20 NFL Veterans Who Will Change Teams Before 2012 Season Begins
Every single offseason, there are a myriad of veterans who hit the open market following the draft and initial free agency period.
The summer of 2012 is going to be no different, and there are several reasons why.
First, some veterans are owed a roster bonus in the beginning of June. Second, teams filled holes via the draft and feel like they no longer need a veteran talents at certain positions. Finally, contracts are not in line with production and the two sides are unable to agree on a restructured salary.
Trades also take place in the earliest stages of the summer and even during training camps that begin in late July.
With that, let's take a look at 20 players who will find themselves on other teams by the time the 2012 season begins in September.
Jamarca Sanford, Safety, Minnesota Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings did not trade back up into the first round last month to draft a safety, Harrison Smith, in order for him to ride the pine.
At least, that is what conventional wisdom would dictate.
Jamarca Sanford started 15 games last season, recording over 70 tackles and two interceptions. However, he was a major liability in coverage and gave up a whole host of big plays.
The fourth-year safety from Mississippi could stick with Minnesota in a backup role, but I don't see that as a likely scenario.
Anthony Dixon, Running Back, San Francisco 49ers
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Anthony "Boobie" Dixon had a solid rookie season for the San Francisco 49ers in 2010 as a short yardage back. He averaged nearly 4.5 yards per rush and recorded two touchdowns.
This success was not repeated last year. Dixon recorded less than 100 total rushing yards and was lost in the mix behind both Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter.
The 49ers signed Brandon Jacobs to presumably fill this short yardage role and also spent a second-round pick on speedy tailback LaMichael James.
San Francisco now has four running backs higher on the depth chart than Dixon, which doesn't bode well for his chances to actually make the team out of camp.
The team will likely attempt to acquire a late-round pick for Dixon this summer. If they don't, he will probably be released outright.
Steve Slaton, Running Back, Miami Dolphins
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Back in 2008, Steve Slaton was the toast of Houston after accumulating over 1,600 total yards for the Texans as a rookie.
Injuries really set the former third-round pick back for the next couple seasons, as he recorded barely over 500 rushing yards combined.
After being waived by the Texans in 2011, Slaton was promptly placed on waivers and picked up by the Miami Dolphins. After barely seeing the field in his first go-around with Miami, Slaton might find himself in a similar situation this season.
The Dolphins drafted Daniel Thomas in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft before getting a steal in the form of Lamar Miller in the fourth round last month. Those two are going to team up with Reggie Bush to form a really talented and deep backfield.
Where does this leave Slaton? Probably with walking papers in his right hand and a cellphone in his left so he can talk to his agent.
J.D. Walton, Center, Denver Broncos
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Pro Football Focus ranked J.D. Walton as the worst starting center in the National Football League last season. Outside of being a shameful distinction, this also indicates that the Denver Broncos were desperate to find an upgrade over the former third-round pick.
They promptly exhausted a fourth-round pick on Philip Blake, one of the top-rated centers in the 2012 NFL draft.
Denver could make the decision to stick with the veteran to snap the ball to Peyton Manning, but it is hard to get over the fact that was so abysmal last season.
A bit of irony here: Blake replaced Walton as Baylor's starting center when the former was selected in the third round of the 2010 draft. He could do the same this season in Denver.
Scott Fujita, Linebacker, Cleveland Browns
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Scott Fujita is currently appealing a four-game suspension that relates to Bountygate. The veteran linebacker has denied any involvement:
I look forward to the opportunity to confront what evidence they claim to have in the appropriate forum. I have never contributed money to any so-called ‘bounty’ pool, and any statements to the contrary are false. To say I’m disappointed with the League would be a huge understatement.
Suspended or not, Fujita is on thin ice in Cleveland. He is set to earn just under $3 million after being hit with the penalty.
This doesn't fall to go in line with his production (51 tackles in 10 games) during the 2011 season. Cleveland also drafted linebacker James-Michael Johnson in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft, which could help push Fujita out the door.
