It’s back! And things are about to go off like a buy one get one free Walmart sale in the middle of Kentucky.
Facilities are open, draft picks can be signed, trades can be made and free agents can be negotiated with. After Friday night rolls around, those free agents can start signing contracts and any team with a big payroll is going to resemble Tony Siragusa in an Old Country Buffet.
Imagine all the excitement of summer free agency crammed into one month!
Even better is the fact that all this time analysts, players, owners, scouts and coaches have spent hours and days and weeks speculating, analyzing, and running around names like Kevin Kolb and Randy Moss to the point where nobody knows what will even be the right move. That way, us fans and writers can all have a good laugh in the end.
Ah, how I missed the NFL.
Despite all the potential busts and washed up superstars, there are some free agency MVP’s, and I’ll start with Nnamdi Asomugha.
Widely considered the most valuable player available, at 30-years old, Asomugha is still a lockdown defensive back and has most owners drooling over him. What makes him an interesting case is his “post-NFL” dreams – being an actor. Many people think that alone could land him in New York, with either the Jets or Giants.
Can you imagine an NFL superstar lining up teams to be a springboard for his acting career? That’d be like Matt Damon taking an acting gig in Cleveland with hopes of falling onto the Browns depth chart after they cut Jake Delhomme (which, by the way, is long overdue).
Regardless, a more likely destination for the most butchered name in the NFL is Houston, who has plenty of cap room and a strong defensive unit always striving to improve.
If you’re a team seeking a d-back who can’t land Asomugha, your next best bet will probably be Ike Taylor. They love Taylor here in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers usually lock down the guys they really care about – which they haven’t done with Ike. Taylor says he wants to get top dollar, so he might be out of luck in Pittsburgh.
Bad news for the Black and Yellow: The Ravens are seeking a big-time hard hitting man in their defensive backfield, and Taylor fits the bill.
From here on out, the top players in the skill positions are almost all question marks at this point.
Deangelo Williams says he wants to retire as a Panther, but his injuries last year make him a big risk for Carolina to keep around and for any other team to jump on. He could be a total stud or a total bust.
Perhaps my favorite risk on the board is Minnesota’s Sidney Rice. Because I hate Brett Favre with a burning insidious and indescribable passion, I followed his every move during his reunion tour in Minnesota. He and Rice, as much as it burns my fingers to type it, were an absolutely deadly combination two seasons ago.
But, outside of that season where he had 83 receptions, 1,312 yards and 8 touchdowns, Rice has been a pretty big non-factor. He’s not a guy many people would want to take a risk on, but his freakish athleticism, size, and big play ability make him an exciting consideration. I could see him in D.C. by the end of the week, knowing Dan Snyder.
Rice’s biggest opposition in the market is the ridiculous amount of talent and career yards available across the board. Want to hear some familiar names that will be available through trade or free agency? Check out this list of wide receivers who have either proved they can catch balls or piss people off:
Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Lance Moore, Santana Moss, Chad Ochocinco (sigh), Bernard Berrian, Michael Jenkins, Steve Smith, T.J. Houshmanzadeh, and, wait for it – Randy Moss (recently declared in “freakish shape”), Plaxico Burress (recently jailed), and Terrell Owens (recently, well…nothing).
A sure bet for a good ball catcher would be the Raiders tight end Zach Miller, who at 25 has had a productive four-year campaign in the NFL. The only problem is that the Raiders probably will, and definitely should, hold onto him.
Rumors that the Ravens are going to cut Todd Heap also bolster the tight end market, but those are only rumors.
Finally, there is the quarterback department. Let’s get a few things straightened out before we watch the usual culprits (the Redskins, Eagles, Cardinals, Raiders, Browns, and Broncos) play quarterback musical chairs.
First off, anyone who thinks Carson Palmer is going to see another Pro-Bowl or playoff game is absolutely out of their mind. If he couldn’t get it done with the wideouts he had in Cincinnati, he isn’t going to get it done in D.C. or Arizona or anywhere else. Never mind the fact that Bengals owner Mike Brown said he would never trade Palmer – so he’ll be stuck in the mediocrity that is Cincinnati sports for a long time.
The Broncos say Kyle Orton will be available through trade. They also seem to be neglecting the fact that his replacement (Tim Tebow) plays like Mike Vick. Unfortunately for Tebow, he’s neither close to as talented as nor as durable as Vick. Between Orton and Tebow’s speculated destinations and performance, I’m about as bored as I was during this week’s season premier of Entourage.
Last but certainly not least is the Eagles’ Kevin Kolb. For all my favorite fans back in Philly (I’m trying to inject as much sarcasm into this sentence as possible), I wish you the best with Kolb. But, if you think he’s just going to “walk out” of Philly for a first round pick with a pat on the back from Andy Reid, I think you need to reconsider.
