DANA POINT, Calif. -- Monday was a great day at the NFL Annual Meeting.
We had our Sirius NFL Radio show set up right outside the meeting rooms where the owners, general managers and coaches worked all day. On every break, we had guests on the show or the chance to talk over a cup of coffee. In the evening, there was a reception and another opportunity to discuss free agency, the draft and other hot topics.
Here are some things that seemed most interesting to me:
1. Lions locking up the top pick
After I sat down with new Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz, it became clear to me that the team intends to have the No. 1 overall pick signed before the draft. Schwartz made a reference to the JaMarcus Russell holdout, and there is hope that will not be the case in the Motor City this year.
2. Two-tackle race
After talking to many people in the NFL, I found that there's a split decision on who is the best offensive tackle in the draft, Baylor's Jason Smith or Virginia's Eugene Monroe. The one thing that rang loud and clear all day was both players deserve to go in the top four picks and the team that lands the second tackle will not mind a bit.
3. Sanchez making his move
Mark Sanchez lives close to the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort, where the meeting is being held, and spent some time with teams Monday night. All indications are that the USC quarterback is headed up teams' draft boards. I also spoke with a reputable former NFL quarterback who went to see Sanchez work out last week, and he couldn't stop talking about how impressed he was. Teams will call this quarterback for his opinion before the draft.
|Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images|
|Tyler Thigpen threw 18 touchdown passes in 11 starts for the Kansas City Chiefs last season.|
» Can't-miss play: Thigpen's TD catch
4. Time to compete, Tyler
When I talked with new Kansas City Chiefs coach Todd Haley, he was quick to point out that he called Tyler Thigpen and told him not to surrender the starting quarterback job to recently acquired Matt Cassel. Haley said: "Check my history. The best guy will play."
5. First-round grades will be few
The more I talked with personnel directors, the more I realized that most teams will not have 32 players with a first-round grade when the evaluation process is over. It appears closer to 20 to 25 guys will receive a first-round grade. That makes the top 10 picks of the second round very interesting, and a number of teams really want to get there.
6. First-round running back in Houston?
The speculation that the Houston Texans will take a running back in the first round is strong, but as one general manager said, "Since when does Alex Gibbs ask for a first-round running back?" He wasn't buying it.
7. Patriots are heavy on picks
The New England Patriots acquired the No. 34 pick in the Cassel trade, and Monday, they were awarded three compensatory selections, including the top one at No. 96. The Patriots already have had a good offseason in free agency, and now they own six picks in the draft's top 96. They have 12 selections overall.
8. Ravens have a good owner
The most enjoyable conversation I had all day was with Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. He really cares about the game, the fans and the league.
Bisciotti recognized that raising his team's ticket prices was tough to do, and he is concerned about the current economic times. But, as he pointed out, he will not raise ticket prices again next year. Bisciotti's research suggests that closer to 20 to 30 percent of his season-ticket holders go to all the games. He believes many Ravens fans receive a chance to see a game live.
Bisciotti is a down-to-earth guy with his finger on the pulse of the game. We need more guys like him owning teams.
9. Overtime debate isn't over
I had a chance to interview Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, the competition committee co-chairman, and the most interesting subject was what to do with overtime. According to McKay, committee members talked long and hard about a number of options for overtime and read every written suggestion submitted by fans. The overtime issue might be tabled this year, but it sounds as if it will be revisited again next year.
10. Phillips ready for changes to Cowboys
We had the opportunity to sit down with coach Wade Phillips and discuss a number of issues surrounding his Dallas Cowboys team. We discussed the signing of safety Gerald Sensabaugh, who could match up with a slot receiver, a flexed tight end or a running back in motion. Phillips said, "We really need a guy who could do that."
When I asked about wide receiver Terrell Owens, who was released earlier this month, Phillips acknowledged that it would be tough to replace a player who delivered so much over the past two seasons. However, Phillips was quick to talk about Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton as complements to new No. 1 receiver Roy Williams.
11. Coaching changes aren't anything new
After the first break in the morning, the NFL had a group picture of the 32 head coaches taken. There were 11 new faces in the photo, and that had guys like Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid shaking his head about the amount of change in the league. I reminded a few coaches that the league turns over every 3.5 years, and in the last seven years, there have been more than 60 head-coaching changes.
12. Peppers might stay a Panther
I have the feeling the Carolina Panthers aren't going to give away defensive end Julius Peppers. They will expect top compensation in a trade or they will keep him with the franchise tag. They could tag Peppers again next year if they had to, and if there wasn't a salary cap, it would be expensive but not impossible. I also have the feeling that Peppers isn't totally determined to leave Carolina.