Tuesday was all about the escape from Indianapolis. After six days at the NFL Scouting Combine, I saw scores of weary assistant coaches, head coaches, and personnel men going through security at the airport in anticipation of seeing their families again.
Since our great scouts like Bucky Brooks and Daniel Jeremiah have the college players covered, these takeaways will be more about the game behind the game:
- I went into the week thinking the San Francisco 49ers would be lucky to get a late-round pick for Alex Smith. I left Indianapolis thinking that Smith was on the cusp of being traded. On Wednesday, it became all but official with Jay Glazer's report. Smith went to the Kansas City Chiefs for a second-round pick in 2013 and a conditional pick in 2014. The weak rookie class helped this deal get done. So did the weak free-agent class. It all came together perfectly for Smith and the 49ers.
- The three-day negotiating window before free agency starts hasn't slowed down tampering. I spoke to two agents that both said they planned to have deals verbally agreed to before that negotiating period even starts on March 9. Free agency officially starts at March 12. Teams are now allowed to negotiate for three days and trade paperwork before March 12.
There was skepticism that window would matter. Teams will be afraid to put numbers on paper too early for fear that deals will be shopped around as a starting point for other teams' negotiations. The larger gap between the combine and the start of free agency did slow down concrete deals getting done in Indianapolis.
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- There were suggestions that there will be more veteran trades because of the flat salary cap and limited cap room available. That includes veteran-for-veteran trades. I hope that's true, but I've heard it before. And the NFL rarely has many trades.
- The Miami Dolphins were a hot topic of conversation. Cornerback Sean Smith is fully expected to test the free-agent waters. Defensive tackle Randy Starks sounds likely to get the franchise tag. GM Jeff Ireland is in a contract year and has a lot of cap space available to try to save his job. Expect the Dolphins to be very active. They could go after a big-name wide receiver and possibly one of the good tight ends (Fred Davis? Dustin Keller?) that are on the market.
- The cornerbacks are probably going to get big money. Smith, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Aqib Talib are good enough players that might get paid like great players. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Nnamdi Asomugha get a surprisingly generous short-term deal.
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- The depth of the running back market won't help anyone get paid. There's not a lot separating Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush, Rashard Mendenhall and Ahmad Bradshaw. Other names like Michael Turner, Felix Jones, Danny Woodhead and LaRod Stephens-Howling will all find roles. There's no need to pay good money at the position.
- Mike Wallace is going to be very, very rich. I don't see why he can't get Vincent Jackson money or better. That will especially be true if Dwayne Bowe and/or Greg Jennings get the franchise tag.
If you're going through Combine withdrawal or were offline during the weekend, some of the interviews I recorded this weekend: Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, Jacksonville Jaguars GM David Caldwell, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, and SI.com's Peter King.