CHAPTER 14: Like a Phoenix
Our first season without Jeffrey Davis' control was not nearly as much fun as I had hoped. The best operating projections on earnings suggested we were in deep financial straits. The only way I could avoid bankrupting myself by the end of the year was to deny my urge to re-sign our players for another SuperBowl run. If I spent the money on signing bonuses to re-sign our best players, I wouldn't have it to pay the salaries at the end of the year.
Thus, we started penalized again. I watched helplessly as three of our starting O-linemen defected to sign with other teams that could offer juicier contracts than we could. I had to slap the franchise tag on TE Randy McMichael to stop him from escaping, but in doing so I knew it would be his last year with us. The same would be true of DE John Abraham, who was the heart and soul of our defensive menace. While we could keep him for one more year, the signing bonus he wanted to extend his contract just wasn't there. He was asking for a $16 million bonus--reasonable money for a star of his caliber--but I couldn't afford it.
I also had to hike the prices on our fans. It wasn't something I wanted to do, especially with all the hard feelings over the Jeffrey Davis fiasco. But if I didn't act to stop the bleeding losses, Davis might have found himself back in a controlling interest.
The offseason, therefore, was littered with no inspiring news whatsoever. We watched helplessly as players that could have truly benefited the squad dropped from the free agency board.
Meanwhile, the NFL watched closely to make sure I kept my promise to integrate Northerners into the team. In the eleventh week of free agency, the Rebels signed their first Northern player, RT Trevor Hanshew from a hometown in Utah and a graduate of Stanford. Interestingly, our first round draft pick was also a Utah-bred Stanford graduate.
The draft left us in an odd position. No GM would hear my desperate pleas to move up in the first round and get the tackle we needed so badly. When our pick came around, we needed to draft need as well as best available talent. We also needed to pick cheap. This left us with going after an odd choice, fullback Dave Chambliss. The draft report looked like this:
Rnd 1 - Dave Chambliss, FB, Stanford
Rnd 3 - Jerald McGregor, T, Arizona
Rnd 4 - Corey Wilkins, P, Memphis
Rnd 5 - Lenny Oxford, DE, East Stroudsburg
Rnd 6 - Conrad Reilly, T, Rutgers
Rnd 7 - Ethan Hoffman, WR, Maryland
Not until deep in the draft did we take players from the Northeast, but the Western players satisfied the NFL. OUr only deep South pick, punter Corey Wilkins proved to be an incredible steal at the end of the 4th, as he quickly matured into one of the best punters in the league.
The Sporting News gave us an "A" for our draft, but I was skeptical. We didn't come close to replacing the talent we lost in the desperate attempt to save money.
(p.s., thanks to almighty and RedKing! I love hearing from readers, and by the way...even though the parameters of the challenge have changed--now based on money with a no-trade rule in place--don't think the drama has fizzled. I have completed this dynasty already, so I know where it's going, and the heat's still on. Jeffrey Davis ain't dead yet!)
Winner of 6 FOFC Scribe Awards, including 3 Gold Scribes
Founder of the ZFL, 2004 Golden Scribe Dynasty of the Year
Now bringing The Des Moines Dragons back to life, and the joke's on YOU, NFL!
I came to the Crossroad. I took it. And that has made all the difference.