*There aren’t many certainties at this point about how the players will come off the board in the first round, but there seems to be one, according to a buzz building in league circles: those top three offensive tackles will go fast. Not only are Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson highly rated, but they also are in high demand. Among the threats to take offensive tackles near the top of the draft are the Chiefs, Jaguars, Eagles, Lions, Cardinals, Chargers and Dolphins. Some would not be surprised to see a team trade up for one of the tackles.
*From what we’ve heard, there has been very little interest in quarterback Jamarcus Russell, and it seems unlikely at this point that he’ll get another chance. The biggest issue is Russell still is overweight and out of shape. His lack of discipline and conditioning is what derailed his NFL career in the first place, and the fact that he hasn’t changed his habits tells NFL front office men he hasn’t learned anything.
*The Browns’ new regime recently held draft meetings to go over prospects, but did it in an unusual manner—without the team’s scouts. The attendees were CEO Joe Banner, general manager Mike Lombardi and assistant general manager Ray Farmer. Some take this as a sign the Browns may be preparing to clean house in the front office after the draft.
*The Falcons are in good salary cap shape now but they have some young players on their roster that they will need to tie up in the near future—including Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. So they have to keep some powder dry going forward in order to keep their nucleus intact. That’s one of the reasons the Falcons have not been big spenders in free agency.
*There is an uncomfortable and eerie feeling in the agent community. More players than ever have been ask to take pay cuts and the amount of unsigned quality players still on the street has agents feeling uneasy. From one veteran agent: “I'm not sure if this is just an anomaly in the market place because of a flat cap this year, or if there is some informal collusion going on amongst owners, or if this is a trend that's here to stay. If so, it looks like the back end of the second deal is just window dressing and the chance for a third deal is dead.” We won't really know until next year.
*There is serious discussion at the league office to push back the dates of the combine, free agency and the draft. The motivation by the league is to stretch out the offseason activity into May or early June. Why? It would help to create more TV and digital products to monetize, such as the regional and super combines. The NFLPA will never go for a later opening date to free agency as most players and agents would like it to start no later than March 1. However, don't be surprised to see the draft and combine push back to later dates.