(Update: Okay, rather than repeat myself for the sake of a new post, let’s flesh this one out. Updated points indicated with a "U".)
Best use for the tag possible and hopefully an inroads to re-signing Tru long term. I'll do a full writeup tomorrow as it's approaching my bed time (I work at UPS in the very early mornings), but before I brush my teethe and so forth let me throw down some bullet points.
- Trufant just turned 27 and is therefore in the prime of his career. Corners, top corners, last into their early thirties before they see significant drop-off in ability. Tru is exactly the type of free agent you want to sign: Young, accomplished, classy and local.
- Much has been made of Trufant's bustout season before entering free agency. Given the nature of the NFL, and the huge amount of power held by ownership rather than by the players, the so-called, and weakly supported, contract year push is not a huge factor in a player's performance. Professional athletes are ultra-competitive, most and certainly the best work their butts off because that's who they are as men.
U (Let’s examine the contract year breakout: We’ll limit this to skill position players, because their performance is easy to chart. I compared all WRs, TEs and RBs from this list who were unrestricted free agents after the 2007 season. I then removed any player who did not chart DPAR in either 2006 or 2007. I marked whether the remaining 24's DPAR improved or declined, and then found the net average change for all 24.
Net, average DPAR change: 0.93
Ditto, minus Randy Moss: -1.23
No evidence of a contract year push.)
- A better argument for Tru's 2007 breakout is the huge improvement in the talent around him. Corners are typically among the slowest developing players in the NFL, so if we look at 2005-2007 as the seasons where Tru could have realistically broke out, we see that in the 2005-2006 seasons he played opposite such cover luminaries as: Kelly Herndon, Jordan Babineaux, Micheal Boulware and to a lesser extent Ken Hamlin. Because Tru was Seattle's only premiere cover DB, the coaches frequently put him on an island and, predictably, quarterbacks targeted the isolated man.
U (It’s one thing to retroactively say that Trufant was able succeed because of the improved talent around him, but this was predictable and, in fact, predicted:Seattle's secondary has a chance to be very good next year. Kelly Jennings looks fit to take over the #2 cornerback duties, the upshot lands us a very capable nickel in Herndon. Grant shores up a huge hole deep, and if he's as excellent as rumored, Boulware should be allowed to free lance closer to the line (his strength). And Trufant will no longer have to be Champ Bailey on a secondary full of misplaced role players. Barring injury, Seattle has finally given Trufant a chance to succeed, and with him our secondary.
- The big breakthrough in ability for Trufant was his ability to play the ball. Tru has long been an exceptional cover corner, but his developing ability to play the ball, without breaking coverage, has propelled him near the ranks of the elite.
- This last season I would have given Trufant the Hawks defensive MVP.
U (Calling Trufant the team’s defensive MVP is both a reflection of his contributions and the team’s lack of depth at corner. As-is, losing Trufant would move Jennings to #1, and barring a healthy Josh Wilson, Jordan Babineaux to the #2. That would cripple Seattle’s secondary. Babs and Brian Russell would form a tandem forged in the pen-blackest recesses of my nightmares. Corners take a long time to develop, so even if Seattle drafted a top talent, they’d be starting again at square one. An optimistic scenario would have "theoretical drafted corner" suck for a season or two and then develop into a player almost as good as Tru. Retaining Trufant was about holding onto a strength AND preventing a weakness.)
I'm overjoyed with this signing. He's a good open field tackler, a great cover corner who may just be tapping his ball skills and a quality individual. With him, a developing Kelly Jennings, Deon Grant, a healthy Josh Wilson and hopefully a replacement for Brian Russell, Seattle has the makings of a formidable secondary and possibly the best defense in football.
U (Finally, word is that the Hawks and Trufant are worlds apart in contract talks. I understand Tim Ruskell’s desire to talk Tru down to the lowest mutually agreed upon figure, but let’s be clear: A Nathan Vasher contract, 5/28, is not happening. Nor should it. If Ruskell is determined to create his own version of the Tampa-2 in Seattle, and therefore doesn’t wish to employ elite cover corners, than Tru is better signing somewhere that does. Drafting Kelly Jennings is a very strong indication that Seattle is not and does not intend to institute a true Tampa-2. Jennings is a pure man corner, he may learn to play zone, but he’s not a run stopper, and his ball skills are undeveloped. Likewise, Nate Clements contract may be equally as unrealistic. I hope and expect the two sides to figure out something that pays Tru like the top corner that he is, but isn’t fiscally retarded.)