Sense and nonsense reign over first free-agent moves
Posted: Friday February 29, 2008 2:43PM; Updated: Monday March 3, 2008 10:09AM
With the NFL's free agency period open for business, here's our quick takes on the early action. Check back periodically for the latest developments. ...
The Browns really had no choice but to find a way to get things done with quarterback Derek Anderson, keeping him away from restricted free agency. After all those years of asking Cleveland fans to keep the faith, how could they let the first legitimate winning quarterback in the expansion franchise's star-crossed nine-year history get away?
Brady Quinn or no Brady Quinn, the Browns opted for what they know they have in Anderson over what they might have in their 2007 first-round quarterback. But that said, they didn't sink the sun, the moon and the stars into Anderson, who is, after all, just a one-season wonder at this point in his career. If the deal winds up being three years at $24 million, with $13.5 million guaranteed, it doesn't preclude the Browns of opting for the Quinn era at some point in the near future.
The bottom line is that things at the quarterback position change rapidly in the NFL, and you've got to protect yourself at the game's most pivotal position. If you have two good quarterbacks, you keep two good quarterbacks. Especially if you have the cap room to do so. Quality quarterbacking is the hardest thing in the league to find.
And remember, no long-term deal really commits a team to much of anything past the coming season. The NFL salary cap is a one-year-at-a-time proposition these days. As veteran defensive end Kevin Carter just found out after one season in Tampa Bay, if a team doesn't want to keep you at the price tag that your contract calls for it, it can cut you and then try and re-sign you at a lower price tag. Happens all the time in the league they call N(ot) F(or) L(ong).
Speaking of the Bucs, they've apparently made Jeff Faine the highest-paid center in the history of the NFL, signing the former Saint to a deal that tops the six-year, $36 million record contract that Cleveland gave former Saints center LeCharles Bentley in 2006.
So let me get this straight. Faine gets basically run out of Cleveland when the Browns make Bentley the game's highest-paid center, and two short years later he gets the last laugh by becoming the NFL's highest-paid center in Tampa Bay. What a wonderful world the NFL is.
With ex-Steeler Alan Faneca reportedly agreeing to terms with the Jets on a four-year, $32 million contract, the $8 million a year plateau has been reached by a guard. That continues the recent trend that saw Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson jump to Minnesota in 2006 for $7 million a year, and Arizona guard Leonard Davis strike it rich for more than $7 million a year in Dallas in 2007.
Faneca has been a very productive player for a long time in Pittsburgh, but he's 31 and some feel his play has started to slip in the past year or two. While he was clearly one of the most proven commodities available in free agency this year, he's also a prime example of a player hitting the free agency jackpot with his third contract. Ideally, free agency works best when you reward a player who has just earned his second contract after out-performing his rookie deal.
And here's another way to look at the Jets' signing: Is Faneca really miles and miles better than Pete Kendall, the veteran guard they traded to Washington in the preseason after becoming embroiled in an nasty contract stalemate? After dumping the disgruntled Kendall, New York tried to make due with the ineffective Adrien Clarke as his replacement. Clarke started 14 games at left guard before being benched. He was released earlier this week.