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Fantasy Notebook: Vick's Future; Cutler Peeved & More
Another Sunday, another Fantasy Notebook. ... Well, the 2009 free-agent signing period kicked off Friday, bringing with it no shortage of singings, trades, releases, rumors and other fun stuff. Those interested in catching up with the biggest moves -- including the three major trades taking place since early Friday morning -- should check out Thursday, Friday and Saturday's Roster-Move Roundups.

Those interested will also be able to keep up with all the latest shenanigans in the News & Views section of the site.

So, with all that going on we'll be using the Notebook to look at some (mostly) non-free agent-related stuff.

That being the case, we'll get the ball rolling this week in Atlanta, where Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff announced late last month that his club is trying to trade the contract rights on Michael Vick to another team.

In an interview that appeared on the team's web site, Dimitroff said, "With regards to Michael Vick, we've decided to seek a trade of his contractual rights to another NFL club."

Vick is currently serving a 23-month sentence at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., for a dogfighting conspiracy and the Associated Press, citing an unnamed government official, reports the speedy signal caller has been approved for release to home confinement.

Vick's lawyers have said they expected him to be moved any day into a halfway house in Newport News, Va. But the official says there's no bed space, so Vick could be released to his Hampton, Va. home as soon as May 21st.

If that's the case, he would be on electronic monitoring and will only be allowed to leave home for activities approved by his probation officer.

Meanwhile, Vick has a contract that runs to 2013 and calls for him to receive a base salary of $9 million and a bonus of $6.43 million in 2009. The remainder of the contract is worth $45.11 million, with another possible $3 million in Pro Bowl bonuses.

"We feel a trade is the best move for the Falcons, and it's also in the best interest for Michael," Dimitroff said. "This has been a really unique situation from a variety of standpoints and because we will actively be involved in a trade situation, I don't envision our organization speaking any more about this subject publicly until it's reached a resolution."

He said the Falcons have had no discussions with other teams because Vick is under suspension by the NFL, "but we think some teams might be interested in exploring a trade."

Or not.

Turns out the list of teams expressing interest in Vick is rather limited. As in limited to none.

The list of teams unequivocally stating that they have absolutely no interest in Vick, however, is growing.

In addition to the Falcons, those making their desire to steer clear includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Detroit Lions, the New York Jets, the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.

It might be worth noting that more than a few of those teams appear on NFL Network analyst Jamie Duke's list of teams that should be interested.

According to Dukes, the Lions, Chiefs, Rams, 49ers, Jets, Bears, Bucs and Vikings all needed to consider Vick for a variety of reasons.

Per Dukes: "Vick is recession-proof, as he will sell out the stadium. He will make the running game better for any team he plays for. He will make the defense better because of the disproportionate number of first downs he generates."

Appearing on the NFL Network, former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden expressed his admiration for Vick last week. Calling the troubled quarterback "Starship 7," Gruden was quoted as saying that he would create an offense for his exceptional talents.

Indeed, when Vick's name first surfaced in San Francisco, new head coach Mike Singletary sounded open to the possibility during a question-and-answer session with reporters following a state-of-the-franchise event on Feb. 16.

That changed the next day.

"The 49ers are not interested in Michael Vick," said a team spokesman announced.

As for Seattle, the connection is obvious: Jim Mora, Vick's coach in Atlanta, is now the coach of the Seahawks.

Asked at the NFL Scouting Combine whether the Seahawks can be scratched from the list of teams interested in Vick, Mora was clear.

"Yes," Mora said, according to Don Banks of "We haven't discussed it. We're happy with our quarterbacks. Once I left Atlanta, I distanced myself from all of that."

Not surprising consider Mora's father, former Saints and Colts coach Jim Mora Sr., once openly agreed with a radio-show caller's assessment that Vick is a "coach killer."

Of course, finding an interested suitor is one piece of the puzzle.

As's Mike Florio noted in a column published by on Feb. 18, when Vick exits the custody of the federal government on July 20, his debt to society will be fully repaid. But, Florio wondered, "Does that mean he'll be able to trade in his jump suit for a jock strap?"

