MMQB Mailbag: Brees influences Stafford and Colts make a mistake
Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford spent time together at Super Bowl
Bucs, with new GM, have staggering amount of room under cap
Questions about Jeff Saturday, Andre Smith and the combine's locale
Three leftover thoughts from the NFL Scouting Combine, which wraps up today in Indianapolis:
1. If Matthew Stafford makes it, he'll owe something to four NFL quarterbacks: Peyton and Eli Manning (he went to the Manning Passing Camp this summer and took away lessons on how being a great decision-maker makes a great quarterback), Jay Cutler (he was schooled by Cutler at a high-school camp and loved his moxie) and Drew Brees. The New Orleans quarterback spent 30 minutes with Stafford at the Super Bowl this year, and Stafford's still raving about how Brees handled failure and turned it to his advantage.
Brees' version of his advice: "We talked about a lot of things. I guess first I told him it's not a question of whether he'll face adversity. He'll definitely have it. I told him I got drafted in San Diego, backed up Doug Flutie, then won the job, then had a rough year, then they draft Philip Rivers to compete for the job, then I kept the job, then I left in free agency. Talk about ups and downs. But I survived, and I know the tough road I had in San Diego is a big reason why. I tried to paint the picture for Matt of what it'd be like. You think if you're a high first-round pick, you're going to a team and, 'I'm going to be the man.' Not so. At least it's not going to be easy. And I got the feeling he was going to be able to handle it. He's a young kid with a lot of confidence. You need to have that confidence at this level, because it's going to be tested.''
2. I had a good meeting with new Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik, who's an impressive and bright guy. But he's also under some significant pressure. The Bucs have $55 million to spend under the 2009 salary cap -- the most ANY team has ever had entering any cap season. He was careful not to talk about specific players, but I left the meeting thinking the Bucs won't be a player for Albert Haynesworth. I'm not sure about Julius Peppers.
"To sit there and say we're going to be major players in the big free-agent market probably is wrong,'' Dominik said. "Our goal is to take care of our young, core players. The veterans here are important to our future. Then, when you get to free agency, you have to measure the cost and benefit of every player. If you put a value of $4 million a year on a player, and it goes over that, you've got to be disciplined about chasing the money.'' But surely Dominik feels the heat from the fans and ownership about having so much cap room, and spending some of it to make sure the recent run of playoff futility ends in Tampa.
About the pressure of spending some of that $55 million, Dominik said: "I think it's a great opportunity that's been created here. We're working to make sure we take advantage of it in the right way.''
To me, Haynesworth is not a good gamble for Dominik, for many of the reasons I spelled out Monday: He'll be 28 next opening day, he's never played a full season in seven NFL years, he tends to coast, and huge guys like the 335-pound Haynesworth don't tend to keep their athleticism in years 10, 11 and 12. Striking out on Haynesworth is too much of a gamble for a rookie GM to take.
3. I think you'll see agents pursuing lockout-proof contracts in the opening days of free agency. In other words, contracts that get the players the maximum money for the end of the 2010 season -- just before the feared 2011 lockout by the owners at the end of the current CBA. Look at the big deals signed so far: Nnamdi Asomugha got $28.6 million in the first two years of his deal with Oakland, guaranteed and punter Shane Lechler got $9 million over the first two years of his $16 million deal with the Raiders. Watch Ray Lewis push for $20 million-$23 million in the first two years of whatever new deal he signs, because he's smart enough to know that might be the only football he plays under his new contract.
Now onto your e-mail:
THE CLOCK IS STRIKING MIDNIGHT, SATURDAY. From Aaron Metzler of Indianapolis: "Do you think the Colts are making a mistake by letting Jeff Saturday test the free-agent market? He had some injury problems last year but the offensive line was a different unit when he played. I doubt Peyton approved of this decision.''
My guess is Manning is furious. Maybe not furious, but extremely disappointed. I think Saturday's very important to the Colts, and he's been relatively injury-free; he's missed only six starts due to injury in the past nine years -- four in the past four years. When you average 15.3 starts over a nine-year period, obviously you're not injury-prone ... and I think the Colts should have made a more concerted effort to bring him back versus, let's say, Marvin Harrison. Saturday makes Manning's job a lot more comfortable. So, yes, I think it is a mistake by the Colts. A rare one.