INDIANAPOLIS -- Ian Rapoport is on the ground in Indianapolis, canvassing the hallways of Lucas Oil Stadium, hotel lobbies and everywhere else seeking the latest rumors and intel around the NFL. Here are five things folks are buzzing about right now:
1) What is Alex Smith's trade value?San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said it's "unlikely" his team cuts Smith. The Niners will try to trade him, but Harbaugh said the other option is that the quarterback will remain on the team for 2013. Don't bet on it. One NFL general manager estimated San Francisco could receive a second-round pick for Smith, provided the trade partner believes Smith could be the franchise's quarterback for any length of time. That's pricey, but if a team thinks Smith is the answer for more than one year, that's worth it. Clubs realize there aren't a ton of answers at quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft. While you'd have to trade for Smith and then draft someone, too, teams know the former 49ers starter won't tear apart the locker room if he ends up getting beat out.
2) The girlfriend hoax is bizarre, but there's a bigger issue with Manti Te'o. Teams are beginning the process of learning about the Notre Dame linebacker, with many expected to meet with him over the weekend in Indianapolis. In talking with two personnel evaluators, their main question is maturity. He was duped into a long-term relationship with someone who never existed, so how will he be able to handle life in the NFL? Both evaluators said they wouldn't hammer him with questions about the relationship, but they will try to understand his thinking. Yet perhaps a bigger issue for scouts is his tape against Alabama from the BCS National Championship Game. One told me, with a shake of the head, "Simply not good enough." Yet in the next breath, he cautioned it's just one game, and you should never make a serious value judgment off such a small sample size. Scouts will have to convince themselves that awful tape is not indicative of his true ability. Or, decide it is.
3) Brandon Weeden's in the crosshairs. I know Rob Chudzinski didn't rule out a trade of anyone, including Weeden. But the way I hear it, the Cleveland Browns' new coach is more than curious to find out what he has in the 2012 first-rounder. While Chud has checked out Weeden's tape from last year, that's not really the answer to any question. The new Cleveland regime knows what it has in offensive coordinator Norv Turner. The Browns want to judge Weeden's performance under Turner, as opposed to last year's showing -- and they have confidence in that relationship working. The belief is that the way Turner coaches, as demanding as he is, will allow Cleveland brass to discover Weeden's ceiling faster. The Browns might bring in a quarterback to compete with Weeden, but given the second-year signal-caller's natural competitiveness, they don't feel this is absolutely necessary to get Weeden to perform.
4) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers remain bullish on Da'Quan Bowers. Bucs GM Mark Dominik said his team won't use the franchise or transition tag on any player on their roster, which means defensive end Michael Bennett could end up as a free agent. He led the team with nine sacks, but the $11 million tag at his position is simply too much. Could Tampa Bay lose him? Perhaps. But I hear the Bucs feel prepared for that possibility because they love what Da'Quan Bowers has done on the field, when healthy. They believe he's a future core player capable of filling that void. Bowers was arrested for carrying a gun at LaGuardia Airport on Monday, but the team has done its due diligence; after educating themselves on the situation, the Bucs feel confident Bowers will be on the field for them next year. Remember, this is a player who was considered a first-round talent in the 2011 NFL Draft (a knee injury dropped him into Round 2). The Buccaneers see big things ahead.
Rapoport: Hey, big spender!
5) The Jacksonville Jaguars are taking a long view. The Jags have a ton of money available for free agency -- at least $22 million in cap space. Should we expect them to be a major player on the open market? Nope. I'm told Jacksonville isn't planning to make any big free-agent splashes (though the franchise is open to supplementing the roster and addressing some holes). Why? Because owner Shad Khan gets it. He's allowing new GM David Caldwell to build for long-term success and induce staying power, even if it takes a bit longer than a free-agent binge. Caldwell has many mentors, but one is Bill Polian, and Polian decided to build through the draft when he first took over the Indianapolis Colts. Find value, rather than making noise with big bucks. The Jags spent last year and still ended up 2-14. How much good did that do? In the long run, this will benefit the franchise.