AFC East mailbag dropped on your doormat

February, 20, 2010
2/20/10
10:02
AM ET
With ESPN's Chris Mortensen reporting San Diego Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie has worn out his welcome and is being shopped for a running back, several readers -- including Ryan on my Facebook page, which I welcome you to sign up for -- asked about the possibility of the New York Jets trading Thomas Jones for him.

I'd be surprised if the Chargers would make that trade. They need a running back because LaDainian Tomlinson will turn 31 years old in June and has nothing left. Jones is a year older than Tomlinson, and while Jones did roll up 1,402 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, he was worn down and banged up at the end of the year.

The Chargers would be reckless to trade the 19th overall draft choice in 2006 (an All-Pro with a league-leading 10 interceptions in 2007) for an old running back who would put the Chargers' backfield in the same spot a year from now.


Josh in Pennsylvania is trying to find out what undisclosed draft compensation the Miami Dolphins received for trading offensive linemen Andy Alleman and Ikechuku Ndukwe to the Kansas City Chiefs in August.

You've stumbled upon one of the great mysteries in the NFL, Josh. In fact, we've been able to find out more about negotiations between the league and the players association than we have the particulars of this trade. There have been reports the Dolphins obtained the Chiefs' sixth-round pick, but we can't seem to confirm it.

I reached out to the Dolphins this week to find out the answer and was told by a spokesman that the team's policy is to not reveal such information. I contacted the NFL, and a spokesman told me they will release the final draft order in April, but the Dolphins were free to tell me if they wished. AFC West blogger Bill Williamson approached the Chiefs and was rebuffed. ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton said this is the only 2009 trade particulars he doesn't have nailed down.


Paul in Lexington, Mass., takes umbrage with the notion the New England Patriots are aging, a sentiment expressed by analysts in a recent column I wrote about the Jets having a brighter future than the defending AFC East champs.

As Paul astutely points out, the Patriots have youth all over the place. More than half of the members on their roster had five or fewer seasons of NFL experience in 2009. The Patriots will have their usual bumper crop of draft picks in April. They already have four selections within the first two rounds.

Those are valid points, but the problem is the Patriots are getting older in key positions. I will buy the argument the Patriots' divisional dynasty won't die if someone can convince me they'll turn one of their many draft picks into another Tom Brady. Four-fifths of their starting offensive line was born in the 1970s. Star receiver Randy Moss turned 33 a week ago. If the Patriots re-sign Kevin Faulk, then they'll have three running backs who'll be 33 or older before training camp.


Jon in Kenmore, N.Y., wonders what the Buffalo Bills will do at nose tackle because they don't have "a single player on the roster capable of playing the most important spot" as they switch to a 3-4 defense.

Options exist through the draft and -- to a lesser degree -- free agency. How the Bills proceed will depend on how they prioritize their various needs. Will they spend their ninth overall draft choice on an offensive tackle? A quarterback? Will there be enough nose tackles available on the open market?

Let's assume nose tackle will be a main concern. And for the purpose of addressing this question, let's pretend it's their ultimate offseason prize. If they wanted to draft the best nose tackles in this year's class Insider, they probably can. Many draftniks rate Dan Williams of Tennessee the best of the lot. He still should be on the board at No. 9, but that might be a reach for Williams. The Bills also have the 41st selection and could take a shot at Alabama's Terrence Cody or North Carolina's Cam Thomas there.

Free agency appears lacking because nose tackles are such a commodity. The Patriots and San Francisco 49ers are expected to put franchise tags on Vince Wilfork and Aubrayo Franklin. The Pittsburgh Steelers could franchise Casey Hampton. Green Bay Packers nose tackle Ryan Pickett will be unrestricted, but he stated he wants to return -- and could be franchised anyway.

The Bills' best option might be Jason Ferguson if the Dolphins part ways with him. Ferguson is a free agent who will turn 36 next season and is coming off a leg injury.


Edward in Caldwell, Ind., has a solution to the Pro Bowl problem. He proposes they merge it with the Hall of Fame Game and have the all-stars play the same weekend the new Hall of Fame class is inducted.

I like how you think outside the box, Edward, but I see two hitches with your suggestion.

The first problem is that it would eliminate a game (read: revenues) from the NFL menu. You can throw any two teams together for the Hall of Fame Game and it won't make a difference, so fielding two teams of all-stars would be a wasted opportunity for the NFL to make a few bucks.

The other issue that immediately comes to mind is teams wouldn't want their best players playing outside their supervision so close to the season. When someone gets hurt in the Pro Bowl in February, he has months to rest and recover. A tweaked hamstring or a pulled groin at the start of training camp would be maddening.

Ryan in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, thinks Rex Ryan's XXXL personality is a distraction for the Jets and wants to know if I agree.

Ryan's behavior has done far more good than harm for the Jets because his players respond to it. The locker room is loyal to Ryan because of he's a charismatic leader who constantly reinforces his faith in the roster. Is he too arrogant? Is he irresponsible? Perhaps, but that loose personality helped propel the Jets to within 30 minutes of the Super Bowl.

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