NFL Quick Hits: Romo, Dumervil and Draft Talk

+ There’s a large contingent that feels as though Jerry Jones has condemned his own team by handing Tony Romo a six-year, $108 million contract extension that includes $55 million guaranteed. And who could blame them? Romo is a competitor and a leader. Outside of missing 10 games in 2010 due to a shoulder injury, he’s durable and has eclipsed 4,000 yards passing in four of his last six seasons. He’s also 1-3 in the postseason and has a nasty habit of saving his worst effort for the most crucial of moments. How could any Dallas fan be okay with rewarding what essentially amounts to mediocrity? But survey the league. There are at least 10 teams that would gladly guarantee Romo $55 million if he could suit up for them. Jones is rolling the dice that Romo will eventually prosper in those moments that have ruined him in the past. He’d rather continue to invest in the undrafted gem that he signed in 2003 instead of starting all over again at the position next year. And maybe he’ll eventually be undone by his unwavering loyalty, but it’s not as if the Cowboys developed any Pro Bowlers in the years between Troy Aikman and Romo. For better or worse, Jones has pushed Romo and a large chunk of his money into the middle of the pot and said, “All in.” We’ll see if the gamble pays off in the upcoming years.

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NFL Quick Hits: Dumervil, Urlacher and the mess that is the Bills

+ After building two Super Bowl teams in the past 13 years, it’s hard to fathom why people continue to doubt Ozzie Newsome. Once Ed Reed signed with the Texans last week and joined the likes of Dannell Ellerbe, Ray Lewis, Bernard Pollard and Paul Kruger as players that will no longer don purple and black, people started to question Newsome’s decision making. But he reminded everyone that he’s one of the best GMs in the NFL when he inked Elvis Dumervil to a five-year, $35 million contract over the weekend. Dumervil’s cap hit this year will only be $2.5 million, which is why Baltimore was able to fit him under the cap. Granted, his contract will still add up to $35 million over the next five years but for the time being, Newsome displayed shrewd maneuvering by landing the top free agent on the market in the same offseason that he gave franchise quarterback Joe Flacco a massive new deal. Dumervil will return to outside linebacker in Baltimore’s 3-4 defense after leading the NFL in sacks from that same position in 2009. The Ravens, folks, are going to be just fine.

+ Ted Thompson once drafted Justin Harrell in the first round. Ozzie Newsome invested top selections in Kyle Boller and Mark Clayton. Jerry Reese whiffed on Aaron Ross. The best GMs in the NFL all miss – it’s part of the gig. But Buddy Nix’s lack of foresight in the past two drafts could ultimately cost him his job. Since Nix drafted him with the 34th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Aaron Williams has struggled mightily in coverage and is entering a make-or-break season. For those that need a refresher, Williams was selected ahead of both Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick. It’s hard to blame Nix for passing on Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder in the first round that year, but Kaepernick could have been a perfect fit in former head coach Chan Gailey’s system. Nix also selected former NC State receiver T.J. Graham ahead of Russell Wilson in the third round last April, and we all know how that turned out for the Seahawks. Again, it’s not completely fair to criticize Nix for passing on Dalton, Kaepernick or even Wilson, because a lot of GMs of quarterback-needy teams missed on those players, too. But when you miss on those guys because you handed Ryan Fitzpatrick a six-year, $59 million contract and now you have to play Russian roulette with Geno Smith, Matt Barkley or Ryan Nassib, you leave yourself open for condemnation. It’s not all Gailey’s fault for the current mess that resides in Buffalo.

+ Whether they wait until Nnamdi Asomugha and/or Charles Woodson’s market value drops even lower or attempt to out-draft Craig Dahl (that shouldn’t be difficult), it’s hard to imagine that 49ers GM Trent Baalke is done upgrading his secondary. But I also don’t think San Francisco is overly concerned about its defensive backfield. When Justin Smith tore his triceps against the Patriots last December, the 49ers were victimized for 443 yards through the air and their secondary was never the same after that point (neither was Aldon Smith for that matter). It’s not the back end that makes San Francisco’s defense so dangerous, but its front seven. That’s why its understandable that Baalke didn’t want to invest $40-plus million to retain safety Dashon Goldson, who signed with the Bucs two weeks ago. Baalke has a knack for finding bargains in free agency (see Carlos Rogers in 2011), so look for the Niners to sign a stopgap like Asomugha and then invest heavily in their defensive line in next month’s draft.

+ The Bengals have been reluctant to hand out big money deals in the past but they would be wise to lock up franchise player Michael Johnson now. Based on the deals that Elvis Dumervil (five years, $35 million) and Cliff Avril (two years, $13 million) just signed, Cincinnati is overpaying Johnson this year at his $11.2 franchise number. That’s not to suggest that the 26-year-old pass rusher isn’t worth the investment because he is. But if the Bengals view him as a core piece of their defense, then it behooves them to work off of the contracts that Dumervil and Avril just signed. Otherwise, they risk having Johnson’s price tag go up when Jared Allen, Justin Smith, Justin Tuck, Michael Bennett, Matt Shaughnessy and Brian Robison hit the market, too. This the shrewd decision that has often eluded Mike Brown and his front office in years past.

