NFL Veterans Whose Jobs Could Be Threatened by Rookies

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IApril 22, 2013

NFL Veterans Whose Jobs Could Be Threatened by Rookies

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    The National Football League is a very successful business.

    In essence, it’s really 32 separate entities in the business to win football games and, hopefully, championships.

    That means decisions, popular or unpopular, have to be made. You’re looking to put the best product on the field. And in this era, you can do it so many different ways.

    But the NFL draft continues to be the best way to secure talent and build a roster. However, that also means players with diminishing skills, shaky performances and high salaries are at risk to be demoted…or worse.

    So we’re taking a look at two handfuls of veterans (hence 10 fingers) who may no longer be starters on their teams. And in some cases, we’re looking at players who may have already lost their starting job and their place on the roster could be in jeopardy as well.

    Since we have no real idea of what’s going to happen later this week, take this speculation for what it is.

    All contract information and cap-related numbers for the players and the teams in this piece comes courtesy of

J’Marcus Webb, RT, Chicago Bears

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    Pass is obviously a four-letter word.

    Protection is not, but it may as well be when it comes to the Chicago Bears.

    While the numbers have gotten better the last few years, that doesn’t mean they’re good. Last season, the Bears allowed 44 sacks, an improvement over both 2011 (49) and 2010 (56).

    But that’s still 149 sacks allowed in 48 games.

    The addition of free-agent left tackle Jermon Bushrod (New Orleans Saints) means former starter J’Marcus Webb moves to right tackle. The Bears also signed another new face up front in left guard Matt Slauson (New York Jets).

    So while Webb makes the shift, is he a guarantee to be there come September? It wouldn’t be a shock to see the team address the position in the first two rounds.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Cleveland Browns

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    If you look at Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden’s NFL resume, it states he was a rookie in 2012.

    If you look at his birth certificate, you know he’ll be celebrating his 30th birthday on October 14.

    This past season, the team’s second of two first-round draft choices threw 14 touchdown passes compared to 17 interceptions. Weeden completed 57.4 passes for 3,385 yards and posted a 5-10 record as a starter.

    But once again, the Browns have a new head coach in Rob Chudzinski and a new offensive coordinator in Norv Turner. Does that mean that Weeden’s job is on the line? The team did sign 31-year old Jason Campbell to back up Weeden and do have the sixth overall pick on Thursday evening.

    Could the new regime already be considering a change behind center? Stay tuned.

Doug Free, RT, Dallas Cowboys

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    There’s nothing free about Dallas Cowboys right tackle Doug Free these days.

    The former left tackle, who made the switch to make room for Tyron Smith, takes up a little over 10 million dollars on team’s salary cap.

    It’s obvious that Jason Garrett’s team needs to do a better job of protecting quarterback Tony Romo, who was sacked 36 times in 2012.

    With the 18th overall selection in Thursday night’s NFL draft, the Pokes could certainly tab a tackle (in a tackle-rich draft) in the first round.

    And that could make for interesting times in Cowboys’ training camp this summer.

Tyson Jackson, LDE, Kansas City Chiefs

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    There’s a new sheriff in town when it comes to the Kansas City Chiefs.

    With head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey calling the shots, it’s been a very busy offseason for a team that produced only two wins in 2012.

    From the trade that brought quarterback Alex Smith to town to the free-agent signings of cornerbacks Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson and tight end Anthony Fasano, there’s more than a few new faces in Kansas City these days.

    And could there be even more changes? The Chiefs defense ranked 27th against the run this past season—this despite a front three loaded with former first-round selections.

    Nose tackles Dontari Poe was a rookie last year and right defensive end Glenn Dorsey is now with the San Francisco 49ers. Left defensive end Tyson Jackson was the third overall pick in 2009 but his production has not lived up to that billing as of yet.

    As Reid and Dorsey look to construct a masterpiece in K.C., could Jackson’s time in the starting lineup be running out?

Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins

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    It’s been a very busy offseason in South Florida.

    The Miami Dolphins appear very determined to put an end to their streak of four straight losing seasons thanks to some determined play in 2012 and an aggressive offseason in 2013.

