Make no mistake about it: Albert Haynesworth’s worth is about to be determined.
Haynesworth, who will head to unrestricted free agency on Feb. 27 unless the Tennessee Titans can sign him to a long-term deal, reiterated Sunday at the Pro Bowl what he has been saying all along about the free-agent process.
“Hopefully, I’m in Tennessee,” Haynesworth said. “I’d love to be in Tennessee, ’cause that’s where my kids were born at, that’s where I played college ball. I played my seven years there. So, hopefully it works out. But if it doesn’t, I’ll go elsewhere.”
Haynesworth was asked about the notion that he is seeking to become the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player, and said that that idea actually belongs to his agent Chad Speck, but it’s certainly not something he is against.
“My agent said that, but it would be nice to get paid. I did what I had to do playing under the franchise tag,” Haynesworth said.
Haynesworth was given the franchise tag of $7.25 million in 2008, but had incentives included in the deal that he earned to make him a free agent this offseason.
Perhaps the most amazing thing to consider with Haynesworth can be traced back to the infamous stomping incident on the head of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode.
At that moment, Haynesworth had probably the least amount of leverage of any active player in the NFL. Even less than the infamous Adam “Pacman” Jones at that particular moment in October 2006. Not only did he face a five-week suspension, he was fortunate that no criminal charges were filed, and was in a situation where his very career was at a crossroads. There was even talk and speculation that the Titans might release him.
Now, two-and-a-half years later, no player in the league possesses more leverage than Haynesworth does right now. Through his on-field play and an epiphany of maturity, he has turned himself into the most coveted free agent in the league if he reaches the open market. A deal with $35 million in guaranteed money, which would make him the highest-paid defensive player in the league, does not seem farfetched at all.
Quick start: Titans quarterback Kerry Collins, another free agent in the Pro Bowl Sunday, got off to a fast start in relief of Peyton Manning. Collins completed 5 of 6 passes for 52 yards in the first half, including a 9-yard touchdown toss to Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels that gave the AFC a 14-3 lead.
Collins later had a pass picked off by Antoine Winfield of the Minnesota Vikings in the third quarter and was victimized by another Viking when Jared Allen stripped him of the ball and recovered the fumble. That play led to the go-ahead touchdown by the NFC.
Collins finished 10 of 15 for 108 yards in the game, won by the NFC 30-21.
Ups and downs: Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan, playing in his first Pro Bowl had a nice breakup of a Drew Brees pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald in the second quarter, but just before the half was victimized by Fitzgerald who caught a 46-yard touchdown pass from Brees on a Hail Mary pass.
Worth a look?: The St. Louis Rams apparently are in complete rebuilding mode after last year’s disastrous 2-14 season.
There has been rampant speculation that former Titans receiver Drew Bennett could be among the salary cap cuts by the Rams and some have openly wondered if Bennett might find his way back to Tennessee with Mike Heimerdinger where he enjoyed his best success.
But also consider this, there are rumors that standout Rams receiver Torry Holt might be swept aside in new coach Steve Spagnuolo’s rebuilding process as well.
Might the Titans take a flier on Holt, another 30-something who might have gas left in the tank? Tennessee has gambled on 30-plus veterans like Collins, Kevin Mawae, Nick Harper and Alge Crumpler and found success. If he becomes available, Holt wouldn’t be a bad gamble.
Finally together: In an ironic twist, with former Titans general manager Floyd Reese now a senior advisor in New England, it puts him with player he most was questioned for passing over in his time in Tennessee — Randy Moss.
The then-Oilers bypassed Moss in the 1998 draft because of character questions. Now, 11 years later Reese and Moss will be together in New England.