Some believe that Vick's shot at redemption necessarily includes automatic reinstatement to the NFL. Others believe that Vick should never be allowed to even attend another NFL game, much less play in one.

In the end, the decision as to Vick's football future will be made by one man, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has reiterated Goodell's statement when he suspended Vick on Aug. 24 2007 that he will review Vick's status when legal proceedings are done.

Florio suggested several factors could influence Goodell's decision. The list of potential areas about which Goodell might be concerned includes:

  • Remorse: Goodell recently told NFL Network's Adam Schefter that Vick must show true remorse for his actions.

  • Truthfulness: In April 2007, only days after evidence surfaced of a dogfighting operation at Vick's rural Virginia property, the Falcons quarterback lied to Goodell's face regarding his knowledge of and involvement in the endeavor. Vick continued to lie about the situation until the evidence against him was unavoidable.

    Florio added: "Vick embraced the truth only when it was convenient for him to do so. After he pleaded guilty, he reportedly failed a polygraph test regarding the question of whether he participated in killing dogs."

  • Drugs: Separate from the issues that landed Vick at Leavenworth is the reality that he had, and still might have, a drug problem. If there was any doubt after he was nabbed at an airport with a water bottle with a hidden compartment that didn't smell like water in early 2007, Vick tested positive for marijuana later that year while awaiting sentencing.

  • Gambling: Few issues involving off-field misbehavior implicate the integrity of the game. But Vick's conduct arose, at its core, from gambling.

    A rather serious list.

    Serious enough to prompt Yahoo! Sports columnist Michael Silver (who happens to believe Vick deserves to return to the league upon completion of his prison sentence) to predict: "In all likelihood, Goodell will extend Vick's indefinite suspension to include some or all of the 2009 season, meaning a man who already has lost his freedom, reputation and fortune will give up yet another year of football. ..."

    Meanwhile, Dimitroff said if the Falcons are unable to complete a trade, they will re-evaluate. My guess is it's time to start assembling Plan: Releasing Vick outright.

    If that's the case, who wants him?

    As's Peter King wrote: "Round up the usual suspects. I say the Raiders, even though that's ridiculously easy. ..."

    In Denver. ... While New England and Kansas City were agreeing to Saturday's trade of Matt Cassel to the Chiefs for the draft's 34th overall pick, multiple reports suggest there were more teams in the mix.

    Detroit, Tampa and Denver were involved in trade talks of their own also tied to Cassel, according to sources in the respective NFL cities.

    According to Schefter, Tampa approached Denver to try to make a three-way trade that would have sent Cassel to the Broncos and Jay Cutler to the Buccaneers. The Broncos entertained the notion and pondered it but ultimately decided against it.

    Also, the Lions approached the Broncos about a trade for Cutler, trying to dangle Cassel as bait. Once again, Denver debated the deal and opted against it apparently. What made it a moot point was that while all Tampa, Detroit and Denver engaged in trade talks with New England, the Patriots went ahead and dealt Cassel to the Chiefs.

    Schefter went on to report the Broncos firmly maintain that they never intended to trade Cutler, that they were approached to make the trades.

    But, as of Saturday afternoon, Cutler was angry to hear that his name had been floated in any trade conversations -- and according to Denver Post staffer Mike Klis, Cutler still believes the team is trying to trade him.

    "My understanding at this point is they're trying to trade me," Cutler said. "We'll see where I end up at. I liked it here, I liked playing with these guys but obviously they're not going to let me have that opportunity."

    Notice his use of the past tense?

    Given that comment (and it's clear tone), it might be worth stressing one more time: Nobody claims the Broncos called anybody regarding Cutler. The contact was initiated by Tampa Bay and Detroit.

    "He's not the only person in the last few days we've received calls on," head coach Josh McDaniels said. "We've received trade calls on a number of players, which is not uncommon this time of the year. I also think the sensitivity of the other trade that was occurring, with my relationship with New England and the whole Cassel thing; I think that stirred the pot even more."

