MMQB Mailbag: Jets take good risk on Cromartie; Big Ben clarification

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Three Things I Think I Think on this fine Tuesday:

1. I like the risk the Jets are taking with time-bomb cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Yes, I'm uneasy with fronting an unreliable character $500,000 of his $1.7 million pay in 2010. But what you need to know about Rex Ryan is that for him to do everything he wants on defense, he needs two good cover corners, so he can send overload blitzes with linebackers and safeties. In fact, when GM Mike Tannenbaum hired Ryan as head coach, Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome told him he'd better get ready to go get Ryan some corners -- and be willing to spend on them.

If the Jets hadn't traded for Cromartie, they'd have had to draft (for sure) a cornerback at number 29 in the first round, and they'd have had to live with that rookie plus Dwight Lowery opposite Darrelle Revis this year. Instead, they get a non-physical player who's probably a top-15 cover corner in the league, and who can be put on an island the same way the Jets do with Revis.

In addition, I like that Cromartie has to be good this year, on an off the field, so when the 2011 negotiating season begins, he'll be in position to get a top-tier corner deal, whether from the Jets or another team. "We go into this partnership with our eyes open,'' Tannenbaum told me. "But what I've found being around Rex is he's the kind of coach who can reach everybody. And 25-year-old cover corners are not available without some risk.''

The Jets, though, need to be able to say good-bye after this year if Cromartie's a distraction. Keeping him just because they have a third-round pick invested in him would be a huge mistake if he's more trouble than he's worth.

2. The Julius Peppers deals could be interesting after this season. As I Tweeted on Monday, Peppers' contract with the Bears is guaranteed for the first three years, at $40.5 million. But then's Mike Florio clarified, saying the second and third years are guaranteed -- as of now -- for injury only, raising a very interesting possibility:

What if the Bears stink this year, Peppers has one of his so-so seasons (which he's had several of in an overrated eight-year career), and the Bears clean house, firing GM Jerry Angelo,coach Lovie Smith and staff? What if the new regime doesn't want to be hamstrung for $11.5 million ($900,000 in salary, $10.5 million in a roster bonus due Feb. 10, 2011, $100,000 in an offseason workout bonus) with a player they think isn't worth it? It's probably not going to happen, but it's possible.

As I read the verbiage of Peppers' contract summary this morning, I see that "2011 roster bonus guaranteed for injury at signing then guaranteed for skill on 2/10/11.'' I doubt sincerely if the current regime survives it'll admit such a costly mistake then, but if there's a new coach and GM? You never know. It's an interesting little motivational tool for the Bears with Peppers -- but Peppers could also view it this way, "If I play poorly, I might be able to be a free agent AGAIN in 2011.''

3. I obviously did not go far enough in my condemnation of Ben Roethlisberger in MMQB. I feel a little like Tony Kornheiser this morning. He said after the Hannah Storm debacle a couple of weeks ago that he's amazed he doesn't screw up more than he does with all the opinions he has. I said we should withhold judgment until we know the full details of what happened the other night at the bar in Georgia, but wrote that if Roethlisberger is guilty of sexual assault or worse, he needs to "grow up.'' Obviously, if he's guilty, he deserves much more than that -- much more, like a jail term. As a father of two daughters, I regret not being more strident, and I appreciate the 43,598 of you for calling me on it.

• Don Banks shares his take on Ben Roethlisberger

Now for your e-mail:

• THE 2011 DRAFT IS SET IN STONE. From Bob Ruby of Virginia Beach, Va.: "What happens to the 2011 draft picks that were traded (i.e. Jets' 2011 pick for Cromartie) should the league strike? Do they get moved to 2012, or do the teams get conditional picks in the 2012 draft?''

Regardless of the status of negotiations between players and owners next spring, the 2011 draft will be held as scheduled in April. It's the last event of significance on the NFL calendar if the owners lock the players out.

