The first week of the NFL season was not a good one to linebackers across the league.
The Chicago Bears lost Brian Urlacher for the season to a dislocated wrist. Buffalo Bulls rising star Paul Posluzny broke a bone in his arm in the same game that last season AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year Jerod Mayo went down with a knee injury.
All these injuries surely lead several head coaches and GM’s across the league to one question "Does anyone have a cell phone number for Derrick Brooks?"
Brooks played 13 years for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and helped anchor a defense that was one of the best for the last decade. A sure fire Hall of Fame inductee, Brooks was let go by the Buccaneers before this season started, as the team was looking to go with younger players as they start a rebuilding process.
“You never replace a guy like Derrick Brooks,” said Bucs coach Raheem Morris in a press conference after Brooks’ release earlier this summer. “This was not a money issue or a youth movement. This is a direction change. We are moving forward, we’re going to play some people that were behind these guys and let them compete.”
At 36 years old, no doubt Brooks has lost a step. Nevertheless, he remains one of the best free agents available right now. He is the Buccaneers all time leader in tackles with 1,698 and intercepted 25 passes, returning 6 for touchdowns. His veteran leadership was phenomenal in his time with the Buccaneers, and could surely provide a boost for any team looking to fill some gaps this season.
The Bears have already ruled out Brooks as an option, citing that the team would like to give its younger players the chance to shine in Urlacher’s absence. That makes sense, especially since no one really even expected the Bears to finish the season with better than a .500 record.
However, the Patriots & Bills should have a vested interest in this guy.
The Patriots are perennial Super Bowl contenders, and are known for bringing on veterans who many teams consider to be washed up. Rodney Harrison, John Lynch, Junior Seau, Chad Brown and Randy Moss are amongst those written off by many teams, yet saw success with the Patriots late in their careers. The team added Fred Taylor, Shawn Springs and Joey Galloway this off season, so clearly, the team had not deviated from their plan of adding quality veterans to contribute at key points throughout the season.
The extent of Mayo’s injury is not yet known, but even if he does come out okay, I would expect the Patriots to at least call Brooks and offer him a spot on the team.
The Bills played surprisingly well last night, and have a lot of explosive talent on the offensive side of the ball this season. Some say it is enough to turn some heads, and make a surprising run at the playoffs. Trent Edwards has finally his his stride, and Roscoe Parrish, Lee Evans & Josh Reed are a great trio of young receivers who stand to benefit largely from the addition of Terrell Owens this off season.
So with Posluzny out for a bit, it would make sense for the team to add Brooks to help anchor the defense that is led by Donte Whitner & company.
My honest assessment is that Brooks will end up in New England before season end, but no matter where he lands, the fact remains that he will perform well, and make more than a handful of big plays. Brooks has something to prove still. He believes he could have still contributed to the Bucs this season–and after their season opening loss to Dallas, this is one sports blogger who agrees.