Commentary

Change may benefit Peterson, Redding

Originally Published: March 16, 2009
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Juian Peterson and Corey ReddingGetty ImagesJulian Peterson and Cory Redding both got big contracts from their former teams.

So, what did we learn from the Saturday trade in which the Seattle Seahawks sent strongside linebacker Julian Peterson to the Detroit Lions for defensive lineman Cory Redding ?

At least two things.

First, President Barack Obama doesn't have a monopoly on change you can believe in. And second, to paraphrase the old adage, one man's mistake is another man's messiah, at least in the NFL.

Despite the importance of stability in the league, new coaches prefer change and generally shake up the personnel status quo. Jim Mora of Seattle and Jim Schwartz of Detroit are no different.

Since the end of the 2007 season, there have been 14 head-coaching changes in the NFL. Thirteen of those 14 engendered at least one significant change involving a prominent player in the new sideline boss' inaugural season, whether by release, free agency, retirement or another means of attrition. Among a few of the most notable housecleaning victims: wide receivers Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Joey Galloway and Laveranues Coles; tight ends Kellen Winslow and Alge Crumpler; offensive lineman Orlando Pace; tailback Warrick Dunn; defensive end Jason Taylor; and cornerbacks Dre' Bly and Patrick Surtain.

Now, add Redding and Peterson to that list.

It is one of the NFL's facts of life: A change of head coaches usually begets a roster makeover, as the new boss attempts to create -- or, more accurately, recreate -- the franchise in his image. Schwartz and Mora looked at their incumbent personnel, decided that Peterson and Redding didn't fit what they want to do and made the swap of defensive ill fits.

On paper, the deal appears one-sided: a five-time Pro Bowler for one who has never been to the all-star game. But it apparently made good sense to both coaches.

And for the people who delineate the profit-and-loss ledgers, it was a win. The Seahawks rid themselves of an older player at a spot that is no longer a glamour position on defense, thinned out their impressive inventory of linebackers and escaped paying Peterson $6.5 million in 2009. Although he restructured his contract to facilitate the trade, Redding probably would have balked at such a move in Detroit. And he was entering only the second season of a seven-year, $47.8 million payout.

Which brings us, rather circuitously, to the mistake element.

When the Seahawks signed Peterson away from San Francisco in 2006, they rewarded him with a seven-year, $54 million contract. At that time, no one could have foreseen that Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu would emerge as standout linebackers, making Peterson extraneous and creating a disproportionate salary-cap distribution. Still, Peterson, 30, is gone after three years in Seattle, during which he posted 24.5 sacks, was named to three Pro Bowls and was Seattle's only representative in Hawaii last season.

But for the Lions and Redding, the economic situation may have been even worse. Redding, 28 and a six-year veteran, was only one season into a seven-year deal. A versatile player who benefited in the move to tackle from end three years ago, Redding was a good but not great player.

Redding, who finished last season on injured reserve with a gimpy knee, parlayed his one standout season into a windfall. He had eight sacks in 2006, a performance that prompted Detroit officials to use the franchise tag on him.

But Redding has had only four sacks since, and except for his memorable '06 season, he has never put up more than three sacks in a season. The former Texas star has only 16 career sacks, and half of them came in 2006. That's not a lot for six seasons in the league. And although defensive linemen aren't paid to make individual tackles, Redding has only one season of 40-plus stops.

The good news for the Seahawks? They gain about two years in age and nicely fill their need for a disruptive front-end defender to replace the loss of free agent Rocky Bernard. And they have escaped a financial logjam at linebacker. The not-so-good news? No matter how he restructured his contract, Redding is not a dominating player.

For one big year, the Lions signed Redding to a pricey contract, a deal that eventually led him out of town. Even though the Lions' new regime wasn't responsible for the contract, it still looks like a mistake from every angle.

Likewise, the Seahawks probably erred in giving Peterson a $54 million deal that runs through the 2012 season. Although the former first-round draft pick (by the 49ers in 2000) has 46 sacks in a nine-year career, he has had only one double-digit sack season, in 2006. In each of the past two seasons, his sack total has slipped. Of his 24.5 sacks in the past three seasons, only 5.5 have come in the second half of those seasons.

There's no doubt that Redding provides the Seahawks with the type of quick defensive lineman they have been seeking and gives them upfront flexibility. For his part, Peterson should give the Lions an occasionally explosive pass-rusher, and he fits Schwartz's need for outside linebacker help. Neither defender, though, has played up to his bountiful contract.

For Mora and Schwartz, change was inevitable. After all, these two teams won a total of four games in 2008. Despite all the above, the trade might turn out to be beneficial for both clubs.

But only if the two coaches involved can overcome someone else's mistake.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.