It's difficult to say, for certain, who will be the starting quarterback for about three quarters of the teams picking in the top half of the 2011 NFL Draft.
But sticking with the status quo -- given the circumstances of this offseason -- might be best for some of the teams in that group. The argument can be made the Miami Dolphins are one such team.
I'm not sure there's a single person in the team's facility in Davie, Fla., who feels nearly as strongly about Chad Henne as they did at this time last year. But there's some merit to keeping him in place as the team's starting quarterback, which I'm hearing the team will likely do, even if it does select a rookie QB early in the draft.
Lines of communication open
Perhaps the best reason why is that the club feels like it failed to get Henne, who proved he's not quite the kind of quarterback who can raise the play of others, enough help. The interior of the offensive line collapsed, the running game sagged, and suddenly the smash-mouth offense Henne was tasked to manage in 2009 became an outfit he had to carry in 2010.
Henne couldn't do that -- throwing more interceptions than touchdown passes for the second straight year -- and the Dolphins have recognized it.
So it's completely conceivable that the Dolphins could work to rebuild the running game by fortifying the interior of the offensive line and turning over the running backs, and thus reasonably expect better quarterback play from Henne.
But I do think the foundation is there to be pretty good. A young defense has serious cornerstones in Vontae Davis, Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake, and should continue to ascend in the second year under Mike Nolan. The offense isn't that far off from being pretty good, with improvements most needed at positions where new players can come in and contribute quickly.
The big question remains at quarterback. Last year, the Dolphins found out what they needed to know about Henne. Now, one plan on the table in Miami is to put players around Henne who will allow him to be a complementary piece rather than the player who has to carry the entire offense.
So now that the NFL and NFLPA have gone through Round 1 of the Brady et al v. National Football League et al case, as well as the subsequent letter-writing contest, the question becomes ... what's next?
Unfortunately, despite the contents of those letters, chances are that it won't be any sort of mediation.
Both sides have plenty to lose in mediation. The NFL would avoid going to Minnesota for several reasons, including setting the precedent of judicial oversight in a negotiation with the players and entering into what could be construed as "settlement talks" in a case it plans to file a motion to dismiss. Conversely, the players returning to FMCS would remove their greatest leverage point -- the antitrust case -- and also create the perception of "union behavior," even if they were somehow protected legally in that sense.
It all means that the next time we're likely to see action in this case is when U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson rules on the injunction.
If Nelson does grant the injunction, the biggest domino to fall in that decision will be whether she "stays" the ruling upon appeal or not. Chances are, she will, and that will send this case to the appellate court.
... In case you were wondering.
... And five
Don't laugh, Colts might just do it
That's not to say the Colts will take a quarterback in the first round -- it would be shocking if they did -- but using a pick in the middle rounds would simply be smart business. As the Ron Wolf Packers of the 1990s showed (Mark Brunell, Ty Detmer, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Brooks), developing a solid young quarterback behind your starter can reap rewards down the line. If the Colts draft someone now and hit on that pick, they could either have the heir apparent, or a valuable chip to trade off in, say, the 2014 offseason.
Bryant's woes could impact WR prospect
The Dez Bryant situation in Dallas could well have delivered a roundabout hit to the draft status of Pittsburgh receiver Jonathan Baldwin. It's not like a young receiver having off-field issues, whether it's Bryant or someone else, comes with much surprise anymore. Baldwin did have some problems off the field, and questions hover over his work ethic as well. But the fact that Bryant's situation is fresh in the minds of decision-makers won't help.
Still, with the dearth of skill position talent in this draft, Baldwin will be an enticing player for plenty of teams when the options at the position beyond A.J. Green and Julio Jones are so limited. Baldwin is 6-foot-4, 228 pounds, and runs in the 40-yard dash in the 4.4s. It's possible someone, earlier than most of us think, could look at Baldwin and say, "I can work with that."
There are two sides to the argument here, and all it takes is one team to settle it.
McNabb to Vikes makes sense
The Donovan McNabb-to-the-Vikings rumors picked up steam again this week. I've heard all along that Minnesota -- because it's a veteran team that's ready to win now -- would be a place the ex-Eagle and soon-to-be-ex-Redskin would be amenable to going. The presence of former Eagles assistant Leslie Frazier as head coach would be another reason to believe it could happen.
Here's one more to keep in mind: Because of his contract, McNabb will have control over where he lands (the new team would certainly want a re-negotiation), and that means he could steer himself to Minnesota. The bottom line is that the Redskins -- if they want anything for McNabb -- will have to cooperate with him to get it, and Minnesota has shown a willingness in the past to mortgage draft picks for veterans.
Steelers hope Roethlisberger found stability
My feeling is that the organization felt like there was an alter-ego to Roethlisberger that the fame brought out in him, and the fact that he had a sterling reputation at Miami (Ohio) University would seem to support that. Anyway, Rooney's point was that the positive in Roethlisberger was coming out again. My guess is that the Steelers hope the stability of marriage will keep the negatives from resurfacing.
My mini-mock draft
I think I'm probably the only NFL Network or NFL.com person who hasn't done a full mock draft yet, although I did have a scout put together an earlier version. I'll probably get assigned one sometime soon, but I might as well go on record with my top five for now. So here you go -- Carolina: Auburn QB Cam Newton; Denver: Alabama DT Marcell Dareus; Buffalo: Texas A&M OLB Von Miller; Bengals: LSU CB Patrick Peterson; Cardinals: UNC DE/OLB Robert Quinn.