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Trade Rumors Swirling Around Moss; Julius Jones, Too
More than 100 NFL players have signed new contracts since March 2; dozens of others have been released or traded. With so many moves in the rear-view mirror, it's safe to say we have entered what's commonly referred to as "phase two" of the free-agent signing period.

In other words. ... Thinks have slowed noticeably. So, why not use the lull to look at some other news of interest? Like trade rumors!

Speculation this week has focused on a couple of high-end Fantasy prospects: Oakland's Randy Moss and the Cowboys Julius Jones.

Let's get the ball rolling with the man most dominating the headlines, Moss.

While all indications -- and certainly the recent acquisitions of three wideouts (Donte' Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelley Washington -- seem to preclude any interest on the part of the Patriots, we can now say with some certainty that the Green Bay Packers are not only interested in dealing for Moss, they're actively pursuing just such a deal.

In an article published Tuesday, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff writer Bob McGinn, citing unnamed sources close to the situation, advised readers the Packers and Raiders have been discussing Moss for more than a month.

On Monday, a source familiar with the inner workings of both organizations told McGinn that Packers general manager Ted Thompson had spoken directly with Raiders owner Al Davis about dealing for Moss.

"They're going to get rid of him," the source told McGinn. "I think they think they can trade him. And I know Green Bay has interest."

As McGinn noted, Thompson refuses to discuss Moss, and Davis always operates under a veil of secrecy. Tim DiPiero, the agent for Moss, was unavailable for comment.

But the source told McGinn he was confident that Packers negotiator Andrew Brandt, with permission from Davis, already had had preliminary talks to restructure Moss' remaining base salaries of $9.75 million in 2007 and $11.25 million in '08.

Davis is 77 and struggles to walk, but Raiders employees maintain that he remains as competitive as ever. If Thompson is passionate about anything, it would be holding on to his draft choices.

Meanwhile, there have been reports suggesting the Packers have already offered quarterback Aaron Rodgers as part of a package for Moss.

In fact, editor Mike Florio reported this morning the two sides have reached a bit of a hitch in their ongoing talks and that Rodgers' potential is an issue.

According to Florio, the Raiders will only take Rodgers if there's also a conditional draft pick based on Rodgers' performance in 2007.

In short, if Rodgers doesn't perform, the Packers have to give up more in 2008.

Florio went on to explain the Packers' concern is that, because the Raiders have been so bad of late on offense, it's a given that Rodgers won't play well in 2007. There is also some worry that Oakland will bench Rodgers at some point during the season in order to ensure that a higher pick will come their way from Green Bay in 2008.

To resolve this potential impasse, Florio suggest the Packers are considering offering a 2009 conditional pick based on Rodgers' play in 2007 and 2008.

It should be noted that Thompson did his best to dispel any notion of an impending trade at last weekend's Packers Fan Fest. When asked if Rodgers was the team's quarterback of the future, Thompson replied without hesitation: "Yes."

And Rodgers' take on the trade rumors?

"I don't pay any attention to that stuff," he said late last week. "But it's hard for my friends and extended family not to. So, I got plenty of calls and text messages about that stuff."

It's also worth noting that Rodgers said no one from the Packers called to refute the rumors.

"I didn't really need that," he said. "I figured if I was going to get traded -- the way our organization is, we're a first-class organization -- I knew I'd be the first one to know. So, when I hear stuff like this, I didn't really think too much of it.

"A lot of my friends were potentially excited about me coming to California, but I said, 'Don't count on it.'"

Unless Brett Favre has something to say about it.

ESPN insider Chris Mortensen, appearing on SportsCenter this afternoon, told viewers that Favre "instigated" the discussion of Moss. And Florio, citing multiple sources, reported Tuesday night that Favre is pushing hard for the team to acquire Moss.

Indeed, Florio added that one source with knowledge of the situation told him on Tuesday that in Favre's mind the acquisition of Moss is a done deal.

That very notion has led to speculation suggesting that Thompson's efforts/talks with the Raiders are nothing more than an attempt to appease Favre.

Only time will tell.

How much time? Well, it's possible that the two sides might not agree on compensation until summer, if at all, with Thompson hoping Davis eventually waives Moss to gain a reported $8 million in cap space.

"But Al is stubborn," a source told McGinn. "He might hang on to the guy and tell the new coach (Lane Kiffin) just to go [expletive] coach him."

