Sunday, April 18, 2004

Keeping pick makes sense for Chargers

NFL insider

Mark Curnutte
The $64,000 question is what will the Chargers do with the first overall pick in the draft Saturday?

The reality is the Chargers don't really know.

If possible, they would like to trade down and draft N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers. That move would allow the Chargers to avoid guaranteeing more than $17 million in the first three years for a player who probably wouldn't find his stride until Year 3. A trade also would allow them to acquire additional picks that could upgrade their roster.

Still, a trade doesn't seem imminent: The Chargers' two greatest needs are offensive tackle and quarterback - in that order - and the top prospects at both positions, quarterback Eli Manning and tackle Robert Gallery, will be off the board if they trade down.

Manning and Gallery are expected to go 1-2 regardless of who's selecting, and the Chargers would have a tough time selling their fans if they pass on both.

Look for the Chargers to keep the pick and take Manning.

The Chargers have been searching for a capable starter since Stan Humphries retired after the 1997 season. Since then, they have gone through the likes of Jim Harbaugh, Erik Kramer, Ryan Leaf, Craig Whelihan, Moses Moreno, Doug Flutie and Drew Brees.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: The Redskins, who have the fifth pick in the first round, keep bringing in prospects. Eleven have been to Redskins Park, but it still seems likely tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. of Miami (Fla.) will be their guy.

Winslow is the dynamic type of athlete who could make coach Joe Gibbs' offense hum as an H-back.

Gibbs was San Diego's offensive coordinator in 1979 when the Chargers traded up to draft tight end Kellen Winslow 13th overall.

CHRISTMAS MEMORY: This season, the Chiefs will make three Monday night and one Sunday night appearance (opener at Denver), but the highlight of the 2004 schedule might be the Christmas Day game against Oakland.

Certainly, it will bring back memories of one of the most storied games in NFL history, when the Miami Dolphins upset the Chiefs 27-24 in double overtime in a 1971 playoff game. Garo Yepremian's 37-yard field goal in old Municipal Stadium ended the game after 82 minutes and 40 seconds, longest in NFL history.

The game, the final one at the stadium, signaled the last hurrah of the Super Chiefs, who would not return to the playoffs until 15 years later, in 1986. The game propelled the Dolphins into a 1970s dynasty. Miami advanced to the Super Bowl that season, losing to Dallas before posting their unbeaten season in 1972 and winning another Super Bowl in 1973.

GO WEST: For the first time in the team's 45-year history, the Bills will make three regular-season trips to the West Coast. They play at Oakland, Seattle and San Francisco.

Cleveland visits Buffalo for the first time since 1986 and faces the Bills for the first time since its re-entry into the NFL in 1999.

AFC NORTH: Baltimore has 10 picks overall, including the fifth-rounder they received in the Terrell Owens deal, and three compensatory picks. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome doesn't rule out using some of those picks to move around in the draft. The Ravens probably will draft a potential third quarterback with a late-round pick or sign one after the draft.

Browns coach Butch Davis recently interviewed Ben Roethlisberger and Rivers, but talk of Cleveland taking a quarterback early in the draft didn't bother Jeff Garcia.

"I think I can groom a quarterback for about the fifth or sixth year if they feel like making him wait that long," Garcia said. "I really believe I have four or five strong years left. I'm 34 going on 24 or 25."

The Steelers have entertained several high-profile wide receivers the past week, signaling that Plaxico Burress' days in Pittsburgh are finite. Burress has one year left on his rookie contract, and the Steelers have no plans to extend it.


Written from notes submitted by NFL beat writers.

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