T-minus three days until you all get to open your presents, and this is what I'm hearing:
Movers and shakers ... Not so much. One of the things you're going to hear in the run-up to Thursday night's first round of the draft is how badly the Jacksonville Jaguars want to trade down from No. 7, which is true. And last night, one of the stories hatching around the league was that Seattle would move from 12 to seven -- ahead of Miami at eight -- to pick Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. I think it's unlikely, and not just because the Seahawks just bought a quarterback, Matt Flynn, in free agency, last month.
Seattle doesn't want to use up two of its three choices in the top 100 of a draft they like a lot for a quarterback they might be able to pick sitting at 12. Think of it: There's one team that might take Tannehill between five and 11 -- Miami at eight. Let's say Seattle GM John Schneider feels there are multiple holes not at quarterback he needs to fill, and let's say he had to throw in his third-round pick, 75th overall, to be able to draft Tannehill. That means, after taking a quarterback in free agency and budgeting $15.5 million over the next two years for Flynn, he'd have used the 12th and 75th picks to procure another quarterback. Knowing Schneider and his love of building the roster through the draft, I'm dubious. From what I heard over the weekend, the trade market up to seven is comatose, unless Jacksonville's asking price is downright minuscule.
Brockers racks up the frequent-flier miles. LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers leads all potential draftees with 16 pre-draft visits to NFL teams, and he leads it by a lot. Intriguing Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson (teams wish he were faster than 4.58 in the 40, but he has the size at 6-foot-2 to match up with the new generation of wideouts) has made 12 trips. And two non-combine invitees -- SMU tight end Taylor Thompson and Miami (Ohio) guard Brandon Brooks -- have made just under a dozen. Included in Brooks' 10 visits was a trip to guard-needy Pittsburgh.
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Now here's a story. A receiver in high school and defensive end in college, Thompson worked out at the SMU Pro Day as a tight end. Not a bad move, because teams came away thinking he could make the transition given his size (6-6, 259), athleticism and good hands. In the last two weeks, Thompson visited 11 teams and would have seen more if there'd only been more days in the week. I could see him going late in the third round and Brooks going by late in the second.
The Rams zero in on the receivers. Last week, St. Louis worked out both Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd. It's pretty late in the process to be working guys out, but the Rams wanted to see each player up close and personal one last time before setting their draft board with finality. It sounds like the Rams liked both, but likely will keep the Oklahoma State wideout, Blackmon, higher. I don't expect the Rams to give either man a final grade as high as A.J. Green's last year (few teams would), but I do expect them to be comfortable picking Blackmon sixth overall, if that's what it comes to. Still, don't be surprised to see the Rams puzzle over Trent Richardson if he falls to six.
Tannehill, fact and fiction. Just remember one thing on the Monday before the draft: It's in the Dolphins' best interests for the rest of the league to not know what they want to do about Ryan Tannehill -- and for teams like Jacksonville to be able to say to teams like Seattle: If you want Tannehill, and he gets by Cleveland at four, you've got to jump ahead of Miami at eight. And maybe you do. Let's say Tannehill gets past Cleveland, and I think he will. Over the weekend, I was told the same thing that Mike Florio reported on ProFootballTalk.com: that owner Stephen Ross wanted the Dolphins to pick Tannehill. I was also told Miami's offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman, likes his former A&M quarterback (Sherman was Tannehill's coach before getting fired after the season) but isn't standing on the table for him.
Sunday night, respected Dolphins beat writer Armando Salguero reported the Ross item is not true and said a highly placed club source told him, animatedly, that Ross hasn't told anyone who to draft. And this morning, I got a call from someone saying Florio was right on; Ross wants the quarterback. So what will happen here? I don't know. But I do think it's less of a lock Tannehill goes no lower than eight than it was a couple of weeks ago. If Miami passes on him at eight, I expect him to go either to a trade-up team with Kansas City at 11 or to Seattle at 12.
