Work plows on in NFL offseason
By Adam Schefter
Special to NFL.com
INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 27, 2005) -- Soon enough, we will find out how good of a general manager Cleveland's newly-hired Phil Savage is.
But the man knows a good sentence the way he knows how to land one of these frontline, front-office jobs.
Savage delivered the single smartest line in combine history this week. It is a phrase that can be used to describe what goes on during the NFL offseason when teams say they like one player and draft another, or emerge out of nowhere to sign a player like the Bears did with Pro Bowl wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad.
Describing this time of year, Savage said, "The fog of confusion starts now."
Now if Savage can be as smart with the third pick in the draft ...
BEHIND THE CURTAIN
At the scouting combine, newspaper and TV reporters are not allowed behind the curtain to watch the players' individual workout drills. But employees of the NFL Network are.
So for the first time in my dozen or so years coming to the combine, I stood off to the side and watched the drills that the NFL Network aired this weekend.
Here were some things that jumped right out:
Raiders owner Al Davis and Cowboys coach Bill Parcells sitting next to each other in the RCA Dome stands.
Auburn running back Ronnie Brown is explosive. Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett is not. Brown is a surefire top five pick; Clarett will be fortunate to go by the fifth round.
Tennessee offensive tackle Michael Munoz already is a household name in this draft with team officials, but only because of his Hall of Fame father, Anthony.
Baltimore's Brian Billick had to be the hippest, coolest, most entertained head coach in the crowd. As he watched drills this weekend, Billick listened to his iPod.
He probably will ignore the advice, but there's no reason for Utah quarterback Alex Smith -- bound to be a top five pick -- to hire an agent. He should just do it himself.
Smith graduated Utah in two years with a degree in economics. Now he is getting his masters in economics. And everybody knew he already had football smarts. His uncle is Michigan State head coach John Smith.
Over the years, USC has put out a whole bunch of charismatic players -- Marcus Allen, Junior Seau, Keyshawn Johnson, to name a few.
Mike Williams has what it takes to be a star off the field, but what about on the field?
But there aren't too many players coming out of USC that are any more impressive -- as a person -- than wide receiver Mike Williams. The guy has "star" written all over him. He handles questions with grace and ้lan. He is personable. He is a star waiting to happen.
And my guess is, teams know it. It will be hard to believe if Williams slides anywhere below pick No. 7.
At pick No. 6, Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher is a USC grad and the Titans offensive coordinator is Norm Chow, who recently left USC.
At pick No. 7, Minnesota head coach Mike Tice already has discussed how Williams would feel about filling Randy Moss' Reeboks.
So anyone as desperate for Williams as I would be needs to trade up to at least No. 5 to get him.
GENTLEMEN, START YOUR CHECKBOOKS
Get ready for some huge, HUGE money that is going to be shelled out to free-agent cornerbacks.
Recently-released cornerback Samari Rolle from the Titans is going to sign a deal that includes a signing bonus of $12-$15 million, and is worth anywhere from $24-$26 million over the first three years of the deal.
Ravens free-agent corner Gary Baxter already has turned down a $10 million signing bonus from Baltimore.
Browns free-agent cornerback Anthony Henry is going to get at least a $10 million signing bonus.
And if recently-released cornerback Ty Law is healthy, watch out. Some team such as the Chiefs or Colts is going to pay him big dollars for the big task of trying to knock off the Patriots.
Suddenly, the one-year, $10.5 million tender that Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson signed looks like a bargain.
MORE WORDS ON MAURICE
Amazing how quickly Clarett could turn into a sympathetic figure. But that's exactly what he was this weekend.
After he ran the 40-yard dash and unofficially clocked in at a tremendously disappointing 4.83 seconds, he kept his word and showed up on the Total Access set for his only post-workout interview.
Anyone who watched Clarett could see how distressed he was. Anyone watching him actually felt bad for him. Really.
Suddenly it was up to Total Access host Rich Eisen and his co-host Terrell Davis to comfort Clarett and tell him his NFL career was just starting, not ending. They did their best, though it would have been tough for anybody to serve up the soothing words that Clarett needed to hear.
But for the first time, Total Access seemed more like Oprah than anything else.
A NICE, QUIET OFFSEASON
Once again, the NFL has proven the offseason is the busy season. On Wednesday, word leaks that the Vikings are trading all-world wide receiver Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders for linebacker Napoleon Harris, plus a first- and seventh-round pick.
On Thursday, on the first day official day of the scouting combine in Indianapolis, running back Maurice Clarett holds the most heavily attended press conference in combine history.
On Friday, the Seahawks release all-time great wide receiver Jerry Rice, the Panthers release Pro Bowl wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, and the Patriots release their all-time leading interceptor, Ty Law.
On Saturday, Muhammad reaches agreement with the Bears on a six-year, $30 million contract that includes a $12.5 million signing bonus and $16 million in the first three years of the deal. The Raiders get serious about trading cornerback Charles Woodson. Recently-released quarterback Jeff Garcia meets with the Lions.
On Sunday, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis agreed to return to Pittsburgh for another season, and quarterbacks and wide receivers performed in the combine's most intriguing day.
On Monday and Tuesday, while the combine is wrapping up, teams are going to start slashing players from their roster in an effort to get under the salary cap.
On Wednesday, in what is usually one of the busiest offseason days, the free-agent signing period opens.
And people wonder how the NFL Network's signature show, Total Access, comes up with programming?
People regularly ask me, "What do you do during the NFL offseason?" That's really funny when you think about it. The offseason is the busy season. There are coaches hired, coaches fired; players coming, players going; the combine, free agency, the owners meetings, the draft, minicamps and training camps, all before the season kicks off all over again.
Somebody tell me when the offseason begins. We already know when the fog of confusion does.
Adam Schefter's commentaries can be seen on Tuesday night's NFL Total Access show on NFL Network. Schefter's around-the-league information reports air Mondays and Fridays.