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Saturday, May 22, 2010
Walker's weekend mailbag

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Let's see what's in the weekend mailbag.

Nick from Knoxville, Tenn., writes: Do the Cincinnati Bengals have a backup plan at quarterback?

James Walker: Nick, the Bengals are in the same boat as most NFL teams, where if the starting quarterback goes down they're in trouble. There are not enough good quarterbacks in the league for teams to stash away two or three quality starters anymore. Some teams don't even have one proven quarterback. Reportedly the Bengals have looked at adding JaMarcus Russell, but nothing has come to fruition. Like last year, J.T. O'Sullivan and Jordan Palmer are the backup quarterbacks in Cincinnati.

K from Anacostia, Washington D.C., writes: With all the talk about Jared Gaither, I would like to know why there has been no talk of starting him at right tackle for this year and then giving him the franchise tag next year.

Walker: The NFL is such a year-to-year league, K. If Gaither struggles or is injured this season, the Ravens wouldn't be interested in putting the franchise tag on him. But the tag is a possibility. If the Ravens are unwilling to pay Gaither a large contract extension this offseason -- and it seems that is the case -- the best move for Gaither might be to try to convince the Ravens not to tag him if he agrees to play out the season without incident. That way, Baltimore can focus on its 2010 season and Gaither will get his money from the Ravens or somewhere else next year.

Vinnie from Atlanta writes: I wanted to ask a current Cleveland resident what the pulse of city is like? Yes, this question is about the Cavs and LeBron James' future. How is the city doing?

Walker: The city of Cleveland is not doing well, Vinnie. It's a Browns town, but right now all the conversation is about LeBron James. Is he leaving? Where is he going? What happened against the Boston Celtics? The consensus here is that it would be a bit of an upset if James stayed. On top of that, expectations are not very high for the Browns, and it doesn't help that several new players are demanding new contracts. It's simply a bad run for Cleveland sports right now.

Don from Camp Hill, Penn., writes: With the storm that Ben Roethlisberger has drug into Pittsburgh, are the Steelers looking at a major decline of performance?

Walker: Don, in my opinion, the only reason Roethlisberger is still on the team is because of his ability to perform at a high level. If Roethlisberger was a second-string tight end or a fullback, the Steelers probably would have cut bait. Roethlisberger needs to perform well this year. If his performance no longer outweighs the headaches he is causing the franchise, the Steelers may consider finding a replacement.

Aaron from Johnson City, Tenn., writes: Do you think the Steelers would sign T.O.? I know I'm crazy, but I think he could be a good slot receiver.

Walker: Aaron, I think every team in the division wanted Terrell Owens at one point or another. It's not happening in Pittsburgh. Let that one go.

RJ from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: It seems like every week you hear about another NFL player complaining about their contract, skipping workouts, thinking they deserve more money, etc. It's become pretty standard. Are they not acting ENTITLED?

Walker: Unfortunately the business side of the NFL is very ugly, RJ, and it goes both ways for the team and the player. When a player underperforms on a contract, the team cuts him without fanfare. Also, when a player outperforms his contract, he usually wants a raise. That comes with the territory when contracts are not guaranteed.

David from Los Angeles writes: I realize that this is a copy-cat league. But why are so many teams trying to make the transition to the 3-4 defense when so few teams actually have the right players to implement it?

Walker: Good question, David. Success of the 3-4 defense has provided more opportunities to implement the scheme and for more 3-4 coaches to get jobs as defensive coordinators and head coaches. The Bill Belichick tree, for instance, recently produced Romeo Crennel (Browns, Kansas City Chiefs) and Eric Mangini (New York Jets, Browns), who both brought their defensive philosophies to other teams. For most coaches, their philosophy is what they unequivocally believe in. So they will try to make it work regardless of the roster. Eventually, each coach feels they can shuffle in the right players over time.