Deals that need to get done
Inspired by the decision of the Denver Broncos to deal their best player – quarterback Jay Cutler – it’s time for other teams to break from the tradition of holding on to players too long and to consider some proactive work. With the draft roughly three weeks away, here’s a quick look at the Cutler situation and six others based on a survey of five NFL head coaches and assistants:
1. Denver quarterback Jay Cutler – This is not a matter of whether this trade should be made. It will be made, if team owner Pat Bowlen is to be believed. Kind of hard to doubt Bowlen as a source. Anyway, the latest news is that the Broncos want two first-round picks for Cutler, which is a pretty reasonable price for a young, talented quarterback coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance – even if he is a pretty sour guy and a bit petulant. The leading contender for Cutler is Washington, which is so desperate to replace Jason Campbell that owner Dan Snyder took part in the team’s workout of USC quarterback Mark Sanchez on March 25. Tampa Bay is next on the list of teams wanting Cutler, but there are plenty of other candidates, such as the New York Jets, Detroit and Chicago. The funny rumor floating around some circles is that the Broncos don’t want the No. 1 overall pick from Detroit because they don’t want to deal with the contract that goes with that pick. As for Cutler, his preference would be to play for Tennessee. Cutler still spends a lot of time in Nashville, where he went to school at Vanderbilt. Agent Bus Cook also would like nothing more than to tweak Titans quarterback Vince Young, who turned him down as a client in 2006.
2. Cincinnati wide receiver Chad Ochocinco – A year after turning down a trade that could have netted two first-round picks for the receiver then known as Chad Johnson, Bengals owner Mike Brown could be laying the groundwork to trade Ochocinco for much less this year. The Bengals have reportedly had highly regarded Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in for a workout recently. That said, two sources who have spoken to Brown said he would be willing to deal Ochocinco – and two others said he won’t. What could turn the tide toward a trade is that while Ochocinco has been much quieter than last offseason, he still wants out. Ochocinco hasn’t shown up for offseason workouts. That follows his decision to not have surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, something the Bengals wanted him to do. Throw in the fact that at least two people who know Ochocinco have told the team that his competitive spirit to play for the Bengals has basically burned out, and you get the picture. One source even told quarterback Carson Palmer in March that a deal of Ochocinco could be coming before the draft.
3. Cleveland quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn – There is an old saying in the NFL that if you have two quarterbacks, you actually have no quarterback. The idea is that no matter what, one is always looking over his shoulder and not playing with full confidence. That’s accentuated when they’re peers, as the 25-year-old Anderson and 24-year-old Quinn clearly are. On top of that, first-year Cleveland coach Eric Mangini has a bad history of handling quarterbacks. With the New York Jets, Mangini waited too long to cut the cord with Chad Pennington and failed to develop Kellen Clemens. That led to the Brett Favre fiasco and left Mangini without a job. Yeah, Mangini may think he’s not convinced enough about either guy to pick a winner, but that’s not helping his team … or ultimately his career as a head coach.
4. Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez – Every time I think of Gonzalez having to play for the Chiefs again this season, the song “Free Nelson Mandela” pops into my head. OK, it’s a little random, but 12 years with K.C. have turned Gonzalez into something of a trivia question. Who is the greatest player in NFL history to never win a playoff game? You have to think that Gonzalez is right up there, if not climbing the chart really fast.
5. Tennessee quarterback Vince Young – It’s promising to hear that Young is spending the offseason in Nashville training with the Titans after spending the 2008 offseason going back to college to get his degree. Not that a degree isn’t important, but Young needs to realize that if he’s going to make it as a quarterback, he needs all the help he can get to overcome his poor passing skills. Still, none of that is going to salvage the situation at this point. Young doesn’t trust the coaching staff. The coaches and his teammates don’t think he’s mentally tough enough or polished enough as a passer to be a true NFL quarterback. In short, it’s a bad marriage. Moreover, if the Titans would send Young elsewhere, they could make an interesting run at Cutler. But that’s a serious long shot.
6. Cleveland wide receiver Braylon Edwards – Speaking of bad marriages, the one between Edwards and Mangini has the potential to be uglier than Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards – and more uncomfortable than Liza Minnelli and David Gest. Edwards is a glam hound who often has to be reminded that football should be the focus, as former Browns coach Romeo Crennel said more than once. Mangini is a guy who sometimes exhibits the social grace of a sardine. The only way these two don’t clash is if Mangini works really hard to avoid it. That won’t last forever.
7. Green Bay defensive end Aaron Kampman – This is going to be considered heresy by some Packers fans, particularly since Kampman recorded 37 sacks over the past three seasons. However, in switching to the 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers have put in a system where Kampman is going to be extremely limited. In short, Kampman is a high-motor athlete who operates best when he can attack a right offensive tackle from a three-point stance, using his initial burst and knowledge of hand techniques. When the Packers put Kampman out farther on the edge in a 3-4, his skills will be diminished. Furthermore, he’s never dropped into coverage on a regular basis, so that’s going to be a shock. Unless the Packers find a way to highlight Kampman’s strengths in some other way, he just doesn’t work in this system.