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Here are five things that caught my interest this week:
FAB 1. Did the Buccaneers handle the release of legendary linebacker Derrick Brooks the right way? Of course not, but the truth is that there is no good way to release a team icon, is there?
The ideal scenario is to have the player want to retire when the team wants him to retire. Then everybody – including the fans – can be happy.
But that doesn’t happen in the NFL. Joe Namath ended his career playing for the Los Angeles Rams. Joe Montana’s playing days came to an end in Kansas City. Tony Dorsett’s final carries occurred in Denver. Thurman Thomas – one of the best Buffalo Bills of all time – ended his career in Miami of all places. Last year we saw Brett Favre change shades of green and go from Green Bay to a forgettable season with the New York Jets.
In Tampa Bay, we’ve seen Hardy Nickerson as a Jaguar and a Packer. We’ve seen Warren Sapp as a Raider and John Lynch as a Bronco. We should be used to this by now, but it’s hard letting go of legends, especially when they are the best player to ever suit up for the franchise.
That was the case with Brooks, whose popularity with fans and good deeds for the Buccaneers eclipsed Lee Roy Selmon and Sapp. Should Brooks have gotten the chance to retire as a Buccaneer, especially with one year left on his contract? In a perfect world, yes, but we don’t live in a perfect world.
I still believe that Bucs fans aren’t used to this. There simply haven’t been enough great players in this once-sorry franchise’s history for fans to truly latch on to. I’ve got some news for you, Bucs fans. Welcome to the cold-hearted world of the NFL and get used to it.
The same thing that happened to Brooks is going to happen to Ronde Barber, probably next year after this team signs or drafts his replacement. It will also happen to the next great players you fall in love with, perhaps it’s Barrett Ruud a decade from now. Maybe it’s Aqib Talib a dozen years from now.
Brooks’ release hurts because he was a Walter Payton Man of the Year winner and a Byron “Whizzer” White Award winner for all of the charitable deeds he has done in the Tampa Bay community. Brooks’ release hurts because was never arrested and never embarrassed the franchise. He was the leader, the constant, the heartbeat of the Buccaneers.
Brooks’ release hurts even more because it was unexpected, especially coming off a Pro Bowl season. But stop and remember the day when the Pro Bowl players were announced last December. You were surprised that Brooks’ name was mentioned and Ruud’s wasn’t. I know I was. Let’s be real. Brooks had a good year last year, but not a great one. All year long, he was the second-best linebacker on the team behind Ruud.
In the final four games of the season, Brooks was injured with a rib injury and a pulled hamstring, which forced him to miss the Pro Bowl. Brooks should have missed the season finale against Oakland. He had no business being on that field due to his injuries and his play actually hurt the Bucs’ chances of winning. Monte Kiffin or Jon Gruden should have had the guts to sit him down, but it’s hard to tell the franchise player that he can’t play.
And it would have even been harder to do this year under new head coach Raheem Morris. How do you think Brooks would have handled being benched in 2009? Probably with class, knowing Derrick, but that would have been almost as painful as cutting him was on Wednesday. As new general manager Mark Dominik said at his press conference, it’s hard to envision Brooks wearing a cap on Sunday rather than a helmet.
Trust me when I tell you that there were a few at One Buccaneer Place who were actually mad that Brooks decided to play against Oakland and feel he did so for the selfish reason of extending his consecutive starts streak to 221 games. That is a very important stat for Brooks. But sadly, that Raiders game, which was not Brooks’ finest hour, will be his last as a Buccaneer.
My last memory of Brooks will be watching as an injured bystander while Michael Bush raced 67 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that allowed the Raiders to re-claim the lead. A younger, healthier Brooks would have made the tackle and saved the day. But when he turns 36 in April, Brooks will no longer be young by NFL standards, and that makes him more susceptible to injury.
While that may be my last memory of Brooks as a Buccaneer, it will be buried behind a myriad of superstar plays he made between 1995-2008. Brooks was a superstar and he had more highlights in the 2002 season alone when he was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year than some Pro Bowl linebackers have in their entire career.
Yes, Brooks deserved better, but just know that’s not how the NFL works. Johnny Unitas wound up in San Diego. Jerry Rice wound up in Oakland, Seattle and Denver. Art Monk’s career whimpered out with the Jets and the Eagles. It was time for him to go and sad to see, but this new regime has a plan and Brooks simply wasn’t part of it. Releasing Brooks, along with linebacker Cato June, wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard and running back Warrick Dunn now instead of waiting until training camp when was the right thing to do. It allows those great Buccaneers the right chance to latch on to another team at the right time.
