The period of furious activity that surrounds the draft is over, and most teams are preparing for rookie minicamps this weekend. It's a time for looking inward and reflecting, for understanding what you now have as a team and what final holes need to be filled -- in other words, a sloooow time for news.
Still, there's plenty to discuss as clubs look forward to watching their newest players run around in shorts. Can we go wrong by starting with Geno Smith?
Breer: The 'surprise' that wasn't
Geno Smith's fall wasn't that shocking, Albert Breer says, considering questions that popped up about his play on the field. More ...
1) Geno Smith's agent drama means nothing: I don't really care who represents rookie quarterback Geno Smith during his cookie-cutter contract negotiation with the New York Jets. I would have a selfish interest in Smith signing with Jay-Z's agency, as it might mean I'd get to add a good number to my digital Rolodex (I'd put it under "S. Carter"), but that's all.
Players make business decisions all the time, and we hold off on judging most. Aaron Rodgers, for instance, fired Mike Sullivan of Octagon in 2008 and hired David Dunn of Athletes First, and nobody really cared. Rodgers, by the way, ended up doing just fine. As far as I can tell, the reason we care about what Smith did is because it appears to reinforce our preconceived notions about him. It looks like Smith threw a fit and fired his agents after falling out of the first round -- even if that might not be what actually happened.
I spend a lot of time rolling my eyes at these stories about Smith. Sure, when personnel people compare quarterbacks, they praise EJ Manuel's mental acumen at the expense of Smith's. But Smith is still what he was during the draft process: a talented but inconsistent quarterback who now must adjust to the NFL world. At West Virginia, they didn't even use a playbook. That's just one obstacle he needs to overcome; getting the people close to him out of his ear is another.
The bottom line is, it's about his on-the-field play. And if Smith can be the quarterback who helped the Mountaineers jump out to a 5-0 record last season, no one will care if he even has an agent.
2) The problem with Tebow Time: If you know Tim Tebow, chances are good that people are stopping you on the street and asking about him. Even if you have a tangential connection to him -- and he's touched quite a few lives -- elderly women are halting your progress to find out where he is going to play next. For a small portion of dedicated fans, it's Tebow Time all the time. The problem? The clock has stopped.
Want a Tebow update? There isn't one. He appeared at an event in Michigan on Thursday night and only vaguely addressed his future, saying he doesn't know what it holds. Neither do NFL teams. They have not expressed interest in having him play quarterback for them. After speaking to executives and coaches, Yahoo! Sports' Mike Silver got it right: Teams don't want the circus. This is similar to what happens when teams assess a player who might be a character risk; there's a certain amount they're willing to deal with if a player is talented enough. When it comes to Tebow, teams have not yet judged his talent to be worth the trouble of putting up with the media environment that would follow him. That environment contributed to the implosion of the New York Jets last season, and it would have enveloped the Jacksonville Jaguars had general manager David Caldwell and owner Shahid Khan not smartly whacked away speculation about Tebow with a figurative two-by-four. Tebow had the chance to go to Jacksonville before last season, but he chose to be traded to the Jets; there's no going back now.
Ultimately, it's tough to see NFL teams changing their minds and suddenly saying, "Yup, Tebow is worth it as a backup." Just imagine what would happen in practice: When it came time to run the scout team and mimic the opposing team's quarterback, would Tebow be able to provide an accurate look? And that's just one issue. Tebow should walk into the open arms of Montreal Alouettes general manager Jim Popp. "Part of it is actually the media circus," Popp told me last week. "Nobody wants that, and that's too bad for Tim. But they're not going to touch him. In Canada, he could escape that to a degree." And rebuild his career.
Darlington: Miami makeover
3) Is the Dolphins' future in Miami really in doubt? It's been a full week since a bill that would have helped fund improvements to Sun Life Stadium died in the Florida legislature without a vote, signaling the end of the team's hope for $350 million in renovations. It almost certainly spelled doom for a bid to host Super Bowl L. To really understand this issue, let's block out the noise of political saber-rattling and finger-pointing about whose fault it is. Let's also cancel the thought that owner Stephen Ross will simply pay for these improvements himself in an effort to keep his Super Bowl bid alive. As Dolphins CEO Mike Dee told me, "We're not going to invest anything without public participation." He added, "There is no Plan 'B.' "
What does this all mean? Speak to people around the league and you'll find that many believe it puts a clock on Ross' ownership. Not that Dee would dispute that. He said it's "too early to tell" whether Ross would sell in the future; when discussing the stadium issue, Dee referred to "anybody that would acquire the team." Ross loves owning the team now, and his commitment this offseason was serious. Currently, he has no plans to sell. But considering that Miami plays in an antiquated old stadium (one of just three multi-purpose venues still alive in the NFL), hosting a Super Bowl is highly unlikely. Maximizing profit (owners are businessmen) is impossible. A few years down the road, the question really could become this: Would a new owner finance a stadium himself in South Florida, or would he bolt to greener pastures out West? It sure seems like the Dolphins are headed for that kind of showdown.
4) The super symposium: Earlier this week, the NFL held a career development symposium for the first time in five years. The goal was to introduce aspiring head coaches and general managers to power brokers in the NFL -- partially as a response to the lack of minority hires made last January. I talked to several who participated, and it was pretty cool to hear about what a resounding success it was. That isn't to say the number of minority hires will increase drastically next year. The point, really, was to give owners and decision-makers a broad spectrum of candidates to consider, to make sure they're seeing the entire talent pool when they look to fill a position.
Participants left with eyes opened, having gained insight into how owners like Khan or New York Giants co-owner John Mara view the hiring process. Wanna-be GMs were asked things like, "Who would be your coach if I hired you?" -- a good question. Panel discussions covered things like how prepared candidates should be, how to deal with the media, how aggressively candidates should flaunt their expertise and how connections in the coaching world matter (like how new Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski was able to lure Norv Turner to be his offensive coordinator). In short, it sounds like the event was everything the league wanted it to be. All it will do is lead to a stronger and more job-ready pool of candidates.
5) Patience has its (financial) rewards: When free agency begins, everyone wants to sign for big money with the perfect team. Of course. But that's just not the reality for many -- especially during this year's brutal market. Most sign deals for a bit less than they wanted or for fewer years than they wanted in the hopes of trying again next year; players often just want to sign. But recent developments call attention to something that some savvy agents try to tell their clients: If you just wait, a market will develop.
Consider the case of Bryant McKinnie, who was the top unsigned left tackle after the draft. He sparked a frenzy among the San Diego Chargers, the Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens before Baltimore ultimately paid to bring him back. It's what Josh Cribbs is going through now with the Oakland Raiders, Jets, Giants and Detroit Lions; if he can wait to sign until June 1, when more teams have more money available, the interest in him could increase. Maybe Dwight Freeney -- one of the most accomplished free agents available -- has the right idea after all. One key injury during minicamp or training camp could bring Freeney the kind of pay day he wanted when free agency began. Problem is, few players want to wait that long.