Not sure how big of a deal this will become, but it's got the middle of the first round talk at least. Florio reported this first over the weekend, and let me expand on it. In the new collective bargaining agreement, there's a provision that could affect trading of draft choices in the first round. Each first-round pick can be signed to a four-year contract with a club option for a fifth year that has to be exercised in May following the third season of the contract. So rookies this year will sign for four years, through the end of the 2015 season; but in May 2015, teams have to tell the players if they intend to exercise the fifth years of the contract and lock up players through 2016. For picks 1 through 10 of the first round, that fifth-year salary will be the transition number, the average of the top 10 salaries at the position that season. For picks 11 through 32, the fifth-year salary will be the average of the third through 25th salaries at the position that year.
I'll give you an example. Let's use Tannehill. The transition number for quarterbacks this year is $14.3 million. The average of the third through 25th quarterback salary this year is $8.1 million. Who knows what the numbers will look like in May 2015, but they probably won't be smaller, or the gulf narrower. In other words, if you pick Tannehill at eight, you'll be paying $6.2 million more in a five-year deal for him than if you picked Tannehill at 12. Crazy. But true.
Now, some teams I spoke with over the weekend say the fifth year in the deal will simply be used as leverage in negotiations for a long-term deal. But I can see sticklers like Scott Pioli in Kansas City, Howie Roseman in Philadelphia and Mike Brown in Cincinnati holding players to fifth years at a lower price. There's a reason Pioli went on last week in his press conference with local writers about why he loved picking at 11. That's where the more team-friendly numbers begin.
In case you're interested, the difference in fifth-year numbers for defensive ends picked in the top 10 versus in the final 22 picks of round one ($4.3 million), and defensive tackles ($2.6 million), could come into play because of the big numbers of each position in the first round. "In any case,'' one club official told me over the weekend, "the old draft trade chart is obsolete.''
Dallas could pick between Barron and DeCastro. It's not like Jerry Jones to overload on the offensive line two years in a row by picking Stanford guard David DeCastro; the Cowboys took tackle Tyron Smith in the first round last year. It's more likely they'll focus on Alabama safety Mark Barron at No. 14. He's the darling of the mock draft set -- including in mine -- and is a battle-tested (38 starts under Nick Saban), day-one starter who would fit in well in a needy secondary.
The Colts would love to pick Stanford tight end Coby Fleener at No. 34, atop round two, but I think they'll have bigger fish to fry. Indianapolis is transitioning to the 3-4 defense without a lot of players to play it. GM Ryan Grigson has been working hard to find players who will fit new coach Chuck Pagano's 3-4, which would take a couple of years of player procurement. When you've been a defense built for speed for so long, and now you're going to a defense built for bulk, that's a major transition. So I don't see Indy, despite its affection for Fleener, continuing to team him with quarterback Andrew Luck. By the way, how odd is it that both Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis could be 3-4 outside 'backers after careers at defensive end? I've got to think Freeney, at least, is itching for a draft-weekend trade.
What else I've heard: The Vikings are still a Matt Kalil team, but if he slips out of three, he could fall and be in play for Buffalo at 10 ... Still hearing the Bucs and Morris Claiborne most likely at No. 5 ... There's a lot of love for Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler low in the first round. Could have some position versatility to move to tackle ... The Stephon Gilmore train continues to pick up steam. I had him seven in my mock draft to Jacksonville last week, and I have no regrets. I know two teams that have him rated higher than Claiborne ...
The Patriots worked out Boise State outside 'backer/defensive end Shea McClellin and liked what they saw ... "Write it down,'' said a good personnel man. "Ted Thompson's taking help for Clay Matthews.'' A bookend pass-rusher, in other words, so Matthews sees less double-teaming in 2012 and beyond ... Guard-tackle Cordy Glenn is a favorite of Arizona at 13. Not saying the Cards will pick him, but I heard a lot in the last few days from people I talk to saying he was the one guy I didn't have in my mock first round who belongs ... Speaking of the Cards, I talked to Larry Fitzgerald over the weekend. Let's just say he wants fellow Minnesotan Michael Floyd with that 13th pick. Badly ...
Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram are all over the board, in terms of who might take them and what personnel people think of them. I'm talking anywhere from seventh to the second round for Coples, and 12th to the end of the first round for Ingram ... The longer the process goes, the more holes scouts poke in Dontari Poe.
