Intentional Hounding: Sanders Set Free

S Bob Sanders (Andy Lyons/Getty)

From training camp to the Super Bowl and all the offseason activity, Intentional Hounding is a blog from Scout.com NFL Analyst John Crist to outfit you with all the latest news, notes and quotes.

Former DPOY Sanders pink-slipped

FRI, FEB 18
12:11 PM CST


S Bob Sanders
Scott Boehm/Getty

The Colts decided Friday to release safety Bob Sanders, who was voted the league's Defensive Player of the Year just three seasons ago.

Originally a second-round pick in the 2004 draft, Sanders is one of the better run stuffers in football when on the field, but staying on the field has been a problem since the moment he arrived from the University of Iowa. The 5-8, 206-pounder has played in only 48 of 112 possible games during his seven-year career, including just nine total in the three campaigns following his recognition as the best defender in the NFL.

In typical 21st-century fashion, Colts owner Jim Irsay announced the move on his Twitter account:

"We have released Bob Sanders today. We thank Bob 4 all his incredible contributions from his Sup Bowl pic 2 def player of year honors."

Sanders, six days shy of his 30th birthday, didn't appear to be surprised when handed his pink slip.

"I want to thank Mr. Irsay for the opportunity to play with the Colts," he said. "I appreciate all he and the organization did for me throughout my career, and I always will consider myself a Colt. I want to thank the fans also for their great support. They played a big part in making my seven years with the team very rewarding."

In 48 games for Indianapolis, including 46 starts, Sanders recorded 220 tackles, 3.5 sacks, six interceptions, two forced fumbles, 16 passes defensed and one defensive touchdown, when he returned a fumble 37 yards to paydirt as a rookie in 2004.

With him, the Colts could actually stop the run more often than not. But without him, which was way too often, a front seven that has been undersized for years didn't have the run support it needed from the secondary -- they were 25th in the league defending the ground game in 2010, when the two-time All-Pro suited up but once.

This transaction is somewhat financially motivated, as Sanders signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract extension in 2007 and was due a good chunk of that money in 2011.

"I think the Colts finally decided the risk-reward factor with Sanders was too high to continue paying him to play a fraction of a season each year," said Eric Hartz, the editor of ColtPower.com. "He was slated to make around $5 million in 2011, and with a capable and more reliable safety available in Melvin Bullitt, that's money that could be used elsewhere to improve the defense and offensive line."

While somebody else is likely to give Sanders another shot next season, it'll have to be a minimum-salary, incentive-laden deal given his injury-prone label.

"If he can stay healthy, and if he hasn't lost any speed, something that's not been tested in a couple of years in a game situation, he could be worth a flyer for another team," Hartz said. "But those are two big 'ifs,' and even with something to prove in the league again, one has to wonder if Sanders' career is over."

While the Cover-2 scheme Sanders thrived in isn't as prevalent anymore, the Bears still run it because coach Lovie Smith is a disciple of former Colts coach Tony Dungy.


For all the news, notes and quotes on the Colts, visit ColtPower.com


Hali the latest to be given franchise tag

THU, FEB 17
11:17 AM CST


LB Tamba Hali
Joe Robbins/Getty

Teams seem to be much more willing to throw around the franchise tag this offseason, at least more so than they were a year ago, and Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali is the latest victim.

The word "victim" was used quite casually in the previous paragraph, as Hali would guarantee himself a one-year contract for 2011 in the vicinity of $10 million should he indeed accept the offer. That's a tenfold raise in salary when compared to what the former first-round pick made in 2010.

One of the more glaring Pro Bowl snubs in the league, Hali recorded 52 tackles, an AFC-leading 15 sacks, four forced fumbles and three passes defensed. A durable contributor the moment he arrived from Penn State, the 6-3, 275-pounder suited up for all 16 games yet again in 2010, the fourth time he's done so in his five seasons -- he's played 79 of 80 possible games as a pro. In Kansas City's 30-7 loss to the Ravens in the wild-card round of the playoffs, Hali was one of the few Chiefs that showed up that day: seven tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass defensed.

According to Nick Athan, the publisher of WarpaintIllustrated.com, bringing back Hali was a no brainer for the organization.

"Ever since Kansas City signed linebacker Derrick Johnson to a five-year contract extension, general manager Scott Pioli has been trying to do the same with the AFC's leading pass rusher," said Athan. "However, to this point, the two sides have a large gap to overcome. So instead, Wednesday the Chiefs placed their franchise tag on Hali. Hali is the team's only true pass rusher, and retaining his services for the short term is a paramount concern."

