After several days of deafening silence on the Drew Bledsoe trade front, reports from the annual NFL owner's meetings indicate there is much more interest in the Patriots quarterback than was previously believed.
According to a piece in Thursday's Boston Herald, several teams have interest in acquiring Bledsoe's services. In fact, the report quoted coaches from around the league and all were in agreement that the only stumbling block in any potential deal would be salary cap implications.
New Tampa coach Jon Gruden said he felt the Patriots are doing the right thing in maintaining patience and interested parties are similarly employing logical tactics with their low-key approaches. By doing so, Gruden reasoned, teams can make a deal that is fair for both sides rather than allowing themselves to overpay because of over-zealousness.
Cincinnati coach Dick LeBeau, whose team probably could most use Bledsoe's talents, admitted his owner, Mike Brown, has spoken with the Patriots about a possible deal. Brown recently spoke with Patriots personnel director Scott Pioli but no details were revealed.
The flurry of activity concerning Bledsoe is a stark contradiction to reports around the NFL leading up to the meetings, which were completed yesterday in Orlando, Fla. Based on most national and local reports since the start of free agency on March 1, no teams were interested in Bledsoe. As several teams such as Seattle, Chicago and Washington opted for low-priced, mid-range quarterbacks, the conventional wisdom was that they did so believing Bledsoe wasn't worthy of their consideration.
Based on the quotes from Gruden, LeBeau, Seattle's Mike Holmgren, St. Louis' Mike Martz and San Francisco's Steve Mariucci, that couldn't be further from the truth. All agreed Bledsoe is one of the league's most talented passers and only compensation packages stood in the way of any potential deal. In other words, in Holmgren's case, when given the choice of giving up nothing for Trent Dilfer or perhaps losing two first-round picks plus having the necessary salary cap space for Bledsoe, the Seahawks opted for the former.
All also agreed that the market would surely pick up in the coming weeks leading up to the April 20-21 NFL draft. "People are very cautious right now," Gruden said in the Herald. "But I would be surprised if there aren't a lot of suitors for Drew Bledsoe in the next month. Everybody knows how good he is and what he's capable of. I don't have any question that there's interest in him."
Now it's just a matter of time for the Patriots to sort through that interest and find the best option.