Musings, observations and the occasional insight from the third and final day of the NFL Draft, when a couple teams way out west -- Oakland and Seattle -- thrust themselves into the spotlight with some eye-opening headline moves. ...
• This is a little like using a muscle I didn't know I had -- it's painful at first -- but the Oakland Raiders really looked like they knew what they were doing in this draft.
And it's got to do with a lot more than their sending a 2012 fourth-round pick to Washington for quarterback Jason Campbell on Saturday, who immediately becomes the Raiders best option at the game's most pivotal position. (And I've got it Campbell, Bruce Gradkowski, and only then JaMarcus Russell.)
More on both the Campbell trade and what to do about Russell a little later, but there was lots to like about Oakland's work this weekend. Such as:
Taking Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain, who's one of the safest prospects in this draft, at No. 8 in the first round. Grabbing underrated Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston at No. 44 in the second round. Correctly identifying small-school standout Jared Veldheer, of tiny Hillsdale in Michigan, as a third-round offensive tackle worth taking a flyer on (some say he's this year's Sebastian Vollmer). Waiting until the fourth round to select Maryland offensive tackle and workout warrior Bruce Campbell. Only giving in to their perpetual urge to take the draft's fastest runner -- in this case, Clemson receiver Jacoby Ford (who ran 4.28) -- later in the fourth round.
Shoot, we can't even blame them for giving away veteran middle linebacker Kirk Morrison to the Jaguars in trade. He got run over in run defense in Oakland last season, and throwing him into the deal helped the Raiders land the pick they used to select Ford.
Lauding the Raiders for their draft acumen. This is going to take some getting used to. Maybe Al Davis has a future in this business.
• It's difficult not to see the 2010 Seattle Seahawks in a whole new light after this weekend. Starting off their picks with Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung, Texas safety Earl Thomas and Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate was impressive enough; but stealing, I mean, dealing for veteran running backs Leon Washington and LenDale White on Saturday addressed the team's glaring need to upgrade its running game in a rather unexpected way.
Seattle's quarterback situation still concerns plenty of folks, given MattHasselbeck's shaky health and CharlieWhitehurst's lack of an NFL track record, but how can you not like what Pete Carroll and John Schneider have accomplished so far in their Seahawks makeover?
If Washington can fully recover from that compound leg fracture he suffered last season, he's one of the finest change-of-pace runners in the league, and in 2009 he was clearly New York's best offensive weapon before the injury. For a back whose cutting is a big part of his game, Washington's leg injury was no small development, but indications are he'll be ready to go for the regular season.
The Jets simply weren't going to pay him the big money he wanted as part of a long-term deal, and when New York traded up in the fourth round to take USC running back Joe McKnight on Saturday, it was pretty clear that Washington would soon be headed elsewhere. Especially with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson already on hand in the Jets backfield.
As for White, maybe his being reunited with Carroll, his collegiate coach at USC, will entice him to lay off the doughnuts once and for all, and provide a jumpstart for his career as a power runner. He can be effective in short-yardage and goal line situations, as he proved in Tennessee, but ChrisJohnson's meteoric rise in Tennessee left White totally eclipsed.
Maybe the story in the NFC West this season will center on more than just the showdown between Arizona and San Francisco after all. Seahawks fever. I might have just caught it.
• To get back to Campbell's departure from Washington after five seasons: Was there ever a moment since the Redskins took him 25th overall in the 2005 first round when the ground didn't seem to be shifting beneath the feet of the former Auburn quarterback? Change has been a near constant in the Daniel Snyder ownership era in D.C., and Campbell was forever learning a new offense, working with a new coordinator or head coach, and greeting a new teammate or seven.
Clearly there was no way for him to put the genie back into the bottle in Washington, and it was time to move on and start over elsewhere. But his failure to make it big with the Redskins isn't entirely his fault. The zig-zag approach of the Washington organization bears a healthy dose of the blame for Campbell's lack of development. While Oakland certainly hasn't been a bastion of stability or quarterback success recently, anywhere but D.C. has to be looking pretty good to Campbell.
• As part of the trade, the Raiders reportedly awarded Campbell a new contract that includes $3.14 million in salary this year, with a workout bonus of $100,000, and then calls for $4.5 million next season. And even if Oakland cuts Russell tomorrow, they're already on the hook for a guaranteed $3 million to him this season, which would up its total commitment to him to a staggering $39.4 million since they took him first overall in 2007. And for what?
That, my friends, is why whatever the NFL and its players eventually settle on regarding a rookie wage scale in the next CBA, it will have largely been inspired by the enormous disappointment that has been Russell's career.
Maybe Campbell's presence as the presumed starter in Oakland, combined with the arrival this year of new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, can evoke Russell's last, best effort to become at least a serviceable quarterback. But I'm not optimistic. How could you be?
There are reports that Oakland intends to ask Russell to accept a pay cut, and that he's made it known he'll refuse the request. (I think the Raiders should ask him for some money back, not just a pay cut, but that's just me). The end game isn't hard to figure out. The Raiders releasing the guy who led off the draft just a scant three years ago is now a distinct possibility.
• Detroit did nothing in the draft to blunt the momentum that its strong work in free agency generated. The Lions got both defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and running back Jahvid Best in the first round, trading back up into Minnesota's No. 30 slot, to land another couple blue-chippers in the opening round for the second year in a row (Matthew Stafford and Brandon Pettigrew in 2009).
Third-round cornerback Amari Spievey of Iowa and fourth-round offensive tackle Jason Fox of Miami are both solid mid-round picks who will help the Lions, and when you factor in the free-agent/trade haul that brought Kyle Vanden Bosch, Nate Burleson, Corey Williams and Rob Sims to town earlier this offseason, I'm more convinced than ever that head coach Jim Schwartz is building something very good in Detroit.
