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Bills' No. 2 pick a key to filling a glaring need

It would a big surprise if Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix, a man who built his NFL career on his drafting acumen, gave up the 41st overall pick (second round) to trade for Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Of course, a deal for McNabb would depend both on the Bills' willingness to give McNabb an expensive contract extension and McNabb's willingness to commit to Buffalo for the rest of his career. McNabb, who will turn 34 in November, is entering the last year of his contract with the Eagles. It's easy to understand why McNabb would not have Buffalo high on his relocation list after reaching the playoffs eight of the last 10 years in Philadelphia.

Nevertheless, this subject is not likely to go away until Day 2 of the NFL Draft, on April 23.

What exactly would the Bills be giving up if they shipped their second-round pick? Here are some players the Bills could have a shot at drafting at No. 41:

* Cam Thomas. He's a 6-foot-3, 330-pound nose tackle from North Carolina. He's a prototypical 3-4 nose tackle. He's probably better than Ron Brace, whom the Pats took at No. 40 in the second round last year. Louisiana State's Al Woods is a wide-body who some rate as a second-rounder. He's only a one-year starter.

* Ricky Sapp. The Clemson defensive end projects to a 3-4 outside linebacker. He's 6-3, 252 and one of the most athletic pass rushers in the draft. While he played all 14 games as a senior, his medical evaluation will be key. He had knee surgery at the end of his junior year.

* Koa Misi. The Utah defensive end looked good at the Senior Bowl and projects better as a 3-4 rusher than defensive end, where he played in college. He played at 265 for Utah but is down to 246.

* Colt McCoy. Texas' QB is a four-year player with 52 career starts. He's scheduled to make a visit to the Bills in April. Dan LeFevour, from Central Michigan, is a second-round talent with a lot of plusses but not a big arm. He's in the Chad Pennington mold, which may not be the best fit for Buffalo.

* These players have a good chance to be first-round picks but there's a small chance one of them might slip through: Alabama's massive nose tackle Terrence Cody, Texas Christian pass rusher Jerry Hughes and Southern Cal pass rusher Everson Griffen (who's probably better as a 4-3 end). Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas is a sure-fire first-round player who suffered a broken foot Feb. 16. If he can't work out before the draft, there's a slim chance he might slip to the early part of the second round.

* Receivers Damian Williams and Brandon LaFell. Williams is from Southern Cal, LaFell from LSU. The top three receivers are Thomas, Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State and Arrelious Benn of Illinois. Notre Dame's Golden Tate is a late first-rounder or early second-rounder.

The Bills could go in a lot of directions at No. 41. It will be a fascinating pick.

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>Fish tales

The Dolphins' first free-agent purchase after Bill Parcells took over as president was guard Justin Smiley, who got a five-year, $25 million deal. But after two seasons, he's on the trade block. He was told not to report to offseason workouts by the Fish, which would indicate the Dolphins are confident they will make a deal for him. Miami signed ex-Bill Richie Incognito this month.

The Dolphins also are not acting like they have any interest in re-signing veteran free-agent Jason Taylor. He's 35 and coming off a solid season. He has not made any visits because he wants to re-sign with the Dolphins. But Fish coach Tony Sparano was talking about Taylor as if he were an ex-Dolphin this week. Miami appears intent on drafting a pass-rushing outside linebacker with the 12th pick next month. Without Taylor, Cameron Wake and Charlie Anderson would fight it out for the outside backer job on the strong side.

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>Bill on Tim

Pats coach Bill Belichick is buddies with University of Florida coach Urban Meyer. It wasn't a shock that Darth Patriot gushed this week over Florida QB Tim Tebow.

"He's had a great career. There are a lot of positives. I'm sure he's going to help a team," Belichick said. "I think he performed very well in the offense he was in. I think he was outstanding. He's already spent, I think, six weeks, or whatever it's been, working on some other things and I think you can see the results of that working. He's worked hard and made some changes."

Asked if he would be leery of Tebow's need to change his throwing motion, Belichick said: "Tiger Woods has rebuilt his golf swing twice. Every quarterback I've ever had or coached has worked on his mechanics and improved them. Phil Simms, certainly [Jeff] Hostetler, [Tom] Brady, I can't think of too many that haven't. It's part of every player's development."

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>Bill's plate full

When Josh McDaniels left New England a year ago to become Denver's head coach, Belichick never named an offensive coordinator. This season Belichick will operate without anyone holding the title of coordinator on offense or defense. Dean Pees was the defensive coordinator last season but his contract expired and he was not retained. Belichick said he would take a bigger role in defensive game planning and play calling this season. The Pats added a second defensive backs coach, so they have the same number of defensive assistants as last season. On offense, quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien is the primary play-caller.

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>Offseason obligation?

In real-world labor relations, employees agree to give-backs just for the right to keep their jobs. In the NFL, not so much. Just one year ago, the Redskins gave Albert Haynesworth a $21 million signing bonus that was part of an NFL-record $41 million in guaranteed money. You'd think this would be enough for the guy to show up on site more than seven months a year. No. Haynesworth informed new coach Mike Shanahan he will not attend offseason, voluntary conditioning workouts. Haynesworth said he wants to work out with his personal trainer back home in Tennessee.

"My plan is I'm going to work out with my trainer that I've had the last few years," he said on Sirius NFL Radio. "The years I've trained with him I've had my best years in football. . . . Last year I worked out with the Redskins and the year that we had . . . wasn't great by any means, very disappointed with my play and stuff like that so I'm getting back to basics, what got me to be one of the top defensive guys in the NFL."

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>Onside kicks

* Commissioner Roger Goodell is adamant about trying to avoid meaningless games on the final weekend of the regular season. It happened in several games last season, including the Colts-Bills finale in Buffalo. Goodell said the league is trying to make every game in Week 17 a divisional matchup and as many in Week 16 as possible, as well. In recent years, the league has announced its opening-weekend prime-time games at the owners meetings. It didn't this year due to the efforts to engineer the late-season games.

* The race for the 2014 Super Bowl is between New York, Tampa and Miami, and indications are owners are leaning toward New York, which opens its new stadium this year. Fans would be asked to pay $1,000 for a seat to sit in the cold. The vote on the site will come May 24-26 when the owners meet again in Dallas.

* HBO knows a good thing when it sees it. The network signed the Jets for the sixth season of "Hard Knocks," the inside look at an NFL team's training camp. Regarding the prospect of having charismatic Jets coach Rex Ryan as the star of the show, HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg said: "We have our Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg in Rex Ryan."

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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