The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins raise their middle fingers to the NFL. In doing so, Dallas gets it right and Washington gets it wrong.
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The Philadelphia Eagles finally have the right plan. What exactly is going on in Houston?
And we have an offseason winner two days into free agency.
We are all over the good, the bad and the ugly, Schein 9 style:
1. 2012 offseason champs, 2013 return to the playoffs
Is it too early to pick the St. Louis Rams to make the playoffs in 2013? We are only 48 hours into the offseason period, and we have a winner. Coach Jeff Fisher, general manager Les Snead and the Rams should take a bow. What they have done in reshaping their ballclub has been nothing short of remarkable in a few days.
It isn’t about flashy signings or high risks. The Rams are prepping to build via the draft with a bushel of top picks. And they chose their one huge free-agent move wisely.
If you are a Rams fan, here’s the beauty: You aren’t close to being done yet. And, finally, you have the right football people in place making decisions.
I loved the Rams and Redskins deal (more on Washington later) for both teams. St. Louis employs Sam Bradford. He had a majestic rookie season before slumping because of a new playbook and injuries around him last year. He is a franchise quarterback. There was no need to pluck the talented Robert Griffin III.
Snead and Fisher, as we wrote after the NFL Combine, put a "for sale" sign on the second overall pick, treating it like a trade partner would be trading for the first overall pick and a stud quarterback. It was a smart strategy. Washington, quarterback-starved, took the bait. So now, the Rams have two first-round picks this year, and three in the top 39. They have two first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. This is how you build a winner.
Talking on the SiriusXM Blitz on Wednesday, the new GM was bursting with enthusiasm about the future.
“We looked at who we could pick (with the three picks in the top 39), and we are going to get guys who will contribute this year," Snead said. "And I’m excited for the future. After cutting some veterans, we are the youngest team in the league. We are going to have these young players play together early in their careers. I’m very excited for the second half of this year and into next year.”
And Snead and the Rams have the perfect coach in Fisher, who is a teacher and gets teams to brilliantly overachieve.
St. Louis gave Cortland Finnegan a whopping $50 million for five years. When I pressed Snead if that was worthy money, he said, “In free agency, you ask yourself if you can live with a player, what it is going to be like day in and day out. Jeff had Cortland in Tennessee. We knew the answer. He is in his prime, not slowing down.”
Then Snead quipped, “He had me at Andre Johnson,” speaking of the famous brawl. Snead added:“He is tenacious. He plays hard and urgent. This is who we want to be.”
The Rams will look to add needed talent at receiver and on the interior portion of the offensive line. Snead says the key for the line is to get one that can “jell like a basketball team.”
Smart answers and intelligent thoughts from the Rams? Get used to it. St. Louis.
2. National concern
As I wrote a few weeks ago, I expected Mike Shanahan to trade for RG3. He told us on SiriusXM NFL Radio he wanted to play for Shanahan. He will thrive in his system. I love the trade. But, although I understand the need to get receivers around him, Pierre Garcon is not worth $21 million in guarantees. He is not a top receiver. From that perspective, the beat rolls on in Washington. These are the contracts that come back to haunt you.
3. Cap jail
I thought the league penalizing the Redskins and Cowboys 24 hours before free agency started was cruel and unusual punishment. The 2010 season was an uncapped year. Every contract was approved by the league office. And the timing stunk, with Washington and Dallas finding out their financial restraints 24 hours before free agency. That’s just wrong.
From that perspective, I loved Washington giving the middle finger to the league with a burst of early activity. Then Dallas did the same, upgrading majorly at cornerback after cutting Terence Newman and inking Brandon Carr to a five-year deal worth $50 million.
I don’t get to say this often so I’ll seize the moment — smart move by Dallas.
4. Taking care of their own
Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles were the “Dream Team” when they signed free agents after the lockout ended. There were some internal grumblings from established Eagles players that the team was showing the love to players who never played a down for Andy Reid. I don’t think the Eagles’ brass fully realized how the “Dream Team” approach would go over in the locker room.
