Mailbag: Once around the AFC South

Matt from Berkeley, CA writes: If Maurice Jones-Drew wins the NFL rushing title this year with how bad the Jags passing game is, his career definitively jumps into HoF consideration. How many snaps has he run into the teeth of 8 and 9 man fronts? Imagine what MJD could do on a prolific, no scratch that, even an average passing team. The HoF is for special players whose skill breaks the game, and I think MoJo is showing us this season that is exactly the kind of player he is. How bad the Jags are shows how good MoJo truly is, because we can see how he plays when EVERYONE is trying to stop HIM. Of course, he will need to keep it up a few more seasons and finish strong with a long and productive career, but I feel every bit as certain I'm watching a HoF caliber player when I watch him every bit as much as when I watch Brady or Manning.

Paul Kuharsky: Easy, Killer.

He’s a great back. But you have to be super-great to threaten the Hall of Fame from a team that hasn’t been to or won a Super Bowl or even been in the playoffs more often than not. We need time to judge, and to me the biggest question for the Hall of Fame is, was he the best player or one of the best players at his position during his time and among his contemporaries?

In 2009 and 2010, MJD wasn’t even the best back in his division. He’s still writing his resume, but I think Fred Taylor is going to have a tough time getting in the Hall of Fame. And MJD will have to more than double his career rushing yardage to catch Taylor in that category.

Jack Peters from Denton, TX writes: I seem to have heard somewhere that Peyton Manning's $28 million is due before the official opening of the 2012 season, and so he can't be traded until after that payment has been made (which I believe is a bonus rather than base salary). Does that mean that the Colts would be on the hook for Manning's $28 million even if they trade him once the 2012 season officially opens? Or is the only way to avoid it if Manning agrees to re-structure so that the payment is due after the 2012 season begins? Also, do you think that since Andrew Luck has a year of college eligibility that he could threaten to go back to school if the Colts don't trade Manning before he has to declare for the draft so that he wouldn't have to sit behind Manning for potentially 3 or 4 years (like Aaron Rogers did) if Manning comes back healthy.

Paul Kuharsky: Yes, the bonus is due before the new league year starts. So if the timetable is not adjusted, he can’t be traded until after it’s paid. And all of it would then be accelerated to go onto the 2012 cap if he were dealt.

I don’t expect Luck to make a power play, but I don’t expect any team would plan to sit him for more than a year. Rodgers was a major exception, not an example of how to operate. He also came into the league with a lot more work needed than Luck will come in needing,

Stu from Austin, TX writes: Using ESPN as background noise for studying for finals, I have continually heard the talking heads on SportsCenter, NFL Live and then PTI talk about the signing of Jeff Garcia, usually along the lines of Yates not being the starter for long. Do these guys really think two over the hill QBs offer the Texans a better chance to win this season than Yates? I understand the security blanket that two veteran playoff game starting QBs offer, but did anyone at ESPN watch the Texans game last week? It’s kind of hard to say T.J. Yates played any worse than Matt Ryan did.

Paul Kuharsky: Yates played pretty well and showed a lot of upside.

It’s not uncommon for national pundits to see a team, which lost its top two quarterbacks, turn to a rookie they don’t know and think that team would be better off with a veteran they are/were familiar with.

But it’s Yates’ team. If the Texans wind up playing a fourth-string quarterback, it’ll be worse, not better, I expect.

Gary Marsh in Nashville writes: My question is around Jason Babin, how much did he get when he signed with Philly? What are your thoughts around the Titans losing him? My thought is they should be kicking themselves, since they are a team that is struggling to get the sacks...Now, I guess if I rewind to my thoughts of Jason Babin at the end of the year, I think maybe he was a 1 hit wonder...and fits nicely with Jim Washburn and might not have worked out with Tracy Rocker, but mere speculation at this point.

Paul Kuharsky: The Titans wanted to go bigger and didn’t think Babin was worth big money after paying him $1 million as a reclamation project in 2010.

He got a five-year, $28 million deal from the Eagles. But the important numbers are -- a $5 million bonus and $1 million base salary in 2011. He’s scheduled to earn a $5 million base next year.

Would the Titans kill for his pass rush production right now? Sure. Would they be getting it out of their altered system? Hard to say. I’d be more angry over the team’s dependence on guys who haven’t produced (Jason Jones, Derrick Morgan) or panned out (William Hayes) than on its decision not to pursue Babin.

Michael Ivey from Jasper, TX writes: You use 10,000 words on how Tenn can win the AFC South. For the Texans to win the AFC South this week you use four words. A little weak, you must have been on your way out!!

Paul Kuharsky: For a team to have to do far less is far better. You’re making the mistake of suggesting more words somehow mean more. Of course it doesn’t in this instance. (If you were serious.)