+ As much as it pains Chicago fans to admit, it’s time for the Bears and Brian Urlacher to move on. If anyone wants to question what Urlacher meant to the Bears’ defense over the past decade, all you have to do is go back to 2009 when he missed 15 games due to a dislocated wrist. Nick Roach was forced into the starting lineup and the entire unit suffered because opponents had success attacking the middle of the field. But under new head coach Marc Trestman and second-year GM Phil Emery, the Bears are undergoing a facelift and part of that process is saying goodbye to aging vets. Urlacher’s play last year dipped dramatically and Trestman may not want to stick with the Tampa 2 scheme that Lovie Smith installed when he took over in 2004. Simply put, why invest money in a player that is no longer the focal point of the franchise? (Sentiment isn’t a good reason.) For better or for worse, Emery is building a team around Jay Cutler, which is one of the reasons why he hired Testman and invested over $7 million a year in blindside protector Jermon Bushrod. It’s understandable that Urlacher still believes he can contribute and it’s disappointing that he feels as though Chicago disrespected him with a $2 million-per-year offer. But Emery has to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears – not for Brian Urlacher. This is a painful, yet logical time for both parties to part ways.

Bills to keep Marshawn Lynch now?

Buffalo Bills' running back Marshawn Lynch runs for a 12-yard gain against Washington Redskins' safety Kareem Moore during the first quarter at FedEx Field in Washington on August 13, 2010.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

Either the Bills are playing a serious game of cat-and-mouse with other teams or they truly intend to keep three starting running backs on their roster this season.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Bills are planning on keeping Marshawn Lynch past the NFL’s October 19 trade deadline. According to Schefter, the Bills contemplated trading the former first round pick last week but ultimately decided to hold off.

Of course, this could just be GM Buddy Nix’s way of using the media as a tool to increase Lynch’s trade value. If it’s documented that the Bills plan on keeping Lynch, that may entice other teams to get more aggressive in their pursuit of him. Or again, Nix just really enjoys the company of Lynch, Fred Jackson and rookie C.J. Spiller.

Given the way they played on Sunday against the Jets, it would behoove Nix to hang onto Lynch until he can get top value for him. A fourth or a fifth rounder next year isn’t going to help a team so desperately thin on talent. Maybe if Nix holds out long enough, he can trade Lynch for a third rounder next offseason, which could turn out to be a starter down the road. But he’s not going to get a third rounder right now, especially not after the Broncos acquired Laurence Maroney for a fourth.

The Bills may just have to be patient here.

Marshawn Lynch back on the trade market?

Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch charges into a hole on a carry in the first quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on September 26, 2010.   UPI/Matthew Healey Photo via Newscom

Apparently a 0-3 start has turned Bills GM Buddy Nix into Brian Cashman.

ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde is reporting that the Bills have put the word out that Marshawn Lynch is available for trade. This comes a day after Trent Edwards was released, so it appears that Nix is starting to get more aggressive in his decision-making.

Too bad he wasn’t this aggressive six months ago when he could have actually helped the Bills build a more competitive team. I don’t understand why he would wait until now to try and get something in return for Lynch. He likely had the opportunity to trade him around draft time and he never did. Now he’s stuck with three starting-caliber running backs (Lynch, Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller) on his roster and is trying to trade one if them when teams know he has three starting-caliber running backs on his roster.

It just doesn’t make any sense. If the intention was to eventually deal Lynch (and don’t kid yourself – as soon as the Bills drafted Spiller, the intention was to deal Lynch), then Nix should have gotten something before the draft when teams were more motivated to buy. Don’t wait until the season kicks off and teams have had the chance to fall in love with some of their own players that they had throughout training camp and preseason.

Nix will be fortunate to get a fifth round pick in return for Lynch if he winds up trading him now. If he had traded him back in April like he should have, then maybe he would have gotten a third or fourth rounder in return.

Just more bad timing from a bad organization.

Why is Marshawn Lynch still a Bill?

Aug. 06, 2010 - Pittsford, New York, United States of America - August 6, 2010: Buffalo Bills running back MARSHAWN LYNCH.

Does anyone else find it interesting that the Bills have three starting running backs on their roster and no starting quarterbacks?

I get C.J. Spiller’s role – he was the team’s No. 1 draft pick in April that the Bills have high hopes for.

I get Fred Jackson’s role – he rushed for 1,062 yards last year while averaging 4.5 yards per carry behind an inexperienced offensive line.

I get Marshawn Lynch’s role – he…

Actually, I don’t get what Lynch’s role is in Buffalo. Why is he still on the Bills’ roster? Furthermore, why wasn’t he traded a millisecond after Spiller’s name was called in April?

I’m a little confused as to what Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey’s game plan is here. Having two running backs is the norm now in the NFL. But the No. 3 back on the depth chart is usually a change-of-pace option or a developmental project for down the road. He’s not a former No. 1 pick that has embarrassed the franchise on several occasions by running into trouble with the law and whose trade value is dwindling by the day.

I could see if Gailey was going to use all three backs in some hybrid triple-option attack. But he called only 17 running plays in the team’s 15-10 loss to the Dolphins last Sunday and I highly doubt we’re going to see much variation off that in the upcoming weeks.

Why pay Lynch first round money to only carry the ball three times when Jackson has earned the right for more carries (he only received four carries last week) and Spiller is the future? It makes zero sense.

The Packers just lost Ryan Grant for the season. Nix should pick up the phone and get Ted Thompson on the line immediately. If Thompson is willing to part with a fifth or sixth round pick for Lynch, then the former Cal product should be on a one-way trip to Green Bay tonight.

If the Packers aren’t interested, then Nix needs to find a team that is. It makes you scratch your head when the Patriots were able to ship Laurence Maroney (another former first round running back) to Denver in exchange for a fourth round pick, while Lynch continues to rot in Buffalo for no reason.

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