"Somehow this has got to be stopped. It's destroying people's lives.''
-- Mary Ann Easterling, widow of former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, who committed suicide Friday. Easterling was part of one of the many lawsuits from more than 1,000 former NFL players who claim the league didn't do enough to help players who suffered from football-related head trauma. Ray Easterling suffered from depression, dementia and insomnia.
"It is fair to say they were protective of the players who could be disciplined in the next phase of this, and that was really what their focus was on, defending or excusing the conduct of the players who were involved in this program. That is unfortunate because the players who could have been injured and maybe were injured are also members of the union, and they are entitled to protection. Their interests, I think, are entitled to greater consideration and greater protection than the interests of the players who may have participated in this program or engaged in conduct that put the safety of other players in jeopardy. That could be a difference between us when the discipline on players is finally resolved and issued.''
-- NFL attorney Jeff Pash, to the Associated Press sports editors on Friday, indicating the league's position that the NFL Players Association was being more protective of those players who participated in the Saints' bounty program than those who might have been victims of it. To which union spokesman George Atallah responded to the AP that if the league had turned over more proof to the union that players were culpable, the union would be more willing to collaborate with the league.
Make no mistake: Players are getting suspended and fined, perhaps as early as today, and the union will fight it aggressively, blaming defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for running a program the players didn't totally go along with.
"He is one of the 10 best players in the draft. Historically, inside linebackers are not valued, mostly because they get replaced on sub downs in sub packages and nickel packages. He's the opposite and his strength lies in the pass game. He's the best pass-dropping inside linebacker I've ever seen in college football. He has instincts and speed. There's real value there because he's a three-down inside linebacker.''
-- NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock on Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly.
I have Kuechly at 11 in my mock draft, to Kansas City, and until I heard Mayock say that, I hadn't considered Kuechly might not be there for the Chiefs.
"I want to know their names, so I can put them in my book of people not to hire.''
-- Bill Polian, former NFL general manager with the Bills, Panthers and Colts, on ESPN's "NFL Live'' Friday, asked about the anonymous scouts who spoke to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. One said, among other things, that Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III was selfish.
I know it's fashionable to give Trent Richardson, far and away the best back in this draft, to Cleveland at No. 4 in round one Thursday. But with the game becoming more and more of an aerial show, the Browns should be thinking hard about their choice before Thursday.
Six teams in the NFL won 12 or more games last year. Here are those teams, and where the leading rusher on each ranked in league rushing stats last season:
I'm not saying Richardson is so devalued that he shouldn't be picked very high. I'm saying the Browns and the Rams -- St. Louis also loves Richardson -- should think what awful receiving corps they have first ... and how they have quarterbacks desperate for a franchise wideout.
The University of Mount Union, an Alliance, Ohio, school with 2,200 undergrads, has chosen E. Dominic Capers as the speaker at its 166th commencement on May 5.
That's Dom Capers, the Packers' defensive coordinator and dedicated Mount Union grad, class of '72.
I got off the Acela train in Boston Friday around 11:25 a.m. with my friend Ken Fost. We were up for the 100th anniversary game at Fenway. Ed Randall, the longtime baseball announcer, was on our train. And as we exited the Back Bay Station for the 25-minute walk to the park, Randall walked up to me and said, "How long a walk?" Maybe 25 minutes, I said. "And a cab ride?" Maybe five or so. So Ed fell in with us to walk.
It's one of the great city walks in America, one I made often living in Boston's South End for the past three springs and summers. You bisect Back Bay and the South End, walking past the dogwoods in full bloom and the dog-walkers and the brownstones and then the beautiful pool at the Christian Science building, and then the gardens in the Fens.
And Ed started telling us his story, how he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 47, is in remission now, and decided to devote a good bit of his life to urging men to get PSA screening. "Last year, we were in 175 minor-league ballparks, setting up displays, urging men to be tested,'' he said. "Did you know it's more common for men to get prostate cancer than for women to get breast cancer? But if you're diagnosed early, there's a cure rate over 90 percent. It's not a death sentence.'' And so it went.
