This is the time of year in the NFL when it’s anyone’s guess what direction a team is going to go in. Everyone has needs; thus trade rumors swirl.
But trades aren’t the only thing at play during the offseason.
Teams are also positioning themselves to select top prospects in April during the draft and looking to pick up proven performers through free agency.
Lost in all of that are the trade rumors. However, trades remain a key offseason tool for teams to deal underperforming or disgruntled stars and acquire usable assets in the process.
Let’s take a look at some of the current buzz around the league in the trade department and then we’ll break down the odds of each player being dealt.
There’s no denying that Alex Smith was having the best season of his oft-criticized NFL career prior to being benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick. While that may be true, Smith just wasn’t the better player of the two, as Kaepernick instantly added a new dimension with his versatile skill set.
Smith will not be a member of the 49ers next year, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Smith wants another shot to play somewhere and continue the progress he made under Jim Harbaugh this season.
The former No. 1 overall selection in the NFL draft never lived up to that billing until this season. He was leading the NFL in completion percentage and had the San Francisco 49ers riding high with a 6-2-1 record.
Smith is due to make a good chunk of change if the 49ers keep him past April 1. His $6.5 million roster bonus will kick in if he is not cut or traded by that date.
One way or another, whether it’s via trade or release, Alex Smith’s days in San Francisco are almost certainly over.
Odds: 99 percent
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin has been around the league enough years to see how far holding out has gotten his peers. Teams simply do not cater to financial demands of players who are currently playing under a contract while threatening a holdout.
Harvin, though, is likely to hold out until a new deal can be reached with the team, according to NBC Sports’ Mike Florio. He’s looking to become a top-flight wide receiver, not just on the field, but at the bank as well.
The problem for Harvin is that he hasn’t really proved he has what it takes to be a team’s No. 1 wide receiver. That’s a problem since he’s seeking top-tier-receiver money.
Minnesota needs Harvin, as it has no other real options at the receiver position moving forward. If the Vikings draft a rookie wideout, that player will need time to come into his own and learn the game from veterans like Harvin.
The most likely scenario here is that Harvin holds out and eventually returns to camp just before the start of the regular season. From there, he’ll likely play out his contract and move on next summer.
Odds: Five percent
Darrelle Revis is known around the NFL as a true “shutdown corner.” That’s why the New York Jets’ decision to shop the star cornerback, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, is very confusing:
The New York Jets, fresh off an exhaustive hunt for new general manager John Idzik, will explore options to deal star corner Darrelle Revis this offseason, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
With Revis' reputation comes the undoubted addition of expectations that are larger than life. Every time he makes an error, it will be magnified to the millionth degree.
Revis has met those expectations, though, and should be in line for a huge payday somewhere down the line. If the Jets don’t want to fork over that type of money, they would be best advised to pull the trigger and deal him now, while his name is still associated with greatness.
An unidentified NFL general manager stated that the pursuit of Revis will involve “one of the biggest potential trade markets for a player ever.”
The Jets need to rebuild and there will likely be no shortage of teams calling Idzik about the corner, so we don’t see a reason why he would stay a Jet for long.
Odds: 70 percent
Sources within the New York Jets said there is a small contingent of decision makers in the organization that want to shop cornerback Antonio Cromartie rather than Darrelle Revis.
As talented as Revis is, it could be a struggle for the Jets to move him, considering the elite defensive back is looking to be one of the highest-paid defenders in the league.
Moreover, Cromartie is coming off a good season but has nowhere near the reputation around the league that Revis carries. That alone will net more potential suitors for Revis than Cromartie.
Chances are one of these two will be off New York's roster once the 2013 season begins. We’re betting it’s Revis, though, not Cromartie.
Odds: 30 percent
The Tim Tebow watch should pick up steam as soon as some teams around the league begin to express interest in the mobile southpaw quarterback.
The New York Jets will reportedly not release the polarizing media darling, opting rather to hold onto him and trade him in March once trades are allowed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Jaguars, a team once reportedly interested in him, no longer seem to be a player for his services, considering the team’s new GM said they wouldn’t pursue him even if he was released. That leaves few options for Tebow, who was passed over for third-string QB Greg McElroy when Mark Sanchez was benched in 2012.
He was also shipped out of town after leading the Denver Broncos to a playoff upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers two seasons ago.
For one reason or another, teams just do not value Tebow as a starting NFL quarterback. Trying to trade him will be nearly impossible for the Jets, and they’ll be forced to cut him or utilize him more effectively in 2013.
Odds: One percent
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Flynn was brought in to help a team that was struggling at the quarterback position. Pete Carroll drafted Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft to compete with Flynn, and suddenly, the team’s big offseason signing was relegated to backup status.
That has led to trade rumors developing for Flynn. It is also possible that he may be cut, so teams that are hoping to acquire the QB may opt to take a wait-and-see approach.
The fact remains that Flynn may not have been as great of a talent as many made him out to be after one big start in Green Bay. Seattle will be hard-pressed to find trade partners and may have to absorb the money owed to Flynn by cutting him, restructuring his deal or keeping him on as a backup at his current price tag.
Still, with the lack of options elsewhere, aside from Alex Smith and an underwhelming NFL draft class of quarterbacks, the Seahawks’ phone could start to ring with teams interested in Flynn as the offseason progresses.
Odds: 45 percent