When you think about Michael Jordan, you likely don’t picture him in a Washington Wizards uniform. The same goes for Johnny Unitas in a San Diego Chargers uniform, and of course Babe Ruth wearing a cotton Boston Braves hat, shirt, and pants.
NFL fans will have to get used to seeing something very different in the 2009 season as the Jacksonville Jaguars parted ways with the most popular player in team history, running back Fred Taylor, as did the Colts with future Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison, and the Tampa Bay Bucs with the face of their franchise, linebacker Derrick Brooks.
Fred Taylor is the first of the three veteran stars to find a new home, as he will suit up next year in New England. Taylor offered to restructure his deal to retire as a Jaguar, but the team is in the midst of a youth movement, and they decided to move in a different direction.
Fred Taylor (Getty Images)
“This was a difficult decision to come to, but a decision that had to be made despite how we all feel about Fred,” general manager Gene Smith said. “We all respect and appreciate what Fred has done, and we feel that he can still play in the NFL, but in our current situation we believe this is the right move at this time.”
This move gives Taylor an opportunity to play for a championship, something he’s always longed for.
“Who wouldn’t want to play in New England? They have been the most successful organization in the last decade or so. It feels like a good fit with Tom [Brady], Randy [Moss], Wes Welker, Kevin [Faulk], Laurence [Maroney] and all the other guys. It’s going to be a good fit. And they have great defense that get you the ball back. When you weight all those options, for me it was a no brainer. We got the deal done quick. They said they would and that’s why they are a first class organization that knows how to win. That’s why it’s easy to choose them,” Taylor said when asked about his decision.
As for Marvin Harrison, the decision to part ways had much to do with his enormous $13 million cap number as well as the fact that he dropped from the Colts number one receiver to their second or third option at best. Indy was forced to make a tough business decision, and it will likely end up with fans watching the great #88 wearing different colors.
Marvin Harrison (Getty Images)
“His current cap number is too much for us to afford, given the fact we are up against a cap that has new rules relative to the last capped year which we’re entering,” Colts general manager Bill Polian said. “Essentially, those new rules create difficulty for us. For eleven years we’ve managed the cap and never had a problem with cap issues. Quite honestly, we did not see this day coming soon enough to plan for it. This was not an expected situation.”
As for Derrick Brooks’ situation, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped all four of their December games including the season finale at home against the Oakland Raiders. Just one win would’ve secured them a playoff spot and the late season collapse caused the general manager, Bruce Allen, and the only head coach in franchise history to take them to a Super Bowl, Jon Gruden to be let go. As Tampa moves on with a new regime, Derrick Brooks was one of several Bucs veterans to get the proverbial axe.
Derrick Brooks (Getty Images)
“Our family and the entire Tampa Bay community owe Derrick an indescribable measure of gratitude for all that he has meant over the last 14 years,” said Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer. “His play on the field and leadership in the locker room helped resurrect our franchise and we look forward to celebrating his certain enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
So how can these three franchises part ways with some of the biggest players that defined their recent success? It’s strictly business, and nothing more. Jacksonville is coming off a 5-11 season and Fred Taylor had his second-worst season as a pro. Add in the fact that father time is quickly in pursuit and with a $6 million cap hit, the Jaguars simply had no other choice.
The deal with Marvin Harrison is pretty much the same. Bill Polian admitted that his team was tight against the cap, but they found the room to ink cornerback Kelvin Hayden to a five-year, $43 million deal. The decision was more about Harrison showing some “alligator arms” at times last season and looking two steps slow, and less about Indy’s finances.
Derrick Brooks was still an effective player in 2008, and he was even selected for the Pro Bowl. Still, make no mistake about it, Brooks will be 36 next month and he’s not the same player as he was when the Bucs made their Super Bowl run. Tampa is getting away from the pieces that keyed their mid to late 90’s renaissance and is looking forward.
We’ve already seen Fred Taylor switch teams, and we will likely see Marvin Harrison in a new uniform. Derrick Brooks is receiving some free agent interest, but there’s a pretty good chance that he may retire. Although seeing Taylor in New England blue, and Harrison not in the Colts blue and white, and Brooks in any other uniform than red and pewter may be unnatural, it’s the business of the NFL, and age plays the biggest factor in those business decisions.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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