Brian Russell

How important is being smart in free agency(„The tale of two safeties”)?

bernard pollard

We are just 2 weeks away from the start of free agency, so it is a perfect time for this discussion I have been pondering. Well we all know that Jaguars GM Gene Smith has a “Draft first!” mentality which is good when we saw how he executed his 1st draft. But in today’s NFL you simply can’t ignore free agency. To be fair so far Gene’s free agents put more to the table then the average Shack Harris era FA’s (not to mention the Porter-Florence-Lemon trifecta; which cost around 25 million $ for Wayne Weaver for almost nothing…) But he said the Jaguars will most likely play a very limited role in that time period. In opposite to many fans, I’m OK with that because usally free agents cost a ton of money and if you ignore them, the league will award you compensatory picks.  

I like this mentality with one exception… If you have the opportunity to make a boost for a relatively moderate price, then try to sign the guy! I will tell you a story about 2 safeties which illustrate how you can be smart and help your team in a big way in free agency!  

Brian Russell

On the same day: September 5th 2009 two safeties were released from their teams: Brian Russell from the Seattle Seahawks and Bernard Pollard from the Kansas City Chiefs (I don’t understand that move by KC at all; but that is another story…). So you have 2 free agent safeties which is a position the Jaguars tried to find help with all of 2009! What did we know about these players? Well Russell was not a fan favorite in Seattle because, let’s face it, he is not a good football player; not even close, Bernard Pollard had a spotlight moment when he sent New England QB Tom Brady to IR in week 1 in the 2008 season. So he can hit people in a way they will remember him. And what did Gene Smith do? He signed Brian Russell instead of Pollard and with that he made by far his biggest mistake in his young GM career!  

Strong words I know. But I can prove it.  

1; Brian Russell continued in to perform in Jacksonville the way he did in Seattle: (with all the respect) the same walking joke! (Well, not much respect) He attempted Reggie Nelson kind of tackles which you really don’t want to see from your secondary. It was pathetic!  

2; Bernard Pollard was signed by the divisional rival Houston Texans! And he became a game changer in that secondary. Pollard had a career year, racking up 102 tackles (81 solo), 1.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, as well as 2 defensive touchdowns (Jaguars didn’t have a single defensive TD in 2009…). Pollard played in just 13 games for Houston, but was a major part of the defensive turnaround. That’s how good he was! Not to mentioning he continued his series of “put the Patriots on IR” with a tackle that most likely ruined Wes Welker’s career forever… Don’t misunderstood me: I don’t want to see a player lose his career, but my point is he can hit people in the way you want your team’s safety to tackle people!  

3; A player like Pollard would’ve been almost solve our secondary problems! With Pollard at SS; you have Gerald Alexander and Anthony Smith (the replacement of Russell; I will talk about him a bit later) compete for FS; you have Sean Considine at nickel or as a Pollard backup. Instead of the situation that the Jags need to find a new FS in this year’s draft; they would need (IF only!) just depth there! How different that would be! 

4; I call it the biggest mistake because with the draft you enter a crystal ball business- copyright by Vic Ketchman. We could argue who should the GM pick; but unless the prospect turns out a solid player, you waste a year finding out you are still in a bad place. Luckily Gene is doing pretty well in that segment so far. But free agency is different. In veteran free agents; you are almost sure to know what you are buying (except maybe injuries). Gene must know what kind of a player Russell and Pollard were based on how they played in Seattle and Kansas City. There was no crystal ball needed there. Just –sadly- a wrong decision in the end of the day!  

Now the story had a nice epilogue: Russell was waived, Gene Smith signed Anthony Smith, a decent player, but not on the same level as Bernard Pollard. Ironically Brian Russell was signed by the Houston Texans after he left Jacksonville. How “good” he was there? He was waived 1 month after he signed with Houston. He was thrown out by 2 very bad secondaries twice! (To be fair he resigned from the Texans for the last game because of another injury) but you can see my point: The Jaguars and Gene Smith could have solve the secondary problem long term for a moderate price in free agency. Instead they made the situation temporally worse! Now Bernard Pollard will be a (restricted) free agent; so the Jaguars might sign him; but with much-much more money opposite of the price they could have paid him last September (and I don’t think the Texans will let him walk out from them…).  

