Draft buzz: Will QB-needy teams suffer 2011 relapse?

This year’s class of draft-eligible quarterbacks has been savaged from the start by evaluators.

“I really don’t like any of them,” one team executive told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Maybe two will go in the first round because of need but they all have holes. … It’s one of the worst groups I’ve watched in a long time.”

Plenty of draftniks agree, but will anything stop quarterback-needy teams from desperately reaching in the draft?

Reports have circulated for weeks that the Browns — as NFL Network’s Michael Silver put it — have “differing viewpoints within the building” on how to use the No. 1 overall pick, with some still considering North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky over “no-brainer” pass-rushing terror Myles Garrett.

Even the 49ers are considering a passer at No. 2, with NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reporting that “those who know coach Kyle Shanahan well insist … Trubisky would best fit what he does on offense.”

All this fuss over a quarterback who was described by one scout as having a “ceiling to be a solid starter like Alex Smith.”

Beyond Trubisky, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes has reportedly caught the eye of the Cardinals and Chiefs amid whispers that Texans coach Bill O’Brien “absolutely loves” the strong-armed signal-caller.

“I may be crazy but when I watch (Mahomes’) tape, just as a scout, I get excited,” one personnel man told McGinn before another warned: “He has the best arm of the group, but he plays crazy. I don’t even think ‘gunslinger’ is the right word. He’s reckless. … Mahomes might have 20 plays in a game where you go, ‘What are you doing?’”

None of these quarterbacks suggest the second coming of Joe Montana, but teams with burning needs will ensure, once again, that unpolished arms go long before they should in the draft.

It’s fair to wonder if this is 2011 all over again — minus the presence of a Cam Newton-level headliner. That class was equally bereft of plug-and-play starting passers, but that didn’t stop the likes of Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder all finding homes by the twelfth pick of the draft.

With the Browns, Niners, Jets, Bills, Cardinals and Chiefs all potentially seeking quarterback talent, will the NFL overvalue this year’s crop of quarterbacks in a way that would make even Gabbert turn red?

It sure feels like it.

With just two days to go before the April 27-29 draft in Philadelphia, we’ll be tracking all of the latest buzz. Check back each day for more updated nuggets like the ones below:

1. Speaking of chasing quarterbacks, Cleveland is already laying the foundation for a potential trade up in the first round. Is Trubisky the target?

“The Browns have been doing their due diligence and investigating the possibility,” Silver reported Tuesday. “I’ve now learned that at least three teams in the top eight have been contacted by the Browns and discussions have taken place about the prospect of moving up.”

If the Browns have their eyes set on Trubisky, it makes sense to get ahead of the Jets (at No. 6) and Bills (at No. 10), but that might not be enough — and here’s why:

2. NFL Network’s Steve Wyche echoed Rapoport on Tuesday, saying that “(Cleveland) better call the San Francisco 49ers because the possibility is (that San Francisco) could take a quarterback at No. 2, and all signs indicate it would be Mitchell Trubisky.”

Wyche emphasized that the Niners “would like to keep the No. 2 pick, but if the offer is enticing to move back, they will. And if the Browns are trying to come up from (No.) 12, that is a lot of draft capital to move up to No. 2.”

3. The Titans enter the draft in enviable position, holding a pair of first-round picks (No. 5 and No. 18) that could generate demand come Thursday night. General manager Jon Robinson has shown a penchant for trading selections and acknowledged Tuesday that Tennessee could wheel and deal again, calling it no more than “50/50″ that the Titans stay where they are.

4. The Vikings, meanwhile, are taking a more conservative approach, with general manager Rick Spielman revealing that a trade back into the first round is “unlikely” for Minnesota. The Vikings don’t pick until No. 48.

5. With New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo essentially off the trade block, will Cincinnati’s AJ McCarron be dangled as bait for quarterback-seeking franchises? Don’t bank on it. Rapoport reported Tuesday that the Bengals would likely “require a first-round pick — at least” in exchange for Andy Dalton’s understudy. That isn’t about to happen, leaving McCarron resigned to spending another year as a backup. “I’m a huge competitor. I’ve always been that way. I want to play,” McCarron said. “But it’s something I can’t control … I’m at peace with it.”

6. At least one veteran passer, though, remains available. Jay Cutler’s agent, Bus Cook, clarified Tuesday that the former Bears quarterback has no plans to retire. “Jay wants to play football,” Cook told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “He never has mentioned retirement to me. Jay Cutler, as far as I know, is ready to play and wants to play, and his skill set is as good as any quarterback in the league.” Cutler is the opposite of a long-term answer, but the timing of this agent-driven missive is no coincidence.

