Expect trade winds to remain calm
Mailbag: Is Packers' Hayward the real deal? Can Jets land a playoff spot?
The NFL moved the trade deadline from Week 6 to Week 8 (the trade period officially closes next Tuesday). Will the change result in more activity than we've seen in the past? Don't count on it.
The Miami Dolphins need receiving help, but the price of acquiring Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe would be too much. The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers could use a running back, but which back makes sense? The Dallas Cowboys would be wise to trade cornerback Mike Jenkins, but the only team that makes sense is the Lions.
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Nevertheless, it was great that the owners and NFL Players Association agreed to push the trade deadline back. They probably should consider moving it back another two weeks, but let's accept the two-week extension as progress.
The problem is perception. Teams don't want to concede to their fans that the season is lost after eight weeks by selling off key players. Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was the first to concede failure by firing his general manager. A selloff of players would make sense, but too many of the Panthers' top players are on or are heading to the injured reserve list. Center Ryan Kalil and cornerback Chris Gamble are out for the year and linebacker Jon Beason appears to be next.
The team should consider dealing running back DeAngelo Williams, who was on the field for only five plays in Week 7, but what team wants to pick up the remainder of his five-year, $43 million contract?
The Bowe situation in Kansas City is also intriguing. At 1-5, the Chiefs are at the juncture where they could concede the season, but how will that go over with the fan base? Bowe is good enough to command a first-round price tag, but he's most likely going to be available after the season as a free agent. Even if the Chiefs would be willing to trade Bowe for a second-rounder, the team that acquires him would have to offer up a $9-10 million-a-year extension unless it wants to risk losing him as a free agent.
Jenkins is an interesting option for a team needing a corner. A former first-round pick, Jenkins plays behind Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick. Over the past three weeks, he's been on the field for only 23 defensive snaps. Getting a fourth-round pick for him would be solid deal for Jerry Jones.
After Tuesday, though, the market closes.
From the inbox
Q: I was wondering if you could give some perspective on how Casey Hayward is comparing to other rookie DBs this year? I know he's tied for the league lead in INTs and hasn't played a lot compared to some other higher-profile rookie DBs. His numbers seem superb so far; do the Packers have a star-in-the-making?
A.J. in Indianapolis, Ind. A: Hayward has been averaging 45 plays a game over the past four. He's done well, being beaten on 10 of 26 passes for 100 yards, according to Stats Inc. Morris Claiborne of the Cowboys has been every bit the first-round pick, allowing 15 completions in six starts. Stephon Gilmore of the Bills has given up 18 completions in seven starts. Janoris Jenkins of the Rams has been picked on for 30 completions, but he looks like a future star. Hayward has done better than Lions corner Bill Bentley, Panthers corner Josh Norman, Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson and Saints corner Corey White. Summed up, he's among the top-five rookie corners, and he's about to get a lot more playing time in Charles Woodson's absence.
Sterling in Fort Worth, Texas, wants to know if the Cowboys can overcome the struggles and injuries on their offensive line. I think they can, but it all comes down to Tony Romo and how the Cowboys' skill-position players perform. Andreus in San Francisco wonders what's up with the 49ers and why they keep getting blown out by good teams such as the Giants. I think it depends on the type of game they are in. If they fall behind too much, they struggle with comebacks of two possessions or more. Still, they are one of the most talented teams in the league and could get back to a championship game. Patrick in Bismarck, N.D., asks if arm strength is the problem the Vikings aren't completing many passes of more than 10 yards. It's strategy. The coaching staff is being smart by designing bubble screens and short throws to prevent turnovers and create easy situations for Christian Ponder. That strategy has allowed Ponder to be successful and the team is off to a 5-2 start. Aiden in Pensacola, Fla., is a lifelong Rams fan and is finding Rams games hard to watch. I contend the games might not be pretty but the Rams seem to be in every one of them. That's a whole lot different from past years when they were blown away every Sunday. Courtney in Huntsville, Ala., wonders if the Giants can carry the momentum from the Redskins' victory and win the division. With Dallas and Philadelphia struggling, the Giants should fight through their tough schedule and finish first in the NFC East. Allen in Madras, Ore., was surprised the Lions didn't make a move to acquire a player similar to RB Jahvid Best. First, I don't think he's going to play this year because of the concussion. The Lions' inability to draft or acquire a running back threat that scares defenses has bottled up their offense and contributed to their 2-4 start.