What Brooks should have done is retire yesterday. It would have saved the organization, Brooks and the fans a lot of grief. But it’s hard for the great ones to let the game go. The reality is that Brooks has lost his elite speed, which is what made him special. His body is starting to break down and he is no longer a great player. That’s what Dominik and Morris saw on film from the 2008 season, and as they say in the NFL, the eye in the sky doesn’t lie.
FAB 2. So what is the team’s plan? What kind of plan could new general manager Mark Dominik and new head coach Raheem Morris possibly have that does not include franchise linebacker Derrick Brooks?
After talking with a myriad of sources yesterday, the Bucs wanted to get younger and faster, especially on defense. Brooks is neither younger nor faster than the likes of Baltimore’s Bart Scott, Atlanta’s Michael Boley and New Orleans’ Jonathan Vilma. Pewter Report has learned that the Bucs will target Vilma vigorously when free agency begins at midnight on February 27.
Tampa Bay has been interested in Vilma since the 2004 season and would have made him the franchise’s first-round pick instead of wide receiver Michael Clayton with the 15th selection if the Jets hadn’t drafted him with the 12th overall pick. The Jets traded Vilma to the Saints last year, but New Orleans did not re-sign the 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker due to a stipulation in the trade.
If the Saints were to re-sign Vilma before he hit free agency, New Orleans would have surrendered to New York its second-round pick to the Jets instead of a conditional fourth-round pick. That would have set off a chain-reaction in another trade involving tight end Jeremy Shockey with the New York Jets that involved the Saints’ second-rounder. Had Vilma re-signed, the Jets would have owned the Saints’ second-round selection. Without another second-round pick to give up, the Giants would have claimed New Orleans’ first-round pick.
Because of the stipulation in the trade over the fact that Vilma did not re-sign, the Saints now must ship their third-round pick to the Jets, who will send their fourth-rounder to New Orleans per terms of the deal.
Perhaps the Saints did the wise thing in protecting their first-round pick by not re-signing Vilma before he hits free agency, but they will expose him to the Buccaneers and other teams in the NFL at midnight on February 27. While reports out of New Orleans state that the team believes it can re-sign him, Tampa Bay will put on a full court press to steal him away from a divisional rival in the opening minutes of free agency.
Vilma has only missed nine games in his five-year NFL career, those coming during the 2007 season when he suffered a knee injury. Of the 71 games he’s played in, Vilma has started 69 of those contests. Vilma had a great year for the Saints, recording 132 tackles, according to NFL.com, along with two forced fumbles, one sack and one interception. Vilma has 465 tackles, 25 passes defensed, seven forced fumbles, seven interceptions and 3.5 sacks in his career.
The reason why Brooks is no longer part of the Bucs’ plan is because luring Vilma – or any top linebacker in free agency – to Tampa Bay is much more difficult with Mr. Buccaneer on the roster. A player like Vilma would be seen as an unpopular usurper by the fans if he comes to town, beats out Brooks and forces him to the bench. That’s not fair to Vilma and it’s not fair to Brooks, either.
The Bucs’ plan at linebacker is to flank Barrett Ruud with young, age-comparable players to grow with. The emphasis is on speed and striking ability, and those are traits that Vilma, a former middle linebacker who would play outside linebacker in Tampa Bay, has. Should the Bucs land Vilma, they will allow Geno Hayes, Quincy Black and Adam Hayward – all former Tampa Bay draft picks – to compete for the other linebacker position. If Brooks had remained in Tampa Bay, it would have been more difficult to have an open competition with those younger players, and it would have been more difficult for a player like Brooks to ride out his final NFL season on the bench.
If the 26-year old Vilma can’t be convinced to come to Tampa Bay, they may be some interest in Boley and perhaps Scott in free agency, but the team is comfortable with its younger players getting the chance to start alongside Ruud if it strikes out at linebacker in free agency.
Tampa Bay wants to get more physical players on defense. The plan is to become a tough, intimidating defense like the units found in Tennessee, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. While Brooks could still be considered a hard-hitter and a good tackler, his strength was never in shedding blocks and being overly physical at the point of attack. As a weakside linebacker, the Tampa 2 defense was crafted to free up Brooks to flow to the ball and make tackles in pursuit. Brooks and strongside linebacker Cato June were primarily known as coverage linebackers who operated extremely well in space.
