Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my notable contract notes of free agency after 10 days:
a. This is loyalty, with a nod to being sure Vince Wilfork has at least three or four top seasons left: The Pats paid him an $18 million signing bonus.
b. Ditto: $12 million to sign for Gary Brackett in Indy.
c. No one in the league would have paid Brandon Manumaleuna $3 million to play football in 2010 -- except the Bears, who paid him $6.1 million: $2 million to sign, $3 million in a roster bonus, and $1.055 million in salary.
d. If I were Greg Olsen, I'd want to be traded, too.
e. Jacksonville paying $3 million total for Kassim Osgood, a great special-teamer and unknown receiver, is a smart decision. He knows this is his chance to show the world he can play wideout.
f. I have no idea what Nate Burleson has done to be handed $8.125 million in 2010 by Detroit. Fortunate man, one of the only competent receivers in a bad crop of unrestricted free agents.
g. And Kyle Vanden Bosch had better be more than a good example for the kids in Detroit, making $13.75 million in his first two years.
h. Interesting sign that the Dolphins don't plan on Chad Pennington playing much, if at all: He gets $200,000 in bonus money for every game he plays one or more plays.
i. I like Thomas Jones, supremely motivated, at $3 million in 2010. And let's be clear about this: Jamaal Charles needs a hard-charging challenger to his job. If both men are healthy for 16 games and playing at the optimum, Charles gets 60 percent of the carries, maybe 260 in all. But Todd Haley is playing the best guy, and Jones will push Charles hard to be that guy.
j. Karlos Dansby, $18 million (including $400,000 in workout bonuses) over years one and two in Miami. He'd better be doing his best Ray Lewis impersonation for that kind of money.
2. I think I can't wait to hear Mike Holmgren's and Eric Mangini's explanation for paying Jake Delhomme $7 million in 2010. I really can't wait.
3. I think Delhomme is in the top five of NFL good guys I've ever met. I once saw him stopped by students in the Student Center at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., site of the Panthers training camp each summer, and give these kids 15 minutes of his time, asking them as much about them as they asked about him. He's clearly one of the most giving players to fans I've ever met, and he has never tried to hide from the press after some of his inglorious days.
But at 35, there have to be serious questions about whether Delhomme is the NFL's version of Steve Sax, or Steve Blass. Sax, a second baseman, couldn't play baseball anymore because he lost the ability to throw the ball from second to first. Blass, a World Series hero for the Pirates in 1971, lost the ability to control his pitches in 1973 and was out of baseball a year later. Check out Delhomme's numbers in his last 12 starts, compared to JaMarcus Russell's in his last 12 starts:
The pressure on Delhomme is going to be tremendous as he tries to prove 2009 was an uncharacteristic living nightmare and doesn't accurately reflect who he is as a player.
4. I think -- finally on Delhomme -- that the Agent of the Month (or Year, or Decade) has to be Jake's man Rick Smith, for getting him $19 million from Carolina last year and $7 million from the Browns (guaranteed, according to ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio) this year. Look at that stat line just above here, and tell me how strong it is to get that man $26 million over two years.
5. I think Shaun Hill to the Lions for a seventh-round pick in 2011 is a good deal for Detroit. Not that you want Hill -- good guy, hard worker, supportive of the starter -- to play a season, but I trust him to back up Matthew Stafford a lot more than I'd trust Drew Stanton or Daunte Culpepper.
6. I think a coin flip is the fair way to determine whether the Giants or Jets host the first game in the new stadium at the Meadowlands. If the costs were split down the middle between the Giants and Jets, and the Jets want to host the first game, why shouldn't they have every right to do so?
7. I think -- and I know this is a basketball opinion -- but the idea of expanding the NCAA Tournament field from 65 teams to 96 is patently absurd. I can just hear it now: All the coaches want it because it will help other coaches keep jobs. Athletic directors want it because it'd bring in more money. Just what we need -- the 11th team in the Big East making the Big Dance because it has a better RPI than the 10th team in the SEC, or however those things are figured. And the 11th team in the Big East (let's put a name to it -- Cincinnati is the 11th-place team in the Big East) becomes the 19th seed in the West Bracket. So at 12:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday, Cincinnati and Cornell or Arkansas-Little Rock or George Mason or whoever will play a game in Corvallis, Ore., in the first round of the West Bracket.
Where are the great injustices of teams not making it this year? Seton Hall? A Virginia Tech team that needed overtime to beat Delaware and played a competitive game with Brown? Meh. And talk about rendering conference tournaments, already a waste of time, totally meaningless. Can someone with some common sense get hold of the college presidents and tell them 65 teams is already watered down, and there's no great injustices being perpetrated on the American public with the tournament the way it is now?
8. I think the odds are 40 to 45 percent of overtime undergoing serious reform at the NFL meetings starting next Sunday, which is discouraging. But here's what's encouraging: I think Roger Goodell, who'd always been lukewarm on overtime, is now more open to being a proponent of change because of how much the stats have changed since overtime was implanted in 1974. (I detailed these stats two weeks ago in this space.)
If OT reform fails, a key part will be this: I think the coaches who are strident about keeping the system the way it is -- and I talked to one the other day -- don't want to have another layer of decision-making added to their list. Coaches would have to decide, if they win the coin flip, whether to kick or receive. Under the plan being considered by the Competition Committee, the game continues to a second possession unless the first possession ends with a touchdown (either offensive or defense).
Coaches don't going to want to be second-guessed by fans and media wondering why they either took the ball first and lost when they kicked a field goal and the other team scored a touchdown, or why they deferred and watched the other team take the ball downfield and score a touchdown on the first drive. We'll see how it goes when the vote comes down (probably a week from Tuesday), but I'm not optimistic the reformers can gather 24 votes.
9. I think the most notable thing coming out of the NFL Players Association meetings in Maui is that Kevin Mawae, a staunch supporter of union executive director DeMaurice Smith, got rubber-stamped for another term as NFLPA president. The players sent a mandate with that vote to the owners that they're behind Smith and Mawae, and don't look for cracks in the unity of the players.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I have it on good authority that the weather in Boston over the weekend was the same weather that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald.
b. Good comeback by "The Office.'' I think the show's at its best in 22-minute episodes, not 44-.
c. Condolences to Keith Olbermann, my NBC football partner, on the loss of his dad Saturday after a lengthy illness. I could tell by Keith's stirring references to his dad how much he meant to him.
d. Best wishes to the top prospect in the Red Sox system, 19-year-old outfielder Ryan Westmoreland, who will undergo risky brain surgery Tuesday in Phoenix. Good story by Gordon Edes on the procedure.
e. Coffeenerdness: Quick review on the new Starbucks dark roast, Yukon Blend: Nice smoky full-flavored coffee, not quite with the bite of Italian Roast but a good midday coffee.
f. Five meetings between the Devils and Penguins this year. New Jersey 5, Pittsburgh 0. New Jersey 16 goals, Pittsburgh 3. I mean, just saying ...
g. Cool story in the Boston Herald Sunday about the great omissions to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not in: KISS, Chicago, Neil Diamond, Yes, Tom Waits, Def Leppard, Dire Straits, The Commodores. I wasn't sure of the great injustices there (except for Neil Diamond, with his incredible 37 top-40 hits), but then I looked at the roster of inductees and found: The Stooges, Spooner Oldham, Bobby Womack, The Ventures, The Dells (eight top-40 hits), Gene Pitney, and let's not forget Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Sometime, when you think me and my fellow Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee members are off our rockers, please refer to a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that excludes KISS and includes The Dells.
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