Take the afternoon with the kids, do some swimming, no Lions news of interest today after all, Rudi Johnson isn't signing anytime soon, good day for R&R before heading into the fall and school starting tomorrow, fall sports for the kids, etc.
Oops. Wait. Strike that -- Rudi Johnson signed a 1 year deal with the Lions this afternoon -- the first team he visited since being cut by Cincinatti -- using the cap dollars freed up by cutting Tatum Bell.
It's not surprising to me that they cut Bell in favor of a back whom they felt would make a better contribution. Not only is he a punishing style runner, but should be able to stay healthy with limited carries due to Smith being the starter. If Smith does go down, Rudi has certainly shown the capability to carry the load -- even if it is for shorter periods now. Similar to Jerome Bettis and Fast Willie for the Steelers the two years heading into the SB.
In the end though, the Bengals cut him and we picked him up for the same reason the Lions cut KJ and Chicago picked him up -- dollar ninja prices. (Honolulu Blue Light Special, Aisle Ohio.)With the cap space the Lions had, even with cutting Bell, they got Rudi for a good price comparatively speaking considering his limited injury history, potential, and roster impact.
In other words, both teams needed a cost-effective veteran back as #2 behind their Rookie starter. As far as attitude, I think they both did well as both Rudi and KJ will be running "angry" this year, out to prove they should have been kept -- and attempting to pick up one last good contract or chance to start. (Notice that I didn't say "pot of gold", "big payday" or any other such nonsense. Teams have figured out that having 2 or more backs carry the load extends their career, and that you don't pay a RB a huge contract if they are 28 or older -- depending on how many carries they've had.)
Is he the Rudi of last year, or the Rudi of 2006? Most likely, somewhere in between. Which is still better than Bell. Add in that he can pick up a blitz, and blocks above average -- and we have ourselves a bona-fide 3rd down/#2/Change-up back. He knows he is coming in as the backup to Smith, but that he will get a fair number of carries in relief. (The same offer they put out to Tatum Bell, only Rudi appears - at least in the eyes of the coaching staff - to have wanted it more. Considering his attitude of "I'm a roster lock" the whole ifseason, it shouldn't have been too hard.)
Here is the question: If Rudi is almost/is healthy (they were projecting him to be healthy enough to start just last week, remember -- and he passed his physical with the Lions who have been pretty stingy and careful with FA signings this ifseason.) why choose the Lions?
He didn't visit with any other teams, so it wasn't his best offer, it was his only. So Far.
He had interest, according to PFT, from the Jets to compete with Thomas Jones, Houston (see below) and even Cincy who would have liked to have him, but just not at the price they were paying for him at the time (sound familiar?)
He signed after his first workout -- and the Lions are slim on cap and haven't broken the bank for anyone this ifeseason -- even when they really wanted a guy -- so it isn't the money.
Houston, considered an up-and comer to the playoff picture this season, wanted a veteran back after putting Brown on IR, and have a heck of a lot more cap space to give him than the Lions.
There are other teams who could have used him at RB, would have given him a chance, likely more money, and are considered to have better chances than the Lions.
So why come here? He must have seen something he liked when the Lions played Cincy in the preseason and he was standing on the sidelines. O-Line? The aggressive D ready to make the Lions a factor in the NFC? The commitment to running the ball, and knowing they didn't want to depend on a trio of rookies -- Smith, and 5th rounders Felton and Thomas this year?
My guess is a combination of all of the above, coupled with Rod's reputation as a fair dealer in regards to playing time and earning a shot, and a heavy dose of that last point.
Right now, Allen Ervin (who is also a returner) is on the practice squad. They prefer to keep 3 RB and a FB, and 4 wide right now. Anyone see where this is going? They have Moore and Ervin -- neither of whom is likely to get a contract offer due to limited exposure and tape -- and they can keep looking at them practicing PR/KR til the cows come home.