Jim Bates’ defense will change the run fits for the Bucs linebackers and he will ask them to blitz more, which is not the strong suit of either Brooks or June. Brooks had 25 interceptions during the regular season, but only 13.5 sacks in his 14-year career, and hasn’t recorded a quarterback capture since 2005. In his six years in the NFL, June has only sack, but 12 interceptions during the regular season.
Because of their age and the types of players they are, Morris and Dominik wanted to go in a different direction in this different defense. In his prime, Brooks may have been a candidate to stay, but he is no longer in his prime. June is not viewed to be as physical as Hayes, Black and Hayward are – and he’s simply not in Vilma’s class, either.
There was a side to Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen that wanted to let Brooks go last year and land free agent linebacker Lance Briggs. They came close to doing it for the same reasons why Morris and Dominik ultimately did it on Wednesday. It was time. Brooks was no longer part of the Bucs’ plan.
FAB 3. If you read Peter King’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback column and are concerned that the Buccaneers won’t be targeting Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the top free agent this year, based upon King’s read on Bucs general manager Mark Dominik during their sit-down interview – let not your heart be troubled. The Bucs are interested in Haynesworth and are expected to make a run at the 6-foot-6, 325-pound run-stuffing, quarterback-sacking machine.
Does that mean the Bucs will over-pay Haynesworth if the bidding between Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Washington goes overboard? No. I doubt Dominik will have the stomach to make Haynesworth the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL with a deal that averages $16 million per season, and he wouldn’t mind seeing Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen keep that distinction.
Dominik is one of the nicest and most genuine people you’ll ever meet, but he’s also been around two of the league’s top poker-faced general managers in Rich McKay and Bruce Allen and he’s learned from the best as far as putting on a poker face.
McKay used to spoon-feed reporters info all the time – so much so that it became almost impossible to know what was good information and what was bad information. Brandishing his trademark smile, McKay was famous for talking up the likes of underachieving wide receivers Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green in the offseasons of 1999 and 2000, proclaiming that both receivers had finally turned the corner and were on the verge of becoming standouts in the league. He was a good salesperson.
Dominik can fib through a smile, too, and that’s exactly what I think he did with King. And when it came to Allen, he never used to dish out info to reporters like McKay did. Like Allen, Dominik certainly doesn’t have loose lips when it comes to the media, either, and issued a gag order to all Bucs personnel halfway through Senior Bowl week. That was a very Allen-esque move by the new, 37-year old general manager.
Dominik also has the grit of both McKay and Allen, too, evidenced by his dismissal of linebackers Derrick Brooks and Cato June, wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard and running back Warrick Dunn. McKay made some tough salary cap maneuvers in cutting popular nose tackle Brad Culpepper and not re-signing linebacker Hardy Nickerson and Dunn back in 2002. Allen made waves by cutting fan favorite John Lynch and not re-signing defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
Something is definitely going on with regards to the Bucs’ interest in Haynesworth. Within the last 72 hours, Dominik has convinced King that the Bucs won’t be players for his services, and some of Pewter Report’s sources have suddenly downplayed Tampa Bay’s interest in Haynesworth as well. Yet others have told Pewter Report that it is full speed ahead for Haynesworth.
Is this Dominik’s attempt at trying to drive down the price for the mammoth defensive tackle, or are the reports that the Redskins will be signing Haynesworth true and Tampa Bay is simply trying to drive down fan expectations?
We’ll find out in a matter of days, but one thing I can tell you for sure is that whether the Bucs do or do not get Haynesworth, they aren’t expected to make many big splashes in free agency outside of targeting linebacker Jonathan Vilma. They have already re-signed defensive tackle Ryan Sims and quarterback Luke McCown, in addition to locking up their top free agent in wide receiver Antonio Bryant with the franchise tag. Those are pretty big moves themselves, although they aren’t sexy moves because re-signing a team’s own players never registers the excitement with fans that bringing in new players does.
Outside of Haynesworth, Vilma and maybe re-signing cornerback Phillip Buchanon, expect more signings along the lines of tight end John Gilmore and defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson from a year ago, and fullback B.J. Askew from two years ago. In other words, Dominik will be targeting some unheralded guys on the cheap like the Bucs have for years under Allen. That’s worked out well in the past as the aforementioned players, along with Bryant and tight end Jerramy Stevens have been very productive Buccaneers.