In a short time, last year was a failed chemistry experiment. DeSean Jackson was never happy and he sulked during a loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Well, Reid and general manager Howie Roseman took care of two of their best players Wednesday by giving Jackson a new five-year deal for $51 million and guaranteeing his focus. And they also rewarded Trent Cole, who is one of the best and underrated defensive players in the sport. You read that correctly. Cole is a do-it-all defensive end who gets to the quarterback and stops the run. He’s a star.
On the SiriusXM Blitz, Cole confirmed he was miffed when the club brought in the outsiders. He went to the brass and stayed out of the media and was given four years and $53 million with $15 million in guaranteed money.
Cole told us that one of the main reasons he wanted to stay in Philly long term was because of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Seriously. Cole says that you should blame the players for what happened last year and predicts a major bounce back with a full offseason. Although Castillo seemed totally overmatched last year, I think it is noteworthy that Reid held onto him.
I think Philly is off to the right start in free agency taking care of Cole and Jackson long term. and they are a strong candidate to bounce back.
5. Houston, we have a problem
I voted for Eric Winston for first-team All-Pro at right tackle because I thought he was the best in the business last year. Houston had the best offensive line in the league in 2011, and continuity was a major reason why. The Texans cut Winston, and it was a major mistake. No surprise that he has several suitors in free agency.
I also voted for center Chris Myers for first team All-Pro. He told us on Tuesday on the SiriusXM Blitz he was “shocked and disappointed” that Winston was cut. Myers characterized his agent’s talks with the team as “conversations, not negotiations”. That better change for a team that seemingly had the look of a Super Bowl team. The Texans are messing with a major strength of their team.
6. Super Chargers
Yes, San Diego lost Vincent Jackson. And Mike Tolbert is on his way out, too. But I love what the Chargers did on the first few days of the offseason.
In addition to holding onto their own linemen, the Chargers replaced Jackson with Robert Meachem. Although Meachem didn’t put up gaudy statistics in New Orleans, he is exactly what Chargers coach Norv Turner craves at the receiver position. Meachem will put up career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns this season.
The Chargers also brought in LeRon McClain to play fullback. He can also run the ball in a physical style and adds a needed attitude. And I loved the signing of Jarret Johnson, the steady linebacker formerly of the Ravens.
7. Buc Ball
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been criticized for being perceived as cheap. General manager Mark Dominik bucked that trend with a savvy and furious spending spree on Tuesday and Wednesday, giving receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright five-year deals.
Dominik told us on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he was looking for “talent and leadership,” and he most certainly got it. Jackson, although I think the five-year, $55 million contract borders on absurd, is the legit No. 1 receiver the Bucs desperately craved. Dominik rightly cited Jackson’s ability to “stretch the field vertically and help with the young receivers.”
They signed Nicks because the Bucs were, “sick of going against him twice a year” when he was starring for New Orleans.
All three players fit in with the new mentality Greg Schiano brings to Tampa.
Tampa Bay had a good young nucleus. Now it added some needed sizzle. This team could be in position to surprise some people under Schiano this year. The toughness will be there.
8. San Francisco Treat?
‘Tis the season for the office pool. NCAA? Try when Randy Moss and Jim Harbaugh will fight. Put me in for Labor Day, before week 1. I know the contract didn’t break the bank, but Moss with Harbaugh is a recipe for disaster. Moss is a washed up diva.
I still think San Fran will chase Mike Wallace, who is a perfect fit.
9. May the Schwartz be with you
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson rightly got paid, a record-setting $60 million guaranteed. On the SiriusXM Blitz, Johnson stressed that he made the commitment because of where this team is headed.
“Jim Schwartz is a main reason why," Johnson said of the Lions’ head coach. "I was here for 0-16, for the change after that, to where we are now. The difference is the culture, the staff, and type of player we are bringing in. That’s why I want to be here.”
Schwartz told us at the combine that he refused to call last season a success, despite finally making the playoffs. That’s even more awesome.