Saturday, March 5, 2011
NFC North weekend mailbag
By Kevin Seifert
As we continue awaiting word on the NFL's labor situation, we again dip into our bag of Vince Lombardi quotes:
People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.
I'm reachable through the mailbag, Facebook and Twitter. Please, share your stories, your hopes and your dreams.
George of Madison, Wis., writes: What are the chances Nick Barnett could move to OLB opposite Clay Matthews?
Kevin Seifert: Pretty low. Pass rushing is the top priority for an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. Barnett turns 30 in May. Does he have the kind of top-end speed and technique to get to the quarterback from that position? I'm not sure, so I passed your question along to Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.
"I don't think that's a fit," Williamson said. "He just isn't the edge pass-rusher needed for that position."
Barnett should have several productive years ahead of him at his natural middle or inside linebacker position. The Packers appear to have moved on to younger players there, having signed A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop to multi-year extensions. It would be a stretch to expect Barnett to make such a significant change this late in his career.
Nathan of Phoenix writes: Interested to hear your thoughts on Clinton Portis and the Detroit Lions being a match. I think he would serve tremendously as a mentor and as a complementary/short yardage back to Jahvid Best. But perhaps more than anything, he would be an enormous upgrade in blitz-pickup and pass protection. Additionally, isn't he known for being a wonderful "team guy?"
Kevin Seifert: We actually had this discussion last offseason when it appeared the Washington Redskins might trade defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. I agree with most of your assessment of Portis, especially the part about pass protection and how well he could transition as a third-down type of back.
Of course, Best's open-field skills also make him an important weapon to have on the field in passing situations. I'm guessing offensive coordinator Scott Linehan could draw up some plays that called for both Portis and Best to be on the field at the same time.
The biggest challenge here would be managing Portis in a reduced role. Would he sign with the Lions knowing he would be the clear backup to Best? Would he hope for the same experience the New York Jets gave LaDainian Tomlinson last season, elevating him to a primary role based on competition?
Of all the big-play ability Best showed us last year, I didn't walk away from the season convinced that he can be a 20-carry running back on a weekly basis. Maybe it was just the unfortunate consequence of his toe injuries. Regardless, the decision to non-tender backup Kevin Smith means the Lions absolutely have a need for a relatively established back behind Best.
That person could be holdover Maurice Morris. Portis would also fit that mold, if he is willing to take it on.
Russell of Norwalk, Iowa, writes: Let's just say a new CBA is agreed upon and we have football next year. I love Joe Webb as the Minnesota Vikings' potential starting QB for next year. I feel he would struggle a bit early on, but it would start to click later on in the second half of the season for him. However, if Leslie Frazier and Bill Musgrave feel they need to go elsewhere, why don't the Vikings take a look at Carson Palmer? He clearly wants to leave Cincinnati and the Vikings could low-ball an offer (4th round pick or 3rd rounder next year) and wait for Cincinnati to accept it with him not wanting to stay.
It would save the 12th pick and a second-round pick to improve in other areas where they need help.
Kevin Seifert: Palmer fits the profile of someone who could help maximize the roster the Vikings currently have. He is 31 and relatively healthy at this point, but there are a couple obstacles to your scenario.
First, I'm not sure any established starting quarterback could be acquired for a fourth-round pick. I'm not sure what the price tag would ultimately be, but I'm guessing the Bengals would start the bidding with at least a first-round pick. All it would take was more than one interested party to make that value stick.
Second, Palmer reportedly is willing to retire rather than continue playing for the Bengals. Some might consider that sentiment an attractive sign of high intelligence, given the decades of incompetence in Cincinnati. But I would also want to make sure that Palmer is still passionate about the game, that he truly wants to play rather than simply being willing to if the situation is right.
If all of that checks out, Palmer is among the best-case scenarios the Vikings could encounter this offseason.
But here's another option, one that wouldn't require draft choice compensation: Matt Hasselbeck, who is poised to leave the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. He has been brittle the past few seasons, but he might make sense as a bridge plan to a quarterback the Vikings could draft this spring.
Denfran66 of Denver writes: Would you assess a signing of Robert Gallery to the Bears to work with Mike Tice. Could a good o-line coach make a difference for him and the Bears?
Kevin Seifert: Certainly. From the outside, you look at a talented athlete like Gallery and wonder what he could have been if he had started his career in a, well, more stable environment. That doesn't mean Gallery shouldn't shoulder some of the blame for his career fizzling in Oakland, but he seems tailor-made for a fresh start.
There is no doubt the Bears could use a personnel influx at offensive line, at any and all of the five spots. Tice has had some success refining the mechanics of some veteran offensive linemen, most recently Bears center Olin Kreutz, and I think it would be fascinating to see if he could resurrect Gallery's career.
The big question will be whether the Bears are willing to drop some money into the free agent market for the second consecutive year, or if they'll seek to improve their line through the draft. I don't have an answer to that question.
Via Twitter, @OSUwizard asks: Would Stephen Paea of Oregon State be too much of a reach based on Lions needs? Still amazed by his combine performance.
Kevin Seifert: Yes, Paea set a combine record with 49 repetitions of a 225-pound bench press. He's a 303-pound defensive lineman who grew up playing rugby in Tonga. Based on Scouts Inc.'s evaluation, Paea is a classic run-stopping nose tackle.
The answer here applies to all draft questions: It depends on where the Lions were to draft him. I'm not sure I would rank nose tackle as one of the Lions' top needs, but if he is available in the middle-to-late rounds, he becomes a good value.
From a pure need standpoint, Paea fits the Vikings more than any other NFC North team. They haven't re-signed nose tackle Pat Williams, and they didn't tender Fred Evans. There is an absolute need for fresh legs at the position.