NFL Nation: Reggie Williams
RENTON, Wash. -- Doug Baldwin, the Seattle Seahawks' leading receiver as a rookie in 2011, was among those present for Terrell Owens' workout with the team Monday.
What did the 23-year-old Baldwin see?
"4.45 40," Baldwin said Tuesday. "That is faster than my pro day and he's 38 years old."
"He had crisp routes, came out of his breaks unbelievably for 38 years old," Baldwin said. "I mean, even if he was 24 years old, he would still look good. He caught everything that was thrown to him. He absorbed everything the coaches were saying to him. He is hungry to be back on the field."
Owens' pending arrival has put the Seahawks' other receivers on notice. They realize Owens' credentials dwarf their own. Though Owens did not play in 2011, his stats from 2010 -- 72 receptions for 983 yards and nine touchdowns -- exceed what any current Seattle player has contributed to the Seahawks over the past two seasons combined.
What no one can know yet is whether Owens will live up to his reputation as a high-maintenance player and potential locker room malcontent.
"We are just going to try to control it the best we can," starting receiver Sidney Rice said. "We're not here to critique anybody. We're welcoming the guy here. We're not going to talk bad about him or anything like that. We're going to try to keep him comfortable in the locker room and get out here on the field as much as possible and make plays for us."
There is little risk for now. The team can release Owens at any point before the first week of the season without salary-cap ramifications. There's enough time before the regular-season opener for Seattle to figure out where Owens fits -- if he fits -- without compromising game plans or receiving rotations.
"He's going to come in and we're going to welcome him with open arms and he is going to see how we treat our players here, how we treat our teammates," Baldwin said. "I don't think it's going to be an issue at all."
Seattle needs a big body at wide receiver.
Mike Williams filled that role until injuries sidelined him and weight concerns resurfaced. Braylon Edwards, signed last week, fits that mold. Owens would have to be the favorite, however, based on the speed he showed Monday. The time he ran was faster than the one Owens posted coming out of college to San Francisco in 1996, when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was finishing a three-year run as the 49ers' defensive coordinator.
"I saw him at the start when it was just raw bones, a young man trying to make the club," Carroll said. "It is interesting how he is. He is extremely hungry, and he is humbled. He is determined to finish his career on a good note."
Also interesting: how Carroll phrased things. He sounded as if he already knew Owens would factor for his team.
"He is famous for his work ethic," Carroll said of Owens. "Adding that to our football team and letting our guys see what he is like will help everybody this season."
Owens hadn't even stepped on the practice field and already Carroll was referring to how Owens would impact the team beyond these next few weeks of camp. That's the kind of confidence a 4.45-second time can inspire.
"I put a lot of pressure on him," Carroll said. "He'd better cook when he gets here, which he will. I know he will because we worked him out the other day and his workout was phenomenal. You would not be able to imagine a guy could work out that well."
Carroll and general manager John Schneider have eagerly collected former first-round picks from other teams. They've added Owens, Edwards, tight end Kellen Winslow and running back Marshawn Lynch to the offense. Robert Gallery, since released and now retired, was another highly drafted offensive player Seattle employed under the Carroll-Schneider tenure. Williams was another one.
A few others, notably Reggie Williams and LenDale White, failed to stick around long enough to factor. Their experiences show Carroll and Schneider will quickly move on from a talented player when the fit isn't right.
"I think it just becomes a matter of, as long as everyone is on the same page, which is winning for the Seahawks and all else is out the window, this could be a heckuva move for everyone involved," Edwards said.
Owens is different from White, Mike Williams and some of the other attempted reclamation projects, however. Owens has always produced on the field. He's always competed hard. He's played through injuries. He's also gotten into locker room fights. He has undermined quarterbacks, including Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia. This time, Owens has to know he's about out of second chances. He has to make this one work, or he's likely done.
Carroll was asked whether one player could wreck a locker room.
"That’s not even a topic around here," Carroll said. "Our team is so strong and our guys are so together and our message and what we stand for and all of that. There’s no one guy that’s going to do that to this football team, not even close.
"We're a bunch of young guys growing, and if some older guys want to fit into it, they’re going to have to do it our way. That was a really clear statement to Terrell and he knows what he’s getting into."
Todd McShay set off alarms as he considered if NFL teams drafting sixth (St. Louis Rams) and 10th (Buffalo Bills) might consider selecting wide receivers with those choices.
