Item two: Is the new draft timing going to be a big factor in this year's draft?
In a merciful rules change, the league cut the time for first-round picks from 15 to 10 minutes, and the time for second-round picks from 10 to seven minutes. I say merciful because the only entity happy about all that time was ESPN, because it gave the network time to inundate us with commercials and panel discussions that we forgot five minutes after we saw them. It wasn't ESPN's fault, but rather the fault of teams waiting and waiting to see if trade interest could be stirred up.
"If you're going to be making trades this year, you're going to have to be making trades before the draft, or before the pick,'' Peterson said.
That's because the NFL mandates each team inform the league with the exact trade terms before a draft-day deal can be official. With the new time limits, a first-round deal would have to be agreed upon by the six- or seven-minute mark of a team's draft period and a second-round deal by the three- or four-minute mark. That would give each team, theoretically, the time to phone draft central, tell the league the correct terms and then have the team with the pick hand the card into the league.
"[Coach] Herm [Edwards] and [Personnel VP] Billy Kuharich and I will go through all the what-ifs in the days before the draft," says Peterson, "and now we'll have to include trade talks the week before the draft. We have usually done our trading during the draft. It'll just shorten things up, and it'll facilitate teams calling you earlier.''
The Jets have been laying the groundwork for draft-day trades in the four or five days before the draft for several years. Said Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum: "The new timing puts a major emphasis on being prepared, not just on draft day but in the days before. Most of your groundwork is going to have to be laid 48, 72 hours before the draft.''
"I don't think we'll find there'll be much difference in how the draft runs,'' said new St. Louis GM Billy Devaney. "If you want to trade down, you're going to start the process sooner. But let's be honest: We all know who our pick is likely to be anyway as the draft progresses. It's a good move by the league.''
Item three: Miami is negotiating with one player right now -- Michigan tackle Jake Long. There is a deadline, yes; I don't know what it is. But if Long doesn't agree to a deal -- think of something less than the six-year, $62-million deal ($31 million guaranteed) signed by JaMarcus Russell last year -- Parcells will move to his next guy. My educated guess -- which an NFL front-office acquaintance of Parcells seems sure of -- is that the next candidate will be Gholston, the Ohio State defensive end.
If this were Parcells, acting alone, I think he'd try to break the first-round-rookie salary scale, because he doesn't care if some 22-year-old rich kid holds out and holds press conferences about how a team is ripping him off. But this is different. The Dolphins are so down and out right now, with a new owner, GM and coach -- and a community that can't stomach much more bad news regarding the team. So Parcells, I believe, will take a small victory if he can engineer it, the victory of paying this year's first pick less than the first pick earned last year.