Pancakes In the Age of Enlightenment- The Snozzberries Taste Like Snozzberries

This week we will start off with a new feature I like to call “Everyone Stop Being Stupid”.

– Terri Schiavo’s body has made the choice to stop living. Her brain is incapable of making a conscious choice, so the rest of her body has made the only choice it is able to make, an unconscious choice. It has chosen to stop performing the functions necessary to continue living. This is not a difficult ethical dilemma. Why is it considered the “moral” choice to continue this grotesque Weekend at Bernie’s charade? Everyone stop being stupid.

Next week, I pledge allegiance to Osama Bin Laden, Hitler, Michael Jackson, and Jacques Chirac, and will write my column while clubbing a helpless kitten to death with a King James Bible. In other news, your mother’s a whore and a tree just fell in a forest.

There’s no season like the NFL offseason, where cold, heartless GM’s make cap casualties out of old warhorses for whom they can no longer foot the anti-inflammatory bills for, and young stars with young knee joints move onto greener pastures and get their paydays. So what has transpired in this year’s free agent season? We’ll be taking a look in the next 4 weeks, beginning this week with the NFC and AFC East.

NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles-
The Plan- The Eagles priority was to re-sign their own free agents, especially MLB Jeremiah Trotter and RB Brian Westbrook.

The Results- The Eagles did re-sign Trotter to a 5 year deal. Westbrook remains unsigned but is a restricted free agent who would bring a 1st round draft pick as compensation if the Eagles lost him, which is very unlikely. The Eagles also made a nice signing in picking up former Lions backup QB Mike McMahon, a very athletic QB who will serve as a strong backup to Donovan McNabb.

The team bid adieu to nine year OL stalwart Jermane Mayberry, who is a stout run blocker, and to playoff standout DE Derrick Burgess, who many saw as the top pass rusher available in free agency and who had 2 sacks in the NFC Championship game. Neither loss was unexpected but they are both high quality players.

Washington Redskins-
The Plan- The Redskins have a lot of holes to fill, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, so the team is hoping to stock up on lesser hyped free agents to fill those holes. Wide receiver is probably the top priority.

The Results- The Skins most notable free agent activity to be spurned by former #1 overall pick, DE Courtney Brown. The Redskins were hot and heavy after the first round bust, but he opted to instead sign with Denver. However, they did make some noise by swapping wideouts with the Jets, sending Laverneaus Coles back to whence he came in exchange for the talented Santana Moss. They also signed former New England WR David Patten to complement Moss, although you have to wonder how well Patten will play outside of the Pats’ system. Washington also signed former Ravens center Casey Rabach, who is a very strong run blocker and who they hope will open some holes for RB Clinton Portis.

The defense has absorbed a couple of hits, however, losing MLB Antonio Pierce, who does not have a ready replacement, and CB Fred Smoot.

New York Giants-
The Plan- The Giants entered free agency hoping to land a big time wideout, a running back to complement Tiki Barber, and to shore up the offensive line by acquiring a tackle and a blocking tight end.

The Results- Big Blue got their man at WR by signing former Steeler Plaxico Burress. Plaxico is long and strong, but has not quite lived up to his potential yet, possibly due to the revolving door the Steelers have had at QB in the last few years. That won’t be a problem with the Giants, and it will be interesting to see if he and Eli Manning become a big time connection in the 2nd half of the decade. They also shored up the offensive line by signing durable Jets OT Kareem McKenzie, who has started 48 consecutive games.

The Giants also addressed their running back depth issue by signing Chiefs RB Mike Cloud, and remedied their kicking woes by inking Falcons K Jay Feely. To top things off, they landed Redskins MLB Antonio Pierce who is strong against both the run and the pass. All in all it has been a very good offseason for the Giants.

Dallas Cowboys-
The Plan- Settling on a quarterback was a must. The Boys also need help at corner and on both lines.

