Thursday, March 01, 2007
Wide Receivers and Free Agency
Free Agency is screwy because sometimes, teams aren't smart.
What will the Titans do in free agency? Last year they gave a big contract to David Givens, who's only real claim to fame is being one of the no-name WRs that Tom Brady and the Patriots functioned with (alright, scoring a TD in 7 straight playoff games is impressive, but there is nothing about Givens' career that suggests he's a great WR). And now the Titans are probably going to let Drew Bennett, a WR that has actually done something for the team, leave via free agency. Wouldn't the Titans have been wiser to not sign Givens (a player who wasn't doing much for the Titans even before he got hurt), then use that money to resign Bennett? Yes, that would have been smarter. But as Dr. Farthing says, "Hindsight is 20/20, my friend."
The 2005 Seattle Seahawks went to the Super Bowl with a Wide Receiver Corp that included Darrell Jackson, Joe Jurevicius, D.J. Hackett, and Bobby Engram. So of course, pissed off about the Vikings signing Steve Hutchinson, the Seahawks signed Nate Burleson and let Joe Jurevicius go. Evidently they realized Burleson's mediocrity quickly, as they traded a first-round pick for Deion Branch. On the 2006 Seahawks, Branch was OK, Burleson did almost nothing, D.J. Hackett emerged as a talent, and Darrell Jackson was by far the team's most productive WR. And still, the team slipped from a dominant 13-3 to a mediocre 9-7, barely winning a home playoff game because of Tony Romo and losing to the Bears. And now, the Seahawks might be trading Darrell Jackson, and D.J. Hackett might leave via free agency (Engram too?), but they still have Burleson and Branch.
Despite the glitter of something new, sometimes a team is better of sticking with the players it has at a given position. Drew Bennett would be better for the Titans in the next few years than David Givens will be. Joe Jurevicius did more for the Seahawks in '05 than Branch and Burleson did combined for the Seahawks in '06.
But then, sometimes a team has a desperate need. If the Vikings think they'll be fine in '07 with the same WRs they had in '06, we're looking at maybe--MAYBE--6 wins again in '07. Who knows how much losing Koren Robinson hurt the Vikes last year. I've written before that Robinson directly contributed to at least 3 wins in '05 that would have been losses without his play. Well, without Robinson, the Vikes slipped from 9-7 to 6-10. Losing Robinson cost the team a Pro Bowl kick returner AND a legitimate threat at wide receiver. Maybe the Vikes would have been in the playoffs with K-Rob sober and on the roster. Maybe.
I will be very surprised if one of the following players isn't a Viking next year: Donte Stallworth, Drew Bennett, D.J. Hackett, or Ashlie Lelie. None of those players are world beaters, but any one of them would provide a legitimate threat for the Vikings. Filling out or even REPLACING the wide receiver corp should be the team's top priority this off-season. They also have needs at DE, but a team can create a pass rush in more creative ways, and there is the possibility that players on the roster currently could be quality DEs. But you can't actually run a functional offense without some legitimate WRs. The Vikes can't depend solely on the draft to find the '07 WRs; they're going to need to sign one of these competent veterans.