David Klingler, the University of Houston quarterback, has become the hot player as the draft gets within five days. And the place to go to guarantee getting Klingler is the Washington Redskins' spot at No. 6.
The hot rumor flying around draft rooms yesterday had the Super Bowl champs taking Klingler themselves. Don't count on it. The Skins instead seem intent on trading that pick for veteran defensive help and are trying to create a market and then an auction for Klingler, by far the best quarterback in another down year for quarterbacks.
If they can't find a buyer before the draft, they probably will wind up with either Florida State cornerback Terrell Buckley or Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard. It doesn't appear they will take Klingler and then try to trade him before training camp. It took the Cowboys 14 months to trade Steve Walsh when they drafted him two months after taking Troy Aikman.
Quarterbacks bring big prices. The Colts had to give up a No. 1 plus Andre Rison and Chris Hinton to get Jeff George. The Saints had to give up picks in the first three rounds to get Walsh. Klingler is probably the only player who should be available at the sixth pick who could bring back a big price for Washington. And the Skins would like to get teams bidding.
The Patriots (No. 8), Browns (No. 9), Steelers (No. 11), Giants (No. 14), Chiefs (No. 20) and Broncos (No. 25) have all had their share of Klingleritis. Will any move to get him? That's what the Skins want to find out.
Browns coach Bill Belichick was working out Klingler today. The Giants were in Houston two weeks ago. The only team that might take Klingler ahead of that Washington pick is Cincinnati at No. 4, but the Bengals usually shy away from these kind of contracts.
Why wouldn't the Redskins take Klingler and develop him? They do like to accumulate QBs, but seem committed to Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien; they really like Cary Conklin (he recently signed a two-year, $1 million contract despite not being on the active roster in his first two seasons); and Jeff Rutledge turned down a lucrative opportunity to sign with Denver during the Plan B period. And they are trying to trade No. 4 QB Stan Humphries.
When the Redskins acquired their No. 1 on draft day last year, their scouts began talking about Klingler. But now it appears they are using him as the bait to make a run at repeating. It's rare that a Super Bowl champion -- they're being honored at the White House today -- has this kind of ammunition on draft day.
It was their pick. They earned it by going 3-13, by losing at least games for the ninth year in a row.
But when Paul Tagliabue calls for the second pick in Sunday's NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be at least five hours away from making their first selection at No. 34 overall.
In 1990, then coach-VP Ray Perkins traded away the Bucs '92 No. 1 pick to the Colts for QB Chris Chandler. Perk is still defending the decision -- he wanted a quality backup for Vinny Testaverde. It didn't work out so well. Chandler had an 0-6 record starting for Tampa and was cut last Nov. 5, almost a year after Perkins was fired. He was picked up by Phoenix.
So, instead of watching tapes of Pitt DE Sean Gilbert, their likely choice, and Texas A&M LB Quintin Coryatt and Klingler, the Bucs are trying to forget that trade.
"We've totally blanked it out of our minds," Bucs personnel director Jerry Angelo said. "We don't talk about the pick nor do we speculate about it. We've got a little drape pulled over the first round. When we watch Sean Gilbert or Quintin Coryatt on tapes because we have to look at one of their counterparts, we cover one eye."
Angelo, a former Giants scout, said, "You get mad at the beginning. But we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work. You have to prepare for what reality is. These are our cards. We have to play them."
Colts GM Jimmy Irsay met yesterday with Gus Sunseri, the agent for Gilbert. Indy likely will keep its top two picks and take Washington DE Steve Emtman and Coryatt, but could swap its No. 1 to the Rams for L.A.'s spot at No. 3 and other goodies and take Coryatt and Gilbert. The Rams really want Emtman. . . The Dolphins have offered the Nos. 7 and 12 picks to the Colts for either No. 1 or No. 2. They want either Emtman or Gilbert . . . The Browns, if they don't get Klingler, are interested in Stanford FB Tommy Vardell, who has been compared with John Riggins. They also like Notre Dame TE Derek Brown, who has drawn plenty of attention from the Giants and Jets . . . Irsay said he doubted he would sign any player before the draft and also doubted he would trade either pick. If he does, "We still want to have two picks in the top five," he said.