    And then McDaniels, the Pats' offensive coordinator last year, made a point of emphasis: "We don't want to trade Jay. We never did. He's our quarterback. We're excited about this season. And excited about what we're doing here in free agency to improve our team."

    Nevertheless, Cutler was shaken his team entertained moving him, and doesn't believe such a possibility is dead.

    "I'm upset. I mean I'm really shocked at this point," he told Klis. "I could see why they want Cassel. I don't know if they think I can't run the system or I don't have the skills for it. I just don't get it. Or if they don't think they can sign me with my next contract. I just don't know what it is. I've heard I'm still on the trading block."

    Assuming the Broncos version of these events is accurate (and all the reporting suggests it is) and Cutler is not traded, and he stays with the Broncos, can his situation be mended?

    "Anything can be mended," Cutler said. "I'll always play with the guys we've got. I love playing for those guys. Obviously, Josh and I's relationship has taken a few steps backward. I don't play for the coaches anyway, I play for teammates. As long as we keep the guys we've got I'll go out there and play. I love those guys."

    Cutler said he had spoken with teammates Brandon Marshall, Brandon Stokley, Tony Scheffler and Casey Wiegmann, among others, about his trade.

    "I know they love playing for me and I love playing for them," Cutler said. "There's going to be a lot of problems if they try to trade me. Well, they've already tried to trade me, but if they trade me for sure."

    Even if subsequent reports claiming the Broncos were indeed dangling him are true, Cutler's heat-of-the-moment comments don't read well.

    It brings to mind former Denver QB Jake Plummer's assessment of his one-time teammate.

    "He's a great quarterback, don't get me wrong," Plummer said of Cutler last month. "I'm not saying anything to disrespect him. I think he's a hell of a player. But Jeff George was a hell of a player. There's a lot of guys who have been great players."

    Plummer's words prompted Post columnist Terry Frei to write: "Unlike George, Cutler never will be accused of having a million-dollar arm, a dime-store attitude and a scarecrow's brain. He's not that bad, but being compared to George, even if it was done by a deposed quarterback who carries an ax with him in the Idaho woods, should give Cutler -- and those around him -- pause for additional thought."

    And if Plummer's assessment wasn't enough, Cutler's reaction to the trade reports did the trick for me. ...

    In San Francisco. ... As Singletary told reporters at the scouting combine, in a perfect world, the 49ers would have a clear-cut starting quarterback and a proven commodity at the position.

    But the 49ers don't live in that world.

    Assuming the reports emanating from Kurt Warner's camp suggesting the Cardinals free-agent QB is of interest to the Niners are more the result agent Mark Bartelstein's efforts to get the Cardinals to up their ante than actual interest on the part of team officials in San Francisco, Shaun Hill would be considered the 49ers' starting quarterback.

    What that really means to Singletary as he enters his first full season as head coach -- and what he is looking for -- is competition at the position.

    "Going into training camp, of course I could say that Shaun Hill is out starting quarterback going into training camp, but what does that really say?," Singletary said last Friday. "It says he's going to compete for the job. To me, at the end of the day, the most important thing, rather than saying Shaun Hill is the starter, is making sure that whoever we have at the quarterback position, that we have the best guy on the field that gives us the best chance to win.

    "I think that's the most important thing that's going to come out of our quarterback situation."

    Singletary admits the 49ers have discussed bringing in a veteran quarterback in free agency, but the impression is the team feels comfortable with a competition between Hill, Alex Smith and J.T. O'Sullivan.

    In fact, some observers view Smith as more than just a wildcard in this equation. Indeed, there are those who believe he might be the early favorite.

    As San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami framed it, "the optimists believe that Smith and the 49ers finally will make it work in 2009, thanks to the departure of Mike Nolan, Smith's nemesis, and the general sense that time heals all shoulder and emotional wounds.