7. It’s anyone’s guess where Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon winds up, but it won’t be with the Jets or Giants. After Gang Green general manager Mike Maccagnan came out strong this week on the subject of domestic violence, NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones reported Tuesday that Mixon “will not be a New York Jet when this draft is over.”

Jones then said Mixon — who was involved in an ugly domestic violence incident at Oklahoma — “will not be a New York Giant, either,” noting that it would be “impossible for me to imagine” Giants ownership adding a player “who, on video, has punched a woman.”

NFL GM: Two QBs will be chosen among top nine picks

The best-player-available draft strategy is the one general managers swear by, but they all need a quarterback they can swear by, as well. And according to one NFL general manager, two of the 2017 NFL Draft’s top quarterbacks will come off the board very early in the first round.

“I had a general manager tell me that two quarterbacks will be taken before the Buffalo Bills pick at No. 10,” said NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly. “Two quarterbacks in the top nine. That’d be a shocker.”

It would, indeed. Particularly to NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock, who has classified the 2017 quarterback class as one that generally needs development before stepping into a starting role on Sundays. Casserly, the former Washington Redskins GM, recently polled 22 NFL clubs on the top quarterback in the draft, and most responses identified either Clemson’s Deshaun Watson or North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky.

So which NFL clubs might be a threat to take a quarterback off the board that early? The Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets are the clubs with the clearest need at the position, but the Browns hold the No. 1 pick and are widely expected to select Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett. The No. 2 pick would be an awfully rich investment by the 49ers, leaving the Jets as the most likely taker. The Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars don’t quite know what they have in Mike Glennon and Blake Bortles, respectively; Glennon hasn’t started a game since 2014, while Bortles regressed last season and is now under a new coaching staff. Beyond that, the Los Angeles Chargers could be in the market for an understudy to aging veteran Philip Rivers.

In other words, there aren’t two obvious destinations for quarterbacks in the first nine selections, particularly given the questionable value. But finding a franchise quarterback is how NFL fortunes get turned around. And the market for them is never too cold.

Josh Huff accepts conditional plea, won’t face jail time for gun arrest

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Josh Huff will not face jail time for unlawful possession of a weapon that resulted in his arrest last November.

Huff, 25, accepted a conditional plea, meaning he’ll get six months’ probation and have the charge wiped from his record as long as he completes the program, according to his attorney, Andrew Smith.

The news was first reported by TMZ and confirmed by ESPN.

“He has done everything right,” Smith told ESPN. “He has cooperated, been upstanding and has every intention of remaining compliant. And we applaud the Camden County Prosecutor’s office for their efforts and understanding of this sensitive matter.”

Smith added: “Josh purchased the gun in Texas legally, was properly licensed to carry in Texas and those factors were appropriately considered by the Camden County Prosecutor’s office.”

On Nov. 1, Huff was pulled over for speeding on the New Jersey side of the Walt Whitman Bridge. Police found an unloaded 9 mm handgun in Huff’s possession. They also detected an odor of marijuana. He was arrested and charged with DUI, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Huff was released by the Eagles on Nov. 3 and signed by the Bucs on Nov. 7. He saw action in three games with the Bucs last season, finishing with three catches for 41 receiving yards. He put up 72 yards on six kick returns, averaging 12.0 yards per return.

Huff spent several days with quarterback Jameis Winston, along with several Bucs teammates, working out in Houston recently. Huff was also at the team facility Monday for the start of the offseason program.

Giants defend Eli Manning amid false memorabilia claims

Eli Manning turned over potentially incriminating emails this week in connection with a suit that claims the New York Giants quarterback knowingly provided false game-worn memorabilia to collectors, according to documents filed in a New Jersey court.

A 2010 email from Manning to a Giants equipment manager asks for “two helmets that can pass as game used,” according to the documents filed Tuesday in Bergen County Superior Court.

Details of the suit were first reported by the New York Post.

Manning’s email allegedly was sent after he was alerted by an agent that he needed to provide game-used equipment to satisfy a marketing contract he had with a memorabilia dealer. The suit also alleges that the Giants were complicit by deleting the email from its accounts, and that the equipment manager, Joe Skiba, was aware that the QB wanted to provide fake items because he did not want to part with his authentic equipment.

A spokesperson for the law firm representing the Giants issued a statement that read: “The e-mail, taken out of context, was shared with the media by an unscrupulous memorabilia dealer and his counsel who for years has been seeking to leverage a big payday. The e-mail predates any litigation, and there was no legal obligation to store it on the Giants server. Eli Manning is well known for his integrity and this is just the latest misguided attempt to defame his character.”

Three memorabilia dealers are suing Manning, the Giants and others for their alleged roles in providing fraudulent items.

Colin Kaepernick’s ex-teammates surprised he is still on the market

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — By now it’s clear that quarterback Colin Kaepernick won’t be back with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. But his teammates said they find it hard to believe Kaepernick isn’t employed at all at this point in the offseason.

