A $33.5 Million Wake-up Call?
Editor's note: Greg Bedard, who filled in on the Monday Morning Quarterback column this week, is also handling the Tuesday mailbag. Peter King will be back in both spots next week.
Don’t want to overstay my welcome in the Skipper’s space, so let’s just go right into a few of your questions.
Check that. It seems a bit optimistic to say “That’s $33.5 million total,” and follow it up with “showing DeSean Jackson that he needs to check himself a bit.” So receiving a $33.5 million contract should show Jackson that he needs to clean up his act. Really? I would argue it shows him just the opposite.
—Steve, Flagstaff, Ariz.
My point was that I think the public airing and backlash about some of his activities, both inside the Eagles and in his free time, should at least give Jackson a few moments of reflection to say to himself, “Maybe I need to tighten things up a little bit.”
Most of that comment came from my lingering feelings of guilt about the entire Aaron Hernandez episode, when I was covering the Patriots for the Boston Globe. When I started covering the team in the middle of Hernandez’s rookie season, I was blown away by his talent and wondered why he lasted until the fourth round of the 2010 draft. It couldn’t have just been about the reported marijuana use while he was at Florida. So I called around the league and heard about the concerns some teams had about his associates from his hometown, and that there were possible gang ties. I tried to get something concrete on it, but I couldn’t get any traction with the story (Instagram photos would have been nice). There were no facts, just strong rumors. So I never wrote anything, and then the unthinkable happened.
To this day I think about ways I could have dug harder and published a story that, at least, might have woken Hernandez up (and woken us all up to Hernandez) before he allegedly broke bad. My hope, because Jackson is still young and very talented, is that he learns from his experience with the Eagles, grows from it and realizes his vast potential. But maybe I’m just being idealistic.
* * *
Why one-and-done? Caught the quick reference to Mike Lombardi in your column. I've listened to a host of Lombardi podcasts and have always found him to be thoughtful and savvy. Was he simply a victim of the Browns' dysfunction, or is there more to his departure as GM in Cleveland after just a year on the job?
—Steve, San Diego
Good question, Steve, and one that I don’t have a definite answer on, and I’m not sure we ever will. The only thing I know for sure is that Lombardi, who is now with the Patriots as an assistant to the coaching staff, feels he’s in a better place. What that means, I don’t know. I do believe that the direction of an organization starts at the very top, and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam hasn’t exactly handled his learning curve well. The NFL isn’t like other businesses, and it often takes a while for new owners to realize this. Haslam hired and fired four executives with his Pilot Flying J company and with the Browns in the span of 18 months. That doesn’t project much stability from the top.
I know Mike and respect his ability to the do the job. I thought he and former Browns president Joe Banner moved the Browns in the right direction by adding talent, getting the cap in order and acquiring valuable draft picks. Lombardi’s successor, Ray Farmer, will be reaping the benefits of much of that work, but that’s how things go in this league. I will say Lombardi and Banner have the type of personalities that can be polarizing. Either you like them or they rub you the wrong way. Results should be the bottom line for front-office people (it’s not a popularity contest) the same way it is for coaches and players, but running an NFL front office also involves interpersonal skills, and neither Lombardi nor Banner has received sterling marks in that regard. That doesn’t mean they can’t do the job. I think both are talented, just a bit of an acquired taste, and will continue to find success.
* * *
Street smarts. Why do you think “street” free agents aren’t used in the formula for compensatory picks. Seems to me like they should be. How are they any different than UFAs to the team signing them?
—Bob, Tonawanda, NY
When a player becomes available as a “street” free agent, his contract has been terminated by his former club. The team made the decision, for whatever reason, that they didn’t want to honor the rest of the contract. They should not be rewarded for that.
Frankly, I find the whole compensatory pick system to be a bit antiquated and tilted towards the best teams (they have better players, so they’ll sign for more on the open market and return higher picks). I think it should be revamped, but I don’t think it will ever change—too many teams like it. And the NFLPA hasn’t voiced any reservations to this point.
* * *
Thinking ahead. Is it possible that teams like the Jags, in hosting Alex Mack, are trying to sell the player to sign on with their program the following year, after they get franchise-tagged? Do you have any knowledge of this happening in the past?