• One more team that impressed me with the top of their draft this weekend was Kansas City. Safety Eric Berry in the first round and Mississippi running back/return man Dexter McCluster in the second made for a very strong start. Then the Chiefs picked up Javier Arenas later in the second round, and while the Alabama cornerback is on the shorter side, he also has return-man skills. Lastly, Kansas City picked up one of the better guards in the draft, taking Illinois's Jon Asamoah near the top of the third round.
• Living in Madison, Wis., these days, I got to three University of Wisconsin home games last fall, and the one player who consistently jumped out at me for the Badgers was senior defensive end O'Brien Schofield, who seemed to be playing in the opposing backfield for most of the afternoon.
Schofield went to the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday in the fourth round, 130th overall. That's a steal, but everyone knows why. Schofield, who will be an outside linebacker in the NFL, blew out his knee on the first day of workouts at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, when he got tied up with Massachusetts offensive tackle Vladmir Ducasse (who went to the Jets in the second round).
Schofield was thought to be a potential first-round pick before the late knee injury, and he might even need a redshirt season of sorts this year as a rookie before he's ready to fully contribute in Arizona. But once he's healthy, the Cardinals have themselves an impact player. Count on it. Or my name's not Mel Kiper.
• Things I did not understand one bit this weekend:
-- As badly as the Buffalo Bills seemed to need an offensive tackle (see 2009, offensive line play), they didn't draft one until the fifth round, taking Ed Wang from Virginia Tech 140th overall. He was the 12th offensive tackle taken in this year's draft. What were Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix waiting for? Didn't they see last season's game film?
-- I know the Jaguars were last in the NFL in sacks last year with 14, but are they ever going to have enough defensive linemen for their taste? They signed end Aaron Kampman in free agency, and then proceeded to draft Cal tackle Tyson Alualu in the first round, Louisiana Tech defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith in the third, Central Arkansas end Larry Hart in the fifth round (although they intend to play him at outside linebacker), and Murray State end Austen Lane later in the fifth round. And don't forget, carryovers Derrick Harvey and Reggie Hayward remain on the roster. I think they've hit their quota.
-- Why would NFL teams question Florida State safety MyronRolle's commitment to the game for choosing to miss his final season of college football in order to be a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, England? Thousands upon thousands get the experience of playing college football, as Rolle did. Only a select handful are invited to study in Oxford, so who can blame Rolle for wanting to be able to say he did both? Rolle was finally picked by Tennessee, in the last selection of the sixth round. Question Rolle's cover skills or athleticism, but not the Rhodes decision. That was a no-brainer. Pun intended.
• It won't make Taylor Mays feel any better, but Seattle's Pete Carroll finally took a USC player in the sixth round, selecting Anthony McCoy (McCoy was clearly the name to have in the 2010 NFL Draft).
McCoy has plenty of NFL-level talent, but he kind of failed the league's stupidity test when he tested positive for marijuana at the scouting combine, an event that everyone knows includes a drug test. McCoy is seen as an underachiever, but maybe Carroll thinks the pro lifestyle will just fit him better. Then again, he did go to USC, so some would assume he turned pro years ago. (Paging Joe McKnight.)
• You knew there were going to be some veterans moved today, because the demise of the salary cap and the resulting lack of cap acceleration has already made this the most trade-happy offseason in recent memory. Indeed, there was a flurry of players changing uniforms on Saturday.
It started with running back White and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson going from Tennessee to Seattle, and then in lightning fashion, names like Oakland's Morrison, the Jets' Washington, Arizona's Bryant McFadden, and Washington's Campbell were all moved.
In addition, the Jets did the expected and reportedly released veteran guard Alan Faneca, after he refused to accept a cut to his scheduled $7.5 million salary to stay on the roster. When the Jets drafted Ducasse in the second round Friday night, many saw it as a move to replace Faneca, whose play declined in 2009, even if he did get one of those popularity-contest Pro Bowl invitations.
• Some have wondered whether Faneca might be headed back to Pittsburgh, from whence he came. That move is all the rage this year. The Steelers seem to be putting the old gang back together again, re-acquiring receiver Antwaan Randle-El, linebacker Larry Foote, quarterback Byron Leftwich, and cornerback McFadden in recent weeks.
There's no truth to the rumor, however, that BillCowher is trying to get his old job back in the 'Burgh.
• Like Jimmy Clausen a night before him, University of Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike landed in Carolina, as a sixth-round compensatory pick of the Panthers. Which means that before Clausen can beat out starter Matt Moore in Charlotte, he must first beat out Pike.
Don't just assume. Green Bay took both Louisville's Brian Brohm (second round) and LSU's Matt Flynn (seventh round) in 2008, and we know how that one turned out.
• I saw Roger Goodell standing near the foyer of Radio City Music Hall this afternoon, signing autographs and posing for pictures with as many fans as approached him -- and there were dozens.
Good for the commish. Say what you will about him on topics like player discipline, but he gets it on most fronts. He's fan-friendly in a way that his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, never was. Tagliabue was always the smartest guy in the room, and didn't exactly have the touch when it came to mixing with the commoners.
Four years into his gig, Goodell continues to grow into his job. And that's a good thing for the NFL and its fans.
• The NFL, never failing to make a big event into something bigger, had some nice innovations this year, not the least of which was having ex-NFL stars, celebrities and even one longtime veteran NFL writer (way to go, Vinny DiTrani) announcing some of the picks. For a good bit of the morning, former U.S. gold-medal winning Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis sat at the Eagles' draft table and read off Philly's selections. I didn't know it, but Lewis is a huge Iggles fan from South Jersey.
I was just glad they didn't let him sing the national anthem.