10 Spot: Five deals that make sense
Football tops baseball in so many areas -- importance of the regular season, drama of the postseason, overall popularity. But the one time baseball trumps football -- shuts it out, even -- is at the trade deadline.
At the trade deadline, baseball is action, energy, deals; football is inactivity, quiet, no deals. With Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline rapidly approaching, here are five deals that should -- but won't -- be made.
1. Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers to San Francisco for a first-round pick: This is perfect. After trading their 2010 first-round pick to San Francisco for the 49ers' 2009 second-round pick, the Panthers can get back a first-round pick for a player who has tried to get out of Carolina. If anyone can motivate Peppers, it's 49ers coach Mike Singletary. And San Francisco still would have a first-round pick in April.
2. Buffalo wide receiver Terrell Owens to Chicago for a conditional fourth-round pick: Let's be clear, this trade is not happening. But here's why it should: Buffalo could get back a mid-round pick and clear more than $2 million in salary for a player who is expected to leave after his one-year contract expires after this season. Chicago could give Jay Cutler a weapon for the postseason stretch drive. The pick could be a fourth, but could improve to a third if Chicago makes the playoffs and a second if it makes the Super Bowl. What doesn't make sense about that?
3. Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe to Baltimore for second- and fifth-round picks: Kansas City has proven that it is willing to listen to offers for anybody and the Ravens still haven't given quarterback Joe Flacco the ace target he needs. Bowe probably isn't worth a first-round pick now, but he could be worth a couple of valuable picks in the deep 2010 draft.
4. Cleveland quarterback Brady Quinn to Carolina for a conditional fourth-round pick: Clearly, the Quinn-Cleveland marriage hasn't worked any better than Greg Norman and Chris Evert's, so call it a day. Right now, Carolina doesn't have a first-round pick in April, and would be unable to draft one of the top quarterbacks, so it would make sense to take a chance on a quarterback who needs a change of scenery.
5. San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman to New England for a second-round pick: Merriman's performance has leveled off recently and New England, awash in draft picks the next two years, could afford to surrender one for a defensive playmaker. Some might think Merriman is worth a first-round pick, but he is in the last year of his contract and San Diego would be happy to unload him.
Again, just to be perfectly clear and not to rumor monger, the chances of these trades happening are about the same as me succeeding Bill Parcells in Miami. But it doesn't mean they don't make sense. Now, some other ideas that also hopefully make sense in this week's 10 Spot:
1. The surprise rushing leader: After being released in June 2008, Cedric Benson waited more than three months before he could convince another team to give him a job. When teams were stocking their rosters to go to training camp last year, no one called. When teams suffered training-camp injuries last year, no one called. It wasn't until September 2008 that the Cincinnati Bengals reached out and gave Benson a chance. Amazing. Chicago would have thought the Cubs would win the World Series before Benson would lead the league in rushing. But five games into the season, Benson has rushed for a league-leading 487 yards -- six more than Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. This comes one season after former Bears running back Thomas Jones led the AFC in rushing, and at a time when former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton has led the Broncos to an impressive 5-0 start. Somehow, with few realizing it, Chicago became a breeding ground for offensive weapons.
2. Driver in the passing lane: No one realized that running back/return man Glyn Milburn had such a prominent place in Packers history, but he does. Back in 1998, Packers general manager Ron Wolf traded Milburn to the Chicago Bears for a throwaway seventh-round pick, what turned out to be the 213th overall selection. Wolf, in turn, used that pick on a little-known wide receiver from Alcorn State named Donald Driver. It turned out to be one of the finest picks that Wolf, the man who traded for Brett Favre, ever made. On Sunday against Detroit, Driver needs one more reception to break a tie with Sterling Sharpe and become the Packers' all-time reception leader. His career has been one not only of consistency, but greatness. Driver and Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne are the only two receivers to go more than 1,000 yards receiving in each of the past five seasons. A two-time Pro-Bowl selection, Driver has caught at least 74 passes in each of the past five seasons. Not a bad return for a return man named Milburn.
3. Hall of Fame matchup: Basketball gave us Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird. Baseball gave us Greg Maddux versus Barry Bonds. Now football gives us Ray Lewis versus Brett Favre, one of those all-time matchups, with two of the greatest to play the game in the twilight of careers that have shown few signs of fading. Lewis is one of the best defensive players in NFL history, Favre one of the best offensive players. Lewis has one Super Bowl victory, as does Favre. Lewis is in his 14th NFL season, Favre his 19th. Lewis made the top defensive play of this season, slamming into Darren Sproles to save a victory. Favre made the top offensive play this season, rifling a game-winning touchdown pass to Greg Lewis. There aren't too many seasons left for either, so this could conceivably be the last time they meet -- until they meet in Canton.
4. Offensively challenged: Just before the season kicked off, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Buffalo each changed offensive coordinators. But change hasn't translated into victories. So far, those three teams are a combined 1-14. The only win was for Buffalo, which beat Tampa Bay. Kansas City is tied for 24th in the league in scoring, averaging 16.8 points per game. Buffalo ranks 26th in scoring, averaging 15.4 points. And Tampa Bay ranks 28th in scoring, averaging 13.6 points. For as much scrutiny as the previous offensive coordinators were under, the teams might be facing more pressure now. Change, as these teams knew and feared, sometimes doesn't deliver the results that were intended.
