Lots of issues to delve into after a week at the NFL owners' meeting. Let's get right to it.
Talha of St. Paul writes: Hey Kevin, I am a Packers fan and this may surprise you because I live in Minnesota. I just wanted to get your thoughts on the signing of Duke Preston. How would you rate hi, as a player and also do you see him starting for the Pack this year? Thanks.
Kevin Seifert: Actually, there are so many Packers fans in Minnesota it's really amazing. No surprise to me at all. Anyway, I think Preston is a borderline starter/backup who won't embarrass you if he gets into the game. I doubt the Packers are planning to pencil him in as a starter on the first day of training camp. He provides depth at all three positions and could play anywhere if needed.
Brandon of Huntington Beach, Calif., writes: What are you thoughts on the offensive lineman "trade" the Bears made with the Browns? Did the Bears get the better deal with that or was it basically a wash? Also, do you think this changes the draft strategy back to a receiver in the first round?
Kevin Seifert: My biggest reaction is that it's always interesting how NFL teams sometimes value other teams' players more than their own. The Bears had John St. Clair for four years and have a pretty good sense for what kind of player he is. They made a financial offer to him in accordance with that evaluation, but the Browns doubled it. I'd trust the Bears' evaluation over the Browns' in this one. Unfortunately for Chicago, it leaves them with a player the Browns didn't want to continue with. The Bears' contract for Kevin Shaffer was a bit lower in value than St. Clair's. It's basically a wash, but at least the Bears paid a slightly lower figure. And I don't think this changes the Bears' need for a long-term answer at right tackle. St. Clair and Shaffer are both journeymen and short-term answers.
Ben of Iowa City writes: What do you think about the Packers taking Andre Smith at the 9th spot? They desperately need an OT, and Smith was a monster 3 straight years at Alabama. I'm willing to forgive his combine mishap. Is Ted Thompson? In my opinion, the Packers have to take him, do you agree?
Kevin Seifert: I think that's going to be one of the NFC North's questions as we head down the home stretch before the draft. The Packers' short- and long-term needs at tackle have been well-documented, with Chad Clifton seemingly nearing the end of his career and Mark Tauscher's left knee a question mark. I'm sure Thompson would like to add a big-time pass-rusher for the 3-4 defense, but everyone agrees Smith is immensely talented. If all things were equal, he'd be off the board by No. 9. I know there are concerns about his departure from the combine, but to me the biggest concern is that he was still in pretty average shape for his pro day. The Packers have a really, really difficult decision to make here.
Gerald of Jennings, La., writes: Hey Kevin, I'm not a big Lions fan, but I love to see a team that's been down succeed the following season. My concern is that everyone seems focus on the Lions taking Matthew Stafford, but I think with there position it would be a huge mistake picking a quarterback with their first pick. Its pretty obvious that after going winless they have a lot of areas to work on, but with Daunte Culpepper as quarterback it seems they have something to work with in that position for now. I believe the Lions should take the safe course like the Dolphins did last year and maybe draft an OT like Jason Smith or any other OT or maybe an LB like Aaron Curry. And with their other pick in the first pick maybe Sanchez or some OT or LB will also be available, but I'm not sure using the first pick on Stafford is a good idea. What is your take on this?
Kevin Seifert: I am still in the camp that the Lions are best off solidifying their line and other positions unless their scouts believe Stafford is a once-in-a-generation prospect. He's definitely the top quarterback in the draft, but that doesn't necessarily make him the best player overall. You also have to wonder how Stafford would develop on a team that has so many other issues from a personnel standpoint. I reserve the right to change my mind, but that's where I'm coming from now.
K. of Wisconsin writes: TE Tony Gonzalez has said that he wants out of KC. Last year he showed interest to the Packers but the organization was unwilling to give up a 2nd or 3rd rd draft pick. Should the Packers try to go at it again to try to compensate something from FA or do you think they will do well with Finley and Lee at those positions?
Kevin Seifert: To this point, we've heard nothing to suggest the Packers still have interest in Gonzalez, but the Chiefs have also said they have no plans to trade him. I think they have high hopes for Jermichael Finley at the position, even though he seemed pretty immature last year. I don't know that you make a decision on Gonzalez one way or the other because of Finley, but I don't sense the Packers consider it a primary goal right now.
Marc of Minneapolis writes: A lot of discussions are had regarding a draftee's Wonderlic test scores before and after the draft. My question is, do teams ever get players' high school and college transcripts? It seems as though finding out a prospect's class load and grades would help just as much, if not more than any other measure as to whether or not they have the ability to learn complex offensive and defensive schemes in the NFL. Thanks!
Kevin Seifert: I suppose the transcripts are available if needed. But I don't know if I'd want to base any judgments on an athlete's class load. Who knows what goes into picking the classes a player takes? To me, it's better just to judge the results of that education. You can debate whether the Wonderlic is the best way to determine that, but I like it better than a transcript review.
Wisconsin writes: Will the Vikings sign Antoine Winfield to a longer contract? I know he is going to be 32. He is still very productive.
Kevin Seifert: They're definitely working on it. It might not be imminent, but I think it's pretty likely something will happen before the regular season begins.
Steven writes: If the packers sign Duke Preston at 326 lbs, do you think that signals a move away from their mediocre version of the zone blocking scheme?
Kevin Seifert: Well, they did sign Preston after you sent this note. But I don't think it necessarily means they'll stop using the zone-blocking scheme. Mike McCarthy has talked about wanting to get bigger on the offensive line, but there are plenty of teams that zone block with bigger guys. It's not mandatory at all to be undersized when it comes to zone blocking. That's just the way Denver did it.
Kevin Seifert: For the same reason they haven't tried to get anyone else of that magnitude: Brad Childress has strong faith that Tarvaris Jackson will develop into their long-term starter.
Shawn writes: Great blog. I read your post about the Vikings stadium problem and the L.A. stadium push to maybe get the Vikes there. My question is how the fan base of our rivals in the NFC North might feel about the Vikings moving? As a Viking fan I hate the Packers and the Bears but look forward twice a year to play them. I couldn't see anyone else in the north.
Kevin Seifert: It would definitely take some getting used to. I saw one bit of speculation that the Vikings and St. Louis could switch divisions if Minnesota lost its team. I wonder whether Bears, Packers and Lions fans would want to see the Rams twice a year.
Kevin of Marshfield writes: Why are the Packers dragging their feet on signing Greg Jennings & now Nick Collins to contracts? Aaron Kampman's is coming up too. Are the Packers going to pull a Brewers and not pay there players there dew and just keep on signing cheep ones now? I am huge Packer fan but hate how the front office does their business sometimes.
Kevin Seifert: I don't think we've reached dragging-their-feet-status yet. This is the time of year when negotiations typically begin. As long as it happens before the season starts, there usually isn't much acrimony. In Collins' case, I think it's more about the Packers showing no interest in even starting talks. That will eventually subside. He knows that the longer he keeps playing well, the more his price will go up.
Noah of St. Paul writes: Why are the Vikings so reluctant to sign or retain a pro bowl caliber fullback? Although Adrian Peterson may prefer to run without a lead blocker, few would argue that the loss of Tony Richardson wasn't a significant blow to the Vikes' ground game in 2008. Now, faced with a mere $350k premium on Leonard Weaver over resigning the mediocre Naufahu Tahi, they balk again. What gives?
Kevin Seifert: I don't think they balked at Weaver's price. From what I understand, it was the other way around. Weaver didn't want to play for them.