Publish date:

Inside The NFL


Trade Deficit
The Broncos have a talented running back to deal, but no takers

Here's one thing that's hard to figure out about the NFL and its
win-at-all-costs mentality: Why aren't there more trades? In
three deals last year Packers general manager Ron Wolf exchanged
mid-round draft picks and/or roster flotsam for running back
Ahman Green, linebacker Nate Wayne and returner-cornerback Allen
Rossum, all of whom became key players on a surprisingly strong
9-7 team. But 99 times out of a 100, teams act as if the only
ways to improve are through the draft and free agency. That's
silly and shortsighted.

Case in point: The Broncos are willing to trade running back Mike
Anderson, the league's offensive rookie of the year last season,
for one of the first 15 picks in the April 21 draft. Actually,
Denver would listen to offers for either of its other 1,000-yard
rushers, Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary. As of Sunday, though,
coach Mike Shanahan had received only one lukewarm bid.

Three teams drafting among the top dozen--the Browns (third), the
Bears (eighth) and the Panthers (11th)--are considering taking a
running back in the first round, but none are pursuing Anderson.
What hurts Anderson's trade value is that Denver's backs seem
almost interchangeable; a series of low-round draft choices have
all turned into stars running behind one of the best lines in the
game. Davis, Gary and Anderson were chosen in the fourth round or
lower, and all rushed for more than 1,100 yards as rookies.
Cleveland coach Butch Davis, whose club had informal talks last
week with the Broncos about dealing for a back, says, "Mike
Anderson's got very good numbers, but he's in a great offense
behind a great line. When it comes to draft choices, you'd rather
give up your firstborn than a high pick."

If Shanahan can't swing a trade, he says he'll move one of the
running backs to fullback. "It's pretty odd," he says of the lack
of interest in Anderson. "You could have three more years, at
minimum salary, for a guy who rushed for 1,500 yards [in 14
games] and averaged five yards a carry."

Draft Uncertainty
After Vick, No Clear-cut Order

To no one's surprise Chargers coach Mike Riley says it's all but
certain that his team will use the top pick in the draft on
Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick. "Unless a blockbuster
offer comes up, things are assuredly headed that way," Riley

There's the rub. No one is eager to trade into the top of the
draft because, unlike in recent years, there aren't one or two
players that most everyone craves. As holder of the second pick,
Cardinals general manager Bob Ferguson says, "Tell people to call
us. We'll listen."

Vick is a mobile 6-footer with a strong arm but has only two
years of college experience. As for other candidates who could be
among the top five selections, Michigan wide receiver David
Terrell disappointed scouts with a lackadaisical workout last
month. "He reminds me, attitudewise, of [Redskins wideout]
Michael Westbrook," says the coach of one team picking in the top
10, a death-knell assessment if there ever was one. Wideout Koren
Robinson of North Carolina State is probably a reach as a
top-three choice. Mississippi running back Deuce McAllister has a
history of injuries. None of the five to seven top defensive
linemen has set himself apart from the others.

Take Missouri pass-rushing end Justin Smith. Whereas one team
might rate Smith in the top three, another team might say that,
at 267 pounds, he's a tweener who should go in the middle of the
first round. "I could see Smith going second or 22nd," one
general manager says.

So look for the draft order to be in flux right to the start of
the process because teams holding the top five choices are likely
to take little in return for moving down a few spots. Any drop in
the draft means less payout in signing bonus and salary.

Honeymoon in D.C.
Schottenheimer, Snyder in Synch

Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer raised eyebrows last week
when he said, "I think Philadelphia's the team to beat in the NFC
East." The Eagles have lost nine straight to the Giants, the
defending division champs who knocked off Philly three times--all
by double-digit margins--en route to the Super Bowl last season.
Schottenheimer's pronouncement bemused Eagles coach Andy Reid,
who said, "We haven't beaten the Giants, and they haven't lost
anyone in free agency."

Word is, Schottenheimer is working peacefully with pugnacious
owner Daniel Snyder. Those close to the Redskins say the owner
has more trust in the new coach than he did in Schottenheimer's
predecessor, Norv Turner, and they hope that means Snyder won't
try to micromanage the team as he did with Turner. Schottenheimer
is being the good soldier, refusing to criticize the organization
for its idiotic free-agent ventures last year, the most
conspicuous of which was the $8 million signing bonus given to
oft-injured cornerback Deion Sanders. He was mediocre last year
and is now back trying to play in the Cincinnati Reds' outfield.
He may never play football again. "I don't think what the
Redskins did was wrong in 2000," Schottenheimer says. "It just
didn't work."

Grbac over Dilfer
Billick Made The Right Move

Ravens coach Brian Billick might be arrogant, but he was right in
dumping quarterback Trent Dilfer for former Chief Elvis Grbac.
"We have a great defense, obviously," Billick says, "but we asked
it week after week to win games, and that's a lot of pressure.
There has to be more balance. Last year we improved in total
offense from 24th in the league to 16th, and if we can bring that
up to eighth, ninth or 10th, we'll be helping our defense get

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO Anderson averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2000, but critics say he benefited from the system he played in.

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO Carter, who's 27 and has 62 1/2 career sacks, wore out his welcome in St. Louis.


When they traded defensive end Kevin Carter to the Titans for the
29th pick in the April draft, the Rams were bashed by the media
for getting too little for the 1999 NFL sack leader. Carter,
whose sacks dropped from 17 two years ago to 10 1/2 last season,
might play well for Tennessee, but he was benched at one point
last year and had become a cancer in the St. Louis locker room.
In a draft deep with defensive players, the Rams should get a
productive starter with their own selection at No. 20 or at that
29th spot....

"You think you've seen a bloodletting now?" one general manager
said of the flooding of the free-agent market with veterans who
are getting squeezed out by the salary cap. "Wait till June.
You'll see a bunch of teams cutting to the bone so they can get
a bunch of proven starters for near minimum salary. The pool of
decent players will be huge."...

There was universal shock at the league meetings last week when
word spread that quarterback Drew Henson was skipping his last
year at Michigan and the chance to be the top choice in the 2002
draft to sign a six-year, $17 million contract with the Yankees.
If he were the first player chosen next April, Henson, a third
baseman, would have most likely earned nearly $17 million in
signing bonus and salary in his first season alone....

Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin says as many as 15 rookies could make
his team this year because the club's cap woes will require him
to keep as many minimum-salary players as possible. To put that
into perspective, when Jacksonville and Carolina came into the
league as expansion teams in 1995, they had 10 and seven
rookies, respectively, on their active opening-week rosters....

Don't count on Denver's losing any home field advantage when its
new stadium opens this season. At old Mile High Stadium 40% of
the stands had floors covered in steel. At new Invesco Field
100% will. That, coupled with upper decks that are 15 feet
closer to the field, is expected to make the Denver crowd even
louder. Denver will probably kick off its regular season at
home, in a Monday-nighter against the Giants on Sept. 10.