The alarms grew louder as McShay, speaking in the video above, noted that Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, widely rated as the top receiver in the 2012 NFL draft, did not possess prototypical size.
Blackmon, though obviously talented, doesn't fit the physical mold for receivers drafted among the top three overall choices over the past 25-plus years. We discussed the reasons back at the combine, when the Rams held the second overall choice and Blackmon was a consideration for them.
The Rams subsequently traded the second overall choice to Washington. They now hold the sixth overall choice. Blackmon would be a more logical value there than at No. 2, except for those alarms going off.
Consider recent draft history.
First, take a look at receivers drafted among the top five overall choices since 2000, listed in the first chart below.
Three of the seven are superstars: Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Another, A.J. Green, is coming off an impressive rookie season. Braylon Edwards has enjoyed sporadic success. The other two, Charles Rogers and Peter Warrick, fell far short of expectations.
Those seven players have combined for 12 Pro Bowl appearances (Fitzgerald 5, Johnson 5, Johnson 1, Edwards 1).
The next set of receivers, listed below, were drafted sixth to 15th overall. I selected that range because three NFC West teams -- the Rams, Seattle Seahawks (12th) and Arizona Cardinals (13th) -- hold picks in that area.
The 16 players listed in the second chart have combined for two Pro Bowls, one by Roy Williams and the other by Koren Robinson as a return specialist in Minnesota, long after Robinson had bombed as a receiver.
Receivers talented enough to command selection among the top few overall choices have fared better than the ones with enough question marks to push them down into the next tier.
That is something to consider when weighing how the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals should use their first-round selections, even if the Rams did land Torry Holt with the sixth overall choice in 1999.
- By my count, six current NFL receivers are older than Burress, who turns 34 in August: Terrell Owens (37), Derrick Mason (37), Donald Driver (36), Brian Finneran (35), Hines Ward (35) and Brandon Stokley (35 in June);
- Thirty players have caught at least 50 passes in a season at age 34 or older, according to Pro Football Reference; Jerry Rice, Isaac Bruce and Bobby Engram accomplished the feat for current NFC West teams;
- Burress caught 35 passes for 454 yards and four touchdowns over 10 games for the New York Giants in 2008, his last season before serving a jail term on a weapons charge; St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo was the Giants' defensive coordinator that year, giving the NFC West one solid connection to Burress;
- Ken Whisenhunt, Russ Grimm and Ray Horton are among the Arizona Cardinals coaches who were with the Pittsburgh Steelers before Burress signed with the Giants in 2005, giving the NFC West another connection;
- These types of connections can sometimes explain why teams do not pursue players; they know the bad as well as the good;
- My initial feel is that Burress probably will not land in this division; Burress has played his entire career, from high school to the NFL, for teams in the East; I doubt he'll seek out a team in the West after spending two years away from his family;
- Burress wore a Philadephia Phillies hat upon his release Monday, and the Eagles were the team considered most likely to sign him in a survey of ESPN.com bloggers;
- The Rams' situation at receiver remains unsettled; bringing in Burress for a visit could make sense; the Cardinals' situation at receiver is more defined, and at least one Arizona-based reporter is saying there's no chance the Cardinals will sign him; I tend to agree and do not see the need, either;
- Burress is five years older than any receiver on the Rams' roster and nine years older than the team's receivers on average, a potential consideration as the team decides how Burress would fit into the equation;
- The Rams have previously resisted adding older receivers, passing on Owens and Moss over the last couple of seasons; Mark Clayton, who turns 29 in July, is the oldest receiver on the roster;
- Seattle has been aggressive in considering unlikely options, making low-risk bets on Mike Williams, Reggie Williams, LenDale White and others; the team would ideally like to go with younger players at this stage;
- Please let me know if you've seen anything, anywhere, suggesting the San Francisco 49ers would have interest; I do not see a great fit as the team establishes a new program under a first-year coach.
Would you want Burress on your favorite team?
AP reported details of the league’s pitch for reducing rookie salaries.
For context, here’s a look at the money the Jacksonville Jaguars have paid first-round picks since 2000 -- $111,380,562 in guaranteed money before playing an NFL snap, an average of $10,125,506 per player.
