Posted: Monday March 7, 2005 10:02AM; Updated: Monday March 7, 2005 5:05PM
Then I heard what the Dallas secondary coach, Todd Bowles, told Parcells and Jones about Henry. Bowles played in the NFL. He's a Jersey guy, from Elizabeth. He coached Henry in Cleveland. It was Bowles who made the Cowboys believe that he was more valuable in this market than Samari Rolle, than Gary Baxter. Bowles told the Dallas braintrust Henry was everything they'd want in a player, he'd play special teams willingly, he'd practice hard, he'd run the scout team if necessary, and he'd do it all quietly, without ego. And he had no personal issues, no off-field stuff. Then I remembered seeing Henry cover Terrell Owens aggressively in a game in Cleveland last year. Dallas needed a corner to take some of the heat off Terrence Newman, who struggled mightily last year.
I see why they did it. I still think the guaranteed money is too high, but if he's an egoless guy who shows up for work every week, in the end, they're paying him $5 million a year, to cover some of the game's best wideouts. If he plays with the same verve he's played with previously, he'll probably be worth it.
Dallas is the game's most improved team in the last two weeks. What will it mean? Not much if Bledsoe can't rise to the occasion, and if Ferguson isn't enough of a physical presence that teams struggle running the ball against the Cowboys. But they're all-March so far.
Some other moves I've liked, and haven't liked, so far
Liked: The Giants wrangled Antonio Pierce from Washington. Not only did the Giants get just what they needed -- a playmaking, young middle linebacker to key Tim Lewis' 4-3 defense -- but they diminished the star power of the best defense in the NFC East. Sometimes it's not who you sign, it's who you sign the player away from. Gregg Williams' outstanding Washington defense won't collapse without its centerpiece, but the 'Skins likely won't be able to find a sideline-to-sideline playmaker who, quietly, had a season nearly the equal of James Farrior or Donnie Edwards last year.
Didn't like: The Raiders franchised a lousy player, and now they might be stuck with him. His name is Charles Woodson, and his last great game was in Ann Arbor eight years ago. The Raiders, clearly trying to get some fish to bite on Woodson, franchised him before free agency began, meaning if a team wanted him, the team would have to trade the Raiders up to two first-round picks for him. (Oakland, certainly, would take less, because the guy has played so inconsistently as a pro.) But Woodson, as I said last week, surprised the Raiders by signing the franchise tender offer of $10.5 million.
Liked: The Jets got a good heir to Curtis Martin, and cheap.Derrick Blaylock for $11.1 million over five years is damn good value.
Didn't like: The Jets franchised the wrong defensive lineman. They should have kept stalwart Ferguson, not unreliable defensive end John Abraham. I ran into New York defensive line coach Denny Marcin at the NFL Scouting Combine last weekend in Indy, and he couldn't say enough about the influence the 30-year-old Ferguson had on and off the field for the young Jets defensive line. Just the opposite of Abraham, who has seduced too many in the Jet organization with a few brilliant games, but not the type of consistency you build a defense around.
Liked: Minnesota got a good nose man in Pat Williams. Tired of patching with sub-par guys, the Vikes got a bona fide run-stopper, which they've needed.
Didn't like: Washington, even with a smart guy like Joe Gibbs running the show, still seems like a team lurching from one cap mess to the next. Other than Peyton Manning, no NFL player will make as much cash in 2004. Two years ago, Laveranues Coles was the cat's meow. Now he's just another $9.3 million cap mess to clean up. I noticed the Redskins seemed to be congratulating themselves on having Santana Moss and David Patten starting at receiver in 2005. Why? Moss was a perennial disappointment with the Jets; how will 'Skins fans react the first time he runs out of bounds away from contact instead of trying to make four more yards? Patten was the fourth receiver on a Patriots' team with no receiving star. Lord help Patrick Ramsey.
Liked: The Dolphins sitting this one out, mostly. While Nick Saban tries to figure out what he's going to do, it would be silly to blindly throw big money at big names, just for the sake of making a splash. He's following in Bill Belichick's footsteps, targeting his buys based on low-cost players such as Vonnie Holliday. I'm glad he's going to spend today or tomorrow with Eagles defensive end Derrick Burgess, the first man to stop Mike Vick in his tracks. Burgess wants to stay in Philly, and the Eagles would like to have him back, only at a low price. He might be the kind of bargain rusher Saban could use as he shakes up his defensive front.
Didn't like: The Browns counting on Trent Dilfer to be Romeo Crennel's wise old owl. I like Dilfer as a backup. I like Kelly Holcomb a lot more as a starter than Dilfer. I think people are seeing what they want to see in Dilfer, not what is really there. Since he left Tampa Bay, he's a 57-percent passer (below NFL average) with 25 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. Good guy, good to have in a locker room, but I do not understand dumping Holcomb for him.
Liked: The Eagles showed Jeremiah Trotter more loyalty than his knees deserved. And Trotter took less money to stay in Philly. Trotter will make $6.5 million in the next two years in Philly, which is fair. He's a superb run-stopping middle 'backer, and his presence helped the Eagles get to the Super Bowl more than Jevon Kearse's down the stretch.
Didn't like: The Raiders not helping their defense. You can't win 44-37 every Sunday, Norv.
Liked: Kurt Warner put his future on the line. I like a man who turns down more guaranteed money to take a one-year, $4 million deal with the Cardinals, so confident in his ability that he figures he'll play well this year and get back into the $7 million-a-year club. Not sure I side with that kind of optimism when it comes to Warner, but I like that he's willing to do something like this.
And, finally, not sure whether I liked it or not: Duane Starks has been hurt an awful lot for the Patriots to gamble on him. I know it's not the size of contract the pricey corners got, but New England has committed to a cornerback who's missed 23 games due to injury in the last three years. The Patriots have been studs in free agency. For their sake, here's hoping this isn't the second coming of Donald Hayes.