It seems every year about this time, the Washington Redskins are either in some sort of turmoil or they are already looking forward to spending large amounts lot of money on flashy free agents in the coming spring, or both. I've heard the comment multiple times on sports talk radio that the Redskins win the free agent championship every March, but they never win a football championship on the field in the fall. And, except for an occasional limp into the playoffs, that fact has been true since Dan Snyder purchased the team.
There's no need to recount the many free agent signings and bad trade busts the Redskins have made during the Snyder regime. (Plus, I don't have the time to write a blog entry the supposed length of the Redskins 200,000 person season ticket waiting list.) But, it easy to assess the Redskins' basic problem, especially in comparison to the teams that are competitive on a year to year basis. Teams like the Steelers, the Patriots and, yes, the Philadelphia Eagles.
These organizations continue to build the core of their team through player scouting, the draft and player development. Then, these teams use an occasional big name signing to help them take the final step toward a deep run in the playoffs (e.g. the Patriots signing of Randy Moss). While the Redskins continue wallow away in the glitz of free agent signings, trading away mid round draft picks for busts, and drafting flash over substance in the early rounds of the draft (two WRs in the 2008 draft), teams such as the Eagles are scouting colleges at every leval and in every area of the country and signing players like Akeem Jordan.
The Philadelphia Eagles signed LB Akeem Jordan in the days following the 2007 NFL Draft as undrafted free agent rookie out of James Madison. Jordan made the Eagles' roster at the end of training camp, but days later was cut by the team and then signed to their practice squad. Jordan remained on the Eagles' practice squad for the the first half of the 2007 season, earning the practice squad salary of $5000 per week.
When the Eagles' linebacking corps was decimiated by injuries in the second half of the 2007 season, Jordan was promoted to the active roster. He immediately exceled on special teams and, because of even more Eagles injuries, he was starting at outside linebacker by the final game of the season.
Jordan made the the Eagles' 2008 roster as the Eagles' fourth linebacker and as a speacial teams standout. During mid-season, Eagles coach And Reid and Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson decided to shake things up in their defense and benched starter Omar Gaither in favor of the quicker Akeem Jordan. Jordan has started since then and should start Sunday as the Eagles take on the Cardinals for the NFC Championship.
Now, obvisously one linebacker from a Division I-AA school, making the league minimum salary, is not the reason the Eagles have a top three defense this year and are competitive most every year. But, when you team Jordan with two mid round draft picks at the other linebacker spots, you begin to see a trend. The Eagles also start Chris Gocong and Stewart Bradley at linebacker. Gocong and Bradley were both 3rd round draft picks in 2006. Bradley was drafted out of Nebraska, while Gocong came from Caly Poly-SLO, of all places.
On the surface, when and where a player comes from may all seem irrelevant. But, when you dig into the financial and salary cap aspects of it, it's an entirely different ball game. The 2008 base salaries for the Eagles starting LB corp are:
Stewart Bradley $370,000
Chris Gocong $445,000
Akeem Jordan $370,000
The total you ask? As Big Enos Burdette once said in Smokey and the Bandit, "chicken sh*t money" of $1,185,000.
Meanwhile, Dan Snyder, who thinks himself to be the Big Enos Burdette of the NFL (I guess that makes Vinny Cerrato Little Enos), is paying the Redskins' linebackers base salaries of:
Marcus Washington $4,4250,000
London FLetcher $1,240,000
Rocky McIntosh $445,000
Those total base salaries of $6,110,00, bought the Redskins one certified bad a** (Flectcher), one nice guy who is on his last leg...literally (Washington), and a young player who was benched mid game during a loss to the Bengals (McIntosh).
The comparison of the two teams linebacking corps is even more shocking where the rubber meets the road, the salary cap. The Eagles trio of LBs comes in at:
Stewert Bradley $541,000
Chris Gocong $644,630
Akeem Jordan $1,476,360
Even with Jordan receiving other bonuses, which are not signing bonuses, the Eagles cap number is $2,661,990.
Out at Redskins Park, Big and Little Enos Burdette had to work out the salary cap issues with a linebacking group who had these cap numbers:
Marcus Washington $6,445,416
London Fletcher $3,440,000
Rocky McIntosh $ 1,520,000
That's a not so chicken sh*t total of $11,405416, or over four times the salary cap charge the Eagles are taking for their three starting LBs.
So Redskins fans, feel free to brood over the reality that is the Snyder led Redskins as you watch Akeem Jordan from "little James Madison" (as John Madden used to say about Gary Clark) play in his first NFC championship game. And, try to forget the Eagles are playing in their fifth NFC championship game since 2001.