Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Early Returns: NFL Free Agency '08

When the clock struck midnight (Eastern) last Thursday/Friday, the NFL free agency season officially began. As Vikings fans, this is usually a very depressing time. You watch players that you know (or think) could make your team better getting swooped up by the opposition. And the whole time you find yourself thinking, “Why didn’t we sign him? We could afford (insert a few million dollars).” However, that is not the case this year. Zigmund promised us that the Purple would be active in free agency. We were armed with $30+ million in cap space and multiple glaring needs. So with that, here’s a little chatter between Dogg and I about our thoughts on the Vikes moves as well as others made, and not made, by other NFL teams. Enjoy.

Dogg: The Vikings are making a splash this off-season by picking up high potential WR Bernard Berrian and already proven safety Madieu Williams. Ziggy is not messing around and when he told MN that he likes to spend money—at least he wasn’t lying and has stuck to his word. I would’ve liked to see DE Justin Smith sign here but maybe Ziggy has a different plan up his sleeve (Jevon Kearse?). Do you like what the Vikings have done thus far?

Q: I'm going to be negative on the Vikes off-season so far. We paid waaaay too much for Bernard (I believe he's the 4th highest paid receiver in the league now)—a guy who has never caught more than 71 balls and hasn't had a 1,000 yard season yet. Plus, we already have a deep threat in Sidney Rice. When you have a young quarterback who has struggled in the past, you need possession/slot receivers and good pass catching tight end. Our tight end is an overpaid chump who has caught 10 balls in his career. It seems like Zigi is willing to spend money, but he spends it on the wrong guys and over pays when he does. I do like what I hear about Williams, because we need a good cover safety. However he's also making a decent chunk of change for a guy that really has had one good season and one average season. Then there's Tapeh. Sure, he's from Minny, but it just seems to me like he's another one of Chilly's boys from Philly and that's why we signed him.

Dogg: Q, this is professional sports and money doesn’t mean anything anymore. Paying for guys like Berrian and Williams is no big deal because every other FA out there will come close to making the same money. I like the signings a lot thus far.

Q: Money is an issue where you and I always disagree. I know they are going to get paid, and usually get more than they are worth. The problem I have is when we sign guys for way more than anyone else in their right mind would have offered. Seriously, $7 million a year for Berrian? That's absurd. Even $5 mil a year would have been over paying him. The same thing happened with Shiancoe last season. It's just like when the Twins pay almost $4 million to Craig Monroe when no one else in the league would have given him more than a million per. It just seems like we're wasting money that we don't need to. Especially when you're dealing with a set salary cap, like the NFL has, then it becomes an even bigger issue. We can't just throw out absurd contracts just because we feel like it. It will hurt the ball club in the long run.

Dogg: The only thing is about the money issue is if we low ball Berrian right away he flies somewhere else and signs for just a shade over what we offered him. He a top WR on the FA market this year so I’m assuming we really wanted him and maybe jacked it up a mil a year but I think that’s smart. If you get him here put your best offer on the table because if he leaves here without a contract there was slim to no chance at getting him. Then what? We go out and sign DJ Hackett? He probably would’ve made our team worse. That’s the last thing we need is another guy who can just run 8-10 yard out patterns. Maybe we overpaid a little bit but I think the signing is well worth the cash…..Shiancoe is a pile of crap so I will definitely give you that one.

Another name that has been thrown out there is Sage Rosenfels. It’s rumored that the Vikes are trying to land him, but is he worth a 2nd round pick?

Q: I don't get the Sage Rosefels thing. First, we tried to get him for a third round pick and that seemed too high for me. Now we're talking about giving up a second rounder for the guy. What's the fascination? He's a career backup who's been in the league for 7 years and not shown anything yet. I know our backup QB situation is not great, but why give up a player (2nd or 3rd rounder) that could make a major change on your team this year? Does this potential move make any sense to you?

Dogg: The Sage Rosefels makes complete sense to me because as I’ve said along with millions of other Minnesotans, we can play the QB position better than T-Jax, so anything is an upgrade. If we want to win, it should be now because we have several key defensive players who are getting ancient (Pat, Sharp, Winfield). I’m never sold on 2nd or 3rd round picks so I would definitely pull the trigger on a 3rd rounder. A 2nd rounder is probably pushing it but we don’t pick until mid 2nd round so I wouldn’t be pissed if we pulled the trigger with him.

