Daily Archives: November 16, 2010

McNabb’s new contract: Shrewd wrapped in stupid

Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins

Image by the extinction blues via Flickr

At first glance, the new contract the Washington Redskins gave QB Donovan McNabb before their embarrasing Monday-night loss to the Eagles looks stupid. After benching McNabb in a two-minute drill comeback attempt, the Redskins immediately handed him a five-year contract extension reportedly worth up to $88 million. The deal, which puts McNabb below Tom Brady but above guys like Aaron Rodgers on the QB payscale, appears exorbinant for a 33-year-old player who is declining and appears to be in coach Mike Shanahan’s doghouse to boot.

But on closer inspection, this deal may be a smart deal wrapped in a stupid package. In reality, the only obligation the Redskins take on for sure is a $3.75 million up-front payment that basically keeps McNabb from automatically hitting the free agent market after the season. At that point, the Redskins would have to pay $10 million in an option bonus plus a $2.5 million 2011 salary to keep him around.

That’s a smart investment. While McNabb is no longer an elite quarterback, he would undoubtedly have offers on the open market. Arizona and Minnesota have been rumored to like McNabb, and McNabb would be a significant upgrade over both teams’ 2011 options, even in his late-career decline. So if McNabb hit the open market, Washington would have to pay this kind of deal (if not a bigger one) to keep him, just based on market forces. By paying $3.75 million now, the Redskins assure that they will have McNabb if they want him. That’s a good investment, especially since the Redskins’ other 2011 options (Rex Grossman?) aren’t appealing either.

Plus, Peyton Manning’s impeding free agency will result in a record-setting deal for him in Indianapolis. (There’s no way the Colts let him leave.) And Drew Brees is one year away from the open market and a candidate for extension as well. Both players are better than McNabb, but their new deals may well drive up the market rate for starting QBs. Signing McNabb now gets them assurance that, at most, they pay 2010 prices for their QB, not the 2011 going rate.

McNabb has not played well for the Redskins, but he hasn’t been a disaster either. So letting him go via free agency with nothing in return would be a huge mistake for Washington. Now, they control his rights and have the opportunity to keep him, trade him, or cut him – instead of facing the uncertainty of the market. That kind of control is worth $3.75 million for the team.

For McNabb, meanwhile, the deal gives him money up front and keeps him on the list of elite quarterbacks, at least in financial terms. Getting that check now looks especially appealing with the specter of a 2011 lockout keeping money out of his pocket. If the lockout happens before free agency begins, McNabb will still have $3.75 million in his pocket. Plus, the contract assures him that the Redskins will have to cut or trade him early if they don’t want to keep him. That should give McNabb options if he must move on.

The raw numbers on the contract looked ridiculous, but the Redskins actually made a shrewd move through this deal.  Their $3.75 million up front investment is well worth the options it gives them, no matter how McNabb performs on the field over the rest of the season. Kudos to the Redskins front office for being willing to take a PR hit to do the smart thing – even though everyone accused them of being stupid.

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Football Relativity Week 10

Each week, we compare all 32 NFL teams using our Football Relativity tool. We’ll indicate as we go which teams are moving up and down from the Week 9 comparison.

10 – Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers – The Patriots had the most impressive win of the weekend, going into Pittsburgh and thumping the Steelers 39-26. Part of that is a matchup advantage that the Patriots have built over the Steelers in recent years, and that matchup is something to watch come playoff time. We won’t dock the Steelers too much because they lost to a strong team, but it’ll be interesting to see how they bounce back. We also chose not to dock the Ravens for losing in a short week on the road in Atlanta. Baltimore’s offense showed plenty of spunk in that game, but the defense wasn’t good enough. That’s something to watch in the future for Baltimore. The Jets stole a win late in overtime in Cleveland, and while it wasn’t beautiful, it was a good road win. They remain among the AFC’s most dangerous teams.

Tom Brady led the Patriots over the Steelers, via espn.com

9 – Atlanta Falcons (UP A LEVEL), Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles (UP A LEVEL) – We chronicled the Falcons’ rise in Rise/Sink/Float. The Colts took care of business with a 23-17 win in Cincinnati, once again proving they’re among the best in the league at beating the teams they should beat. The Giants laid an egg at home against the Cowboys, and we won’t overreact to one loss. But the Giants’ second-half fades under Tom Coughlin are reason for concern, because this was the kind of loss that could start a swoon if the Giants don’t show mental toughness. The Eagles destroyed the Redskins on Monday night with the kind of offensive explosion that we rarely see. If they do it again this week against the Giants, they’ll take the pole position in the NFC.

8 – Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints – The Dolphins finally got a home win, beating the Titans 29-17 despite losing their two Chads (Henne and Pennington). Thankfully for Dolphins fans, Tyler Thigpen has more upside and experience than most No. 3 quarterbacks, but it’s no sure thing that he can lead a playoff run. The Packers and Saints were on bye.

