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Saturday, February 27, 2010
NFC North weekend mailbag

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

We're officially into draft season here in the NFL, although it seems like there never is an offseason for draft stories. The combine continues into the beginning of next week, and then we head straight to college Pro Days, followed by individual workouts, contract negotiations and, finally, the first round on April 22.

Whew! So much to talk about! So little time. For your convenience, you can access our conversations through the mailbag portal, on our rocking Facebook page and via Twitter. "Please" and/or "thank you" always help.

Anyways....

Derek of Baldwin, Wis., writes: I have to ask about Chester Taylor's situation. Why wouldn't the Vikings put the franchise tag on him to, at the very least, control where he goes and to get some sort of compensation for him WHEN, not if, he leaves them. I realize it is a $7-8 million risk, but what if they could negotiate a 2nd-round pick from some team and avoid him going to a rival?

Kevin Seifert: I understand what you're saying, Derek. But in this case, I think there are a couple of factors working against that dynamic. First, because the obvious intent would be to circumvent Taylor's date with free agency, you could rest assured he wouldn't agree to a long-term extension.

So then the Vikings would have the uncomfortable situation of paying a backup running back more than the All-Pro starter. That's right. If Taylor played next season at the franchise tag number of $8.156 million, he would make almost exactly $2 million more than Adrian Peterson is scheduled to earn ($6.14 million).

While there wouldn't be a salary cap to worry about, that's a tremendous amount of cash to pay out to two players at the same position.

Given that situation, I'm not sure the Vikings would have the leverage to get anywhere close to a second-round pick for Taylor. Minnesota would be in a position where it would have to make the trade, a poor position for extracting maximum value.

Long story short, I don't think it would have been worth the effort -- especially when it's quite possible the Vikings could strike a deal before free agency begins. It's also not out of the question that Taylor could re-sign with the Vikings after testing his value elsewhere.


John of Waukesha, Wis., writes: Just for fun, how about exploring the possibility of a team, like Detroit, using the Toxic 1 (in this case 2) pick to destroy its competitors? Example: What if Detroit signed Ryan Pickett, and the Packers had to take on those $30 million in toxic picks of Detroit! (Assuming Detroit will be horrid next year) Are these toxic picks perhaps better used as a weapon?

Kevin Seifert: Interesting proposal, John. For those unsure of what he's talking about: High draft positions are often referred to as "toxic" because no one wants them or is willing to go near them. The cost of signing the No. 1 or No. 2 pick, as the Lions found out last year with quarterback Matthew Stafford, is enormous.

So in John's scenario, the Lions would sign Pickett, Green Bay's franchise player. The deal would average, say, $7 million per year -- much less than the $12 million or more annually they would have to pay a rookie defensive tackle in the No. 2 spot. The cost for signing a franchise player would be two first-round draft picks, meaning the Packers would get the Lions' No. 2 overall pick this year and wherever they pick in 2011.

While Pickett would be a decent addition, you can't argue he's worth two first-round picks. So the primary reason for the move would be to force the Packers into a pair of "toxic" positions where they would have to pay enormous sums for the players they draft.

In an uncapped year, however, that hit isn't as painful as it might otherwise have been. Other than having to shell out the cash, the Packers wouldn't absorb any kind of salary cap problem here. That's one reason it is highly unlikely to happen.

The other reason, whether you're in an uncapped year or not, is this: Teams picking near the top of the draft usually have too many needs on their own team to make such a primary goal of handicapping another.


Mupad3da of the Bay Area writes: I don't know if this has been mentioned or not in the midst of your thoughts about the other North teams and their RB situations, but what are your thoughts about either Brian Westbrook or LaDainian Tomlinson going to Green Bay? Both are looking for a winning team with Super Bowl aspirations, which the Packers could provide. The Packers have a need at running back behind Ryan Grant, a guy who can provide a good change-of-pace and/or spark on maybe 5-10 touches a game.

Kevin Seifert: I got a lot of complaints this week about not suggesting Tomlinson and Westbrook as candidates in Green Bay, the way I did for Minnesota. I guess I would answer that question the same way I do for every free-agent scenario with the Packers: What evidence do we have from recent years that the Packers would step out and sign a significant free agent?

Like it or not, and we've discussed it often, free agency hasn't been the favored tack of general manger Ted Thompson in recent years. Independent of whether either player is a good fit, and I think you can make an argument that both are, the Packers are always unlikely candidates to sign any free agents. Until they prove otherwise.


