Ranking the 8 Best Landing Spots for Albert Haynesworth
The New England Patriots' experiment with Albert Haynesworth came to a sudden and perhaps inevitable conclusion on Tuesday.
Even though the decision to trade for him was lauded by many as another daring stroke of genius from Bill Belichick, the Patriots released Haynesworth after just eight games.
Injuries and the all too familiar lack of commitment spelled the end of Haynesworth's short stint in Boston. But what now for the supremely talented, but equally temperamental behemoth?
Haynesworth's talent will always make him appealing to somebody. There will always be a coach who feels he has got the magic formula to get the most out of a player who is capable of dominance, on the rare occasions the mood strikes.
Here is an assessment of the eight best landing spots for Haynesworth in what would surely be a final chance to salvage his career.
The Type of Teams Under Consideration
Only 4-3 teams make this list. Haynesworth has always been at his best when operating out of a strict, 4-3 alignment.
Teams who favour heavy use of a four-man line represent the best destinations for Haynesworth. No more 3-4 teams and no more hybrid fronts.
The rebellious defensive tackle should only consider an offer from a team who would put him in the middle of a four-man line and let him attack.
Any other type of scheme would be a waste of everybody's time and lead to the same results that occurred in New England and Washington.
With this in mind, the New Orleans Saints do not qualify as a viable option for Haynesworth. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams regularly employs a 3-3-5 front that would place Haynesworth outside his comfort zone.
Similarly, the Seattle Seahawks would also be a poor fit. Pete Carroll runs a hybrid scheme which could be best described as a 4-3 based on 3-4 concepts.
The Jacksonville Jaguars also failed to make this list. Under Jack Del Rio, the Jaguars have predominantly operated a 2-gap style, 4-3 scheme.
This system requires linemen to be more disruptive rather than attack-minded and would not suit the style which gets the most out of Haynesworth.
8. Cleveland Browns
The Browns new 4-3 front is anchored by mammoth rookie tackle Phil Taylor. Next to Taylor is the underrated Ahtyba Rubin.
But the Browns lack credible options behind their two starters and an injury to either man leaves them very thin.
Adding an experienced player like Haynesworth could ease the pressure on the young duo and create a fearsome rotation.
Team President Mike Holmgren worked with many temperamental stars as a head coach. With the Green Bay Packers, Holmgren dealt with egos along his defensive line, including the likes of Santana Dotson and Sean Jones.
Holmgren made sure his players stayed in line and produced their best football. From his years working with Brett Favre, Holmgren knows what it's like to refine the rough edges of a player's game.
But more importantly, he also knows that it's sometimes necessary to indulge some of the more impulsive instincts in an athlete's style of play.
Cleveland has an experienced defensive staff headed by Dick Jauron and Ray Rhodes. The two could find plenty of ways to use Haynesworth and might even provide a calming influence.
The Browns may consider Haynesworth a huge risk because of the potentially disruptive influence he could have on rookie linemen like Taylor and Jabaal Sheard.
Additionally, given their problems with Peyton Hillis, Cleveland's front office may wish to steer clear of another possible troublemaker.
7. Denver Broncos
Broncos head coach John Fox is a defensive guru, who has specialised in producing fine front fours during his coaching career.
During his tenure as defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, Fox was the first coach to spot the tremendous potential of Michael Strahan.
He found ways to unleash Strahan's awesome talent, and the greatest defensive end of the last two decades enjoyed his best seasons while working with Fox.
The style of defense favoured by Fox is one which grants linemen a healthy degree of freedom to rush their own way and run their own games.
This kind of autonomy would no doubt appeal to Haynesworth, who feels he should be allowed to attack at all times.
The Broncos need help at tackle, having lost key veterans Ty Warren and Kevin Vickerson to season-ending injuries.
But after the controversies during Josh McDaniels' tenure as head coach, front office pair John Elway and Brian Xanders may prefer to shy away from a player who courts as much negative attention as Haynesworth.
6. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers desperately need more impact players on defense. Rookie head coach Ron Rivera is trying to stick with the 4-3 front; he believes best suits his personnel.
But the Panthers are struggling without marquee defensive tackles. Rookies Terrell McClain and Sione Fua are experiencing a tough transition to the pros.
Carolina unfortunately lost smart free agent pickup Ron Edwards for the year before the season even began. They have tried to plug journeymen like Ron Fields into the middle of the line, but this has yielded modest results.
Rivera's tremendous defensive expertise and hard-nosed approach could be the right combination to encourage Haynesworth to deliver his best.
With the threat of Haynesworth collapsing the pocket, dangerous defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy would become an even more potent force off the edges.
Then maybe the Panthers could turn some of their narrow defeats into wins and build a record more accurately reflecting their talent.
But the Panthers are a young team trying to build a new era. They invested heavily to retain some of their top stars in free agency.
