Massive mailbag: Clear some time

D. A. Wade from Orlando writes: Assuming the NFL CBA issue doesn't resolve before the draft in April, how does a team determine its draft needs? Do NFL teams operate on the assumption that all free agents will be lost, or do they assume the free agents will be retained, or is it a case-by-case basis? Or do teams draft without regard to their needs? Thanks for the insight.

Paul Kuharsky: I would think they‘d expect there will be some form of free agency at some point.

So it’ll be an interesting flip -- for years if you didn’t get something in free agency, you’d say, “Well, we address it in the draft.” Now you’ll say, “If we didn’t get it in the draft, we can get it in free agency.”

The wrench this time is a team may not have worked real hard to retain its own guys in February because it didn’t want to give out bonuses heading toward a lockout.

But in a league where more and more of the quality programs are draft builders, it almost seems to make more sense with the draft first, particularly if those salaries are in line to wind up more manageable.

I think bad, panicky teams will panic and force need in the draft, while better non-panicky teams won’t, and will get even better.

Cory from Denver writes: If there is a lockout and the NFL season is lost, what happens to Indianapolis hosting the Super Bowl? Do they host the following year or lose out completely? Thanks.

Paul Kuharsky: Can’t take away New Orleans’ Super Bowl in 2013 or NY/NJ’s in 2014. Presumably Indy would go to the back of the line and get the game played in 2015.

But the season won’t be lost. Players won’t be able to hold out that long.

Jim in Greenville, S.C., writes: With the draft so full of DTs in the first 2 rounds, could you see the Titans going to a 3-4 by taking someone like Marcell Dareus in the first and Drake Nevis (LSU) in the second or is it far more complicated than that? I'd love to see Jason Jones on the outside of a 3-4. Would he fit there? Would he stay healthier in that rather than the current circumstance?

Paul Kuharsky: It’s amazing how many people like to suggest the Titans should go to a 3-4. Even if they intend to go bigger at defensive end and part with Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Jacob Ford, all free agents, they still have some of their best players on the defensive line -- Jones, Derrick Morgan, William Hayes. Their three linebackers last year were unproductive, and Stephen Tulloch is a free agent to be. So you want a team with two starting linebackers who were unproductive, Gerald McRath and Will Witherspoon, to change to a defense that calls for more linebackers? I’m not following the logic no matter who they can draft. It’s a two-year transition minimum, and they’ve got personnel that can be effective in a better 4-3.

Jeff in Nashville writes: Are we going to get a follow-up article to your "Cocky Mallett..." article that details how impressively he threw the ball today? His on field performance has garnered rave reviews across the board and one person even said it was the best QB performance at the combine in the last 10 years. When should we expect that article?

Paul Kuharsky: So defensive. Are you related to him or just a passionate Arkansas fan? Apparently you stopped paying attention right after you read the entry you didn’t like.

Here’s a piece I did less than 24 hours later on how the interviews can be over-interpreted. Did you also miss this one highlighting Mallett’s workout?

Also you do know that he SHOULD dominate a workout with no defenders or decision-making involved, right?

Chris in Phoenix writes: What are the odds that the Colts look into the recently released Tommie Harris since both Antonio Johnson and Dan Muir are currently FA's as well? I would also like to know your thoughts on the impact he would have with his unique speed at the defensive tackle position playing alongside Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t think the Colts are in a panic over the contract status of Daniel Muir or Antonio Johnson. I could see the Colts drafting a guy to be a front-liner with Fili Moala.

I would have been very surprised to see the Colts active cutting players before free agency.

Logan in Duluth, Minn., writes: In regards to the NFL schedule length, I was wondering why they have to have either 16 or 18 games. Would it not possible to drop two preseason games and add one regular season game? Is it because of playoff tie breakers?

Paul Kuharsky: An odd number of games is sloppy. Then some teams have an extra home game, others have one fewer. How does that affect competitive balance as teams vie for the same division crown or playoff berth?

And they would never drop two preseason to add one regular season. They have to have the same number of total gates or more, otherwise they are giving up money and they won’t be doing that.

