Whoa. Looking like a dead Sunday, middle of March, with me still incredulous over the Browns paying Jake Delhomme $7 million, and all of a sudden, LaDainian Tomlinson flies to the Jets, Brady Quinn gets a new life in Denver and the Raiders take a chance on a pass-rusher who was a big disappointment in Cleveland, Kamerion Wimbley. In an hour.
Tease alert: Stay tuned, down a bit in the column, for a good nugget about the first thing Rex Ryan said when he woke up from lap-band weight-loss surgery Saturday.
The weekend news leaves us with one big personnel story (except for the fate of Brandon Marshall) prior to the draft: Why are teams not fighting to get Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb from the Eagles?
It's interesting how this story of the Eagles quarterbacks has stretched out. We all know it's unlikely Philly opens the season with McNabb, Kolb and Michael Vick as the quarterback depth chart. If I'm laying odds, it's 60-40 McNabb is under center for the Eagles on opening day. But that 40 percent (who knows -- maybe it's 30 or 35) means something. Andy Reid has said McNabb is his quarterback, but the one thing he has not said is "I absolutely will not trade Donovan McNabb.''
Case in point. Remember last summer, two weeks before Philly landed Vick, when Reid said signing Vick "is not the direction we're looking"? He never said, "We have no interest in Vick.'' So when he says he's happy with his quarterbacks and feels McNabb is his guy, it's a lot different than saying he wouldn't deal him.
A playoff quarterback near his prime can be had for a premium price. The fact that there's a real chance the Eagles could deal McNabb, and that McNabb is a half-year younger than Peyton Manning and apparently intends to play four or five more seasons, and also apparently has kicked the injury bug, leads me to this question: What in the world are all these quarterback-needy teams doing? Why aren't teams running to deal for McNabb?
The prime object of this game in the personnel area is to get a quarterback who can win games and lead your team, and a good, proven one is out there. The Eagles aren't shopping him, but they surely are listening.
I asked a coach with a quarterback need about McNabb, and the coach said because McNabb is on the last year of his contract and would probably need to be re-signed, and the fact that Philadelphia would want a high draft choice for him in a very good draft, and the fact that he doesn't have a lot of years left, all combine to make it a tough trade. Understood. Good factors all. But McNabb is 33.
I have my own problems with McNabb. I don't consider him on the Manning-Brady-Brees plane. I think the Eagles should go with Kolb and make the best deal they can for McNabb this offseason, because, basically, it's Groundhog Day in Philadelphia. Every year's the same, and I don't see McNabb getting Philly over the hump and into another Super Bowl.
So why would I want to pawn him off on another quarterback-needy team when I don't think he's a top-five quarterback? Simple. Because he's a top-10 or top-12 quarterback, and they're too hard to find to let one pass when he's just sitting there for the taking. McNabb would shore up any team's most important position for the next half-decade. Some team's going to take Jimmy Clausen between, say, the fourth and 20th pick in the first round, and whoever takes him is going to have no idea if he's the long-term solution at quarterback.
NFL teams have picked 30 quarterbacks in the first round since 1999. Of those 30, I'd say six (McNabb, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers) have turned into top-flight starters. Six more (Chad Pennington, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Vick, Daunte Culpepper) have been well worth the pick; Vick, remember, had the Falcons on strong playoff runs early in his career.
The other 18 include four No. 1 overall picks (Tim Couch, David Carr, Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell) who have either failed or need career CPR to get back on track. JoeyHarrington, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Kyle Boller, J.P. Losman -- finished far too soon. Twelve success stories out of 30, with a few more hanging in the balance.
What would you rather have, a four- or five-year shot at a relatively sure thing in McNabb (with a +12 TD/INT ratio in each of his past four seasons), or a guy who makes you go to bed uneasy every night for the next two or three years because you just don't know how he'll pan out?
I've also heard what a great draft this is, and I respect teams determined to build through the draft. Long term, it's clearly the best way to build your team right. The last time I heard so many raves about a draft beforehand was the 2004 crop, with the three good quarterbacks (Rivers, Manning, Roethlisberger) and rock-solid depth at several other positions.
Well, I looked up that draft Sunday, and here were the fifth through 10th picks in this so-called superior draft:
5. Washington: Sean Taylor, S, Miami (Fla.). 6. Cleveland: Kellen Winslow, TE, Miami (Fla.). 7. Detroit: Roy Williams, WR, Texas. 8. Atlanta: DeAngelo Hall, CB, Virginia Tech. 9. Jacksonville: Reggie Williams, WR, Washington.10. Houston: Dunta Robinson, CB, South Carolina.
