Utah's Alex Smith likely will be gone before the fifth pick. That's where Miami comes in.By RICK STROUD, Times Staff WriterPublished April 16, 2005
TAMPA - It might seem calm inside the walls of One Buc Place, but Tampa Bay is creating the biggest stir just more than a week before the NFL draft.
That's because the quarterback the Bucs prefer appears to be Utah's Alex Smith and they are considering trading up if he is available with the second overall pick.
Tampa Bay, which picks fifth, discussed a possible trade with the Dolphins, who pick second, according to the Miami Herald.
The Bucs apparently decided Smith is a better fit than Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers after conducting workouts for both last weekend.
Dolphins coach Nick Saban reportedly has decided Smith, not an elite running back such as Auburn's Ronnie Brown, would be the better pick if it can't trade down.
At issue for the Bucs is whether to include a second-round choice in exchange for swapping first-round picks with the Dolphins to choose Smith. Tampa Bay is in a good position to make a deal with 12 picks, including two in the third round.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen revealed another move Thursday that might factor into the decision: acquiring Travis Henry from Buffalo. If successful, the Bucs could address their need at running back and turn their focus on moving up to get Smith. Helping the Bucs acquire Smith is the 49ers, who according to ESPN.com have a better shot at signing Rodgers.
Smith's agent, Tom Condon, met Thursday and Friday with the 49ers. If Smith were to be the top pick, he would want a contract in excess of the six-year, $45-million deal Eli Manning signed with the Giants last year, according to ESPN.com.
But the bigger compensation matter is what the Bucs might have to give the Dolphins to move up three spots. Saban uses a chart to determine the value of picks, which might call for the Bucs to give up a first-, second- and third-round pick. "I think the biggest thing you do is, if you can't trade up or can't trade down, you have to be prepared for whoever drops to you," said Ruston Webster, Bucs director of college scouting.
"All those guys who may be considered to go ahead of us, we are preparing like they're going to be there. You don't know what's going to happen."
Webster also said Friday that Smith and Rodgers compare favorably with last year's tandem of franchise quarterbacks, Manning and Philip Rivers, taken fourth.
"They have all the physical tools, and they are really smart guys," Webster said. "With quarterbacks, you tend to be too hard on them sometimes. But those guys are right in there. It's a tough choice. It could be a scary proposition. But the one thing is, with Jon (Gruden) and (quarterbacks coach) Paul Hackett, they know quarterbacks pretty good." Allen was unavailable for comment Friday. Rodgers' agent, Mike Sullivan, said he has no read on the Bucs' preference of quarterbacks.
"But with trades, it can get out because teams have to talk to each other," Sullivan said.
The Dolphins' decision to take a quarterback if they remain at No.2 still could be good news for the Bucs, assuming the 49ers strike a deal with Rodgers.
If quarterbacks go at No.1 and No.2, it will push other coveted players, such as Brown, Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards and Southern Cal receiver Mike Williams, within range of the Bucs. "I've been here a long time, and the fifth pick in the draft has got to count," Webster said. "If you miss on this guy, it's hard to overcome. In some ways, we are fortunate to have high picks in the first and second rounds, and we need to hit on those guys."