Stewart Bradley, Linebacker, Arizona Cardinals
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Stewart Bradley has seen his production go down a great deal following a devastating knee injury prior to the 2009 season. After recording over 100 tackles for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008, he hasn't reached that number in the last two seasons combined.
The Arizona Cardinals signed Bradley to a five-year, $30 million contract prior to last season, but he didn't live up to the expectations that the team set for him. The veteran linebacker is set to make $6 million in 2012, all of which is guaranteed.
This doesn't mean that Arizona won't part ways, especially if his production isn't there.
Ovie Mughelli, Running Back, Atlanta Falcons
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This is more about the trend against natural fullbacks in the NFL and less about how good of a player Ovie Mughelli actually is.
The Atlanta Falcons played Jason Snelling in that role last season following an injury to Mughelli, and drafted Wisconsin's Bradie Ewing in the fifth round of the 2012 draft.
Mughelli is set to earn nearly $4 million next season, a portion of which is guaranteed. There just doesn't seem to be room in the Falcons backfield for him at this point.
Anthony Fasano, Tight End, Miami Dolphins
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Anthony Fasano was on thin ice with the Miami Dolphins even before they selected Missouri's Michael Egnew in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft last month.
The veteran tight end has failed to reach 40 receptions in each of his four seasons with the Dolphins, consistently struggling to make plays in the passing game.
Fasano is also set to earn nearly $4.5 million in 2012, which doesn't bode well for him hanging on in South Beach past June cuts.
Will Witherspoon, Linebacker, Tennessee Titans
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It remains to be seen whether second-round pick Zach Brown will be ready to start for the Tennessee Titans as a rookie. He is still extremely raw and could use a little bit of seasoning before being thrown into a starting role.
However, some teams are just not afforded the opportunity to wait. This could be the situation that Tennessee finds itself in right now.
While he isn't great at any one thing, Will Witherspoon has been a very solid NFL linebacker over the course of the last decade.
The writing is on the wall here.
Aaron Kampman, Defensive End, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Aaron Kampman recorded a total of 27.5 sacks in 2006 and 2007, making the Pro Bowl in each of those seasons while with the Green Bay Packers. This success enabled the veteran defensive end to net a lucrative contract ($24 million over four years) from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
This investment did not pan out for Kampman's new franchise. He has only played in a total of 11 games in two seasons with Jacksonville, recording a total of four sacks.
Kampman is also set to earn $8 million in 2012, which is completely off kilter with the production we have seen when he was actually on the field over the past two seasons.
The selection of Andre Branch in the second round last month doesn't help Kampman's cause, either.
Tarvaris Jackson, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
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A team doesn't spend starter money on one quarterback and draft another in the third round if it is sold on the incumbent. This is the situation that Tarvaris Jackson finds himself in as we enter the summer.
He performed adequately with Seattle last season, but is not the long-term solution in the Pacific Northwest.
While Pete Carroll has pledged an "open competition" for the starting spot, it is hard to take that with anything less than a grain of salt.
Matt Flynn signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract earlier this offseason, which is basically starter's money.
If Jackson doesn't win the starting job, which is likely, he could be gone before the regular season gets underway in September.
Chad Ochocinco, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots
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Let's get this straight: The New England Patriots have added Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth and Anthony Gonzalez at the wide receiver position through free agency.
This doesn't even take into account that they re-signed Deion Branch, and it appears that Wes Welker is going to return on a franchise tender for the 2012 season.
Is there any room for Chad Ochocinco on the roster?
I highly doubt it.
Michael Jenkins, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
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Michael Jenkins was a major bust for the Minnesota Vikings last season after coming over from the Atlanta Falcons. He recorded just 38 receptions and couldn't stretch the field opposite Percy Harvin.
The Vikings drafted Jaruis Wright and Greg Childs in April, while adding Jerome Simpson in free agency. Jenkins is also set to make nearly $3.2 million in 2012.