Forgot to mention Robert Gallery, second overall pick. Six years later, six of the top 10 picks in a thought-to-be excellent draft are gone, with just traces of the impact they were supposed to have left on their teams. A seventh, Gallery, was so unimpressive at tackle the Raiders moved him to guard. It's time for one of the QB-needy teams to step up. Seattle has the sixth and 14th picks, San Francisco the 13th and 17th picks.
Re: Seattle, franchise saviors usually don't last forever. Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier can tell you that. If I'm Pete Carroll, and I can have McNabb as my quarterback for the next four years, I jump at it. Cleveland, Oakland, Buffalo and Jacksonville are 7 through 10. If I'm Reid, I'm keeping Kolb (which I think he aims to do), and hoping/praying some team comes to its senses and chases McNabb before the draft.
I think one of the quarterbacks is going. Where, I don't know. When, I don't know. But one last note about the Eagles and quarterbacks: Fordham University, not exactly a football hotbed, had its pro day for NFL coaches and scouts Friday in the Bronx. Fordham has a late-round quarterback prospect, John Skelton. The Eagles were at the workout with not one coach but two -- quarterback coach James Urban and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Maybe it means nothing, but it's pretty rare for two coaches to be looking at a late-round quarterback -- especially when you're as packed at quarterback as the Eagles are. Unless, of course, you're planning to jettison one of your quarterbacks before the draft.
Catching up on the other developments of the weekend:
• You think the McNabb market is soft? Look at what Brady Quinn yielded. Denver gave Cleveland versatile backup runner Peyton Hillis (who might be the best player in this trade), a sixth-round pick this year and a conditional pick in the 2012 draft that I'm told won't be better than a fourth-round pick. This for the 22nd pick in 2007, who had 12 starts to prove he belonged.
Unfortunately for Quinn the Cleveland regime changed, and Eric Mangini wasn't a big fan -- not that Quinn gave him much reason to be. In Denver, Quinn enters camp as the clear backup to restricted free-agent Kyle Orton (Josh McDaniels called Orton to tell him he was the starter on Sunday). But being under the tutelage of McDaniels should help Quinn, who needs to become less frenetic in his drops and picking out the open receiver.
Hillis prove more than capable under Mike Shanahan in 2008, playing running back and fullback for the Broncos and going on a strong five-game run in the backfield before tearing his hamstring late in the season; I guarantee he'll be a favorite of Mangini's for his versatility, the way Mangini loves players like Josh Cribbs and Blake Costanzo.
Last point: It's likely that Chris Simms will be the odd man out in Denver, with Orton, Quinn and 2009 rookie Tom Brandstater likely to be 1-2-3 on the depth chart at quarterback.
• Denver had a more important signing during the week. Nose tackle Jamal Williams, the long-time Charger, signed as part of a defensive line makeover (Denver added Justin Bannan and Jarvis Green,too), and this will be one of the most interesting signings in free agency this year. Williams played at an all-decade level for the Chargers (on my all-decade team, at least) before missing 15 games last year with a torn triceps. Had the Chargers not had so many free agents to sign, they probably would have made Williams more of a focus instead of allowing him to walk when his contract expired.
When he arrived in Denver for a visit last week, he weighed 334 (down about a dozen pounds from his playing weight, impressive for an offseason visit), and the Denver coaches who watched video of him in his last two years saw no sign of decline; neither did independent observers like Aaron Schatz of Footballoutsiders.com. If Williams is right, he'll be the perfect nose to draw double-teams, something Denver didn't have in 2009.
• Rex Ryan really wanted LaDainian Tomlinson. Ryan was in on meetings with Tomlinson on Friday in New Jersey to try to persuade him to sign as a free-agent with the Jets. Then the Jets coach, who has always struggled with his weight, went to Manhattan on Saturday to have lap-band surgery on his stomach, and the first thing he did when he woke up from the surgery was ask: "Did we get LT signed yet?'' the answer was no, so when Ryan had rested and returned home late in the day Saturday, he called Tomlinson to put on one last sales pitch. And Sunday morning, Tomlinson settled on the Jets.
SI's Jim Trotter had good detail on what made up Tomlinson's mind for New York over Minnesota (the Jet scheme was the same, he knew offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer well from his days on the San Diego coaching staff, and Brett Favre's playing uncertainty made the Vikings a bit of an unknown). I believe there were one or two other factors as well.
