Notebook: QB run could be decided early

Len Pasquarelli explains why an interest in Christian Ponder could have other teams trying to connect the dots. Plus, it's not just Rick Spielman who thinks draft trades will be as prevalent as usual, despite veterans not likely to be allowed in trades.

In a move that could simply mean that the club is exercising its due diligence at the position, or might signal that the Cincinnati Bengals are leaning toward not drafting a quarterback with the fourth overall pick, The Sports Xchange has learned that the team visited with Christian Ponder of Florida State this week. The exact day of the visit still isn't confirmed, but the sides definitely met.

Given his performances at the combine and his pro day, Ponder clearly is one of the more compelling quarterbacks in the draft pool. There are some scenarios that catapult him into the first round – especially since his surgically repaired right shoulder seems plenty strong, sufficiently enough so that he has been excused from a medical "re-check" in Indianapolis this weekend – but most scouts project Ponder as going in the second round.

We're not ready to step out on a limb yet and proclaim that Ponder won't last beyond the Bengals' second pick, the 35th overall choice in the lottery, but Cincy coaches and personnel people seem very high on him. He seems a real possibility in the second round, if he lasts that long. Ponder is very bright, and new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden liked his blackboard work, and his postseason workouts certainly suggested he can make every throw.

The Bengals also like the fact Ponder, 23, is very mature and, as a five-year player, has started 40 games, third-most in the 2011 quarterback class, behind only TCU's Andy Dalton (50) and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick (49). There is no delusion that Ponder could be a starter in his first season in the league, but an agreement that he could take over an NFL club early in his career. And the Bengals' brass isn't the only group that seems to feel that way about a quarterback making solid offseason strides.

One more note about the Cincy quarterback situation: Despite the recent reports linking incumbent Carson Palmer to Miami, where there are suggestions that the Dolphins have to upgrade over Chad Henne, the Bengals' front office isn't anxious yet to deal their disgruntled starter to Miami or anyone else right now. Palmer, of course, has threatened to retire if not traded, and has said he has banked $80 million that will allow him to walk away from the game.

But the Bengals still hold his rights, and his contract runs through 2014, and the team is apt to sit on Palmer for now. And maybe through the 2011 season, provided there is one, and Palmer follows through on his threat to simply remain on the sidelines. In fact, every day the lockout lingers strengthens the resolve, it seems, that the club will not cave to Palmer's threats.

Snooping around: The search warrant executed on the offices of Pittsburgh doctor Richard Rydze last month by federal agents hasn't gotten much publicity yet, and hasn't resulted in any charges against the former Steelers' part-time physician, but the feds are digging pretty deep into the records and that could make some former players a little nervous. The Steelers severed ties with Rydze in 2007, after 21 years with the club, and following a U.S. Food and Drug Administration probe into why he allegedly purchased $150,000 of HGH and testosterone on his credit card. The questioning of Rydze at the time was part of a probe by the Albany (N.Y.) District Attorney's office into performance enhancing drugs. It should be noted that Rydze, 61, was never identified as a target of the probe, but the recent seizure of some of his paperwork indicates that federal authorities might not be done with him. And authorities have told The Sports Xchange that there are at least a few former NFL players mentioned in the documents.

Trade winds: There is a notion among some fans that, unless the NFL lockout miraculously ends by the draft and league matters return to some semblance of normalcy by the lottery, the result will be a distinct lack of trades on draft weekend. Recent history, though, suggests otherwise.

In the past five drafts, there have been 150 trades and only 27 deals, involving a total of 34 players, included veterans. The remainder were pick-for-pick(s) deals, and those are permitted in the draft, even under the current lockout guidelines. So there doesn't figure to be a dearth of wheeling and dealing April 28-30.

"I don't see a big dropoff," New England coach Bill Belichick, historically one of the league's most active dealers during the draft, told The Sports Xchange. "I think you'll still see some maneuvering, the way you always do."