Titansfan from Dover, Del., writes: What is the situation with Chris Johnson's contract?

Paul Kuharsky: He’s under contract. They can’t talk about an extension until July, presuming a new CBA is in place by then. A player/team can’t renegotiate the same deal twice inside a year.

Jesse in Muncie, Ind., writes: I am trying to find the complete draft order, but I can only get the first round. Are all seven rounds not yet determined? If that's the case, when will they be set?

Paul Kuharsky: Three rounds are set. Compensatory selections are announced in late March, and they start at the end of the third round and are tacked on to the end of every round after that. That’s why there isn’t a seven-round order yet.

Brent H. at Columbia, Tenn., writes: With the Broncos turning to Kyle Orton as the starter to open camp, could the Titans target Tim Tebow as a possible trade candidate as the QB of the future? He may not have the skills to be the answer immediately, but will be as ready as any rookie QB that we draft, and possesses great intangibles and leadership that the Titans have lacked from their QB position in the past (see Vince Young).

Paul Kuharsky: The Broncos have no idea who will start. John Fox and his staff have not been on the field with those guys. It doesn’t matter what they say right now.

If the Titans scouts weren’t high on Tebow a year ago, why are the high on him now?

They don’t need a quarterback with physical gifts OR with intangibles. They need one with both. Who cares if Tebow can lead if he can’t throw?

Jwill25 from Columbia, S.C., writes: Now that it seems like the Raiders will not be able to sign Nnamdi Asomugha, would it make since for the Colts to cut Kelvin Hayden? Hayden is scheduled to make a little over $9 million next season and for $4-5 million more we can get a top-notch cornerback in his prime that can hold up a hold season. Not to mention the numbers he produces turnover-wise is worth that much alone. I really believe he could do for us what Charles Woodson does for Green Bay. What are your thoughts?

Paul Kuharsky: That’s not what Hayden is scheduled to make, it’s what he’ll count against the cap. He’s scheduled to make $6.015 million. Asomugha will cost a lot more than that.

And Jim Irsay has publicly said they won’t chase Asomugha. So that basically ends that.

Jonathan in Nashville writes: Chris Johnson Trade!?!?I happened to catch the tail-end of a conversation on XM Radio this morning that the Titans were going to "Shop" CJ around for a QB trade, is this true and if so why would they give up their best offensive player?

Paul Kuharsky: Not true. If it was true, why would the team be talking about it?

A top three running back is not worth a top 10 or 15 quarterback. Who’s trading a good quarterback for a good running back, when the rushing champ was undrafted and the good quarterbacks are almost all high picks?

Drew from Richmond, Va., writes: Any info on this DeMario Pressley? I mean from what I can put together he is essentially a second year player when it comes to playing time who has not proven that he is a playmaker much less a starter. The Colts already have six men listed at defensive tackle. Can we expect a few guys getting cut off that list, and how did this guy grab attention when there are bigger names on the market at that position? I agree that the Colts need to strengthen the run defense and start with the middle of the line but is this guy close to an answer?

Paul Kuharsky: I wouldn’t get excited about Houston’s toss-offs. Maybe he’s a serviceable, back-of-the-rotation guy.

Claiming a guy off waivers is a much cheaper and lower-risk option than signing Shaun Rogers or Tommie Harris or Marcus Stroud. They never said Pressley is a big answer. Such an addition means they think he’s worth bringing in and working with. He could easily be cut two weeks after coaches get to know him. Having him means nothing about their willingness to draft or look at a free agent later.

That said, don’t get caught up in big names. Did you know a lot about Antoine Bethea before they brought him in? Robert Mathis? Jerraud Powers?

Joe in Murfreesburo, Tenn., writes: Mel Kiper Jr. has the Titans taking a DE at #8 in the draft. I don't know if Mel remembers, but the Titans are fine at defensive end. They don't need to re-sign Jason Babin. In fact, they might be better off avoiding a big deal if it turns out he was just a one-year wonder. Derrick Morgan will be back, and he will be ready to go with Dave Ball OR Babin on the other side. Either way, they have much bigger needs than to draft another defensive end, when they will basically have a first-round rookie in Morgan next year. Talk some sense into the man Paul, we need a QB.

