2009 Free Agency: Will Your Team Cash-In or Have To Bail Out?

Nathan AtkinsContributor IMarch 19, 2009

That time of the year where both players and managers stab their teams in the back: managers as a means of winning one or two more games the following year, players as a means of deepening their pockets.

Albert Haynesworth has already jumped ship. Choosing money for a mediocre defense and a struggling offense, instead of a 13-3 playoff contender. Rookie coach Josh McDaniels has already tried to trade his Pro Bowl QB for his New England pet project Matt Cassel.

One of last year's biggest signings, Gibril Wilson, has already been re-dealt. After helping the Giants win the Super Bowl, Wilson decided to sign with the Oakland Raiders.

Boy did he sign! Six years for $39 million, making him one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL. Unfortunately, Gibril Wilson is the epitome of stupid free-agency signings.

Now when I think of elite safeties, I think of Brian Dawkins,  Troy Polamalu, the late Sean Taylor, and at times Roy Williams. Not Gibril Wilson. This is the beauty of free agency:

Brian Dawkins: Five years/$17M/seven Pro Bowls, five Time All-Pro, Future Hall of Famer

Sean Taylor: Seven years/$18M/two Pro Bowls, All-Pro

Roy Williams:  Four years/$25.2M/five Pro Bowls, All-Pro

Troy Polamalu: Four years/$30M/five Pro Bowls, three Time All-Pro, two Super Bowl Championships

Gibril Wilson: Six YEARS/$39M

Super Bowl Champion, Second Team All-SEC?

Let that sink in. After the Super Bowl his greatest achievement is second team All Southeastern Conference. He has no professional accolades. Not only does he lack achievements professionally, his second greatest achievement after the Super Bowl is second tier.

He never attained elite status in the NCAA either. Yet, Gibril Wilson who has never been All-Pro or selected to the Pro Bowl, is one of the highest paid safeties in the NFL.

Now that it has sunken in, recognize that Free Agency can be one of the most beneficial, but also one of the dumbest time periods in the NFL. I will not argue that Free Agency is great and allows players elasticity and the ability to make more money.

I do not blame the players for taking the money, but make wise decisions! If you are leaving a playoff contender for a last place team reconsider. Similarly, if you're an owner, do not shower a player with millions after one year of greatness.

I understand that Al Davis's name isn't synonymous with neither frugal or wise spending but it was more than obvious that Gibril Wilson didn't deserve that much money.

Other than Wilson's family and Al Davis, I challenge you to find a person that believes he was deserving of $39 million. If and when you find that person, ask them why he was immediately traded to the Miami Dolphins after one year in Oakland? Is he a bad player?


Wilson's 120 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and two INTs are impressive stats. But not when your defense ranks 27th in the NFL. Take, for instance, James Harrison, Defensive Player of the Year.

Harrison only had 101 tackles this year, yet coaches and the media deemed him better than Wilson. (Wilson wasn't a finalist for Def. POY) James Harrison is also on a defense that ranked first in the NFL.

Being successful on a terrible defense deserves a round of applause; but being dominant on an elite defense deserves a standing ovation. But while it is easy to chastise Al Davis, it seems imperative to marvel at  Arthur Blank.

The Falcons' owner gave LaDanian Tomlinson's backup six years and $34.5M. On the surface, this deal looked like a potential bust.

After four years in San Diego ('04-'07) Michael Turner ran for 1,257 yards and six TDs (three of those in 2005).  NFL analysts will argue that Michael Turner showed  the ability to start and be a prime-time player in this league, but from a business standpoint, he was a still a risky investment.

In 2009 though, Arthur Blank looks like a genius. After 1,699 yards and 17TDs, Michael Turner is a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro; two things that Gibril Wilson is not.

But step aside Mr. Blank, here comes Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel to show you how typical NFL management functions.

After statistically having one of the best seasons of his career, Savage and the Cleveland Browns signed Donte' Stallworth. Stallworth has never been a 1,000-yard receiver (he had a career high 945 in 2005).

But no one could have expected the ineffectual production he would give once he arrived at 100 Alfred Lerner Way.

Seventeen receptions and 170 yards later the Browns find themselves already on year two of the seven-year, $35 million contract they doled out to Stallworth. Browns owner, Randy Lerner, cleaned house after this blunder, removing both Savage and Crennel.

They wanted to get rid of Donte' too, but his contract has them locked them up. Looks like six more years of Donte' for Cleveland!

Sorry Cleveland faithful, but when it rains it pours.

Kellen Winslow the second leading receiver in '08 has been traded to Tampa Bay.

On top of that, leading receiver Braylon Edwards is coming off his worst year since his induction to the league in 2005. Guess those 5 Hour Energy Drinks aren't as great as he says.

