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The Curious Case Of Bryant McFadden

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As was discussed last week after the Pittsburgh Steelers franchised Max Starks, the most pressing question mark surrounding the team's 2009 offseason is now what to do about Bryant McFadden. With nearly 1,000 votes cast, you guys and gals are pretty evenly split on what you think will happen, with '50/50 he gets re-signed' the leader in the clubhouse at 38%. Not too far behind though at 14% is the belief that there's no way B-Mac will be back in 2009 and beyond.

I don't really want to go back to the conversations regarding the economics of the situation. Instead, I just want to take a look at the careers of other CBs around the league who were Day 1 draft picks like McFadden. My hypothesis going into this is that McFadden played significantly less than his peers in his first three years. And the reasons really didn't have everything to do with talent.  Instead, like it was in Minnesota with Mewelde Moore finding nowhere to fit in amongst the highly paid duo of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. He became their trash and our treasure. Bryant McFadden is obviously a lot more expensive to retain than are the Mewelde Moores of the league, but it's still similarly imperative that we don't let him walk away and become somebody else's treasure - even if he does have a high price tag attached to him.

 

Top 12 CBs Taken In 2005 NFL Draft
Player (draft pick) Team (draft pick) Games Played/Started # of Top 10 Pass Defenses
Adam 'Pacman' Jones (6th) Tennessee/Dallas #### ####
Antrel Rolle (8th) Arizona Cardinals
53 / 44 0
Carlos Rogers (9th)

Washington Redskins

51 / 41 1
Fabian Washington (23rd) Oakland Raiders 58 / 45 1
Marlin Jackson (29th) Indianapolis Colts 52 / 32 3
Stanford Routt (38th) Oakland Raiders 61 / 21 1
Corey Webster (43rd) New York Giants 57 / 31 1
Ronald Bartell (50th) St. Louis Rams 58 / 44 0
Darrent Williams (56th) Denver Broncos  *******  *******
Justin Miller (57th) New York Jets 42 / 23 1
Kelvin Hayden (60th) Indianapolis Colts
57 / 27 3
Bryant McFadden (62nd)
Pittsburgh Steelers 51 / 18 3

#### Nothing worthwhile to learn from Pacman's trajectory.

***** Darrent Williams was tragically killed just hours after the last game of Denver's 2006 season.

Conclusions

  1. Outside of Justin Miller of the Jets, no player has played fewer games than has Bryant McFadden. And nobody has started fewer games. Is this because all these CBs are better players than is B-Mac? No, no. That's not it. It has more to do with the entrenched incumbents in place when B-Mac was drafted. Because of his relative lack of experience, I think we saw a touch lower learning curve from B-Mac than some of his counterparts around the league who saw themselves thrust into action early and often in their careers on poor teams.
  2. Not coincidentally I don't think, no team outside of the Colts had as many top ten pass defenses than did Pittsburgh since McFadden's drafting. It should be noted too that the Colts pass defense was so 'good' partly because there rush defense was so bad
  3. Therefore, in my estimation, it's not at all fair to reference the fact that B-Mac couldn't get on the field consistently enough to warrant a big pay day. 
  4. Unfortunately, the surprisingly steady and improved play that Deshea Townsend has brought to our pass defense this past two years can not nor should not be relied upon in 2009 and especially in 2010. The guy will be 34 years old when the 2009 season kicks off. Do we really want to make a repeat run with a 34 year old CB and a 3rd year 5th rounder? With literally nothing behind the them two and Ike Taylor? I Do Not think so. Not for 16 games.

Salary Comparisons:

  1. Kelvin Hayden - recently signed 5-year extension for $43 million 
  2. Justin Miller - set to become free agent. Not as durable or same size and skills as B-Mac.
  3. Carlos Rogers, Marlin Jackson, Stanford Routt, Fabian Washington - 2010 Free Agents
  4. Antrel Rolle - 2011 Free Agent
  5. Ronald Bartell - set to become free agent this week. He and B-Mac will be two of the hottest commodities on the market.
  6. Corey Webster - 5-year $43.5 million extension in December. $20 million in guarantees but the guarantees end in 2011, with the final three years basically being option years

First of all, notice that Kelvin Hayden contract. The Indianapolis Colts are a very well run franchise. Nearly their entire roster is comprised of home-grown (drafted) talent, much like Pittsburgh. They also are experiencing some salary cap problems right now and might have to cut Marvin Harrison as a result. Pittsburgh too might have to make a similarly tough decision if Hines Ward doesn't perhaps do the same. We'll see, but the point is that Kelvin Hayden is not that much better than Bryant McFadden, if any at all, and he just got paid by a typically very sound decision maker in Bill Polian. These are tough decisions to make for teams, but they can be the types of decisions that allow teams to do great things in the short and intermediate term, even if it means having to balance things out in the longer term.

Because we're in that window to do great things and make another run at a Super Bowl or two in the immediate future, I think the time is now to invest more than is maybe prudent in most years when it's less obvious that the team is in great shape to make another deep run.

Moving on. Is there a way for the Steelers to get something done like the Giants did with Corey Webster? Perhaps even with a smidge less money guaranteed than he got? The way I see it, the Steelers could ensure that they have the CB position locked down through 2011 esentially, which would in turn allow them draft other positions of need in 2009 and 2010 - most notably along the offensive and defensive lines. If not, the Steelers are back to the drawing board looking for a CB on Day 1 of the 2009 NFL Draft. You can count on that if B-Mac walks.