7 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (UP A LEVEL), Tennessee Titans (DOWN A LEVEL) – We covered the Titans’ descent in Rise/Sink/Float. The Buccaneers had a solid 31-16 win at home against the Panthers, keeping their playoff hopes strong. We contend that the Bucs will have nine wins at least when the season ends.

6 – Chicago Bears (UP A LEVEL), Houston Texans (DOWN A LEVEL), Kansas City Chiefs (DOWN A LEVEL), Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers – The Bears haven’t been overly impressive this season, but they cruised to a comfortable 27-13 victory over the Vikings at home. That’s a huge win because it all but knocks the Vikes out of the NFC Central race and keeps the Bears close to the Packers in the division. We still favor the Packers, but the Bears have put themselves in position to steal a playoff berth. The Texans lost in Jacksonville on a Hail Mary, and while the final play was fluky, it was also a symbol of a pass defense that gets worse and worse with each passing week. That’s going to end up being the fatal flaw for Houston. The Chiefs got blitzed in Denver, falling behind 35-0 en route to a blowout loss. K.C.’s D played pretty well over the first half of the season, but if Denver exposed something the Chiefs will have to fix it to make a playoff run. The Raiders and Chargers were on bye, celebrating the Chiefs’ loss because it creates an ultra-tight AFC West race.

5 – Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks (UP A LEVEL), Washington Redskins (DOWN A LEVEL) – We discussed the Jaguars in Rise/Sink/Float. The Rams lost in overtime in San Francisco, continuing a trend of close losses away from home. We believe the Rams are headed in the right direction, but they need to demonstrate they can win the close games, especially away from the Dome. The Seahawks have a great home-field advantage, but they were able to get their second road win in Arizona. That gives the Hawks a leg up in the NFC West. The Redskins got their doors blown off by the Eagles, cementing the fact that they’re not nearly as good as the top two teams in the NFC East. (By the way, we’ll discuss the puzzling Donovan McNabb contract in a separate post later today.)

4 – Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos (UP A LEVEL), Minnesota Vikings (DOWN A LEVEL), San Francisco 49ers (UP A LEVEL) – The Browns nearly took out another top team but ended up falling short in overtime against the Jets. Cleveland is competitive, and they have a chance to develop a lot with rookie QB Colt McCoy over the rest of the season. The Broncos have been wildly inconsistent, but this week the arrow was pointed up as they threw all over the Chiefs in a blowout win. Now Denver has to prove it can do it two weeks in a row. The Vikings lost in Chicago by two touchdowns, and that basically ends their NFC Central hopes. They need the hot streak of all hot streaks to sneak into a playoff spot now. The 49ers won their second straight, as Troy Smith led them to an overtime win over the Rams. San Francisco isn’t out of it in the NFC West, and Smith has provided more of a spark in two games than Alex Smith did all season.

3 – Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals (DOWN A LEVEL), Dallas Cowboys (UP A LEVEL), Detroit Lions – We focused on the Cowboys’ win over the Giants in our game thoughts from Sunday. The Cardinals lost at home to the Seahawks, and their QB play has limited the other good things about their roster this year. The Bengals fell to 2-7, and their decline on the rankings is a reflection of what they really are. The Lions lost in Buffalo, and like some other teams Detroit has talent but not the ability to win close games regularly.

2 – Buffalo Bills (UP A LEVEL) – The Bills finally got a win, beating Detroit 14-12. Buffalo continues to play hard despite some tough losses, and it’s good to see such hard workers end up with a win. Now we’ll have to see what the Bills can build over the second half.

1 – Carolina Panthers – Not only did the Panthers lose in Tampa Bay; they also lost rookie QB Jimmy Clausen to a concussion. The only real plus Carolina can get out of the rest of this season is seeing if Clausen can play, and this concussion affects his ability to do so. Just another black mark on a horrific season.

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Crazy Kicker of Week 10

K Phil Dawson looks on

We love shenanigans, and the Browns were once again the source of them in Week 10. After scoring a field goal on the opening drive of the game, Phil Dawson attempted a surprise on-side kick. But Cleveland’s attempt to steal a possession backfired, and the Jets got the ball on the Browns’ 42. The result was a Jets field goal and a tie score early. It didn’t affect the outcome of the game, but we respect the effort, and for that reason Dawson earns the title of Week 10’s Crazy Kicker of the Week.

2010 Crazy Kickers of the Week
CFL: WR Dave Stala, Tiger-Cats
Preseason Week 1: P Brett Kern, Titans
Preseason Week 2: PK Robbie Gould, Bears
Week 2: PK/Kickoff Rob Bironas, Titans
Week 5: Punter/holder Dustin Colquitt, Chiefs
Week 7: Punter Reggie Hodges, Browns
Week 8: Punter Steve Weatherford, Jets
Week 9: DT/PK Ndamukong Suh, Lions
Week 10: PK Phil Dawson, Browns

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