What If Nnamdi Asomugha Had Signed with the Jets Instead of the Eagles?
There was the SportsCenter report by Adam Schefter that there was an "80 percent chance (h/t theJetsBlog)" he was coming to the Jets, the boatload of money they were offering and the chance to team up with Darrelle Revis. On paper, it seemed like a match made in heaven.
Well, you all know how it happened. Nnamdi chose the Eagles on a five-year, $60 million contract. The Jets re-signed Antonio Cromartie in what now looks like a panic move, and the biggest domino in NFL free agency had fallen leading to dozens of other big moves.
But, what if Nnamdi had chosen the Jets?
What kind of 2011 would we be looking at? How would it have effected the rest of the league?
Well, we're going to find out. Here's what I think would have happened had the NFL's second-best cornerback chosen the Jets over the Eagles last summer.
*Note: This is all my interpretation of what would have happened. You might agree, you might think I'm crazy. Just remember that this all comes from my mind, I don't have a crystal ball (not one that works anyway).
How It Affects the Jets' Offseason
Putting aside the obvious cap issues, let's say the Jets had managed to give Asomugha the same five-year contract he got from Philly. To offset those cap issues, they would have to let go of several veterans.
First of all, they obviously wouldn't have brought back Antonio Cromartie on a four-year, $32 million contract. We'll get into where he goes next slide, but for now, just know that he's obviously gone.
The next move would have been some key cuts. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson and safety Jim Leonhard would have led the group of released veterans.
Finally, the Jets would not have brought in wide receiver Plaxico Burress on a one-year, $3 million contract. Instead, they would elect to wait until the preseason and try to find someone cheaper.
Who would they end up signing? Randy Moss.
After a private meeting with Rex Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and Mark Sanchez, Moss has enough faith in the Jets' Super Bowl chances to take the minimum to sign with New York. He is also intrigued by a promised starting position and the chance to play against New England twice.
So in case you're scoring at home, so far we have Asomugha and Moss in, Cromartie, Leonhard, Tomlinson and Burress out. Does anyone have a problem with that?
How It Affects Everyone Else's Offseason
First of all, let's talk about Cromartie.
It was well-known that Oakland was enamored with the elite athlete, so when the Jets decided to let him walk, the Raiders quickly scooped him up with a four-year, $40 million contract (if you're wondering where that extra 25 percent came from, I call that the Raider tax, basically the amount Al Davis would have undoubtedly overspent on any free agent).
With Asomugha and Cromartie off the market, the Eagles decide not to "go for it" with insane offseason spending. Instead, they keep things relatively quiet, signing Jason Babin as they did in real life and another cornerback to fill the role they envisioned for Asomugha. That cornerback would be former Redskin Carlos Rogers.
Considering that the 49ers only gave Rogers a one-year deal, the Eagles easily swooped in and stole him on a two-year, $8 million deal.
So how do the 49ers fill their hole at cornerback without Rogers? The answer is they don't. With no major free agents to chase, they decide to hope for the best with what they have, choosing instead to use their free-agent resources on another position of need: wide receiver.
Without a major threat available, they call cross-state rival San Diego to ask about the availability of Vincent Jackson. Eventually, a trade is consummated, sending a second- and third-round pick to the Chargers for Jackson, who eventually agrees to a new contract similar to the one he actually signed with Tampa Bay.
Finally, the Chargers turn to Plaxico Burress to replace Jackson. Without Jackson, Burress has leverage, forcing the Chargers to give him a one-year, $5 million contract.
In other words, not a single game has been played yet, we've already seen some major changes.
How It Affects the Jets' 2011 Regular Season
As big of a difference as Asomugha would have made for the Jets on defense, the biggest addition may have come on special teams.
This wouldn't come from Asomugha being in New York, but would stem from the fact that Antonio Cromartie isn't.
Remember Week 3 in Oakland? Cromartie's fumble on a kickoff cost the Jets that game.
In this scenario, the Jets win it.
This win puts the Jets in much better shape near the end of the season, so in a must-win against Miami in Week 17, they managed to pull out a 17-10 win rather than a 19-17 loss.
This puts the Jets record at 10-6 rather than 8-8, sending them to the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.
How It Affects the Jets' 2011 Playoffs
As the No. 6 seed, the Jets have earned a date with the upstart Houston Texans and their dominating defense. Despite their lower seed, the Jets are favored due to Houston being without starting quarterback Matt Schaub. The Revis-Asomugha duo is expected to dominate against rookie T.J. Yates.
Unfortunately for the Jets, they never get the chance. Houston refuses to waver from their Arian Foster-led running game. They pound the Jets all day long, keeping their offense off the field.
When they do manage to get on the field, it is a disaster. Wade Phillips' blitz game gets to Sanchez, causing him to throw two first-half interceptions.
Things come to a head at halftime when Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez have their now infamous feud a week later than what we saw in real life. The presence of Moss makes things even more difficult, and the Jets come out of the locker room completely disoriented.
Despite this, the Jets somehow manage to get the ball back on their own 13-yard line with just over two minutes to go and a chance to tie the game with a touchdown.
When Holmes clearly jogs his first route of the drive, he is taken out and doesn't return. The drive ends on another Sanchez interception—this time to cornerback Jonathan Joseph on a pass intended for Patrick Turner (in Holmes' spot).
