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NFL.COM: Ask Vic: Law, McKenzie unlikely to be dealt


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Ask Vic: Law, McKenzie unlikely to be dealt

By Vic Carucci

National Editor, NFL.com


I've been following the NFL closely for a few years now, and have noticed that there are far fewer trades in the NFL than in either Major League Baseball or the NHL. In general, teams seem to subscribe to the concept that continuity and stability breed success in the NFL and that there isn't the excitement of a flurry of headline-grabbing, trade-deadline deals. Could you tell me why that is, please?


As a rule, major trades are few in the NFL, although we did have had a rare exchange of stars in their prime earlier this year when the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos swapped Champ Bailey and Clinton Portis. All teams strive to maintain as much continuity and stability as they can, but I wouldn't say it is the primary reason we don't see a higher volume of trading throughout the league. It is far more complicated than that.

There certainly is a good deal of player movement via free agency and salary-cap cuts, and I would say the ability of teams to acquire veteran players who become available under those circumstances greatly reduces the motivation to pursue someone who would cost a high draft pick (or two) or an accomplished starter, or both.

Keep in mind -- a player who is traded is the same as a player who is waived in terms of the cap responsibility he leaves with his previous employer. All unamortized cap dollars that had been stretched over the life of that player's contract accelerate into the season of his departure, creating the dreaded "dead cap money" attached to a player no longer on the team. That, alone, is enough to convince a team to avoid trading or waiving an established player and choose instead to simply allow him to depart once he becomes a free agent. Clubs and players aren't always anxious to simply accept the terms of a player's contract as they exist at the time of a trade, and often the option of satisfactorily reworking the contract is a key condition of the transaction.

Here is another important point to consider: Most NFL players cannot be treated as interchangeable parts the way players can in baseball, hockey or basketball. Football is an extremely system-specific sport, and players usually are selected because their particular skills and body type make them a good fit for a certain style of offense or defense. You are not merely plugging a player into the lineup on the basis of his batting average or points per game, which is another reason teams generally proceed with caution when it comes to acquiring talent from another club.

I realize for millions of fans, fantasy football creates a freewheeling mentality when it comes to trades, but that does not apply to real football.

What, if anything, do you see happening with Ty Law?


I think he will end up playing another season in New England. From all indications, Law, while still upset the Patriots won't give him the sort of contract extension he is seeking, intends to fulfill all of his team obligations. That means he should be taking part in the minicamp scheduled to begin June 10 and reporting to training camp this summer.

Certainly, the harsh comments Law made in March about not even being able to see himself put on a Patriots uniform again are hard to forget. But he does seem to have softened his stance since then. During an appearance in late May on a Boston television station, Law said, in part, "I understand that this is a business and that I can't always have my way. I'm going to go out there and play my heart out just like I always do."

Two other thoughts on the subject: One, Law would only hurt himself if he allowed any ill feelings he had about his contract or coach Bill Belichick to cause him to withhold his services (and forfeit his salary) or perform at his usual level as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. Two, the rest of the teams in the league have made their major offseason player moves, and it is doubtful any would have the available salary-cap space to accommodate the mega dollars Law wants.

Where do you think Mike McKenzie will be next year? What are the chances of him of playing in Green Bay?


It is difficult to say. There seems to be every indication the Packers would be willing to trade McKenzie. There also seems to be every indication that several clubs -- including the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles -- would be interested in his services.

However, the difficulty in such a transaction actually happening is that word around the league is the Packers are placing a premium price -- a first-round draft pick -- on a premium player. And why not? It is one thing for a player to demand a trade, but it is another for a club to accept any offer it can get simply to rid itself of a headache.

The Packers could unload McKenzie for a second-round choice, but don't expect them to be all that quick to do so.

With all of the huge offseason acquisitions made by teams in the NFC East, do you think it will be the most dominant and difficult division?

--Kelly, San Francisco

I agree that NFC East teams have easily cornered the market on headline-making news this offseason -- the Redskins' and Giants' coaching changes, the Bailey-for-Portis trade, the Eagles' acquiring Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse, the Giants acquiring Eli Manning and Kurt Warner, the Cowboys picking up Vinny Testaverde.

Vinny Testaverde's signing might have created more questions than answers for the Cowboys.

However, it is hard to say that will translate into the division being the most dominant/difficult in the league. Within all of these moves, there are so many unknowns. Can Joe Gibbs recapture his magic after all of these years in Washington? Will Giants players respond favorably to Tom Coughlin's firmer approach? Is Mark Brunell ready to provide the Redskins with much-needed stability at quarterback? Can Owens fit into the Eagles' team-oriented concept? Is Warner healthy enough to play well enough to buy Manning time to learn? Does Testaverde, who will turn 41 in November, have enough left in his tank to give the Cowboys at least a solid year until they can find their long-term solution at quarterback?

Given the many question marks that linger over the NFC East, I am inclined to say that, on paper at least, the NFC South looks like it could be the league's toughest division. Yes, it too has its share of question marks (what division doesn't?), but not quite as many as you find in the NFC East or elsewhere.

Do you think the Buccaneers' Cover Two defense will be significantly less effective now that John Lynch is no longer in Tampa? More importantly, do you think Jermaine Phillips can fill the big shoes left by Lynch?

--Justin, KY

I think the Bucs, or any team, would miss Lynch's considerable intelligence and savvy, both of which went a long way toward enhancing the effectiveness of Tampa Bay's coverage. It is equally important to have the athletic ability to help prevent big plays -- the primary purpose of using the Cover Two -- and to make them. Between the natural wear and tear that comes with playing such a physical position and the accumulation of injuries, that is something Lynch wasn't able to consistently display last season.

Lynch might very well find himself revitalized in Denver, but I don't think his absence means any major decline in the effectiveness of the Bucs' Cover Two. With cornerback Brian Kelly healthy after missing most of the 2003 season with a chest injury, and the addition of experienced third corner Mario Edwards from Dallas, Tampa Bay actually has a chance to field an improved secondary. Of course, the Bucs will need a strong contribution from Phillips, and their coaches are confident he can deliver and evolve into a consistent playmaker.

Where does Miami stand with signing Adewale Ogunleye?


The Dolphins and Ogunleye's agent are still talking, which remains a hopeful sign they eventually will reach a deal. For what it is worth, Ogunleye expressed optimism about the negotiations while accepting the Dan Marino MVP Award for the 2003 season during the team's recent kickoff banquet. My sense is he wants to pick up where he left off with Miami, but reaching an agreement that will satisfy both sides will be difficult.

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