Every Sunday morning our NFL columnist Anthony Stalter will provide his “quick-hits” from around the league.
+ The window to win a Super Bowl is smaller than fans realize. There are teams like the Patriots, Steelers and Peyton Manning-led Colts whose window seems to remain open at all times. But they’re the exception. Thus, the Saints had no choice but to pay Drew Brees what he’s worth. Their championship window remains open because of him so $40 million guaranteed, $60 million guaranteed, $100 million guaranteed – whatever, they had to do it.
+ One head scratchier to come out of this Brees deal is why it took this long to get done. The five-year, $100 million figure that Brees signed for is roughly the same numbers that had been tossed around months ago. So with all the negative press that has surrounded the Saints over these past couple of months, why did Tom Benson and Co. allow this situation to drag on for as long as it did? It’s a moot point now but why the Saints and Brees couldn’t come to an agreement months ago is a tad perplexing. I can’t imagine that the language in this contract was any trickier than any other long-term contract that the Saints have drawn up.
+ That loud noise you heard on Friday morning wasn’t the Brees’ Family celebrating but rather Aaron Rodgers doing back flips while screaming, “Cha-Ching!” Rodgers signed a six-year, $65 million contract back in 2008, which included $20 million guaranteed. Brees received $60 million in guaranteed money so at some point, Ted Thompson and the Packers will need to restructure Rodgers’ deal because the man is now severely underpaid.
+ Need more proof that the NFL had to put a rookie salary structure in place? Brees has completed 3,613 of his 5,479 pass attempts for 40,742 yards and just received $60 million guaranteed as a 33-year-old quarterback. Sam Bradford, before attempting even one pass in the NFL, received $50 million guaranteed after the Rams selected him with the first overall pick in 2010. It was stupid how much money rookies received under the old salary structure.
+ While at his annual golf benefit fundraiser on Friday, Gregg Williams told reporters that he “will coach again” in the NFL. Don’t rule out the possibility that Williams will be coordinating Jeff Fisher’s defense in St. Louis next year. The Rams are going with a defensive coordinator-by-committee approach this season and have yet to fill Williams’ vacant offense at team headquarters. Fisher is severely loyal and if Williams gets the okay from Roger Goodell to begin coaching again, odds have it that he’ll be on the sidelines for St. Louis in 2013.
+ If you’re the Browns, Josh Gordon was worth the risk. Some analysts believe he has first-round talent so why not invest a second-round pick and see if he can’t pair nicely with Greg Little. Outside of Braylon Edwards’ fluke 2007 season, the Browns have lacked a presence at receiver for seemingly forever. If Gordon can make the most of a second chance then Mike Holmgren will be lauded for his risk-taking.
+ Mike Williams will have a hard time latching on to a team after the Seahawks released him on Friday. And even if some team does take a flier on him, it’ll be difficult for him to stick. His 2010 comeback made for a compelling story but he fell off the map last year while catching just 18 passes for 236 yards in 12 games. If Pete Carroll, the man who gave Williams a shot a couple of years ago when the receiver’s career looked to be finished, doesn’t believe he can contribute than who will?
+ Thanks to the trade acquisition of Brandon Marshall and the jettison of offensive coordinator Mike Martz, many people expect the Bears to challenge for a playoff spot in 2012. And hey, why not? They won the division in 2010 and had Jay Cutler and Matt Forte not been injured in 2011, the Bears were a shoe-in for one of the two Wild Card spots last year. That said, Mike Tice has his work cut out for himself when it comes to his offensive line. First and foremost he has to pick between an under-performing J’Marcus Webb and an oft-injured Chris Williams at left tackle, and then hope that 2011 first-rounder Gabe Carimi (who missed 14 games last season) can stay healthy in order to anchor the right side. In the middle, Chris Spencer and Lance Louis were disasters at the guard positions last season and Roberto Garza failed to generate much of a push in the running game. So essentially the hope is that either Webb or Williams emerge as a capable left tackle, Carimi stays healthy and that the interior linemen can’t be any worse than they were a year ago. That’s a lot of hoping.
Every Sunday morning our NFL columnist Anthony Stalter will provide his “quick-hits” from around the league.
+ Let’s hold judgment on Adrian Peterson before all of the details have been released following his arrest. This is a player with no history of off-field issues and it’s extremely bizarre that he was only charged with resisting arrest. The current details of the situation are that Peterson and some family members were out at a Houston nightclub when police entered the building at closing time. When they instructed people to leave, Peterson apparently wanted some water but an officer told him no and AP headed for the exit. At some point an officer was pushed, causing him to stumble and then three policemen had to “detain” Peterson. What’s unclear is how a push led to three officers attempting to detain the running back and then escalating to an actual arrest. Again, we should hold judgment until the full details have been released because something doesn’t sound right here. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that the Houston police overreacted and didn’t handle the situation properly.