27 years old and in the prime of his career, the Chiefs may do with Hali what the AFC West-rival Raiders did with defensive end Richard Seymour, who was slapped with the franchise tag but then signed a two-year deal that made both parties happy.

"Should the two sides be unable to get a long-term contract done," Athan said, "prior to or after there is a new CBA, remains to be seen."

Behind Hali, third-year defensive end Wallace Gilberry finished second on the Chiefs with seven sacks.


For all the news, notes and quotes on the Chiefs, visit WarpaintIllustrated.com


White productive with all of his targets

WED, FEB 16
9:36 PM CST


WR Roddy White
Streeter Lecka/Getty

One of the relatively new stats that is becoming a bigger part of the football lexicon, especially for fantasy players, is targets, meaning how many times a potential pass catcher was targeted by the quarterback -- or another passing player -- and thrown the pigskin.

Atlanta's Roddy White had more targets than anybody else in the NFL this past season with 179, which makes sense because he also led the league in receptions with 115. But what is all the more impressive about White is that he reeled in a greater percentage of the balls thrown his way than any receiver in the top 10 in targets at a sure-handed 64.2 percent.

There are a plethora of reasons for this phenomenon, some more important than others. Obviously, having a top-notch signal caller helps, and Matt Ryan is certainly that. Playing half his games indoors at the Georgia Dome is no doubt a factor, as bad weather is never an option on his home turf. And since White's yards-per-catch average of 12.1 is rather Marcedes Lewis-like -- the Jaguars tight end was at 12.1, too -- it's safe to assume that he was targeted quite frequently on shorter throws that are more easily completed. Posts, flags and flies are less likely to result in a completion.

While Denver's Brandon Lloyd blew away his career bests in 2010 with 77 catches for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns, he had to be targeted 153 times in order to get those 77 receptions. In other words, he only grabbed 50.3 percent of the balls thrown his way, which was the lowest of the top 10 most-targeted wideouts, although his yards-per-catch average of 18.8 suggests he did a lot of his damage down the field.

Reggie Wayne of the Colts (63.8 percent) and Santana Moss of the Redskins (63.7) were among those most likely to make the catch when targeted, while Terrell Owens of the Bengals (51.8) and Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals (52.0) trotted back to the huddle empty-handed a higher percentage of the time.


For all the news, notes and quotes on the Falcons, visit FalconInsider.com


Franchise for Vick, transition for Akers

TUE, FEB 15
12:26 PM CST


QB Michael Vick
Hunter Martin/Getty

After Patriots Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is now the second player this offseason to be slapped with the franchise tag.

Originally nothing more than a backup to Kevin Kolb following the trade of Donovan McNabb to the Redskins, Vick ended up starting 11 games for Philadelphia and turned out to be a better thrower of the football than he ever was throughout his Falcons career, completing 62.6 percent of his passes, assembling a 21-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio and finishing with a 100.2 passer rating. Winner of the league's Comeback Player of the Year award, the former No. 1-overall pick is guaranteed a one-year deal in the vicinity of $17 million for 2011.

Completing a stunning turnaround, in which he went from one of the biggest pariahs in sports history to again one of the NFL's most popular players, this is a statement from the Eagles organization that Vick is not only the QB of the present in the City of Brotherly Love but perhaps the QB of the future, too. Kolb has taken his demotion like a man and did nothing to rock the boat this past season, although he is on record recently saying he wants to be a starter in 2011. While franchising Vick means finding a new home for Kolb could be the next step, coach Andy Reid isn't going to give away a promising young signal caller with starting experience for nothing, especially since Vick's ability to run subjects him to potential injury more often than a run-of-the-mill pocket passer.

Additionally, Philadelphia placed the transition tag on kicker David Akers, who, like Vick, was a Pro Bowl selection in 2010. The 13-year veteran connected on 32 of 38 field-goal opportunities and split the uprights on all 47 extra points.

Even with free agency currently on hold because of the state of the collective bargaining agreement, the Eagles weren't about to let either Vick or Akers get away.

"Michael Vick and David Akers were two of our most valuable players last year," Reid said. "They were well deserving of their Pro Bowl berths, and we're happy to take this step to ensure that they'll be back in Philadelphia next season."

As a transition player, Akers is due a one-year contract worth at least $2.5 million.


For all the news, notes and quotes on the Eagles, visit WarNest.com



John Crist is an NFL Analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.

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