In the end, McGinn believes Thompson might part with a middle-round choice for the 30-year-old Moss, a devastating deep threat for seven seasons in Minnesota but a dud in Oakland for the last two.

And while is would certainly appear that New England is now secure enough at the position to be removed from contention, there are those who believe they'll continue to monitor the situation closely.

Tampa Bay also has interest but probably only if it can't select Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson with the No. 4 pick in April's draft. ...

One last note on the Packers' potential interest in Moss. ... Thompson made his monthly presentation to Packers management on Tuesday and it was believed the subject of acquiring Moss would top the agenda.

However, in an article published this morning, McGinn reports the subject of Moss wasn't even broached by Thompson until he was asked about it.

And make no mistake about it, the executive management committee -- starting with team president Bob Harlan -- have a keen interest in the situation.

Before Tuesday's meeting, Harlan had informed Thompson that fan opinion was running heavily against bringing Moss on board.

"When it first started as a rumor, Ted came in to see me," Harlan told McGinn. "I told him, 'I don't know what you're thinking about Randy Moss but I've got to let you know that the initial response I'm getting is not good.' It has settled down a little bit since then. I'd say it's been maybe 65-35 percent anti."

In fairness to Thompson, Harlan said he didn't know yet if the opposition to Moss would preclude a match being made. Still, Harlan seems to have a pretty clear-cut opinion.

"We've always talked about the public-relations image of the franchise and the class image of the franchise," Harlan said. "Those are important things to me, very important things to me.

"Ron Wolf was looking at a draft pick with baggage one year and he said, 'Where do you hide him in Green Bay?' And I said, 'You don't.'"

He's right. ... But that would just make the acquisition of Moss that much more interesting, wouldn't it?

The other rumor of great interest to Fantasy owners started on Monday, when Philadelphia Daily News columnist Paul Domowitch advised readers the Cowboys aren't exactly shopping Jones, but they've told teams that have inquired about him that he's for sale for the right price.

Domowitch went on to suggest that Cowboys owner-GM Jerry Jones apparently is prepared to hitch his wagon to the team's other young running back, Marion Barber.

Julius Jones, who ran for 1,084 yards last season, had just 65 carries in Dallas' final six regular-season games, but played well in the playoff loss to Seattle, rushing for 112 yards on 22 carries.

That initial report quickly led to further speculation -- and the usual denials.

San Antonio Express-News beat man Tom Orsborn suggested Domowitch's report must mean new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has seen enough film of last season to believe hard-nosed Barber should get the bulk of the carries in 2007.

NFL Network insider Adam Schefter then chimed in on the topic Tuesday, pointing out that Jones has one year remaining on his contract. Meaning, of course, that after this season, he can walk away from the Cowboys without Dallas receiving any compensation.

All that said, Jerry Jones told Dallas Morning News staffer Todd Archer today the team is not shopping Jones.

"I don't see that happening," Jones said when asked about moving the former Notre Dame star. "We have got a team that's going to need some great plays from that position and I like what we've done there with Barber.

"More than likely, unless we have an opportunity in the draft to do something, it's likely that we'll be going with the running back group we ended the season with. Hopefully we can have [Tyson] Thompson there that could give us a third back."

In case you missed it, Thompson suffered a season-ending ankle injury in October. It might be worth noting the Sports Xchange recently questioned whether Thompson is capable of handling even a limited backfield role.

Getting back to Jones. ...

Schefter advised readers the Cowboys can address the issue in a variety of ways: They can turn their heads and do nothing; or they can opt to try to sign Jones to a long-term extension; or they can look to deal their running back, which would not be overly difficult to do.

Teams such as Green Bay, Tennessee, Buffalo and Indianapolis have noticeable holes at the running back position that Jones could help solve.

Those teams could wind up using the draft to upgrade their backfield, but if they desire a more experienced back, then Jones -- his owners' claim to the contrary notwithstanding -- might be the player to make the call on. ...

And after Reuben Droughns was traded from the Browns to the Giants, Willis McGahee from the Bills to the Ravens, Thomas Jones from the Bears to the Jets and Tatum Bell from the Broncos to the Lions, another running back move doesn't seem all that outlandish.

Stay tuned. I will be watching closely. ...

In the meantime -- as always, you'll find breaking items in the News & Views section of the site with more in-depth reviews of top stories available here in the Headline News section, where you'll also find the weekly Fantasy Notebook each Sunday during the offseason.