by Patrick Wall
As the NFL world descends on Indianapolis for the second time in less than a month, the focus will be on the future. Prospective rookies attending the Combine shuffle in to be poked and prodded, measured and tested, interviewed and studied. But the Combine is also a place for the sport’s power players to begin wheeling and dealing.
Eagles’ GM Howie Roseman will be hearing plenty about his disgruntled star wideout DeSean Jackson. Hopefully these conversations tell him what I suspect he already knows: if winning the Super Bowl next year is really, truly, the goal, the Eagles must keep him.
Granted, this is easier said than done. Jackson, and agent Drew Rosenhaus (the man responsible for this infamous moment in Philly sports history), are asking for the type of money the Jets inexplicably gave Santonio Holmes, or around $10 million per year.
Let’s be clear: neither Jackson nor Holmes are worth that type of money. But they are similar players, and both are crucial to what their respective offenses do. When Jackson is on the field, defenses have to account for his blazing deep speed. And when he has the ball in his hands, he can take it the distance at any time. This has likely been Rosenhaus’ mantra through the negotiation process.
For the Eagles, the situation looks less rosy. After holding out during the first part of training camp, Jackson had his worst year as a pro, netting 58 catches for 916 yards and four touchdowns. While these numbers aren’t terrible, the team expects better. Despite being a threat as a punt return and runner—as a rookie he was the first player to be named the starter at two positions in the Pro Bowl—he was a virtual non-factor as a punt returner last season.
Worse than his production was his attitude. Jackson seemed to be pouting for the majority of the season, and was deactivated against the Cardinals for missing a team meeting. He was also benched against the Patriots for playing soft, dropping easy touchdowns that would’ve meant he’d take big hits.
Several news outlets have reported recently that Jackson is likely to be given the franchise tag as early as next week. This would lock him up for another year and pay him the average of the top five receivers in the game, which equals around $10 million. Jackson has said he is fine with this—proof, in this writer’s opinion, that it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.
Franchising DeSean also gives the team a few options: they can keep him for a year and potentially franchise him one more time after next season, negotiate a long-term deal, or trade him.
At this point, many fans seem ready to part with DeSean, but I’m not so sure. Money seems to be his biggest motivator. While it’s fair to wonder if he’ll pull an Albert Haynesworth and quit on the team once he gets paid, he’s worth too much to the team to let go.
Yes, there are some sexy free agent names out there, including Dwayne Bowe, Marcus Colston and Vincent Jackson, but neither have the skill set of a player like Jackson. Defenses fear Jackson, and shutting him down only means more opportunities for guys like Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Brent Celek and the always dangerous LeSean “Shady” McCoy.
With head coach Andy Reid on the hot seat, continuity is key for the 2012 Eagles. It’s why the team brought back defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, and it’s why QB Michael Vick will still be leading the team. Jackson is one of Vick’s favorite weapons, and the two have an adorable “big bro/little bro” dynamic that I think is a positive forJackson’s maturity (yeah, you read that right).
So what’s he worth? Definitely not the $10 million per year he wants. But DeSean may have a hard time turning down $6 or $7 million a year with incentives and a healthy signing bonus. Overpaying for superstars isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A happy DeSean Jackson is a bonus for the team, and a productive DeSean Jackson is a nightmare for opposing defenses.
Week 1: Somehow I’ll Make a Man Out of You(r Fantasy Football Team)
By Patrick Wall
After reading Evan’s funny and well-articulated thoughts on our fantasy league (not to mention Brian Chan’s wonderfully in-depth look at our draft,) I thought it prudent to give my take. After all, I run the league. I am, wait for it… League Manager. With a capital “L” and a capital “M.”
I’m the boss. The king. The shah. And you’d think that with my phenomenal cosmic (read: fantasy football) power, I’d be working on a three-peat. Or at least a repeat. Something.
Well, fair reader. You’d be wrong. Very wrong.
You see, I seem to be snake-bitten when it comes to the world of fantasy football. I can tell you about non-name players like Bethel Johnson and Jeremy Bloom. I can spout of useless stats like it’s my job. But, the elusive title of MAFL league champion still eludes me.