Paul Kuharsky: Of course they need a quarterback. But if they don’t like an option they have at No. 8, they’d be dumb to force it.

Babin, Ball and Ford are all en route to unrestricted free agency, they are all undersized and they all faded down the stretch. There is great defensive end talent high in this draft and the Titans have indicated they’d like to have more well-rounded, sturdy guys at the spot.

I’d have no problem with the Titans taking an end to go with Morgan and Hayes. A sustained pass rush that can defend the runs makes everyone better -- including a second-round quarterback.

Jarell from Atlanta by way of Gary, Ind., writes: I read a piece you linked the other day about the Colts free agents. I was shocked to realize how many of our guys are going to be up for free agency, who do you think we keep, specifically between Joseph Addai and Melvin Bullitt? I think Charlie Johnson is a talent, though not the best option at tackle, but the only option we have right now. And what about the tackles... Antonio Johnson came on last season at the end, and can be the reason why the rush defense fell behind while he was out in the playoffs. And Daniel Muir has become a staple in our community...what do you think?

Paul Kuharsky: Well first, I think being a staple in the community doesn’t mean much if you’re a middling player looking for a contract.

I don’t see them choosing between Addai and Bullitt and don’t know why you do.

Think they’d like to have Addai, Bullitt, Johnson, Johnson, Muir and Clint Session all back. They generally work hard to keep their own. I don’t think Addai, either Johnson or Muir draw a lot of interest from other teams. They are all tailored to the Colts, a team that works hard to keep core, valuable guys they drafted or brought in as rookies.

A quality O-line pickup could mean Charlie Johnson is moved to guard or sixth man. A quality defensive tackle in the draft or free agency could mean the end of Antonio Johnson or Muir.

Bullitt may be the toughest to retain because there is a lot of safety need around the league. The Texans and Jaguars would both be wise to chase him.


We’re Colts and Titans heavy, so I tweeted a request for Texans and Jaguars questions and did a rapid fire Twitter session. (I’m @ESPN_AFCSouth.)

@JoeDowntownVS2 so have the texans still decided safety dosent matters even after last year?

PK: Should have looked at available guys. But they still have draft and real free agency. If they don't act then, they're nuts.

@TheMizellGroup being that Garrard never seems to close out the season we know have consecutive seasons in the "L" are we drafting a QB

PK: Absolutely they'll look hard at a developmental QB.

@DustyGmoe With the signings yesterday from #Texans, can you tell where they will go in the first two rounds?

PK: Defense, defense, defense. OLB, FS, SS, CB and despite what they say, DT.

@baron_von_brad any other team make a play for Hawk?

PK: Don't think there was time and he may not have been interested knowing they were working on a new deal.

@HoustonDiehards is gerald sebsabaugh's history w/ Wade going to land him in Houston once free agency happens? Or are we counting on Nolan?

PK: Nolan in the mix. I hope they do better than Sensabaugh.

@tntitansfan10 how much long will Garrard be Jags QB?

PK: Five or six games if they aren't good ones.

@JasonEmbry With Texans' defensive changes, what does future hold for Okoye? And should Texans upgrade No. 2 WR?

PK: Will get a chance to play 3-4 end for Wade. I'd like to see another option at No. 2, though they invested in Walter.

@Hodari11 Does Rahean Mathis have any trade value?Trade now instead of getting nothing when he leavesWants alot more than he is worth

PK: It's not baseball, where you trade a vet for prospects before he's done. They need Mathis, too young in secondary without him.

@AnnaMegan Is getting a new deal for Vonta Leach a must for Texans?

PK: He was very good last year and I wouldn't mess with the formula. But FBs are generally replaceable.

@eggsngrits Not a #Texans fan, but I have to ask: Why would Arian Foster report to camp for a one-year $480k tender offer?

PK: Because he's under contract to do so. I think they'll try to reward him, but they get a financial reward for grabbing him.

@sumpteravada if we had had the social network we hve now n the 80s...wud Marino/Montana/Moon/Elway been held under the microscope?

PK: Their lives would have been different for sure.


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