Nelson, Jones, Williams and Soward were outright busts and Harvey could be off the roster by opening day. The Jaguars have suffered and will suffer depth-chart consequences for those picks. But they also shelled out nearly $26 million to those five guys.
Personnel failures are one thing, the financial penalty is something else and the only element involved in all of this that would object to a system change is members of the rookie pool who aren’t actually very good.
Five-year deals for first-rounders negotiated in this context, with less total money, seems sensible. Nothing would change for draft picks outside of the first round.
The change could help fix what’s broken in the draft.
As Eagles president Joe Banner told AP:
"The whole concept of the draft and ordering of the picks is to maintain competitive balance in the league. Now teams get top picks who have become so expensive and there's the risk you can miss, and it makes the ability to trade in and out of those spots almost impossible. It can become a disadvantage to be in one of the top spots."
But agent Ben Dogra makes a good counterargument.
"Five years and reduced pay is basically restricting players," said Dogra, whose clients include Patrick Willis and Sam Bradford. "Roughly 68 percent of the NFL is comprised of players with five years or less of NFL experience.
"Even players from essentially picks 11 to 32 in the first round are good financial deals for the teams. If a player becomes a starter or an integral part of the team under the current system, the NFL teams have the player under a rookie deal that is favorable to the team."
The league’s done well to get this issue out front. It’s time to tinker with it, get it right and count it as one element of the deal that's done.
Mike Holmgren, entering his first season as Browns president, leap-frogged his former team into the 59th overall choice, one spot ahead of Seattle.
"We were holding our breath for a minute," Seahawks scout Jason Barnes said afterward.
Tate wasn't for everyone. He's not a burner and some have compared him to a running back in body type, but the Seahawks thought he could become a Hines Ward-type talent in their offense (the Steelers found Ward in the third round of the 1998 draft). And they knew if their offensive coaches liked Tate, Holmgren might also like him for an offense with a shared West Coast ancestry.
"A lot of people compare him to Hines Ward," Barnes said, "which I can really see as far as his aggressive style of play and his strength and his feistiness."
There was some thought Holmgren might have been jumping ahead of Seattle to draft Colt McCoy, but he waited until the third round before taking the Texas quarterback. The Seahawks didn't envision drafting a quarterback in the first few rounds, explaining their decision to grab Charlie Whitehurst from the Chargers in a predraft trade. They weren't worried about McCoy. They wanted Tate to fill a need at receiver after watching Nate Burleson depart in free agency.
The Seahawks were desperate enough at the position to sign first-round busts Reggie Williams and Mike Williams before the draft.
Such was the state of the Seahawks' roster. The team couldn't help but fill immediate needs in this draft. Landing a left tackle was critical and Russell Okung, chosen sixth overall, was rated among the top two at the position in this draft. Getting help at safety was another must after Deon Grant's release left Seattle with only two on its roster. Earl Thomas, chosen 14th overall, should join Okung as an immediate starter.
Tate also should contribute right away -- on offense and in the return game.
The Seahawks are getting a superior all-around athlete. The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Tate as an outfielder in 2007. He can make the tough catch downfield. But there were reasons he lasted until the second round.
"Tate comes from a pro-style offense and shouldn't take long to adapt," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. "I think he has a rather low ceiling, though -- a No. 2 at best. He is somewhat stiff and sort of straight-linish. Not real elusive, but he plays fast, he plays hard, attacks the football."
Jeremy Green, also of Scouts Inc., agreed in part. "I think he has a little more wiggle with the ball in his hands, at least."
Tate had enough wiggle to avoid Mike Holmgren in the second round. For that, the Seahawks were grateful.
The Dolphins announced his departure in a news release short enough to fit in a tweet: "The Miami Dolphins today traded wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for an undisclosed 2010 draft choice."
That was it. No acknowledgment of Ginn's status as a 2007 first-round choice, or the kickoffs he returned for touchdowns last season or anything else.
For Miami, this was like removing a wart from their draft record. The faster, the better. Get it over with. Minimize the pain.
Ginn was the ninth player chosen in the 2007 draft. Koren Robinson and Reggie Williams were also receivers taken ninth overall in recent years.
The seventh through 10th overall choices have produced quite a few disappointing receivers in recent years: Troy Williamson, Mike Williams, Reggie Williams, Robinson, David Terrell, Travis Taylor and David Boston.
