Tuesday, March 6, 2007

You're the Man Now, Ced

While Drew Rosenhaus client Lance Briggs was on the blower with ESPN making it harder for the Bears to trade him, Drew Rosenhaus client Thomas Jones was being traded to the New York Jets.

The wheels were in motion long ago. Rosenhaus had Jones raise a stink last offseason, with 2 years left on his contract.

He and Lance Briggs both sat out voluntary workouts, Lovie demoted them to 2nd string, and then real workouts started and all the idiocy ended. But the revolution had started.

The seeds were watered immediately after the Super Bowl, Rosenhaus confirms, when Thomas Jones told him: "Get me to New York." And so he goes.

No matter how you spin it, regardless of the factors involved, your traditionally offense-starved franchise up and trading away its workhorse for the past few seasons is disturbing and will give you a case of the whiplash.

Despite Jones's productivity, the Bears weren't trading from a position of power here. There was no chance the 28-year-old Jones was going to be a Bear in 2008 and beyond. The Bears' options were trading him or watching him walk away after one more season.

When I heard that the return was the 37th pick in the draft, I thought that was pretty good. A high 2nd rounder seemed about right. Then again, the Patriots just traded 2nd and 7th round picks to division rival Miami for Wes Welker, a WR from the Tommy Waddle mold.

Unfortunately, the Bears didn't even get a 2nd rounder for a far superior player to Welker. They didn't get any additional draft picks. All they got was a 26-slot bump-up in the 2nd round of next month's draft, via a pick the Jets had swindled out of the boneheaded Redskins. The speculation has already started that they'll package the 31st and 37th picks to move up in the first round, perhaps to draft Lance Briggs's heir.

It's not a good situation, gang. It sure would have been nice to make one more title run with Jones. They've been working it pretty well, burning up the treads on Jones's tires while preparing Benson to be the workhorse. One more year of that would have been nice.

But I can understand getting something now and eliminating one of the sure distractions, which seem to be piling up daily. Obviously, you wish they could have gotten more. Marv Levy and the Bills are in a similar situation -- I'll officially be upset with the Bears if Marv rounds up a nice package for Willis McGahee.

Many of the experts have opined it's a good deal for both sides (especially the Jets), given the circumstances. Adam Schein of NFL Network, on the other hand, wrote "This is just a wretched deal for Chicago. Somebody call the authorities. The only thing missing is a gun and a mask."

One overlooked factor that makes this deal even worse for the Bears is compensatory draft picks. If the Bears had kept Jones through 2007 and then let him walk, the refrain that they'd be left empty-handed isn't true.

Compensatory picks are a bit of a mysterious business in the NFL, even to those directly involved - free agents signed and lost, as well as the league's evaluation of players' performance, determine which teams receive compensatory picks. So there are no hard, fast rules.

However, the basic premise is that teams who lose more value in free agency than they bring aboard are rewarded draft picks in rounds 3 through 7, based on the value of the players who were lost. To cite a familiar example, when the Bears signed John Tait away from Kansas City, the Chiefs were able to cheer themselves up with the 3rd round draft pick they received as compensation.

Only a guess, but I'd have to think the Bears would probably have gotten a 3rd or 4th round pick when Jones "walked away for nothing" after 2007. I'm not much of a draftnik to know point values of picks, but moving up 26 spots in round 2 doesn't seem much more valuable than a brand spanking new 3rd rounder, in addition to the usual complement of picks.

To close the book on Jones, he worked hard and resurrected his career in Chicago. By all accounts, the cats liked him and he was a good leader who will be sorely missed.

What's Tom going to do with the orange Ferrari, with orange piping on the seats and orange wheel covers? I guess I'll have to watch he and brother Julius's "Keeping Up With the Joneses" reality show to find out. Or perhaps I won't.

For the Bears, it's full speed ahead with Cedric Benson. A cynic would point out that Thomas Jones was one of the few Bears who showed up for the Super Bowl; meanwhile, Cedric Benson showed up on the sidelines for good, early, after a fumble and another injury.

There's no proof that Benson can carry the load without getting injured, even with a competent backup in Adrian Peterson shouldering some carries. He has, however, shown more and more encouraging signs as his playing time has increased.

