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Bucs eye top QBs in draft
With Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith likely gone before it picks, Tampa Bay considers trading up.
By RICK STROUD
Published April 12, 2005
TAMPA - After their weekend workouts of Cal's Aaron Rodgers and Utah's Alex Smith, the Bucs might entertain trading up from the No.5 pick for one of the quarterbacks in the NFL draft.
The 49ers, Dolphins and Browns, who own the first three picks, need a quarterback but might find an eager partner in the Bucs if the other teams elect to trade down.
Rodgers (6 feet 2), who worked out for the Bucs in Berkeley on Saturday, has the edge in arm strength, readiness for an NFL offense and leadership.
Smith (6-4) has more size, is considered a better athlete and brilliant, having sat in on coaches meetings at Utah to help produce game plans. He worked out for Bucs coach Jon Gruden, quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett and general manager Bruce Allen in Salt Lake City on Friday.
While no trade talks reportedly have begun, the Bucs are in prime position to swing a deal for what they consider franchise-type quarterbacks. They have 12 picks, two in the third round.
"Part of our process is to be prepared for everything that can occur on draft day," Allen said Monday. "The quarterback position has always been the center point of franchises going back to Sammy Baugh.
"Both performed well. We have specific things we look for that were not done on the pro timing dates, and having Coach Gruden and Coach Hackett, two experienced quarterbacks coaches, we thought it went very well."
The Bucs even had a surprise for Rodgers. They arranged for Jerry Rice, the NFL's all-time leading receiver, to catch passes. Rice, who asked for and received his release from the Seahawks, still is interested in playing next season.
"It was a thrill for (Rodgers)," Allen said. "Obviously, (Rice) has an excellent relationship with Jon. Jerry has to decide whether he's going to play or not, and he wasn't of that mind-set (Saturday). It was more for fun. He got a good workout in and got to see one of the best players in the draft."
Gruden began the one-hour interview with Rodgers with a get-acquainted session, asking about his background, work habits and how he has dealt with criticism, according to agent Mike Sullivan.
"We wouldn't be here if we weren't players in this," Gruden told Rodgers.
Next, Gruden sent Rodgers to the grease board to break down formations and plays against certain defenses. Then they watched a tape of Rodgers completing 23 consecutive passes against national champion Southern Cal.
Gruden questioned Rodgers on every play, analyzing protection schemes and receiver progressions. Then it was to the practice field for a brief workout.
"Jon was doing lot of individual things," Sullivan said.
The Bucs went through a similar routine with Smith on Friday.
Tampa Bay has veteran Brian Griese and backup Chris Simms entering his third season.
But Gruden doesn't expect to ever be in such a good position to get a franchise quarterback.
Furthermore, Rodgers and Smith have traits that intrigue Gruden. Rodgers, who will be 22 in December, played in a West Coast offensive system at Cal under coach Jeff Tedford, who also tutored Joey Harrington, David Carr and Akili Smith. Alex Smith, 21 in May, played mostly in the shotgun at Utah, but he is smart and athletic.
"They both come from very good offenses," Gruden said recently. "(Rodgers) makes a wide range of plays as a passer. And it looks like he's making some key decisions with the protection and with the running game. And he's got size.
"(Smith) is a genius. I don't know if genius is a good word, but he's pretty ... smart. He sits in there with the coaches all day, every day. He loves football. This guy is close to 6-4. He can run. He can throw. Players love him. And if you watch him play against Texas A&M and Pittsburgh, you'll say he's good against any competition. I don't know. I like them both. I like them both a lot."
Dillon signs extension
BOSTON - Running back Corey Dillon signed a contract extension that could keep him with New England for the rest of his career.
The agreement guarantees Dillon $10-million over two years and could be extended for up to five years and $25-million in base pay and bonuses, his agent, Steven Feldman, said. Dillon, who turns 31 in October, was due to make $3.85-million next season, the final one of his contract.
BENGALS: Tom Kinder, the P.A. announcer for 37 seasons, died Sunday after complications from recent surgery. He was 78. Mr. Kinder worked from the sideline instead of the press box. It put him closer to the action, enough that when former coach Sam Wyche made his famous "You don't live in Cleveland" speech to stop fans from throwing snowballs in 1989, it was Mr. Kinder who gave him the microphone.CARDINALS: Linebacker Raynoch Thompson was released. He was second on the team with 139 tackles in 2002. He then signed an $11.3-million, four-year extension without letting the team know he tested positive for what became his second strike under the league's substance-abuse policy. Last season, he had 42 tackles and a sack.REDSKINS: Linebacker LaVar Arrington criticized the team for lack of support during his knee injury, saying, "It's like, just let me disappear and die." Arrington, who missed 11 games last season, announced he had a second surgery on the knee last week then said, "I'm taking as much time as I need. And if that means they're upset and want to get rid of me, then so be it."
--Information from other news organizations was used in the report.