• A VERY GOOD IDEA. From Luke Rippee of Gardnerville, Nev.: "Peter, what about Jake Delhomme to the Buffalo Bills? I've heard the Bills would rather take a veteran quarterback than a rookie with the 9th pick in the draft. With Delhomme, the Bills would be able to pick an offensive lineman at number nine in the first round and maybe grab a guy like Dan LeFevour in the third or fourth round to groom for the future. Is this a possibility?''

It certainly should be. I'd rather have a Trent Edwards-Jake Delhomme combo at quarterback, for now, unless the Bills scout and judge Jimmy Clausen to be a franchise quarterback. Delhomme is going to have some good options. If I were him, and I wanted the best chance to play in 2010, Buffalo would be the top place on my list.

• I AM CALLED OUT BY TIM FROM LEXINGTON. From Tim of Lexington, Ky.: "You contradict yourself in your own column! In the first part you say spending the big money on WR is not worth it (and Anquan Boldin got big money even though he was traded) and then kill the Patriots for not picking one up? They secured arguably their best defensive player, one of the key offensive linemen and their best pass rusher, and you think they should have gotten a WR? Come on.''

Define "kill the Patriots.'' I said it's time to use some of the draft currency they've built over the years to fill a position of major need. I've done some killing in my time, but I wouldn't call this much of a kill. Yes, I did say the wide receivers in 2009 free-agency were a huge waste of money. But think of the appeal for Boldin in this way: The Patriots traded a fourth-round pick to Oakland for Randy Moss, and that has worked out about as well as any trade of the Bill Belichick/Scott Pioli regime. The Boldin injuries do bother me, which is why I think you need to be smart and not overpay in either compensation or salary. But he is 29, and has caught an average of 86 balls over the past five seasons, and Tom Brady is looking at a very thin group of tight ends and receivers entering training camp. If you could trade the equivalent of a third-round pick (say, a low second-rounder, while getting a fourth-or fifth-round pick in return), and if you could pay Boldin over the next four years less than the Titans just paid for Nate Washington, do you think it'd be smart? I do.

• INTERESTING. From Murray Galbraith of Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia: "Can lightning strike twice? Arizona took a chance on Kurt Warner and I think taking a chance on Jake Delhomme would be a good fit. Last year was a disaster for Jake. He put up some pretty horrible numbers. That being said, he's also had some pretty good years. Nothing motivates a player like trying to redeem himself.''

The one difference between Warner and Delhomme is that Warner never showed the alarming signs of Steve Blass-type inaccuracy that Delhomme just did. But I do agree he's worth the risk, because the upside of a revival could be good, and I'm sure the guaranteed money a team will have to pay him will be small.

• IT WOULDN'T BE ENOUGH, BUT I GUARANTEE YOU THE OWNERS HAVE THOUGHT OF IT. From Liam Carney of Dublin, Ireland: "With regards to the proposed lockout for 2010, can all 32 team owners, players union and the NFL agree to some sort of sponsorship for team jerseys? All 32 teams have a jersey sponsor (in profit sharing format, of course, due to advantages in certain markets). The NFL would control the pool of money received and bridge the rumored 18 percent gap between owners requests and players demands. Any residual balances leftover could be used to promote the game in various locations or to offset the silly costs of preseason games.''

I doubt uniform sponsors could amount to $1 billion per year, which is the gap between the two sides, roughly, now. But I'll pass it along the next time I talk to one of the poohbahs involved in the talks. Thanks. Love your country, by the way.

• TAKE A RISK. From Philip of Chicago: "Half of the quarterbacks in the last two Super Bowls were free-agent signings. New Orleans is not anywhere close to a title without Drew Brees. Arizona would have been nowhere close without Kurt Warner. Free agency can make a huge impact in who wins titles and is not 'vastly overrated.' ''

For every Brees, there are 10 Javon Walkers. For every Warner (who could have been had three times in free agency in the last decade by any team in the league), there's a bunch of Adalius Thomases. Big-money free agency is a lottery. Look at it over the long term. Look at the Redskins.