Sunday, April 14, 2002

SULLIVAN: Persuasion needed to bag Bledsoe



By Tim Sullivan, tsullivan@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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        Our purpose today is to persuade Mike Brown to pull the trigger on a Drew Bledsoe deal. Provided, of course, that there's a trigger to be pulled.

        Brown keeps saying that what separates his Cincinnati Bengals from the playoffs is consistent play at quarterback. Frankly, we're a little tired of hearing it. We'd like Brown to solve the problem he keeps citing. We'd like him to pick up the phone, call up the New England Patriots, and bring Bledsoe to Bengaldom.

        Pay the freight. Get the guy. Spare us another season of the earnestly ineffective Jon Kitna.

        What's an unproven draft choice beside a proven passer? What's a veteran linebacker compared to a guy who handles the ball on every play? What's the hitch? What's the holdup? If Brown spurned an offer of all of New Orleans draft choices for the selection that brought him Akili Smith, why would he refuse to spend one draft choice on someone demonstrably better?

        Expensive, not expendable

        Making a bold move for Bledsoe makes perfect sense until you study the question from New England's perspective. To wit: Why would the Super Bowl champions let this guy go?

        The astounding ascension of Tom Brady — seen most recently in beefcake mode on the cover of Sports Illustrated — has made Bledsoe the most expensive backup in the National Football League. Yet there's an enormous difference between expensive and expendable. Quarterbacks are forever in short supply and doctor's offices.

        When you find a good one, you hold onto him like a winning lottery ticket. Then you go out and find his replacement.

        “There are not 32 NFL quarterbacks in the NFL,” said Jerry Jones, the erstwhile Mariemont pharmacist who devised The Drugstore List of NFL draft choices. “It's starting to be like major-league pitching staffs.”

        Jones is hardly enamored of Bledsoe. He likes his arm and laments his judgment, noting Bledsoe's propensity to force the action, to throw into coverage, to have passes intercepted. Jones believes Bledsoe would be an upgrade for the Bengals, but questions the cost.

        “I would offer them a three (third-round choice) or Darnay Scott,” Jones said. “Wide receiver is a deep position for the Bengals and they (the Patriots) have nothing to replace Terry Glenn. But I wouldn't go beyond that.”

        2 are better than 1

        There has been no indication that such an offer would entice the Patriots. Since quality quarterbacks are so scarce, any team that has two owns a distinct advantage over a 16-game season. At some point, the starter is bound to get bruised. When Brady went down during the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh, the Patriots still had Bledsoe to take them to the Super Bowl.

        Insurance policies can be expensive, but they sure help you sleep at night.

        Because Brady's money is still modest, the Patriots can carry Bledsoe's $5 million salary without severe cap problems. The real issue is whether the two quarterbacks can continue to coexist without dividing Bill Belichick's dressing room.

        That's a risk. Trading an established quarterback is a bigger one. See Esiason, Boomer.

        Contact Tim Sullivan at 768-8456 or e-mail: tsullivan@enquirer.com.

       



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