One of my and Mrs. Ty's guiltiest pleasures is watching late-night crime reality shows, like Forensics Files. One of the many such shows beamed into my home from low orbit is called "The First 48", and its premise is that a homicide detective's chances of solving a case are cut in half if he or she can't pull it together in the first 48 hours. The show then breathlessly follows a team of law enforcement agents from the time a homicide is reported, all the way through the first 48 hours of the investigation. I have no idea if the quoted statistic is true or not, but as I sit at the computer tonight, just minutes before the first 48 hours of free agency draw to a close, I can't help but note the parallels.
In the days leading up to free agency, there's a wierd period of a few days where agents and players and teams are all doing an intricate dance, feeling each other out, hush-hush, while publicly saying nothing. Why? Because, of course, the league forbids any such contact until the clock strikes midnight at the end of the league year, and the free-agents-to-be become actual free agents. Usually, there are rumblings about who might be headed where, but this year the 'tampering' escalated to unignorable levels. This year's biggest fish, Albert Haynesworth--a man who many Lions fans were hoping would take less to rejoin The Grandmaster up here--was reported to be off the market three days before there was even supposed to be a market.
Many Lions fans and observers were irrationally hoping that the Lions would be making a big splash in the early hours, depsite repeated quotes from the men in charge that that wouldn't be happening. Don't ask me why the Lions blogologue exploded with hate when there were no new signings as of noon on Friday; this was all foretold well in advance. I honestly wonder who, besides Haynesworth, people were expecting the Lions to break the bank for? However, soon there were rumblings of a coming meeting with WR Nate Washington and RB Derrick Ward, and--yes!--OG Derrick Dockery. Then came the first slap in the face: News surfaced that Mayhew had brokered a deal with Carolina for CB Ken Lucas--but Lucas immediately nixed it, saying he wouldn't report if he was traded to the Lions. As I said at the time, those of you out there rooting for 0-16, well, the weed of crime bears bitter fruit, you old hag.
I was both thrilled to hear this--the Lions are moving swiftly to address what I percieve to be the most glaring need, with a player I've long admired!--and crestfallen: they couldn't do it because dude would rather not play than play here. It was right then that I realized how far uphill Martin Mayhew had to go. Still, he filled one need (#2 RB/third down back) with the signing of Maurice Morris, and with Derrick Dockery and Nate Washington in town, I thought we had a great chance of plugging all our biggest holes on offense--save QB--without breaking the bank or giving up anything in a trade. As I left work, I was bouyed by the notion that Mayhew saw all the holes, that he was filling the ones he could responsibly fill responsibly, and appeared to be patching up the offense and preparing to raze the defense and rebuild it from scratch.
Imagine my suprise when I turned on my radio and heard Brian VanOchten, of the Grand Rapids Press, on Bill Simonson's "Huge" show, spewing ignorant, exasperated tripe about how the lack of a splashy signing meant it was the "same old Lions". Odd, but I seem to remember Matt Millen making a while lot of splashy free agent signings that amounted to precisely jack and squat over eight long, painful years of failure. No, I think Mayhew's initial approach--the exact one he said he'd take from the get-go--was the right one.
Oh, but just because he didn't make a splashy free-agent sign, didn't mean he wasn't about to make waves. News broke that the Dockery "free agent visit" was actually part of an accidentally unconsummated trade (gee, thanks Buffalo!), resulting in Dockery returning to the team that drafted him, the Redskins--who, somehow, still had some money left? Undeterred, Mayhew managed to work a stunner of a deal in his third attempt. He dealt Jon Kitna to the Cowboys for--at least--CB Anthony Henry, a legit veteran starting cornerback. Admittedly, he's coming off a down year, but he's still an enormous upgrade over Travis Fisher as a #1 CB. Mayhew also filled some depth with WR Bryant Johnson, who would make an okay inurance policy if neither Nate Washington nor T.J. Houshmandzadeh will sign here--and an awesome #3 if one of them does sign. He also addressed CB depth and the lack of specialized special teamers by signing ex-Titan CB Eric King.
Finally, we come to the real whiz-bang deal of the evening: hot on the heels of the reports of Matt Cassel being traded to the Chiefs, several sources reported that the Lions had dangled a "flip this house" scenario to the Broncos: We'll get you Matt Cassell if you'll give us Jay Cutler. First of all, the fact that this even reached the dicussion stage should put to rest any visions some had of a diaper-clad Martin Mayhew, sitting in a high chair at the Big Boy table, crying for his mama because widdle ole him don't know what ta do. Second of all, trading for Cassell--to flip him for Jay Cutler?!? Not only would our quarterback picture have gone from one of the gloomiest to one of the brightest (Cutler the starter, Culpepper the veteran backup, Stanton the project), the proposed chain of trades would have been plain crazy, as would have been the press coverage and fan reaction. Crazier still is this: the fact that the deal was even discussed at all infurated Cutler--to the point where he is referring to his Broncos career in the past tense to the Denver media. The latest as the "first 48" come to a close? That the deal may not be dead, and the Lions may still be in the hunt.
What's the verdict? In the matter of Lions Fans versus Martin Mayhew, on one count of being a real NFL GM, me the jury finds the defendant guilty. Mystery solved.