Monday, June 16, 2008

Ifseason signings: Roll the Dice!

Everyone saw where I was going with my last post on simplicity, and as I hoped, explained some points I was having trouble with in much greater clarity and more concisely.

If you hadn't noticed, I tend to be long winded on occasion. We all have our flaws.

Before diving back into the offensive schema (yes, there is pages of fun stuff to talk about regarding it) in my next post, I decided to take a peek and relate some current events league-wide to the Lions:

How many soon-to-be-FA-WR coming off injuries are looking at this story on Javon Walker and thinking; If he's hurting now, just wait til I get my hands on him. As more and more players at various positions do really stupid things, or perform very poorly after signing a huge money deal, more and more teams are stepping away from the Free-Agent ifseason frenzy, and opting for a more reserved approach to ifseason signings. If the Redskins have proven anything its that "buying" a championship is nigh-on impossible in cap-era football.

Most teams realize that, due to cap or team need reasons -- and inflated pay -- there may only be one or FA out there who are worth a big money contract. The rest of the top guys are either being traded by their teams (see: Cory Williams, Shaun Rogers, Deangelo Hall, Dwayne Robertson, et al) or re-signed. Very seldom are top tier, game-breaking proven free-agents hitting the streets. Even the Lions have managed to keep their key free-agents (when they have them) locked up ala Redding. (As a side note, his "enormous" deal doesn't look too bad compared to what DT's were getting this ifseason. If plays more like 06 than 07, Lions have a steal.)

The remainder of the free-agent pool breaks down as follows:
  1. Back-ups and Special Teamers who are displaced due to draft picks, team needs, etc. They are good mid-grade pickups as they make serviceable back-ups while improving special teams units -- a constant struggle for teams due to roster limits and risk of injury to important players
  2. Back-ups possibly ready to start. Think Dwayne White or Michale Turner. They've shown a bit of what they have, but there is uncertainty whether they can perform all the time as a starter. These players can be a risk, and those with the most promise are often re-signed by their original team, or traded. those that aren't, however, can be a steal overall for the cap money to production ratio. Dwayne White, for example, is a steal at his salary for a starting caliber DE -- even an average one.
  3. Veterans on the down-side. This is by far the largest group of free-agents on the market in this day and age. Cut for a variety of reasons, including: recent injuries, supplanted by a high-draft pick or younger player, cap number too high and equitable younger or cheaper player available, etc -- they make up the backbone of free agency for good teams. They can be brought in as a stop-gap when injury or contract issues leave a hole, or to mentor a rookie until he can supplant them, and to provide leadership, knowledge, and character to a locker-room. Often times, it is their experience they can impart on younger players along by showing them how its done that is as valuable as their contribution on to the team. Just be sure to pay for what is coming, not what was.
  4. Draft Busts: Otherwise known as the bargain bin, these are players with whom the team what drafted em severs all ties and admits they screwed the pooch on that pick. fairly abundant in recent years, they are a risk to sign -- and often have the same results in their new town as their old. Yet, you still see headlines every year saying: Dallas will Turn Him Around! Will Thrive and Prove doubters Wrong! and will disappear -- cut in camp.
  5. Injury Cuts: Ala Javon Walker, KJ, Bryant, and even Edwin Mulitalo. They are cut after an injury or injuries forces too much missed time for what they are being paid, and can often be had for cheap by a smart team -- who can land a high reward player from a low risk -- such as with Mulitalo.
  6. Everyone else: Not as big as you'd think. Basically, guys who are going to end up camp fodder, or maybe beat out a rookie and make the practice squad.

Most teams draw FA from all 6 groups. It is when you start paying anyone from the 6 groups above franchise-player money that you know your team's coaching staff is in serious trouble, or looking for a media/ticket sales boost from a big name. Oakland gave a guy from group 4 -- Mr. Got-Drunk-Robbed-and-really-injured-in-Vegas-after-signing-my-big-deal. (I do hope he's okay, don't think I'm that cold.) -- Randy Moss or TO money. That makes it high-risk, high-reward instead of low-risk, high-reward (which is what makes teams, theoretically, shop in that category in the first place.) Atlanta paid M. Turner franchise back money -- but is he LT or Shaun Alexander? That is the risk they take.

As we look at the Lions' moves -- based on the categories above, they cut guys like Kennedy (group 3), Bryant (3 & 5), and KJ (definite 5) for pure cap reasons. Bryant is a good pickup for NE -- at the vet min they paid for him, not the 4 mil Det would have owed him. Kennedy was on the downside in Det production wise, and notice he hasn't been picked up. He's a liability in coverage, and only average at stopping the run now. KJ -- again, will be a bargain at vet min or close to it (maybe) if he recovers, but not worth risk-reward for the Lions, as I went through in the past.

The Lions have had iffy luck in the past, but seemed more focused in the past couple of years. We've gone through lots of these analysis (including how they picked up good-priced FA mentors), so I won't re-hash everything. I will say this:

At least the Lions only signed a $5 mil deal with their only FA who's had any pending trouble (Pearson) instead of $55 million. Think the almighty judge Roger G. isn't going to have a few words for Mr. Walker and the Raiders? Think again.

And be thankful it's not the Lions for once making all the bone-headed FA moves by giving franchise contracts to not-so-franchise players. Go see the Jets and Oakland for those. After you recover from your hangover after celebrating your new contract, that is. Not like you'll have to fulfill your end after all the guarantees your agent got you anyways!