Of course, Belichick orchestrated one of the more notable player trades of the past five years, landing wide receiver Randy Moss from Oakland in 2007 for just a fourth-round draft pick. But a lot of the other 26 deals involving players 2006-2010 were fairly forgettable trades. In fact, of the 34 players traded on draft weekend since 2006, more than one-third, 14, in fact, are out of the league entirely. Last year, there were seven trades involving eight players, and only a couple veterans that changed clubs made a difference. Foremost among them were quarterback Jason Campbell (Washington to Oakland) and kickoff returner Leon Washington (New York Jets to Seattle). But none of the veteran trades could be termed blockbusters. Even if the lockout is lifted, that figures to be the case this year. And if it isn't, well, it probably won't make a lot of difference.

"Very rarely do you see player-for-pick trades during the draft days," Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman told the Twin Cities-area media this week. "So I think that it will be business as usual."


Viking Update Top Stories

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We're not ready to step out on a limb yet and proclaim that Ponder won't last beyond the Bengals' second pick, the 35th overall choice in the lottery, but Cincy coaches and personnel people seem very high on him. He seems a real possibility in the second round, if he lasts that long. Ponder is very bright, and new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden liked his blackboard work, and his postseason workouts certainly suggested he can make every throw. The Bengals also like the fact Ponder, 23, is very mature and, as a five-year player, has started 40 games, third-most in the 2011 quarterback class, behind only TCU's Andy Dalton (50) and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick (49). There is no delusion that Ponder could be a starter in his first season in the league, but an agreement that he could take over an NFL club early in his career. And the Bengals' brass isn't the only group that seems to feel that way about a quarterback making solid offseason strides. One more note about the Cincy quarterback situation: Despite the recent reports linking incumbent Carson Palmer to Miami, where there are suggestions that the Dolphins have to upgrade over Chad Henne, the Bengals' front office isn't anxious yet to deal their disgruntled starter to Miami or anyone else right now. Palmer, of course, has threatened to retire if not traded, and has said he has banked $80 million that will allow him to walk away from the game. But the Bengals still hold his rights, and his contract runs through 2014, and the team is apt to sit on Palmer for now. And maybe through the 2011 season, provided there is one, and Palmer follows through on his threat to simply remain on the sidelines. In fact, every day the lockout lingers strengthens the resolve, it seems, that the club will not cave to Palmer's threats. The search warrant executed on the offices of Pittsburgh doctor Richard Rydze last month by federal agents hasn't gotten much publicity yet, and hasn't resulted in any charges against the former Steelers' part-time physician, but the feds are digging pretty deep into the records and that could make some former players a little nervous. The Steelers severed ties with Rydze in 2007, after 21 years with the club, and following a U.S. Food and Drug Administration probe into why he allegedly purchased $150,000 of HGH and testosterone on his credit card. The questioning of Rydze at the time was part of a probe by the Albany (N.Y.) District Attorney's office into performance enhancing drugs. It should be noted that Rydze, 61, was never identified as a target of the probe, but the recent seizure of some of his paperwork indicates that federal authorities might not be done with him. And authorities have told The Sports Xchange that there are at least a few former NFL players mentioned in the documents. There is a notion among some fans that, unless the NFL lockout miraculously ends by the draft and league matters return to some semblance of normalcy by the lottery, the result will be a distinct lack of trades on draft weekend. Recent history, though, suggests otherwise. In the past five drafts, there have been 150 trades and only 27 deals, involving a total of 34 players, included veterans. The remainder were pick-for-pick(s) deals, and those are permitted in the draft, even under the current lockout guidelines. So there doesn't figure to be a dearth of wheeling and dealing April 28-30. \"I don't see a big dropoff,\" New England coach Bill Belichick, historically one of the league's most active dealers during the draft, told The Sports Xchange. \"I think you'll still see some maneuvering, the way you always do.\" Of course, Belichick orchestrated one of the more notable player trades of the past five years, landing wide receiver Randy Moss from Oakland in 2007 for just a fourth-round draft pick. But a lot of the other 26 deals involving players 2006-2010 were fairly forgettable trades. In fact, of the 34 players traded on draft weekend since 2006, more than one-third, 14, in fact, are out of the league entirely. Last year, there were seven trades involving eight players, and only a couple veterans that changed clubs made a difference. Foremost among them were quarterback Jason Campbell (Washington to Oakland) and kickoff returner Leon Washington (New York Jets to Seattle). But none of the veteran trades could be termed blockbusters. Even if the lockout is lifted, that figures to be the case this year. 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