by: Mike Parker
With the Bengals slapping the franchise tag on PK Shayne Graham (!!!), TJ Houshmandzadeh is now far more likely to explore the free agent market, as Mike Sando discusses here.
If the Seahawks are indeed interested in the veteran receiver, there's definitely a good case one could make for making a run at him.
There's only one problem, as Sando writes -
That could be good news for NFC West teams hoping to upgrade at receiver. I'm still not sure how much money Houshmandzadeh will command on the market, but the Seahawks, 49ers and Rams could conceivably use help at the position.The Niners and Rams are definitely in somewhat dire need of a playmaker on offense, as the Rams have about 72 players over the age of 30, and San Fran's no. 1 receiver is probably on his last leg. (And, ironically enough, acquired from the Rams.)
Because of this dire need, the Rams or Niners could go Corleone on Housh and make him an offer he can't refuse. Or, the Rams could be truly evil and steal away the Hawks' predicted draft pick in Michael Crabtree, but I can't see that happening for two reasons:
1.) Orlando Pace is older than Larry King and twice as injury-prone (hence they draft an OT like Oher/Smith/Monroe);
2.) They've already got a "one day he'll be a Pro Bowler" guy in Donnie Avery.
So when all is said and done, if the Seahawks are serious about drafting Crabtree, (something that I'm now officially drinking the Kool-Aid on, by the way), they shouldn't be too worried about letting Housh sign with a division rival. At the very least, they won't be very aggressive in the effort. Nate Burleson is ahead of schedule in the recovery process from his torn ACL, and when healthy, he's been productive. However, he'll have to compete for playing time in 2009. It's hard to remember after this season, but this team really IS deep at receiver.
And I'm not even including the Cardinals in this train of thought. They would still be set at receiver even if Boldin leaves, especially with Steve Breaston's emerging talent and Larry Fitzgerald playing like Lynn Swan. I say it's time for the Hawks to do everything they can to draft Crabtree, who would conceivably be a legitimate deep threat for the next 10 years. But at the same time, if Housh comes with a cheap price tag in free agency, I think he'd be hard for Ruskell to turn away. It's reasonable to think Housh is tired of Ocho Stinko's antics and wants to play for a team that wins games, but at what cost?
Imagine a starting lineup of Branch/Crabtree/Housh....hey, I can dream, can't I? -END-