Friday, October 14, 2011
Wishing these trades would happen
By Adam Schefter
Derrick Mason was dealt to Houston and Aaron Curry is off to Oakland, but football's trade deadline usually is a dead time.
There are few calls, even less action. No matter how much sense some trades make, they do not happen before the deadline, which this season is Tuesday, Oct. 18.
There are many complicating factors to the art of the deal, but part of the problem is that teams have budgets. At this time of year, they are unwilling to take on the big salaries that accompany big names.
So let's play a different form of fantasy football. Let's list five trades that should be made but probably won't by the trade deadline:
• Cincinnati trades QB Carson Palmer to the Seahawks for second- and fourth-round picks: This would be a smart deal for Bengals president Mike Brown. He would get back the same price that the Redskins once paid for Donovan McNabb and be able to better support Palmer's successor, Andy Dalton, Cincinnati's quarterback of the future.
• Denver trades LB D.J. Williams and safety Brian Dawkins to the Eagles for a third-round pick: For simply one of the surplus of picks that they already have, the Eagles could get two players they need: the type of linebacker their defense lacks and the type of leader they should not have let go.
• Philadelphia trades CB Asante Samuel to the Lions for a second-round pick: Few teams are as demanding in trade talks as the Eagles, but the day is going to come when they trade Samuel. And the Lions could use another premier cornerback to help battle the Packers in the regular season and, quite possibly, in the postseason.
• Kansas City trades WR Dwayne Bowe to the Titans for second- and fifth-round picks: Kansas City invested a first-round pick in wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin and millions in free-agent wide receiver Steve Breaston. The Titans could use a replacement for Kenny Britt, along with some insurance in the event he encounters more legal issues.
• Denver trades Kyle Orton to Miami for a fifth-round pick: It's not too late for the trade that should have been made in August. Miami could modify the $27 million extension it had on the table for Orton in August and use him as the bridge for the quarterback it drafts. Denver would get back something for a player who can walk away after this season, and in turn, open the job for fan favorite Tim Tebow.
On to this week's 10 Spot:
1. No longer Bay of pigs: From 2003 until this season, the Bay Area was a veritable NFL wasteland. Neither the 49ers nor the Raiders made a single playoff appearance during those eight seasons, and the two teams combined for a pitiful 83-173 record (.324 winning percentage).
But now the Bay Area is proving to be a home of NFL riches. The Bay Area could have both its teams in the playoffs for the first time since 2002. In San Francisco, the Smiths -- Alex Smith, Aldon Smith and Justin Smith -- have helped the 49ers get out to a 4-1 start with a sizable enough lead in the NFC West that it feels like it's almost time to start computing magic numbers for the division title. One year ago, many were picking the 49ers to surprise. One year later, they actually are.
Their cross-the-bay neighbors are almost as big of a surprise. Each player is wearing a decal on his helmet that reads "AL," and it feels as though the Raiders could get help from above. They certainly have from the schedule-makers. Oakland plays its next three games at home, against Cleveland, Kansas City and Denver.
San Francisco plays in football's worst division. Already a force this season, it's looking like the Bay Area could be involved in the postseason as well.
2. Pick-off artists: Buffalo's offense has been explosive, but its defense cannot be overlooked. It is one of the primary reasons the Bills are in first place in the AFC East, one of the NFL's biggest surprises with a 4-1 record. The Bills intercepted Michael Vick four times in Week 5, just as they intercepted Tom Brady four times. The team has 12 interceptions this season, one more than it did all of last season.
But it's not just the interceptions that have helped win games. It's the returns of them, too. The Bills have returned an interception for a touchdown in three straight games, and this should encourage Buffalo: The last team to do that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went on to win the Super Bowl that season.
The AFC is known for the safety play of Baltimore's Ed Reed and Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu. But no safety has been more valuable this season than Buffalo's George Wilson, who leads the Bills with three interceptions.
|The Lions could use a player like Asante Samuel, especially when they play the Packers. |
3. Keeping Steelers in the running: Last Sunday's contributions of Jonathan Dwyer and, to a lesser extent, Isaac Redman, could prove to be crucial as this season develops. Pittsburgh is going to need to run the football effectively, and there are questions about how reliable Rashard Mendenhall will be as the season develops.
Mendenhall is coming off a season in which he led the NFL with 324 carries, then had 61 more in the postseason. Any running back with more 370 carries in a season in recent history -- from Larry Johnson to Jamal Anderson to James Wilder to Eric Dickerson to Eddie George to Gerald Riggs to Ricky Williams to Terrell Davis to Barry Foster -- has suffered a noticeable drop-off the next season.
Now Mendenhall is battling the same fate. Mendenhall is nursing a hamstring injury, but in his absence Dwyer and Redman have proved that Pittsburgh might have two hammers capable of carrying the football and this team into the winter. The Steelers will need them.
4. Call it the art of a deal: The Jets dealt Derrick Mason to Houston for a conditional late-round pick because New York thought fifth-round pick Jeremy Kerley was playing better than Mason and needed to get on the field, pronto.
Mason, 37, was not going to be happy about backing up a 22-year-old rookie, and New York knew it. So the Jets dealt him. And the reason Houston wanted Mason is that the Texans believed he would be an upgrade over their former wide receiver, David Anderson.
Now Houston will take Mason to Baltimore in a game that looms large for the Ravens. If the Ravens can take care of the Texans, they would be 4-1 heading into games at Jacksonville and at home against Arizona before traveling to Pittsburgh for a game Nov. 6.
With a win Sunday, the Ravens would be expected to take a 6-1 record into Pittsburgh, where they would be able to get a stranglehold on the AFC North lead with a win. So even though Sunday is one game for the Ravens, it could position them to have the type of regular season they want.