That history doesn't matter much to the 49ers regarding Ginn. They're getting a return specialist with potential as a receiver, outside the context that downgraded Ginn in the Dolphins' eyes.
» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)
Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Busts and late-round gems.
The previous regime traded with division rival Tennessee to get Western Michigan linebacker Jason Babin with a second first-round pick in 2004 and he never became what they envisioned. The first-rounder from the next year, Florida State defensive tackle Travis Johnson, wasn’t good either. Johnson flashed some but wasn’t long-term help. Wide receiver David Anderson (seventh round from Colorado State in 2006) is a quality slot receiver, and probably the team’s best late-round pick.
The Colts traded up in 2007 to take Arkansas offensive tackle Tony Ugoh 42nd overall. He was the man to replace Tarik Glenn when he surprised the team by retiring the same year. But Ugoh lost his starting job in 2009 and was often inactive. Two third-rounders from the same draft also faded: cornerback Dante Hughes from Cal didn’t make it out of camp in 2009 and Ohio State defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock quit football in 2008. Late-round finds abound: Howard safety Antoine Bethea (sixth round) is a Pro Bowl talent; Mount Union receiver Pierre Garcon (sixth round, 2008) just had a breakout season; punter/kickoff man Pat McAfee from West Virginia (seventh round, 2009) is a consistent performer. And Indianapolis does consistently well with undrafted rookies, such as safety Melvin Bullitt and cornerback Jacob Lacey.
First-round busts have been a major reason the Jaguars haven’t broken through as a consistent contender: receivers R. Jay Soward of USC in 2000, Reggie Williams from Washington in 2004 and Matt Jones from Arkansas in 2005 are gone and safety Reggie Nelson (Florida, 2007) and defensive end Derrick Harvey (Florida, 2008) rank as major underachievers. Late-round gems? Purdue guard Uche Nwaneri was a 2007 fifth-rounder and has started a lot of games and Florida’s Bobby McCray was a good defensive end for a seventh-rounder in 2004. James Harris was ousted as the personnel chief and the team seems on a better track under Gene Smith, who was named GM about a year ago.
Any list of recent high-ranking failures has to start with first-round cornerback Pacman Jones, sixth overall from West Virginia in 2005. He was probably the best defensive football player there, but the Titans failed miserably in researching his personality. Other busts who hurt them: Ben Troupe (second-round tight end from Florida in 2004), Andre Woolfolk (first-round cornerback from Oklahoma in 2003) and Tyrone Calico (second-round receiver in 2003). Cornerback Cortland Finnegan was an All-Pro in 2008 and heads any list of recent late-round gems. He was a seventh-rounder from Samford in 2006. Tight end Bo Scaife was a sixth-rounder from Texas in 2005 and promising defensive end Jacob Ford from Central Arkansas was a sixth-rounder in 2007.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With so much roster turnover, Troy Williamson qualifies as a survivor. Thirty-two of the 80 players under contract are in their first year with the Jaguars.
|AP Photo/Phil Coale|
|Troy Williamson might be a long shot to make the Jaguars' final roster.|
The speedster can be tantalizing -- he can give the Jags what everyone wants, a blazer on the outside that will stretch a defense.
Yet here he is, heading into his fifth year, and he's not put together any consistent stretches of play. He managed only eight games and five catches in his first year with the Jaguars.
"Soft tissue" issues held him back and coach Jack Del Rio and GM Gene Smith both said they think those are less of an issue going forward.
"He's shown the ability to be a vertical receiver, a down the field threat," Smith said. "He's still a relatively young player in the NFL. When he did get the opportunity on special teams, he's shown the ability to cover kicks. If you're a backup receiver trying to get in the game or compete to make the roster, you've got to be able to do more than one thing.
"I think he's shown he's more than a vertical receiver he's still trying to refine his route running as a short and intermediate guy, and he's got some special-teams value to him and he's embraced that role."
Williamson, the seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft by Minnesota, says he's still got his high-end speed. He knows his career clock is now at a point where pateince is thinning and that he's got to prove he has reliable hands.
"That's over for me now, now it's time for work and that's what I feel like I am going to do," he said. "I am a worker. I feel like I will always do that. I feel like this is probably one of the best offseasons I've had since I've been playing football. I feel like I've gotten a lot better. Me and David [Garrard] we've been working out all offseason. We've got a good relationship."
