So Was the Matt Cassel/Mike Vrabel Trade an Inside Job or What?

I think it’s been pretty firmly established that the Patriots, especially under Bill Belichick, are one of the shrewdest organizations in the NFL. They’ve been known to pull off great deals and bring players in for below market value. Keeping in mind that their GM Scott Pioli left for Kansas City and that he could have been the “brains” behind many intelligent moves, how is it that the Chiefs only gave up the 34th overall pick in the draft to acquire QB Matt Cassel and LB Mike Vrabel? I’ve been searching and searching for the answer and I’ve heard many possible responses, most of which sounded bogus. For instance, I’m not buying that the Patriots value an early second round pick more than they do a mid-first round pick. Something more plausible is that Vrabel actually brought down the value of the trade and that the Pats were just looking to dump his salary.

Maybe the best explanation for what appears to be a fleecing by the Chiefs, especially now that we’ve heard the Bucs and Broncos were working on a three-way deal that would have sent the Pats a 1st and 3rd round pick, is that Belichick already had a deal in place with Pioli before anyone else stepped up. Peter King at SI says nobody offered a first-round pick for Cassel this offseason, so Belichick in turn asked for an early second from KC and received it. It wasn’t until after that point that the other teams came calling with their more appealing packages. Also, because Cassel was only signed through the upcoming season, teams could have been afraid to give away too much for someone they might only have one season which also makes sense. Well, I’m going to trust for the moment that this was a fair deal. If someone has any better ideas as to what’s going on here, I’m all ears.

Cardinals Need to Stop Messing Around, Sign Kurt Warner Already

Although I made the point around Super Bowl time that I don’t think Kurt Warner’s a Hall of Famer yet, I still recognize that he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He took the team to the Super Bowl, stepped ut up in the playoffs, and clearly outplayed Matt Leinart in the pre-season by a vast margin. Putting all that together, I can’t understand why the Cardinals are playing hardball with Warner and his agent.

As we’ve heard, the sides are differing on the amount of annual salary Warner should make. Kurt wants to earn the average of the top five QBs in the league — a figure worth around $14.5 million — while the Cardinals supposedly were offering only around $10 mil. Look, this is exactly what makes the Cardinals the Cardinals, and it’s exactly why they never won prior to this past season. How hard is it for them to part with an extra $8 mil and just sign the guy? He’s earned it, he should be worth it, and you guys need him. What are you going to do, surrender all the positive feeling and fan buzz you generated with your Super Bowl run by letting this guy go? How could you possible let the fans down like that?

I’m guessing that Warner and his agent are scheduling a visit to San Francisco to make the Cardinals nervous and that he has no intention of actually going to SF. Still, it’s an excellent tactic to gain leverage in negotiations. Should Kurt Warner go to the Niners, that would be addition by subtraction, and it could make the 49ers the division favorite. I don’t think he’ll do it, but hopefully this will cause Arizona to cave in and pay the guy. He’s earned it, he’ll be worth it, and you can’t possibly come back to your fanbase following a Super Bowl run and give them Leinart and a 5-11 season. Unless you’re the Cardinals, in which case anything’s possible.

Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels Starting Off on the Wrong Foot

This probably was not the way Josh McDaniels wanted to kick off his era as head coach of the Denver Broncos. Apparently trade winds blew their way to quarterback Jay Cutler, who found out that the Broncos were fielding phone calls and entertaining the thought of dealing him in a three-way trade. Those rumored trades never happened and Matt Cassel got dealt to Kansas City along with Mike Vrabel. Considering Cutler never got traded, the Broncos would have been best served to keep the word of trade talks to themselves. Somehow word slipped out however and Jay Cutler is not happy about it:

“My understanding at this point is they’re trying to trade me. We’ll see where I end up at. I liked it here, I liked playing with these guys but obviously they’re not going to let me have that opportunity.”

“I’m upset. I mean I’m really shocked at this point,” he said. “I could see why they want Cassel. I don’t know if they think I can’t run the system or I don’t have the skills for it. I just don’t get it. Or if they don’t think they can sign me with my next contract. I just don’t know what it is. I’ve heard I’m still on the trading block.”

Funny how Cutler used the past tense, making it seem like he’s already gone. Now that the team didn’t get Cassel, there’s no question in my mind that he’ll be back as the team’s quarterback, so he’ll have to change his attitude. McDaniels may have tried to downplay the incident by saying that Tampa Bay initiated talks and that they field calls about all the players at this time, but he certainly has his work cut out for him. I’m not sure he needs to buy Cutler a $4 million diamond ring to kiss and make up, but he’s going to have to make Cutler feel pretty. As for Cutler, I could see why he’d be upset and I bet I’d be angry too, but he needs to move on. He already had his coach get fired and he needs to get used to the lack of loyalty in this league.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh Is Doing the General Manager’s Work for Them

I’ve always thought it was funny when players take matters into their own hands and try to drive where they’ll go as a free agent. We had Jake Peavy tell the Braves he didn’t want to go there if they gave up too much in exchange for him, we had Matt Stafford say he’d love to go to the Lions, and Brian Fuentes kept telling the Angels how much he wanted to go there until they finally signed him, just to name a few. Well lately it has been Bengals WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh playing GM and directing traffic. Witness what he said recently:

“I’ll just throw out the teams that I told (my agent) that I would be interested in. I have no idea if these teams are interested in me yet. I told him I’d be interested in going to Philly, I told him I’d be interested in going to New York, Seattle, Minnesota.