5. Newhouse no longer anonymous: Outside of Green Bay, few people know about Marshall Newhouse. But he now might have one of the most important jobs in the NFL. With Packers left tackle Chad Clifton out indefinitely with a significant hamstring injury, the Packers are expected to start Newhouse at left tackle, meaning he will be in charge of protecting the blind side of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Newhouse fared remarkably well last Sunday night in Atlanta when pressed into service, and now he will have more time to prepare for the Rams in Week 6. Newhouse, Green Bay's fifth-round pick in 2010, is familiar with big responsibilities. At TCU, his job was to protect the blind side of Andy Dalton.
And Newhouse (6-foot-4, 319-pounds) certainly has the genes to do it. His father, John, was a running back at the University of Houston when the school went to the Cotton Bowl in 1977, 1979 and 1980. And Newhouse's cousin, Robert, spent 12 seasons playing fullback for the Dallas Cowboys and still ranks fifth on the franchise's all-time rushing list. Now the younger Newhouse gets the chance to distinguish himself in a different way.
6. Friendly rivalry begins: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, whose teams meet Sunday, met in March at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Atlanta. Newton's offseason quarterbacks coach, George Whitfield, spotted Ryan in the hotel and asked if he could bring Newton to meet him. Ryan said of course.
Moments later, Whitfield pulled Newton out of his room and into the meeting. Ryan told Newton that he had watched his games at Auburn and he welcomed him to the NFL; Newton told Ryan he had watched his games with the Falcons and he was a big fan. Then Ryan had some advice for Newton.
"[Ryan's] biggest message to Cam was to disregard all the chatter, don't sweat it, and just keep going forward," Whitfield recalled. "He said, 'They write, you play.' And Cam nodded and broke into a smile and said, 'Yeah, you're right.' You could tell that Cam felt good to hear it from a more experienced quarterback who has had success."
The two quarterbacks will have the chance for plenty more meetings in the years to come. The first is Sunday in Atlanta, when the Falcons host the Panthers. Newton has modeled his game more after Ryan's than the previous Falcons quarterback, Michael Vick. Newton spent more time studying Ryan than Vick, and he has tried to transform himself into a quarterback more than a highlight machine. So far it has worked.
|If Rashard Mendenhall can't carry the load, the Steelers appear to have other viable options at RB.|
7. Still missing Marino: Here we go again in Miami, with another starting quarterback. Matt Moore is expected to become the 16th Dolphins starter since Dan Marino retired before the 2000 season. Miami's list of starters illustrates how difficult its search has been and why this franchise has struggled.
Since Marino retired, the Dolphins have started Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Ray Lucas, Brian Griese, A.J. Feeley, Sage Rosenfels, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne and Tyler Thigpen.
And now it will turn to Moore on Monday night against the New York Jets before, as many around the league believe, Rosenfels gets another turn at some point. More changes could come in the offseason as well, when the Dolphins are expected to embark on yet another search to give yet another potential starter a chance to give this franchise the type of stability it has lacked since Marino retired.
8. It's your turn, Rob: Dallas' defense faces a monumental challenge Sunday when it travels to New England to play the Patriots. It will try to prevent the Patriots from tying the record that the St. Louis Rams set in 1999-2000, when they scored 30 or more points in 14 straight games.
It's interesting that the end of those Rams' dominance came in Super Bowl XXXVI, the game that started the Patriots on the rise to prominence. Jets coach Rex Ryan couldn't snap the streak last Sunday; his brother, Rob Ryan, the Cowboys' defensive coordinator, will take his swing Sunday.
9. Redskins' revenge? No single performance last season was as memorable as the one Vick turned in on a rainy Monday night in Washington, when he threw for 333 yards, ran for 80 more and accounted for six touchdowns in the Eagles' 59-28 humiliation of the Redskins. Vick was a character out of a video game and he blew up the Redskins. But now the Redskins have a chance to strike back for that game and silence the Eagles, maybe for good this season.
One more loss would give the Eagles five after six games and nearly unofficially knock them out of the playoff race. But Washington also is getting the Eagles at a dangerous time. Over the past two games, the Eagles have racked up 1,002 total yards. With seven sacks, Jason Babin is a 1½ sacks behind league leader Jared Allen. Eagles defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins has five sacks, three more than Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
So these Eagles are doing much of what they're supposed to -- except winning. And now, if they don't win in Washington, they will be on life support.
10. Misery has company: It's not just the Eagles that are struggling. Their former quarterbacks are, as well.
Former Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb, traded to Arizona for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick, has failed to become the savior that the Cardinals had hoped he would be. In fairness to Kolb, he has had little time to set up in the pocket and throw; he constantly has been harassed on the way to tossing five touchdown passes and six interceptions.
In Minnesota, Donovan McNabb, traded by the Eagles to Washington for second- and fourth-round picks, finally helped rally the Vikings to their first win, but he has struggled in each of the five games this season. Were it not for Leslie Frazier's loyalty to McNabb, the veteran QB would be on Minnesota's bench and the Vikings would be going with rookie first-round pick Christian Ponder.
It seems inevitable they soon will, perhaps before the Oct. 30 game at Carolina.
So Philadelphia's struggles extend to each of its past three quarterbacks; the season is slipping away from all of them.
|Lucky No. 16? Matt Moore is about to join a long list of Dolphins starting QBs since Dan Marino.|
The Schef's specialties
• Game of the week: San Francisco at Detroit -- Two previous laughingstocks getting the last laugh this season: Who would have thought that San Francisco, Detroit and Buffalo would have the same combined 13-2 record as Green Bay, New England and New Orleans?
• Player of the week: Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez -- Time to silence some of the skeptics and doubters.
• Upset of the week: Carolina over Atlanta -- Cam Newton owns a home in Atlanta; now he tries to make the Georgia Dome his other home.
Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.