NFC West: Jeff Feagles
Often, they are right.
When they're wrong, the money they saved seems trivial in retrospect.
The Seattle Seahawks went through quite a few punters and snappers after letting Jeff Feagles and J.P. Darche get away years ago. They're taking a risk this offseason after watching kicker Olindo Mare agree to terms with Carolina on Wednesday. Mare set a franchise record for consecutive field goal attempts without a miss after then-coach Jim Mora ripped him for an "unacceptable" performance against Chicago.
Mare has made 88.0 percent of his field goal attempts over the last three seasons, the third-highest percentage among players with at least 20 attempts. Only Neil Rackers (90.7) and Ryan Longwell (90.0) have higher conversion rates during that time, according to Pro Football Reference.
Rackers' appearance atop that list affirms the first sentence of this blog entry. The Cardinals parted with Rackers and came out just fine with Jay Feely.
One other consideration: Mare has been strong on kickoffs, but strong legs might carry less value now that the league has moved up kickoffs to the 35-yard line. As Mare told Dave Mahler of Sports Radio 950 AM in Seattle via Brian McIntyre, the change should extend careers for kickers.
This made it easy to see which agents had the most projected UFA clients, and how many starts those clients averaged in 2009.
The result is the chart below. Drew Rosenhaus has more than 100 clients across the league, more than any agent. The NFL lists 15 of them on its projected UFA list, including Terrell Owens and three NFC West players (Randy McMicahel, Anthony Becht and Olindo Mare).
Agents Peter Schaffer and Brian Mackler are next on the list with seven projected UFA clients apiece, but no agent with at least four players listed can match Tony Agnone for players with lots of 2009 starts. Agnone's list features 16-game starters Casey Rabach, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Bobbie Williams, plus seven-game starter Michael Gaines.
The NFL has no agents listed for Phillip Daniels, Tully Banta-Cain, Leigh Bodden, Mike Furrey, Damion Cook, Tank Johnson and Matt Ware.
Jeff Feagles, Jeff Zgonina, Daunte Culpepper, Paul Spicer, Clinton Hart and Vernon Fox are listed as representing themselves.
Lee had more punts than any other NFC West punter during the decade. He put up good numbers despite working in windy conditions at Candlestick Park. And with two Pro Bowls on his résumé, Lee was an easy choice.
I narrowed the field of candidates by looking only at punters who spent at least three seasons with division teams during the decade.
Jeff Feagles, the Seahawks' punter from 1999 through 2002, ranked second even though his gross and net averages lagged relative to others on the list.
The most effective punters aren't always the ones with the best yardage-based averages. They succeed in tough conditions and flourish indoors. They dictate field position in crucial situations. They minimize returns.
Feagles was the best directional punter I've seen. His stats for percentage of punts returned, punts downed inside the 20 and touchback percentage closed the gap with those on the list boasting superior yardage-based averages.
The Rams' Donnie Jones is an excellent punter worthy of consideration. The fact that he plays home games indoors affects how others view him. I think that partially explains why Jones hasn't been to a Pro Bowl yet.
Note that stats in the chart reflect contributions made only while playing for NFC West teams from 2000 to 2009. More all-decade stuff here.
Adrian Wilson ranks first in fan balloting among strong safeties. Antrel Rolle ranks second behind the Saints' Darren Sharper among free safeties.
Those are among the revelations upon looking at Pro Bowl balloting through Monday. Voting is ongoing here.
Among the other highlights, with emphasis on the NFC West:
- The Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald leads NFC receivers while ranking fifth among all players from the conference. Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre are ahead of him.
- No quarterback from the NFC West ranks among the top five.
- The 49ers' Frank Gore ranks third among NFC running backs, with the Rams' Steven Jackson fifth. Peterson and the Falcons' Michael Turner rank ahead of Gore. The Panthers' DeAngelo Williams ranks fourth.
- The 49ers' Vernon Davis ranks third among NFC tight ends. The Falcons' Tony Gonzalez and the Saints' Jeremy Shockey rank ahead of him.
- The Cardinals' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ranks fourth among NFC cornerbacks behind the Eagles' Asante Samuel, the Vikings' Antoine Winfield and the Packers' Charles Woodson.
- The 49ers' Patrick Willis ranks first among NFC inside linebackers.
- The 49ers' Andy Lee ranks fifth among NFC punters. Former Cardinals and Seahawks punter Jeff Feagles ranks first.
- Speaking of former NFC West players, the Vikings' Steve Hutchinson ranks first among NFC guards. The Eagles' Leonard Weaver ranks second among NFC fullbacks. The Cowboys' Allen Rossum ranks fifth among NFC kickoff returners.
- The Cardinals' Darnell Dockett ranks fourth among NFC defensive tackles behind the Vikings' Pat Williams and Kevin Williams and the Redskins' Albert Haynesworth.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams plan to conduct a full coaching search after the season. Interim coach Jim Haslett will be one of the candidates. Expect Billy Devaney to lead the search. Expect Jay Zygmunt to step down. Expect John Shaw to serve as a consultant without direct involvement in the process.
