Wadsworth Holds the Cards
The best defensive player in the upcoming draft—maybe in the last few drafts—says he would love to be picked in the first round by the sorry Cardinals. When's the last time you heard a player say he longed to play for owner Bill Bidwill's team? But that's how Florida State defensive end Andre Wadsworth feels. "They've got a great front, with Simeon Rice and Eric Swann, and I think I'd fit in well there," the 6'5", 278-pound Wadsworth, who plays like Bruce Smith, said in Indianapolis. "Plus, I'd love to play for [line coach] Joe Greene."
After the Colts take Peyton Manning with the top pick in the draft, the Cards, who are happy with Jake Plummer at quarterback, might be able to trade the second pick ( Ryan Leaf) to the quarterback-starved Chargers for a No. 3 choice and other compensation. Then they could use that pick on Wadsworth, the onetime walk-on who had 16 sacks last year for the Seminoles.
It's Not a Dream
Carolina's New Maestro
Just over two years ago Packers receivers coach Gil Haskell emerged from two days of semi-consciousness in a Dallas hospital room, found himself surrounded by an ocean of flowers and thought, I'm supposed to be dead. Maybe I'm in a funeral home. He had a fractured skull, a brain contusion and swelling, and was suffering severe disorientation after being knocked over by Green Bay's Robert Brooks in a terrifying sideline collision at Texas Stadium during the NFC Championship Game. Friends worried that he'd never regain all his faculties, let alone coach again.
But in early February he returned to work in Green Bay, and last week he got the thrill of his 33-year coaching life when the Panthers hired him as offensive coordinator. "I'm ecstatic, and not just because of what I've been through," said Haskell, who will take the West Coast rhythm passing game to Carolina and, if restricted free-agent quarterback Kerry Collins stays, try to revive the troubled Collins's career. "When you coach a long time, you want the chance to show you can run an offense too. Now I've got it."
What Free Market?
Enfranchised And Enslaved
When the free-agent signing period begins this weekend, look for teams to virtually lock up most of their marquee names by putting franchise-or transition-player tags on them. By designating running back Dorsey Levens a franchise player, for instance, the Packers could elect to give him the average salary of the top five players at his position, $2,742 million, instead of the $4 million or so he probably could get on the TV-revenue-inflated open market this year.
With the salary cap rising from $41.4 million in 1997 to about $50 million in '98, and a lot of stars being taken out of the mix, you'll see the football equivalent of .213-hitting catchers becoming $3 million men.