+ Many have argued that the Saints players involved in the New Orleans bounty scandal were simply following the orders of Gregg Williams and thus, they had little to no choice but to follow their coach’s orders. I get that. If you’re a fringe player looking to stick with a team because your career and livelihood is on the line, then you may be more apt to get along and go along then to cause waves. But what everyone seems to overlook is that Roger Goodell was lied to, and that’s why he came down hard on these participants. When Goodell went to Williams, Sean Payton and Anthony Hargrove asking if a bounty program was in place, they all told him no. Then, instead of stopping the program right then and there, they continued their pay-for-performance system. And while players like Hargrove, Jonathan Vilma and Scott Fuijta insist that Goodell has no prove that a bounty program was in place, has everyone forgotten that Williams has already apologized and thrown himself at the mercy of the court? He already admitted that he was putting bounties on opposing players. So yes, maybe the players were simply following orders. But at one point Goodell asked the participants to tell the truth and nobody spoke up, so they remain in a hell of their own making.
+ Dick LeBeau remains one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, so don’t think for a moment that the Steelers’ defense is going to fall apart. That said, there’s no question that Pittsburgh is old on that side of the ball. Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley will continue to be the focal point of the defense but younger players like Cam Heyward, Steve McLendon and Alameda Ta’amu to make an impact (especially with Casey Hampton recovering from ACL surgery).
+ It’ll be interesting to see how the Chargers’ offense develops throughout the 2012 season. The run blocking wasn’t very good last season and the pass protection was below average as well, which led to Philip Rivers make a fair amount of mistakes. Ryan Mathews is an emerging star and if the blocking improves, then obviously the running game on a whole will be better than it was a year ago. But the question is how effective will Norv Turner’s coveted vertical offense be. Can Robert Meachem finally have that breakout year that many have expected since he entered the league as a first-rounder? What will the absence of Vincent Jackson have on the passing game? Can an aging Antonio Gates stay healthy? Will Malcolm Floyd be as effective this season without Jackson on the other side? Rivers made the passing game flourish without V-Jax two years ago but he needs help, mostly from his offensive line. Again, it’ll be interesting to see if Turner, who is undoubtedly on the hot seat once again, can blend the new elements together to make the passing game thrive.
+ It’s easy to make the argument that the Texans’ window to win a championship in the next three years is wide open. Even with the loss of Mario Williams their defense has a ton of talent and is coached by one of the best in the game in Wade Phillips. But Matt Schaub has still yet to play in a postseason game and Andre Johnson, now 31, will have to remain healthy or Houston will fail to take the next step after making the playoffs last year. Losing Joel Dreessen to the Broncos in free agency hurt. Not only was Dreessen a solid blocker last year for Houston, but he also averaged 12.6 yards per play in the Texans’ big-play offense. That said, if Schaub and Johnson can stay healthy then Houston will make the postseason again this year. Thanks to the offensive line and the explosiveness of Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the running game will be enough to win games on its own. It’s just a matter of whether or not the Texans can stay healthy long enough to make a deep run.
+ The reports out of San Francisco this offseason have not be positive for first-rounder A.J. Jenkins. He reportedly has made some difficult plays but he’s also had a hard time staying on his feet during workouts and is viewed as a major project. But let’s keep in mind that if Jenkins struggles this year it won’t be the end of the world. It used to be that players could take their time developing but nowadays teams need their first round picks to make an immediate impact. That said, considering the 49ers have veterans Mario Manningham and Randy Moss manning the outsides, they don’t necessarily need Jenkins to be on the fast track to NFL stardom. Is it good that the kid can’t stay on his feet and is viewed as a major project? No, but it wouldn’t be life or death if he needed a year. Besides, the 49ers will make sure that Jenkins contributes one way or another, including getting him involved in sub packages. Just don’t expect him to be a No. 1 as a rookie.
+ Good for Joe Philbin and the Dolphins coaching staff for taking it slow with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Reports out of Miami are that the starting job is between David Garrard and Matt Moore because Tannehill is currently struggling with the speed of the game. Last year in Jacksonville, the thought was that Blaine Gabbert would be allowed to take his time while observe ring Garrard in his first year. But Garrard was released before the season and Gabbert was rushed into action way too soon. The results were disastrous and now observers are already questioning whether or not Gabbert can develop. Tannehill shouldn’t have been a top 10 selection but the Dolphins needed a quarterback and they went with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman’s guy. Fine. Now let the kid learn the game for a year before the weight of the franchise is thrust onto his shoulders. It’s not like the Dolphins are expected to compete this year so there should be no qualms about Garrard or Moore starting while Tannehill observes in his first year.