“I am surprised,” running back Carlos Hyde said. “I’ve seen some quarterbacks [that] got signed that Kap is way better than, in my opinion. But I’m not a GM. I’m not a head coach. So that’s out of my league.”

The Niners opened their offseason conditioning program on Monday and did so for the first time without Kaepernick since 2010. Kaepernick opted out of his contract in March, becoming an unrestricted free agent. In the time since, the 49ers signed veterans Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. Coach Kyle Shanahan has explained multiple times that sticking with Kaepernick would have meant having to tailor the offense to his skills, rather than having a scheme that multiple quarterbacks could embrace.

Other teams have expressed similar concerns.

“You don’t just run stuff and think you’re going to be good at it right away,” Shanahan said Monday. “You’ve got to commit to it and work at it year-round, and it’s all the positions. When all your quarterbacks have different ways to be successful — which I’ve been in situations like that and you try to prepare them best — it does take a toll on your offense. What are you trying to get good at?

“You can’t practice everything. You can’t be great at everything. You’ve kind of got to commit to something and do it over and over and over again and once the type of running game or dropback game, you’re going to commit to one quarterback is completely different than the other, then that does affect your team.

Shanahan added: “That’s why I think it can be harder when those type of guys are going through competitions and stuff and like that, because even though you’re trying to find the best guy, by trying to be fair to those quarterbacks, you’re also being unfair to a team.”

While Kaepernick is still seeking a job, 17 free-agent quarterbacks have either signed with new teams or re-signed with their previous clubs. On Monday morning, T.J. Yates signed with Buffalo and Matt McGloin landed with Philadelphia.

Kaepernick has been a polarizing figure after choosing to kneel during the national anthem last season in protest of racial oppression and inequality in the United States. Although his representation has reportedly informed teams that Kaepernick plans to stand for the anthem this season, debates have raged about how his political stance has affected his ability to find a landing spot.

Like Hyde, Niners linebacker NaVorro Bowman is also surprised by Kaepernick’s continued free agency.

“I think he’s proven that he can play at this level,” Bowman said. “He’s made a choice that’s kind of had a little backlash from it. But I think he’ll be fine.”

Niners general manager John Lynch said at last week’s owners meetings that he had information that Kaepernick was close to signing with a team early in the offseason, but it apparently fell through and he was unsure why. Kaepernick started the final 11 games of last season for the Niners, throwing for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions for a passer rating of 90. It was his best season since 2013 and teammates voted him the Len Eshmont Award winner as the “most courageous and inspirational” player.

“Someone will give him a job,” Bowman said. “He’s not like a bad guy or anything. So I think that’s what matters in the NFL, if you can play at this level and your character is great. So I wish him the best.”

Seahawks GM on Richard Sherman trade talks: ‘We’ve opened that door’

Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider confirmed Wednesday that the team has discussed trading cornerback Richard Sherman.

“What you’ve seen lately in the news is real,” Schneider said on the “Brock and Salk” show on 710 ESPN Seattle. “That’s on both sides. It’s just open communication. He knows what’s going on. We know what’s going on.

“I don’t know if anything would ever happen. But like I tell people all the time, 98 percent of the things we’re involved with, we don’t follow through with. But at least we’ve opened that door, gone down the road and seen what’s behind door A or door B.”

Schneider said the trade conversations began in February at the combine in Indianapolis. He said he’s spoken to Sherman about the situation.

“This isn’t a secret like it just came out of nowhere,” Schneider said. “People find things out, and we’re not going to lie to each other. We’re not going to BS each other. It’s going to be all laid out.”

Sherman said last week to 710 ESPN Seattle: “I wouldn’t want to leave this city and my guys, but I understand it’s a business and organizational philosophies change.”

Sherman, 29, had two sideline blowups last season that were directed at coaches. The first involved defensive coordinator Kris Richard after the defense gave up a big play in Week 6 against the Atlanta Falcons.

In Week 15, when the Seahawks attempted a pass play from the Los Angeles Rams’ 1-yard line, Sherman went off on Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Afterward, Sherman did not back down, referencing the team’s Super Bowl XLIX loss in which Russell Wilson was intercepted in a similar situation.

At the owners’ meetings in Phoenix last week, coach Pete Carroll said that the team has taken calls on Sherman.

“There have been some teams that have called, and so we’ve talked about it,” Carroll said. “But he’s extremely important to our football team. I don’t see anything happening at all.”

Sherman has two years remaining on his contract. He is due $11.431 million guaranteed in 2017 and $11 million in 2018. Sherman has never missed a game in his six-year NFL career and has made the Pro Bowl four seasons in a row.