Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
The Tennessee Titans should acknowledge that it's Albert Haynesworth's turn to be the highest-paid defensive player in football and offer him a contract that would make him so. Add five or seven percent to Jared Allen's deal and get it in front of agent Chad Speck ASAP.
By my calculations that means a six-year package valued at about $77 million, or $12.82 million a year.
That doesn't mean the defensive tackle, who is set to become a free agent on Feb. 27, will take it. Because come that date, somebody will likely make him the higher paid highest-paid defensive player in football.
But at least the Titans could say they made a good faith effort and stuck to their principles of building from within and rewarding their own and we wouldn't be left questioning why they didn't try when they had the chance.
Count me among those who think the Titans need to retain him.
They should woo Haynesworth now, the way he will be wooed in a couple of weeks. Send his kids some gifts -- I'm thinking a house call from Ringling Bros. Send a limo to pick him up and take him out to dinner at his favorite fine restaurant. Sell him on the benefits of no state income tax, the unfinished business of the 2008 team, and the legacy he can have as a Titan. Make him feel loved -- because besides the money, that's the biggest thing coming with market freedom. Show him how guys like Reggie White and Michael Turner qualify as exceptions by illustrating how many guys who've made big moves in free agency have never been as good. Ask Jevon Kearse to share his Philadelphia story.
This is a plan any team seeking to retain a guy heading for free agency should employ this month. I've never understood why they don't try it.
Once the date comes, there is no chance Haynesworth is coming back. There is no list of coveted free agents who get to the open market and then return to their former team. That only happens if a guy and his representation completely miss the mark on predicting his value, and Haynesworth is going to be valued as a guy that can transform a defense.
I understand the concerns about Haynesworth, and have an answer for them.
He's going to dog it once he gets the big dollars.
Maybe I am a sucker, but I feel like I've gotten to know him during his career in Nashville and I'm convinced he won't let himself become fat and happy. Here's why.
When he stomped Dallas center Andre Gurode's face back on Oct. 1, 2006, he suffered the consequences with a six-week, five-game suspension. He was a pariah. That was a lot to come back from, and much of his motivation was to re-establish his name. He knew he'd soiled it, and he was embarrassed when he thought about how his kids would suffer for it.
Having worked so hard to erase that stain, I simply don't believe that he'll respond to a big payday by taking his foot off his career gas pedal. If he did, he'd get smeared again. Having been in that unenviable position, I believe he will be very conscious of not getting there again.
He gets dinged and you're probably not going to get 16 games out of him.
Probably not. But with certain players even 13 games is worth it, and he's one of them. The fact is he's not the durable, every-play guy. The Titans rotate their linemen and know how to get the most out of him when they have him. He's going to need a trainer's assistance on the field at least once a game. It's part of the package. Name all the teams that wouldn't be willing to live with it in exchange for the payoff when he's out there.
It would be a huge mistake for the team to look at that game, consider its excellent defensive line coach Jim Washburn, and conclude the defense can be as good moving forward without Haynesworth. Tony Brown has turned into a good player, when he's next to Haynesworth. Take away the guy drawing all the attention and Brown's hardly the same.
Same for the whole defense: It's championship-caliber with him, and an unknown without. Tennessee usually got effective pressure on the quarterback without blitz help. Jeff Fisher will soon appoint a new defensive coordinator -- likely Chuck Cecil. The guy who replaces Jim Schwartz deserves a shot with the same personnel. The ticket-buyers who have been asked to pay a bit more deserve it, too.
Last I checked, the Titans had $30 million in salary-cap room for 2009. The most popular question I get regarding Haynesworth is this: If the Titans don't sign him, what will they do with the money? No, they aren't going to chase another big free agent like Julius Peppers (even if he wanted to stay in a 4-3), and they've already locked up a lot of their young talent. Their formula is to build with the draft and patch with relatively cheap free agents with upside. Odds are a good piece of what would go to Haynesworth as a signing bonus would stay in the team's coffers, or, if you prefer to think of it this way, Bud Adams' pockets.
There is the case for making the sort of offer he'd have to consider. It's the right thing for the Titans to do. Even if they do it, we don't know if accepting it is the right thing for Haynesworth to do.
But at least the organization could say it did everything it could short of offering mad money.
Then, if he goes elsewhere, the second-guessing won't be about not trying to keep him. Then we'll talk about how it was a mistake to allow such easily earned incentives to render the franchise tag useless with Haynesworth in 2009.
A holdout and some contentious negotiations last summer would have been worth having that tag now, no?