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Assessing the 2nd Weekend of 2010 NFL Free Agency

Just like I did in several posts last week, the following are my thoughts on some of the notable moves made this past several days as free agency 2010 in the NFL entered its second week beginning on Friday. Of course, most of the marquee signings take place in the first week, if not first day, of free agency. Nevertheless, there were some acquisitions worth mentioning this weekend. Let's take a look at several of them.

Friday March 12th

Moves I Liked:

  • Not sure I love this move exactly, but the Green Bay Packers worked out a 3-year extension with free safety Nick Collins just days after Collins had agreed to sign his initial tender offer as a restricted free agent. The move keeps Green Bay's secondary intact for the next several years, and as we all know, continuity is sometimes hard to put a price on. Still, the one true taste I got of Green Bay's secondary was when the Steelers played them. And I don't think I'm alone when I say that I wasn't all that impressed by what I saw! Big Ben threw for over 5 bills that day, in case you forgot. The Packers will pay Collins roughly  $7 million per year for the next three years. Collins made a name for himself in 2008 with 3 defensive touchdowns on interception returns, and he has impressively combined to intercept 13 passes the past two seasons.
  • Not that huge a move by the Tennessee Titans, but still I thought it was wise to re-sign CB Rod Hood to a new deal. Terms have not yet been disclosed to my knowledge, but they were probably fairly modest. Hood will turn 29 years old during the '10 season. He began his career in Philadelphia before moving onto Arizona then the Titans last year. At worst he provides the Titans with some extra depth in their secondary.

Moves I Disliked:

  • Really don't like the move by Cleveland to pay former New England Patriots TE Benjamin Watson $12 million over the course of the next three seasons. That's not boatloads of money or anything, but unless I'm missing something, what exactly does he bring to the table at 30 years of age that fellow TE Robert Royal does not? Furthermore, as a point of comparison, Heath Miller will earn ~$6 million per year for the next 6 years. Watson will be making $4/year with more than half of his $12 million guaranteed. Before Browns fans clobber me for hating anything Cleveland does personnel wise, let me say that I absolutely loved the move to pick up Jake Delhomme. More on that soon enough.
  • I don't know if I dislike this move so much as I think it creates the possibility for major distractions in D.C. The Washington Redskins signed running back Larry Johnson to a 3 year deal over the weekend, the terms of which have not yet been disclosed. I do think it's wise to get some insurance in the 'Skins backfield in the event that Clinton Portis is not able to return healthy and effective in 2010. But I see no way that both of those strong personalities can co-exist this coming year. 


Saturday March 13th

Moves I Liked:

I find it very odd that everybody seems to scoff at the Cleveland Browns' decision to sign embattled quarterback Jake Delhomme to a 2-year contract. Actually I think it's flat-out incorrect and incomplete analysis by those who think it's a terrible decision just because the guy had a string of poor performances that are fresh in the collective memories of NFL fans. That's the thing though - humans, and sports fans in particular, tend to remember either what they want to remember or what is most fresh in their mind - depending on what's conveneint for whatever narrative they're trying to stick to. For Steelers fans, that narrative is:'the Browns suck, will always suck, and this move is just another example of them sucking.' For other NFL fans it's: 'Jake Delhomme is a turnover machine who totally can't be trusted to lead a football team.

Uh, don't be so quick to pass such sweeping judgment at the very least. I think it's a brilliant move by the Browns, who just recently released Derek Anderson and traded away Brady Quinn to Denver. It's funny, people now consider Delhomme a total disgrace and joke of a quarterback. I suppose that's what happens when you turn the ball over six (or was it seven?) times and cost your team a chance in the '08 playoffs, then follow that putrid performance up with four INTs in the '09 regular season opener en route to a 8:18 TD/INT ratio last  year.  Consider this though, 11 of Delhomme's 18 INTs last year came in three games. 4 in both the opener and in his final game of the season before being benched, with a 3 INT performance turned in against Buffalo in the middle of the season. He threw just 7 INTs in his other 8 starts last year

I actually would have preferred to write about this move in its own individual post, but here are the primary reasons why I like the move by Mike Holmgren and the Browns....