    "The cynics know that this relationship is set to continue only because the triple-arcs of Smith's real value, his salary, and the 49ers' expectations at quarterback have finally merged at a descended place."

    General manager Scot McCloughan said negotiations to re-work the contract of Smith, the former first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, are ongoing but described them as "very positive."

    Smith, 24, is still under contract with the 49ers.

    "At his age, he still has a lot of good football ahead of him," said McCloughan. "We have not seen his best football yet. Hopefully it's with the 49ers."

    According to Santa Rosa Press-Democrat beat writer Matt Maiocco, talks about reducing Smith's contract have been put on hold. The only timeline for getting a new deal in place apparently is Monday, March 16. But Smith has told McCloughan he wants the opportunity to start again for the 49ers.

    What might Smith do if given that opportunity?

    Singletary doesn't want or need Smith to be a savior candidate anymore. And Kawakami went on to suggest that might be the "perfect chance for Smith to show he can hand off 30 times, audible out of bad play calls and stay away from sacks, fumbles and interceptions."

    "We don't have to throw the ball a million times," Singletary said during the 49ers' "State of the Franchise" event Monday. "We can sit on that thing, pound it, throw it when we have to."

    Frank Gore running, Patrick Willis tackling. ..."

    And Kawakami summed up: "Maybe Alex Smith not messing things up at QB. That could be the formula. ..."

    Also in San Francisco. ... Mercury News staffer Daniel Brown reports that Singletary promised good things from new offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. And, for the first time, he publicly acknowledged some of the friction he had with fired offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

    "I don't want it to be where I'm fighting with someone behind closed doors and then coming out with a smile on my face," Singletary said of the Martz days. ...

    For what it's worth. ... Asked if Gore's running style fits what he wants to do with the run game, Raye replied: "He has all the ingredients, I think. He is one of the top-echelon backs in the league, and I've had some good guys. I've been blessed with some good guys like Marcus Allen, Curtis Martin, Thomas Jones and [Eric Dickerson].

    "If he plays the way he's capable of playing, he can be that kind of productive guy."

    Raye also mentioned tight end Vernon Davis.

    "I think it's a plus that he can block a defensive end and pass protect because in the course of a game there will be situations where we'll need him to do both, so that's a bonus," Raye said. "My initial thought going in, just like with [Tony] Gonzalez at Kansas City, is he is a threat at that position -- a nightmare for some teams. We'll exploit that to its maximum ability.

    "I would expect he will be a major part of what we do, just based on what I've seen. ..."

    In New York. ... All the cap room the Jets created in recent weeks had many wondering if the team would go after a quarterback, but according to the National Football Post's Mike Lombardi, a there seems to be very little indication that will happen.

    This after incoming head coach Rex Ryan told reporters last Friday he's prepared to stand pat with his current quarterback situation and isn't interested in signing a veteran just for the sake of having one.

    In fact, Ryan, who was attending the scouting combine, said he already has a veteran presence in quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh, a former NFL quarterback who coached with Ryan in Baltimore.

    The Jets currently have Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge on their roster.

    "The first thing I would think (about bringing in a veteran quarterback) is, to do what? Be the backup?" Ryan said Friday. "What I would gather is if I can bring in a guy with 16 years' NFL experience, and let's just say two Super Bowls, I'd bring that guy in.

    "That's what I did in hiring Matt Cavanaugh. That's our veteran quarterback presence right there. I'm comfortable with Matt being the mentor for these young quarterbacks."

    Of course the Jets could draft a quarterback as well. However, it is likely Clemens or Ratliff will be the starter next season.

    "I think if you ask (within) the organization, it's probably split right down the middle (between Clemens and Ratliff) who they think can do it," said Ryan. "Then you have Erik Ainge. It's funny. He's a dark horse. Maybe he doesn't get the exact reps as the other two guys, but he's definitely going to get an opportunity as well.

    "It's definitely an open competition."

    According to New York Daily News staffer Rich Cimini, Cassel's name was mentioned in high-level organizational meetings. But not because the Jets were planning to pursue him.

