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National Football League
Draft King Analysis

February 8, 2008
Lou Pickney,

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Over the past few days, a number of important developments have taken place in the NFL that could very well have a direct impact on the draft.

The first use of the franchise tag this off-season has taken place, with the Eagles slapping the tag on impending free agent tight end L.J. Smith yesterday. The word I hear is that Smith wants a long-term deal, but the Eagles wasted no time in letting him (and the rest of the league) know that they intend to keep him in Philadelphia for 2008, if not longer.

Smith, who turns 28 in May, has been a valuable part of Philadelphia's offense in the past five seasons, though injury limited his production in 2007. And with a relatively weak crop of tight ends in this draft, and very few worthy tight end free agents likely to be available on the open market, it seems to me that the Eagles did the right thing. Smith has been quoted as saying that he didn't expect to be back with the Eagles in 2008.

Randy Moss
Will Randy Moss be back in New England next season? (Icon SMI)
The Patriots face a number of tough decisions regarding personnel. The team needs to negotiate a new deal with LB Rosevelt Colvin, who will have a $7.6 million salary cap charge in 2008. Colvin, who turns 31 in September, went on IR in week 12 this past season, and his cap situation places the Pats in a difficult position. Presumably the Patriots would like to bring him back for the upcoming season, but with such a massive cap number, I'd imagine that the status quo will not be acceptable.

Randy Moss reworked his contract when he arrived in New England via a trade with Oakland in April 2007, and as per NFL rules, he can't redo his deal again before the free agent period begins. The Pats may have no choice but to put their franchise tag on him to prevent another team from swooping in and stealing him at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, February 29 (yes, 2008 is a leap year), which could make things complicated in the negotiation process.

Would putting the tag on Moss come across as a sign of distrust by New England? It would be hard to blame them for using the tag to protect themselves, and hopefully Moss could understand the unique circumstances in this situation. But you never know how these things will turn out.

And then there's Asante Samuel, the outstanding cornerback who was franchised by New England in 2007 who only agreed to come back if there were incentive levels (team wins and defensive snaps played) were included that would allow him to not be franchised in 2008. He met both incentives (though he only needed to meet one), but now comes word that Samuel would like to return to New England in 2008.

I'm suspicious of this one to a degree, since Samuel will be able to potentially set a new record for a free agent contract, but perhaps Samuel will give the Pats the chance to match the best offer he receives on the open market. Good luck with that. Detroit, New Orleans, Houston, and many other teams would likely pay huge money to sign Samuel; one look at CB Nate Clements' mega-deal from San Francisco last year is proof positive of that. And with the Patriots facing their own financial issues, it will be very tough for them to match what Samuel can command on the open market.

Reports out of Cleveland are that the Browns and restricted free agent QB Derek Anderson are far apart on contract negotiations. The Browns are said to have offered Anderson a three year, $16 million deal (with $11 million of it guaranteed), but Anderson's camp is said to want a five year deal.

My gut tells me that the Browns made a token offer to keep him, but that the team will offer him the highest possible tender for a QB, which in turn would force whichever team that signs Anderson to give up a first and a third round pick in the 2008 Draft to Cleveland. And, remember, the Browns gave up their 2008 first round pick last year to acquire QB Brady Quinn.

I don't like to give the Chad Johnson trade demand story out of Cincinnati too much attention, since the mainstream media tends to drive that sort of thing into the ground, but the reality is that Johnson is a disgruntled receiver on a team that has two other capable wideouts in T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry. CJ is under contract through 2010 (with a team option for 2011), a deal that he signed less than two years ago. Odds are that this one won't end pretty, though Cincinnati could deal Johnson to land picks that, in turn, could help improve the team's dismal defensive line.


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