True, I did win the league’s inaugural year. But considering no one else knew how to play fantasy football (and also considering that some of us were still in junior high at the time,) it’s hard to count that a win. After all, you don’t go around talking about how great the Las Vegas Locomotives’ championship year was, do you?
After a great deal of introspection, self-searching and training montages, I think I’ve figured out what ails me.
I love football too much.
Yes, anyone who knows me also knows how utterly obnoxious I am during the NFL season. And for that, I’m sorry (nah, just kidding. I’m not. Like, at all.) But being able to separate the head from the heart and turning my knowledge and love for the game into something tangible has proven more difficult than it might seem at first.
Like everyone else, I have a wide range of opinions. In the world of football, these can be based on past performances (I hate you, Matt Forte,) predictions (such as my decision to not draft anyone on the Chiefs, Redskins or Bengals) or just simple homerism (with the fifth pick in the MAFL draft, my Philadelphia Finishers selected Michael Vick.)
But too often I allow these factors to seep in. At first, I played the fantasy game like a snake—cold and calculated. I watched the stats, looked for matchups and went for the kill when I thought there was a play to be made. Sometimes it worked, but I found myself burned too often by terrible draft picks and bad luck.
I found that my success came not when I fussed every day about which third down back made the best flex play, but when I approached fantasy football like a normal, functioning member of society. You know, those people with jobs, social lives and girlfriends.
And you know what? It worked. Sure, I came in last in our division this past season. And yes, that meant that I placed lower than two guys who never once updated their rosters. But this year will be different. This year, I have a plan. I call it, drum roll please:
Patrick’s Incredible Plan for (Fantasy Football) World Domination
Essentially, the PIPf(FF)WD breaks down like this: compare last year’s stats to this year’s projections, factor in minimal bias and avoid boom-or-bust potential as much as possible. In our draft last week I placed a premium on players I felt would be the most consistent.
Ultimately my team, like anything worth having in life, required some sacrifice and compromise, but I think I have a stronger team than in years past. The star power is somewhat lacking, but I’m banking on solid players continuing to be solid than risking it all on another big year from Chris Johnson or Jamaal Charles, for example.
My Finishers are headlined by Vick, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Jets wideout Santonio Holmes and a running back tandem of Rashard Mendenhall and Amhad Bradshaw. True, neither back is a world-beater. But they are consistent, play on good teams and have talent.
My second goal is to watch the waiver wire, but not to make snap decisions and not to fawn over my team like an overprotective parent whose child develops an immunity to Neosporin before the age of four.
Will this all work? Will I finally claim a legitimate MAFL championship? It remains to be seen. But I like my chances and I think this year will be different. And I’m glad you’re coming along for the ride.
Of all the teams to take advantage of the post-lockout free agent feeding frenzy, the Philadelphia Eagles have come out on top with some serious moves, and fans all over the City of Brotherly Love are flapping their wings in anticipation at seeing their birds of prey dive-bombing into opponents’ fields and making their presence known.
With additions ballooning the Eagles’ already-stacked offense and putting together the pieces of their defensive puzzle, all of you who wear the Midnight green, black and white have a lot to be excited about.
5. VY in PHI
Sure, Vince Young’s NFL career s is probably one that will go down in the disappointment column for years to come, but any football player that did what he did in college is a viable contender wherever he winds up.
After four injury-prone, up-and-down seasons with the Tennessee Titans, in which he never reached the sky-high (aren’t they always?) expectations put on him as a first-round quarterback, Young was released and was picked up by the Eagles July 29th.
While there’s not much to be excited about with him being a backup to Michael Vick, there’s not much to be worried about either.
Coming out of college, Young was compared to Vick in his ability to scramble and his speed. But Young, almost five inches taller than Vick, also had strong pocket presence that helped him find open receivers and earn him two trips to the Pro Bowl in his NFL career.
If something happened to Vick during the season, forcing VY to stand tall in his stead, the former Heisman candidate will be there in a heartbeat. All players have potential, and all players can make a comeback. Philadelphia at the moment seems to be the nexus for this healthy attitude.
