It is only the middle of June, but news from the NFL is starting to make its way into the sports headlines. Logan Mankins looks like he is on his way out of New England. Darrelle Revis is throwing a hissy fit about his contract heading into his fourth year with the Jets and and Chris Johnson is not happy in Tennessee. Vince Young continues to hallowed tradition of Titans getting frisky at strip clubs.
Then there is Albert Haynesworth.
The big man is not happy in the nation’s capital. New head coach Mike Shanahan wants him to be a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. Haynesworth’s agent says that the defensive tackle would have never agreed to sign his $100 million free agent contract with the Redskins if that was ever going to be the case.
That is a gargantuan pile of steaming dung.
Haynesworth signed the largest contract for a player at his position in the history of the NFL. He signed it within minutes of the free agency period opening which was a fishy move by Washington in the first place considering that it was technically not allowed to negotiate with him before free agency started.
Granted, when Haynesworth is a motivated, happy player he is one of the truly ascendant talents that has come through any NFL defensive line at any time. The problem is that Haynesworth is never really happy. He is like the Terrell Owens of defensive lineman – happy in the honeymoon but when the good vibes wear off he is just another grumpy prima dona.
Now, what does this have to do with fantasy football?
I am of the opinion that it is still too early for me to start crafting my draft strategies. The reason for that is because there will continue to be stories like this for the next month until rosters settle down and the full landscape of the league has a clearer picture.
The Redskins had the 10th ranked total defense last season (8th pass, 16th run) and were 18th in points against at 21 per game. It was not a defense that was all that draft worthy and most teams projected that go 4-12 usually are not worthy fantasy options. Yet, there were reasons for optimism on the defensive side going into last year, mostly because of the addition of Haynesworth. LaRon Landry, DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rodgers gave them some decent players in the secondary and if Haynesworth could help stop the run the way he did with Tennessee then there was some significant potential.
Sans Haynesworth, the Redskins look like they are in trouble … again. Maake Kemoeatu is not on the same type of level and general manager Bruce Allen will have his hands tied with available options going forward.
The most interesting aspect of Haynesworth’s actions is who the potential suitors may be. If this all works out the way the defensive tackle hopes (traded to a contender with a 4-3 base) then the loss for the Redskins is an equal or greater benefit to his next team. There are rumors that the Vikings are kicking the tires and if that were to go through then it would be interesting to see the 6th ranked total defense (2nd run, 19th pass) add a potential beast to an already dynamic unit. Haynesworth could make more room for Jared Allen who was second in the league last year with 14.5 sacks and help an ailing secondary by putting more pressure on the quarterback.
Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys would love to stick it to Washington by acquiring Haynesworth, even if the rivalry is a little empty these days considering how bad the Redskins have been. The Cowboys had the 9th best defense last year (4th run, 20th pass) and were second in the league at 15.6 points per game. Haynesworth probably would not like to play in the Cowboys’ 3-4 but perhaps DeMarcus Ware could shift to the outside on the defensive line in a realigned 4-3 to accommodate the Haynesworth.
Baltimore is probably all set with their defense, as usual and there is no telling which way Ray Lewis falls on the Haynesworth-as-potential-teammate subject. New England just dealt with a disgruntled Adalius Thomas and for the first time in a long time had locker rooms issues, so it is probably out. San Francisco has the potential to play a 4-3 and has a recent history of dealing with disgruntled personalities (hello Michael Crabtree).
A case could be made for or against every team in the league. The broader point that Haynesworth brings up though is that, even though it is only June and defense is often a minor fantasy concern, it is never too early to start planning your strategy. The guys who win their fantasy leagues year after year are the ones who are paying attention to news from mini-camps and contracts in June.
Dan Rowinski is a Fantasy Baseball Columnist for Rotoinfo.com. If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at Dan_Rowinski.