    What the Jets are hoping is to find a quarterback who can emulate Cassel's success as a first-year starter -- an inexperienced, but mature-beyond-his-years player who rises to the level of those around him.

    Cimini believes Ratliff fits the description better than Clemens because of his less heralded background and lack of game experience.

    Ratliff was overlooked in the 2007 draft, but offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer liked what he saw on tape and the Jets signed him as a free agent. After a year as a receiver on the practice squad he returned to quarterback and was sensational last preseason.

    He posted a 122.6 passer rating, although it came against backups.

    "(The preseason) was a glimpse of my abilities and what I'm capable of," said Ratliff, who quietly signed a two-year, $855,000 contract extension last August -- not a whole lot more than what recently-retired Brett Favre made in one week.

    Two weeks ago, Ratliff spent 30 minutes in Ryan's office, where the new coach spelled out his post-Favre plan. Ratliff liked what he heard.

    "He said in his eyes, it's an open competition," Ratliff said. "He said, 'There will be an opportunity for you.' That's all I can ask for, an opportunity to prove myself. ..."

    In Detroit. ... There are conflicting reports about whether Daunte Culpepper was told that he's going to be the starting quarterback for the Detroit Lions this year, but one thing seems pretty clear: Culpepper believes he's going to be the starter.

    In fact, Culpepper is banking on it.

    Earlier this month, Culpepper restructured his contract which would've given him a $2.5 million roster bonus this past Friday, triggering a $2.5 million salary for the 2009 season.

    According's Tom Kowalski, Culpepper's new deal will still pay him a salary of $2.5 million.

    However, the $2.5 million roster bonus has been broken into three significant parts -- a smaller roster bonus that will be paid later in the off-season, incentives based on production and a workout bonus. Kowalski went on to explain there was no signing bonus for restructuring the deal and the new roster bonus won't be paid until sometime after the middle of March.

    Culpepper's incentives are believed to be based on quarterback rating, passing yards and touchdowns but the numbers are not known. The total amount of the incentive package is believed to be significantly higher than $500,000. The off-season workout bonus, which includes a weight clause, is worth $300,000.

    When the team announced the restructuring, incoming head coach Jim Schwartz said the team was still discussing all options at quarterback, including the other four that played for them last season: Dan Orlovsky, Jon Kitna, Drew Stanton and Drew Henson.

    But Kitna was traded to Dallas on Saturday.

    And Orlovsky, who decided to test the free-agent market this past week, claimed he was doing so to avoid being relegated to reserve status. And who did Detroit officials tell Orlovsky he would be backing up?

    "Daunte," Orlovsky said. ...

    In a related note. ... Rex Grossman named the Detroit Lions as one of the more interesting teams he has an eye on as he heads to free agency.

    According to Chicago Sun-Times staffer Brad Biggs, Grossman called Calvin Johnson one of the best, if not the best wide receiver in the league, said he'd like playing home games in a dome and lauded new Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

    "They're not as bad as their record," Grossman said on Sirius NFL Radio. "They are a good team. I would love to be there. ..."

    In Minnesota. ... Adrian Peterson will be looking to add 7 to 12 pounds to his 6-1, 218-pound frame this offseason. Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher in 2008, knows the key in doing this will be to not lose speed.

    "That would be pretty nice," Peterson said. "I don't think too many guys would be excited to see me at 230 [pounds] two times a year." Peterson explained that the additional weight will help him endure the long season and make him "more explosive."

    According to Minneapolis Star-Tribune staffer Judd Zulgad, Peterson's comments almost certainly were driven by the fact that he played in all 16 regular-season games, 17 if you count playoffs, in his second NFL season after missing two games in 2007 because of a knee injury. Peterson touched the ball 385 times this season (363 rushes, 21 catches, 1 kick return) after having 273 touches (238 rushes, 19 catches, 16 kick returns) as a rookie.

