By RALPH VACCHIANO
If you read the headlines only, the Philadelphia Eagles have owned them during the NFL’s abbreviated offseason. But the truth is they weren’t the only ones making moves. In the wildest, three-week scramble the NFL has ever seen, several teams tried to reinvent themselves quickly.
Many succeeded. Others, not so much.
The results, of course, won’t be known until the regular season begins. For now, though, there are a few offseason decisions that look like blockbusters for the teams that made them. And of course there are a few others that have left many people scratching their heads.
5 BEST OFFSEASON MOVES
Eagles signing CB Nnamdi Asomougha and acquiring CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
They were the surprise winners in the sweepstakes for Asomougha, a four-time Pro Bowler. Getting Rodgers-Cromartie (and a second-round pick) for their backup quarterback was a coup, too. Add that to CB Asante Samuel, and they suddenly have the best CB group in the NFL. And they need it in a division where teams love to send out three receivers and a tight end constantly. Nickel defenses have become the new base. And that’s not a mismatch for the Eagles.
Vikings acquiring Donovan McNabb
They had built their team to win the last two years before Brett Favre was finally finished, so their not ready to rebuild. So better than go with a rookie, they got one of the most underrated quarterbacks in NFL history. Yes, he was a disaster in Washington last year, but a change of scenery just might make him recapture the ability he flashed in Philly as recently as 2009.
Patriots signing DT Albert Haynesworth and WR Chad Ochocinco
Neither fit the Bill Belichick mold, but then again neither did Randy Moss. The combined price for the two was a fifth-round pick and two sixths, which is a steal for a six-time Pro Bowl receiver and a man who was considered the best defensive player in the NFL two years ago. For little risk, the Pats are taking the chance that Belichick can control them. Again, it worked once with Moss.
Texans signing CB Johnathan Joseph and S Danieal Manning
The Texans have been an enigma for years, but there’s no doubt they have enough weapons on offense. What they don’t have is a defense. In fact, they had the worst passing defense in the NFL last season. These two under-the-radar signings will make them a whole lot better, and makes up for the fact that their run at Asomougha failed.
Chiefs signing WR Steve Breaston
They were onto something last year with the high-powered combo of QB Matt Cassel and rejuvenated WR Dwayne Bowe. What they needed, though, was a better second option. Breaston thrived for years as the third option in Arizona, even catching 77 passes for 1,006 yards just three seasons ago. He should thrive as a starter and give Bowe some running room to grow even more.
5 WORST OFFSEASON MOVES
Seahawks not re-signing QB Matt Hasselbeck
They gave WR Sidney Rice a five-year, $41 million deal, TE Zack Miller to a five-year, $34 million contract, and G Robert Gallery to a three-year, $21 million deal … but they couldn’t find a little more money for the quarterback that led them to the playoffs last season? OK, they were only 7-9, but they look like they were loading up for a run this year. But with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback instead?
Redskins trading QB Donovan McNabb
It didn’t work last year and McNabb and coach Mike Shanahan clearly weren’t on the same page. But shame on Shanahan for not making it work. He should know that quarterbacks aren’t simply interchangeable and the idea that they can compete in the NFC East with John Beck or Rex Grossman seems crazy. It looks worse since a year ago they traded a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick to the Eagles to get him. After one bad year, they were only able to get two sixths in return.
Dolphins trading for RB Reggie Bush
It’s not so much the price. The Dolphins only gave up a couple of undisclosed draft picks and a back-up safety. The problem with this is that with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown gone, it appears the Dolphins may try to make Bush their every-down back. Almost everyone in the NFL agrees he’s just not suited for that role. He’s never rushed for more than 581 times in a season or carried the ball more than 157 times. He’s a dynamic player, a terrific receiver and a definite weapon. But he’s never been the push-the-pile type NFL teams need to keep their offenses balanced.
Cowboys not re-signing RB Marion Barber
He broke down in recent years and never lived up to the promise he sometimes flashed. But he was a punishing runner that defenses in the NFC East feared. Felix Jones is now the No. 1 back, and he’s a more explosive player, but no one is convinced he can handle that full role. Plus he’s more flash than power, and that’ll be missed in the Cowboys’ offense. Barber punished defenses and that made him worth keeping around.
Cardinals trading Tim Hightower for Vonnie Holliday
They did a great thing in trading for QB Kevin Kolb, then failed to re-sign WR Steve Breaston and then gave away a talented running back. Beanie Wells is their main guy, but he’s been a huge injury risk. Hightower has been an excellent two-way threat, with 23 rushing touchdowns in the last three years. And they gave him away for a 35-year-old pass rusher who had 2 ½ sacks last year.