Next season, goodbye Rudi if they want -- 1 year deal -- and if Thomas, Smith, Felton and Ervin are working out Thomas moves to #2 - Evrin comes in at #3 and KR/PR. With Mac and/or Roy gone, they bring back Standeford, Middleton, Ellis, Moore and some competition possibly -- and we have another roster battle next year with guys pushing guys trying to make the squad, and talented individuals being let go once again. A beautiful thought the options.
And the Bell Tolls no More. As if it tolled much in the first placed -- more kinda like a dull thud. No resonance for me.
Kudos to the Lions for getting waivers/cuts right this year. Keep the guys who'll get picked up, and pick up guys that other people wanted to slide under the radar or got caught up in the cap numbers game.
Interesting article: Indianapolis Colts sign FA DT. All 9 rookies make roster. The COLTS had all nine rookies make the roster. Remember, Rod coached under Dungy and is using a similar model in building the Lions. Even as much as they are Tampa North, they are Indy Jr. Moreso because of the style of Offense Marinelli has gone with compared to the WCO in Tampa. They also only kept 3 RB and a FB. the DT was to shore up the run D at the NT -- where they have been a bit weak, needing S Bob Sanders in the box a lot to stop the run, sometimes leaving their corners more exposed than they would like. Anyone still think keeping 11 DT was silly? No way was Cohen making the Practice Squad. Moore or Cody were even likely candidates to be picked up by Indy --- either way, had they released Cohen to keep that extra WR or RB the Lions would have Pinner or Middleton, or Standeford --- and Indy would have Davis AND Cohen.
Something to keep in mind here is that there are 4 teams running a really pure version of the T2 -- Chicago, Indy, Tampa, and Detroit. Detroit has moved closer to being a contender in the NFC -- especially on Defense. Chicago tends to skip out on a lot of FA most of the time on D lately -- which will bite them as their D ages. However, with Tampa, Indy and Detroit look for them to be plundering each others' practice squads and cuts defensively for the next few years. It is a sign that
A. Tampa and Indy feel Detroit players will be well-trained in the T2 and worth a look at. and
B. If A is true, the Lions D could surprise a lot of people this year. Indy had a top 5 D last year, and picked up one of Detroit's cuts, and would have picked up Cohen if Detoit let him go.
What all three teams know, and people overlook, is that while they all run the same base D they have different personnel needs, and are weaker/stronger in different areas. Did you think our LB were strong enough that a guy who was on the bubble headed to Indy? Indy has had some injuries and losses the last couple of years to their LB and Dline (DT in particular) and were a bit weaker than Detroit. By the same token, they are pretty strong in other areas, and some of their cuts could end up here or TB. Same goes there. Where one has an abundance of talent, look for the others to be waiting for cuts. While it will take the players a bit to catch the Nuances of the different styles of T2, they already know the base D which is huge.
Not just with Rookies, but with $1 Ninja veteran FA as well on D. Same reasons.
Thus far I like the Lions Ifseason moves -- they gambled they could upgrade the RB Corps more after the cuts, and so far it looks to have paid off. We'll see how it plays out on the field. For being so conservative at times, Marinelli appears to have a bit of the dice-roller in him.
I also have confidence that there were 4 or 5 guys -- at least one of whom would get cut -- that they had their eye on. Forsett in Seattle I think would have been their first choice, as he is also a returner and looked good in preseason -- but Seattle pulled a Cohen on us and kept an extra RB.
While a lot of this credit is going to Marinelli, we have to give Millen his due. He has a coach he sees eye-to-eye with. It's his kind of football, and he seems to be having a better time understanding -- and making his scouts understand -- exactly what type of players this team is looking for. Coupled with Marinelli's recognition of where their roster is weak at any given point, and they put together what could potentially be one of the best Ifseasons since Barry fell into their lap. Millen is still GM - but I believe in now. Ask me after Atlanta if that is still the case when then is now. Same for the end of the season. Til then, one game at a time.
Your thoughts on the ever-evolving roster? Like it, hate it, would have done different?