So far this weekend, there's been no better example of a roster cut being
made based on money rather than talent than the one involving Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Anthony Madison.
And it's a situation that contradicts a
long-standing mantra among NFL coaches that special teams are just as important
to a team's success as offense and defense.
The fourth-year player confirmed for me on Saturday morning that he had been
released. And that's just unbelievable when you consider that the former University of
Alabama player logged a team-leading 27 special teams tackles, followed by seven more during postseason play as the Steelers claimed the Lombardi Trophy.
"I did not see that coming," the personable and upbeat cornerback
told me during a phone call Saturday morning. "But I'm not concerned about
getting picked up over the next few days. I know that I can have an impact out
there for a few more years."
While rookies Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis were working hard to take
Madison's spot from him during training camp, they didn't clearly outplay the veteran. What
appears to be driving the unexpected decision about Madison is that he signed a restricted free agent tender this year that would
have paid him $1 million dollars. The ever-budget-conscious Steelers are most
likely hoping that he will slip through waivers and that they can re-sign him at
a lower rate.
But they are just as likely to lose their top special teams contributor
through waivers--or even competitive bidding if he clears waivers. And with this
move, the Steelers are sending a mixed message to their entire team in regards
to the value they truly place on special teams versus their offense and their
Just a few of the teams who might step up and put in a claim on Madison are
the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers.
Madison did a short stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 2007, and
from what I've heard, Mark Dominik--who was Director of Pro Player Personnel at
the time--was high on the defensive back's abilities. Due to a roster crunch at
the time, the Bucs had to release him in September and the Steelers grabbed the
chance to bring Madison back to Pittsburgh. With Dominik now calling the shots
as the General Manager, Tampa Bay could make a run at Madison again.
Anthony Madison helped the Steelers win a Super Bowl with seven postseason tackles in three games.
AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
The Browns dropped veterans Rod Hood and Corey Ivy from their roster. "That
leaves them with rookies and Hank Poteat from the
group they brought in this off-season," said TheOBR.com's
Barry McBride. "And (WR Josh) Cribbs was the team's gunner-supreme last
season. I don't know if
they want him doing that as much if he has, in fact, won the No. 2 wide receiver
Minnesota invested heavily in Brett Favre to address their quarterback
situation, but their coverage teams were a weakness last year as well.
"The Vikings had historically bad coverage units last year, giving up
seven touchdowns on special teams," VikingUpdate.com's
Tim Yotter said. "They have a new coordinator this year and get their
special teams ace (Heath Farwell) back from injury.
"Farwell didn't play Friday night and the Vikings gave up a punt return
for a touchdown with their deep-roster reserves after a strange bounce of the
ball. The question is if they would spend another roster spot for primarily a
And in Green Bay, injuries could drive some interest by the Packers.
"The Packers are pretty beat-up at corner, and I'm not sure who their
fifth cornerback will be at this point," said Bill Huber of PackerReport.com.
But will one of those teams--or any of the others around the league who need special teams
help--claim Madison off of waivers at his current level of pay? Or will they wait and enter the bidding the day after,
hoping that they might get a deal by waiting like Pittsburgh?
It'll be an interesting situation to
watch--and an indication as to whether any NFL club truly places equal priority
on their special teams as they do their offense and their defense. Because if no
one claims Anthony Madison off of waivers--with his demonstrated ability as a
high-impact player on special teams--NFL coaches need to be more honest and
admit that special teams is secondary to their other two units.
The Browns' release of linebacker Beau Bell was a bit of a surprise. Although the former UNLV star--who made 320 tackles during
his college career--was a fourth-round pick in 2008, he was Cleveland's first
overall choice of the draft. The Browns had traded away all of their higher
picks. Bell saw some special teams action in 2008 until he injured his knee late
in the season and finished on injured reserve ... It appears that Mark Brunell
will log his 17th NFL season since Joey Harrington was released by the New Orleans Saints on Saturday. The left-handed quarterback
will turn 39 in September and has thrown for 31,826 career yards--third highest
among active quarterbacks behind the Colts' Peyton Manning and the Titans' Kerry Collins ... The Bills' reported release of Dominic Rhodes shouldn't keep him
from finding a club in need of some veteran depth at the position. Buffalo had
plenty of depth at the position with Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and rookie
Xavier Omon. Also working against Rhodes was a $1 million cap hit, including a
$750,000 salary versus Omon's $319,000 cap hit ... A veteran who should draw
plenty of interest is Chiefs center Eric Ghiaciuc. A three-year starter with the
Bengals, he didn't adjust to the Bengals scheme extremely fast, but once he got
it, he played well. The Chiefs may have cut ties with him prematurely ... Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano is feeling much better about his team's depth
this year than he did at this time last year. "A large part of that is due
to developing some of these younger players.," he said. Sparano mentioned
third-year linebacker Quentin Moses as one of those players who has made
significant strides this year.
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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com.