MMQB Mailbag (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday March 11, 2008 3:04PM; Updated: Tuesday March 11, 2008 3:14PM
CLEO LEMON'S NO LEMON. From Alan Wilson, of Buford, Ga.: "I don't understand your hangup about the Cleo Lemon signing by the Jaguars. The Jaguars had well over $30 million in cap room and had to spend it somewhere.
"With Quinn Gray (someone you criticized last year as well) leaving in free agency, the Jaguars obviously felt that Lemon was an upgrade at the backup position.
"Lemon played on a bad Dolphins team last year. You can't hang that on Lemon. The Jaguars obviously evaluated the talent pool and believed Lemon was the one with the most upside of any of the journeyman QBs.
"You also seem to forget that before last season, Jacksonville and its fans suffered a QB controversy for several years that killed the spirit of its fanbase. I like the Lemon signing, and I like how David Garrard is going to get his big payday soon. Each of the QBs will know their roles, and finally (barring any injuries), we will have long-term stability at the position.''
My problem with it is simple: Cleo Lemon hasn't done enough to earn $3.55 million on an NFL team this year -- any NFL team. Just because a team has $30 million in cap room is no reason to let it burn a hole in the cap guy's pocket.
In studying a lot of the free-agent contracts Tuesday morning, I've seen a few of these. The Lions had annual trouble getting Damien Woody to be serious about his weight, and they ended up throwing a parade when he left town; the Jets guaranteed him $11 million after four hugely disappointing years in Detroit. I realize teams are trying to improve. Sometimes I think they fall too in love with a player and go beyond what makes sense, even in a senseless market.
I HAVE HEARD THIS QUESTION OVER AND OVER RECENTLY. From Nathan Hardin, of Atlanta: "When is the media going to quit trying to force Matt Ryan down the throats of the Atlanta Falcons? Ever since the end of the Super Bowl, every time the topic of the draft comes up and someone (outside of Atlanta) mentions the Falcons, they automatically tag them with taking Matt Ryan at No. 3. I have two points on this.
"One, would you have taken Elvis Grbac with the third pick in the draft when he came out of Michigan? Because when I look at Matt Ryan and what he did in college, that is what I see: Elvis Grbac version 2.0. Now don't get me wrong, Grbac was a good quarterback, but not worthy of the third overall pick in the draft.
"Two, didn't people watch what Cleveland did last season in the draft and the ramifications that had on the following season? They took Joe Thomas third, which vastly shored up their offensive line and gave Derek Anderson time to throw the ball, and Anderson had a Pro Bowl season. Isn't it a smarter play to get the offensive line in check before you roll the dice on a quarterback with a top 5 pick?''
Several good points in here. Ryan's no sure thing, obviously, not after throwing 19 interceptions last year for Boston College. But he probably is the best quarterback in this draft. He played great down the stretch in several hostile environments in big games. He had no NFL-type players at the skill positions around him.
Maybe he doesn't deserve to be the third overall pick, but if you're the Falcons, the one thing you HAVE to do this year is find your quarterback of the future. You know Atlanta's not winning this year. So the important thing is to get a quarterback in place and have him learn the offense and the pro game this year so he can be ready to play in 2009.
By the way, Grbac was an eighth-round NFL pick in 1992. If you see Grbac in Ryan, you're suggesting -- I guess -- that Ryan may not be worthy of being drafted now. And regarding the offense line point: Two Big Ten tackles have been picked in the top three of the draft in the last five years, Joe Thomas and Robert Gallery. Gallery was a disappointment and had to be moved to guard. Thomas looks like an annual Pro Bowler. So is Jake Long, who I'm guessing is the guy you think Atlanta should draft, the guaranteed lock you think he is?
YOU'RE RIGHT. I'M WRONG. From Mattia Vincenzi, of Vicenza, Italy: "Peter, how could you go to Istanbul and have coffee at Starbucks? That's like going to New York to buy postcards of Venice.''
Good point. Guilty as charged. I did have a cup of the strong Turkish stuff at the Grand Bazaar. Too strong for even a French-roast fan like me.
DOUBTS ABOUT JULIUS JONES. From Jim McDonough, of Richardson, Texas: "Regarding Julius Jones, the guy goes down the first time he's hit. The Cowboys did well to let him go. The only problem now is can Marion Barber survive the season playing as hard as he does if he becomes an every-down player. I think the Cowboys need another RB or two.''
They won't fall victim to the temptation of Barber running it 350 times. Don't worry. The problem with the Cowboys' running game the past couple of years was that Barber was the best runner on first down, he was the best guy out of the backfield on third downs, and he was the best goal-line and short-yardage rusher. Dallas couldn't risk using him on every down, and so that's how they go to a Jones-Barber combo platter. Don't worry. They'll find a back -- Warrick Dunn would have been perfect -- to take 140 carries next year so Barber won't be overworked.
INTERESTING QUESTION ABOUT PLAYERS I TRAVELED WITH. From Brian, of Chicago: "I've got a question for you about the relationship between you and the players while you were overseas. Did it feel the same as if you were covering them in the locker room? Or did the fact that you were thousands of miles away from home -- and in a war zone -- make them open up to you a little more? Did it feel like you were the media covering players in a different environment? Or did you feel the relationship between you and the guys change to become more friendly? And how will that carry over to the way you cover them this offseason and next season?''
It was odd to travel with players and be as close to them as I was, 24/7, for a week. I was as much a peer as a reporter because of the setting, because we did similar things -- signing autographs, posing for photos, talking to military personnel who wanted to know everything we could tell them about their favorite teams. Not sure how it will affect my relationship with them long-term, other than to say I'll be able to call these guys (I already knew Luis Castillo pretty well) and email them more readily than I could have before.
One thing really impressed me about Castillo, Tommie Harris and Mike Rucker: Even when they were totally beat (which happened quite a few times on this non-stop trip that left all four of use battling some cold or worse), they never turned down anyone for a handshake, a photo or an autograph. I remember on our last day there, a sergeant brought into our barracks a football, and two of the guys were napping, or trying to. And they stirred, got up, and signed.
WWAD? From Arjun, of San Diego: "I think the most interesting part of the draft is what happens to Darren McFadden. Where do you see him going? I know you think that you don't value running backs that highly due to being able to find solid ones later on.''
I'm just guessing right now, but the big question in my mind is What Will Al Do? Al Davis doesn't have a great running back history in first rounds, but he might not be able to turn down an athlete this great with the fourth pick in the draft.
NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. From Eric Necaise, of Dallas: "Green Bay is 6-4 or 7-3 when Aaron Rodgers is lost for the season (heaven forbid) this fall. Does Brett Favre come back?''
No way. He's done.
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