Erasmus James gets physical today

Hat tip to ReggieBullits for posting the news in this FanPost, but in case you weren't aware, Erasmus James is now a Redskin and, pending his physical, his former Vikings are now the proud owners of the Redskins 7th round draft pick in 2009. Per the Official Site:

"We really liked Erasmus coming out of college," executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said. "He's young and talented, and he has a great deal of potential. We like the fact that his defensive line coach at the University of Wisconsin--John Palermo--is our current defensive line coach."

This quote tends to confirm my suspicion that Palermo was the driving force behind this move. The article quotes Palermo as well, who calls James "an every down player." That's high praise for a player who has spent the majority of his young career not playing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd down; James has been plagued by injuries since joining the league. His best year, as the article notes, was by far his rookie season in 2005. Numbers (per NFL.com) in '05: 15 games, 9 starts, 23 solo tackles, 5 assists, 4 sacks, 2 passes defensed.

Numbers remainder through '06 and '07: 8 games, 3 starts, 7 solo tackles, 2 assists, 0 sacks, 0 passes defensed.


The concern with James' injury history is what prompted the team to condition their traded 7th round pick on the successful passage of a physical by Erasmus. That said, there really isn't much of a concern of James failing the physical here, at least per Redskins Insider:

The Redskins are not concerned about his ability to pass the medical tests and are viewing the deal with the Vikings as a completed trade even though James failed his physical with Minnesota. They aren't worried about it, and these physicals are often highly subjective as well with the standards varying by team. If you really want a guy to pass a physical and he has all his limbs then it can pretty much happen

The physical was supposed to take place yesterday but was moved to today. You'll only read about the physical here if Erasmus James fails the test, which I consider unlikely.

The good news on James is that he has a huge, huge upside. The former Big-Ten Defensive Player of the Year was the 18th player selected overall in the 2005 draft by the Minnesota Vikings out of Wisconsin. He's still just 25 years old and, despite missing two years to injury, has a lot of football in front of him so long as he recovers. His experience under new defensive line coach (formerly DC Greg Blache) John Palermo is also a big positive, as Palermo understands -- indeed, understood at Wisconsin -- how to get the most out of Erasmus. This is a good opportunity to revisit Palermo's bio:

Palermo spent the majority of his coaching career at the University of Wisconsin where he earned the title of assistant head coach-defensive line (1991-2005).

He produced four first-team All Americans, and his players were named first-team All-Big Ten nine times.

In addition, all four defensive linemen from Wisconsin's 2004 season were chosen in the 2005 NFL Draft.

And James was the first among them. The others? Jonathon Welsh, Anttaj Hawthorne, and Jason Jefferson. Haven't heard of them? Me either; Jonathon Welsh is no longer in the NFL, in any capacity as far as I can tell. Anttaj Hawthorne fell in the draft because of a positive test for marijuana, but he probably didn't fall far. His professional career included some actual game time but ended last year when the Raiders cut him; he's currently a free agent. Jason Jefferson is currently with the Bills but his days could be numbered. Lest it concern you that these last three all turned out to be fizzles, none of them were drafted 18th overall. Wels, Hawthorne, and Jefferson were all selected after the 5th round, which hardly guarantees a player a roster spot, let alone a successful NFL career.

Even if one granted the argument that James is sufficiently similar to Welsh, Hawthorne, and Jefferson, and that he was probably coached over his ability at Wisconsin, he happened to be coached up by current Redskins defensive line coach John Palermo. So, with James, we either have a steal at defensive end for a 7th round pick (that, as often as not, doesn't pan out anyways) or a chronic underachiever who happens to prove that our defensive line coach really knows what he's doing. Not a bad spot.

In the good-for-print version of this trade, Dan Steinberg has the notes on James' interesting past:

2) His father, Erasmus Williams, is the longtime press secretary for the prime minister of St. Kitts, leading to this excellent 2004 sentence issued from the Office of the Prime Minister: "BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, NOVEMBER 9TH 2004 (CUOPM) - St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Denzil L. Douglas has congratulated Kittitian-born Erasmus James for his achievements in the Big Ten College Football Conference now underway in the United States." I'm pretty sure Dr. the Hon. Denzil L. Douglas is in line for an ESPN.com writing job.

He also plays Madden, probably as himself, as James is a respectable 82.
That would make him higher than all Redskins defensive ends but Andre Carter on our '08 Madden roster, thus supplanting Phillip Daniels at end. So we've got that going for us.

As good as this deal was for us, though that's only one man's opinion, I can't say it was bad for the Vikings. They were ready to cut James but ended up getting a 7th rounder for it, which helped us avoid having to duke it out on the wires for him in free agency. Per The Daily Norseman:

[T]he Vikings were able to recind their waiving of Erasmus James and, instead, trade him to the Washington Redskins for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2009.  The "condition," apparently, is that he makes the team.  Well, it's better than nothing. . .I don't see how he's going to pass another team's physical if he couldn't pass Minnesota's (you would think they'd be similar), but that's not for me to decide.


Though I disagree about the physical, if I were told that we were effectively ready to cut a player but instead got a 7th rounder for him, I'd be of the same tune; it is better than nothing. Which is precisely what the Vikes got for former Redskin turned former Viking turned current Redskin Fred Smoot, when they cut him last March. One year later, as CptChaosSidekick pointed out, Fred Smoot was considered the fifth best cornerback in the league last season ($) by KC Joyner. That's a precedent: give us your tired, your poor, your physical failing, your Vikings.

In sum, the bad news is that he certainly didn't do much in Minnesota to convince the peanut gallery that he had or ever would meet expectations, but then again he wasn't with the man who made him an 18th overall pick. Now he is. Even if he does fizzle out, it only cost us a 7th round draft pick. I think it's a great move to shore up a need position.

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