense, along with Charles Woodson and Al Harris.

I’ll never forget signing him four years ago when we reached agreement while he was visiting Buffalo. While he was finishing up a visit with the Bills and was supposed to catch a ride back to his hotel there, we sent a car to pick him up at the back of the facility and take him to the airport to fly to Green Bay and sign the contract, a contract that was quite a bargain for the Packers.

Free agency, as we will see in a week, is like the Wild West – anything can happen.

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