A) let the never ending debate about who should start between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn be over with. It is now. It's a new era in Cleveland and it will begin with neither of the two quarterbacks who failed to live up to the promise that surrounded both following the Browns solid '07 season.

B) Now that both are gone, it makes plenty of sense to bring in somebody to compete with Seneca Wallace for the starting job. Wallace is neither a slouch nor anything close to a reliable, consistent NFL quarterback..

C) People seem to overlook this, but Delhomme has been very good and very consistent as a starting quarterback in this league for Carolina since 2003 when he was given the keys to their offense fulltime. He owns a 50-31 career record as a starter and has a career TD:INT ratio of 123:94.Outside of his atrocious '08 playofff performance, he's actually been quite good in the playoffs. He's 5-3 in postseason play and has thrown 12 TDs to just 10 INTs - 5 of which came in that loss to Arizona.

D) Perhaps more importantly than anything else, Delhomme is one of the truly all time great guys in NFL history. Let it be known that I have absolutely zero allegiance or bias to the guy, but don't let the occasional spat with the mercurial wide receiver Steve Smith fool you - Delhomme was universally adored by his teammates and coaches in Carolina. There's a reason that John Fox and GM Marty Hurney both had to fight back tears when discussing Delhomme's recent release. He's a special man, leader and teammate and the Browns are going to really benefit from his presence, even if he's not their starting quarterback.

E) Finally, I'll say I think he will be their starting quarterback in 2010. We've seen it happen time and time again in professional sports. A once proud and capable athlete hits a bad  stretch of games or gets derailed by injury and is never able to break free of the psychological demons that have crept inside his head...UNTIL he gets a chance to start completely fresh somewhere else. It happened to Kurt Warner, Drew Brees, Randall Cunningham in varying degrees to name a but a few quarterbacks. The list goes on and on for other NFL positional players as well as athletes in the other major professional sports.

I'm not quite as confident saying this as i was saying that the Broncos would miss the playoffs after their torrid start to the '09 season, but I truly believe Delhomme will bounce back in '10 with a fresh start outside of Carolina. I think he is the opening day starter for Cleveland and has them contending for a playoff berth come December. Whether or not the Browns are able to do the little things and catch the breaks necessary to win enough games to be playing in January is impossible to tell - and frankly, not too likely considering their overall personnel situation. But anybody who thinks they have sabotaged their chances at doing anything at all next year with this move is flat out wrong. Neither Brady Quinn nor Derek Anderson was the answer. Delhomme may not be a longterm solution - not by a longshot - but the 34 year old Cajun still has some good ball left in him. I think he starts as long as he's healthy (and that's always a big if for an immobile QB his age) and that he leads Cleveland to at least a .500 record in the games that he's the starting quarterback. Heard it here first.


Sunday March 14th

Moves I Liked:

  • I'm sure everyone will be weighing in on this move on Monday, but let me just briefly say that I think the New York Jets are a pretty good fit for former San Diego Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson. Some might wonder if LT's presence will hinder the development of RB Shonn Greene, who burst onto the scene as a rookie last year for Rex Ryan's squad. I wondered if bringing Thomas Jones to Kansas City might do the same for the sensational Jamal Charles. We'll see what happens but something tells me Rex Ryan will find a way to get across the old famous Tomlinism message of 'together we all eat.' I do wonder though if LT will struggle at times adjusting to life in the frigid AFC East, particularly in the later months of the season when the playing surface at the Meadowlands must feel like concrete. I do think though that having a young QB like Mark Sanchez will increase LT's chances of playing a significant role this next year. Ryan would already prefer to win with defense and ball control, even with a veteran quarterback. But throw in the fact that Sanchez still has plenty to learn and I think you'll see LT get the opportunity to tote the rock 150-200 times + catch 30-45 passes. 

Moves I Disliked:

  • Not a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers bringing back their other starting offensive tackle Mark Tauscher. Late last week, the Packers also brought back Chad Clifton. Tauscher will be 33 years old during the '10 season and had suffered an ACL injury in '08. He returned in '09 to start 8 games for the Packers, but even though QB Aaron Rodgers exhibited some Roethlisbergian tendencies to hold onto the ball too long last year, it can't be ignored that the Packers surrendered a league leading 51 sacks last season.