NEW YORK — The lockout is finally coming to an end. We can all rejoice in football being returned to us once again and with that comes the feverish rush of free agency.
This year we get what Adam Schefter of ESPN called “Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one” with the lockout ending. Free agency so close to the beginning of the season, however, may make men out of boys and cripple those unprepared.
One instance of this regards the team status of (soon to be) former New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie who has firmly stated he’s not at all into the idea of a hometown discount.
“I’m not giving anybody a hometown discount,” Cromartie said during an interview with Sirius XM Radio. “I’m definitely going to see what the organization says and also let them know I want to go out and test the market and see where my value is.”
This can’t be that hard to wrap one’s head around; after all Cromartie hasn’t been a life-long Jet and is still viewed as one of the league’s more potent pass defenders. He’s holding out on the Jets to see what the market offers him and if the Jets lack of confidence is any indication, that market is going to be big and payout as much too.
Guess who’s in that market? Tampa Bay and rightfully so. They’re on the list of teams currently in search of a No. 1 corner and they also have the money to spend to buy one too.
With all the controversy and developments surrounding current No. 1 corner Aqib Talib, Raheem Morris and Co. wouldn’t mind if they could nab a guy of Cromartie’s caliber to fill Talib’s troublesome shoes.
More upside to signing Cromartie is if Talib does get off the hook, whether by his own actual innocence or some other reason, and Tampa decides to give him one more go-around, that would give the Bucs three big-time, lockdown corners in 2011-12.
Antonio Cromartie, Aqib Talib and the always consistent and reliable Ronde Barber.
These three guys would anchor a defensive backfield full of young potential talent that could only benefit from the work experience and skill of Cromarite and Barber and even Talib.
There is no gauruntee that Tampa can successfully bag Cromartie as the list of teams in need of that No.1 corner isn’t a small one.
The next thing to do is look at what Tampa offers over these teams.
The only real competiton for the Bucs in terms of talent and allure are the Texans and Cowboys. The Cowboys are obvious because Jerry Jones knows how to lure guys in with the almighty dollar sign, plus it’s the Cowboys who are as much capable of winning the Super Bowl each year as they are finishing the way they did last year. Plus with new head coach Jason Garrett, the Cowboys are on the up and up and are a real nice team to get paid a lot of money to play for.
The Texans offer what they Cowboys offer minus the America’s Team factor and maybe some money. They are, however, a cult favorite among a lot of people around the NFL (including myself) as the scrappy underdog who is finally emerging as a potential force in the AFC. Now if you could be a face of this revolution, why wouldn’t you pounce on this opportunity. With Houston, Cromartie is offered the opportunity to be a star at a weak position for the Texans on an outstanding defensive unit. Houston may even over pay a bit for Cromartie’s services as he, in a way, can be viewed as a missing piece on defense.
Tampa’s allure matches up more with that of Houston rather than Dallas. Being a young team on the rise and a scrappy favorite to some, Cromartie can make some real production in Tampa and get paid a hefty dun to do so. But where Houston and Tampa differ is the missing piece factor. Houston may or may not view him as a missing piece to an outstanding defensive unit; to Tampa he IS a missing piece on a yet to be proven defensive unit. To match up potential suitors more perfectly would be to enter the Detroit Lions into the picture who could also use Cromartie. Their defense is modeled and built much like Tampa’s is where Cromartie could be a standout star and even a captain.
But Tampa wins that one because who wants to play in the winter city of Detroit versus the sunny weather of Tampa. A sleeper stat to look at may be how his production was in San Diego (warm weather) versus New York (cold weather).
Either way the cookie crumbles with Cromartie, Tampa should and will make a play for him. It’s the first real story outside of the Lockout Bucs fans can cling onto and follow with passion. At least I’m going to.
Ahhh, football is back.