While I was grabbing some lunch, news broke: Martin Mayhew had looked in the Wheeler Dealer and pulled himself off another swap—this time, trading Ernie Sims to the Eagles, a 5th-rounder from the Eagles to the Broncos, and TE Tony Scheffler from the Broncos to the Lions. The Lions also got yet another seventh-round pick, bringing the total up to four.
I haven’t been shy about reminding everyone that way back in January, I wrote an article for Mlive.com, proclaiming that Martin Mayhew must trade Sims while he still has value. My first proposed trade destination was Philadelphia, and I bugged poor Adam Caplan from Scout.com about that idea for weeks, because the fit just made too much sense. I’ve also been obnoxious in pointing out that I pointed out that the retirement of Casey FitzSimmons left an empty niche in the Lions’ offense.
My apologies to all of you for the insufferable self-promoting. I have no access to “insider” info; everything you read is coming from my own synthesis of what’s out there. When I stumble upon an acorn, as I rarely do, I enjoy planting it, watching it grow into a mighty oak, then hanging my hat upon it. My apologies if I've annoyed you; I rarely indulge in such own-horn-tooting, and I’m done now.
First impressions? This is practically identical to the Cory Redding-for-Julian Peterson trade. These two players, Sims and Scheffler, both had a foot out the door in their original cities. Neither were fits for their current systems, both had plenty of good football years left, and both are entering a contract year.
For me, it's a bittersweet goodbye to Sims. Check out my post from roughly this time last year, featuring a battered alt-color Ernie Sims jersey and dangerous levels of optimism:
Ernie Sims is primed to be an incredible force in 2009.
Coming out of Florida State, I really thought that Sims would be what I later thought Aaron Curry could be: the explosive, badass linebacker who turns around the defense and the team. That the Lions would draft a chiseled little wrecking ball of an OLB, more noteworthy for his performance on tape than his freakish size or speed? Surely, I figured, it must be a harbinger of glory!
Prior to last season, I thought the Lions’ new scheme, and all of its OLB blitzing, would allow Sims to shut his brain off and unleash his inner Kraken. Unfortunately, the Lions’ defensive line wasn’t disruptive enough to allow Sims to safely ignore his lanes—and double-unfortunately, Sims shut his brain off anyway.
He still has all the talent to be a surpassing WLB if used properly. Philly’s hyperaggressive 4-3 is exactly the right kind of system, and it’s a lot closer to being fully realized than the Lions’ own implementation of a similar system. I wish Sims all the best, of course; I’m “glad” I never sank the cash into that jersey, but I’m sad I never repped him while he was here. For a little while, he was the only player really worth cheering for.
Tony Scheffler, for his part, is like Casey FitzSimmons, only up an order of magnitude. Midwestern football state? Instead of Montana, Michigan. Instead of Caroll College, Western Michigan. Instead of an undrafted free agent, a 2nd-round pick. Instead of a 23-catch, 160-yard, 2-TD rookie season, an 18-catch, 286-yard, 4-TD rookie season. Instead of a six more years that barely matched his rookie totals combined, three more years where he’s averaged double the catches and yards over that initial effort.
Scheffler really doesn't have much place in Denver's offense, and he had little-to-no chemistry with efficient-but-weak-armed Kyle Orton. Now, he’ll again play with the kind of rocket-armed quarterback who threw him 107 passes, for 1,480 yards & 12 TDs, in his first three NFL seasons.
Many are pointing to this trade as proof that Brandon Pettigrew’s recovery is going poorly, but I see them as completely different players. Pettigrew is a third tackle with cotton hands; a powerful inline blocker who’s quick enough to get open and make a crucial third-down catch. However, he’s not a field-stretcher, a walking mismatch like Gates or Clark. He’s not going to blow past an OLB on a skinny post, catch it in stride, smoke both safeties and take it to the house; that’s just not his skill set.
With Fitz gone, the Lions had four blocking TEs, with a spectrum of hands from “great” to “nonexistent”. Scheffler gives them that dangerous 2-TE combination that Linehan loves: he can again use a 2-WR, 2-TE, I-formation set as a base for five-option pass plays. It’s all about establishing the power running game, and then killing them through the air . . . and, Pettigrew or no, Tony Scheffler gives them that ability.
The best part of all of it, though, is what the Michigan native, Scheffler, told the Denver Post when they called him:
“Restore the Roar!”