Lean NFL draft has trade winds blowing

ON THE NFL

Pro Football

April 10, 2005|By KEN MURRAY

For reasons both economic and practical, it will be a buyer's market when the NFL draft unfolds April 23.

Indeed, it figures to be easier to trade up into the top 10 picks of the first round than to slide out of them. In a draft that is short on impact players, several teams already have expressed a willingness to vacate the high-rent district.

The San Francisco 49ers are prepared to begin negotiations with four players but have invited offers for their No. 1 pick. The Miami Dolphins have been shopping No. 2 for weeks. The Chicago Bears traded their pick the last time they held No. 4 in 2002. The Tennessee Titans at No. 6 will happily field calls.

Even the Dallas Cowboys, with the 11th and 20th picks, have professed interest in moving down.

The incentive - for bad teams, anyway - is to collect more picks and therefore more players, while avoiding the high cost of signing bonuses at the top of the draft. If you're going to pay a $20 million signing bonus for a player, you'd like to know he's worth it. This year, no team has that knowledge.

The 49ers, for instance, have identified quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers (California) and Alex Smith (Utah), wide receiver Braylon Edwards (Michigan) and cornerback Antrel Rolle (Miami) as potential first picks. But the team is so depleted in talent, one player is not going to make much of a difference. So, by trading down, new coach Mike Nolan has a better chance of upgrading his roster.

A logical trade partner for the 49ers would be a team that covets one of the quarterbacks or the draft's best receiver. Edwards may, in fact, be the best player in the draft.

Same with Miami, where new coach Nick Saban has many holes to fill. Even though Auburn running back Ronnie Brown is tempting, Saban wants to capitalize on a draft class he knows better than perhaps anyone else in the NFL after his time at LSU. That means more picks. That means trading down.

But he needs someone who wants to trade up. Because there's no consensus on this year's top players, the Dolphins may not get their asking price. The question then is, do they pick or do they accept less? One thing seems certain at this point: The draft boards of 32 teams will be wildly different.

"We have an excellent junior class," said Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly, "but I don't know that we have any Kellen Winslows or Sean Taylors in this class. This thing is all over the place. ... Thirteen, where we are, is a very interesting pick, to say the least. People have more variation of how they have players rated, especially the juniors, than I've ever seen."

Tall comparison

Akron quarterback Charlie Frye could invoke the names of the Mid-American Conference quarterbacks who became first-round picks before him - Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich and Ben Roethlisberger - but he's already being compared to a bigger star.

When Green Bay offensive coordinator Tom Rossley visited Akron for the Zips' Pro Day workouts, he compared Frye to the Packers' Brett Favre.

"He's a lot like Brett," Rossley said. "There's a lot of comparisons. He throws well on the run, he's athletic, looks like he's tough. Size-wise, they're very similar. He's a playmaker. He had a good workout, did a nice job."

Still, there are questions about Frye's arm strength and his release. At best, he'll be the third quarterback taken behind Rodgers and Smith, and he won't be picked before the second round.

Looking for more

It wasn't enough that he went to the team of his choice last year, got an $8.5 million signing bonus, or returned from an injury to play in the Super Bowl. Now Terrell Owens wants the Philadelphia Eagles to tear up the seven-year, $46.18 million contract he signed last year and give him more money.

Toward that end, Owens fired his agent of nine years, David Joseph, and hired Drew Rosenhaus. Eagles president Joe Banner's initial response was that the team might be interested in discussing a new deal before Owens is due a $5 million roster bonus next March, but not before then.

Busting the Broncos

After the Denver Broncos traded for or signed four defensive linemen from Cleveland, new Browns general manager Phil Savage offered this critique to a luncheon audience: "I'll say this - those four linemen were on a [run] defense that was ranked 32nd in the National Football League. Somebody tell me what the big to-do is. If we added four linemen from a team that was ranked 32nd in run defense, I think you guys would have asked me about that right off the bat."

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

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