First off, the NFL is learning. We’ve all been conned by the “I’m-a-good-quarterback-in-Philadelphia-but-nowhere-else” move. Remember A.J. Feeley? That guy who Andy Reid managed to get top draft picks to give away a few years back? Yeah, neither do I.
Remember when the ‘Skins took McNabb for a 2nd and 4th round pick, and now he’s on his way out of D.C. after one drama filled season? Yeah, well so does everyone else.
The fact is that a QB with a 3-4 record who has more interceptions than touchdowns is worth about as much as a signed A.J. Feeley jersey (about 30 dollars). And it ain’t much.
I’d be shocked (and appalled) if Reid can work his magic again this summer and pick up a first rounder. But in all honesty, I wouldn’t expect it. Look for the Eagles to either keep a disgruntled Kolb to back up the fragile Vick (so what does that make Tebow?) or get rid of him for something less than a first rounder.
Oh, and if all this free agent talk is stressing you out or getting you excited, Ricky Williams is always available. I heard he’s got a few ways to relax the mind.
For more entertainment, see this horrible rant about why Brett Favre should (that's not a typo) come back next season: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d820f8854/article/situation-in-philly-would-ideally-suit-favre-if-he-returns
Before the World Cup Final, Norio Sasaki, the outgoing coach of Japan’s Women’s soccer team, said he hoped the soccer Gods would help him overcome the American women. By all accounts, it seems his wish was granted.
After two overtime periods and regulation, the 2-2 tie was broken when Japan took the Penalty shootout 3-1 and left Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt, Germany with their first ever World Cup.
For the U.S., it was heartbreak. After nearly missing the Cup all together, the team had persevered against France and Brazil, who outplayed them for large portions of each of those matches. Recollections of Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain were abundant. Christie Rampone, who was fantastic this tournament, was the only member of that 1999 team still on the squad, but this would be her last World Cup appearance.
This time, it was Japan who persevered against the U.S. despite being outplayed in nearly every minute of the contest. It was Japan who had the invincible superstars with impeccable timing. It was Japan who earned it. Through guts, scrappiness, and absolute persistence, the Japanese found the respect of not just the Americans but any legitimate fan of athletics.
For fans of the United States, the game was 120 plus minutes of relentlessly brutal missed opportunities punctuated by two picture perfect finishes from Alex Morgan and Amy Wambach.
It started with Lauren Cheney, playing at her natural position of striker, who went down with an ankle injury in the first minute. On the play, the 23-year old Indiana native opted to shoot from the back line instead of cross, took the collision and missed the shot.
It was one of two golden chances she’d miss before her ankle injury forced her out of the second half.
Then it was Carli Lloyd who was off target from a wide open spot in the middle of the box. Next was the talented Megan Rapinoe striking the post.
Alas, we thought, Abby Wambach would finish the job. But fans’ jaws could only sit on the floor when her beautiful left-footed strike took an unfortunate hit off the crossbar.
And that was only the first half.
It took Alex Morgan, the youngest player on the U.S. squad (22) two great chances to finish with an amazing left-footed top-shelf strike on the far post that gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead. For 12 minutes, U.S. fans thought that would be the nail in the coffin, and then disaster struck.
During a scramble in front of the box, central defender Rachel Buehler attempted a clear when she kicked the ball directly into teammate Ali Krieger. It looked idiotic, impossible, and it ended in devastating fashion.
The ball bounced directly into the lap of Japan’s Aya Miyama, who with an easy touch netted the goal and tied the game, leaving the U.S. team in shock. Things we’re just heating up.
Amy Wambach, the U.S. team’s version of Reggie Miller, would tie the game in the 104th minute with a perfect header. Déjà Vu, we thought, but Japan had an answer.
Her name is Homare Sawa. She is the 32-year-old midfielder who was long considered Japan’s finest footballer.
On Sunday night, she was also appearing in what was likely her final World Cup game (after five appearances in the tournament). And in the 114th minute, after a perfect corner kick landed on the side of her right foot and found the back of the net, she became Japan’s new hero.
This was the moment in the game when I realized we were in trouble. Hope Solo, the U.S. goalie, had prefaced that corner kick by hitting the ground with what appeared to be a knee injury. The momentum was on Japan’s side, and the U.S. women who had dominated the game in its entirety suddenly looked as if their backs were on the walls.
My instincts were true. Japan’s destiny seemed certain, and after poor U.S. shooting and stellar goalie play, the Cup was theirs.
It took 25 tries, but the Japanese women finally conquered the U.S. team.
The most important part of this win for the Japanese was its timing. It was Japan who was a country in mourning after a spring of disaster. Now, we can hope that their winning ways can bring together a country which has seen too much death and sorrow in recent months. Perhaps Solo said it best.
"'I truly believed this was our tournament to win," Solo, the hero against Brazil said. "I felt that the entire time. At the same time I think there is something bigger pulling for Japan. They are the team of the tournament, and if there's any team that you're going to lose to, I'd put my hat off to them because they have so much class and they play with so much passion. They fought and they fought."