A couple of regular observers of the team don't see the room for Williamson to survive. Tiquan Underwood, the seventh-rounder from Rutgers, is making plays down the field and may be able to fill the same role while providing more upside. Rookie tight end Zach Miller will be split out. Maurice Jones-Drew will line up wide, too. Marcedes Lewis will get chances downfield. There may be no room or snaps for a guy who won't be in the return game mix.
But the company line at this point gives Williamson a chance, and the decision-makers seem to like him.
"I like what he's done so far and we hope he transfers it into the training camp, into the preseason and it enables him to make it a tough decision for us," Smith said. "Do we keep five? Do we keep six? Who are the five? Who are the six?"
Williamson could be left to make the case for keeping six, and six could be a lot on a run-based team.
|Steve Mitchell/US Presswire|
|Dennis Northcutt appears to be the latest veteran on the way out in Jacksonville.|
This suggests that after getting some time with Torry Holt and assessing Mike Walker and the three receivers the team drafted, the Jaguars are perfectly comfortable moving forward without players who accounted for 44 percent of their receptions last year.
Northcutt was the team's best receiver at the end of last season. With Matt Jones (since cut) suspended, Northcutt caught five balls for 127 yards and a touchdown in a win over Green Bay on Dec. 14 and eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in a Dec. 18 loss to Indianapolis.
But a team that's already let Jones go and showed no interest in retaining free agent Reggie Williams is looking to continue housecleaning.
Under first-year GM Gene Smith, they've cut running back Fred Taylor, Jones, defensive end Paul Spicer, cornerback Drayton Florence, receiver Jerry Porter, tight end George Wrighster and backup quarterback Cleo Lemon. The team didn't attempt to re-sign free agents Williams, safety Gerald Sensabaugh and tackle Khalif Barnes. They also traded defensive tackle Tony McDaniel.
Moving Northcutt would be yet another step in the housecleaning.
They're clearly ready to get Walker on the field with Holt and allow fourth-rounder Mike Thomas, fifth-rounder Jarett Dillard and seventh-rounder Tiquan Underwood to battle it out for the third spot and fill out the depth.
Northcutt, 31, is a savvy player who can still help someone. But revealing they are looking to trade him could prompt an interested team to wait and see if he isn't ultimately released.
|Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images|
|Torry Holt is drawing rave reviews from those in the Jacksonville organization.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Defenses may be able to contain Torry Holt better than they used to.
A 160-character limit on a text message, however, cannot box him in.
"We had a little string a couple weeks ago," Jacksonville offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "He sent me a text and I sent him a text back. [Then] it took seven texts for one response to a question I asked him in response to one of his texts. So, he's into it. Torry is all about ball."
Is Holt poised to be a hero or a savior? Probably not. Does the Jaguars' new veteran receiver bring the team its best receiver resume since Jimmy Smith, and bring the potential for production from the position the team has craved for years? Absolutely.
The seven-time Pro Bowler, who was an instrumental piece of "The Greatest Show on Turf," was let go by the rebuilding Rams. But his 64 catches, 796 yards, 12.4-yard average and three touchdowns last season hardly amounted to a bad stat line -- certainly not in Jacksonville. Jones had 65 catches in a season cut short by a suspension; Holt's numbers would have led the Jags in the other three departments.
|Cary Edmondson/US Presswire|
|In 2008, Torry Holt was held to less than 800 receiving yards for the first time since 1999.|
Here are three assessments from those who are now working with him:
Koetter: "A proven entity and a veteran presence. In everything that I've seen, he's the consummate pro. ... Someone said, and I think they were right, 'This guy's got to be the quietest seven-time Pro Bowler that's ever existed.' Just look at the numbers. I think it's eight years over 80 catches and 1,000 yards. We haven't had a guy like that, and that's no knock on anybody, that's just fact. ... We have young guys who can soak up his experience. When you just watch Torry as a route-runner, whether the word is crafty or experienced, Torry knows all the little tricks to get himself open and he's got really good hands on top of that."
GM Gene Smith: "He's come in and given us tremendous veteran presence. He's like a player-coach. He's constantly talking to the other players at his position. He has a strong passion for football and so he's probably not the elite guy he once was in terms of earning his opportunity to go to seven Pro Bowls, but he's certainly got the ability to play at a winning level. We felt like adding him to our group not just as a player but as a person, he'd certainly be an asset. So far, so good."
