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QB deals shuffle top of the draft

Daunte Culpepper is heading for Miami. Drew Brees is bound for New Orleans. Jon Kitna is now a Detroit Lion, and Patrick Ramsey could soon be a New York Jet.

The game of musical quarterbacks is in full swing, and it probably will have a profound effect on three key prospects at the top of the 2006 draft: USC's Matt Leinart, Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler and Texas' Vince Young.

Minnesota's Culpepper, San Diego's Brees and Cincinnati's Kitna switched teams Tuesday, allowing the Dolphins, Saints and Lions to address their most pressing needs. The Saints also have the No. 2 pick in the draft, and were believed to be zeroing in on Leinart, assuming the Houston Texans were to select running back Reggie Bush first overall.

Leigh Steinberg, Leinart's agent, did not rule out the possibility that Leinart could still wind up with the Saints.

"It depends if this signing reflects a decision that Brees is their quarterback for the next 10 years or a short-term fix," Steinberg said. "No matter where Matt goes, there will always be an incumbent quarterback there. Spending some time behind a veteran quarterback and learning the tools of the trade could be advantageous."

But a logical scenario now has the Saints trading out of that spot or drafting the top prospect at another position, such as Virginia tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson or North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams.

It's conceivable that, if the draft order stays the same, the Tennessee Titans, picking third, would be the first to select a quarterback. Leinart played his first three seasons at USC for Norm Chow, Tennessee's offensive coordinator. But the Titans also are eyeing Cutler, who played college ball in Nashville and whose stock rose dramatically at last month's scouting combine.

Young, who almost single-handedly beat USC in the Rose Bowl, is widely considered an enormously talented project who needs to change his game -- and perhaps his throwing motion -- to fit a more traditional NFL offense. There's speculation he could wind up with Oakland, which has the seventh pick, although people often assume that the Raiders will make the unconventional choice. The Raiders could also trade up to the No. 2 spot to grab Leinart.

Although the Jets have been involved in trade talks with Washington over Ramsey, they are still in the market for a quarterback. Chad Pennington has undergone two shoulder surgeries in the last eight months, and few look at him as a long-term answer for that franchise. Cutler is believed to be very high on the Jets' list. New York scouts like Ferguson too -- he's easily the most coveted offensive lineman -- but the club is negotiating to sign Brad Hopkins, formerly the Titans' left tackle.

Leinhart has told people he would like to play for the Jets, according to the New York Daily News.

The Jets, picking fourth, are in position to make a blockbuster play for Leinart, but they apparently have other ideas. With Kitna off the market, and with a possible trade for the Ramsey stuck in the mud, the Jets are "looking down other avenues" for a quarterback, a person familiar with the team's thinking said Tuesday.

That avenue is named Matt Schaub. The Jets and Falcons are in trade talks, and the Jets are offering disgruntled defensive end John Abraham, the person said. The Falcons want Abraham and appear willing to meet his contract demands, but they're not willing to include Schaub in the deal, ESPN reported.

Minnesota probably is in the market for a quarterback, seeing as Brad Johnson will be 38 in September, and the Vikings might have to trade up from No. 17 to get one of the elite prospects. Green Bay and St. Louis could be quarterback shopping, too, although the Packers used their first pick last year to select California's Aaron Rodgers.

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