Donte Stallworth to the Lions?

>> 2.10.2010

Those of you who have paid attention to my Twitter feed over the past year are well acquainted with my views on Michael Vick: he spent years as the architect, orchestrator, and Don of an empire of animal cruelty, animal murder, and illicit gambling.  After a six-year career filled with inconsistency, poor attitude, and bad decisions, in my mind he’d lost his privilege to play professional football.

Imagine my surprise when, upon Vick’s release, I heard the phrase “Vick deserves a second chance” about four hundred and seventy-two million times in the span of a few weeks.  On what planet?

Besides being a serial perpetrator of disgusting, torturous, brutal, soulless federal felonies, and patron of the attendant gambling rings, Vick flatly denied responsibility for his crimes, telling bald-faced lies to police and federal agents.  In fact, he only admitted guilt when multiple co-conspirators flipped on him.  As if his contempt for our justice system was in doubt, he made it plain by testing positive for marijuana while out on bond between his plea and sentencing.

Until he actually did time in Leavenworth, he never “got it”.  Even then, his first attempt to satisfy his creditors through bankruptcy court was essentially “I get to keep everything, and once I get back in the NFL I’ll pay you all back”. 

Meanwhile, Donte Stallworth, a wide receiver drafted in the first round by the Saints, recently of the Browns and currently a free agent, killed a man while driving drunk.  While Vick served 19 months in federal prison, Stallworth served only 24 days in jail.  The outcry over this disparity became the most tired ‘take’ since . . . well, since “Mike Vick deserves a second chance”. 

It's true, Stallworth was driving after having had one or two too many.  It’s also true that he hit someone with his Bentley, and that person died.  However, surveillance video that captured the accident apparently showed the victim jaywalking directly into Stallworth’s path, and Stallworth’s car simply unable to avoid him.

Florida law states that in order to convict a person of DUI manslaughter, the prosecution has to prove that the alcohol was a factor—i.e., that the accident wouldn’t have happened if the accused was stone cold sober.  However, the existence of the video tape prevented such a conviction; apparently the video makes it plain that there was little Stallworth could have done.

Moreover, everyone on-scene agrees that Stallworth stopped immediately after the accident, called 911, cooperated fully, accepted full responsibility, apologized to the family, and has since shown nothing but regret, remorse, and sorrow for what he did.  He made a mistake; he is not a monster.  THAT is a man who “deserves” a second chance.

Though I usually have a N.I.M.B.Y attitude towards players with attitude problems, and Stallworth’s career has so far not justified his first-round draft status, I feel a perverse sense of pride that it’ll be the Lions to give Stallworth his first crack at a second chance.

In pure football terms, the signing makes excellent sense.  The Lions desperately need a field-stretcher to pair with Megatron; a second fiddle with deep speed.  Of course, Stallworth has never possessed reliable hands, nor exceptional route-running ability—but they don’t need him to possess either of those traits.

All the Lions really need is a WR who presents a physical mismatch for a #2 corner, and Stallworth can fit that bill.  He should come cheaply—and even if he can’t beat out Bryant Johnson for the #2 role, he’s an unquestionable talent upgrade over Dennis Northcutt, Derrick Williams, or any of 2009’s slot receivers.

As I write this, it's all still up in the air.  The Lions could work Stallworth out tomorrow, he could cut a Chuck-Rogersesque 4.8, and this would all be moot.  Or, he could blow them away, get signed on the spot, go on to humiliate the all the #2 corners playing man-to-man ten yards off of him, and become the Alvin Harper to Calvin Johnson’s Michael Irvin.

Either of those scenarios, or anything in between, are entirely feasible.  All that’s left is to see today what Stallworth can make of his second chance.  For a variety of reasons, I hope he makes the most of it.


Jimmerz,  February 10, 2010 at 9:58 AM  

Putting aside the off the field issues, the bottom line is Stallworth is an average at best receiver and I'm not sure he'd even be an upgrade over anyone we already have. He's a one-trick pony that are a dime-a-dozen in the NFL. I'd rather get a guy like Antonio Bryant, Kevin Walter, Steve Breaston...