5. Rebuilt for the long haul: The Eagles have been successful for years and yet they've turned over their roster with most barely noticing. When the Eagles played the Chiefs on Sept. 27 and scored 34 points, the average age of Philadelphia's starters on offense was 24.5 years. The unit featured Jeremy Maclin (21), LeSean McCoy (21), DeSean Jackson (22), Brent Celek (24) and Kevin Kolb (25). In fact, Jason Peters (27) and Jamaal Jackson (29) were the offense's graybeards. In other words, the Eagles' offense is built for the long haul. But it also is built for now. Through four games, the Eagles have averaged 31.75 points. At this rate, Philadelphia would score 508 points -- 92 more than the season franchise record 416 that the Eagles scored last year. This is a novel concept in places such as Oakland and Cleveland, but this team rebuilt without ever going through any of the real suffering.
6. Redskins turmoil: The anti-Eagles offense is the Redskins, which looks to be aging and regressing. A defensive coach from another team who played -- and studied -- the Redskins this season said Washington's offense is plain and simple. The coach said tight end Chris Cooley is the team's biggest offensive threat, and Washington doesn't use him as much as it should. The coach wondered about the condition of running back Clinton Portis, who has not gotten along well with head coach Jim Zorn. The coach wondered about the reasoning for some of the Redskins' play calls, which probably helps to explain why the team felt it needed to hire offensive consultant Sherman Lewis two weeks ago. None of this is overly surprising to anyone who has watched, but it's more evidence that the Redskins soon will be undergoing repairs.
7. Bradshaw brings energy: His Giants teammates call him "Junkyard Dog" because every time running back Ahmad Bradshaw plays, he makes something happen. Stats bear it out. Despite having only 58 carries -- 22 running backs have more -- Bradshaw is the NFL's sixth-leading rusher with 375 yards. He has 42 fewer carries than starting running back Brandon Jacobs, but 20 more yards. But forget the numbers. When Bradshaw is on the field, the Giants' offense has an energy and explosiveness that it doesn't always have when he's not on the field. As good as Jacobs is -- and few backs are tougher to bring down -- the Giants could start using Bradshaw more, starting Sunday against the Saints. But this also has worn on Jacobs. As he told New York reporters this week: "He can bounce around in those little creases and cracks and make a lot of big plays. Do I have the ability to do that? Yes. [But] if I try to make plays like that, because I'm 265 pounds I'm not supposed to be doing that. 'Get up there. Hit into somebody.' That's what people want to see me do. If I don't do it, I get criticized. If I do it, I get criticized. I can't win." But with this backfield, the Giants are winning.
8. Must-win for Chargers: Even though it's only mid-October, San Diego might as well be playing for the AFC West title Monday night. Because if the Chargers lose to the Broncos on ESPN's "Monday Night Football," Denver would be 6-0, San Diego 2-3, and the division race would be as close to being over as it could be. Since the NFL went to eight four-team divisions in 2002, every team that has started 6-0 has won the division. Of course, last season San Diego won the AFC West despite a 4-8 start. It's harder to envision that scenario this season against a Broncos team that has outscored its opponents 59-7 in the second half and overtime. But San Diego does have one advantage in Denver's schedule: The Broncos will be playing well-rested and geared-up teams. When the Broncos play the Chargers, San Diego will be coming off its bye week. In Week 8, when Denver plays at Baltimore, both teams will be coming off their bye week. And the following week, when Denver plays host to Pittsburgh, the Steelers will be coming off their bye week.
9. Steelers will miss Smith: The least heralded, most important defensive player in football might just be Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith, whom the Steelers placed on injured reserve this week because of a rotator cuff injury. Without Smith -- who is as smart as he is tenacious -- the Steelers have not been the same team. Back in 2007, with Smith playing defensive end, the Steelers started 9-3 and allowed an average of 76.4 rushing yards per game. But when he left the lineup with a torn biceps and missed the final four regular-season games and the playoffs, the Steelers went 1-4, including a 31-29 playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and allowed 122.2 rushing yards per game. Now, as the Steelers prepare for Sunday's game against Cleveland and beyond, Pittsburgh will be counting on a trio of players -- first-round pick Ziggy Hood, Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason --- to play left defensive end. It will not be easy. Smith has meant as much to the Steelers' defense as safety Troy Polamalu, though he hasn't gotten anywhere near the fanfare.
10. Young's time is near: At 0-5, Titans coach Jeff Fisher clings to the notion that Kerry Collins is Tennessee's quarterback. But with another loss Sunday against the New England Patriots, Fisher and the Titans will know that the time has come for the team to figure out what it has in quarterback Vince Young. They have to for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is this: Young has a $4.25 million roster bonus due March 10, to go along with a base salary next season of $2.8 million. If the Titans release Young before March 10, they could save more than $7 million. But Tennessee also must figure out if Young can be its quarterback of the future or if he has more trade value to another team than he does now. Young's time is coming.
The Schef's specialities
Player of the week: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: After getting a bye week to rest and see his offensive line worked upon, Rodgers now gets the chance to have a big day against a vulnerable Lions defense.
Upset of the week: Baltimore over Minnesota: Baltimore's sense of urgency is higher than undefeated Minnesota's. Plus, the Ravens have lost two straight and are an awfully proud group -- hard to imagine them losing three straight.
Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.
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