The NFL offseason is under way, as teams try to rebuild and regroup for a run at Super Bowl XLVII. The rumors will be flying and the mock drafts will be pumping.
There are a few big names out there who could be on their way to a new destination. Here are five of the players likely to be shopped and the probability that these moves actually happen.
Ben Tate looks ready to find a team of his own. While rushing for over 900 yards and five yards per carry as a backup and spot starter for the Houston Texans, Tate proved he has the ability of a feature back.
With Matt Forte and Ray Rice likely locked up, Tate might be the most attractive running back available in the offseason. The Texans could get a nice draft pick for the second-year back.
However, in spite of his backup status to Arian Foster, backs like Tate do not grow on trees. Assuming the Texans re-sign Foster, they are only one bad hit or wrong cut away from relying on Tate to carry the offense.
Tate will only count for about $500,000 against the cap in the next two years, so I expect the Texans to keep him around. He will help keep Foster fresh and will start if the money back goes down again. Expect him to be one of the league's most coveted free agents in the 2013 offseason.
Think Michael Turner in 2008. Tate could have that kind of effect with his new team.
Trade Probability: five percent
The Indianapolis Colts are ready to say goodbye to Peyton Manning; they just have not announced it officially yet.
The Washington Redskins, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks have already been rumored as potential destinations for the four-time NFL MVP. The most likely scenario is that the Colts will release Manning before March 8th, and one of the aforementioned squads will make a run for him then.
Still, you have to respect the possibility that someone will want to swoop in and take him off the table before the other teams get to bid.
Trade Probability: 10 percent
Rashard Mendenhall has been a controversial figure since he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
First, he compared his style to that of LaDainian Tomlinson. Then there was his momentum-shifting fumble in the Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers. This past offseason, he tweeted some insensitive remarks about 9/11, then followed that up with a mediocre regular season that had some clamoring for backup Isaac Redman to carry the load. Now, he is coming off a torn ACL.
Mendenhall is still playing on his rookie contract and will not save the team much money even if he is traded or released. Plus, 2012 is a contract year. So assuming he makes a full recovery—although reports have surfaced that he could miss all of 2012—the NFL will see the maximum of Mendenhall's considerable gifts this season or never.
Running backs with a contract on the line generally provide something extra.
Trade Probability: 20 percent
The Philadelphia Eagles are loaded in the secondary but have serious problems in their linebacking corps. Asante Samuel was not happy about losing his Alpha Dog status to free-agent signee Nnamdi Asomugha.
In fact, neither Samuel nor Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie transitioned well from being the best cornerback on their respective teams for their entire lives to sharing the burden. Samuel had his fewest interceptions since 2005. Rodgers-Cromartie did not force a turnover after forcing 16 in his first three seasons.
If this was the NBA or MLB, I would almost guarantee Samuel would be moved for a linebacker. CSN Philly reported a trade was a possibility back in October.
However, the NFL is not nearly as trade-happy as those other sports when it comes to players in or near their prime, so I will temper my expectations.
Trade Probability: 50 percent
Robert Griffin III is picking up steam as nearly as hot of a prospect as Andrew Luck. In a different scenario, he would be a lock to go No. 2 in the draft.
However, the St. Louis Rams are sitting on the second pick, and they just drafted Sam Bradford No. 1 overall in 2010. The Rams will either trade the second pick to a team like the Washington Redskins (which Jason La Canfora reported is a possibility) or draft RGIII themselves and then trade him to the top suitor.
I guarantee it. Almost.
Trade Probability: 90 percent