Anonymous said...

TJ Duckett (group four)

-same thing. You have Seattle paying big money ($14 million for 5 years) to what equates to a 3rd string running back (behind Julius Jones and Maurice Morris). The Seahawks paid some big coin.

TJ and his agent had a big asking price, and the Lions weren't going to negotiate (or even ask) until the price came down. It simply never did.

TJ signed a big contract when compared to the other Lions still under contract or re-signed this IFSeason.

Calhoun ($633,000), Cason ($485,000), Bell ($1.6 mil), Kevin Smith, Allen Ervin (unsigned), Pinner ($445,000), Bradley ($706,000), FitzSimmons ($1.450 mil), and Felton (unsigned).

The Lions showed good fiscal constraint, much out of necessity. But it also gets to the point that detfan 1979 is making. You have to pick your shots n free agency, but most teams won't roll the dice with that big money; they want more of a sure thing, or a role player slot filled with an FA.

And for the haters out there who say TJ Duckett is going to play FB in Seattle. You're full of sh*t. 1. He's never done that before. 2. Leonard Weaver 3. Owen Schmitt
(They would be the first and second string FB's on Seattle's depth chart.) And yes, that's the same FB from WVU that was rated BEHIND OUR FB, Mr. Jerome Felton.

I believe the Lions made a good decision on TJ, and further believe that Seattle made a horrible decision cloaked in desperation. Now that they are rid of Mr. Alexander, it is obvious they don't know who will saddle the horse.


Anonymous said...


Thank you, net rat! All backs stats are courtesy of the little, whiskery guy eating cheese, completing the spreadsheets.

CHIEFGER139 said...

i guess you could say we went the cheap route
with the poor mans kevin jones being-bell and the poor mans woody being foster-but i actually think both are not much of a drop off from the guys they had to replace-
i think our significant fa pickups were darby,kelly and gaines will be interesting if these guys pan out and of course our trade guy bodden
whats worrisome is a lot of times you get what you pay for and lets face it theres no real stars on our team except maybe a injured roy and an unproven cj-probably not one probowl worthy player on the entire team-unfortunately our best two players league wise our still our kickers hanson,and harris

Anonymous said...


They had to go this route. There isn't much cap room left to sign the rookies.

The other thing about what the Lions have done, is set themselves up well financially AFTER this year.

Now, I think TJ Duckett is better than a third rounder, but I darn sure don't want to spend $3 million / year for a third string back.


CHIEFGER139 said...

im getting a security certificate error on your site for some reason it says your securitycertificate has expired and your site is no longer safe to use

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to throw out a free agent idea that I was hoping to get some feedback on. What do you guys think of going after a guy like Byron Leftwich. We could probably get him close to the league minimum, and I think that if Kitna went down, Leftwich would be able to step in. I'm not sure exactly which category of free agent that he is in, probably the draft busts #4, but I like his athletisism and competitivness. I also thik that there is the chance that he could become our long term starting QB, and even if that is a slim chance, it might be worth it. The only negative I can see about picking him up, is that we would then probably get rid of Orlovsky. I don't think that it looks like Orlovsky will be here after his current contract is up though, so it wouldn't be a huge loss. Anyways, I'm just throwing that out there, tell me what you think.


Anonymous said...


I don't know. Leftwhich doesn't have great stats, especially his TD/INT ratio. Not a great arm. He manages the game well, and it does sound like the Lions are going to go a little more ball control.

The issue to me is, you have your starter and both backups on the same page. I would think Orlovsky is the backup, and from what I saw, liked him better than JT O'oops-a-lot.

Both Orlovsky and Stanton know the Martz offense and how the offense was before the modifications. That is a huge teaching point because they understand the old offense, what worked-didn't work, and WHY it was modified.

I think for a new guy coming in, they almost need the history of what worked, didn't work, and why it was modified before you can teach the new offense. By keeping all three guys that know all those questions before hand, they are definately a step ahead.

Now, with that said, I read "The Hondo Report" and have to agree that the Lions are not bringing in a fourth "camp" arm unless someone gets hurt and can't do their reps. They can also pull Calvin Johnson's college QB (on the roster as a WR) Ball.

Should Leftwich be on the short list of guys to call if there is an injury? Without a doubt. But I don't see the Lions grabbing Leftwich instead of, or as a 4th arm because of, and that is why.

Isphet said...

It's interesting how free-agency has become less important over the last few years as teams learn how to deal around it. Seems like most teams are of the opinion that "if we're going to lose this guy in FA, we might as well deal him and get SOMETHING, even if it's a player of non-equal value or a lower draft pick."

I really do think that the Lions are doing free agency the right way this year, even if it's for the wrong reasons. Lower end teams should use free agency to shore up the weakest links on their teams, while the higher end teams tend to reach for that one high-priced superstar that gets them over the hump for the Super Bowl.

You used schema! wewt.

flipdskrip said...

You know what Detfan, you probably need to take over for Kowalski. Your blog is much more insightfull than he could ever be.
I like our FA pickups this year. I was hoping we could have snagged one of the high end corners but they were mostly franchized. I was upset that we let TJ walk, but the pick up of Felton seems to be a good replacement. He doesn't strike me as a fullback but more of a short yardage power tailback.