Thursday, July 28, 2011

Free Agency Round-up

Free agency had a very late start to due to the NFL lockout so the pressure to act quickly is as great as ever.  Teams don’t have OTAs, team workouts, and a shorter period in training camp to acclimate the new free agents and rookies.

Some teams have made moves already so I thought I would highlight the ones I found notable

McNabb to Minnesota
Please not Minnesota
This is interesting move by the Vikings.  Ever since their surprising pick of Christian Ponder at number 8 of the draft along with the retirement (I hope) of Favre and the departure of Tavaris Jackson (to the Seahawks) it looked like Ponder was going to battle out Joe Webb for the starting spot.

Now, the Vikings give up a 6th round pick and have found themselves a mentor for Ponder/Webb.  There are two schools of thoughts with rookie quarterbacks.  The first is the Aaron Rodgers strategy where the QB sits for a couple seasons and learns the offense and eventually takes over.  OR the Peyton Manning strategy where the QB starts week 1.

In Ponder’s case I like the Rodgers strategy.  Ponder isn’t nearly as polished as Manning coming out of college and McNabb gives the Vikings a chance to remain competitive while Ponder learns the ropes and Webb can be used in specialty packages.

Rice to Seattle
Preview of Practice?
One person McNabb won’t be throwing to in Minnesota is Sidney Rice.  Rice and teammate Tavaris Jackson have taken their talents out West to Seattle.  Rice is a player that oozes with talent.  His 6’4 frame allows him to compete on nearly any ball and But is 5 years and $41 million ($18.5 million guaranteed) too much?  He has only had one great year – 2009: 83 passes for 1,312 yards.  But he’s an injury risk only playing 16 games once and is coming off hip and knee injuries.

There is potential in pairing him with Mike Williams but you have to be scared of any Seattle free agent wide receiver signing, do Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and TJ Houshmandzadeh ring any bells?  Those three took in a combined 18 years worth of contract worth over $125 million and none of them are even on the Seahawks roster currently.

Also, will Charlie Whitehurst or Tavaris Jackson be able to get these guys the ball?  Matt Hasslebeck had a great career but he has moved on to Tennessee.  T-Jax couldn't get it to Rice in a dome in Minnesota and all we really know about Whitehurst is he has sweet hair.

Two other signings I kept an eye on was Paul Posluszny going to Jacksonville and Carolina resigning Deangelo Williams. 

Posluszny was a guy who I was a huge fan of when he was at Penn State and always felt he dropped too far in the draft.  After an injury shortened his rookie year “Poz” has been a beast.  He was named Bills defensive MVP in 2008 and a team captain the following year.  The Jaguars are a team who could use his toughness at Linebacker. 

Deangelo Williams resigning was important for Carolina because of their lack of experience at quarterback.  Whether it is Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen taking snaps chances are they are going to struggle.  Having a back like Williams to turn to is a major benefit for the young signal callers.

The other effect the signing has is the potential for teams to sign their own running backs.  Ahmad Bradshaw is still out on the market and looking ahead to next year you can bet that class will want more than what Williams received.  The Bears Matt Forte is a restricted free agent and isn’t happy with his contract now.  Frank Gore is currently holding out and arguably the league’s number one running back is hitting the market in Adrian Peterson.

There is plenty of news bound to break in the next couple days, including the landing spots of Kevin Kolb (Cards?) and Kyle Orton (Dolphins?) and everyone will keep an eye on the number one free agent on the market Nnamdi Asomugha.

Where do you think they are going to land and what do you want your teams to do? Leave a comment below.
I know I hope my Bears aren’t done adding only a punter and a blocking tight ends but who knows what’s going on at Halas Hall.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

World Cup Aftermath

For the past couple weeks everyone has been talking about the Women’s World Cup.  Abby Wambach’s header in extra time against Brazil is something everyone watching that game will remember.  Did it lose some of its luster because the USA eventually lost in the finals?  I think so.

But that is an issue for another day.  After coming off the low of the women’s national team’s loss to Japan and the high of being in Chicago for CM Punk’s win at the Money in the Bank (side note: loudest arena I have ever been in) I found myself watching soccer late yesterday.

Watching Cristiano Ronaldo net a hat trick over Chivas of Guadalajara, a game after his fancy footwork against the Galaxy, along with Wayne Rooney’s 3 goal effort against the Seattle Sounders made me wonder when is the United States going to have a player like that. 

After every Olympics or World Cup, the debate about whether or not soccer will gain popularity is a hot topic on every sports show.  In my opinion, this will not happen until the US gets a star comparable to Rooney or Ronaldo.

The NFL has Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  The NBA had MJ and now have Kobe and Lebron.  In order to build a sport there needs to be a face of the league.  And for soccer to grow the US needs an American-born super star.
The closest thing the US has now is Landon Donovan.  His goal against Algeria inspired one of the greatest YouTube videos of all-time but he’s past his prime and who knows how many years he has left or whether or not he’ll even be a large factor on the roster in 2014 in Brazil. 

One option to take the torch from Donovan is Jozy Altidore.  Altidore’s time with Villarreal was mainly spent not scoring on teams he was loaned out to.  He most recently signed with Dutch squad AZ Alkmaar as he tries to live up to the hype. He has shown some brilliance in spurts, like his hat trick against Trinidad & Tobago or his goal against Guadeloupe.  He may be a star but needs more consistent minutes with his teams.    

Freddy Adu was supposed to be savior when he rose up the ranks and he has been a huge bust.  Maybe it’ll be Juan Agudelo, he’s only 18 and has looked good for both the national team and the Red Bulls with his great speed.

But one thing is for sure, soccer can’t prosper in this country when the most recognized faces are Hope Solo and Alex Morgan, despite how pretty those faces are.