D. Orlando Ledbetter - Staff
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Now that most key free agents have signed, the draft is over and most minicamps completed, it's time for some analysis.
NFL fans can reflect on whether Vince Young is the next big thing or if Jay Cutler will flop like the last SEC quarterback taken high from a losing program --- Kentucky's Tim Couch.
Here's a look at the five best and worst offseason moves:
1. Steve Hutchinson, OG, Vikings. Became the highest-paid guard in the league when he signed a seven-year, $49 million deal. He'll fit in well with center Matt Birk, who's coming back from a hip injury, and left tackle Bryant McKinnie. "Their offensive line, with him, becomes one of the best in the league," said Billy Devaney, the Falcons' senior personnel executive.
2. John Abraham, DE, Falcons. Falcons GM Rich McKay and Devaney, who played a major role in engineering the Abraham trade and the move up to draft Jimmy Williams, outmaneuvered Mc-Kay's old buddy Tim Ruskell and Seattle to make the deal happen. When the Seahawks raised the ante, Atlanta found Denver willing to deal one of its first-round picks, which the Jets were demanding as compensation. Instead of getting a green rookie with the 15th pick, the Falcons ended up with a three-time Pro Bowl player.
3. Shaun Alexander, RB, Seahawks. The Seahawks had to re-sign Alexander. Take away his productivity and Mike Holmgren is left with an average quarterback and a mediocre receiving corps. Alexander makes the Seahawks special.
4. Edgerrin James, RB, Cardinals. Coach Dennis Green and VP of football operations Rod Graves got the Bidwell family to spend some loot, a major accomplishment. James gives the Cardinals a rushing attack to go with a talented receiving corps.
5. Reggie Bush, RB, Saints. New Orleans couldn't have gone wrong here after the Texans gifted Bush to them. "There are not that many guys that can change a game single-handedly," Devaney said. "All of this bunk about he's not a full-time back --- if he carries 15 times a game, catches four or five passes, runs back punts and kickoffs --- he's going to do a lot of damage. They said the same thing about Marshall Faulk when he came out because of his size. They weren't sure if he was a full-time guy, but he's going to the Hall of Fame."
> Saints stabilize quarterback position by signing Drew Brees.
> Arizona drafts its quarterback of the future in Matt Leinart at No. 10.
> Colts sign clutch kicker Adam Vinatieri as a free agent after Mike Vanderjagt's playoff choke.
> Browns sign center LeCharles Bentley to anchor line.
> Panthers get wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson to play opposite Steve Smith. But can he
1. Terrell Owens, WR, Cowboys. Just look at the track record. He's going to suck the life right out of the Cowboys --- just like he did in San Francisco and Philadelphia. It just a matter of time before this time bomb explodes in Dallas. The only question is whether he's going to stomp on the star at midfield before he's shown the door.
2. Adam Archuleta, S, Redskins. Falcons fans remember this guy. He was the one giving chase, getting juked and missing tackles in the 2004 NFC divisional playoff game when Atlanta rushed for 327 yards, the fourth-highest team total in NFL playoff history. The Redskins overpaid (six years, $30 million).
3. LaVar Arrington, LB, Giants. The few plays he makes are not worth the tradeoff of his freelancing and mental mistakes. If the Giants can get him to settle down and play their scheme, maybe this one works out.
4. Antwaan Randle El, WR, Redskins. The Redskins snatched up the Super Bowl hero from the Steelers. He wanted to play for the Bears, his hometown team, but the Redskins threw too much money at him. He signed a seven-year, $31 million deal that included a $10 million signing bonus. 'Skins owner Daniel Snyder has overpaid for a player who's considered a No. 3 receiver and punt returner.
5. Mario Williams, DE, Texans. Maybe Williams turns out to be a solid pro, plays 10 to 12 years and makes seven or eight Pro Bowls. But unless he's the next Deacon Jones or Reggie White, this was a bad move. "He's going to be a great football player, but the other kid [Reggie Bush] changes the game," Devaney said.
> Bills reach to take Ohio State safety Donte Whitner too early (No. 8) in the first round.
> Packers overpay for Charles Woodson, who's lost a step since suffering a knee injury in 2004 and is coming back from a broken leg.
> Titans lock Steve McNair out of the weight room after he's been a good soldier for them his entire career.
> Browns trade Trent Dilfer, leaving them with an unproven young quarterback and no real backup in Ken Dorsey.
> Bills sign wide receiver Peerless "I hate y'all" Price and actually give him a signing bonus.
Wait and see
> Daunte Culpepper, QB, Dolphins. Sent packing by Minnesota just one season after throwing 39 touchdown passes. If Culpepper makes it back from a severe knee injury and plays 10 to 12 games, the Dolphins make out fine. If not, it's still OK because they gave up only a second-round draft pick. If the three-time Pro Bowler is ready to play, he's a major upgrade. Culpepper would give the Dolphins their first legitimate quarterback since Dan Marino retired in 1999.