There is increasing speculation among personnel men that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to make a run at trading up from No. 4 overall to the top pick in the NFL draft in an effort to get Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
"I definitely get the feeling that's where the Bucs are going," an executive from another NFL team said this week.
Three weeks ago, Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen said he had been in contact with Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.
"Al talked to me about what he wants to do, but I'm not sharing that with you," Allen said with a smile. There was speculation that the Bucs had already offered Oakland all four of their picks in the first three rounds (Nos. 4, 35, 64 and 68 overall) to move up. The Bucs received the No. 64 overall pick after trading defensive tackle Anthony McFarland to the Indianapolis Colts last season.
However, that trade offer involving Tampa Bay and Oakland seems premature to observers.
"I don't think you play your hand that much right now. That's the type of thing that you wait until the week before the draft to start doing," an NFL source said.
Tampa Bay met with Johnson in Atlanta on Friday and agent Bus Cook said the meeting went very well.
"Calvin was impressed with them and he got the feeling they were very interested in him," Cook said.
The Bucs also met with quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell of LSU and Brady Quinn of Notre Dame, which many outsiders believe is simply a diversion to conceal their strong interest in Johnson. Bucs coach Jon Gruden has been effusive in his praise of both Russell and Quinn.
"Gruden isn't taking a quarterback," the general manager of another NFL team said. "He doesn't like young quarterbacks. He already tried that route with [Chris] Simms and he couldn't stand it. And he has to win now."
There is a strong belief around the NFL that Gruden, who has gone to the playoffs once in the four seasons since leading the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl title, is under pressure to win this season. Given that, the 6-foot-5, 239-pound Johnson is considered the most NFL-ready player at this point.
Johnson ran a stunning 4.37 at the NFL scouting combine in February, was a unanimous All-American selection and was the ACC Player of the Year last season.