Late blog, due to the insane nature of my weekend, you pretty much get links today.
Michael Lombardi on Owens to Buffalo …
The Bills gain a big-play receiver who drops too many balls (second in the NFL last season) to play alongside one of the league’s more underrated players in Lee Evans. In my mind, the Bills have the kind of skill players to create match-up problems for many teams, but that’s just on paper; they never seem to make plays on the field. They have Evans, who can draw double-teams, but as the season progressed and he began to face all the rolled coverage, Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish could not make plays and take the pressure off him. Marshawn Lynch is a very talented back, and he runs the ball with power and explosion, but he has not been able to make many big plays in the passing game. Based on his talent level, he should really excel in that area. Lynch had only one touchdown in the passing game and averaged fewer than seven yards per catch. Having T.O. alongside Evans will help open the passing game for the other players.
The Bills have been looking for a wideout all offseason. They expressed an interest in signing Joey Galloway and Laveranues Coles before they went in T.O.’s direction, so clearly they felt a need to improve and balance the passing game.
The Bills struggled with their passing game all season. They finished 22nd in the NFL in passing and were 25th in total offense. For me, these numbers are too low for their supposed talent level. Is it their scheme? Their players? Their coaching? When they make a move like this, it indicates the Bills feel it must be their players, but I’m not so sure. I feel it’s a combination of all three. They have not been very consistent at quarterback. Early in the season, Trent Edwards looked like he had a chance to be a very solid starter, but then he struggled to make plays and stay healthy, and his eye level went way down. In seven of their nine losses, they averaged 9.7 points a game, and when they were on their four-game win streak, they averaged 27 points a game.
It’s going to take more than T.O. for the offense to show improvement. First, the Bills must get their line playing at a higher level. They ranked 25th in the league in sacks allowed, showing an inability to protect at key times in the game. To their credit, the Bills have started to take some steps to repair the line, letting Derrick Dockery go. His play last year was poor, to put it mildly.
Bills fans should not look at the T.O. move as a magic wand. It will take more work in terms of finding talent, and it will take improvement in their scheme and their coaching to get them out of their offensive doldrums.
I may be way off base here, but I’ve searched for a Dick Jauron comment about adding T.O. and haven’t been able to find one. The fact that Russ Brandon, the Bills COO, was the person who introduced Owens might imply that not everyone in the organization wanted to make this move. We know that Jauron, the Bills coach, and former 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci are close friends, and it was because of that friendship that I thought the Bills would not want to take on T.O. Clearly, I was wrong. Brandon handled the signing and now has become the football man in Buffalo. He is front and center on all decisions, which is interesting since his background centers more on marketing and business than football. Nevertheless, the NFL is not always about football.
Where this signing has a potential for disaster is in the locker room. The lack of any core leadership on the Bills gives T.O. an open forum to do his thing and create the dissension he’s famous for. The Bills have no one in the room who can control this situation if (and when) it gets out of hand. The Bills have always had a team approach under Jauron, and he has sought out players who were like him — very determined, very quiet, very self-motivated and very low key. This move is not a typical Jauron move, and I hope that my inability to find a comment from him means I didn’t look long enough, not that there weren’t any.
Doing the one-year deal minimizes the risk to the Bills, and it will be interesting to see how much of the $6.5 million is in base salary. If the Bills were able to get more than 50 percent in base, they can observe T.O. and keep him on his toes. Normally, when there’s money at stake, Owens will bury the narcissistic personality and help a team win. However, once he has done that, all bets are off. In this case, the Bills hold all the cards. I believe in chemistry and believe in a team working together, so had I been in Buffalo, I would not have made this move. As long as Jauron signed off on the deal, I hope it works for the Bills.
Owens speaks to the issues in Buffalo …hint: none of it was his fault at all.
This tatooed human will replace Chris Canty …
On Friday, the Dallas Cowboys signed defensive end Igor Olshansky (formerly of the Chargers) to a 4-year/$18 million deal. Jerry Jones was wise to play the waiting game, and was rewarded by landing a solid, experienced player at a clearance sale price. The 6'6"/309 lb. Olshansky will man the defensive end position recently vacated by Chris Canty. Beyond the fact that the Cowboys have effectively replaced the departed Canty, what does this move mean for the 2009 Cowboys?