Quarterback David Garrard: "Just his mind is amazing. Listening to a guy that's been around and been doing the right thing for a long time is a breath of fresh air, really."
And one thought from an outsider whose team will play Holt twice:
Colts president Bill Polian: "I think he's got some good football left and he's a very reliable target for David Garrard. That's a good thing. It helps Garrard."
In praising fourth-round pick Mike Thomas, the speedy but small receiver out of Arizona drafted No. 107 in the fourth round, Jaguars director of player personnel Terry McDonough shredded a couple of failed first-rounders in the team's recent history.
Others have already concluded the same things.
Still, it is interesting to read these comments which sprouted out of talk about Thomas' speed -- a 4.29 at the combine according to McDonough:
Will he be a slot receiver?
"Yes, he'll be a slot receiver. What we thought last year when we had Reggie (Williams) and Matt (Jones) and all those receivers, we didn't have a guy that could catch it and do anything with it. And the coaches said we need a player that when you throw him the ball, they can get fast quick, and that's what this guy can do. He can get off the spot. He has burst. So we're excited. It'll be a little different than what you guys have seen around here the last couple of years, and he's a lively guy. Where he was, we thought he was probably going to go maybe a round earlier. So he was the top rated player on our board when we got him."
On the change in the wide receiver philosophy:
"What I will say is this kid can run and it's not one of these. We test the guys who are running the fastest but we bring them in here as fast guys but they really weren't fast. They ran fast on the watch. When you guys are out at mini-camp you'll see, this guy is fast. His speed is evident and his speed is quick. Where Matt (Jones) ran that time at Indy but then you never really saw his speed when he was out here, and you really never saw speed with Reggie (Williams) but you'll see speed on this guy."
Why do you think Thomas lasted to the fourth round?
"[He's] 5 foot 8. Those short receivers don't really go that high. And there's been a lot of receivers taken ahead of him, but I think when you're short like that you get pushed down on the board."
Now you have a 5-7 running back in Maurice Jones-Drew with a 5 foot 8 receiver in Thomas:
"If we could get half the results out of this guy that we got out of that running back, we'll be happy."
Scouts Inc. rates Thomas as above average in three of five receiver categories:
Separation: Quick-twitch athlete and polished route runner. Above-average initial burst off the line of scrimmage and eats up cushions quickly. Sticks foot in the ground and explodes off plant foot coming out of breaks. Uses quick feet to beat press coverage can get muscled out of routes by bigger corners.
Run after catch: Explosive open field runner. Elusive and can make defenders miss. However, isn't going to break many tackles.
Competitiveness and toughness: Competitor and shows good overall awareness/instincts. Not afraid to go over the middle and catch the ball in traffic. Does a nice job of finding an open area when quarterback scrambles. Does a sound job of throttling down and can keep both feet in bounds when catching passes near the sideline.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brett Longdin
Considering Ted Thompson's propensity for draft-day trades -- he's made at least one move backwards to collect more picks in each of his four previous drafts with the team -- it's hard to know if Green Bay will remain at No. 9.
But if Thompson does keep that first-round pick, there is a history of success coming out of the No. 9 slot. Some of the noteworthy No. 9 selections have been: Gerald Riggs (1982, Atlanta), Terry McDaniel (1988, L.A. Raiders), Lincoln Kennedy (1993, Atlanta), Bruce Matthews (1983, Houston) and Richmond Webb (1990, Miami).
Looking back at the No. 9 pick since 1999, there have been hits and misses: LB Keith Rivers (2008), WR Ted Ginn Jr. (2007), LB Ernie Sims (2006), DB Carlos Rogers (2005), WR Reggie Williams (2004), DT Kevin Williams (2003), DT John Henderson (2002), WR Koren Robinson (2001), LB Brian Urlacher (2000) and LB Chris Claiborne (1999).
Brett Longdin is an ESPN.com blog editor based in Wisconsin.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Team needs: Receiver, defensive tackle, offensive tackle, defensive back
|AP Photo/Michael Conroy|
|It's unlikely that Boston College defensive lineman B.J. Raji will still be on the board at No 8, but if he is, expect the Jaguars to jump.|
Plan B: The Jaguars have lots of holes and if they can't address one directly with No. 8, the way Smith has talked of building through the draft, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't want to bump back to gather extra picks. Maybe the Jaguars are really interested in USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. But they struggled to sign Harvey last season. It would surely be harder to strike a deal with a top 10 quarterback who they don't expect to start this year. Perhaps they want someone else who's interested to come up and get Sanchez here. The Jaguars traded into this pick last year, so teams will have a good sense of what it would take to make a deal.
