I've been mulling over writing this ever since I first heard that the Hawks might be interested in trading for Alex Brown, about a half a week ago. I've been reluctant because, heretofore, I thought the trade speculation was a sort of mutual brinkmanship--a game of chicken, if you will, between Brown and the Bears. I still think it's unlikely that Brown leaves the Bears, but, at the very least, the rumor is beginning to gain some momentum. So, let's take a moment to consider the ramifications of this trade.
Brown is one of the least appreciated defensive ends in football. He gets lumped in that deep B-class of defensive ends because he's never recorded top ten or even double digit sacks in a season. For an end, sacks are the money stat. With little variation, the players considered the best ends are the best at recording sacks. Brown set his career high in sacks last season, 7.
What Brown does do, though, is excel in every other facet of the game. He's a plus run-stopper, a mean tackler who forces fumbles (averaging over two per season for his career and 3 the last two seasons), and one of the few defensive lineman who can drop back and play a respectable zone. Brown would presumably take Bryce Fisher's starting spot, with Darryl Tapp moving inside as a situational pass rusher. Fisher is a decent player on the wrong side of thirty. He could be a competent right end, he could be a complete cipher and require benching. Replacing him isn't the Hawks' most pressing need, but Brown would be a sizable upgrade over the Captain.
As I've discussed before, late first and early to mid second round picks represent the best value in the draft. However you spin it, trading a second round pick for Brown would be mortgaging the future/playing to win now. Brown is 28, at the back-end of a defensive ends' prime. By all indications, he would be a difference maker for the Hawks, but in three years he would be one more past their prime player on what could be one of the oldest and likely worst teams in football.
The Hawks, as they are now, are Super Bowl contenders. Not favorites, but contenders. The Hawks with Alex Brown are one step closer. It's a small step, one that won't make-up for major injury or severe decline by a handful of indispensable players, but one that could help a defense that I already think is fringe top ten become one of the NFL's best. Strictly speaking, two years of Alex Brown's best is not worth a second round pick, but Seattle's window is closing and rapidly. By 2010, Walter Jones, Matt Hasselbeck, Patrick Kerney, Julian Peterson, Deon Grant and Shaun Alexander will all likely be retired, second-stringers or a shell of themselves. 2007, 2008 are Seattle's last best chances to win a Super Bowl. Brown improves that chance.
The best way to run any franchise is to balance young and veteran talent. Creating a perennial contender that, when things break right, gets hot at the right time, whathaveyou, can make a Super Bowl run. The Hawks are old. Talented, but old. While certain young players have intrigued with their potential and many are valuable role players, the core of this team, the championship core that makes Seattle a true contender, is nearing their collective end. The end of contention, perhaps the end of respectability. When they go, Alex Brown or no, Seattle will enter a pretty serious rebuilding phase that might last a few seasons. In 2010, that second round pick might be missed, he could be a player that helps Seattle make a run at .500, but no one in these parts will be talking Super Bowl. So, come on Ruskell, get this one done. You've made it clear by trading a first round pick for Deion Branch, by signing a 31 y/o defensive end and a 28 y/o safety, that the Hawks are in "Win Now, Fuck All that Follows" mode; get Brown, win now and be a hero to Hawk fans forever.