Anthony of Clinton Township, Mich. writes: There are numerous comments and rumors from Miami Dolphins fan sites stating that the Dolphins and Lions are in talks of some kind of trade. Names thrown around are Calvin Johnson, Cliff Avril, Ernie Sims, Ronnie Brown, and Ted Ginn Jr. Do you have any idea what's going on? We are flipping out that Calvin is even being mentioned. So far though it seems like the Dolphins want Avril and the Lions want Ginn Jr.

Kevin Seifert: I've heard nothing concrete on any such trade talk, although several readers wrote in to ask specifically about a Cliff Avril-Ted Ginn Jr. trade. If I'm the Lions, I take that deal. I know pass rushing defensive ends are a premium commodity, but if Avril is going to be a 5-sack per year player, I'd take my chances that Ginn could develop into a game-breaker.

I don't see the Lions trading Calvin Johnson under any circumstances. They need more help around him, however. We all saw what happened last year when Bryant Johnson couldn't step up as a legitimate No. 2 receiver. Calvin Johnson got bottled up in coverage while Bryant Johnson was dropping passes in single coverage. Ginn could be an upgrade there, at the cost of a nice but mildly productive defensive end.


Dustin of Chicago writes: Julius Peppers is asking for a lot of money guaranteed for the final years of his career. However, given the inflation of the rookie salaries from round 1 and 2, isn't it better to pay for a player in his prime rather than shell out money for the boom or bust? Could you compare the type of salaries a Bears draft pick would require compared to what Peppers is asking?

Kevin Seifert: If reports are accurate, Peppers is seeking some $40 million in guaranteed money -- a deal similar to what Washington gave defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth last winter. The Bears wouldn't have to pay that much to a rookie unless they had the No. 1 overall pick, and the player was a quarterback. Remember, Detroit gave quarterback Matthew Stafford $41.7 million in guarantees last year.

I think that's a good illustration of why NFL players and owners are both unhappy with the current rookie wage system. There should be no way that a rookie is guaranteed more money than one of the best pass rushers in the game.

I'm not saying it's a no-brainer to pay Peppers that kind of money, but if given a choice, you're right: You probably want a veteran getting it.


Via Facebook, Lisa writes: The CBA is a mind-boggling issue. The deadline is March but if an agreement is not reached, then free agency is greatly affected as we all know. What if an agreement is reached in April or May? Does this change the rules in the middle of things? If so do you think teams will take the wait-and-see approach?

Kevin Seifert: It's definitely tough to figure out, Lisa. If an agreement is reached later this spring -- and there is no evidence to suggest this would happen -- part of the negotiations will include how to teams will transition into the new system. But a new agreement won't necessarily include a salary cap, so we can't assume there would be massive changes when it is implemented.

While a team or two might go hog-wild in free agency, I think most will keep in mind the possibility that there could one day be a salary cap again. So they'll do their best not to put themselves in a cap hole if an when that circumstance arises.


Randal of Cambridge, Minn., writes: Whenever you refer to the trade chart, I think you should explain that many people feel it is outdated -- even the new version that came out a couple of years ago. To justify the fact that it does not mean too much, just look at the last couple of years. Almost every top-10 team wanted to trade down, but found almost nobody who wanted to trade up. So supply and demand must push those values down.

Kevin Seifert: Thanks Randall, and I understand what you're saying. Even Jim Schwartz said this week that he never consults that chart because every trade is a unique circumstance.

A couple of points on this issue: While it might not be an exact representation of fairness, I think it gives amateurs like us a decent framework for understanding what it might take to make a trade, especially later on in the draft. It's not so much for grading who got the better end of the deal, but rather predicting what a team might have to consider giving up to move where it wants to go.

As for moving into the top 10, I think that's a matter of economics as much as the value of the picks they would have to give up. Teams don't want to pay the exorbitant levels of guaranteed money associated with top-level picks. Even if the teams with the top picks lowered the "trade value number" and made a trade more palatable on that end, I still think there would be limited suitors because of the money involved.


Dude of Wisconsin writes: Man your chats are cool but you mailbag stinks. Paul Kuharsky answers way more questions than you. You go anywhere from three to five questions. I'm sure you get tons of mail questions for it. Why are you so cheap on your mail questions?

Kevin Seifert: Paul thanks you for your support. Typically, I limit the questions to give myself more time to flesh out longer answers. I try to pick representative questions that would appeal to the entire NFC North audience. This week, however, I got a lot of good questions and got on a roll. Hope you're happy, and enjoy your weekend.