You see the theme here? They are not sold on Jenkins being a contributor in 2012 and are probably ready to cut him loose.
Colt McCoy, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns
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We don't have to agree with the Cleveland Browns' assessment of their quarterback situation. That really doesn't matter to the brass in Ohio.
They went out and drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round of the draft, which leaves Colt McCoy on thin ice.
Either way, the writing appears to be on the wall for this short marriage. Look for McCoy to catch on with another team and show the Browns that they made a mistake.
At the very least, there will be a team out there willing to give the young quarterback a chance he hardly received in Cleveland.
Knowshon Moreno, Running Back, Denver Broncos
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Long before Knowshon Moreno blew out his knee last season, it was well known that he had not lived up to his first-round potential.
The Georgia product has regressed in each of his three seasons in the NFL and now appears to be in a precarious situation.
The Broncos drafted Ronnie Hillman in April and have a trio at the running back position that seem to be etched in stone at this point.
Additionally, it isn't even known whether Moreno will be ready for the start of the season in April. I fully expect the Broncos to cut ties with him this summer.
Donald Driver, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers
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It had long been the opinion of many in the football world that Donald Driver would retire a Green Bay Packer. This doesn't seem to be as much of a certainty right now.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported during the draft that Packers general manager Ted Thompson "was non-committal" in regards to Driver being with Green Bay during training camp.
Driver saw his production decline in each of the last six seasons and took on a lesser role behind younger receivers in 2011.
Of course, there is still time for the Packers and Driver to work out a restructured contract, but he will not be back with his current $5.6 million price tag.
Mike Jenkins, Cornerback, Dallas Cowboys
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It is not a secret that the Dallas Cowboys are attempting to find a trade partner for Mike Jenkins. They went out and spent top dollar for Brandon Carr in free agency and traded up to acquire Morris Claiborne in the draft.
It is reasonable to think that teams would be interested in Jenkins. After all, he is just a couple of years removed from a Pro Bowl appearance and due only slightly over $1.6 million in 2012.
The cornerback would represent some value for a team in need of a starter, assuming he can stay healthy.
Either way, it is hard to imagine him returning to Dallas in 2012.
Dwight Freeney, Defensive End, Indianapolis Colts
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It was reported during the draft that the Indianapolis Colts were looking to move Dwight Freeney in exchange for more picks. Nothing materialized, but this doesn't mean that Freeney is guaranteed to be back with the Colts in 2012.
The team is switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme, which doesn't seem to be the best fit for the veteran defensive end. Additionally, the Colts are transitioning Robert Mathis from end to outside linebacker.
Do they want to do that with two veterans who have played in a base 4-3 over the duration of their careers? I am not too sold on that idea.
Jonathan Stewart, Running Back, Carolina Panthers
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This one is probably more about what I would do than what the Carolina Panthers front office is thinking right now.
Jonathan Stewart is set to be a free agent following the 2012 season and probably doesn't figure in the Panthers long-term plans. Why not get a draft pick for him right now?
After all, Carolina signed Mike Tolbert in free agency and also has DeAngelo Williams returning.
You also have to realize that Cam Newton rushed the ball 126 times last season. There just isn't enough hand-offs to go around at this point.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney has consistently denied that Stewart was on the trade block. However, that could all just be smoke and mirrors at this point.
Osi Umenyiora, Defensive End, New York Giants
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"Just trade him already" is a term that consistently pops up in my head when thinking about the New York Giants and Osi Umenyiora.
Give me a break: This has already gone on long enough. Just imagine what Giants fans are thinking at this point.
Of course, Umenyiora is a valuable member of a Super Bowl winning team—this reality cannot be denied. The major issue at hand is the volatile relationship between the G-Men and Umenyiora.
There comes a time when ties need to be cut and both sides need to move on. I think we have reached that boiling point.