Q: Ok, I need more info on your Rosenfels man crush. I don't have the stats to back it up, but I'm pretty sure most 1st through 4th round picks usually do pretty good and many start right away in the NFL. Plus, like I said before, he hasn't done anything yet. I know we need a better option at QB, or at least at the backup spot, but how is he worth such high draft picks?

Dogg: OK, maybe with most teams their 1st – 4th round picks pan out but the Vikings seem to try starting players from those rounds every year and the failure rate is about 99%. I guess I don’t pay attention other teams’ 4th round picks but the Vikings have very few who end up being impact players so that is where I get that thought from. I saw Sage play 2 games last year and the guy can throw the football and throw it well. It’s not saying much but much better than T-Jack and you win games in this league by throwing the football in my mind. Every team is passing much more than they run these days and AP can’t do it alone. Athletic QB’s never win Super Bowls either so I’m down with the pocket passer.

Q: Ok, well I’m sure we’ll continue to talk Purple all throughout the off-season, so let’s move on. What team has made the most improvement so far in free agency?

Dogg: I know the 49ers have signed a lot of guys including DE Justin Smith but I think the biggest signing thus far was Asante Samuel by Philadelphia. I believe that having a shutdown corner on one side of the field improves a defense so much that an average defense can turn into a great defense with one guy like Samuel. I really wish the Vikings could sign a guy like Samuel because it would make our LB’s look so much better and allow them to do what they’re good at instead of trying to pass cover. I also think New Orleans made a huge splash trading for Jonathan Vilma. They lack defensive firepower which he’ll immediately bring to the table.

Q: I'm completely with you on the Samuel thing. A shut down corner is so huge to have in the NFL. Put him out on an island and don't worry about that half of the field. One of these years the Vikes might figure out that it helps to have a shut down cover guy and/or a quality pass rushing end (just look at the Giants this year for an example of how important that last one can be).

Aside from all of that, I love what the Jaguars and Browns have done through roughly a weekend of free agency. Jacksonville picked up a legit corner in Drayton Florence, a nice back up for Garrard in Cleo Lemon, and they might have a legit receiving threat in Jerry Porter. In Cleveland, they resigned Derek Anderson to give them depth at the quarterback position (not to mention at least two guys that are better than our top QB), picked up Donte Stallworth to help Braylon and the receiving corp., acquired man-child/DT Shaun Rogers in a trade with Detroit, and signed a very underrated DT in Corey Williams. I can't say I like the resigning of Jailbird Lewis, but he did have a good year, so who knows.

Dogg: I agree that the Browns made the right move in signing Anderson because they will get good value for whoever they get rid of in the long haul, Quinn or Anderson. Look at the Chargers and what they got in QB-related moves. They took Eli even when he didn’t want to play there and turned him into Merriman, Kaeding, and Rivers.

I think the Pats are hurting thus far in free agency. They haven’t signed any LB to replace Colvin and Seau/Bruschi are one year away from checking into the nursing home. Losing Samuel will kill them and they also lost Randall Gay, another CB so their defense which showed weaknesses last year are getting even weaker.

Q: I completely agree that having the two good quarterbacks is a great thing for Cleveland (in case of injury, poor play, or a trade). And since you mentioned the Chargers, don’t forget that they traded the #1 pick in ’01 (which turned out to be Mike Vick) and turned it into LDT and Brees. Not bad.

Ok, it's still early, but what team(s) have been hurt the most by free agency--either by losing players or not adding any--at this point?

Dogg: I mentioned the Pats already being hurt but I think the Jaguars didn’t do well. Remember signing guys doesn’t always mean good things. Jerry Porter is worthless in my mind and they lost Marcus Stroud who is a top 5 DT and a big part of their great defense. Cleo Lemon? Come on Q. You don’t like Bernard Berrian but you like a man named Cleo?

Q: The Patriots are getting killed. Losing defensive backs is never a good thing, especially when they are arguably your best three (Samuel, Gay, and Eugene Wilson). Their defense is old and getting older. At least they were able to resign Moss for less money than others (Philly) were offering, so the offense should be dominant once again. I guess they'll just have to use that 7th overall pick in the draft to get some defensive help.