Scouts Inc. take: "After signing Tra Thomas, the Jaguars are now able to draft a project offensive tackle later in the draft as opposed to reaching in the first round for Andre Smith or Michael Oher. But, the Jaguars are not deficient in terms of glaring needs and wide receiver ranks right at the very top of that list. Michael Crabtree would be the ideal selection and in my opinion, as getting the best player in the draft at number eight would be a complete steal. Still, chances are that Crabtree doesn't make it that far. Is Jeremy Maclin worth that pick for Jacksonville? He certainly could be considering the position he plays and his big play ability, but overall, he isn't polished enough to come in an immediately be a go-to option. Two defensive players to keep an eye on are B.J. Raji, who is also unlikely to still be available but would be a tremendous get for the Jags, and Malcolm Jenkins, who could be exactly what Jacksonville needs to sure up their ailing and thin secondary. Mark Sanchez has been mentioned here, but I just don't see that happening." -- Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.
Who has final say: Jack Del Rio's desires will certainly be heard, but Smith made it clear when he took the post that he's got the final say on both draft picks and the roster.
On the Clock: Oakland Raiders, April 10.
- Gary Kubiak's hoping Mario Williams will compete for defensive player of the year, writes John McClain.
- Owen Daniels thought about skipping the Texans' offseason workouts because of his contract situation, reports McClain.
- A recap of McClain's chat.
- In light of Kellen Winslow's deal, how much is Daniels worth? Alan Burge ponders.
- Nothing so far for Marvin Harrison, writes Mike Chappell.
- Bill Polian is a piece of Skip Wood's story on the additional pressure teams face in a bad economy to get the draft right.
- A look at the Colts' first round in 2002 and Dwight Freeney, from John Oehser.
- Kelvin Hayden is different than a lot of other Colts corners, Oehser says.
- The top 25 picks of the Polian era gets to Oehser's No. 19.
- A thorough look at Missouri defensive tackle Evander Hood, courtesy of Oehser.
- Polian talks to colts.com about shuffling the draft board this month.
- Gene Smith's first free-agent addition, Sean Considine, likes the GM, says Cole Pepper.
- Reggie Williams is free on bail after a Sunday arrest for allegedly possessing a half gram of cocaine, says Dale Lezon.
|Courtesy of the Jacksonville Jaguars/Icon SMI|
|Jaguars GM Gene Smith and coach Jack Del Rio are placing a larger emphasize on building team chemistry and this season.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
To any Jacksonville Jaguar who might have been a bit reserved in 2008, who deferred to leaders like Fred Taylor and Mike Peterson, who thought it better to fit in and follow than to try to help set a tone, general manager Gene Smith and coach Jack Del Rio have a message:
"When you look at things with a league with great parity, I do think team chemistry is a direct factor, a big reason why some teams win at a higher level than other teams," Smith said. "I am a firm believer, and I say this all the time, that good players that play great together win championships.
"In order to play together you've got to have people that are unselfish, that are very disciplined, that put team first and where you have great peer leadership. That's where you develop that core team chemistry that enables you to succeed at a higher level."
Smith has been with the organization since 1994 and was elevated to GM after the 2008 season, taking over for vice president of player personnel James "Shack" Harris, who had resigned. With the new post came more power than Harris had -- Smith has control of all personnel decisions. As the Jaguars headed into the 2009 season and Smith sorted through the roster he inherited, the team appeared to believe in addition by subtraction:
- It let several free agents go without any effort to retain them: Peterson, a linebacker, landed in Atlanta; safety Gerald Sensabaugh in Dallas; left tackle Khalif Barnes in Oakland and Pierson Prioleau in New Orleans. Receiver Reggie Williams is unsigned.
- It dumped players considered to be mistakes who didn't produce or got in trouble: Receivers Jerry Porter and Matt Jones and cornerback Drayton Florence.
