Our experts tackle a variety of topics in this edition of Burning Questions.
Which new head coach will have the smoothest transition period?
Mark Schlereth: Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
All the pieces to the puzzle are in place in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have continuity in the front office and players who know what's required of them. Pittsburgh went through this same thing in 1992 when it hired Bill Cowher, who was also 34 years old and a first-time head coach. Tomlin should make a seamless transition, based on the success he had in Minnesota and his youthful energy. Plus, he takes over a very good team.
Joe Theismann: Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
Because of the talent level on that team, and the familiarity he has with the system and personnel. The toughest job will be Cam Cameron's in Miami because of the uncertainty at quarterback and along the offensive line, as well as the age of the defense. The Dolphins have a lot of question marks. Turner has very few questions to answer about his team.
Sean Salisbury: Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
He inherits the best team in the NFL. It's not as if he is taking over a franchise in disarray. Turner has three or four of the best players in football, he's been with the organization before and knows the ownership, and he has head coaching experience.
2. Which teams will be the most active in free agency?
Schlereth: Some of the usual suspects will be active. Washington is a big player in free agency every year. The Redskins always go in that direction and sign a lot of players, but it never seems to translate into success. Still, look for them to make a big splash. Also, look at a team like Houston with a lot of problems on offense.
The Texans have offensive line issues they need to rectify, so they can protect the quarterback and establish a running game. The Cleveland Browns ranked 31st in the NFL last year in rushing yards. The Browns might get involved in free agency to add depth to an offensive line that suffered a ton of injuries last season. Free agency, to a certain extent, has run its course. Teams have found the way to build depth is to develop and keep young players.
Theismann: The Arizona Cardinals should take advantage of free agency to make major strides. The Cardinals' offense is dynamic and explosive. They should shop for help on defense. Arizona also needs help on the offensive line and a player like tackle Luke Petitgout -- who broke his leg last season -- is someone the Cardinals could get relatively cheap.
If Arizona is good in 2007, it should not come as a surprise. Arizona is a team with a chance to make the biggest strides. You can make the same case for the San Francisco 49ers. If the 49ers can sign the right two or three players, they could contend for the division title, or at least rattle Seattle's cage.
Salisbury: I'm looking at teams on the cusp of being really good, maybe a player or two away from reaching the Super Bowl. New England needs to be active. The Patriots are a great organization, but they are starting to get a little long in the tooth at certain positions -- yet they were still just one win from playing in the Super Bowl.
New England needs wide receiver help, and could use an upgrade in the secondary. Rodney Harrison has been hurt the last two years and is going to be 34 next season. The New York Giants better be active. The loss of Tiki Barber is huge and you have a coach in Tom Coughlin who has to win now, since this might be his last year.
Although not on the cusp, the Dolphins were supposed to close the gap in the AFC East. They could be in the market for a running back to help Ronnie Brown, and another wide receiver. Miami also needs to get younger on defense because Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas can't dominate forever.
3. Are the Eagles equipped to prepare for free agency and the draft in Andy Reid's absence?
Schlereth: Yes. One thing about the Eagles is they have a lot of stability in the front office. They'll be prepared because the organization has a philosophy everyone follows. Everyone is on the same page in terms of the needs that have to be filled. GM Joe Banner has done a very nice job in the front office.
Theismann: Yes, the Eagles will be fine. Andy Reid may not be there, but I'm sure he'll be in contact with GM Joe Banner. There's still time to prepare for the draft, but the research and the areas they need to improve on as a football team already have been discussed. Reid's absence won't affect them at all.
Salisbury: Yes. They are equipped to handle Reid's absence because of the quality of the front office. Reid has a lot of say in personnel decisions, but he shares it with very good front office people and an owner who empowers his people to do their jobs. The front office will run things by Reid, even when he isn't there, and they'll find a way to keep him in the loop. Even if Reid didn't say three words, the Eagles' front office would be able to handle it.
4. Should the Texans take the best QB left on the board with the No. 8 pick?
Schlereth: It depends on whether they decide to sign a free agent quarterback. Jake Plummer is someone they have talked about. David Carr perplexes me. He's not having success, but the caveat is he takes a beating because of his offensive line. You have to wonder if he had a good offensive line, combined with a running game, would Carr be able to lead a team. Would I take Brady Quinn if he was still on the board? Certainly, but Houston is more than a quarterback away from being a good team.
Theismann: No, because I don't think the best QB on the board will be what the Texans need. Houston messed up by not taking Reggie Bush last year -- anytime you can get a player who puts points on the board, you have to take him. So the Texans need to get this one right. If they are going to follow the same philosophy as last year and build a foundation for the future, the Texans should take an offensive lineman. Running back is another position that needs to be addressed.
I believe in David Carr. He had a really solid year in 2006. He just needs to grow up and be a professional. He needs to come out and be a leader of this team -- on and off the field -- and not some 27-year-old who just fell off a surfboard. He has all the physical skills to be a solid QB.
If the Texans draft a QB, they will be taking a couple of steps backwards because rookie quarterbacks don't have a lot of success right away. That much is proven.
Salisbury: That would only be one QB, Brady Quinn (JaMarcus Russell will be gone by then). My question is this: Aren't you starting over if you do that? David Carr led the NFL in completion percentage last season (68.3), his first year in Gary Kubiak's system. Remember, he's been sacked 249 times in his five-year career. Give me a good offensive line and I can win with Carr as my QB. We wouldn't be having this conversation if Houston drafted Reggie Bush last year. I like Quinn, but Houston needs to spend its energy in places other than quarterback, because Carr isn't the biggest problem on this team. How about protecting him?