NFL Rumors: 10 Biggest Whispers of the Offseason Right Now

Brian GoldsmithContributor IIIMay 11, 2012

NFL Rumors: 10 Biggest Whispers of the Offseason Right Now

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    With OTAs less than a week away for some NFL teams, there are rumors of holdouts, trades and free-agent signings throughout the league. These things are what makes the NFL offseason exciting. 

    Whether your team is close to adding the final piece of the puzzle, or in a nail-biting contract battle with a star player, fans are anxious to know every update along the way.

    Here are the 10 biggest whispers of the NFL offseason right now. 

What Exactly Will Tim Tebow's Role Be with the Jets?

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    First, he was brought in to be the backup quarterback. Next, according to Jets offensive coordinator, Tony Sparano, he would be brought in to play the Wildcat. Then, Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff said Tebow would be used on special teams, classifying Tebow as a "more potent Brad Smith." 

    So what is it? Backup quarterback, the Wildcat, special teams or what?

    Thankfully, Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez has shed some light on the situation:

    Fortunately for Tim, he has the ability to do other things and that’s why he’s on board. He’s a backup quarterback first, and then he’ll do plenty of other stuff.

    We can assume the "other stuff" to include the aforementioned Wildcat and special teams.

    It's unclear if Tebow, himself, knows what he's going to be asked to do.

    I’m just doing whatever they want me to do. I’m just going out there and working hard right now.

     Where will they ask him to line up next?

Wes Welker Unhappy with the Franchise Tag from New Englad

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    The New England Patriots slapped the franchise tag on wide receiver Wes Welker, but Welker has yet to sign it and skipped the team's voluntary workouts. He wants a long term deal, and thinks the Pats should give it to him. Here's what he said to ESPN Boston:

    Through my body of work, through the past five years, I think what I've done I've earned a long-term deal. It's what I am looking for and what I want. Hopefully that's the case and hopefully we come to something where we can make that happen.

    Welker needs to be careful how he plays this. If he holds out too long, the Patriots might very well ship him out of town like they did to Deion Branch back in 2006.

    In case you've forgotten, Branch was a Super Bowl MVP for the Pats but was traded to Seattle after holding out. Branch is now back with New England, so Welker doesn't have to look too far to see what happened to the last Pats receiver who expressed displeasure with their contract.

Will Drew Brees Sign an Extension with the New Orleans Saints?

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    As if the Saints didn't have enough problems stemming from their bounty scandal, they head in to the offseason locked in a contract dispute with their franchise quarterback, Drew Brees.

    New Orleans used its franchise tag on him back in March, and Brees was said to be "livid" that the tag was placed on him. At the time, Brees and the Saints were "roughly $5 million apart" per year.

    That's a pretty big gap.

    The Saints OTAs begin May 22, less that two weeks away. The question is, "Will Brees be there?" Sam Wyche of NFL.com reported:

    There have been no conversations between the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees regarding signing the franchise player to a long-term contract, a source with knowledge of the situation said Thursday.

    The deadline for teams to negotiate long-term deals for franchised players is July 16. Saints fans hope something gets done before then, otherwise, he could be playing elsewhere in 2013. 

LaDainian Tomlinson Is 95 Percent Retired

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    Free-agent running back LaDainian Tomlinson told Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter that he's "95 percent retired," and it "would take the right team/situation for him to play again."

    The 32-year-old, 11-year veteran has certainly had a Hall of Fame-worthy career, totaling 13,684 rushing yards and 18,456 yards from scrimmage, but his production decreased immensely last year. He only reached 280 yards rushing and saw his carries per game dip from 15 all the way down to five.

    So what would be the "right team/situation" be for Tomlinson?

    I'm just speculating here, but I would think it would have to be a backup role on a Super Bowl contender. Teams like the Giants, Packers, Steelers, Ravens and 49ers come to mind. Maybe even the Broncos for a chance to play alongside Peyton Manning.

    I don't think he would play for Bill Belichick and the Pats (remember this?), but you never know. 

Could Terrell Suggs Return This Season for Baltimore?

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    When the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs, tore his Achilles on April 28th, he was feared to be lost for the season. Now, after successful surgery, Suggs is saying he will be back this season:

    There is only a small incision, and he said it was not as bad as some thought it was, which I had already been told.

    As far as my return, it's still the same as the original prognosis of four to six months.

    I'm 29 years old. I don't miss games. I'll be returning soon.

    That's good news for the Ravens, knowing that their star linebacker could be back as soon as September. If he doesn't make it back in time, young guys like rookie Courtney Upshaw, Paul Kruger and Sergio Kindle will attempt to fill the huge void left by Suggs.

The Osi Umenyiora/New York Giants Saga

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    Osi Umenyiora is approaching the last year of his contract with the New York Giants. He wants a contract extension, and he doesn't understand why the Giants won't give him one. He held out of training camp last year for the same reason.

