Chris Berman probably already can’t contain himself.
ESPN’s affable anchor is probably licking his chops at his network’s upcoming Draft Day coverage on Saturday. And it has literally nothing to do with who selects who. It’s who trades who, and at the top of this list is the Former Franchise of the World Champs.
If you stop and think about it, it’s really astounding considering Drew Bledsoe’s potential impact on Saturday’s draft. Bledsoe alone could completely alter the course of the draft. He could also set the tone for the whole draft. All someone has to do is wake up and make the Patriots a deal, and bingo.
But who will make the deal? When? For how much?
All this is why Berman is laughing himself silly and perhaps taking Valium to calm himself down. He won’t need the patter from Joe Theismann, the intellect of Tom Jackson, or the useless malarkey from draft “expert” Mel Kiper (when will ESPN smarten up and either ditch this guy or replace him with someone who really knows his stuff?). The Bledsoe story will carry the first round all by itself. And unless the entire league passes on Bledsoe, it will be a major story, a blockbuster unfolding on live television, if and when it hits.
Berman will scream himself hoarse. “NOW! THE BILLS ARE ON THE CLOCK! ARE THE PHONES IN FOXBOROUGH RINGING OFF THE HOOK?” Chris Mortenson (we think) will be posted outside the Patriot War Room, poised and ready to break the news. No doubt, Patriot fans will be on the edge of their seats. The Patriots would love to use Bledsoe to trade up and get a top tier defensive lineman or linebacker (unless they’re serious about Texas tackle Mike Williams). The whole thing comes down to whether or not the league will meet the Patriot price of at least a first round pick.
The drama should be spine tingling for Patriot Nation. Even if no deal goes down, the entire first round will force Patriot fans to at least think a Bledsoe trade could go down at any time. The closer they get to the #32 pick, the less the drama will be, and the more likely Bledsoe is remaining in New England.
That said, who will make a play for Bledsoe? Let’s speculate as to who will make the right choice for their team and grab the quarterback of their dreams.
Houston will take Fresno State’s David Carr (making all of us here in Bakersfield, Calif. beam with pride, including my professional colleague who is his mother-in-law), that becoming official with Carr signing on Tuesday. Carolina then has a choice to make, and it could affect right off the bat who makes a play for Bledsoe. Do they take local fave Julius Peppers of North Carolina? Or do they decide that Chris Weinke is not their quarterback of the future and grab Oregon QB Joey Harrington? Whoever Carolina takes could filter its way down to who Buffalo, the first Bledsoe suitor, might take.
Panther Nation will explode in fury if they don’t take Peppers. But if they shock the world and grab Harrington, watch Buffalo run for the phones to give Belichick a call. Detroit, who picks third, then becomes a team to watch, and if Harrington falls to four, Buffalo may grab him and forget all about Bledsoe. This could happen, if Carolina takes Peppers and Detroit takes Texas DB Quentin Jammer. But if Detroit takes Harrington, more likely to happen than Carolina taking him, the Bills might make a strong play for Bledsoe.
Joel Buchsbaum’s mock draft has Harrington falling all the way to the ten slot, being taken by Cincinnati, another Bledsoe suitor. If Buffalo passes on both Harrington and Bledsoe, who will be faced with a decision next? The next team to possibly consider Bledsoe might be Dallas, though they might not want to add Bledsoe to their roster in place of Quincy Carter, their top pick last year. Kansas City might be in the market for a quarterback at the eight slot, but they also have yet to express any interest in Bledsoe.
We now come to Cincinnati, the first team to actually express interest in Bledsoe, an interest that was unrequited. If Harrington is on the board at ten, and there is the good chance that that will not be the case, the Bengals probably grab him. But any team among Buffalo, Detroit, Kansas City, and even Carolina will be tempted. And if Harrington is gone by the time the Bengals are on the board, there might be some wheeling and dealing between the Queen City and Foxborough.
Harrington doesn’t figure to last past the ten slot, and there is a huge drop-off at the quarterback position after Carr and Harrington. Any team that makes a play for Bledsoe from here on in will be focused squarely on acquiring a veteran instead of a rookie. The lower you get on the first round, the more the Patriots may try and extract from their suitors. Will the Patriots ask for the pick and another player? Or a second round pick in addition?
After Cincinnati, potential trades could be had with Arizona (12), the Giants (15), Washington (18, but Steve Spurrier has to come to his senses first and realize he’s in the nation’s capital and not a swamp anymore), Oakland (21 and 23), and Baltimore (24). Oakland has been making waves as a Bledsoe suitor lately, and they have a bevy of high picks to offer thanks to the exodus of Jon Gruden. If the Patriots cannot get any higher than the 21 slot for Bledsoe, Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli could likely extort some extra booty from the Raiders if they envision Bledsoe as their answer to the aging Rich Gannon.
After Baltimore, the trade-up gain is just about negligible. Chicago did sign Jim Miller and has the 29 pick, but it is hard to imagine what they could offer for Bledsoe to induce the Patriots to trade up just three slots. The Bledsoe saga should be over by the time Oakland drafts at 23. If nothing happens by that time, Bledsoe is likely staying with the Patriots unless Belichick and Pioli cave in and lower their trade demands to the second round.
And if the Patriots stay at 32? We’ll get back to that later this week.
Bledsoe staying put is not the worst thing in the world. Just pop in your tape of the AFC Championship Game. It was Bledsoe there at the finish and in all the victory photos. It was Bledsoe choking back tears as he took the final snaps. It was Bledsoe who had to answer demeaning questions by Jim Nantz and Terry Bradshaw about Tom Brady and his ability to still run an NFL offense after four months on the shelf. Last we checked, Bledsoe has been to three Pro Bowls and is 2-0 in AFC title games, and is still property of the Patriots.
If Bledsoe goes somewhere else sometime this week, the Patriots had better exact proper value for him. The Patriots should keep him if they don’t, and insist on maximum value for him.
The only thing that might prevent a draft day deal might be Bledsoe’s contract. A team has only 15 minutes on the clock in the first round, and that won’t be enough time to iron out salary cap issues. If a team takes on Bledsoe’s salary without discussion beforehand, it is a risk. Teams with salary cap issues might be dissuaded from dealing for Bledsoe on Saturday, but may do so if they get the time to talk to him prior to Saturday.
Any way you look at it, Saturday looks to be incredibly exciting for a team and its fans who pick in the 32 slot. Normally the 32 pick is someone good but not drop-dead great. But with trade bait in the form of one of the best quarterbacks in the league, how can Patriot Nation not look forward to Saturday with excitement and anticipation.
And even if the Patriots do nothing, they keep someone who, if he can accept it, gives the team terrific, albeit expensive, depth at the quarterback position.
Back to the Boomer: OMIGOSH!!! YOU CAN’T WRITE THIS STUFF!!! THE BENGALS TRADE THE NUMBER TEN PICK!!! BLEDSOE IS NO LONGER A MEMBER OF THE P-MEN!!!
We only hope Berman has enough left to tell everyone who Indianapolis picks at 11.