Just buzz so far

2-12-02, 6:40 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Brian Simmons hears the trade talk and while he would like to get his daughter settled in Cincinnati schools, he won't let the talk bother him because he considers it just that.

"I think right now it's just a lot of talk. I don't know what the basis for it is. Who knows?" asked Simmons, the Bengals middle linebacker who expects to be back this season. "I haven't thought about it either way."

And while Bengals President Mike Brown can't talk about a trade for Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, he can talk to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about trading for the NFL Draft's sixth pick that reports say are up for sale because of Dallas' potential rookie pool problems.

The sixth pick could be key because it appears that would give the Bengals the best cornerback available in Quentin Jammer of Texas.

But when Brown spoke with Jones last week to give him permission to interview Bengals tight ends coach Frank Verducci, he didn't talk trade. And he hasn't talked about trading the Bengals' 10th pick with anyone. They are still arranging their draft board and deciding which players are top five and top 10 material.

ESPN.com is reporting that it appears the Cowboys already have decided to trade down after giving former Stanford quarterback and St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Chad Hutchinson a $3.1 million signing bonus. The prorated signing bonus on the seven-year contract counts $442,857 against the Cowboys' rookie pool even before they have drafted or signed a rookie. Which means they will be looking to cut costs to fit the rest of their rookies.

But Brown doesn't think the Cowboys and their own cornerback needs will sacrifice their top pick to do it.

"According to the information we've seen," Brown said, "we don't think the Cowboys are going to have problems with their pool. And it's too early to rate the players on our draft board and whom we would take where. We still haven't been to the (Feb. 28-March 4) combine yet in Indianapolis and not all the top players went to the all-star games."

The 5-11, 200-pound Jammer is one of those. But agent Mike Sullivan, who represents Jammer as well as what looks to be the draft's overall No. 1 pick for the second straight year, is

confident that won't hurt Jammer's status as the consensus top cornerback available.

"That decision was made from an injury standpoint," Sullivan said. "An injury would have dropped him in the draft and there are no questions with him. The guys who went to the all-star games had to answer some kind of questions. His outstanding trait is how physical he is. He's the perfect match for the new breed of big, physical receiver."

Sullivan said there's a chance Jammer will work out at the scouting combine in Indianapolis and he's anxious for his client to run because, "he'll be faster than people think he is. His rating is based on his pure physical dominance, but he's plenty fast."

Sullivan, fast becoming a force himself for Bay Area-based Octagon, is known as a guy who can make a deal for draft picks as well as others. He represented No. 1 pick Michael Vick last year and got him into training camp on time. He also represents Fresno State quarterback David Carr, who could be the top pick this year. And in August, he worked with the Bengals to get a contract extension for backup linebacker Adrian Ross.

The presence of Ross seems to be one of the reasons why the names of Simmons and right outside linebacker Takeo Spikes have been floated in the Boston media as possible trade bait for Bledsoe. But one hangup for a possible deal is that both Spikes and Simmons have just one year left on their contracts, which means the Bengals would probably have to give the Pats permission to work an extension before a deal could be done.

But Simmons isn't sure there will be a deal. And he doesn't want one.

"When I first saw it in print, I was surprised," Simmons said. "But where did it come from? I know it came from Boston, but did the guy just throw it out there with any basis for it?"

Truth be told, even if it's a trade to the Super Bowl champions for one of the top quarterbacks over the last decade, no one likes to be traded. Simmons is staying in Cincinnati this offseason instead of going home to North Carolina because it is his daughter's first year of school.

"I don't know about flattery," Simmons said. "I'm at the point in my career where I'm looking to settle down with schools. I'm really not looking forward to going anywhere else in a trade or signing some place else. But you know how it is. This is just part of the game. Part of this game is business. It's just like getting a new contract, or free agency.

"If (the Patriots) felt like they needed a linebacker and (the Bengals) felt like they needed a quarterback and both teams are happy, then it makes sense," Simmons said. "That's why trades are done. Because it helps both sides. I think the Bengals are going to do what's best for the organization. Just like back when they drafted Takeo and I."

The lure of going to the defending Super Bowl champions isn't what it used to be.

"You never know anymore," Simmons said. "The Super Bowl champs this year could be the chumps next year. I'm just not thinking about it. It's the offseason and I'm getting ready to play. I know I'll be playing for somebody."

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