- It parted ways with some older guys who were looked to as leaders and spokesmen: Taylor (now a Patriots running back) and defensive end Paul Spicer (now with the Saints).
|Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images|
|Mike Peterson is gone from Jacksonville after clashing with coach Jack Del Rio last season.|
Peterson's relationship with Del Rio soured and came to a head after a well-publicized incident last year in which Peterson chafed over criticism from his coach. It was not a good development in a locker room that was already decimated by injuries, filled with underperformers and fracturing because of how some guys who'd been paid (like Porter and Florence) or wanted to be paid (like Peterson and Williams) were acting or being treated.
"The leaders, the veterans of the team, the true guys that were part of the team last year and will be part of the team going forward, all came and said, 'Coach, you did the right thing,'" Del Rio said of the Peterson developments. "That was important. It was something that needed to be done.
"Again, that's a situation where a guy was putting selfish interests ahead of the team, and then bucked up when challenged about it. It's been portrayed a certain way, and that's OK, because I'm not really concerned with it. But I know, and everybody that was a part of that understands that there's a way to do it that's right and there's a way to do it that's wrong, and there's going to be accountability in our organization."
How did a team that had great chemistry and success in 2007 lose so much of it in a year's time?
This was a big part of Del Rio's explanation at the owners' meetings:
"The thing that stood out in my mind was that we did pay a couple of guys a lot and elected not to -- for whatever reasons internally, and I'm not saying I didn't support it -- but when you don't pay a handful of guys whose contracts are expiring, and you are paying a couple that come in and don't prove to be the right kind of guys, it disrupts things. I think that was part of it."
That shouldn't be an issue going forward.
After conceding mistakes with Porter and Florence, the Jaguars have sworn off high-priced free agents. The two outsiders brought in -- tackle Tra Thomas and safety Sean Considine -- were inexpensive. The free agents they've re-signed were role players who didn't get much, either -- veteran center Brad Meester and special-teamers and backups Montell Owens, Brian Iwuh and Scott Starks.
|Steve Mitchell/US Presswire|
|Maurice Jones-Drew will be expected to take on a larger leadership role this season.|
The one guy who's in line for a pricey extension, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, might be the team's most important player. It would be hard for anyone to grumble legitimately if MJD gets his new deal.
With or without a new package, Jones-Drew will be looked to by the post-Taylor Jags to lead more.
"Certainly, Maurice Drew is one of the electrifying guys in the league," Del Rio said. "We're going to get him more opportunities. I think yo
u'll see some of his leadership skills emerge with the void created. He never really wanted to step on Fred's toes. And I think now that Fred's not there, it's going to open up the door for Maurice to be more assertive."
He and the rest of the Jaguars' vets will be joined by Smith's first draft class -- currently nine picks deep. Smith has said he plans to build through the draft, and that he plans to place a premium on character in his selections.
"We want to add good teammates to this football team," he said.
Del Rio emphasized that the franchise hardly feels the cupboard is bare. Smith pointed to players he expects to take on larger leadership roles in the new environment.
"We have a good core of what I would call emerging leaders, we have some young ascending players from Rashean Mathis, Daryl Smith, David Garrard, Marcedes Lewis, Brad Meester, Greg Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew. We go down the list, we have a number of players.
"Montell Owens is an outstanding leader on special teams. We have a good core and we have other guys that are emerging as well. As you build a team chemistry and you get people believing in 'we,' you have a chance to compete at a high level."
It's an age-old debate: Does chemistry beget winning or does winning beget chemistry?
Del Rio said he played on teams that had great chemistry but didn't win, that the 1989 Dallas Cowboys developed respect for each other even as they finished 1-15. The Cowboys of the early 90s, the Ravens of 2000 (for whom he was an assistant coach) and the 2007 Jaguars all had great chemistry, he said.
"It was as unselfish, team-first, egos-really-checked-at-the-door as it could be," Del Rio said of his group two years ago. "The same combination of guys for the most part kind of soured the following year. As coaches, we'd like to get our hands on it, whatever that magic formula is, and sprinkle it on all of our players. But it doesn't work that way. You have to work at it ....
"It's not automatic. I think there's a common respect needed. Last year -- again, I hate to continue to go back talking about it -- but one of the things that was clear early on was that this time of year we had a lot of talk about, 'Boy, my contract's not getting done, I need this.' There was a lot of 'I, I, I' and not enough 'We, We, We.' So we just need to get back to that commitment of doing things for the good of the team, and putting team first. That's going to be an emphasis."