Though nothing was promised to Tomlinson regarding playing time, he has to know he's more likely to push Shonn Greene aside for playing time than Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. And the Jets have the best run-schemer in football right now, assistant head coach Bill Callahan, with perhaps the best offensive line in the game. The Vikings line showed some big holes at times last year, and is aging.
I think this is the right choice for Tomlinson, and though his career's in free-fall, this is the best situation for him to have a chance for one or two good sunset seasons.
• The Raiders get a rusher. Maybe. Kamerion Wimbley, the Browns' first-round pick in 2006, got off to a great start rushing the passer for Cleveland, with 11 sacks in 16 games as a rookie. In the 47 games since, Wimbley's had 15.5 sacks and too often gets caught in traffic, unable to consistently turn the corner and get to the passer. The Raiders paid a third-round pick for Wimbley on Sunday, a price I think is a little generous -- except when you consider they dealt another pass-rusher, Derrick Burgess to New England for third- and fifth-round picks last year, and Wimbley is much younger than Burgess.
• My thoughts on Merlin Olsen, who died Thursday of complications from mesothelioma: I know most of you know what a good person he was. I hope you also realize what a great football player he was. "We use the term 'great' way too much in this society,'' his teammate, defensive end Jack Youngblood, told me Saturday. "But you can put it in capital letters in front of his name. You could not confuse him, you could not overpower him, and you could not block him consistently.'' Olsen's the only player in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in his first 14 years in the league, and the two men to his left in a 15-year career, Youngblood preceded by Deacon Jones, both made the Hall of Fame -- as did Olsen. He'll be missed.
"God doesn't create perfect men, but he came mighty close when he brought us Merlin Olsen. He personified the Greek ideal of a sound mind in a sound body. I seriously doubt that I shall ever meet another who will measure up to his complete character.''-- Dick Enberg, the longtime TV partner of Olsen, after the Hall of Fame defensive tackle died of cancer on Thursday.
"I've got all the love in the world for Darren Sharper. I just don't have all the money in the world for Darren Sharper.''-- New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis, on the Saints' plans for re-signing the 34-year-old free-agent safety who played a major role in the team's Super Bowl run.
Translation: We want someone else to set the market for us by giving Sharper an offer, or else we'll lowball the tar out of him.
"The New England Patriots' void at tight end is as large as any team in the NFL. They don't have a tight end on the roster who has played in a regular-season NFL game, and they don't officially have a tight ends coach. There are holes, and then there are gaping holes. This is one of the latter. That the Patriots are in this position is a result of their own doing, because they had an abysmal 2009 in evaluating tight ends.''-- ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss on the Patriots, who have no tight end with an NFL catch on the roster after entering training camp last year with Benjamin Watson (now with Cleveland), David Thomas (now with New Orleans), Alex Smith (free agent) and Chris Baker (free agent).
Vince Wilfork, the New England defensive tackle, and wife Bianca have a 7-month-old son named David Dream-Angel Wilfork.
Heck of a job, people. You've now donated $147,000 to the "Five For Fighting'' cause ($5 per person toward sending the fighting men and woman of our military some recreation and video-game equipment through the USO2GO plan), and the thanks are rolling in from platoons at forward-operating bases -- small bases with men far removed from civilization, mostly -- in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We recently started to receive the USO2GO packages,'' wrote a Lt. Maness of Bandit Troop 1-10 CAV, "and they have been an excellent morale boost to my troops. We are on a patrol base that is a long ways from a major installation, and the items you have sent us in terms of personal hygiene and athletic/entertainment have been great. They allow us to focus on the mission. I wanted to take a moment and say THANK YOU for your continued support.''
And Sgt. First Class Robbie A. Williams of FON Edge, Iraq, wrote: "We live on a small FOB that is self-sustaining, meaning that the life-support that we have we do it ourselves. No PX or anything. But the things that we have received from you and the USO members have made those things not matter. THANK YOU ALL.''
Think of it: $147,000 pays for the TV, video games, sports equipment and weights for the 135-soldier company of Mike McGuire, the longtime MMQB friend and Army First Sergeant, and for six more companies in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have personally outfitted seven companies of Our Finest with your generosity. If you know someone who would like to keep the donations coming, please pass along this link. All I want is $5 for our troops.
As an additional way to support the Five For Fighting campaign, the USO has created a virtual wall that we will share directly with Sgt. McGuire. If you'd like, please take a moment and offer a few words to let those men know that they're in our thoughts back here. Click on this link and send your best.