Q: I feel like Rex Ryan and the Jets' coaching staff has done a better job than they are given credit for so far this year. Based on the Jets' record, they are right in line to compete for a playoff spot in the AFC and the team has been competitive despite the glut of injuries at key positions. Not only that, but they may actually find a way to effectively utilize Tim Tebow as a complement to Mark Sanchez. And, why not? There aren't many "conventional" offenses left in the NFL these days any way. What about a possible playoff berth for this team?
Charlie in New York
A: Charlie, I am going to half agree with you. Yes, Ryan has done a great job of getting the defensive line younger and better. He's done a great job of minimizing the loss of CB Darrelle Revis. If you look at the remaining schedule, I could see the Jets getting to eight or nine wins, and if that's the case they could get a wild card in the bad AFC. Where I disagree is on offense. The Tebow experiment doesn't work. They don't have a running game and the overall talent on offense isn't good. If Ryan can get the Jets to 8-8 or better, he's done a great job.
Q: Obviously, the Seattle Seahawks are going through growing pains with Russell Wilson at quarterback, but the receiving corps has been a bit of a weak link. Will Seattle target receivers in the draft and/or free agency? Also, as much as Pete Carroll has stated his intention to stick with Wilson, what do you think it will take for Carroll to replace him with Matt Flynn?
Carl in Burlington, Vt.
A: I think the Seahawks would like to stay with Sidney Rice as their No. 1 wideout. And they will look in the draft and free agency to see what else they can add. It wouldn't surprise me if they look at Dwayne Bowe and Greg Jennings if they are free. They will also consider upgrading the situation at tight end. Zach Miller is averaging only two catches a game. You'd like to have at least twice that much from the position with so many good tight ends in the league. If Wilson goes through a string of games in which he loses the turnover battle, I can see him being replaced, but the organization believes in Wilson. So far, he's earned its trust.
Q: With every roster spot on an NFL team being crucial to a team's success every week, why don't we see many players "cross-training" to make them more valuable? For example, if a kicker could kick field goals and punt, he would be worth his weight in gold, as the team that signs him could use the roster spot for another position of need. The same goes for a center if he's the team's long-snapper. Why aren't any younger players realizing this and learning an additional skill to capitalize on it?
Bryan in Mount Airy, Md.
A: Teams would love to do it, but it's hard. The standards are so high for kickers it's tough to do both. Place-kickers are making 87.7 percent of their field goals. Nine punters are averaging more than 48 yards a punt and 10 are netting at least 40 yards. Those are incredible numbers. If one guy could do both at those levels, he would be the next Marvel superhero and have his own comic strip. Teams are always looking for ways to consolidate roster spots and always will, but not at the expense of quality. One bad long snap could lose a game, so teams don't want to mess up something that's working.
Q: Has the NFL considered making a rule change so that spikes to stop the clock count as team incompletions (like sacks count against team yards) rather than against the quarterback's stats? It just seems unfortunate to punish the quarterback for trying to win the game.
Matthew in Madison, Wis.
A: Not a bad idea, but I don't see the league doing that. The league and everyone likes balance in the stats. Putting team next to an incompletion would look odd, although it is done on some other stats. A spike here or there isn't going to punish a quarterback too much.
Q: The Packers' James Jones is quietly having a solid season. He also has a couple of the best catches of the year thus far. What do you think of his sudden rise and the potential of him being a valid replacement for Greg Jennings, who will likely be gone before the 2013 season?
Matt in Milwaukee, Wis.
A: Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have done well enough that I could see major changes coming after the season. Donald Driver may not be back unless he plays for the minimum. The interesting debate is what to do with Jennings. He's a free agent and will be expensive. Do they franchise him and trade him? Do they re-sign him? The Packers are loaded at wide receiver and Jones is one of the reasons.
Q: Isn't there a clear NFC bias? When the AFC dominated inter-conference play, it wasn't a major topic. Yet now that the NFC is on top, it's talked about constantly. You mention it every week. My theory for the bias is that more NFC teams are in major media markets (the NFC East teams, plus Chicago) and also include old NFL teams such as Green Bay, Minnesota, and Detroit -- with long histories and storied rivalries.
Mike in New Jersey
A: There is no bias here. It's fact. The NFC is 19-9 against the AFC this season. I spent my first 15 years covering AFC teams. I grew up in Pittsburgh. The reason for the fluctuation is the quarterbacks. In the 1970s, the AFC had the advantages because of the Steelers, Raiders, Houston Oilers and others. Then Bill Walsh, Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs changed the trend to the NFC with good teams and good or great quarterbacks. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and others put things back in the AFC. Now, the NFC has the best young quarterbacks and more top quarterbacks than the AFC. It's fact, not bias.