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Last-minute maneuverings

Teams consider risks as draft picture comes into focus

Posted: Monday April 23, 2007 3:05AM; Updated: Monday April 23, 2007 3:38PM
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Although they're not saying much, the Raiders appear to be ready to take JaMarcus Russell with the first overall pick.
Although they're not saying much, the Raiders appear to be ready to take JaMarcus Russell with the first overall pick.
Steve Franz/WireImage
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Alan Branch | Adam Carriker
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Five days from now, you'll all get to open your holiday gifts. I agree with what ex-Giants GM Ernie Accorsi says in Tim Layden's upcoming Sports Illustrated piece about draftmania. According to Accorsi, the draft is now the second-biggest day on the NFL calendar, next to Super Sunday. And from what I'm hearing on talk shows, what I read on draft sites, what I'm running into everywhere I go, Accorsi's right.

In many cities, the draft is bigger than the Super Bowl. Think about it: What engenders more hype, say, in Cleveland: a game your team's rarely in, or the prospect of taking a matinee-idol Notre Dame quarterback tutored by the same guy who made Tom Brady ... Tom Brady? Well, duhhhh.

With approximately 120 hours to go until Roger Goodell kicks off his first draft weekend, here are the seven things I know about the draft:

1. I know that every bit of intelligence I've gathered points toward Tampa Bay not trading up from No. 4 in the first round. There are so many logical reasons the Bucs are not going to make a move in the first round, that I would be shocked if they did. Not surprised. Shocked.

There have been approximately 6,023 rumors in the past month about Tampa Bay trading up to get the No. 2 pick from Detroit, because legend has it the Bucs are dying to pick Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Inside the Tampa Bay draft meetings last week, I bet Bucs officials were having a good chuckle over some of those rumors. The funniest: Tampa would deal defensive end Simeon Rice to Detroit. Never mind that Rice is 33, definitely on the downside entering his 12th NFL season, and coming off a year in which he had shoulder surgery and missed half the season. Great rumor. That's the kind of guy you want to build your franchise around for the future.

The biggest reason I don't think Tampa Bay will trade up is there's a 50 percent chance he'll still be there at No. 4. Everyone knows the Raiders will likely take a quarterback at No. 1, Detroit knows it has far bigger needs than Johnson at two and Cleveland is more likely to take a quarterback or running back at three. Could someone trade in front of Tampa Bay to take Johnson? Possibly, but highly unlikely; the price is just too high, not only in picks, but also in money, for which I'm about to explain.

Look at the top picks' salaries in last year's draft. I'm going to assume each player plays for his original team for four years, minimum, because very rarely does a player picked so high get cut before then. So I'm going to judge each player by the guaranteed money and salary he's due in the first four years of his contract.

Mario Williams, first overall, Houston: Due $31.6 million, minimum, in the first four years.

Reggie Bush, second overall, New Orleans: Due $33 million. His four-year figure is higher than Williams' because the Saints have to exercise an $8.5 million bonus after the third year to keep Bush.

Vince Young, third overall, Tennessee: Due $28.4 million. Young's big bump, which could be up to $7.5 million, would come in year five of his six-year contract.

D'Brickashaw Ferguson, fourth overall, New York Jets: Due $19.6 million. Don't think of this as a bad deal until you check out the No. 5 pick, A.J. Hawk. I think Ferguson got an excellent contract, because as long as he has staying power and continues to start for the Jets for four years, he's doing fine. His contract has a big bump, up to $7.5 million, due in year five, which Hawk's deal does not have.

A.J. Hawk, fifth overall, Green Bay: Due $20.4 million.

That should tell you everything you need to know about what's driving decision-making at the top of the first round.


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