Now that the Patriots' season is beginning to shrink out of sight in the rearview mirror, the weekly Two-Minute Drill will focus a little more on league matters. Of course, the Patriots will still be the top priority in this spot for the next few months, but it's time to expand our palette to the other 31 teams, too.
Anyway, let's kick it into gear with 20 thoughts.
1. Aside from the Cowboys (Tony Romo) and Browns (Colt McCoy), you could make a case that eight teams picking in the top 10 of the draft need a quarterback. Remove the Broncos from that list, though, because they've said they're moving forward with Tim Tebow. His future is still up for debate but his prospects look better now than they did a year ago.
2. There are some real issues with the quarterbacks who are currently slated as top-10 targets, though, and that's a scary proposition for these teams. Missouri's Blaine Gabbert (where did his meteoric rise come from?), Auburn's Cam Newton (character concerns, questionable at reading pro-style defenses), Arkansas' Ryan Mallett (character concerns) and Washington's Jake Locker (poor senior season, a lot of losing in college) have some major question marks. There are some really bad teams in the top 10, and they can't afford to use that pick on a quarterback who may not pan out.
3. If the rookie salary scale is implemented for this draft — and I've been told it will — the gamble in the top 10 isn't as dangerous as it's been in the last 10-15 years. The Rams took quarterback Sam Bradford with the top pick last year, and they forked over $50 million in guaranteed money. Under the new salary scale, the top pick will receive about $15 million in guaranteed money.
4. For those who struggle with math, that's a difference in $35 million. Locker would have almost certainly been one of the first two quarterbacks selected last year, so he made a colossal financial mistake by staying in school.
5. Draft boards will continue to evolve over the next three months, so some of points 1 and 2 could change before then. However, if things remain intact and TCU quarterback Andy Dalton still figures to be an early second-round pick, I'd prefer to take my chances with him than Gabbert, Newton, Mallett or Locker in the top 10. Of course, either of those four quarterbacks would be much more intriguing prospects late in the first round or into the second round.
6. How would I use a top-10 pick, then? If I'm picking in that area, I'd be ecstatic if I landed LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward or North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn.
7. I like Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green and agree that he could be a special player, but I hate the idea of using a top-10 pick on that position. For example, I always love watching Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and there are times when I think he's the best wide receiver in the league. But the Lions are 15-49 since drafting him second overall in 2007. Great wide receivers are a luxury, but very, very few are franchise players. If the Lions turn into contenders in the next two or three seasons, Johnson will be a tremendous asset, but defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (selected second overall in 2010) will have more to do with their turnaround than Johnson.
8. Here are three guys to keep an eye on in the middle rounds: Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams, Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich and Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews.
9. Last season, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick showed an affinity to rekindling his relationships with former Pats wide receivers by bringing David Patten to training camp and acquiring Deion Branch in a trade. Don't be shocked if he gives a low-level contract to Donte Stallworth, who had 46 receptions for 697 yards and three touchdowns during his only season in New England in 2007.
10. If the Patriots do add another wide receiver this offseason, it should create some real competition in training camp. First, they'd likely add a wideout with the intentions of pushing Brandon Tate for his job as the third receiver.
11. After that, a new addition would probably spell the end of the line for either Taylor Price, Julian Edelman or Matthew Slater. Edelman has value as Wes Welker's backup and on punt returns. Slater is one of Belichick's favorites for his coverage ability on special teams. Price, who only played once in his rookie season, is a developmental project who didn't have enough value on special teams to crack the lineup. Plus, Belichick obviously didn't think Price would clear waivers, and that's why he never wound up on the practice squad.
12. There probably isn't a correct way to jack up any extra excitement for the Pro Bowl, but it's got to be telling that there is more buzz around this week's Senior Bowl than the all-star game in Hawaii.
13. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was roasted by anyone with a voice Sunday, but the most damning criticism came from fellow players, particularly on Twitter. Players know their peers, through teammates, friends, agents or a multitude of other league circles. For them to crucify Cutler en masse shows how very little respect he's earned in the NFL.
14. I laugh every time I see a list of 2011 free agents, and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is on it. The thought of Manning actually hitting free agency is just so beyond crazy. Let's get wild with this one for a moment, though. What if the Colts tick him off to the point where Manning is open to listening to other teams? And then, a desperate team like the Jaguars or Raiders offers him something completely insane, like $200 million over eight years, with $100 million guaranteed? The panic in Indianapolis would be historic. OK, back to normalcy …
15. The Packers' special teams deserve some credit for Sunday's fourth quarter in Chicago. All-Pro returner Devin Hester had three chances to get his hands on the ball with an opportunity to tie the game, and he never got going. Punter Tim Masthay sent one punt into the end zone for a touchback and another one out of bounds. Hester fielded the third punt with three minutes remaining in regulation, but he only returned it 11 yards.
16. Anyone who thought a Jets loss would keep them quiet simply hasn't been paying attention. It only took a few minutes for head coach Rex Ryan, who has been on the losing end of the last three AFC Championship games, to proclaim the Jets would be in Super Bowl XLVI.
17. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez might make some Jets fans want to rip their hair out, but at least he proved Sunday that he's a gamer who will play through an injury. Plus, one of the biggest knocks on Sanchez is he can't erase a big deficit — and the Jets wouldn't have been down 24-0 if it weren't for his second-quarter fumble — but Sanchez helped the Jets get back into the game against the Steelers. I'm still not sure how Sanchez's career will wind up, but he definitely grew up in the AFC Championship.
18. The Bengals are in an awkward position with quarterback Carson Palmer, who publicly demanded to be traded over the weekend, but the organization made it clear it has no interest in shipping away the No. 1 pick of the 2003 draft. While in rebuilding mode, though, it would probably make sense for the Bengals to part ways with Palmer, wipe their hands with the $50 million in salary that he's owed through 2014 and haul in some draft assets in the process. Whether they trade him or not, it seems certain that Palmer's best days with the Bengals are in the past.
19. Cowboys fans must have a queasy feeling about the Super Bowl being played at their home stadium. The Steelers have beaten the Cowboys twice in the Super Bowl, and the Packers have played the Cowboys in the playoffs six times (Dallas is 4-2 in those games). Only the Rams (eight playoff meetings), 49ers (seven) and Vikings (seven) have met the Cowboys on more occasions in the postseason.
20. I'm picking the Packers to beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl, but I'll reserve my complete analysis for a more in-depth breakdown next week.
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