By Ross Tucker
July 17, 2009

It is almost time for some real football. You know, pad poppin', sweat drippin', arm tinglin' football. But for now, there is still some business being taken care of across the NFL. That business includes teams like the Ravens and Chiefs signing their franchise tendered players to long-term extensions. After careful consideration I fully support the Ravens' decision but question the Chiefs' actions. Here's why:

Kansas City should have made Matt Cassel prove he could do it again. The Chiefs made a large financial commitment to Cassel even though the potential exists that he was only a one-year wonder who profited from being in the right place at the right time in New England. It makes you wonder what the hurry was for the Chiefs, who already had an emerging young signal caller in place in Tyler Thigpen. Why not wait until the end of the season before giving Cassel a long-term deal? Yes, the contract numbers might have increased if Cassel proved his worth but how much more would they have had to pay than the $63 million over six years ($28M guaranteed) they are already doling out? And wouldn't that extra money be worth it if it meant having the peace of mind that Cassel could get the job done with your franchise?

Cassel finished an impressive 10-5 as a starter with the Patriots but he had been able to serve the ideal apprenticeship under Tom Brady for three years before taking the reins of a veteran-laden team that included elite weapons like Randy Moss and Wes Welker. In contrast, Thigpen was thrust onto the field as a second-year player playing with a make-shift offensive line and getting zero support from a defense that produced an NFL-low 10 sacks. Despite those difficulties, Thigpen still finished with a respectable touchdown-to-interception ratio (18 to 12) in 11 games as starter. As a point of comparison, Cassel had a 6-5 record and a 12-10 TD-INT ratio over his first 11 starts. How much better is Cassel than Thigpen and why give Cassel the long-term deal before he takes a snap? I hope the Chiefs know what they're doing.

Baltimore's signing of Terrell Suggs is a solid long-term decision. This is one of those contracts that can be taken any number of ways. The pay-out of $40 million in the first two years is staggering, especially given the premium Suggs gets over the six-year, $51 million contract James Harrison signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in a "hometown discount" deal this offseason. Given that it likely would have cost the Ravens somewhere between $15-20 million to tag Suggs again next season, the up-front heavy nature of the deal seems out of proportion.

The flip side of that number, however, is that the Ravens will "only" be paying Suggs $22.5 million over the final four years of the contract so Baltimore is effectively paying Suggs now in order to have him in the fold at palatable salary-cap numbers for the long haul. The contract shows Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens management are making moves with the long-term health of the franchise in mind. Ray Lewis won't be around forever, but the Ravens are in good shape with Suggs joining Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed as core leaders at every level of the defense. With that premise this contract is a good one for both sides even if the numbers are eye-catching.

I hear a lot about the coaches tape. Why does the average fan not get access to this tape? Also, here is a business opportunity for us -- obtain the rights to the tape and then sell subscriptions to NFL fans looking for that extra edge. Please remember, this is my idea.-- Scott, Springfield, Pa.

You and about 60 other e-mailers, Scott, not to mention many others who have brought up this idea in the past. I even personally broached the subject with some NFL executives. The league is aware of the interest but because it is the actual game film that is used for scouting, access to that footage is extremely guarded and pretty much limited to team facilities and NFL Films headquarters. Ultimately, it is an issue that is decided by the NFL's Competition Committee and a change in the policy does not appear likely any time soon. In a down economy, however, any potential revenue stream should be considered.

I'm a huge Jags fan. Last year was a major letdown, but this year it seems they had a solid draft. How do you see them doing in the AFC South this time around?-- Vitaly, Drushkovka, Ukraine

I am not very high on the Jags for the 2009 season. They are hoping to have success by changing their mentality and getting rid of some of the dead weight they felt had been slowing them down and I am on board with that. But their draft-pick additions, like Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, do not represent upgrades over what Jacksonville already had in place in Tra Thomas and Tony Pashos, at least not in the short term.

So when a guy like Stryker Sulak gets cut by the Raiders prior to signing a contract or attending training camp, what kind of monetary compensation does he receive for attending OTAs?-- Ted Castaneda, Saskatoon, SK Canada

Players receive $130 per workout in the offseason and because Sulak was cut before signing a contract, it is extremely unlikely he will receive anything remotely close to the approximately $70,000 signing bonus he would have received in a rookie contract from the Raiders. Either Sulak performed extremely poorly in the offseason workouts or the Raiders have a lack of respect for either draft choices, in general, or their own scouting department, in particular. It's hard to believe they wouldn't even give their draft pick a chance to perform with shoulder pads.

Why are you so down on Jay Cutler? I listen to you all the time on Sirius and every chance you get, you are bashing the kid. The situation that unfolded in Denver would have had a lot of players wanting out. I think you are going to eat your words once Cutler is slinging touchdowns and Chicago is putting up wins.-- Nick Patel, Sylva, N.C.

I think as a rank-and-file player in the NFL for seven years I lose respect for players that behave in a manner that suggests they are above the team. I can understand Cutler might have been hurt by the Broncos' interest in Cassel and wanted out. But his subsequent behavior, including not returning repeated phone calls and text messages from owner Pat Bowlen, was immature at best.

I also think he is overrated as a quarterback. Many people are enamored with his physical skills and statistics but the numbers that stand out to me are his 17-20 record and his 18 interceptions last season. If he leads the Bears to the NFC North title, I will be happy to say I was wrong but for now that is my story and I am sticking to it.

Tweet of the Week: @wcbsas asks @SI_RossTucker Do u think Derrick Brooks would be a good add for the Packers? Esp w/ them going to a 3-4?

No. I don't think Derrick Brooks would be a good fit in the 3-4 because he has never played in that defense and it doesn't fit his skill set. A younger Brooks probably could have gotten it done as the weakside inside linebacker but it may be tough at this point to teach an old dog new tricks and expect success, even with a player as smart as Brooks.

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