Thoughts on 2009 NFL Free Agency

Some teams have better luck than others when it comes to figuring out how best to mix players from other temas with their own.  It’s not as simple as looking at a player on tape or assessing how well he plays against your squad.  There is much more to it.  Signing free agents is more art than science.  Here are some of my thoughts on the canvas of options facing teams across the league.

  • Starting at the top, the Redksins announced the signing of former Tennessee Titan defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.  Haynesworth was the most prized signee of the off-season.  Most folks that I’ve heard and read like the signing by Washington.  Some are concerned about whether Albert will eat his way out of the elite.  I like the move by Washington because it strengthens a unit that was already very good.  The Redskins only surrendered more than 24 points one time last season.  Haynesworth figures to increase their sack and INT totals.  If he is paired with Cornelius Griffin and Jason Taylor returns to his natural position, the Redskins should impose their will defensively.
  • TJ Houshmandzadeh is still looking for a team.  I am concerned about how well TJ will perform on a team without another elite receiver.  For all his accomplishments, Houshmandzadeh hasn’t done anything of note without Chad Johnson drawing most of the attention since high school.  TJ might be the real deal, but I don’t believe anyone really knows.  For all the attention he is commanding (visits to Seattle, Minnesota and Philadelphia), the expectations are clearly high.  I believe he may be best suited for Philadelphia because of these 3 teams, the Eagles have the best overall QB-RB combination.  I’m going on record as saying if he goes to Philly, I see 90 catches, 1200 yards and 12 touchdowns.  If he goes to Seattle or Minnesota, I don’t think he gets close to those numbers.
  • Kurt Warner needs to stay in the desert.  He’s too old to go to another team and begin anew.  He needs to play with elite receivers.  When Warner has not been paired with Hall of Fame caliber receivers, he’s been mediocre, at best.  The best thing for him to do is to drive the hardest possible bargain and remain in Arizona.
  • Things are looking up for the New York Jets.  I still believe the franchise is cursed.  Brett Favre’s ability to lead the team to a win over the Titans this past season almost made me forget.  Of course, the Jets returned to form by failing to make the playoffs.  The addition of Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, linebacker Bart Scott, cornerback Lito Sheppard and the resigning of Brandon Moore suggest the Jets could be headed in the right direction.  The team shed Laveranues Coles and will be looking to add a complement to Jerricho Cotchery.  The team is still unsettled at QB — as much as they were last year when they signed “the walking INT.”
  • Is it possible that Ray Lewis and Julius Peppers will both wind up in Dallas?  I could be crazy, but it seems to me like that is a very sensible place for both of them.  Julius Peppers wants out of Carolina.  He could go to another 3-4 team, but I imagine he wants to go somewhere with a Super Bowl-caliber offense.  Pittsburgh is out of the question.  With Harrison and Woodley, Peppers’ price tag makes no sense.  New England is unlikely, though with the trade of Matt Cassel, the door could swing wide open for Peppers, Adalius Thomas and Richard Seymour to simply terrify the entire AFC.  Denver and KC have too much work to do.  Most of the other 3-4 teams simply have too much work to do to be attractive to Peppers.  I’ve heard that he doesn’t want to be the center of attention that he was in North Carolina.  He won’t have to worry about that in Dallas.  As for Ray Lewis, if you saw his giddy interview with Deion Sanders during Super Bowl week, you’d know he’s strongly considering Dallas.  Given the Cowboys reputed concern about the locker room impact of Terrell Owens, Ray Lewis makes perfect sense.
  • The Cowboys signing of John Kitna was an excellent move.  I’ve always liked Kitna.  He was a 4,000 passer (twice) in Detroit and played very well for the Bengals just prior to the ascent of Carson Palmer.  Kitna is a tough player who will provide an interesting contrast from Tony Romo.  The Cowboys traded Anthony Henry to the Detroit Lions.  Henry wasn’t their fastest corner, but he was definitely their toughest.
  • Will the St. Louis Rams return to form with the signing of former Ravens C Jason Brown?  Last year, the Rams were among the most injured teams in the league.  Will Mark Bulger bounce back?  Will Donny Avery take the next step?  Will Steven Jackson return to form with a full camp under his belt?
  • The Titans overpaid for Kerry Collins.  He did a decent job, but he never allowed the Titans to tap into what could have been an explosive deep passing game.  The Titans have two of the worst receivers in the league in Justin Gage and Justin McCareins.  Yeccch!!  The Titans just lost Mark Bradley to the 49ers.  If the Titans are going to continue to run a “caretaker” offense, they’ll see the field shrink with easy passing season as teams get more and more comfortable with focusing on the run game.  The Titans benefitted from an easier schedule in 2008 than they’ll face next season.  Collins didn’t show himself to be a playmaker in ’08 and that will be the difference between approaching last season’s 13 wins and watching the playoffs from the outside in ’09.
  • Michael Clayton just resigned for big money with the Buccaneers.  Fans are saying that Clayton was in Gruden’s dog house for years.  That’s the only decent explanation for the fall from grace for Clayton.  If Clayton truly merits the deal he just inked, the Bucs ownership should have dumped Gruden years ago.  If you listen to the The World of Gruden according to Simeon Rice, the firing was inevitable.  The addition of Kellen Winslow can only make the Bucs more compelling on offense next year.
  • I don’t think Keith Brooking adds much to the Cowboys.
  • I’d like to see the Steelers pick up Bears safety Mike Brown as a situational player.  Brown doesn’t have the durability to command a salary commensurate to his talent.  If he could stay on the field, he’d be a tremendous asset to any team.  I’d like to see him in a situation where he can showcase his talent in big games.  He just the type of player that would be signed by the Patriots and wind up going to the Pro Bowl.
  • Where are Marvin Harrison and Derrick Brooks going to end up?
  • Former Arizona Cardinals RB JJ Arrington signed with the Denver Broncos.  The Broncos are mixing alot of new pieces.  They’ll be very interesting to watch next season.  Given Mike Shanahan’s success vs. Bill Belichick (5-3), it will be interesting to see if the new coach retains some of the running philosophy that has worked so well for so many years for so many backs.  The Broncos also signed Jabar Gaffney.  The two games between the Broncos and Chiefs will look an awful lot like New England Patriot practices next year.
  • The Giants signed Seattle DT Rocky Bernard.  Nice move.
  • If a team is looking for a borderline #3 receiver with big play potential on special teams, they could do worse than Cincinnati’s Glenn Holt.
  • Byron Leftwich can still play.  I wonder what the process will be for teams who are waiting and waiting and waiting.  Maybe he’ll wind up resigning in Pittsburgh.  That’s fine with me.
  • If the Chiefs decide to play a 3-4 defense, will they move Glenn Dorsey soon?

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