Sanchez and Holmes are caught screaming at each other on national TV in the last image of the Jets' disappointing season.
How It Affects Everyone Else's 2011 Regular Season
Without the "dream team" moniker to cause unnecessary pressure, the Eagles get off to a respectable 3-2 start rather than their dreadful 1-4 in real life. This means that when they go on a hot streak late in the season, it isn't too little too late. They win the NFC East at 10-6, knocking the 9-7 Super Bowl champion Giants out of the playoffs.
With Carlos Rogers in Philly, the 49ers' dominating defense isn't quite as dominant, and even the addition of Jackson can't make up for all of their offensive deficiencies.
In fact, Jackson's presence takes them away from their ball-control offense and makes things harder for their defense. They end the season a solid 10-6, not quite as good as the real-life 49ers, but still good enough for the No. 4 seed in the NFC.
Meanwhile back in the AFC, Cromartie actually makes a big difference for Oakland. With him playing cornerback, the Raiders manage to squash Detroit's comeback attempt in Week 15, putting their record at 9-7, ahead of the 8-8 Broncos and good enough to win the AFC West.
That loss knocks the Lions down to 9-7 and the No. 6 seed in the NFC. In case you weren't paying attention, here's how the new-look playoffs break down:
1. New England Patriots, 13-3
2. Baltimore Ravens, 12-4
3. Houston Texans, 10-6
4. Oakland Raiders, 9-7
5. Pittsburgh Steelers, 12-4
6. New York Jets, 10-6
1. Green Bay Packers, 15-1
2. New Orleans Saints, 13-3
3. Philadelphia Eagles, 10-6
4. San Francisco 49ers, 10-6
5. Atlanta Falcons, 10-6
6. Detroit Lions, 9-7
How It Affects Everyone Else's 2011 Playoffs
As I said before, the Jets lose their matchup with the Texans in Round 1. Without Tim Tebow's magic, the Steelers advance to Round 2 and a date with the No. 1-seeded New England Patriots. Meanwhile in the NFC, the Lions take down the Eagles in Philadelphia, and the 49ers beat the Falcons.
Round 2 is where things get really interesting. Without home-field advantage and Carlos Rogers to slow down the Saints' passing game, New Orleans wins their game with the 49ers.
The old adage that it's hard to beat a good team three times in a row comes into play in the other NFC game as Detroit stuns a distracted and undisciplined Packers team. The Saints beat Detroit as they did in real life to earn a trip to the Super Bowl. Things in the AFC go as planned, meaning the Patriots meet New Orleans in the big game.
Considering how much Rob Gronkowski's injury limited the Patriots against the Giants, they have a similarly difficult time with the Saints defense. In the end, the Saints beat the Patriots 27-17 to win their second championship in three years.
How It Affects the Jets' 2012 Season
With the embarrassment of the Holmes-Sanchez feud being on national TV in a playoff game rather than just a regular-season finale, the Jets decide to release Santonio Holmes and not re-sign Randy Moss.
Without significant cap space, the Jets turn to the draft to find replacements. However, since they made the playoffs, they pick at No. 20 rather than No. 16. They decide to use both of their first two draft picks on receivers, taking Baylor's Kendall Wright in Round 1 and Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill in Round 2.
Without the addition of Quinton Coples, the Jets still feel like they need some pass-rushing help. They use some of their limited cap space to bring in former Baltimore Raven Cory Redding, but otherwise, they make no significant defensive additions.
On offense, there's one notable player who the Jets decide not to bring in. Considering they were once again a playoff team, they see no need to trade for former Denver Bronco Tim Tebow, but we'll talk about him in a minute.
How It Affects Everyone Else's 2012 Season
Since I know you're all waiting with baited breath for Tim Tebow news, we'll start with him. With the Jets suddenly off the market, Tebow is traded to his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars for a conditional fourth-round pick.
Now, on to the real stuff. With the Saints looking like a potential dynasty and the league realizing the potential financial ramifications of major punishments to their new marquee franchise, the NFL does everything possible to sweep bountygate under the rug.
Many of the gruesome details behind New Orleans' pay-for-injury system are left unfound, and head coach Sean Payton is left unsuspended under the condition that defensive coordinator Greg Williams (who had initially agreed to stay on after the championship) be fired and suspended for the entire 2012 season.
Meanwhile, with the Giants missing the playoffs for the third time in a row, GM Jerry Reese decides to fire Tom Coughlin.
Who does he get in his place? Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, who some believe has been eyeing that job for years.
Luckily for Coughlin, he doesn't have to wait long for a new job. In fact, it's his old job. The Jacksonville Jaguars turn to Coughlin to lead their new Tebow-based team, much to the chagrin of Atlanta Falcons fans who really wanted to get rid of Mike Mularkey.
Aside from that, player movement goes pretty much as expected, with any new holes opened by the changes from the previous offseason getting filled in 2012. The season opens as planned on September 5th but in New Orleans for a Saints-Falcons game instead of New York for Giants-Cowboys.
Ultimately, while Nnamdi to the Jets has huge league-wide ramifications, it's effect on the Jets is fairly minimal.
They make the 2011 playoffs, but still face the same chemistry issues going forward as they do in real life.
The Saints are the big winners here. It's funny how a free agent choosing between New York and Philadelphia can destroy a potential dynasty in New Orleans.
That's the butterfly effect for you.