In Denver, Miami and Arizona, they're rolling out the red carpet and genuflecting for Peyton Manning. Washington, meanwhile, gave up a big chunk of its next three - THREE! - draft classes to move up three spots for a chance to draft Robert Griffin III. And in New York, the Jets just extended middling quarterback Mark Sanchez with a contract fit for the finest pro bowler. The bottom line: NFL quarterbacks are very, very valuable.
The RG III trade-up is sure to grab all the headlines, and it has a huge impact on the 49ers. In exchange for the No. 2 overall pick, the division-rival Rams get the Redskins' first rounders in 2012, '13 and '14 as well as a second rounder in '12. It's the kind of trade that replenishes and props up a franchise, and it's reminiscent of the Herschel Walker trade that fueled Dallas' 1990s dynasty. I wrote about the Rams' opportunity for a franchise-altering move two weeks ago.
The 49ers took the eventual Super Bowl champions to overtime in the NFC Championship game. The Seahawks and Cardinals are ascendant. And now the Rams are loaded with draft picks. The NFC West just went from 97-pound weakling to school-yard bully.
But don't overlook the other news from tonight, Sanchez's three-year extension for a reported $40.5 million. The 49ers want to give Alex Smith a similar extension in terms of length. Smith's camp wants a longer deal with the type of guaranteed money that ensures the 49ers don't cut bait quickly and hand the offense to Colin Kaepernick. The Sanchez contract signals that if Smith is going to accept three years, he'll want the team to go higher - perhaps a lot higher - in dollars.
The 49ers' trump card is that no other team will be willing to pay Smith, who has stated he wants to remain in San Francisco, more than what the 49ers are offering. At least one team, the Seahawks, was interested in Smith last season when he was, briefly at least, a free agent.
The Seahawks again are interested in a quarterback and are one of the teams hoping to land Manning. If they can't, then they likely will make a play for Matt Flynn. If Flynn goes elsewhere, perhaps Seattle settles for rookie Ryan Tannehill. Or maybe they dial Smith's number ...
Here's my guess in how the quarterback musical chair ends:
Colts: Andrew Luck
Redskins: Robert Griffin III
Dolphins: Peyton Manning
Seahawks: Matt Flynn
Browns: Ryan Tannehill
-- Matt Barrows