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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!