Monday, April 6, 2009
Trade targets give Giants options
By John Clayton ESPN.com
The mailbag is pretty diversified this week.
Offense appears to be the headline. There is an emphasis on teams -- namely the Bears and Giants -- that have needs at wide receiver.
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I'm also pleased to see the carryover in interest about some of the recent rules changes. Overtime remains a big topic, but the sentiment in the mailbag seems to favor either no change or minor adjustments. That's good.
Lots of you who contribute to the mailbag are concerned about the NFL getting too soft with some of the rules changes involving safety. Your points are interesting. The competition committee and league have explanations for some of the changes, but no one is going overboard with their reactions in the mailbag.
Also, I would be neglecting reality if I didn't react to the Jay Cutler trade. A week ago, I wrote that Cutler would be a Bronco and I expected Cutler to report to the team within two weeks. My mistake was listening to Denver coach Josh McDaniels.
He tried to convince everyone who would listen at the owners' meeting that he wanted to keep Cutler. When a coach says things, you want to believe him. I did. I was wrong. Looks as though I will have to put up the caution flag on things he says. He traded Cutler eight days after making those comments.
Let's dive into the mailbag:
Q: I'm a Giants fan and I'm kind of worried at their WR situation without Plaxico Burress. Who do you see in a Big Blue uniform -- Chad Ocho Cinco, Anquan Boldin, or Braylon Edwards?
George in New York
A: I would put them in this order: Edwards, Ocho Cinco and Boldin. I think Edwards can be had for a first- and third-round pick. It's debatable whether the Bengals will trade Ocho Cinco, but he might have the lowest price. I think Cardinals ownership will block a Boldin move even though I think it's time to consider trading him. He's at maximum value and he's not ever going to make as much as Larry Fitzgerald as long as he's in Arizona.
Q: I have two questions. First on the "Brady rule." I believe instead of making it harder for a defensive player to do his job, the league should have done something to even the battle in the trenches. Instead of making it illegal to lunge from the ground, why not make it illegal for offensive players to throw a defensive player to the ground, where he'd have to lunge to make the play he is trained to do? Secondly, now that the Bears have acquired Cutler, how should they address the need at WR? Chicago needs more experience at the position.
Mitch in Johnson City, Tenn.
A: Basically, the Brady Rule makes it tough for any player to make a move for the quarterback once he's on the ground. Making another change in regard to that would be premature until we see how this rule works out. Remember, when the competition committee changes a rule for safety, it gives it a year or two to see if the change works. On the Bears issue, you are 100 percent right about their depth at wide receiver, so they have to look at free agents. I don't see them going for Reggie Williams because of concerns about his off-the-field issues.
To Tim in Corpus Christi, Texas, I know the Terrell Owens signing might make the Bills a one-year wonder, but what's wrong with that? The Bills have been out of the playoffs for so many years, the fans deserve a one-year thrill. Plus, the Bills have a tough schedule this year, so they needed something to make their offense better. Kris in Terre Haute, Ind., suggests the Vikings use more split-back formations instead of single-back and I-formations. I don't see anything wrong with their running offense. I'm not sold that they are good enough at quarterback to open up more things for the passing game. Running and defense are the best things the Vikings do. Jon in Rochester, N.Y., believes the Redskins need help at defensive end and would like a trade for Julius Peppers. Not happening. The Panthers aren't giving him away, and the Redskins have only five draft choices to work with this year. The Redskins might use their first-round pick on a defensive end, but don't be surprised if they look seriously at USC QB Mark Sanchez. Cedric in Clearwater, Fla., is tired of hearing the outcry for the Bucs to draft a young quarterback. He wants another defensive end who can sack the quarterback. Cedric, you'll keep hearing about the need for a quarterback. It's going to be hard for them to win the division unless they upgrade from Luke McCown and Josh Johnson. Michael in Phoenix wants the Cardinals to make a play for an impact pass-rusher. Good thought. He also suggests the Cardinals trade Anquan Boldin in order to get trade value to get Michael Crabtree or any of the other top receivers in the draft. Bad thought. If the Cardinals don't want to play Boldin $10 million a year as a proven receiver, they aren't going to pay over $6 million a year for an unproven receiver. Jeff in Fort Collins, Colo., is irritated about the change in the wedge rule on kickoffs. He notes that football is designed to have blockers together so that the runner can follow their lead. Jeff, if you look at the film of players getting concussions and serious neck injuries from crashing into a wedge of three players, you might change your mind. Football isn't for career-ending injuries, and that's what is happening. Eric in Cincinnati is a big Bengals fan whose patience is running out with Chad Ocho Cinco. Eric, don't be surprised if they do trade him. I wouldn't guarantee it, but it is becoming a thought. To Jordan in Houston, I do think the Houston Texans have a chance of making the playoffs, but it would have to be as a wild-card team. They would need a good draft for that to happen, but they have been drafting well the past couple of years. Scott in Michigan wonders about expanded rosters if the NFL goes to 17 or 18 games. I think that has to happen, which is one of the reasons the NFLPA might go for it. More jobs and bigger salaries are incentives to any union as long as the numbers are right. To Rufus in Chicago, I don't think the Devin Hester experiment is delaying any wide-receiver moves by the Bears. Let's just applaud them for making the Jay Cutler move. Now that it has happened, they can make finding new receivers a priority.