    Umenyiora wants to stay, but he's not exactly opposed to a trade:

    Next year, if I leave (after the contract is up), they won't get anything," Umenyiora said of the Giants. "Maybe they will get a compensatory pick. But that's it. So if they are going to do it, now would be the best time to (make a trade).

    Umenyiora and Giants GM Jerry Reese had a small war of words through the media shortly after Umenyiora expressed his displeasure with his contract. From NYDailyNews.com:

    The war between Osi Umenyiora and Jerry Reese is heating up again. One day after the Giants’ GM insisted the team has offered Umenyiora a contract extension in each of the last two seasons, the unhappy defensive end fired back, saying Reese was distorting the truth to make him look like “a greedy pig.”

    Umenyiora has not said much of anything since, so it's unsure whether he will demand a trade, holdout, or just play through the final year of his contract and become a free agent at season's end.

Dwight Freeney on the Trading Block?

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    The Colts are switching to a 3-4 defense, and Dwight Freeney is being moved to a position he's never played before in outside linebacker. He's also scheduled to make $14 million next season (counting $19 million against the cap), which so happens to be the final year of his contract. Put all that together and it's surprising Freeney hasn't been cut or traded already.

    In late March, Colts GM Ryan Grigson responded to the speculation that Freeney could be on the trading block by saying, "He's a Colt. Period."

    Fast forward to April, and things may have changed. Just before the draft, Sports Illustrated's Peter King said the Colts would "love to get a good pick for 32-year-old Dwight Freeney."

    Who knows if the Colts were looking to trade him during the draft, but it would still make financial sense for them to do so. If they do, some team is likely to get one of the best pass rushers in the league at a basement price.

Ben Roethlisberger Doesn't Like the Changes in Pittsburgh

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    After their loss to the Broncos in the playoffs, ESPN's Chris Mortenson reported the Steelers would not retain offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, against the wishes of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

    Roethlisberger expressed his concern at the Pro Bowl:

    When I get back, I'm going to go up to Mr. Rooney's office and ask him what he wants from me, what he wants from this offense, because I think that's a viable question for him.

    We feel like we are really close to being an elite offense. For your leader to be gone is kind of a shocker.

    The Steelers later hired former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley to replace Arians. After meeting with Haley, Roethlisberger was still confused:

    I get a little confused at times because I know so much has been made about us quote-unquote throwing the ball too much, or we’re going back to Steeler football and running the ball more. But in these meetings I’ve had with coach Haley he’s all about the no-huddle, and using our wide receiver weapons, and throwing the ball, and stuff like that, so I’m still confused. I’m not sure what’s going to happen yet. 

    Now, no one is saying Roethlisberger wants out of Pittsburgh, but it's not a good sign that the on-field leader of your offense is not on the same page as the staff and ownership when it comes to how the offense should be run.

    If they do run a similar, up-tempo, pass-friendly offense, Roethlisberger will continue to wonder why Arians was let go. If this confusion doesn't get ironed out in training camp and preseason, it could spell trouble down the road.

Adrian Peterson Expects to Return by Week 1

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    Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and MCL on Christmas Eve last year in a game against the Redskins. At the time, it was unknown when he would be able to return.

    Peterson sounded very optimistic recently, saying he expects to play in the season opener.

    That first game against Jacksonville, I plan on being back and it will be disappointing if I’m not.

    Not so fast, Adrian. Eric Sugarman, the Vikings’ head athletic trainer, isn't so sure Peterson will be ready to go by Week 1.

    Right now, when he tries to stop on a dime, he looks like he's on ice.

    I'm still not going to be quoted as saying he's going to play in the first game. That's not fair. I don't know that.

    It's scary for Vikings fans to think about where their team would be without Adrian Peterson. If healthy by Week 1, he would provide a big boost to the Vikings offense and make life a little easier for second-year quarterback Christian Ponder.

Replacement Officials Could Be a Reality in the 2012 NFL Season

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    When NFL players and owners agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement last year, you probably thought you wouldn't have to hear about labor disputes, unions or strikes interfering with football for awhile.

    Not so. Apparently, the NFL and the referees are battling with labor negotiations.

    According to FoxSports.com:

    The NFL has asked its officiating-scouting department to begin assisting the league in identifying potential replacements for the 2012 season. The move comes as the league and the NFL Referees Association have reached an impasse in labor negotiations.

    You might be thinking to yourself, "replacement refs can't be any worse than the NFL refs now." In all likelihood, they would be. NFL officials are simply the best at what they do. If they weren't, they wouldn't be officiating games at the highest level. 

    Side note: I never understood why the league never made NFL officials full-time. Most officials have full-time jobs to go along with their jobs as referees. Wouldn't giving them a full-time job as an NFL official allow them to focus more on officiating, thus becoming better officials?