The Results- As has been well documented, the Cowboys have handed over their quarterbacking reigns to Drew Bledsoe. From where I’m sitting, you can tell all you need to know about Bledsoe by looking at the New England Patriots. With Drew as QB, cranking out 5-11 seasons every year, without Drew as QB, Bill Belichick becomes a genius and they are winning Super Bowls every year. Not all of that can be coincidence. Throw in the fact that Bledsoe is now aged and not aging very well at that, and I don’t really see what the Cowboys are expecting to get from him in the way of leading their franchise anywhere.

The Cowboys are working on a trade with the Saints to acquire DE Darren Howard, who had 11 sacks last year. The price tag for that acquisition could be MLB Dat Nguyen, who has been one of the cornerstones of the defense for years. They also signed Jets DT Jason Ferguson who is a good gap plugger (uh huh huh huh) but brings little in terms of generating negative yardage. The Cowboys attempted to fortify the offensive line by signing Packers G Marco Rivera, but Rivera suffered a back injury shortly after signing and underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc on March 10. His season is listed as questionable.

At corner, Dallas signed Browns CB Anthony Henry, who makes a lot of big plays but gives up a lot of big plays as well. His inconsistency should go over well with Bill Parcells shouldn’t it?

AFC East
New England Patriots-
The Plan- Try to retain as many of their own low priced restricted free agents as possible, without allowing them to bolt in return for late round draft picks.

The Results- Nothing too notable has happened in the champs’ camp this offseason. CB Ty Law will be elsewhere for the 2005 season, but other than that the Patriots will be pretty much unchanged from 2004. WR David Patten left to sign with Washington, but the Pats’ depth at WR means he probably won’t be missed that sorely. Just to make sure, they signed Chargers WR Tim Dwight, who should be a good fit with New England. Also, the Pats lost experienced LG Joe Andruzzi, who may be the hardest of the Pats departures to replace.

WR/CB Troy Brown also could be elsewhere in 2005, but it is not out of the question that he could return to New England with a downsized contract.

New York Jets-
The Plan- Bend over and take it like a man. The Jets knew going in they would be losing a lot of quality players, so the goal has been to minimize the damage and to upgrade the WR position.

The Results- Indeed, the Jets have lost a lot of players this offseason. DT Jason Ferguson, OT Kareem McKenzie, TE Anthony Becht, and RB Lamont Jordan were all highly sought after and have all found new employment. DE John Abraham remains unsigned despite being slapped with the franchise tag and the enmity between him and the team is growing daily.

That said, the Jets made a crafty trade with the Redskins to bring WR Lavernaeus Coles back into the fold though, but parted with wideout Santana Moss in order to do so. Coles brings a little more size and verticality to the passing game.

The Jets also made a deft pickup to provide QB depth in signing former Dolphin Jay Fiedler. Fiedler was a good signing because he is sure to play when Chad Pennington suffers his annual injury. Former Chief RB Derrick Blaylock was signed and will make a great complement to and/or insurance policy for Curtis Martin.

Buffalo Bills
The Plan- With the QB position being handed over to young J.P. Losman, the Bills are concerned with finding an experienced, quality backup. They would also like to exercise some damage control on the offensive and defensive lines by resigning either OT Jonas Jennings or DT Pat Williams.

The Results- The Bills took a hit on both sides of the ball by losing both Jennings and Williams. Williams was seen as perhaps the top defensive unrestricted free agent, a run stopper and gap controller, but he is gone to Minnesota and the Bills defense will be worse off for it. Jennings was the Bills’ left tackle last year and replacing him will raise a question mark at a position where you don’t want one, especially when you are starting an inexperienced QB.

Buffalo did get their experienced backup QB in former Brown Kelly Holcomb though, and he represents a strong second option should the Losman experiment falter.

Miami Dolphins
The Plan- The Fish would like to let the healing from the retardedness of the Wannstedt era begin by cutting salary. This means a lot of high priced defensive talent won’t be invited back. They would also like to find somebody to carry the ball, training camp competition for QB AJ Feeley, and a sturdy man to play left tackle.

The Results- It appears as though the Dolphins are going to rely on the draft to get their running back, as they still haven’t signed one as of right now.