Q: Why do teams generally start to waver on players as the draft approaches? Examples of this would be Adrian Peterson in 2007, Devin Hester in '06 and Troy Polamalu in '03. These guys dominated in college, but they slipped in the draft. It seems like everyone is doing that with Michael Crabtree this year, and I don't want to see the Seahawks miss out on getting a guy who could dominate. Do these GMs over think about these things too much?
Jeff in Seattle
A: You're right on that teams tend to think too much as they get closer to the draft. First, they get too excited about workouts. Coaches get involved and fall in love with the athletic skills more than football skills. Then the financial guys enter the picture and lower the value of players because of the positions they play. Safeties, for example, get downgraded because they play so far away from the ball. A running back like Peterson gets devalued because teams tend to rationalize that they can get running backs in the second and third rounds. That's why the smart teams take the best players on the board. You never go wrong that way.
Q: Does it look like the Chargers are going to attempt to sign Shawne Merriman to a long-term deal? The 2008 season showed how important he is to their defense, but he's going to command a huge contract. Have the Chargers hinted one way or another on that?
Kevin in Surprise, Ariz.
A: I get the feeling the Chargers will hold off on giving him a huge deal. They won't lose him to free agency next year for two reasons. First, if there is an uncapped year, he won't have enough years in the league to qualify for free agency. You need six to qualify, which takes out a 2005 draft choice like Merriman. Second, if there isn't an uncapped year, the Chargers can franchise him. I agree with you: The team doesn't have the pass-rush ability without him. His next contract will be a huge one whether it's on the Chargers or somewhere else, as long as he comes back healthy.
Q: I think there's one stat that can put the debate about the current overtime system to rest. What's the percentage of teams scoring on the opening drive of overtime? If it's less than 50 percent, the current system is fine. If it's over 50 percent, there is a legitimate advantage to winning the coin toss. Any idea if people keep track of this?
Greg in Philadelphia
A: The number is 46.3, which is a little scary, but it's not scary enough to make a change. Clearly, there is an advantage for the team that wins the coin toss, but it's not enough to make major alterations to the rules involving overtime. If the percentage gets over 50, I'd consider change. Otherwise, keep the rule as it is.
Q: Why haven't the Atlanta Falcons upgraded their roster? In fact, they have had more subtractions than additions. What's the problem? They need help at cornerback, safety and defensive tackle. I'm curious.
Nick in Atlanta
A: In many ways, we are all curious about that. It's pretty clear the Falcons want to build through the draft and want to be selective in free agency. I think they are light at defensive tackle. They are thin in the secondary, too. Clearly, the Falcons are building for the long run now that they have a franchise quarterback (Matt Ryan), but they are taking a few risks by not doing more for their defense.
Q: It appears Jason Peters wants to be the highest-paid left tackle in the league. With two years left on his contract, the Bills clearly have the upper hand. Has any NFL player sat out two years? If so, how successful were they when they returned to action?
Marc in Pennsylvania
A: Don't worry about Peters sitting out the season. He's not going to miss many paychecks this year, but the Bills should consider what to do with him long term. He is one of the more talented left tackles in the league, but his contract problems are affecting his play. In two years, he will command top left-tackle money. The Bills can get maximum value if they trade him to a team such as the Eagles, but they would take a step back in the development of their offensive line. It's a tough choice. I'd consider trading, though. This is a good draft for offensive tackles.
Q: John, after signing Darren Sharper, the Saints appear to have at least superficially filled their major holes heading into the draft. What direction do you think they'll go on draft day?
Will in New Orleans
A: Unless they draft a cornerback, I think they will lean toward taking a big running back in the first round and looking for more offensive help in the other rounds. They have concentrated on defense in free agency and have done a relatively good job in that area. Still, it would be nice to see them settle on a regular set of corners. They bring in a new veteran corner each year. I liked what I saw of Tracy Porter last season. A Malcolm Jenkins-Porter combo could take them out of the corner market for the next few years.
Q: I am a big 49ers fan. There is a huge difference between a quarterback controversy and a quarterback dilemma, which the Niners seem to have. With Shaun Hill, Alex Smith and the signing of Damon Huard, who do you see emerging as the starting QB for San Fran this season?
Mark in Iowa
A: It will be a real quarterback dilemma if the 49ers add another one to the mix. Some people within the 49ers would love to draft Mark Sanchez. Although he might be the long-term answer to the 49ers' quarterbacking problems, ownership will probably block that move because of the resources already invested at the position. You're right, the situation isn't great. But Mike Singletary plans to run the ball anyway. Have the three quarterbacks fight it out and see what is there. Smith is still young, and he wanted one last try at becoming the starter.
Q: I am a huge Titans fan, and for the past few years, I have been waiting to see them make a move for a big-play WR. With Torry Holt in the free-agent market and with Boldin and Edwards being shopped around like they are, is this the year the Titans make a move or possibly draft a big-play guy (maybe Percy Harvin)?
Brett in St. Cloud, Minn.
A: I rate the Titans as having the best chance of landing Holt, but this never has been a franchise that goes crazy for wide receivers. A Holt move would be better than using a first-round draft choice on a wide receiver, because there is no guarantee of an immediate impact. Holt would give Kerry Collins a solid target.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.