ESPN.com’s Jeffri Chadiha posted his annual list of the league’s 10 “Can’t Win Without…” players. Titan’s defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth made the list at #6:
“Haynesworth is the lone defender on this year’s list because he had the biggest impact on his team in 2007. When he served a five-game suspension and played below his potential in 2006, the Titans’ defense didn’t intimidate too many opponents. When Haynesworth returned last season with obvious focus and determination, the Titans’ pass rush and run defense started giving teams fits. The bottom line here: When this kid has his head right, the Titans’ defense can make life hell for any offense.” (ESPN.com)
By now we all know that Albert Haynesworth didn’t get a long-term deal, and for those who are greatly frustrated by that, articles like this surely don’t help. That being said, the franchise tag still probably was the best move.
Haynesworth hasn’t played a complete season since his rookie year, and while he was a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate last year, he was again derailed for a significant stretch of the season (a stretch that saw the Titans go 0-3 without him, dropping their record to 6-5). Still, no one would argue that when healthy, he isn’t one of the most dominant forces in the league. He is one of the few defensive tackles in football that change offensive schemes, and all sides involved know that.
The bottom line is that we all love him, and homer or not, he might be one of the best defensive players in football. As much as we would like to see him inked to a long-term deal, the franchise tag makes sense. Haynesworth will make $7.25 million with the franchise tag, which is less than a million more than he counted against the cap in ’07. If the Titans do agree to add a stipulation to the franchise deal that would prohibit Haynesworth from being tagged again next year, they still have little to risk in making the move. While no player likes to be franchised, in the last few years players such as Lance Briggs, Shaun Alexander and Chris McAllister have signed long-term deals with the team that franchised them, and Haynesworth has made it clear that his preference is to stay in Tennessee. Chances are that no other DT will have gotten a larger contract than the Tommie Harris deal that is already on the books (4 year $40 million) by the end of this upcoming season, so the starting point for highest paid DT in the league should be set by Albert. Hopefully Haynesworth will play as well as he’s capable, stay healthy, and come with approximately the same price tag he was asking for these past negotiations.
Haynesworth is a player that is unlike any other in Tennessee Titans history. No, he wasn’t a member of those beloved teams from the late 90’s like Steve McNair, Eddie George, Frank Wycheck and Derrick Mason. Those guys were all really good players on really great teams. Instead, Haynesworth is arguably one of the very best defensive players in the entire league. If Albert continues to destroy offensive linemen, and stay healthy (both physically AND mentally), then he deserves to get paid. If that is going to happen though, it will have to wait until next offseason. Let’s just hope that if he does cash in next year, it’s the Titans that are writing the check.
Adam Schefter interviews Hayneworth for NFL.com. It’s from last season, but there’s some good footage here.