Ty,  February 10, 2010 at 10:48 AM  

Well, Breaston isn't going anywhere. Boldin will be leaving soon, possibly to Miami or Philly, and Arizona will keep him.

Walter fell off the face of the Earth this year, even playing next to Andre Johnson during Matt Schaub's coming-out party. Coming here for next year won't be an improvement in situation.

Antonio Bryant was certainly more successful as a deep threat in Tampa, even with nobody to draw coverage away from him (and nobody throwing him the ball). I've always been enamored of Bryant's natural talent, even if his head hasn't always been in the game. I'm surprised to learn he and Stallworth are the same age, 28.

Either way, Stallworth is available right now, probably for next to nothing, and Bryant isn't. I see nothing wrong with signing Stallworth and making another move after that . . .


Jimmerz,  February 10, 2010 at 10:57 AM  

Bryant and Walter are both UFAs. Breaston is apparently restricted (I didn't realize that) so you're probably right he will stay in Arizona. Early word in Tampa is they will not be re-signing Bryant.

Ty,  February 10, 2010 at 11:03 AM  

I have no problem with bringing in Stallworth now, and Walter or Bryant come the start of free agency. The advantage with Stallworth is that he's literally available RIGHT NOW; nothing precludes them from signing him right now and cutting him later--as they did with many free agents last season, sometimes within a few days.

I don't think the Lions think their quest to improve their WR depth chart starts and ends with Donte Stallworth. I wouldn't be surprised to see them sign Stallworth, sign a Walter or Bryant, AND draft someone in the 3rd-6th rounds.


Jimmerz,  February 10, 2010 at 11:28 AM  

Fair enough Ty.

Weston Corbitt,  February 10, 2010 at 1:47 PM  

I think that the whole case with Vick is deserved a second chance or not is moot. If someone wanted to sign him he would play no matter what. For being such a cop Goodell is kind of going easy on these guys. What Stallworth did was far worse and I don't want him on my favorite team. But if he can play and he stays on his best behavior, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Plenty of these guys aren't the nicest people in the world. This is more of a business. This isn't the Nice Football League.

A Lion in ViQueen Territory,  February 10, 2010 at 2:36 PM  

I think the difference between Stallworth and Vick is the intent and the purpose behind the indiscretion. Vick willfully purposed to break the law whereas Stallworth accidently killed a man. Ignorance is never an excuse, and neither is "oops, It was an accident." But Stallworth was tried and convicted and served his time according to the laws of our country. As the account of the situation shows, Stallworth stopped and called 911 rather than running away. At the very least, that shows integrity. Which is more than can be said for Mr. Vick...

If he has the ability to perform, then I have no problem with Stallworth being a Lion. And let's be honest, could he do any worse than Bryant Johnson?

Ty,  February 10, 2010 at 2:41 PM  


That's just it; I don't believe that what Stallworth did was far worse. Have I left a party maybe having had one more than I should have? Probably; I bet a lot of us have. I look at Stallworth and think, "there but for the Grace of God go I."

I look at Mike Vick and think, "That guy took a dog and beat it to death. That guy hooked a battery up to a dog and threw it in a pool. That guy made and solicited five-figure bets on which of two dogs would rip each other's throat out first. Why is that guy walking amongst the free, let along playing professional football?"


Weston Corbitt,  February 10, 2010 at 4:07 PM  

I guess I was only thinking of it as a football issue. In my opinion, Stallworth and Vick should be behind bars for much longer than they were. But with them being out it turns purely to football, because they "paid" their debts to society.

Jim,  February 10, 2010 at 5:41 PM  

Ty, I couldn't agree w/you more regarding culpability. I'm a criminal defense attorney of 35 years standing. Our criminal laws are based on what's call mens rea in the law, i.e., state of mind. Purposeful, knowing, deliberate criminal offenses are punished more severely than crimes of lesser mental states such as reckless or negligent crimes. While it is true that our legal system values human life over animal life, and rightly so, the difference b/w Vick and Stallworth was their respective states of mind, and Vick deserved more time than Stallworth.
I agree w/you, sign him and see what happens.