I know, I know ... Looks like a very long year for the Sox. But I miss those long walks to and from games in one of the best walking cities in America -- or anywhere.
"Happy 60th birthday to Pats coach Bill Belichick. It means from now on he'll be listed on the injury report as QUESTIONABLE (prostate).''
-- @billscheft, "Late Show With David Letterman'' writer, on the occasion of Belichick's 60th last week.
"Not surprised Bill Polian said Richardson might be best player in draft. I've said that for 2 months. Like I said, it's tape study.''
-- @gregcosell, the NFL Films tape guru, on Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
"Just walked in for a steroid pee test with my shirt off and the tester laughed and said 'Never mind, man. I think you're good' :(''
-- @BMcCarthy32, Oakland A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy, a very slim man, on Friday.
1. I think this is this week's sign of the apocalypse: Tim Tebow possibly buying or renting an apartment in a chic building in Hoboken, N.J., was the fourth story on the early-morning newscast on WINS radio in New York Friday.
2. I think I'm skeptical when I hear Eagles GM Howie Roseman say, "We're all in,'' with quarterback Michael Vick. I don't know what that means, really. But "all in'' for the long-term ... I would be shocked if they're that. After Vick went 7-6 and again failed to play a complete season due to injury, and after watching him complete 59.8 percent of his throws with 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, the Eagles have to be wondering if Vick, at 32 this season, is going to be their quarterback in 2013 and beyond. That'll be in Vick's hands this fall.
3. I think when it rains in New Orleans, it pours. On the eve of what I expect to be multiple player suspensions stemming from the bounty scandal engulfing the franchise, part-owner Rita Benson LeBlanc is in the doghouse with her grandfather, owner Tom Benson, according to an enlightening story by Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune Sunday. Quoting multiple sources, the paper says, "The woman widely viewed as the heir to Benson's burgeoning sports empire is serving some form of unofficial paid administrative leave, imposed by Benson."
According to Duncan: "LeBlanc's sense of entitlement has been a source of conflict with her grandfather, a self-made billionaire from the hardscrabble 7th Ward who shuns the spotlight and still routinely clocks six-day workweeks. 'She's smart and has talent -- but she's just all over the map,' said one source, who has worked with LeBlanc. 'I think she really enjoys the glitz and glamour of being the owner, but she doesn't really roll up her sleeves and get into the business side of it.' ''
I've always sensed the high profile for her was overstated anyway, but it'll be interesting to see if she responds to the wake-up call issued by her 85-year-old grandfather.
4. I think I thought we were past this already, but for the many of you who have asked why the Colts don't have the first pick in the second round, here's why: Indianapolis and St. Louis tied for the worst record in football last season, 2-14. The Colts played the weaker schedule and thus were rewarded with the first pick in the draft. But when two teams tie, they alternate draft position round by round. So the Colts have the first pick of rounds one, three, five and seven this week, and the second pick in rounds two, four and six. The Rams have the first pick in the even rounds, and the second pick in the odd rounds. (With the exception, of course, of St. Louis trading the second overall pick of the draft to Washington.)
5. I think regarding the Minnesota stadium situation: It's the fourth quarter. Two-minute warning. Tie game. I don't care that the commissioner says there's no threat, or no implied threat, about the Vikings leaving town if a new stadium doesn't get built. There is a threat. If the local pols don't vote for a new place in the next two or three months, there's a very good chance the team will actively look to move. "I've been here several times on the stadium front over the years,'' Roger Goodell told the Minneapolis Star Tribune on a visit to town Friday. "In 2006, they moved forward with a stadium for the Twins and the Gophers. We were asked to move to the next year. And it's now 2012."
I can tell you this: The league doesn't want the Vikings to move; the franchise is a tremendous one, with tradition and a foothold in an area of the country the league doesn't want to lose. Getting a team back in Minnesota will be tougher than it was 15 years ago when the league worked to get the Browns back in Cleveland. The economy's different. The political environment to build stadiums is far different. This week will be a telling one for the future of the Vikings in Minnesota.
