NFL has infusion of fresh subplots after wild day of trading


METAIRIE, La. -- There are coaches who can't tolerate certain types of athletes, figuring they're uncoachable; whether they're lazy, insubordinate or simply not of the proper character, despite their ability and on-field production. Then, there are coaches who think they can turn water into wine, taking the troubled souls others have failed to save and making something out of nothing.

The NFL free agency cycle is in full effect, with teams and players agreeing to terms fast as training camps open. Get the latest on all the news right here.

Bill Belichick is the latter. In fewer than 20 hours, he traded a throwaway fifth-round pick to Washington for defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and he acquired wide receiver Chad Ochocinco from Cincinnati. This, mind you, after he used a third-round pick to draft Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, who had so much baggage that teams repeatedly passed on him in the draft, despite him having the biggest arm and possibly the most adaptable skill set to play in the NFL.

In the most incredible day of post-lockout/pre-football roster re-tooling, we saw four blockbuster trades that, at the very least, showed a fearlessness of teams to expose themselves to ridicule at the risk of building Super Bowl-contending teams.

Besides the two deals made by New England, Arizona gave up a second-round pick and a Pro Bowl cornerback for Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb. The Saints sent game-breaking running back/returner Reggie Bush to Miami for a backup safety and a future draft pick.

Bold? Yes. Necessary? Yes.

Ochocinco, Haynesworth to New England

Had the Bengals made these moves the Patriots pulled off on Thursday, we'd simply be shaking our heads and saying it's typical for a franchise known for harboring red-flagged players and not winning with them. Since Belichick did it, though, we're giving him the deserved benefit of the doubt. He got something out of running back Corey Dillon in 2004 and took supposedly done wide receiver Randy Moss off Oakland's hands and watched him re-develop into one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.

Ochocinco could have the same type of late-career spike that Moss did. He can still run and make plays, and he's tough. Sure, he's a look-at-me guy but he'll have to wait until the offseason to preen (and maybe Tweet). That's not how things go in New England. Upon arrival, players don't have to be told to check their egos and hubris. They know. Nobody is bigger than the team and the only individuals who get a pass are Tom Brady and Belichick.

Haynesworth is another story. His new teammates will try to hold him accountable but motivation is the issue. If he wants to play, he's a beast, but his behavior in Washington last season wasn't an aberration. He had a lot of the same issues in Tennessee, where not many tears were shed when he signed his big free-agent deal with the Redskins.

There's little doubt Belichick consulted with Lions coach Jim Schwartz, a good friend and Haynesworth's defensive coordinator with the Titans, and got guidelines on what works with the defensive tackle. Haynesworth could thrive on a team with such structure and accountability, and once again be viewed as one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL.

The issues are the ifs.

Kolb to Cardinals

I covered the Falcons when Matt Schaub showed just enough in the preseason and in relief of Michael Vick to garner two second-round picks and a hefty contract from the Houston Texans in 2007. There was little doubt in anyone's mind that Schaub was going to be good; he just needed the reps.

Kolb is in a similar situation, except there are a lot more doubts. The Cards gave up a hefty ransom to acquire him, but that's what teams have to do to get a starting quarterback. If the Cardinals didn't give up what they did, they would be in the same situation it was last season when they went through three ineffective quarterbacks and finished last in the NFC West. I salute them their bold move.

Whether Kolb turns out to be Schaub, we'll see. Having Larry Fitzgerald will help. He's got a lot of what the Cardinals need on offense, including leadership skills. He's got some proving to do but the move shouldn't be bashed. Anyone who saw the type of team Arizona had last season understands that Kolb's an upgrade at quarterback.

The Eagles got rich, that's for sure. Rodgers-Cromartie is a solid cover guy but he's not a big tackler. Philadelphia is going to have to be sturdy at outside linebacker and safety to make up for the lack of punch it'll have at corner when it comes to tackling in the open field.

And as for replacing Kolb, the Eagles landed Vince Young Thursday evening. Not a bad day's work.

Another Bush in Florida

New Orleans' hand was forced when Bush opted not to reduce his salary to remain with the team. Miami's hand also was forced somewhat because it knew if the Saints cut Bush, he'd have enough suitors on the open market that he could have gotten away.

Credit Bush's agent, Joel Segal, for helping broker this. He worked out a reduced contact for Bush to leave New Orleans while keeping things amicable enough with the team so he'll keep things smooth for his rookie client, Mark Ingram. It was the Saints' drafting of Ingram that made Bush expendable in the first place.

Miami should get from Bush what the Saints did: a big-play threat who presents offensive mismatches. He's also a standout punt returner. His durability and availability are the keys. The Dolphins also don't have to trick themselves into thinking Bush is going to be a tough inside runner. It's not what he is. Belichick might be able to turn Haynesworth into a Pro Bowler again but nobody is going to turn Bush into Maurice Jones-Drew.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.



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