So what do I think about Haynesworth? I think the Bucs should go after him for a myriad of reasons. Yes, he’s gotten into some trouble with some character issues in the not so distant past, but he fits a huge need on this team, and because of his size, Haynesworth would be a much better fit this year in Jim Bates new defense, which puts an emphasis on big defensive tackles, than he would have in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 scheme.
The 27-year old Haynesworth is in his prime and would instantly make Tampa Bay’s younger defensive stars ascend quicker. Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud would be free to roll up 200-plus tackles per year on running downs and defensive end Gaines Adams would benefit from having an inside force flush the quarterback to his side and pile up the sacks on passing downs.
With $64.2 million in cap room, the Bucs have the money to spend on Haynesworth and can certainly afford him. How often do Pro Bowl defensive tackles hit the open market? Not going after the best free agent on the market in a year when the Bucs have the most cap room would be almost unforgiveable in the eyes of Tampa Bay fans, and would further reinforce the conspiracies that the Glazers simply aren’t spending money on the team because they don’t have the cash or they would rather spend it on their Manchester United soccer club across the pond.
Aside from the impact he would have on his teammates and in the Bucs’ new 4-3 scheme, the addition of Haynesworth would ignite fan interest, which is crucial to helping the Glazers fill the stadium on Sundays, and help ease the loss of Brooks. Tampa Bay’s 100,000-person waiting list for season tickets is long gone and the product on the field had grown stale without a star-studded roster. Haynesworth would bring star power to Tampa Bay.
Yes, it’s been a while, but the Glazers know the value of a good splash signing in free agency, and aren’t afraid to take some risks (see Alvin Harper, Jackie Harris, Bert Emanuel, the trade for Keyshawn Johnson, and the addition of Brad Johnson and Simeon Rice). With a veteran defensive coordinator in Bates and team leaders like Ruud, Ronde Barber and Chris Hovan still under contract, they could help minimize any risks that Haynesworth might present.
Yes, King made it sound like Dominik wasn’t too interested in Haynesworth, but I think he was simply telling himself that because he believes the notion that Haynesworth is bound for Washington just because he spotted his agent, Chad Speck, out with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
Speck even came out and denied the report in the Houston Chronicle that said that Haynesworth was all but signed, sealed and delivered to the Redskins. One trusted NFL source told me that he did not think Haynesworth would be a Redskin at 12:01 a.m. on Friday morning. Instead, he says Haynesworth going on some visits with teams and letting his price elevate over a couple of days.
I’m not guaranteeing that Haynesworth will be in red and pewter, but I’m not ready to believe that’s assuredly a Redskin, either. I think Dominik is playing it cool right now and will throw his hat in the ring on Friday.
FAB 4. You might be asking yourself, how in the world do the Buccaneers have close to $65 million in salary cap room – even after the re-signings of defensive tackle Ryan Sims, quarterback Luke McCown and placing the franchise tag worth $9.884 million on wide receiver Antonio Bryant?
Of course, the Bucs shaved off an additional $12 million off their books on Wednesday by parting ways with linebackers Derrick Brooks ($3 million) and Cato June ($3 million, including a $2 million roster bonus), wide receivers Joey Galloway ($2.25 million, including a $225,000 roster bonus) and Ike Hilliard ($1.25 million, including a $225,000 roster bonus) and running back Warrick Dunn ($2.5 million, including a $500,000 roster bonus). The Bucs will take a cap hit of $3,526,666 from residual signing bonus money from those five contracts, giving the team a net gain of $8,473,334 in cap room.
Pewter Report – along with other media outlets – has been reporting the fact that the Bucs had $45 million in cap room this offseason. But we learned that the number former general manager Bruce Allen threw out in the media did not take into consideration the 2009 cap increase and tens of millions of cap rollover money from 2008. It was previously believed that the cap rollover money was a part of the $45 million.
Also, in the offseason, only the salaries of the top 51 players count against the salary cap, which essentially shaves off another million because Tampa Bay currently has 55 players under contract.
Factoring in the rollover cap room from 2008, which was done in the form of unawarded likely to be earned incentives (LTBEs) from a year ago, the Buccaneers’ adjusted salary cap for 2009 was $148.6 million. It is now $152.6 million due to the latest cap adjustment by the NFL just prior to the start of free agency.
