Alan Faneca Released by Jets: Why the Rams Need Him

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Alan Faneca Released by Jets: Why the Rams Need Him
Al Bello/Getty Images

For the past 48 hours, sources have been reporting that the New York Jets have released nine-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Alan Faneca.  

His release is described as a salary-dump, and was triggered Saturday afternoon when Faneca refused to take a paycut.

Faneca was acquired by the Jets at the start of 2008 in free agency.  He was scheduled to receive some $7 million in compensation this season ($5.25 is guaranteed and must be paid by the Jets).  

Why the Jets might make such a move is enough to baffle even the most adept pro football geniuses.

Faneca has been elected to nine-straight Pro Bowls, starting in 2001.  He was elected to three All-Pro teams, most recently in 2008.  

His leadership is credited with solidifying the Jets line, considered by many to be the best in the NFL.  He has been relatively injury-free, not missed games, and continued to perform at a high Pro Bowl level.

Faneca is just 33 years old and a 12-year veteran.  Veteran offensive linemen who have avoided injury in their careers frequently play until their upper 30s.  Faneca may well have five seasons left in his gas tank.

So why dump him?  

He is simply regarded as an expensive veteran who can be replaced by a young Vladimir Ducasse.  His $40 million contract in 2008 made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in league history, so off with his head!  

These moves have a tendency to backfire on management.

The Rams have great need of him.  Having just spent the absolute No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft on young Sam Bradford, Billy Devaney is now on the hook to do everything necessary to keep him healthy and functional.  

After all, he will wind up being something like an $80 million investment once his contract is negotiated.  This is the price of a modest Hollywood epic film, or half the cost of an off-shore oil rig.

Why Faneca?

  1. The Rams have an offensive line that has surrendered 40-plus sacks each year and every year for the past nine seasons.
  2. In 2009 the Rams OL surrendered 44 sacks, seventh-worst in the league. The Colts were No. 1 in pass protection, surrendering only 13 sacks.
  3. Every Rams quarterback finished the 2009 season with moderate-to-serious injuries.  Marc Bulger finished with a broken leg.
  4. Sam Bradford has a history of injury and is considered fragile by many.
  5. While the Rams have taken steps in the past 12 calendar months to bolster their offensive line—adding Jason Smith, Jason Brown, and Rodger Saffold—they remain suspect at the guard positions.
  6. The Rams have a Sept. 26 date with Albert Haynesworth, an Oct. 10 meeting with Ndamukong Suh, and an Oct. 24 meeting with both Gerald McCoy and Brian Price.  All of these are dangerous matches for young Sam Bradford.  In addition, the Rams will be facing Dan Williams of the Cardinals twice.
  7. The thought of Gerald McCoy squared against Jacob Bell, and Brian Price squared against Adam Goldberg, should give us cold sweats.
  8. The thought of Faneca blocking one of those two creatures is much more comforting.  It is unlikely that even rookie sensations like McCoy or Suh will manhandle Faneca.
With Faneca replacing one guard, perhaps Goldberg, the Rams line should harden like concrete.  We should not underestimate the value of adding a superior veteran to a young line.  
In 1999, the Rams added one Adam Timmerman to the lineup.  Suddenly, a line which had been sketchy and inconsistent became rock-hard.  Timmerman's leadership was credited many times for that positive transformation.
The Rams' 1999 line allowed only 33 sacks.  It was good enough to power the Rams to a win in Super Bowl XXXIV.
It is my contention that Alan Faneca would have the same effect on our present line.
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