The Panthers may then be hesitant to make any kind of investment in Haynesworth, given the player's multiple issues.
5. St. Louis Rams
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo would surely scheme numerous ways to get Haynesworth into the opposition backfield on a regular basis.
Defensive players love Spagnuolo's aggressive and daring system and enjoy playing for a coach who encourages them to attack.
This is the perfect recommendation for Haynesworth. The hulking malcontent could revitalise his ailing career under the tutelage of Spagnuolo.
Massive and brilliant veteran Fred Robbins would be the perfect player to partner with Haynesworth in the middle of the Rams line.
Robbins excels at taking on blockers and drawing double teams. This would leave Haynesworth free to do what he enjoys the most: rushing the passer.
With Robbins and Haynesworth occupying numerous blockers and crushing the pocket, defensive ends Chris Long, James Hall and Robert Quinn could post monster numbers.
The Rams have experimented with different players next to Robbins for most of the season after free agent capture Bill Muir failed to make any impact.
The young NFC West residers have plenty of solid performers, but need more impact on both sides of the ball. A motivated Haynesworth would provide plenty.
The question is would the Rams be prepared to make another investment in a veteran after trading for the services of wideout Brandon Lloyd?
The team has already experienced free agents Muir and Mike Sims-Walker turning out to be busts. Risking another flop with a player as uncertain as Haynesworth might be one risk too many.
4. Tennessee Titans
A return to the team where he made his name could be the safest and most logical option for Haynesworth. He was his most dominant when plying his trade in a Titans uniform.
Tennesse runs a smart and aggressive 4-3 under the stewardship of intelligent coordinator Jerry Gray. The system has changed slightly since Haynesworth was last in the Music City.
But the Titans have emphasised getting bigger up front, and they don't come much larger than Haynesworth. He could thrive back in familiar surroundings, ensconced with the only franchise with whom he has a decent relationship.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
At first glance, the Philadelphia Eagles may appear to be the best fit for Haynesworth. He would have the chance to reunite with his mentor, highly-respected line coach Jim Washburn.
Haynesworth enjoyed the most productive period of his career playing for Washburn, and his old line coach could be the ideal person to coax some more fine football from him.
But the current state of the Eagles makes the move a big risk. Faced with a 3-5 record after all the offseason expectation and hype, the Eagles are a wounded and seething team.
Haynesworth would be entering an environment where tempers are already high and confidence is low. Probably not the best place for a player who finds it difficult to go two games without arguing with coaches and teammates.
Turning Haynesworth loose in a locker room already containing the egos of Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson might be the final nail in the coffin for the Eagles desperate season.
2. New York Giants
Several Giants fans may politely ask this author to shove this suggestion, but Haynesworth could provide a big boost to an already impressive Giants team.
Pairing a player as fractious as Haynesworth with a coach as volatile and demanding as Tom Coughlin may seem like a recipe for certain disaster.
But Coughlin has plenty of experience dealing with rambunctious and egotistical players. It did not prevent him from winning a Super Bowl in New York.
Coughlin has gotten the best out of players like Plaxico Burress, Osi Umenyiora and Brandon Jacobs. If anything, the Giants can be accused of lacking enough fire when it has counted the most during the last three seasons.
Adding Haynesworth to the mix could provide enough of a spark to propel this quietly efficient squad back to a Super Bowl.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
In recent years the Bengals have overtaken the Oakland Raiders as the prime destination for bad boy players to go and resurrect their careers.
This is particularly true on the defensive side of the ball. The Bengals have given second chances to the likes of Tank Johnson, Roy Williams and even Pacman Jones.
Haynesworth could find Cincinnati to be the perfect venue to recapture his best form and get his career back on track.
Working for outstanding, no-nonsense coordinator Mike Zimmer, Haynesworth would be placed in the ideal system for him.
The Bengals runs a simple, but highly-aggressive, attacking 4-3 defense, with a premium placed on penetration and toughness.
In this type of scheme Haynesworth would be in his element. He would also benefit from a deep and genuinely talented line rotation. There wouldn't be as much pressure on Haynesworth to be the sole playmaker for the unit.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has plenty of experience dealing with oppositional players. Lewis has had to deal with Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens amongst others, during his long tenure.
Haynesworth would join an up-and-coming contender with a chip on their shoulders to prove they deserve a place amongst the league's elite. That particular sentiment should strike a chord with Haynesworth.
No excuses are made here for Haynesworth's dismal behaviour during the last few seasons. It is indeed a travesty, but also a great shame, that he chooses to waste his tremendous talent.
But when on form, there is no doubt that Haynesworth can still be as dominant as any defensive player in the game.
Purely from this point of view, it would be nice to see him get back to his best and be remembered as something other than the poster boy for everybody's worst opinions of the modern pro.
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