    Peterson rushed for 1,760 yards this season but he also took a physical pounding and ended up fumbling an NFL-high nine times (four lost). The Vikings aren't going to say much about the fumbles but that has to be a concern heading into the offseason.

    Speaking with reporters at the combine, Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman made it clear that this was not something the Vikings suggested but he also did not express displeasure with Peterson's plan.

    "Adrian's trying to be the best football player he can be, and I know there's a lot of still untapped potential in how much better he can get. I know that the coaches and Tom Kanavy, our strength coach, and Brad [Childress], they will all monitor that to see if that's affecting him or not.

    "Adrian works extremely hard at his craft to be the best he can be. That's something that will be discussed internally. But I know that you don't have to ever worry about Adrian being ready to go on Sunday and being in the best shape possible. ..."

    And following up on a couple items from last weekend's Notebook. ...

    In Philadelphia. ... We now have confirmation of a meeting last week between Donovan McNabb and Eagles team president Joe Banner to begin discussions on a contract extension. However, a source told Philadelphia Inquirer staffer Ray Parillo the meeting did not include head coach Andy Reid or the quarterback's agent, Fletcher Smith, as some reports suggested.

    According to Parillo's source, the Eagles were surprised by insider Michael Smith's report Monday that said McNabb told the team he might delay negotiating a contract extension until he sees how the team upgrades its offense during the off-season.

    Smith's report also implied McNabb might ask for a trade if he's not given more weapons to run the offense.

    McNabb has said in the past that the Eagles could use more help, but he usually spoke of improvement in general terms and did not specifically point to the offense. He did so in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, when he told reporters the team "needed more weapons on both sides, all phases of the game."

    He also said at the Super Bowl that he wanted to retire as an Eagle and spoke of his desire to be in a Super Bowl championship parade down Broad Street. But he had never before connected his contract discussions to the team's improvement, as was reported by Smith.

    The Eagles seem to be in a good position to improve the team during the off-season. They have the 21st and 28th picks in the first round of what is widely regarded as a draft deep in talent. They have 10 picks overall.

    "That gives us some firepower," Reid said last week.

    The Eagles also appear to have enough cash under the salary cap to make some aggressive moves in the free-agent market. According to Florio, the Eagles are $31 million below the salary-cap figure of $124 million for the 2009 season, which will make them a competitive bidder in the free agent market.

    They've yet to jump into the fray, however. ...

    In Cleveland. ... According to Florio, the new power structure in Cleveland -- the combination of head coach Eric Mangini and G.M. George Kokinis -- isn't sold on Brady Quinn as the starting quarterback.

    One source with knowledge of the dynamics in Cleveland told Florio that the new power structure there is "lukewarm" on Quinn.

    As a result, the team could to keep Derek Anderson, pay his $5 million roster bonus, and let Anderson and Quinn battle it out for the starting job.

    Remember: The two men never have competed openly for the position.

    In 2007, Quinn signed his rookie deal too late to make a meaningful run at being in position to replace Charlie Frye when he received the hook in Week One. In 2008, Anderson was the unquestioned starter throughout the offseason, training camp, and the preseason.

    Mangini didn't shy away from QB competitions during his tenure with the Jets.

    And as Florio pointed out, neither Mangini nor Kokinis need to justify the decision to draft Quinn or to sign Anderson. The new coach and G.M. can focus on what's best for the team, regardless of whether the answer is Quinn or Anderson. ... Or neither. ...

    And finally, from the "It Couldn't Have Happened To A Nicer Guy (Unless It Happened To Me) Department. ... Hours before free-agency started, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took himself off the market, marrying supermodel Gisele Bundchen on Thursday at the St. Monica Catholic Church, according to

    The Brazilian-born supermodel, 28, has been dating the superstar quarterback, 31, since 2006. Those unfamiliar with her body of work might want to review. …

    That's it for this week's Notebook. I'll check in again next Sunday. ... In the meantime, keep an eye on the News & Views section of this site for late-breaking news and other tidbits of interest. Watch the Headline News section for more in-depth reviews of current events -- including the Fantasy Notebook.