The signing of Olshansky most likely cancels out any chance of nose tackle Jay Ratliff kicking outside full-time. If the Cowboys intent was to move Ratliff to defensive end full time, they would have instead been looking for a nose tackle after Canty signed with the Giants. If the plan was to play Marcus Spears and Ratliff at the ends with Stephen Bowen providing depth, the signing of Olshansky would have been pure gluttony. The Cowboys would also have a gaping hole in the middle of the defensive line. Barring any unforeseen, dramatic change of events, the 2009 Cowboys will start Igor Olshansky, Jay Ratliff, and Marcus Spears across the defensive line.
This move also means that the Cowboys will have a bit more flexibility on draft day. After filling needs at inside linebacker (Keith Brooking) and now defensive end, the Cowboys will not be forced to reach at either of these positions on draft day. Unless the available talent is simply overwhelming, the Cowboys can focus on other needs early in the draft. With the Spears heading into a contract year, the Cowboys will likely draft some depth, but they can now wait until the middle or late rounds. The Cowboys may now also be inclined to draft a more raw player with more upside, as he will not be called upon to start right away. The more needs you have filled prior to the draft, the better chance you have at staying true to your board and getting value at your slot.
Perhaps most importantly, Olshansky's signing means that the Cowboys were able to let Chris Canty walk and replace his production for less than half the price. In Canty's four NFL seasons, he has averaged 37 tackles and 2.5 sacks per year. Over the course of Olshansky's five-year career, he has averaged 35.8 tackles and 2.2 sacks. As far as numbers are concerned, production is pretty much a push. Looking at film, it is evident that Olshansky has a far more consistent motor than Canty. Olshansky's relentless nature allows those around him to make plays as well, so some of his value will not show up on the stat sheet.
If there has been any theme to this Cowboys off-season, it has been familiarity. Tony Romo's new backup Jon Kitna is quite familiar with the teams new number one wide receiver Roy Williams. Newly acquired linebackers Keith Brooking and Matt Stewart are familiar with Wade Phillips and his defensive scheme. Phillips also has a certain familiarity with Olshansky, whom he coached for three seasons while running the San Diego Chargers defense.
In short, the Cowboys balked at the notion of handing $42 million to an inconsistent Chris Canty. The Cowboys then signed an equally productive replacement who is already familiar with the defense. Lastly, the team saved about $24 million in the process. Not bad for an owner who is supposed to be an old, crazy, free-spender who isn't a "football guy".
Evan Grant’s and Mike Hindman’s new blog effort …
will the Rangers play the service time game with Elvis? …
In the interest of cost control, might the club send Andrus to the minors to start the season, use Vizquel as the starting shortstop for a month or so and call up Andrus after he’s lost enough major league service time to not qualify for a full year of service? That could delay his eventual eligibility for salary arbitration and essentially push back his free agency by a year.
Tampa Bay made a similar move with eventual Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria last year. So there’s seemingly a model for such manipulation of the roster.
The similarities between the two situations end there. Don’t expect the Rangers to get too cute with handling of Andrus. While it’s still possible they could send him to the minors to start the season, here’s why his situation shouldn’t be equated with Longoria’s from a year ago.
• Contract status: Within a week of calling Longoria up, the Rays signed him to a six-year contract with options that could make it a nine-year deal. The contract essentially bought him out of salary arbitration all together, so those first two weeks that he missed didn’t end up mattering one bit. The Rangers aren’t likely to call Andrus, who is only 20, to the majors and bestow such a long-term deal on him immediately.
• Bad feelings: If they don’t do a deal like Longoria’s, it becomes plainly evident that the Rangers are trying to exploit the system at a cost to the player. This is not a good way to begin your relationship with such a highly-regarded player. In addition, the Rangers risk damaging the confidence of a 20-year-old who may not be well-versed enough in the language of baseball business to understand the club’s motive is business-based, not performance-based.
• Learning curves: In contrast to recent years, the first two weeks of the Rangers’ schedule are fairly favorable. They play nine of their first 12 games at home and all of the games are against teams that finished below .500. No matter how well he performs this spring, Andrus is going to have to adjust to life in the majors. Better to have him get used to it against the Clevelands, Detroits and Baltimores of the world than against more highly-regarded teams.
Al Trautwig video blogs the latest episode of Lost …
My gift to you today:
Sawada can handle himself