Do the names Travis LaBoy and Antwan Odom ring a bell?
It was just last March when the former Tennessee Titan defensive ends decided that the grass (and the money) was greener in other NFL cities. LaBoy packed his bags for the Arizona desert while Odom was signed to be the centerpiece of an underwhelming Cincinnati defensive line.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans lost two players who accounted for 14 sacks in 2007 and were faced with the prospect of replacing them with a combination of youngsters, journeymen and a player formerly known as the Freak.
We're near the conclusion of the 2008 season and it's pretty clear that the Titans got the proverbial better end of this bargain.
Antwan Odom: Pay > Production
After parlaying an 8-sack performance in 2007 into a rich free agent deal with the Bungles, Odom has once again become an underachiever in 2008. In 11 games, Odom has only sacked opposing quarterbacks twice.
I'm sure he misses those one-on-one matchups he used to have as a result of playing on the same line as Albert Haynesworth.
Travis LaBoy: Disappearing act
In what should be not-so-surprising news to Titans' fans, Travis has also missed a couple of games due to injuries. As we all know, durability was never one of LaBoy's strengths.
Meanwhile, the Titans have done a great job of replacing their former defensive ends.
Jacob Ford: The road to redemption
Ford's done a nice job bouncing back from last year's season-ending Achilles injury. He's accumulated six sacks while providing a nice pass rush off the edge for the Titans.
David Ball: Great motor, horrible celebration dances
Prior to this year, Ball was the definition of a journeyman. After flaming out in San Diego and New York, the former 5th round pick has found a home in Nashville.
Replacing an injured Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ball has sacked opposing qb's 4.5 times while also returning an interception for a TD against the winless Lions.
Now if he could only work on those dance moves...
Jevon Kearse: Healthy, at last!
After missing nineteen games during his forgettable four years in Philadelphia, Kearse has been a constant presence in the Titans' starting lineup in 2008.
"The Freak" hasn't missed a game this year and despite a rather-low sack total (3.5) he's done a solid job of pressuring quarterbacks this year.
Jason Jones: Future stud
Jones was drafted as a DE, but his biggest contribution came at DT last week against the Steelers. JJ replaced an injured Albert Haynesworth and had an unforgettable game, sacking "Big Ben" 3.5 times and forcing three fumbles.
Despite missing four games, Jones has accumulated 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 30 total tackles. Jones is going to be a very good player in this league.
William Hayes: Slowly but surely
The transition from tiny Winston Salem State to the NFL has been a learning experience filled with ups and downs for rookie DE William "Big Plays" Hayes.
Despite his struggles, it's clear that Hayes has improved as the season has went along. That improvement was demonstrated with some production against the Steelers, as Hayes attained a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery in the Titans' win over Pittsburgh.
Kudos should go out to Mike Reinfeldt for deciding to pass on re-signing LaBoy and Odom at ridiculous free-agent market prices. On top of that, he should also be credited for drafting cheaper replacements with potentially greater upside (Jones, Hayes) and taking a chance on a journeyman such as Dave Ball.
In the spirit of the holiday season, Mike should send out Christmas cards to LaBoy and Odom with the following message:
Thanks for the memories and enjoy your newfound riches.
P.S. We hardly miss ya!
The Tennessee Titans