The most notable signing thus far has been former Titan DE Kevin Carter, who the Dolphins hope will develop a symbiotic relationship with the team’s other DE Jason Taylor. Gus Frerotte was signed to be the backup QB.

The Dolphins have also signed a laundry list of experienced yet disappointing veterans in the vein of OT Stockar McDougle and DE Vonnie Holliday, who will try and revitalize their careers in Miami. Or close a deal with the Rice A Roni people.

Having recently returned from Vegas I am having a hard time getting the point spread watching out of my system. In fact, when watching the end of the Louisville v. West Virginia game I could practically hear the moans from 1000 miles away coming from the sportsbooks when Louisville missed a dunk as time expired that would have given them a 10 point lead in a game in which they were favored by 8 Ã?½, thus giving them only an 8 point win and probably costing a lot of people a lot of money (or making a lot of people a lot of money, hopefully the young man who missed the dunk wasn’t one of them).

So given that fact let’s take a look at what wagers will bring home the bacon in the Final Four.

Michigan St. +5 over North Carolina- Unquestionably the Heels are the better team, however I just don’t like the way they played in the Carrier Dome at all. They should have by all rights been bounced in the regional semifinals by Villanova, benefiting from a very questionable traveling call in the waning moments that changed the course of the finish. The Tar Heels have beaten a less than imposing slate of Oakland, Iowa St., Villanova, and Wisconsin, none of whom was seeded any higher than a 5 to get to the Final Four. Michigan State, on the other hand, had to get by Duke and Kentucky to reach the Final Four, and thumped the Blue Devils by 10, North Carolina no do that. Give me the Spartans and the five points!!

Illinois -3 over Louisville- The Albequerque Region that Louisville won to reach the Final Four was ridiculously weak. Washington was quite possibly the weakest number one seed in recent memory, Wake Forest goes into vapor lock whenever its tournament time, and don’t get me started on Gonzaga. So the road to the Lou was pretty smooth for the Cardinals. The same could be said of the Illini who faced Fairly Ridiculous, Nevada, and Wisconsin Milwaukee before their unfathomable game for the ages against Arizona. Despite that, and despite the vulnerability they showed against the Wildcats, Illinois losing this game would be like Team USA losing the gold medal game to Finland in 1980 after beating the Russians, there is just no way it will happen. I will take the Illini and give the 3 points.

PEANUT AND CRACKERJACKING- What’s On Tap for MLB Opening Week?
“The Ten Commandments” has aired on ABC and that can mean only one thing, that Opening Day is right around the corner. Actually, Sunday Night the Red Sox and Yankees will meet for the first out of 19 overhyped, virtually meaningless games, since it is a fait accompli they will both be in the playoffs just as they are every year. With that in mind, lets take a look at some of the more intriguing matchups that we will be treated to next week:

– Giants/Dodgers, The West Coast version of Yankees/Red Sox, will be the opening attraction at SBC Park this week. No word yet on whether Barry Bonds will be in the dugout with his nightcap on, catching up on his rest. He is tired you know.

– The White Sox will see if they can shake the yoke of being the Washington Generals to the Twins’ Harlem Globetrotters this season. The quest begins with a 3 game set against the 3 time defending AL Central champs in the Metrodome next weekend.

– Speaking of Washington, the Nationals will not open at RFK until the second week of the season. The inaugural game of DC Baseball V 3.0 will be Monday at Philadelphia.

– The 14 time defending NL West and East champion Braves face the “New” Mets in a 3 game weekend series.

Well that’s a wrap for this week. While you are here, do yourself a favor and read Patrick Nguyen’s column, it’s great stuff. Oli Porter also has a great take on international sport every week, you should read that too, you stupid American! Oh hoh hoh…I kid because I love.

Next week we’ll continue looking at NFL Free Agent season, taking a look at the AFC and NFC North, we’ll recap MLB’s Opening Week, and we’ll begin a feature that takes a look at the Big 6 College Basketball Conferences, and who they have sent to the pros. We’ll also talk about why my girlfriend won’t let me eat her poop. Or maybe we’ll save that for the next column. Okay then.

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