The 2009 salary cap for teams that do not have any cap rollover is now $127 million. The Bucs have $21.6 million in extra cap room from most other teams because of the rollover from 2008.
So what does all this mean? It means that as of right now, the Bucs have approximately $64.2 million in cap room, which is a ton. Before franchising Bryant and re-signing McCown and Sims, Tampa Bay still had cap room upwards of $70 million.
Having $64.2 million in cap room affords Bucs general manager Mark Dominik the ability to go pay Albert Haynesworth $10 million per year or so and still have money to fill some other holes and start extending the contracts of players like middle linebacker Barrett Ruud and Pro Bowl right guard Davin Joseph.
Heading into free agency, here were the Bucs’ top 20 highest-paid players in terms of salary cap value in 2009 before the release of Brooks, Dunn, June and Galloway (Hilliard was not in the top 20):
1. WR Antonio Bryant $9,884,000
2. C Jeff Faine $8,000,000
3. RB Cadillac Williams $4,574,000
4. DT Chris Hovan $4,300,000
5. CB Ronde Barber $3,950,000
6. DE Gaines Adams $3,836,250
7. LB Derrick Brooks $3,750,000
7. QB Luke McCown $3,750,000
9. LB Cato June $3,666,668
10. WR Joey Galloway $3,535,000
11. C-G Sean Mahan $3,175,000
12. RB Warrick Dunn $3,000,000
13. RB Earnest Graham $2,500,000
14. QB Brian Griese $2,150,000
15. DE Stylez G. White $2,130,613
16. DL Jimmy Wilkerson $1,900,000
17. DT Ryan Sims $1,812,500
18. TE Alex Smith $1,743,000
19. G Davin Joseph $1,705,000
20. K Matt Bryant $1,500,000
With those four high-priced players removed, here is the Bucs’ current top 20 players in terms of cap value:
1. WR Antonio Bryant $9,884,000
2. C Jeff Faine $8,000,000
3. RB Cadillac Williams $4,574,000
4. DT Chris Hovan $4,300,000
5. CB Ronde Barber $3,950,000
6. DE Gaines Adams $3,836,250
7. QB Luke McCown $3,750,000
8. C-G Sean Mahan $3,175,000
9. RB Earnest Graham $2,500,000
10. QB Brian Griese $2,150,000
11. DE Stylez G. White $2,130,613
12. DL Jimmy Wilkerson $1,900,000
13. DT Ryan Sims $1,812,500
14. TE Alex Smith $1,743,000
15. G Davin Joseph $1,705,000
16. K Matt Bryant $1,500,000
17. CB Aqib Talib $1,481,250
18. P Josh Bidwell $1,400,000
19. TE John Gilmore $1,333,333
20. LB Barrett Ruud $1,074,000*
*The dead cap room for offensive tackle Luke Petitgout, who was released last year, is $1,125,000 and accelerates into 2009’s salary cap. Technically, he has the Bucs’ 20th-highest cap value in 2009.
It’s notable that the top three players are all on the offensive side of the ball, and that the offense and defense were split five-to-five in the top 10 in the first list, but now the offense has seven players in the top 10. Expect that to change in free agency if the Bucs land defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and possibly linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
However, the one salary cap value that sticks out like a sore thumb belongs to backup center-guard Sean Mahan, who will hit Tampa Bay’s cap for $3.175 million in 2009, making him the 11th-highest paid Buccaneer in terms of cap value. The reason why it is so high is because the Bucs traded for him last year and acquired his big contract that he signed with Pittsburgh back in 2007. Something tells me that Mahan either takes a pay cut or he’s not on the team in 2009.
FAB 5. Here are some things to hold you over until the next installment of SR’s Fab 5:
• I don’t have a name for you, but apparently the Buccaneers are close to hiring a dedicated salary cap guy to replace former senior assistant Kevin Demoff, who left a few weeks ago to take over as the chief operating officer and executive vice president of football operations for the St. Louis Rams. Expect an announcement any time, and it’s possible the hire has already occurred prior to the start of free agency on Friday, February 27.