+ It looks like it’s going to be all or nothing this year for Montario Hardesty. Says ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi: “If Hardesty gets injured again, it’s easy – he will be gone, in my opinion. But if Hardesty stays healthy and is the productive player [Browns GM Tom] Heckert saw at Tennessee, I think he checks in at No. 2.” So essentially Hardesty will either be the first running back off the bench when Trent Richardson needs a blow or else he’ll be in another city at some point this year. Hopefully Hardesty isn’t another talented prospect that never developed because he was held back by injuries. He has all the talent to be a productive player in a two-back system but because of various injuries he hasn’t shown the same explosion he had coming out of college. Maybe this is the year he’ll finally stick.
Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the NFL has a “ledger” showing earnings for New Orleans Saints players in the bounty program, which includes payments of $1,000 for cart-offs, $400 for hard hits and $100 deductions for mental errors.
According to sources, the NFL showed portions of the ledger during meetings with some of those who have been investigated in the scandal.
“The players clearly knew what was going each week with the payments,” a source told Yahoo! Sports. In fact, multiple sources admitted that Saints defensive players would regularly encourage teammates to put money earned from the bounty system back into the pool. It’s unclear if that was to increase the potential winnings or eventually use the money for some other purpose.
Regardless of whether the money was paid out or not, the mere implication of a cash payment for such plays is considered a violation of league rules.
As Cole points out in his article, the ledger doesn’t necessarily prove that there was an actual transaction between Gregg Williams (or Joe Vitt, or Sean Payton) and the Saints players. But it is strong evidence that a bounty program did exist. That said, Williams has already apologized for his actions in New Orleans so it’s not as if anyone is debating whether or not the Saints had a bounty program in place. The ledger only adds fuel to a fire that’s already 20 feet high.
Of course, the NFLPA is trying to put a spin on the situation by suggesting the ledger isn’t really evidence. Says spokesman George Atallah via text message: “I guess it either qualifies as evidence, which means fair due process was violated because [the] players didn’t get to see it before they were punished or it is not hard evidence because they didn’t get to see it and cross examine the validity of that piece of evidence.”
Well said Prosecutor Atallah.
Should Goodell have shown Vilma evidence before suspending him? Probably, which is why many deem Goodell a dictator. If he had evidence that Vilma participated in the bounty program, why not show the linebacker the proof before suspending him for the entire season? Because Goodell wanted to demonstrate that he’s the one with all the power?
Still, go back two years ago when Goodell asked Williams and Payton whether or not they were running a bounty program, and they lied to his face by telling him no. If the Saints didn’t violate any rules, Williams, Payton and Vilma would be getting ready for the upcoming season. After all, let’s not lose focus of the issue at hand.
It’ll be interesting to see what piece of evidence comes out next, because you know there will be more to emerge. Whether or not Vilma will look like a fool for pressing the issue is the question.
No other quarterback besides Drew Brees has made it past the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs in the entire 40-plus year history of the New Orleans Saints. He continues to produce outrageous passing numbers, he means more to his team than any other player on New Orleans’ roster, and he wins.
So why the Saints continue to anger him by not giving him a long-term contract is a question worth $20 million on its own. If Peyton Manning, who didn’t take a snap last year, is worth $19,200,00 in 2012 then why are the Saints balking at paying Brees $20-plus million per season?
Sean Payton and Jonathan Vilma are suspended for an entire year. Gregg Williams is gone, Joe Vitt must serve a six-game suspension before taking over as interim head coach for 2012, and three other players have been suspended for their role in the bounty program. Brees is the only true leader that the Saints have on their roster but he refuses to show up to camp until he receives a long-term deal. Why owner Tom Benson refuses to hand Brees a blank check and says, “Write down any number you want – just get out on that practice field and lead this team like you’ve done the past seven years,” is beyond me.
Some insist that Brees is being selfish because he won’t just play under his one-year tender. But if you nearly had your entire career ruined because of an injury to your throwing shoulder, would you play on a one-year deal? The Saints are lucky they even wound up with Brees in the first place. He was set to sign with the Dolphins before Miami’s doctors told the team to pass because they thought he would never throw again. He landed in New Orleans only to team up with Payton and turn the Saints into one of the most imposing offenses in the last five years.
It’s not like Brees’ production has dipped either. He set career highs in competitions, competition percentage, yards, touchdowns and yards per game last season. So while he may be getting up there in age (he’s 33), he shows zero signs of slowing down.
Unless they have a shutdown defense teams can’t win in the NFL without a quarterback. And the Saints don’t have a shutdown defense.
What they do have is a quarterback who posts Hall of Fame-type numbers but he’s extremely frustrated (his words – not mine) by the way his contract negotiations of gone with the team. Considering what he means to the Saints, the city of New Orleans and his teammates, it’s befuddling why Brees doesn’t have a contract yet. And while the Saints still have until July 16 to work out a long-term deal with their record-setting signal caller, why wait?