So yeah; draft is matters; but you can be smart in free agency and can spend your money wisely. I hope that was a good lesson for Gene to consider in this upcoming free agency period!  

Zoltan Paksa

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  • JagHack

    Good argument, I enjoyed reading it.

  • thetitanssuck

    A good saftey can and will be found late in draft. Good point though.

  • zoltanfrombudapest

    Thanks for both of you!

  • frankdubz

    I think we put in a bid for Pollard, but Houston got him. But no doubt, Russell is a chump. He will always be remembered for missing that tackle on CJ in Tennessee, just like Northcutt will always be rememebered for his drop in NE.

  • harperslaw

    Pollard, apparently, is not a locker room friendly guy. This is all pretty much hearsay, but after the 2008 chemistry-gate debacle I don’t blame Gene for not bringing in Pollard.

    “For the record, Bernard Pollard was a bad, bad influence in the locker room. Not the Chiefs’ kind of guy. Much better player than Brown tho.”
    Kent Babb, KC Star

    Pollard has not only had clashes with the Chief’s coaching staff, but also back in college at Purdue (it’s referenced on his Wikipedia page, but I cannot find any sources).

    Like I said, this all may be hearsay, but with a young, rebuilding team the last thing they need is another Jerry Porter.

  • Brian Fullford

    Smart article Zoltan. Love reading your work.

  • tkopa

    ESPN picked up your article Z.

    Once again, a brilliant piece!

  • Ty


  • Ty

    1st Taylor Mays SS/Rolando-McClain ILB(Beast) or trade back for 2nd and late pick and go for Kyle Wilson or Sean Weatherspoon.

    If we get a 2nd round: Greg Hardy DE (got in a little trouble in 2007 but he only appeared in nine games in 2008, 18 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 8.5 sacks, an interception. 10 sacks in 07) / Chad Jones FS (He also played baseball)

    3rd Round: Dan LeFevour QB (If we don’t get a 2nd take this guy asap) / Jason Fox OL(Leader / Workhorse) / Dezmon Briscoe WR(Saw this guy alot in college very trusty hands) / Trindon Holliday RB (The need for speed *Very good KR/PR)

    4th Round: Devin Ross CB / Danario Alexander WR / Brandon Carter OG / Daryl-Washington ILB

    5th Round: Kevin Basped DE (Nevada) / Eric Olsen C / Larry Asante FS

    6th Round: Marcus Easley WR / Matt O’Hanlon SS

  • zoltanfrombudapest

    Thanks for the praising words!

    Yeah maybe his locker rroom persona was the biggest obsticle to get him; but you have 1-2 (NOT MORE) bad guys in the locker room (I think MJD said that too during the season)!

  • The Linebacker

    Pretty sure Welker blew out his knee on his own.

  • Jacob

    Yeah Bernard Pollard never touched Welker. He basically tripped on his own but way to build him up. Check your info next time.

  • zoltanfrombudapest

    Ok;ok. But we can agree that Pollard had a really good ’09 season?

  • Matt Simon

    Wonderful article. I was not aware of your woes, but it feels good as a division adversary to hear that we made the right move.

    Bernard has shown absolutely no evidence of being a trouble maker. In fact, he has become a leader in the locker room. One fight, but it was called for.

    Bernard for president! (of the defensive side, of course).

    • zoltanfrombudapest

      Thank you for the kind words. I think Gene made a big mistake not signing Bernard.

      • Frankie

        I honestly think Pollard didn’t want to come here. So I don’t downgrade Gene for not having Pollard.