Thanks to all of you who responded so far. I've chosen Roanna Flowers of Austin, Texas, to represent the thousands who have given so far. Her words: "I am just so grateful to the work you and your men are doing, Sgt. McGuire, and for the work and determination and sacrifice of all men and women in uniform. I have followed your story from the first mention by Peter King in his MMQB. I was so excited that there was something I could do for you guys for a change. I jumped at it! I think about you and your men every day, and of those for which I have no name, no face to correspond. I wish you all the very best and give you my heartfelt thanks.'' Amen.
Not a travel note per se, but an observation about living in Boston that I wouldn't have considered before moving here a year ago. This is the only place I've been where, even with a big golf umbrella, you get wet when you walk for 20 minutes in the kind of Nor'easter we had over the weekend. It rains sideways. So if you position your umbrella to stop the rain from pelting you from the side, some of it's going to hit you from overhead anyway. I've been around the kind of rain in the north of England, but this is the fourth or fifth storm with sideways rain in the year we've been here.
"I told Matt Cassel that as soon as he and his beautiful wife had a son, I would offer him a scholarship.''-- @CoachEdOrgeron, defensive coordinator/defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator at Southern Cal, on a conversation he had with the former Trojans backup quarterback (now the starting QB in Kansas City) Thursday.
Somehow, I'm not sure even kidding around about that is such a good idea for Ed Orgeron.
1. I think these are my notable contract notes of free agency after 10 days:
a. This is loyalty, with a nod to being sure Vince Wilfork has at least three or four top seasons left: The Pats paid him an $18 million signing bonus.
b. Ditto: $12 million to sign for Gary Brackett in Indy.
c. No one in the league would have paid Brandon Manumaleuna $3 million to play football in 2010 -- except the Bears, who paid him $6.1 million: $2 million to sign, $3 million in a roster bonus, and $1.055 million in salary.
d. If I were Greg Olsen, I'd want to be traded, too.
e. Jacksonville paying $3 million total for Kassim Osgood, a great special-teamer and unknown receiver, is a smart decision. He knows this is his chance to show the world he can play wideout.
f. I have no idea what Nate Burleson has done to be handed $8.125 million in 2010 by Detroit. Fortunate man, one of the only competent receivers in a bad crop of unrestricted free agents.
g. And Kyle Vanden Bosch had better be more than a good example for the kids in Detroit, making $13.75 million in his first two years.
h. Interesting sign that the Dolphins don't plan on Chad Pennington playing much, if at all: He gets $200,000 in bonus money for every game he plays one or more plays.
i. I like Thomas Jones, supremely motivated, at $3 million in 2010. And let's be clear about this: Jamaal Charles needs a hard-charging challenger to his job. If both men are healthy for 16 games and playing at the optimum, Charles gets 60 percent of the carries, maybe 260 in all. But Todd Haley is playing the best guy, and Jones will push Charles hard to be that guy.
j. Karlos Dansby, $18 million (including $400,000 in workout bonuses) over years one and two in Miami. He'd better be doing his best Ray Lewis impersonation for that kind of money.
2. I think I can't wait to hear Mike Holmgren's and Eric Mangini's explanation for paying Jake Delhomme $7 million in 2010. I really can't wait.
3. I think Delhomme is in the top five of NFL good guys I've ever met. I once saw him stopped by students in the Student Center at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., site of the Panthers training camp each summer, and give these kids 15 minutes of his time, asking them as much about them as they asked about him. He's clearly one of the most giving players to fans I've ever met, and he has never tried to hide from the press after some of his inglorious days.
But at 35, there have to be serious questions about whether Delhomme is the NFL's version of Steve Sax, or Steve Blass. Sax, a second baseman, couldn't play baseball anymore because he lost the ability to throw the ball from second to first. Blass, a World Series hero for the Pirates in 1971, lost the ability to control his pitches in 1973 and was out of baseball a year later. Check out Delhomme's numbers in his last 12 starts, compared to JaMarcus Russell's in his last 12 starts:
The pressure on Delhomme is going to be tremendous as he tries to prove 2009 was an uncharacteristic living nightmare and doesn't accurately reflect who he is as a player.
4. I think -- finally on Delhomme -- that the Agent of the Month (or Year, or Decade) has to be Jake's man Rick Smith, for getting him $19 million from Carolina last year and $7 million from the Browns (guaranteed, according to ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio) this year. Look at that stat line just above here, and tell me how strong it is to get that man $26 million over two years.