6. I think, for those who have chided me for being so absolute on the Vikings stadium and saying late in the season that it was just a matter of time before the deal got done to build a new stadium ... you're right. I'd love to tell you why I was strong on that, but I can't, and in the end, it doesn't matter. The resolution wasn't nearly as close as I was led to believe, and so have at it. I deserve the flaying.
7. I think one thing about the release of the schedule last week that struck me was how quickly the NFL takes the upstart teams and makes them national teams. The 49ers, for instance, have a full complement of five primetime games ... including four in an eight-game stretch: a Thursday-nighter (Seattle, Week 7), two Monday-nighters in the span of 22 days (Arizona, Week 8, and Chicago, Week 11), and at New England on Sunday in Week 15. And Detroit, for the first time in its history, has four primetime games.
8. I think the Cardinals deserve kudos this morning, as does the entire Valley of the Sun, for supporting the late Pat Tillman with so many team members and front-office staff running in Pat's Run, the 4.2-mile run through Tempe that honors Tillman and benefits his foundation. Larry Fitzgerald and Ken Whisenhunt ran, among others. "Pat will live on forever around here,'' Fitzgerald told me. "When you think of hero athletes who served in wars, you think about guys like Ted Williams a long time ago, but Pat, obviously, is someone from the modern era who sacrificed for his country at a time of his life when he could have just played football and let someone else do it. His dedication, sacrifice and commitment to the country are things I'll never forget.''
9. I think the news this weekend that the Falcons don't want to do Hard Knocks, the NFL training camp reality series, should mean the Jets are in line to do it again. The franchise would be foolish to open the doors to TV again, in a year when there'll be enough tension as it is. The only repeat team on Hard Knocks so far has been Dallas (2002, 2008). The Jets had their G-D snack in 2010.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. RIP, Dick Clark, from someone who remembers you introducing the Jackson 5 to kids like me 42 years ago. (Maybe longer.)
b. Speaking of incredibly youthful-looking Syracuse University products (Clark, 82), how about these three: Marv Albert (71), Bob Costas (60), Ian Eagle (43).
c. After that little elbowing incident Sunday, I think Ron Artest's name should be Metta World War, not Metta World Peace.
d. I guess you got my prayer about the rainout at Fenway Sunday night, God.
e. You all predicted this, in the 2012 Home Run Standings: Nolan Reimold 5, Omar Infante 4, Albert Pujols 0.
f. Boston's eighth- and ninth-inning guys at the start of the season, Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves, have put 21 baserunners on in five innings of work. Nineteen have scored.
g. Don't know that I've ever seen back-to-back seven-run innings by the same team, as the Yanks did the other day.
h. Congrats Phillip Humber -- even though it sure looked like Brendan Ryan checked his swing on the final pitch of the perfect game.
i. Loved, loved, loved the Bruins-Caps Sunday. Tremendous drama.
j. The Bruins-Caps game prevented me from seeing all of the Kobe magic. But the highlights of Lakers-Thunder, post-Metta-elbow, looked fantastic too.
k. Beernerdness: Ate lunch Friday at Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square, and I have to give the place credit for the most exotic beer menu I've seen. I had the Ayinger Weisse, a wheat beer from Germany, that was light and delicious; and Heady-Topper, an incredibly rich and flavorful double IPA from a tiny brewery, Alchemist, in Waterbury, Vt.. It's served in a 16-ounce silver can that an Eastern Standard employee fetches each month in Vermont. He brings back around 15 cases in his Dodge Durango. Now that's a restaurant with a dedication to the best beer right there. You should see this beer menu. Next time in, I'll try a bottle of the Fluffy White Rabbits.
l. Coffeenerdness: Keep trying the coffee, Amtrak. It's no better.
m. One question for the New Jersey State Police: Any adults here?
n. Great line from the Newark Star Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro on the Nets, who play their final game in New Jersey tonight: "Died of a mutual indifference.'' Sixers at Nets tonight in Newark. It'll be only fitting if it doesn't sell out. The team will play in Brooklyn next year.
o. If anyone cares.