tampabay.com

Deal or no deal?

The Bucs hope to trade into the No. 2 overall spot so they can get Calvin Johnson. If that fails, however, general manager Bruce Allen could go in several directions.

By RICK STROUD
Published April 28, 2007


TAMPA -- All 32 NFL teams covet a dynamic player such as Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson. He might belong to a few of them before today is over.

The Bucs probably won't have a chance to select Johnson with the No. 4 overall pick. But general manager Bruce Allen has spoken to Lions president Matt Millen about a trade.

Here's what has to happen.

If the Raiders select LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell No. 1 overall as expected, then the Lions most likely would listen to offers before taking Johnson with the No. 2 overall pick.

The Browns, who select third, are believed to be deciding among Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas and Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson.

Discussions with the Lions will continue while the Bucs are on the clock. And Tampa Bay might even make a selection then complete a trade. The Bucs are dealing from a position of strength with four of the top 68 picks, most in the league.

With Johnson off the board, Tampa Bay has to consider addressing its defense, which has six projected starters over the age of 30. It hasn't used a first-round pick on a defensive player since 1999, tackle Anthony McFarland.

Coincidentally, the trade of McFarland to the Colts last season gave the Bucs two second-round picks. It's possible the Lions would ask for both and the No. 4 overall pick to move up two spots for Johnson.

That might be too pricey. Another possibility is one of the second-round picks and cornerback Brian Kelly. Kelly has not participated in offseason workouts and is unhappy with his contract, which the Bucs have refused to renegotiate.

If the Bucs can't swing a deal, they likely will select Thomas (if he's available) or Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams. Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye also is in the mix.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli covets Adams, so the teams could easily swap players. Allen has been tight-lipped about the Bucs' intentions, but he did allow trading up or down is an option.

"I think all 32 teams would be lying to you if they said they had no interest (in Calvin Johnson), " he said.

Johnson is a playmaker and would be an instant upgrade for a Bucs team that was next-to-last in the league with 23 touchdowns and converted just 9 percent of its third downs of 10 yards or longer. Johnson said it was easy to pick up on coach Jon Gruden's eagerness to draft him during a recent workout.

"I kind of got a sense of that, " Johnson said Thursday.

Allen sounded confident that the Bucs' strategy hasn't been disclosed in the media.

"We have done a very good job ... of keeping our intentions secretive, " Allen said. "I can say that when I see all the different predictions, you can tell they really have no insight into what we're going to do.

"We like the position we're in. We feel the only benefit of suffering through last season is where our draft slots are for this draft. They are picks that are going to help us this year and in the future. There will be opportunities to move up or down on draft day. And we'll evaluate it based on who's available."

On TV
ESPN begins its coverage at 11 a.m. today, an hour before the scheduled first pick. Coverage shifts to ESPN2 at 8 and runs until 10. Sunday, ESPN has coverage from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The NFL Network will have coverage from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.