“If I could play with Adrian Peterson? Can you imagine what I would do, beating 1-on-1 coverage playing with Adrian Peterson?”

That wasn’t all, either. Housh also supposedly sent this text message to ESPN Radio in Philly, “I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but if they want me, I will be an Eagle tomorrow.” You think some of those team execs are groaning now or what? Just what GMs need, to hear a talented player express his fondness for a team, making the fans put pressure on the organization to make a move. As far as Housh goes, he’s not the type of receiver to whom I’d pay number one receiver money. He’s the possession guy who’s really benefitted from playing with less defensive attention because Chad Johnson gets double-teamed, and from having Carson Palmer throw to him. I think T.J. would be hard-pressed to find a better situation for him than Cincy’s been, and anyone who brings him in to be a number one will probably be overpaying.

Shaun Rogers Giving Up $6 Million Over Dislike of Eric Mangini?

This was one of the more bizarre stories that I saw today. Not that I can’t understand someone growing “disenchanted” with new Browns head coach, Eric Mangini, because I certainly can, but I was surprised to read that defensive tackle Shaun Rogers would rather ask the Browns to be released rather than get paid a $6 million bonus in March. Here’s Rogers’ reasoning, according to Adam Schefter, via Rotoworld:

Some of Rogers’ feelings stem back to two offseason incidents in which he believes Mangini disrespected him. The first time, Mangini walked into the Browns’ training room and failed to say hello to Rogers. The next time, at a public charity function in which both men were in the green room, neither said hello to the other, and Mangini later said he didn’t know Rogers was there.

Mangini says he didn’t see Rogers, which would be pretty miraculous in itself considering Rogers is 6’4″ and like 350-plus pounds. Sounds pretty in-character given Mangini’s notorious history. To make matters worse, John Clayton says Rogers even requested a one-on-one meeting with Mangini and was rebuffed. Uh oh. Hey, I wouldn’t want to play for the Browns either, but I’m not sure I’d give up $6 million to get out. Maybe he would. But I do agree with Rogers that Mangini strikes me as a coach for whom I wouldn’t love to play.

USC Kicker David Buehler Should Tryout for Linebacker in the NFL

My buddy Botros sent me a text today suggesting I “Do a story on David Buehler’s combine performance. Amazing.” Naturally I had not effing clue who this David Buehler guy was, so I inquired for further details. “He out-lifted 27 olineman at the combine and ran a 4.56 40 which was faster than Kahlil Bell. And he’s a ****ing placekicker!” were the clues to the puzzle. Both of us are Bruins, so to hear that USC’s kicker is faster than our starting running back pretty much sums up the crosstown rivalry the past decade. But Botros was right; that little tidbit was nothing of which we should be ashamed — this David Buehler character seems like quite the athlete.

Upon further review, Buehler was a transfer from Santa Ana JC where he also went both ways as a linebacker and running back, in addition to serving as the team’s kicker. He also comes from some great football pedigree — two of his uncles played at Stanford, one of whom also went on to play for the Raiders and Browns. On the surface this seemed like a crazy story (the combine stats Botros texted me are accurate), but after digging deeper it makes a lot more sense. I think it really speaks to the all-around talent of Buehler as an athlete more than anything else. And do you think some of the top offensive lineman like Michael Oher and Eugene Monroe will be embarrassed to have been out-lifted by a kicker? Maybe not anymore. I’ll just leave it at this: If Buehler makes it to the NFL as a kicker, just watch out for the fakes. You have been forewarned.

Fan Charged $28k to Watch Bears Game

I just thought this story was ridiculous the moment I read the headline, but once I got into the meat of the article, I nodded in agreement. Sports by Brooks shared the story of the Chicago Bears fan who was docked in a port in Miami getting ready for an international cruise, and decided to watch the Bears game before the ship departed. The fan watched on his trusty slingbox before disconnecting as the ship was getting set to sail. We’ll let the Chicago Sun-Times take over from there, telling it first-person from the fan’s point of view:

Anyway, I got home from our cruise, and about two weeks later I got my cell phone/wireless card bill, which is usually about $220, and it said I owe $28,067.31.

I called AT&T and told them there was either a mistake or fraud and to please take this off the bill. That’s where the fun starts. They told me that the bill was correct and somehow I was charged international rates for Internet use, and the cost is 2 cents per kb. That came out to $27,788.93.

Naturally the dude’s been fighting with the phone company ever since and the best he’s done is negotiate that sucker down to around six grand. That’s a start, but still not too helpful considering he was docked and not at sea (thus not roaming) and shouldn’t have been charged as much as he was. But you know how frustrating calls can be with your phone company when you’re fighting a bill, right? Just check out this vid shared by Jimmy at Hot Clicks last week:
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