Monday, March 18, 2013

Arreliuos Benn, Or Playing Smallball With Big People

Younger, faster, bigger, cheaper
In one of those minor moves that can easily fly under the radar because the guy is not now, nor very likely ever to be, fantasy relevant outside of stupidly large leagues, the Eagles picked up 24-year-old WR Arrelious Benn from Tampa for the basic equivalent of nothing (moving down 16 spots in the draft in the sixth round). Benn, a washout of a second-round pick from Illinois in the 2010 draft, has a mess of starts and now very many catches or scores to his credit. He's also been pretty awful on running plays, and didn't do much to endear himself to the Buc faithful with a three-year combined line that wouldn't have been all that amazing in a single year.

So why did the Eagles want him? Well, he's had some moments and bad luck -- a torn ACL in 2011 can't have helped the learning curve -- and the QB situation in Tampa hasn't exactly been consistent or ideal. The price here is as close as you are going to get to nothing (at least, right now: Benn might have been cut in camp, after all), and the dude will be 25, with a reasonable catch rate, in September.

I've liked Jason Avant, for the most part, during his time in the laundry; he's been a dependable 3rd/4th WR, and while his hands aren't exactly airtight, they've been the best of a bad group (with the exception of post-contract DeSean Jackson, who didn't drop a single ball in 2012). He's not done yet, not by a long shot, and has the kind of skills that might play at 35 as well as they do at 30. But Benn is five years younger, two inches taller, and ten pounds heavier than he is, and Avant doesn't stay in the screen with Benn's 4.42 combine time in the 40. And those nice moments in the dog days last year with Nick Foles don't really matter to a coach that didn't draft him or live and die with those moments. Avant is also, if you really want to get mean about it, a million and a half dollars a year cheaper in 2013. And that always matters, and quite frankly, should.

So no, Benn's not a game-changer or a sure-fire bet, and if he's out of football in a year, I won't notice and neither will you. (The same might be true of Avant, of course. It's football; everyone's on their potential last play ever.)

But if coach Chip Kelly can get something out of him, something close to a second round pick?

That is how good football teams are built, with hidden value and sweating the reserves. And that's also why I kind of love what this team has done so far in the 2013 off-season, where they make smart bet after smart bet, while not putting too much into any single pot. With the way the NFL is right now, it looks like the winning play to me, and a solid way to get better. Or, at the very least, younger, faster, bigger and cheaper...

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