The 2012 NFL regular season is winding down, and while 12 fortunate teams will be making plans for the playoffs for the rest of the league it's back to the drawing board in an effort to keep the 2013 season from ending as abruptly as the 2012 campaign did.
That means plugging holes in the roster in any way possible, and while the intricacies of the salary cap make trades in the NFL a relative rarity, they do happen.
Here's a trio of the leading candidates to be dealt this offseason, especially if the team interested in dealing for them can get that player to re-work a more cap-friendly contract.
Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith entered the 2012 season as the starting quarterback for a team that nearly made the Super Bowl last year.
Now, after a concussion opened the door and second-year pro Colin Kaepernick burst through it, Smith finds himself holding a clipboard and eyeing the end of his tenure in San Francisco, as the team isn't likely to pay a backup quarterback $7.5 million in 2013.
With that said, there are teams in the National Football League that are positively desperate for help under center, and one of those teams would almost certainly gladly part with a draft pick rather than gamble that Smith is released and they can sign him.
Those teams include the Arizona Cardinals; offensive lineman and former teammate Adam Snyder told Matthew Barrows of the Sacramento Bee that he likes the idea of Smith in the desert just fine.
"If someone asked me about him, I would tell them exactly what I thought," Snyder said on a conference call. "I think the guy's got unbelievable character, and I think he's a leader. Obviously, he and I came in together (in 2005). So I've got a special place for him."
Smith isn't Drew Brees, but he's a very effective game manager who would provide an immediate upgrade for a number of clubs, making it a seller's market for the 49ers where Alex Smith is concerned.
Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
Then there's the other end of the spectrum.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets had a 2012 season that was so awful, if you didn't see it you wouldn't believe it. He threw only 13 touchdown passes against 24 turnovers and posted a quarterback rating of less than 70.
That, coupled with the ridiculous contract extension that the Jets signed him to before the season, would seem to make the fourth-year pro effectively untradeable.
Never say never.
Basically, it's up to Sanchez. If he decides that he needs a fresh start and is willing to eat a whole lot of money in order to get one, then maybe, just maybe the Jets can find a taker willing to part with a late pick.
That's how desperate some teams are for help under center. They'll convince themselves that they can turn Sanchez back into the player that went to back-to-back AFC title games.
Nevermind that he wasn't that great in those seasons either.
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
Speaking of players whose performance hasn't come close to their paycheck.
When cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha signed a five-year, $60 million contract before the 2011 season the Philadelphia Eagles thought they were getting the best cornerback in the NFL.
Instead, Asomugha hasn't even been the best cornerback on his own team, and with a new regime set to take over in Philly and Asomugha due to make $15 million in 2013, something has to give.
The 10th-year veteran recently told Marc Sessler of NFL.com that he's not averse to restructuring his deal to remain in Philly, and with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie set to hit free agency the Eagles may be reluctant to watch both of their top two cornerbacks depart.
However, much like quarterback, cornerback is a premium position, and should another team make the Eagles an attractive offer for Asomugha, an Eagles squad prepping for a rebuild would be foolish not to listen.
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