Saturday, March 03, 2007

NFL Hot Stove

Now that spring training has begun, and considering the fact that the NFL is a bigger enterprise with more fans, it seems only fitting that there be an MLB-like hot stove offseason for the NFL, chock full of signings, trades and draft-related minutiae (hey, did you know Steve Young's cat had a higher Wonderlic score than Chris leak?!)

Therefore I bring you my first installment of the Pigskin Hot Stove.

-Bucs sign two quarterbacks, one of which might actually play in Tampa Bay
Only Chucky & the Bucs can produce a story like this. Yesterday word came over the wire that the Bucs were about to complete a trade with the Broncos for devastatingly mediocre quarterback Jake The Fake Plummer. The deal was held up when it was discovered Jake really didn't want to leave the greater Denver area, which was quickly realized after Jake declared that he would rather retire than play anywhere other than Denver. He must really love LoDo.

Alrighty then. The trade's off, right? Well, it was, temporarily. After a night of thinking things over, the Bucs decided to go ahead and make the trade anyway, dealing a conditional pick to Denver, with the condition being if they can convince Jake to suit up in scarlet & pewter the Broncos would receive an as-yet-to-be-determined 2008 pick. Ah, okay.

Meanwhile the Bucs aren't content to have four quarterbacks with NFL experience on the roster-Simms, Gradkowski, Luke McCown and potentially Plummer- they decided they should add a fourth to the mix, so they signed Jeff Garcia to a 1-year, $5 million dollar deal.

The free agent was recently let go by Philly after he guided the Eagles to a 5-1 record and playoff berth after starting QB Donovan McNabb went down for the season with an injury. His release by the Eagles was partially expected when the team announced McNabb would regain his starting position next season, and many teams were believed to be in the hunt for the 37-year-old veteran's services.

I just find it odd that his services would be headed to Tampa Bay, especially after the Bucs just signed incumbent starter and recent splenectomy patient Chris Simms to a 2-year, $10 million extension in December. Garcia obviously feels pretty secure in the knowledge that he will be given every chance to unseat Simms, especially given Gruden's penchant for favoring Pro Bowl veterans over unproven youngsters. But if Plummer didn't want to come here before the Garcia signing, imagine how he feels now.

The way I see it shaking out is this: Gradkowski carries a clipboard for the entire season, McCown rides the pine or becomes the practice squad QB, Plummer takes his grizzly beard, porn 'stache and inability to win a big game and moves to a secluded mountain hideaway, while Simms and Garcia wage a classic battle of tug of war for Chucky's affections and the starting QB position.

Should be an interesting mini-camp at One Buc Place this summer.

-Pats beef up LB corps with addition of Pro Bowler Thomas
With their linebacking department depleted in recent years due to free agency (Willie McGinest), retirement (Ted Johnson) and injury (Tedy Bruschi), New England took a huge step towards shoring up what was becoming a weakness on the defensive side of the ball by signing free agent linebacker Adalius Thomas away from the Baltimore Ravens.

Thomas is a 6-year vet and 2-time Pro Bowler who made it to Honolulu last month where he played for the Hooded Genius, and has recorded 28 1/2 sacks over the last three seasons, including a career-high 11 in 2006. The 29-year-old specimen out of Southern Miss is both big (6'3", 270) and quick, so much so that he played a variety of defensive positions for Brian Billick in Baltimore, including lineman and cornerback. By all accounts he is a fierce competitor, versatile enough to be moved around and impressive enough to make a difference wherever he plays on the field.

In other words he'll be a perfect addition to the Patriot family.

New England also inked 35-year-old tight end Kyle Brady to a deal, ostensibly as a replacement for the soon-to-be-departed free agent Daniel Graham. Brady is a 12-year vet, the last 8 with Jacksonville, and he will primarily be a blocker in the Pats' two-tight end sets, with stud Ben Watson serving as the primary offensive target for Tommy Boy.

Oh yeah, plus they signed Dolphin WR Wes Welker to an offer sheet; New England reportedly offered $1.3 million for one year to the 3-year vet, and Miami has one week to decide whether to match the offer or not. Welker is considered an up & coming pass catcher in the league, and the 25-year-old out of Texas Tech caught 67 balls last year in his second season as a regular wideout. If Miami doesn't match the offer they will receive a 2nd round draft pick as compensation, something many insiders consider to be a steal for a player with Welker's potential.

These signings should prove to be very solid acquisitions for a team that knows it needed to replace some shaky parts in order to get back to the winner's circle.

-Other free agency news:
Dallas resigned WR Terry Glenn to a one-year deal...Houston resigned their only offensive threat, WR Andre Johnson, to a 6-year, $60 million deal...the Broncos continued their tradin' ways by dealing a 6th round pick this year to Miami for former #1 pick Big Daddy Wilkinson, who to my amazement is still in the league...guard Eric Steinbach was the first non-glamour player to reap the rewards of Steve Hutchinson's mega-deal of 2006 when he signed a 7-year, $49.5 million deal, $15 million in guaranteed money, from cash-happy Cleveland...WR Drew Bennett agreed to leave the Titans for the Rams when St. Louis offered him 6 years and $30 mil, $10 mil guaranteed...and the Titans also released RB Travis Henry when the team refused to pick up an $8.3 million bonus owed the tiny tailback on Monday. Henry rushed for 1200+ yards and 7 touchdowns last year and will certainly fond another home quickly.

Whew. That's a lot of movement.

And plenty enough kindling to keep the Pigskin Hot Stove burning.

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