Also from Thomas: A chat transcript featuring his take on ball-hawking Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe. Thomas: "I'm not saying he's Ronnie Lott. I'd still like to see him be more consistent in coverage, and do better with open field tackling. But he's pretty good. Playmakers are hard to find. He's a very hard worker. And I think he remains an ascending player."
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch feels like doing the "Electric Slide across the kitchen table" upon hearing that football people will lead the Rams' search for a new coach.
Roger Hensley of stltoday.com polls Post-Dispatch reporters for likely Rams coaching candidates. Thomas points to Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Bill Coats of Around the Horns points to statistics in saying Rams punter Donnie Jones should have made the Pro Bowl over the Giants' Jeff Feagles. I could make a case for either punter, but statistical comparisons can be tricky for punters kicking in vastly different conditions.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers legend Bryant Young endorses Mike Singletary as the team's coach beyond this season.
Also from Brown: Coaches and players around the league have quickly come to respect 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, named to his second Pro Bowl in two NFL seasons. Vikings coach Brad Childress once referred to Willis as a "rolling ball of butcher knives." Bengals receiver Chad Johnson called him "Bam Bam" for hitting everything in sight.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the Willis wasn't expecting Pro Bowl recognition this season.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals field their most Pro Bowl selections since the 1977 season.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Adrian Wilson will continue wearing No. 2 instead of his usual No. 24 in practice to remind himself he needs to keep working if he wants to be the best. Wilson is headed to the Pro Bowl for the second time in three seasons.
Mark Heller of the East Valley Tribune says Larry Fitzgerald is the first Cardinals player since Aeneas Williams to appear in back-to-back Pro Bowls.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Walter Jones passed Cortez Kennedy for most Pro Bowl selections by a Seahawks player.
Also from Farnsworth: Signing Jeff Rowe gives the Seahawks four quarterbacks heading into the offseason.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Five former NFC West players earned Pro Bowl recognition with their current teams. A sixth, former Ram Kurt Warner, went with the Cardinals.
That nearly matches the current NFC West total -- seven -- for players headed to the Pro Bowl following this season.
Three former Seahawks earned spots. Kevin Mawae, now with the Titans, is the starting center for the AFC. The Vikings' Steve Hutchinson, chosen 17th overall by Seattle in 2001, is a starting guard for the NFC. Former Seahawks punter Jeff Feagles will wear a Giants helmet while representing the NFC. All three left Seattle over financial and/or contractual issues.
Jets running back Thomas Jones, chosen seventh overall by the Cardinals in 2000, will start for the AFC. Cowboys guard Leonard Davis, chosen second overall by the Cardinals in 2001, will represent the NFC as a backup.
Do we know of any other newly named Pro Bowl players with NFC West roots?
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
With 38-year-old Jeff Robinson on the field at Seahawks practice today, the team's special-teams situation is back to snap one. Robinson filled in at snapper for the Seahawks last season. The team needs him again now that rookie draft choice Tyler Schmitt is out for the season.
The Seahawks took great efforts to upgrade their running game this offseason. They have built depth on defense.
But with 11 days until the season opener, the special teams remain unsettled. Robinson is apparently the snapper (Tim Lindsey has handled snapping duties with Schmitt sidelined). Olindo Mare and Brandon Coutu are battling for the kicking job. Ryan Plackemeier and Reggie Hodges are battling for the punting job.
Meanwhile, former snapper J.P. Darche, former punter Jeff Feagles and former kicker Josh Brown carry on elsewhere. Special-teams issues can cost teams victories. We saw it happen famously in Seattle before Mike Holmgren arrived and we saw it happen to Seattle last season.
The Seahawks have gotten a lot of things right in the last few seasons, but some of their special-teams decisions haven't worked out as planned.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Seahawks re-signed long snapper Tim Lindsey at the expense of defensive back Eric Wicks, a seemingly minor move with significantly broader implications.
Every team faces injury problems during camp, but the Seahawks are worse off than any team in the division. Punter Ryan Plackemeier is practicing on a limited basis, but his surgically repaired pectoral has not yet been ready for games.
The team still hasn't declared a winner between kickers Olindo Mare and Brandon Coutu, so both remain on the roster. Lindsey was re-signed because the team's only other snapper, Tyler Schmitt, is out with back trouble. A back injury already forced the team's reserve short snapper, guard Chris Gray, into retirement.
What it means: Seattle is carrying six specialists, tied with New Orleans and Tennessee for the league high. The Seahawks are carrying only eight linebackers, 12 defensive backs and four tight ends. Each of those figures is tied for the league low. Only six teams are carrying fewer running backs than Seattle (the Seahawks have six, and one of them, starting fullback Leonard Weaver, is resting a strained hamstring).
How has this happened? Bad luck with injuries, for starters. The Seahawks also bear some of the responsibility. They weren't able to re-sign kicker Josh Brown, leading to the Coutu-Mare race.
They had a perfectly good snapper in J.P. Darche, but they didn't want him back in free agency. Years ago, they let durable punter Jeff Feagles leave in free agency to save a few hundred thousand dollars. Feagles has subsequently set the NFL record for consecutive games played, collecting a Super Bowl ring along the way.