The Jock

by Tom Weppel

This weekend marks the opening of the Free Agency period in the NFL. It’s a wild and crazy period and it can be looked at in all sorts of ways, depending upon who you are.
On the ‘Team’ side, it’s a time to go after some players they may have had their eye on for a while. Maybe a Head Coach or GM saw a player during this past season that they decided they wanted to have on their own roster. They knew this particular player was going to be available now during free agency. And now they want to sign this guy and get them in their own fold.
For some other teams, it’s a chance to perhaps fill some ‘holes’ at various positions. Maybe a couple of guys have left that started for their team the last few years and wanted to change venues. Those HC’s and GM’s are looking to get some vets to help them out and make their team better, for all intents. Either way, Free Agency can be an expensive proposition, and it can also prove costly, if you don’t get the best deals and the best players.
The Jaguars saw this in this past year. They wanted a premier WR and a shutdown CB, so they signed former Raider Jerry Porter and former Charger Drayton Florence. Both players ended up being busts, not nearly worthy of the big paydays they each got for the deals they signed to play here last year. The Jaguars have since cut both players. And now, Jacksonville will probably be much more leery and hesitant as to whom they will bring in, and how much they will spend to do so.
Past history has shown that every team takes a different attitude, philosophy, and approach when it comes to Free Agency. Some teams love bringing in ‘name’ players and have no problem spending the bucks to get them. For a lot of GM’s, this is where their decision-making skills come completely into play. If a GM can get some quality talent and get it a decent price, they come off looking like masterminds.
Other teams abhor bringing in veteran players, feeling they can do a much better job building their roster through the Draft each April. In these situations, the GM must be able to judge and grade young talent and determine whether young kids can indeed make the change from college football to the pros.
Then you have the other side of the spectrum, where various players are on the market, having played in the League for a number of years, and are ready to test their value for Free Agency. A players’ Agent can be crucial in these situations, being able to get in touch with the right people, the right teams, and get the best deal done for the player. One current example of this is with Titan DT Albert Haynesworth, who has been a Pro Bowler for a few years now. He is a top-shelf lineman for any team needing some meat on their D-line. For Haynesworth, he will command, and get, a huge deal from a team, whether it’s the Titans, or some other team. It will include over $10 million a season, easily, with a good amount of money guaranteed within the contract. Meanwhile, with the Jaguars, they are letting a number of their veterans go hit the market, not choosing to re-sign them. Jacksonville feels they can find better talent to bring in and do the job for Jack Del Rio and Wayne Weaver.
And so it will be interesting to see who gets signed by whom, and for how much. One other consideration is the fact that the economic climate also is a factor that will play for a number of teams. These next few weeks will show us who gets what, and who goes where.

In case you were under a rock, you now know that Eldrick Woods is playing competitive golf once again. He will participate in the Accenture Match Play Championships in Arizona. He says he his knee has healed from the surgery he had last season and is ready to go. There is no question many golf fans are looking forward to seeing Tiger perform. He is THE draw on the PGA Tour, easily. It will be very interesting to see how he does in this event, which he has won three times in the last decade.

Next week we will see the opening of the World Baseball Classic. Its kind of an oddity in a way, mainly because of the timing of the event, held right in the middle of MLB Spring Training. Many players that are on MLB roster will break away from games to play for their home country in this tournament, including the USA.
My feeling is that most baseball fans are much more interested in their own LB teams and seeing them have their Spring Training games, as opposed to watching a number countries play in a world tournament. Maybe that’s a different story outside the United States. One other aspect I will find interesting will be in seeing what happens if and when a top shelf player suffers an injury while participating in this tournament, and then goes on the DL for a period of time, when they could have been playing for their own MLB team. I’m sure there is a risk factor that can play in these deals.
So, we’ll see how the World Baseball series/tournament plays out…and we’ll see how teams do while their players are NOT in uniform.