While Tom Jones's pass-catching skills will be written about as a big loss that Benson can't make up for, the fact is that Jones gained just 150 yards receiving each of the past 2 years. Pretty paltry numbers, really, which is an indictment of the offense and playcalling more than anything. Hitting the RB is a pretty good plan when your QB can't hit a bull in the ass with a banjo some days, but that's another matter. Point is, the pass-catching void being discussed is almost non-existent.

I'm most concerned with the leadership void. Benson has openly expressed his disappointment with being behind Jones on the depth chart since he got here, stating in the papers that there was obviously an agenda outside of playing the best players.

In the meantime, watching Benson was like watching John Winger in Stripes: the troops would come roaring out of the tunnel, and Benson would come strolling out a couple minutes after everyone else, then meander about in a coma of self-pity before retiring to the sideline to sit by himself until called on.

It's all yours now, Cedric. I even put my favorite picture of you top and center and de-Jones-ified the blawg as if that guy never existed. Point your spite that way, son, and let's get after it!

The rest of us will resume worrying which other pieces will be sacrificed until the bill is paid on the next big expenditure, Tommie Harris. Just so his agent isn't Drew Rosenhaus... Doh!

2 comments:

azibuck said...

However, the basic premise is that teams who lose more value in free agency than they bring aboard are rewarded draft picks in rounds 3 through 7, based on the value of the players who were lost.

I think the key phrase there is "lose more... than they bring aboard."

Only a guess, but I'd have to think the Bears would probably have gotten a 3rd or 4th round pick when Jones "walked away for nothing" after 2007.

This assumes the Bears bring in no value. Maybe after 2007, they might be bringing in some value. Also, Jones would have to be as productive or better than he has been, and some team would have to pay him accordingly. I think there is a component of how highly he's valued by the team that signs him, but I'm probably wrong.

Also, I think I'll just call BS straight up if you think they would get a 3rd rounder for A Tom Jones. I think the NFL is pretty tight-fisted when it comes to compensatory picks, at least early ones.

I'm not much of a draftnik to know point values of picks, but moving up 26 spots in round 2 doesn't seem much more valuable than a brand spanking new 3rd rounder, in addition to the usual complement of picks.

Too, also, that brand spanking new 3rd rounder would be after the third round, or about 60 picks later than the one they got from the Jets. Which is better, the Jet 2nd, or the Bear 2nd and the last pick in the 3rd? Probably the latter, making you right, but more likely it would be the Bear 2nd and the last pick in, at best, the 4th. Now which would you pick?

dhort said...

You're right that compensatory picks aren't that easy to project. It's an objective formula.

Rule #1: Compensatory picks are only awarded if a team loses more Unrestricted Free Agents than it signs.

That's bottom line # of bodies. What $ they signed for and subsequent production has no bearing (yet).

I can't predict how many UFAs the Bears will sign or lose next year, but instead of signing UFAs next year, I expect them to be silent (like they are now) and spend their $ on Tommie Harris, CBs Tillman and/or Vasher, Berrian, maybe even extend Benson.

In the simplest case, if they lost Tom to free agency and didn't sign any UFAs, they'd get a pick. That's when the amount of the contract Tom signed and his future performance would determine whether it's a post-3rd pick or something lower.

From a ... your scenarios ... standpoint about which package of picks is better (and we can even include the 2 3rd-rounders & 7th-rounder Marv Levy got for McGahee, the package), I'll go off the board for value you're leaving out.

Briggs and Jones and roll the bones - remember that fuckin' song?

I like the one where the Bears stay put in the 2nd round, get another year of 1200+ yards out of Tom Jones, then (probably) get a (for argument's sake: 4th round) compensatory pick when he signs a huge UFA contract.

In other words, I'm pretty salty about the deal now. It seems to me the only reason to do this for so little return was fear of Jones being a carcinogen. At the very least, there shouldn't have been a hurry. Make the Jets and Giants bid against each other on draft day, or even next September, when panic has set in.

Giants needed him a lot more than the Jets, IM(A)HO(MO).

Footnote: 2006 was Jones's healthiest year. I don't care much that the Bears won't be paying him tons of bread for his 29 to 34 years.