5. I think Shaun Hill to the Lions for a seventh-round pick in 2011 is a good deal for Detroit. Not that you want Hill -- good guy, hard worker, supportive of the starter -- to play a season, but I trust him to back up Matthew Stafford a lot more than I'd trust Drew Stanton or Daunte Culpepper.
6. I think a coin flip is the fair way to determine whether the Giants or Jets host the first game in the new stadium at the Meadowlands. If the costs were split down the middle between the Giants and Jets, and the Jets want to host the first game, why shouldn't they have every right to do so?
7. I think -- and I know this is a basketball opinion -- but the idea of expanding the NCAA Tournament field from 65 teams to 96 is patently absurd. I can just hear it now: All the coaches want it because it will help other coaches keep jobs. Athletic directors want it because it'd bring in more money. Just what we need -- the 11th team in the Big East making the Big Dance because it has a better RPI than the 10th team in the SEC, or however those things are figured. And the 11th team in the Big East (let's put a name to it -- Cincinnati is the 11th-place team in the Big East) becomes the 19th seed in the West Bracket. So at 12:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday, Cincinnati and Cornell or Arkansas-Little Rock or George Mason or whoever will play a game in Corvallis, Ore., in the first round of the West Bracket.
Where are the great injustices of teams not making it this year? Seton Hall? A Virginia Tech team that needed overtime to beat Delaware and played a competitive game with Brown? Meh. And talk about rendering conference tournaments, already a waste of time, totally meaningless. Can someone with some common sense get hold of the college presidents and tell them 65 teams is already watered down, and there's no great injustices being perpetrated on the American public with the tournament the way it is now?
8. I think the odds are 40 to 45 percent of overtime undergoing serious reform at the NFL meetings starting next Sunday, which is discouraging. But here's what's encouraging: I think Roger Goodell, who'd always been lukewarm on overtime, is now more open to being a proponent of change because of how much the stats have changed since overtime was implanted in 1974. (I detailed these stats two weeks ago in this space.)
If OT reform fails, a key part will be this: I think the coaches who are strident about keeping the system the way it is -- and I talked to one the other day -- don't want to have another layer of decision-making added to their list. Coaches would have to decide, if they win the coin flip, whether to kick or receive. Under the plan being considered by the Competition Committee, the game continues to a second possession unless the first possession ends with a touchdown (either offensive or defense).
Coaches don't going to want to be second-guessed by fans and media wondering why they either took the ball first and lost when they kicked a field goal and the other team scored a touchdown, or why they deferred and watched the other team take the ball downfield and score a touchdown on the first drive. We'll see how it goes when the vote comes down (probably a week from Tuesday), but I'm not optimistic the reformers can gather 24 votes.
9. I think the most notable thing coming out of the NFL Players Association meetings in Maui is that Kevin Mawae, a staunch supporter of union executive director DeMaurice Smith, got rubber-stamped for another term as NFLPA president. The players sent a mandate with that vote to the owners that they're behind Smith and Mawae, and don't look for cracks in the unity of the players.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I have it on good authority that the weather in Boston over the weekend was the same weather that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald.
b. Good comeback by "The Office.'' I think the show's at its best in 22-minute episodes, not 44-.
c. Condolences to Keith Olbermann, my NBC football partner, on the loss of his dad Saturday after a lengthy illness. I could tell by Keith's stirring references to his dad how much he meant to him.
d. Best wishes to the top prospect in the Red Sox system, 19-year-old outfielder Ryan Westmoreland, who will undergo risky brain surgery Tuesday in Phoenix. Good story by Gordon Edes on the procedure.
e. Coffeenerdness: Quick review on the new Starbucks dark roast, Yukon Blend: Nice smoky full-flavored coffee, not quite with the bite of Italian Roast but a good midday coffee.
f. Five meetings between the Devils and Penguins this year. New Jersey 5, Pittsburgh 0. New Jersey 16 goals, Pittsburgh 3. I mean, just saying ...
g. Cool story in the Boston Herald Sunday about the great omissions to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not in: KISS, Chicago, Neil Diamond, Yes, Tom Waits, Def Leppard, Dire Straits, The Commodores. I wasn't sure of the great injustices there (except for Neil Diamond, with his incredible 37 top-40 hits), but then I looked at the roster of inductees and found: The Stooges, Spooner Oldham, Bobby Womack, The Ventures, The Dells (eight top-40 hits), Gene Pitney, and let's not forget Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Sometime, when you think me and my fellow Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee members are off our rockers, please refer to a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that excludes KISS and includes The Dells.