4. Ronnie Brown: Shady’s Big Shadow
At 6’0″, 230 pounds, Ronnie Brown is not the biggest halfback in the league, but compared to LeSean McCoy he’s a veritable A-Train.
Sure, they’ve got barely-stable Owen Schmitt as their fullback for the fourth-and-inches downs that Vick decides not to leap over, but when (not if, sorry) McCoy gets injured this season, decorated runner Brown will be there to fill the smaller shoes.
Sure he’s not as agile as he once was, or as elusive, but he is a bonafide game changer and a threat both in the open field and on the occasional outside run, where I guarantee he’ll show that the move from Miami hasn’t cooled his jets one bit.
And even if McCoy does stay healthy all season, Brown will get his snaps.
And he won’t disappoint.
3. Steve Smith as a Number 3 Receiver
Perhaps I’m taking this one a little too far, but Steve Smith two years ago on the New York Giants had an All-Pro season.
This was earned with his stats: 107 receptions, 1,220 receiving yards, first Giant receiver in history to catch more than 90 receptions in a season. Like a flash in the pan, however, he was back to normalcy in 2010.
This was not due to a serious slide on his part, however, but because Eli Manning found a faster, more agile target in rookie Hakeem Nicks. After some haggling between the Giants and Eagles (read my compatriot’s story) Smith comes to Philadelphia this season primed to show that he wasn’t full of false swag (i’ll say this word again soon, don’t worry).
Smith has established himself as a go-to third-down receiver in the last two years. When the major wideouts are covered, Smith always seems to run the slot perfectly and get his quarterback the extra three or five yards through the air to move the chains.
And when he’s wide open, watch out, as he can be as good a bomb target as any other Eagles’ receiver.
Well, maybe not DeSean Jackson, whose pressure he’ll undoubtedly be putting on opposing team’s defensive backs will make Smith look like even more of a safe target.
2. Michael Vick in his Junior Year of Resurgence
The entire league was Vick-rolled last season, as the name Michael Vick went from being whispered in family rooms and office parties like a Gypsy curse to being followed by the qualifier, “is ridiculous” (like Devin Hester).
The man who just in July 2008 filed for bankruptcy last season gave even casual fans of professional football a show they haven’t seen since . . . well, since Vick first started playing.
On Monday Night Football November 10th against the Washington Redskins at home, Vick threw an opening game 88-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson from scrimmage. At the end of the first half, Vick would add two more passing touchdowns as well as two rushing ones. The Pro Football Hall of Fame asked for his jersey following the game.
Two years ago that particular organization would have laughed if you uttered Hall of Fame and Michael Vick in the same sentence.
Now who’s laughing?
Despite the jig being up, and opposing defenses now realizing that he is indeed not only back but better than ever, Vick is primed to repeat his stellar 2010 season (3,018 yards, 21 touchdowns passing; 676 yards, nine touchdowns rushing) now that he’s settled into the role of leader.
1. Nnamdi and the NFL’s Premier Shutdown Secondary
After seven seasons with the Oakland Raiders, something that has prohibited him from getting his just acknowledgement while he was lost in Al Davis’ Black hole, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha agreed to a 5-year free agent contract with the Eagles.
Along with Asante Samuel and new addition from the Arizona Cardinals Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the four-time Pro Bowler has been the catalyst for what rabid Philly fans (my esteemed colleague) and casual admirers (myself) are calling the New-Look Defense or, to put it simply and repetitively, the Dream Team.
Asomugha has been the least-targeted cornerback of the entire NFL in the last four years. To throw some stats at you, in 2008 he was targeted only 27 times by opposing quarterbacks, and allowed just 8 completions. In the entire season.
And now, throwing off the shackles of the “Commitment to Excellence”, expect Asomugha to completely revamp the way opposing offenses look at the Eagles’ secondary. Likewise expect Samuel to allow his need to swag keep him trying hard to compete on the other side of the field, while Cromartie plays the vulture-in-waiting while one of them is drinking some Gatorade on the sidelines.
From any way you look at it, as an Eagles fan both part of the heartbroken old and the bandwagon new, this team’s talent is crackling.