A hot draft for QBs gives some NFL starters chills


May 02, 2004|By KEN MURRAY

The clock was running on veteran quarterbacks in last week's college draft. No sooner were four first-round picks spent on rookie quarterbacks than the vets started to fall.

Drew Brees, Tommy Maddox and Drew Bledsoe all got jolts of reality in the first round, and Kerry Collins got a quick pink slip when he declined to restructure his contract after the New York Giants acquired Mississippi's Eli Manning.

Brees may not get to training camp after San Diego picked up Philip Rivers of North Carolina State in the Manning trade. Still, the Chargers might want to use Brees or Doug Flutie as the tackling dummy behind their decrepit offensive line and not Rivers early in the season.

Maddox was miffed when the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Miami of Ohio's Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th pick. He came to his senses when the Steelers offered to raise his $750,000 salary this year and he looked around the league at all the quarterbacks on the firing line.

Bledsoe was unmotivated to renegotiate his contract before the Buffalo Bills grabbed Tulane's J.P. Losman with a second pick in the first round, then accepted a pay cut.

Maddox and Bledsoe appear to be safe at least for this year. But the pool of available veteran quarterbacks is swelling.

In St. Louis, the Rams almost certainly will cut former Most Valuable Player Kurt Warner after June 1. In Cleveland, the Browns have been trying to dump failed No. 1 pick Tim Couch since the season's end.

If it's a game of musical chairs, where are the openings? At least six teams are looking for veterans to back up starters. The best opportunities might be in Arizona behind Josh McCown, Chicago behind Rex Grossman and San Francisco behind Tim Rattay.

Pending Rich Gannon's comeback from shoulder surgery, the Oakland Raiders also may be in the market for Collins.

Couch appears headed to the Green Bay Packers or Bears. Warner could wind up in Oakland, where coach Norv Turner has installed the same offense the Rams use.

What seems clear is that it's a buyer's market.

Pats' choice pick

One of the best selections in the first round was taken with the pick that previously belonged to the Ravens. It went to the New England Patriots in the Kyle Boller deal a year ago.

Although they had the ammunition to move up, the Patriots didn't have to leave the 21st slot to get Miami defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

The Bills considered Wilfork with the 13th pick but picked speed receiver Lee Evans of Wisconsin. The Seattle Seahawks tried to trade up from their 23rd pick to get Wilfork but couldn't find a partner. They talked to Minnesota at No. 19, then settled for Texas defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs.

Carolina's gamble

Thin at cornerback after losing starter Reggie Howard in free agency and releasing nickel back Terry Cousin, the Carolina Panthers went after Ohio State's Chris Gamble late in the first round despite a low score in the NFL's Wonderlic test.

The Panthers traded up three spots to 28 to take Gamble, a converted wide receiver who scored a nine out of a possible 50 on the mental ability test that prospects get at the scouting combine each year.

General manager Marty Hurney wasn't dissuaded by the score, though.

"There's a lot of different reasons why guys can have certain test scores," he said. "We investigated thoroughly and came to the conclusion that [Gamble] doesn't have a problem learning on the field."

Looking for justice

The son of a woman killed in a 1998 car accident by Leonard Little wants to see the Rams' defensive end serve serious time in jail now that he has been arrested for drunk driving and charged as a persistent offense.

Little pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 90 days in the city workhouse, four years probation and 1,000 hours of community service after killing Susan Gutweiler in 1998.

"I want to see him be walked away in cuffs," said Michael Gutweiler, 21, a Columbia College sophomore in Chicago. "I haven't seen that. I think if I see that, it's going to play a big role in the way I feel. I'll see head-on that justice does happen. It will be right in front of my face."

Two-minute warning

After signing Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien, Green Bay coach Mike Sherman offered this appraisal: "He's undersized [at 6 feet]. Fairly effective in their system. Very much a rhythm quarterback. Does a good job in that system. He'll be competition."

Another former Terp, defensive tackle Randy Starks, suffered as precipitous a fall as any player in the draft. Projected as a possible later first-rounder, Starks went to the Tennessee Titans in the third round and 71st pick, ostensibly because of a questionable work ethic.

"I'm ready to go out there and prove everybody wrong, whoever slipped on me, thinking I was a third-round pick," he said.

Two years after its national championship, Ohio State had a record 14 players drafted - and probably would have had 15 if Maurice Clarett hadn't been blocked by the Supreme Court. The previous record for a seven-round draft was Miami, with 11 players taken in 2002.

Pass rusher Adewale Ogunleye is threatening to sit out the season's first 10 games unless the Dolphins give him a multiyear contract.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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