Peppers spices a busy offseason
The Bears made the biggest offseason acquisition for the second year in a row
Trading veterans for draft picks in this salary cap-less year was the hot trend
Arizona had the most to lose and did; the Skins' coach pendulum swung again
As April dawns, the NFL offseason has already spanned almost three months for the majority of teams. The orgy of hope that is the draft remains three weeks away, but most of the heavy lifting on the personnel acquisition front has been completed and new plans and programs are firmly in place.
Before we turn our attention fully to the draft, it's a good time for a review of the major moves, newsmakers and storylines:
Headline hire of the offseason, player -- We're calling this one the first annual Jay Cutler Award, and handing it straight to the newest Chicago Bear, defensive end Julius Peppers. But is there anyone else out there who thinks that the same team making the biggest personnel acquisition of the offseason two years running might not be such a good thing, especially since Cutler's first year in Chi-town turned so deflating so quickly? At least Bears fans should know better this time around. Peppers and underachievement are well-acquainted.
Headline hire of the offseason, coach -- The subterfuge surrounding Seattle's hiring of Pete Carroll was fascinating, but not exactly airtight, since all of seven minutes elapsed between the time of Jim Mora's firing and Carroll's name surfacing. Still, give the Seahawks credit for landing the big fish from the University of So Cool, and boldly tossing him the keys to the franchise. If nothing else, Seattle just brought an abrupt end to the boring phase that had engulfed Seahawks football the past two years.
Worst offseason, franchise -- I'm guessing that last year's ambassadorship appointment to Ireland is looking pretty good these days to Steelers owner Dan Rooney. All he really missed is last season's non-playoff 9-7 finish and the trainwreck that has been Pittsburgh's 2010 so far. The last Rooney knew, Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes were just playing pitch and catch in Tampa, and then the big confetti shower commenced. But there have been a few unfortunate developments since.
Worst offseason, player -- Sure, Terrell Owens can't find a city or a team to call his fifth NFL home, but that's not as bad as Roethlisberger has it. Big Ben was in position to own Pittsburgh, and he's in the process of revoking all territorial rights. It's enough to make you pine for those hazy, lazy days of 2006, when the riskiest thing he did was ride around helmet-less on his motorcycle.
Trend of the offseason -- Trading veteran players for draft picks has been all the rage in this salary cap-less year. Trades once were tricky in the NFL due to the acceleration of cap charges that resulted, but not anymore. Antonio Cromartie, Anquan Boldin, Brady Quinn, Charlie Whitehurst, Kamerion Wimbley, Seneca Wallace, Kerry Rhodes, Shaun Hill, Corey Williams, Chris Clemons, Darryl Tapp, Chris Houston and others were moved in March in deals involving draft picks. Who knows? Maybe we'll even see a few moves made at the October trading deadline this year.
Non-trend of the offseason -- With more than 200 potential unrestricted free agents being forced into restricted free agency due to rules in place for the uncapped year, the RFA market was expected to be busier than usual. But that has not been the case. At least yet. Brandon Marshall is still a Bronco. Vincent Jackson remains a Charger. Anthony Hargrove hasn't left the Saints. Unless you count running back Mike Bell jumping from New Orleans to Philadelphia as big news, nothing much has happened
Division of unemployment -- Tough to beat the NFC West for surprise firings this year. First, Seattle head coach Jim Mora gets canned two days after being trotted out for a season-ending news conference, and then, just weeks before a draft in which they own a pair of first-round picks, the 49ers ask general manager Scot McCloughan to turn in his parking pass. Whoever thought we'd look at the Arizona Cardinals as the picture of front office and coaching stability?
The move that had to happen -- The pendulum swing of history tells us it had to be Mike Shanahan in Washington this year. Since taking over ownership of the Redskins in 1999, Daniel Snyder has hired a proven, veteran head coach (Marty Schottenheimer), followed by an NFL novice head coach (Steve Spurrier), followed by the veteran (Joe Gibbs), followed by the newbie of all newbies, Jim Zorn. So it was clearly time for a proven veteran like Shanahan. What's that line about the definition of insanity? Nah, too easy.
The moves we thought had to happen, but never did -- The Tom Cable deathwatch in Oakland has somehow made it almost three months past Black Monday, and he's still the Raiders' head coach. Adalius Thomas isn't an ex-Patriot (or expatriate). Jason Campbell remains a Redskins quarterback (for now) and Michael Vick is still No. 3 in Philly. But are they the winners or losers in this scenario?
Team that had the most to lose, and did -- In the span of a few weeks, the Arizona Cardinals bid farewell to Boldin, Kurt Warner, Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle and Bertrand Berry via retirement, free agency or trade. But of that talented group, Warner is the only one who likely will be missed early and often in 2010. And that's no knock on Matt Leinart, who we think has a chance to exceed expectations. It's just the reality of where the two-time NFC West champs find themselves as their mini-reloading phase begins.
Team that doesn't recognize itself from 2009 -- Nobody does upheaval better than the Cleveland Browns, but they might just be getting it right this time. Brady Quinn? Gone. Derek Anderson? Gone. Kamerion Wimbley, Jamal Lewis and Corey Williams? Gone, gone, gone. I like most of what new Browns football czar Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert have done, with the glaring exception of giving $7 million to a quarterback (Jake Delhomme) whose new nickname should be T.O., as in turnover.
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