Hartings Signed, Tub Kirkland Released (Mar. 8th, '01)
Lions guard Jeff Hartings signed with the Stillers today, agreeing to a six-year, $24.25 million deal that includes a $5.75 million signing bonus.
On one hand, this was a solid deal for the usually-stingy Stillers. Hartings' first year cap number will only be $1.708 million. He supposedly is nimble enough to make some of the plays that Dawson made famous during his heyday. And, it's nice to see the Stillers sign a FA who wasn't a July leftover that nobody else wanted.
Still, there's two sides to every coin, and in this case the other side of the coin isn't terribly shiny.
First off, the difference makers on the OL in the NFL are at TACKLE, not guard. This is why tackles make considerably more money that guards or centers. Remember the last time the Stillers went to the Super Bowl? As I recall, the starting guards were Duvall Love (or Tom Newberry), and Brendan PigStai (or was it Justin Strelyzyk?). None of these men will remotely be considered for any Hall of Fame balloting, nor will Hartings. We invested a #1 draft pick in '98 for Alan Faneca, and thus far his impact has been about as significant as removing a few buckets of water from the Monongahela River.
Secondly, I'm starting to become concerned that Colbert is taking the easy way out by concentrating on his good ol' boy network from Detroit (where Colbert came from) rather than the rest of the NFL. I'm not taking anything away from Hartings�.he does seem solid. However, is he that much better than Everitt? Or Mitchell, the UFA center for Baltimore?
Third, the rest of the NFL was not rushing and frothing to sign Jeff Hartings. Yeah, yeah, he was the #1 rated FA OG, but this is like being rated the #1 pick-setter in basketball or the #1 defensive first-baseman in baseball. It's nice, but isn't the stuff that makes the big impact in the 4th quarter of a must-win game. Who would you rather have at 1B -- Mark McGwire, or the smoothest fielding first baseman around, who hits about 8 HRs per year? Who was the last offensive guard or center to win league MVP or Super Bowl MVP ??
Fourth, we've signed Hartings to play center for our offense. Here's the question: When we face the Ravens, or the Titans or any other AFC team that has done its scouting, what does Hartings do for our offense?? Is his presence alone going to cause defenses to cease placing 8 men at the line of scrimmage? Remember, Dawson was perfectly healthy in '98, and as I recall, we went 7-9 and our ground game sputtered and stunk right from the opening game at Baltimore.
To me, it fully appears that we are going to follow the disastrous blueprint from the past 5 years, and use the draft as a vain attempt to address the teams WEAKEST position, which this year happens to be the defensive line.
In '96, Jackson's departure left us with OT as our weakest link, and we reached and drafted JaLame in round 1.
In '97, massive departures by Woodson, GoFigures, and Williams left us with CB as our weakest link, so we drafted Chad in round 1 and splurged a few nickels to sign Donnell Wolford.
In '98, OG was thin, mostly due to having to move Will Wohlford to OT (primarily because JaLame sucked ass), so we panicked and reached and drafted Faneca in round 1.
In '99, FA losses by Thigpen and then CJ left us with WR as our weakest, so we reached and drafted Troy in round 1.
In '00, our WR corps still stunk, so we selected Plex in round 1.
So, if the pattern remains the same, instead of going out and getting a PROVEN STUD for the weakest position on the team (DE), we're going to use a rookie first rounder -- who most assuredly will rot on the bench -- along with Piss Sullivan and Chris Combs to address this glaring need.
With the sal-cap, it always comes down to opportunity costs. We've shot our wad on the Bettis and Hartings signings, and therefore cannot sign a DE unless he is ignored by the rest of the NFL So, here's what we chose to do: Have Doughboy Bettis at RB, Hartings at center, and Piss Sullivan or Chris Combs at DE. Or, we could have possibly had Huntley and Fu at RB, some solid but unspectacular veteran at center, and a stud like Wiley at DE. Which would you rather have? Before you answer this, think back to BOTH of the Tennessee losses, in which the Titans' QBs had all day to pick apart out defense in the waning minutes of the game�Think back to the Eagles loss, in which McNab had all day in the pocket to bring his team from TEN POINTS down in the closing minutes�.Think back to the Jax loss, when Fred Taylor ran at will�.Think back to the Browns loss, when Couch had all day to pick apart the defense the first 2 possessions of the game. If we had Jeff Hartings in any of those games, do we win? Or, if we had Wiley in any of those games, do we win? Just something to consider.
To pull this signing off, the Stillers had to release Levon "Tub" Kirkland. While this may have been a surprise to the rest of the NFL, anyone who'd read my Offseason Outlook would have seen this as a "must do". Tub Kirkland was costing the team far too much in cap dollars, and giving too little impact in return. He ate up more cap money than any LB in the NFL, and he ate more than any LB, period. The Pittsburgh media spent the last couple of days trying to peddle this ridiculous fable that Tub Kirkland came to camp at 268 last year, which is an outright lie. Despite the coaching staff having sent not one, but TWO assistants down to South Carolina to BABYSIT Tub Kirkland last offseason, The Tub still showed up to camp with a belly rivaled only by Doughboy Bettis. Kirkland wasn't an ounce under 285, and was probably close to 290 or 295. Without question, he'd lost his quickness, speed, and nimbleness that he'd last displayed back in '97. Ironically, he was signed to a fatty contract following that season, and that contract went straight to his belly, just like Fat Joel Steed. For a pro athlete who is also a team captain to bloat into a round mound of blubber, is admittedly a very strong pet peeve of mine. I'm no Charles Atlas nor am I a Michael Johnson, but I've run four marathons and work out regularly in my spare time, and despite drinking a beer (or two!) now and then, I keep in decent shape. For a pro athlete who has NOTHING to do -- except work out for perhaps 2 hours a day -- from January to June (except for mini camp), and allows himself to bloat into a slowpoke fatass is totally inexcusable in my mind, and I won't shed a tear to see Tub Kirkland packing his bags. See ya, Tub!! If the NFL doesn't pan out, there's always the WWF�
The Still Mill