A Lion in ViQueen Territory,  February 10, 2010 at 7:21 PM  

Receiver thoughts: If we draft one, what do you think of Jordan Shipley from Texas or Eric Decker from Minnesota?

I think perhaps the best receiver combo is having a talented field stretcher and a quick, sure handed slot guy. Think Moss and Welker. Just a thought.

I'm am so itching for football news and can't wait for the Draft.

Weston Corbitt,  February 10, 2010 at 8:25 PM  

Shipley would be a nice Wes Welker type wideout. I personally love Blair White, and he could be a late round steal. A possession wideout would be nice right now, kind of what St. Lous had in Ricky Proehl when they were winning. Mardy Gilyard would be a solid option at WR and KR/PR.

Anonymous,  February 11, 2010 at 12:05 PM  

I agree with Ty that bringing in Stallworth would be a good move because it gives the team options once free agency comes along. If in training camp Stallworth doesn't play with enough speed, then cut him.
As far as him being worse than Vick, I'm in the camp that intent and what he did after are huge. The other thing that I read is that he went to sleep for a few hours, and was driving the next morning. That's something that I think a lot have people have done without thinking.

A Lion in ViQueen territory,  February 11, 2010 at 12:06 PM  

Gilyard - good call.

I'm a Texas fan, so I'm rooting for Shipley, but anyone with sure hands and quick feet would be welcome.

What do you think of the thought that McCoy is a better prospect than Suh and that the Rams will draft him? I'm still thinking that the Rams take a quarterback and we can jump down to 3-5 pick and still get the d-lineman.

Anonymous,  February 11, 2010 at 12:17 PM  

Sign Stallworth. Sign Bush if he is released (I think that there is a good chance he will be released because I think his agent will remind him that it's not easy to get to unrestricted free agency in the NFL, and he's got a great chance to do it now).
Sign Vanden Bosch or Kampman. I like Kampman, but Schwartz may prefer Vanden Bosch.
Take a DT, CB, G, and speedy WR in the first 4 rounds.
That should really plug a lot of holes in this team, and I think that it is entirely possible that the Lions could make these moves.
As far as Bush is concerned, I think that he is a guy that other teams have to gameplan for. He can open things up for Calvin. He even started playing more physical in the playoffs this year.

Ty,  February 11, 2010 at 5:07 PM  


Yeah, if we're living in the now, in the real, Vick and Stallworth have both come through our legal system having paid their debts to society--and whatever Vick's attitude before and during his incarceration, he's now openly repentant.


Ty,  February 11, 2010 at 5:10 PM  


Thanks so much for posting; I honestly feel better about my own opinion on the matter!


Ty,  February 11, 2010 at 5:12 PM  

On WRs:

It's still a little early, but I'm a huge Shipley fan. He really caught my eye in the BCS Championship game; he has excellent explosion and playmaking skills. I also think Damian Williams from USC will figure prominently, or possibly Golden Tate if he runs well at the Combine.


Ty,  February 11, 2010 at 5:14 PM  


Agreed; I really do think that Stallworth made the same mistake millions have made at least once in their life--and it cost him dearly.


Ty,  February 11, 2010 at 5:15 PM  


Still a long way to go on projecting the Top 5. Combine results, and QB Pro Days, will swing this all around in a big way.


Weston Corbitt,  February 12, 2010 at 9:15 AM  

After the first round, I am all right with taking offensive players like Golden Tate or Toby Gerhart. We shouldn't reach for just a position or side of the ball. Look if we would have reached last year, Pettigrew wouldn't be ours and seems like a really promising player. I like Gilyard a lot. Arrelious Benn is a huge physical wideout that we can groom. This wide receiver class is thinner this season, so we have to hit it right. And if it takes a second round pick, so be it.

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