—Michael Murphy, San Francisco
I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of that happening in the past (it likely has, and I’m sure some of my readers will let us know), but that is absolutely a factor in this process. The Jaguars can use this opportunity to entertain Mack and show him what they have going on, and perhaps Mack will spread the word around the Browns’ locker room that the Jaguars should be on players’ radar.
But, also, if Mack likes the Jaguars’ coaching staff and environment, perhaps they can do a little recruiting and say, “Why don’t you go back and sign the transition tag, play the season out and then hear from us again next year when the Browns may not be able to tag you?” I can understand that from Jacksonville’s perspective, but the danger of injury for Mack makes it a very distant consideration.
Keep this in mind: the Jaguars are going to play the Browns in Jacksonville this season. Never hurts to get an opponent in and pick his brain a little, although I’m not sure Mack would have much considering there’s an entirely new coaching staff in Cleveland.
* * *
Tags and caps. I was not aware that Mack's transition tag amount was already included in their salary cap even though he has not signed his tender. Is this true for restricted free agents and franchise tags as well?
—Stuart Laake, Tampa
From our Andrew Brandt: “Yes. Teams can't just transition tag (or RFA tender) players and escape the cap. The figures count unless/until the tag is rescinded.”
* * *
Silver and Black attack. Is it because AL Davis wouldn't give the majority of the media the time of day that the national writers spend all their time looking for ways to trash the Raiders? When was the last look-at-the-nice-move-the-Raiders-made story? You all complain about how vanilla the NFL is and how corporatespeak rules the league, but you can't figure out how to deal with an original like AD. Sorry for taking your time up with this rant; please go back to praising everything the Pats, Steelers, Ravens etc do. Because you know they never make mistakes.
I know, we writers are terrible, considering that those teams have won a combined five Super Bowls since the Raiders last had a winning season in 2002. We’re the worst.
Look, the Raiders haven’t been relevant in over a decade. That’s their fault, not ours. Maybe your letter should be sent to 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, Alameda, CA, 94502, home to the people responsible for it.
The bottom line is the Raiders have added 11 free agents and traded for former Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. Just two of those 12 players are younger than 29 years old (OT Austin Howard and DE C.J. Wilson). Having covered receiver James Jones in Green Bay, I’m not as high on him as Peter King is. I like the Donald Penn and Tarell Brown signings very much. Hopefully LaMarr Woodley got a wakeup call, because he was stealing the Steelers’ money since his contract extension.
On the surface, the Raiders have improved themselves, but they’re gambling a lot on players who are injury risks and/or were deemed by their former teams to be on the downside of their careers. And, speaking personally, I’m not a fan of free agency, especially when you add so many new parts, because it’s hard to mesh that many new faces quickly to compete at a high level in the ultimate team sport.
Those moves may indeed pay off. General manager Reggie McKenzie has a good eye for talent. But when a team is in a position like the Raiders—so many question marks, especially at the most important position on the field—they’re decidedly in the “I’ll believe in it when I see it on the field” category. Good luck to them and to you. It has certainly been a long wait.
* * *
Competition for Dalton. Great job on your MMQB effort this week, really strong topics covered in the typically well constructed manner you always adopt. I wanted to ask you a question about your recent Andy Dalton article, which I completely agreed with. (I also think Mike Brown agrees with you!) If you were the Bengals, how would approach the draft with the current QB situation? There are plenty of options to go down, and I wanted to get your thoughts on who you would target.
When it comes to the quarterback position, I firmly believe in competition if you don’t have a no-doubt franchise quarterback. Andy Dalton is a good player, but the jury is still out as to whether he can be very good or elite. After three years in the league, there’s no shame in that. He may prove to be on that level very soon.
But I would absolutely draft a quarterback in the second or third round for two reasons. One, I want someone to push Dalton. He’s been coddled way too much by the Bengals. Hopefully the competition lifts him to another level, and he’s your guy. If Dalton can’t handle the competition mentally, then I don’t want him around because he’s never going to make it. And, secondly, quarterback is such a valuable position that you can never go wrong drafting, developing and trading them at some point as the Packers did under Ron Wolf. I don’t see how the Bengals can lose in drafting a quarterback.