Wednesday, July 15, 2009

$uggs Cashes In

The Baltimore Ravens reached an agreement with their "Franchise player" Terrell Suggs on six-year $63 million dollar contract. This extension will make Suggs the highest paid linebacker in history and guarantee him over $30 million dollars.

If that six-year $63 million dollar deal seems familiar, that is because we saw Matt Cassell inked for the same terms yesterday. Now some of the details of the deal are different. Suggs has more guaranteed money and more money in the first 2-3 years. But overall they are both $10.5 million averages.

I think that unlike Cassel, this is a great contract for the team. Suggs is one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL, while Cassel is a middling quarterback at best going forward. Suggs has 54 sacks over his first 6 seasons. He also is constantly in the backfield disrupting plays and offensive schemes. Suggs won't turn 27 until October, making it very likely that he can be effective for the length of this deal. Unfortunately for the AFC North quarterbacks and offensive coordinators, they will have to deal with Suggs for the foreseeable future. I think the Ravens did a great job at locking up one of the bright young defensive stars in the game.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Not Bad For a Year's Work

Today the Kansas City Chiefs announced that they signed QB Matt Cassel to a six-year contract that will pay him $28 million in guaranteed money, and $63 million over the life of the deal. That $10.5 million dollar average would have ranked 7th among quarterbacks in 2008. That is pretty insane when you figure that Matt Cassel has started just 15 games in his NFL career. Before last season Matt Cassel would have been lucky to get $10.5 million over 6 years, now he will be cashing that check each season. Is he worth this much of an investment?

Now a Chiefs defender or Matt Cassel supporter will talk about the big money that Aaron Rodgers gets and that his situation is similar to Cassels. There is some truth to that argument. Both quarterbacks had limited playing opportunities given the Hall of Fame quarterback playing in front of them. Also, both are young (though Rodgers is a year and a half younger) and entering the prime of their careers. While both those points are true, the argument fails to realize that Rodgers is a better quarterback than Cassel, either in the short or long term. Rodgers has a better pedigree, he was a first round draft pick, that was always considered a starting caliber quarterback. Also, he has the stronger arm, and seems to be more comfortable making all the various throws. Cassel excelled in a system that he had been in for years, and succeeded primarily out of the shotgun. The Patriots offensive system set just about every passing record the year before, giving Cassel more weapons to utilize. I think its hard to argue that Cassel is worth the kind of money that Rodgers is making.

Now I do recognize that the Chiefs were in a bit of a corner with the Patriots designating Cassel as a "Franchise" player. This raised the price on Cassel considerably. Had Cassel been on the open market he may have gotten a $6-8 million dollar average but he wouldn't have gotten much more than that. Kansas City is now paying him like he is a top notch QB, and that seems to be a gross exaggeration of his skills. There are easily 12-15 quarterbacks I'd rather have leading my team over the next 6 years than Cassel. That doesn't even count guys like Warner or Delhomme who are better options over the next few years as well. Kansas City is paying more than most of those guys, like he is a true "Franchise quarterback". Given the limited track record of Cassel, this was a big risk for the Chiefs to take. I think in the long run, Cassel will prove to be a solid starter, but not a $10 million dollar man. The Chiefs will pay for this mistake for years to come.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Acta Out as Manager

Last night the Nationals fired their Manager Manny Acta and replaced him with bench coach Jim Riggleman. Now plenty of people will talk about how Acta wasn't given a fair chance as manager, or that Nationals shouldn't have made this move. But personally as a Nats fan I think this move was long over due.

Manny Acta has a career record of 158 wins to 252 losses. That's a .385 winning percentage and his record has gotten worse each season. When Acta was first hired the Nats were a combination of retreads (Belliard, D. Young), AAAA players (N. Logan, B. Traber ect.) and a few quality pieces (C. Cordero, R. Zimmerman). They were expected to finish last in the N.L. East, and have the worst record in baseball. They were a team with no minor league talent, and a piecemeal roster. Acta led them to a 73-89 record and a 4th place finish in the N.L. East.

In year two Acta had Christian Guzman and Nick Johnson returning from injury, the resurgence of Belliard and Young, and two new athletic young outfielders with potential (Milledge and Dukes). He also had the emergence of some bright young players (J. Flores, J. Lannan ect.), and a bench made up of major league talent. Acta's Nationals went 59-102 to finish with the worse record in baseball. Now I will be the first to say that the injury bug hit the Nationals hard, every starter outside of Guzman spent some time on the D.L. Now no one thought the Nats were a playoff team last year, or that they could over come these injuries. But that doesn't excuse the worst record in baseball. Sure the Nats had to rely on a number of replacement players, but these guys were more talented than the AAAA players that won 73 games the year before.

Finally it brings us to year three of the Acta tenure. The Nationals are finally healthy and went out and brought in some actual talent. They added Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham to their lineup and Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel to their pitching staff. In addition the Nationals farm system began producing some talent this year with two young pitchers (J. Zimmerman and S. Martis) set to join the rotation. Willingham and Dunn have been major additions to the offensive output of the Nats. Each has an OPS north of .900 and have combined for 35 home runs (nearly half of the Nationals total). Again no one thought they Nats would be fighting in October for a playoff spot, but the expectation that they could be around .500 and fight for 3rd in the division wasn't unrealistic. Instead the Nationals have a 26-61 record, which is good for a .299 winning percentage and the worst record in baseball.

I think its time that Acta should be held accountable for his team's performance. I don't think he's a bad manager, but just not right for this ball club. His record has gotten worse as his team's talent level has risen. I don't know how you can spin that any other way than to blame the manager. Acta has not seemed able to handle the big league personalities or get the most out of his players. The Nationals with back to back years of futility need a change of face. This isn't a true "rebuilding" team. Every starter right now with the exception of Zimmerman (J. Flores is on the D.L.) is 29 or older. Their starting rotation has promise and a bright future, but they aren't there yet. The bullpen is in complete shambles and will need a complete overhaul after the season. Now I don't think this move will change much in Nats Town, but I think it was the right move. The Nats need to start rebuilding and hopefully can bring in a new manager to get the most out of the talent on the team.