Ross Tucker
Friday April 3rd, 2009

The news that the Denver Broncos traded Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears means Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard has avoided one possible threat to his standing atop the Jaguars depth chart. But Garrard still has one more huge hurdle to overcome with the 2009 NFL Draft staring him squarely in the face in three weeks.

The Jags have spent a lot of time investigating the first-round quarterbacks available in this year's crop, including taking USC quarterback Mark Sanchez out to dinner this past Tuesday night before his pro day in Los Angeles. In fact, the Jags have showed so much interest in Sanchez that a growing number of mock drafts, including Don Banks' recent effort, are predicting he will hear his name called when the Jags make their selection at No. 8.

Garrard, for his part, is not immune to what is going on around him.

"I've heard the same things," Garrard said recently on Sirius NFL Radio. "I got a call from a close source, a coach, telling me not to worry about it or lose sleep over it. I told him I appreciated it, but it is still the NFL ..."

But why would Jacksonville be so interested in getting a quarterback just one year removed from giving Garrard a six-year, $60 million contract with $18 million in guarantees that made him the highest paid player in Jags history? It makes no sense.

Garrard earned the contract with his play in 2007 after head coach Jack Del Rio anointed him the starter over Byron Leftwich. Garrard finished the season with a passer rating over 100 while connecting on 18 touchdowns with only three picks in his 12 starts. He also took his team on the road and won a playoff game in Pittsburgh, Del Rio's first victory in a postseason contest.

Garrard's play, like that of the rest of his team, was off the mark in 2008 as he finished with 15 touchdowns and 13 picks while playing behind an offensive line that was decimated by injury. Garrard also was throwing the ball to one of the worst receiving corps in the league. If the Jags are truly considering going in a different direction behind center after one average season by Garrard, they are either incredibly short-sighted or downright stupid for giving him the contract that screamed franchise quarterback last offseason.

Even Garrard admitted that, saying, "I have been thinking about it. I just signed last year. You would think I would get more than one year."

You would think. But that may not be the case for an organization that has passed the final say over personnel like a baton from former executive James "Shack" Harris to Del Rio and now onto Gene Smith.

Now onto your mail ...

This article just proves that you are one of the best up-and-coming sportswriters. My only question is, if the Lions did pass on the No. 1 pick and picked third or fourth, wouldn't that player's agent demand to be paid like a No. 1 pick? --Vic, Knox, Indiana

Though I am quite sure the agent would try to make the argument that his client should be paid as if he were the No. 1 overall pick, the reality would be that he wasn't taken with the first selection. The Lions could just as easily argue they simply didn't want the financial constraints of that pick and were happy to take whoever fell to them a couple spots down the line. The very nature of the slotting system for draft choice compensation would aid them in this regard, but I am sure it would be somewhat contentious.

The Lions went winless. They're obviously more than a player away. With no clear No. 1, why not trade it for multiple picks in multiple years and existing players? --Patrick Reynolds, Buffalo

You are absolutely right about the Lions having a plethora of needs, Patrick, but you missed the whole point of my column, which was that the No. 1 pick is virtually untradeable. No teams want the pick or are willing to offer anything of value to move to the top of the draft. Most teams want to avoid the first pick and the guaranteed money that goes along with that selection.

If the Lions could trade it, they probably would. But they can't, and that is just one reason the current system needs to change. And soon. Otherwise, we might soon get to the point where a perennial loser is so desperate to break free from financial obligation of a top pick that they package that pick and a sixth or seventh rounder in order to move down. Now that would be something.

What do you think the Eagles should do with their first- and second-round picks? --Robert, Clayton, Delaware

The Eagles have two first-round picks and a second and most people are predicting they will take a running back and an offensive tackle. I don't disagree. I also wouldn't be surprised to see them take a wide receiver, safety or tight end fairly high as well.

The Birds need to take as much of the load off Brian Westbrook as possible. They haven't been able to do that with third-round picks in recent years, such as Tony Hunt and Ryan Moats. Westbrook has been so beaten up, and with his health seemingly always in question, it is time for the Eagles to have another viable option, such as Ohio State's Beanie Wells, Georgia's Knowshon Moreno or UConn's Donald Brown.

Andy Reid has a penchant for drafting offensive and defensive linemen early and often, and I don't expect that to change this year. Though the Eagles have in-house options like Todd Herremans and Winston Justice for the left tackle position vacated when Tra Thomas left for Jacksonville, I still expect Philly to take a hard look at offensive tackles like Arizona's Eben Britton and UConn's William Beatty.

Rather than continually tweaking the rules for more safety, are there things that can be done to modify equipment/uniform to improve safety? I know this is silly, but part of me thinks players should wear the old leather helmets instead of using contemporary helmets as weapons. --Mark Hartley, Tulsa, Okla.

It is funny you say that, Mark, as my late grandfather, who played football during the leather helmet days, always said the same thing. I used to laugh it off, but the number of concussions and pinched nerves makes me wonder sometimes. It will never happen and I am not in any way saying I think it should, but it would cut down dramatically on the amount of head and neck injuries as players would be much more judicious with how they blocked and tackled.

That being the case, it would also likely increase shoulder injuries like the ones that frequently occur in rugby. It would also cause a lot of broken noses and knocked out teeth, but on the bright side it could make players more marketable since fans would finally be able to see and then recognize their faces.

RT: Forget the OT format. Give kickers a bigger role in the game. Let the kickers decide it with each kicker kicking from 30, then 35, then 40, then 45 yards, etc., until one makes it and one misses it. I understand football has offense, defense and special teams, but this is a change I would be for if the NFL expands to an 18-game season. This is guaranteed to eliminate ties and it really places a bigger premium on those clutch kickers. --Shane, Phoenix

Shane, Shane, Shane. You obviously have just started reading my columns and don't listen to me on Sirius NFL Radio, because I am adamantly opposed to anything that increases the influence of kickers in the outcome of games. I already think the game is somewhat flawed because of the amount of games that come down to the final kick in the first place, let alone allowing them to decide the winner via a "kick-off."

I'd be much more in favor of just eliminating kicking and punting altogether and forcing teams to have to go for it on fourth down and try for two after a touchdown. The biggest problem with that wouldn't be the elimination of kickers and punters, it would be the fact there would no longer be blocked kicks or kick returns for touchdowns, and those are two of the most exciting plays in football.

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