Editor's Note: With Albert Haynesworth now demanding a trade one year after signing an enormous contract, and the Bucs seemingly coming out ahead by not signing him, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit this article.
Ah, the beauty of hindsight. It allows us all to make perfect decisions everytime and critique each and every move to the "nth" degree. As fans we feel entitled to look back with current knowledge and judge moves made days, weeks and years ago. Of course, when those moves were originally made, they didn't have the years worth of data we have now. But such is the life of the armchair quarterback or GM.
But while we all think we know exactly what is best for the franchise and that we could run the team better than the current front office, we have to realize that what we see now isn't the same thing they saw then. And even with that being said, though we think we all know the smart moves, sometimes the best moves are ones that never happen.
Lets go back to March of 2009. The Bucs were still fresh off a 9-7 season that ended with a 4 game losing streak, capped witha a loss to
a high school teamthe Raiders. Jon Gruden had just been canned, and with him, Bruce Allen was told to hit the bricks. Fresh faces in Morris and Dominik soon took over the team and our new direction began. Free agency was the first litmus test for the new regime, and it just so happened that there was a crown jewel in the 2009 class, Albert Haynesworth. And as fate would have it, we desperately needed a big defensive tackle that could do more than wear tight shirts and extra eye black.
As fans, we focused on attention on Haynesworth and pleaded to anyone who would listen that we "needed' to get him. He would anchor our line, helps top the run, he was an All-Pro talent fresh off a huge year. In short, we knew we needed him. And apparently Dominik thought the same thing. We threw boatloads of cash at him, offering higher dollar amounts than any other team (though guarantees were less). We talked to him about our state of the art stadium, no state income tax, sunshine state, and all the other amenities that Tampa could offer.
In the end, it didn't matter. Haynesworth took off for D.C and the $40MM+ guaranteed contract. It wasn't as much as we had offered, but the guarantees were nice, it was an organization that wasn't undergoing drastic changes, and they had a plan. Or so he thought.
Before we get into the aftermath, lets also acknowledge a few other points. We were disappointed we didn't get Haynesworth. We complained that we didn't offer enough, though we offered more than anyone else. The talking heads on the radio said we should have offered more since we had the most cap room. In fact, one host said something to this notion. "When you want a player, and you have the room, you may have to overpay by 10%, but since we have that extra 10%, we might as well offer it, make him an offer he can't refuse". Maybe not the most sound logic, but he made a decent point. Dominik and the team wanted Fat Albert, they made a play for him, and we lost. We started to count that as mistake number 1.
Then a funny thing happened. We know how our season turned out, but the Redksins season wasn't much better. In fact, Haynesworth became a handful, and not on the field. Reports of him being surly with the team, missing game time due to injuries, and now not working out with team all diminished the reputation of one of the more dominant lineman in the last few years. Now, there is speculation that he was and is being offered as trade bait. How fast we change our minds. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the 'Skins are changing their defense to a 3-4 and Haynesworth doesn't want to play the NT position. But it sounds like the Skins are not as happy with a player as they should be when they spent $40MM on him.
And to bring it back to the Bucs, while we don't know how 2009 would have played out with Haynesworth, or if he would have been the same player/prima donna, we can look at what he did and is doing in Washington D.C. and play out the same scenario here. That sound you just heard is the collective sigh of relief from Bucs fans. Sure, our run defense might have improved and our secondary may have been made to look better, but it seems D.C. and the 'Skins have soured on Albert, and I don't imagine it would have been much different here. All we can do is see what happened in D.C. and play it out here.
Now, I'm not crediting our front office with correctly diagnosing all of this, because, as we all know, we made a serious run at Haynesworth. It seems we might have been a bit smarter about it since we didn't offer as much guaranteed money and thus (I assume) we could have cut him without owing him gobs of money. But this also goes to show that while we (and the front office) think we know exactly what we should do, we aren't always right. Dumb luck plays a part sometimes. Sure, there were reports that Haynesworth was just playing in 2008 to get a contract and once he got paid he would slow down. Chalk it up to what you want, but we aren't on the hook for a grouchy big dude right now. To me, that's a plus.
Building teams requires skill and scouting, but also a certain amount of luck. The Bucs dodged a hefty bullet by missing on Haynesworth. And while hindsight will always be 20/20, it looks like the best move the Bucs made last year may have been missing out on the enigma known as Albert Haynesworth. We can credit Dominik for the lack of guaranteed money, we can thank Snyder for the bloated contract, we can thank the Glazers for firing Gruden and bringing in Morris which swayed Haynesworth, or we can just thank the universe for a stroke of luck that fell in our favor. It may have taken a year to figure it out, but it seems we won on this deal.