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Football.com's Debate Team Chases Free-Agent Paper

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles tries to elude DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on October 30, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles tries to elude DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on October 30, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


TJ Hatter: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Children of all ages! Thank you for clicking on Football.com’s Debate Team with Joe Scumaci and TJ Hatter. It's a joint column between myself and Mr. Scumaci that starts out as well-intentioned debate and typically degenerates quickly.

Joe Scumaci: I hate this idea a little less this week.

TJ Hatter: Free agency will do that to you. By the way, shout out to the beat writers here at Football.com. You guys worked hard this week and produced great stuff for the site. 

Joe Scumaci: Respect.

Topic 1: Denver knows the window is tight

TJ Hatter: The acquisitions made to bolster the Broncos defense have been the biggest eyecatcher during the free agent frenzy. I highly recommend this Jeff Legwold piece on the internal structures in Denver and how the executives there acquired T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware to bolster the defense to compliment their incredible offense. There are never enough stories about how important good executives and sharp cogs in the machine on the management side are. It is, without question, the most important factor in whether your team is going to be reliably competent. Their thinking is clear: all of the chips are in the middle of the table for RIGHT NOW and there is no question as to why. Their window is two years. That's it. They have an all-time great quarterback who is aging and with a neck injury that is one hit away from retiring him. Peyton Manning is the maestro of an offense that will more than survive the departure of Eric Decker, but the sun is setting on a brilliant career. Denver needed a more explosive defense and if Talib remains the Talib we know, who can utterly take offensive players out of the game as he did Jimmy Graham last season when they played against the Saints. Ware can strike fear in the hearts of QBs around the NFL with Ward stuffing the run and showing versatility at safety. Now we're talking about a complete team. Other teams have tougher-to-gauge windows of opportunity. Denver does not. Worry about 2016 when you're there. It's about RIGHT NOW.

Joe Scumaci: The common analogy for the NFL is “Not For Long.” And when you get taken out back behind the woodshed in the biggest game of the year and your roster is completely undressed by the opposition, you have to do what you can to improve, or it won’t be long before you are mediocre again.

Take Atlanta for instance. They were loaded with talent, lost in the NFC Championship game in 2012 and followed that up with a dreaded 4-12 season in 2013. They didn’t get better. Plain and simple. For Denver, and mainly John Elway, you have to realize the investment and window you have left with Peyton Manning. Do all you can to win now!

Worry about how cap challenged you are in 2016 when 2016 arrives and Brock Osweiler is shouting “Omaha” under center.

Topic 2: NFL Contracts are pointless

TJ Hatter: I wrote about this earlier last week, feel free to give it a click here and I want to revise and extend those remarks. Part of the problem is the way we in the media report on those contracts. It's changing for the better, but it's not there yet. The guaranteed money is really all that matters. NFL contracts are about as reliable as Don Draper as your husband. You know it's not going to end as planned. A more realistic view of the fact that these contracts are just utterly monopoly money for even the elite players in the NFL when reporting the numbers is needed.

Joe Scumaci: It truly is ridiculous TJ. One insider will report the worth and the entire fan base either freaks out in disappointment or celebrates the value their team got. But you’re right, once the dust settles on the initial report, all that matters is guaranteed money.

You mentioned Aqib Talib to Denver. Heads have been scratched since he inked that deal about the outrageous amount of money Elway handed him and his injury riddled hip. What no one failed to comprehend was the guaranteed money was all that matters and Denver can get out of the deal after one year if they do so choose to.

I’m a gambling man and I am willing to bet the majority of my student loans that Talib isn’t in Denver for more than two seasons. If he’s there in the third year of his contract … well, I’ll be hitchhiking puddle jumpers in an effort to ditch the admissions department at SUNY Brockport.

Topic 3: I don't get what you're doing

TJ Hatter: The team in Washington had quite a lousy defense last year. Particularly in terms of points allowed, only the most important stat of all of them when measuring defense. Yet initially, they were very quiet on the free agency front. That ended Thursday with the pickup of Jason Hatcher. Washington's history in free agency is enough for them to be understandably wary of it. There is also no reason to trust them now, but their approach — trying to be smart against their normal instincts — is at least worth noting.

Also, The Oakland Raiders continue to make absolutely no sense. They have money to burn in free agency, $65 million to be exact, and that doesn't mean that you spend money like The Wolf of Wall Street but it does mean that you could try to get some big-time talent into the Black Hole. But more than likely, the top people don't want to be there. It's understandable. Not everyone wants to solely chase paper. But when this is the best you can do it's a rough go.  

Joe Scumaci: You have to love the explanation the Justin Tucks of the world give when they leave a possible contender for a basement dweller. (See: any free agents that signed in Jacksonville.)

“I love what they are doing here. The front office is committed and I believe they [insert pathetic team here] are doing things the right way.”

Translation: “They gave me guaranteed money that no other organization would give me. Gotta chase that paper!”

Don’t even get me started on Oakland. You can see my opinion on that sorry franchise here as I couldn’t resist sounding off on a front office that had the most cap space in the NFL and failed to make an impact on their roster. In fact Mr. Hatter, I can make the argument they are worse than when the season ended.

Topic 4: Bold predictions

TJ Hatter: Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell are now gone, and owner Jim Haslem is an SEC guy; it seems clear that Cleveland is clearing the way for Johnny Football. It's also not just the moves in free agency which will clear the way. It's possible that the bizarre coaching change — I mean seriously, who fires Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator? — was all about finding people to bring in Manziel and incorporate that type of offense. Cleveland deserves something to be excited about. Manziel would be it.  

Joe Scumaci: You know my stance on Johnny Manziel … I hope he comes in and Manziel-mania takes the league by storm. It would be a great story.

My bold prediction you ask? The Carolina Panthers will finish third in the division and won’t finish above .500. I can’t really explain their thought process this offseason, hence my lack of faith in them next season. They unfortunately released their greatest player in franchise history in Steve Smith, lost their left tackle Jordan Gross to retirement and have done nothing to replace these key faces in their locker room.

Sure, their defense will still be a top-5 unit in 2014, but when you have the Play 60 Kid, Clifford Franklin from the Replacements and Flo from Progressive lining up as your receivers, you aren’t going to score a lot of points. I don’t care how great Cam Newton is.

TJ Hatter: Legendary football connoisseur Gisele Bundchen said it best: A QB can’t throw it and catch it at the same time.

This concludes this session of Football.com Debate Team. Hope your bracket is doing well.