• In addition to linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, a couple free agents to keep an eye come Friday include Pittsburgh wide receiver Nate Washington, Pittsburgh cornerback Bryant McFadden and Chicago defensive back Brandon McGowan. If McGowan is to be targeted, expect tight end John Gilmore and head coach Raheem Morris to take the lead in recruiting him. Gilmore played with McGowan with the Bears and Morris is from New Jersey. Why is Morris’ home state relative? Because the 5-foot-11, 205-pound McGowan is from Jersey City, New Jersey. McGowan beat out Ricky Manning, Jr. as the Bears’ nickel back last year before landing on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He is viewed as a more athletic version of Bucs free agent Will Allen, and McGowan would be expected to compete as a dime corner and a backup safety in addition to being a mainstay on special teams.
• I could be wrong, but I have a funny feeling that the market that Bucs free agent wide receiver Michael Clayton thinks will be there for his services will not materialize. Clayton is hoping to get Bernard Berrian-type money ($7 million per year), but his lack of production (two touchdowns since his rookie season in 2004) and injury history will come back to haunt him. Plus, Clayton is more of a possession-type receiver and lacks the blazing speed that Berrian has. I’m not sure if Clayton returns to Tampa Bay or not, but I would be surprised if he got a deal that averaged more than $4 million per year – and even that may be hard for him to fetch. We’ll see. The chances of him returning to Tampa Bay increased with the departure of Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard.
• The reason why Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard were released along with the likes of running back Warrick Dunn and linebackers Derrick Brooks and Cato June is because Raheem Morris wants to run a real physical training camp and will not be giving older players days off to rest like Jon Gruden did in the past. There will be no preferential treatment given to players like Galloway any more. The 36-year old Galloway used to have every Wednesday off to rest his legs and that rubbed some of his teammates the wrong way. Galloway was viewed by some as a prima donna. There won’t be any prima donnas in Morris’ locker room. Morris and new general manager Mark Dominik did not feel as if aging players like Galloway, Hilliard, Dunn and Brooks, who are all over the age of 32, could hold up to the rigors of training camp and not emerge without injury or fatigue due to their injury histories. You know what the saying is, the NFL is a young man’s game.
• Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was an NFL Scouting Combine analyst for NFL Network this week and had an interesting statement while watching wide receivers run the gauntlet drill that might be perceived as a jab at Tampa Bay wide receivers Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall. “Every time I see one of those 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 wide receivers I ask myself, ‘Who in the NFL plays at 6-4, 6-5 or taller made it?’ There just haven’t been a lot of those guys make it,” Gruden said. “I won a Super Bowl with some big guys at wide receiver in Keyshawn Johnson and Joe Jurevicius, but you don’t see many 6-foot-5 guys in the league right now.” There is some truth to what Gruden is saying, and Clayton and Stovall haven’t lit it up for the Bucs over the last couple years. But it also has to be perceived as a shot at Gruden himself because he played a role in drafting both Buccaneers.
• One of the players Pewter Report likes is Kentucky safety Marcus McClinton, who is an outspoken player with great leadership qualities. Check out this pre-game rap called “I Believe” on YouTube. While McClinton is viewed as a leader, he isn’t without some warts on his character. He was suspended at the start of the 2007 season after being charged with wanton endangerment for setting off homemade explosives in March before pleading guilty to a second-degree disorderly conduct charge, according to NFLDraftScout.com. The explosives were made of dry ice that was inserted into bottles of water. McClinton suffered minor injuries to his hand when one bottled exploded while he was holding it. I’m sure NFL scouts will scrutinize this mishap and will likely chalk it up to a college kid being stupid and goofing off rather than McClinton practicing to join Al Qaeda. Pewter Report has McClinton going to the Bucs in its 7-round mock draft. The Kentucky star has picked off 10 passes and forced six fumbles in his Wildcats career.
• I’ve watched a lot of game tape on Ohio State running back Chris “Beanie” Wells, Iowa’s Shonn Green and Georgia’ Knowshon Moreno. I’m not enamored with any of them and don’t think any of them justify drafting in the first round. Green is a power back, but lacks good speed. Wells is a productive back when healthy, but I just don’t get the sense that he will be a good NFL back for some reason. He runs upright and doesn’t have any suddenness about him. I think he’s a good college running back, but his running style reminds me too much of Cedric Benson, who has been a flop in the NFL. I think Moreno is a slower, healthier version of Cadillac Williams. He really hurt his stock by not cracking a 4.6 at the NFL Scouting Combine. Like Wells, I think Moreno is a good college back, but he’s not special. Time will tell if I’m right or wrong.
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