Poor Dawg Pound, your team comes into 2009 with no viable threat at receiver. There's no need to worry about your receivers the 2009 Cleveland Browns still haven't chosen a quarterback!

It is quite the debacle in Cleveland, because the gruesome twosome of Crennel and Savage didn't just foolishly spend on Stallworth. Oh no, no, no, they also became infatuated with a young man from Oregon State.

If you're unaware of the prestigious quarterback lineage at OSU, here's a list of them all:

Ever heard of Joe Francis? Matt Moore? Derek Anderson?

Well, Joe Francis was a back up for Bart Starr in Green Bay. Matt Moore is a backup for Jake Delhomme in Carolina. As for Derek Anderson, well he was a backup, then a starter, and possibly a backup again. But we'll address that later.

Don't fret if you didn't recognize any of those names. The Cleveland Browns have your back! They promoted Derek Anderson from backup to starter after Charlie Frye left in 2007. Anderson capitalized on the opportunity and threw for 3,787, 29TDs and 19INTs.

Almost 4,000 yards and 30TDs?

Those numbers hadn't been seen since Bernie Kosar! I don't think Crennel and Savage were thinking Anderson would be the next Kosar.

But what were they thinking to give him four years, $26M?!

Especially after drafting Brady Quinn the following year giving him $30 million over five years.

In 2006, Derek Anderson only threw for 793 yards, five TDs, and eight INTs; but hey, after 2007, give Derek the money! He deserves it!

I wonder if these thoughts ever went through someone's head in Cleveland:

We just drafted a QB in the first round, signed him to a 5 year, 30M dollar deal

Derek's had one good year, let's re-sign him

WHAT?! We're giving him a  salary comparable to our first round pick?!

Something about this doesn't seem right...

Needless to say, Derek's numbers were 1,615 yards, 9TDs, and 8INTs.

He played 10 games before going down with a knee injury.

I can't be too harsh though, the 2008 NFL Free Agent signing period wasn't a complete bust. I've chosen the teams that I think made the best choices of 2008. Along with the best choices I included the worst choices.

Atlanta and Cleveland are respectively in the conversation as well.

A Few Smart Picks of 2008.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mewelde Moore-588 rush yards, 320 rec yards, 6 total TDs

Minnesota Vikings: Bernard Berrian-48 rec, 964 yds, 7TDs.

Buffalo Bills: Kawika Mitchell-82 tckls, 4.0 sacks, 2FF, 2INTs

Spencer Johnson-31 tckls, 2.0 sacks

Kansas City Chiefs: Demorrio Williams-61 tckls, 1FF

Miami Dolphins: Randy Starks-29 tckls, 3.0 sacks, 1INT


Some Questionable Picks of 2008

Denver Broncos: Keary Colbert- three years/7.2M only to be traded one game into the 2008 season.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Jerry Porter- Played 10 games. Only had 11 rec, 181 yards and 1TD..

Tennessee Titans: Alge Crumpler- 257 rec yards, 1TD in 2008. He had nearly 500 yards receiving in 2007

In my opinion 2008's Free Agent signing class had more contributors than detractors. But don't feel slighted. 2009 has started strong to sway the tide the other way. Seven years, $100M for Albert Haynesworth?

He's 27, three years away from the dreaded 3-0. On June 17, 2012 Haynesworth's potential will have reached its limit. Personally I think he's peaked. I doubt he can even repeat the season he had last year.

Now that the Redskins have released Jason Taylor its highly unlikely he will replicate his 2008 All-Pro campaign. Andre Carter, Demetric Evans and Cornelius Griffin will not free up Haynesworth. Evans, Carter and Griffin combined for a whopping 7.5 sacks in 2008 (Griffin had zero).

The three starters for Tennessee: Javon Kearse, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Tony Brown had 12 sacks in 2008.

Seven and a half in one hand, or 12 in the other?

Also, talks of Haynesworth's dominant capabilities have been spreading. I find these claims debatable, if not doubtful. He hasn't played a full season since his rookie year. 2008's total of 13 games was the most he's played in three years. Those numbers don't scream dominance, they show depreciation.

Don't be surprised if Haynesworth decreases to his 2006 form, in which he had 30 tackles, 2.0 sacks and only played in 11 games.

I want to end on a good note though, so I will say this:

Denver is being praised for its pickups of Corell Buckhalter, J.J. Arrington, Jabar Gaffney, and Lonnie Paxton. Though I believe all are great signings, look out for Andra Davis. The seven-year veteran and former ILB for the Cleveland Browns is now in Mile High. Watch for Davis in the 2009 Pro Bowl.

Andra Davis is the sleeper of the 2009 Free Agency

Sleeper Acquisition of 2009
Andra Davis Career Stats

Can't wait for the draft!

It's the most wonderful time of the year, NFL Free Agency!


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