I forgot about the Jags losing Stroud, and that is a giant loss (both literally and figuratively). I don' necessarily like Lemon, but he is a decent back up for Garrard and they didn't pay him too much and didn't give up a top draft pick. In my mind, that's a good sign. And I think Porter has as much potential as Berrian and they got him for cheaper. Although they did acquire Troy Williamson from us and everyone knows he sucks...


Buddha said...

This comment is regarding the current market and Q not liking that Berrian is the 4th highest pd receiver. As you know, the market is always rising. So, this offseason he is 4th, but next year there will be a few more FA that will top him that, and so on each year. In 6 years, when his contract expires - there will be a ton of recievers ahead of him, including many that maybe shouldn't be. Look at Big Ben - now makes more than Peyton. It's just a increasing market each year and the guys who hit the market now make more than they should, but will get surpassed in years to come.

Mr. Cue said...

So that makes it ok to overpay average players? Everyone keeps telling me that "guys are going to be overpaid" or "it won't matter in a few years", but I don't get it. How are those legitimate reasons to just give money away? If it's baseball, it doesn't matter as much because you can pay as much (or as little unfortunately) as you want. But in football you only have so much money to spend. Just because other teams are doing it or that the market will rise in a few years doesn't change the fact that you have less money to use on other areas of your team.

Fuzz said...

I like it fellas---good work. Mr. Cue? I didn't hear an alternative to your Berrian argument. What should we have done?

Rice, Wade and Allison would probably be your top three next year without signing or drafting a guy. That trio is probably in the bottom five in the league. Drafting a receiver in the high rounds either doesn't pan out or is a three year project. Example, Sidney Rice. Good looking young receiver. He caught 31 balls for 396 yards in his first year. That's below average. He was the 44th player taken overall last year.

Either you think we should roll the dice with a rookie with that trio mentioned or you're thinking something else. We need a guy that can stretch the field and catch the ball. Our defense is top 10 in the league and isn't getting younger. I'm sick of the rebuilding shit and glad they are throwing some money around. We need to get in the playoffs! I like the sign of Berrian a lot. He's a high potential guy like Dogg said. The proven studs never touch the open market, they are signed to long term deals before it gets that far. You need to reach on potential and I think Berrian is going to be good for us.

You obviously would have liked to spend it somewhere else like you said but I didn't hear a ton of different places you would have liked to spend it.

Buddha said...

There is a reason the salary cap is expanded each year - to accomidate this type of spending.

The only way, IMO, to keep these types of contracts to a minimum to to have all the owners get together and limit it, and that will work until the 1st offseason when Jerry Jones wants the next Moss or TO or whoever that hits the market and he will pay more to get them. Now everyone is forced to pay more to compete. Either that, or your stuck with the Rice's, Allison's and Wade's of the world.

Dogg said...

Q, you have to overpay for some above average players otherwise you will not have a shot at any free agents except guys like Bobby Wade. 10 Bobby Wade's will give you 100% every game but they won't win you many football games. What else do you want to do with the money? Berrian was one of the best FA's available and you don't know if another team would've even offered him more money. I guess I don't understand how you know we overpaid for him?

Mr. Cue said...

This is, in my opinion, a major problem in the NFL. When free agents go on the market, they go to visit a team and usually don't leave without a contract. In no other sport can you not accurately gage the market for FA's. We have no idea what other teams would have paid for Berrian. We wanted him, brought him in, and gave him big money. How do I know we overpaid him? $7 million a year for a guy who "could be good." That's my answer. No I don't have another option that I think we should have explored. It's my opinion and I don't need a backup plan to not like a signing. Get over it.

Buddha said...

It's called supply and demand. Your going to pay more for something that is in high demand, or something that you desperately need. Thats what determines value - not soley what the market pays, but how valuable is he to your team? Are you willing to pay more because you have the likes of Wade, Allison and Rice on your team and need someone else.

Anonymous said...

Q we were paying Troy Will 7 million a year before we got Bernard. Just imagine it like we traded away Troy for Berrian and nothing else changed.



Mr. Cue said...

Um, no we weren't. But thanks for chiming in Moe.