    With the free-agent signings of wide receivers Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Brandon Gibson (St. Louis Rams), second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill will have some new toys to play with.

    But will one of his favorite targets from a year ago still be around.

    Davone Bess has been a pretty solid player for the team. But he will also be an unrestricted free agent following the season.

    With 11 picks in this upcoming draft, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Dolphins add at least another young wide receiver in the process. And that could leave Bess on the outside looking in for a roster spot.

Khalif Barnes, RT, Oakland Raiders

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    To say it’s already been a year of change for the Oakland Raiders would be understating the obvious.

    But it will be interesting to see just what else general manager Reggie McKenzie has in store for the Silver and Black.

    Former first-round picks such as safety Michael Huff, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and linebacker Rolando McClain were all released this offseason. On the defensive side of the ball, the team appears to have nine new starts, all via free agency.

    In March, Raiders right tackle Khalif Barnes was re-signed to a one-year contract. The former second-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars (2005) has held his own in Oakland (no pun intended).

    But with the third overall pick in this draft and a lot of quality offensive linemen on the board, the Raiders could grab one of those coveted tackles and Barnes’ days in the starting lineup could be numbered.

Trent Cole, ROLB, Philadelphia Eagles

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    How do you take 71.0 career sacks out of your starting lineup?

    That’s a question that could face Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach Chip Kelly as he turned in his Oregon Ducks for these Birds.

    A two-time Pro Bowler, defensive end Trent Cole will make the move to outside linebacker in coordinator Billy Davis’ 3-4 scheme. He’ll be joined at the other outside spot by Connor Barwin, late of the Houston Texans.

    One of the better pass-rushers in the league, Cole comes off a disappointing season with the Eagles, totaling a career-low 3.0 sacks despite playing all 16 games.

    Could Kelly and company be looking to shake things up a little more on the defensive side of the ball? With 2012 first-rounder Fletcher Cox the anticipated starter at right defensive end, could Cole go from starter to specialist while the Birds look to fill that right outside linebacking spot with someone more familiar with the position and the scheme?

    This may be one of the more intriguing questions for the Eagles this summer.

Jason Worilds, ROLB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    It’s safe to say that former Pittsburgh Steelers right outside linebacker James Harrison brought a little swagger to the defense in the Steel City.

    His intensity and relentless play made him a focal point on annually one of the best units in the league.

    But the team parted ways with Harrison, who recently signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. In his place comes three-year veteran Jason Worilds, who is expected to slip into the starting lineup on a regular basis.

    Or is he?

    These days, the Steelers defense doesn’t give up many yards but it also doesn’t generate the big plays that it used to. And if general manager Kevin Colbert opts to draft an aggressive outside linebacker in the first round on Thursday night, Worilds may be back where he started from come September.

Craig Dahl, FS, San Francisco 49ers

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    Wait a minute? The guy just got to town.

    With the free-agent defection of two-time Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers had a hole to fill in their secondary.

    The team opted to sign free-agent safety Craig Dahl in place of Goldson this offseason. The five-year NFL veteran (No. 43 in the photo) spent the last four seasons with the St. Louis Rams and has a total of four career interceptions.

    With a league-high 13 picks in the upcoming draft, the Niners have plenty of room to maneuver both forward and backwards. And with the 31st overall pick on Thursday, could the organization make it safety first?

    If that’s the case, Dahl could be the team’s starter in Week 1 but his days in the lineup could be numbered.

Brandon Meriweather, SS, Washington Redskins

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    Once a first-round pick by the New England Patriots (2007), it’s been an interesting last few seasons for safety Brandon Meriweather.

    After four seasons with New England, which included a pair of Pro Bowl appearances in 2009 and 2010, Meriweather suddenly found himself in the Windy City suiting up for the Chicago Bears. In 11 games with the team, he totaled 19 tackles and zero interceptions.

    Last offseason, Meriweather signed with the Washington Redskins but unfortunately, his season lasted just one game before going down. Now he returns in 2013 obviously hoping to make more of an impact than he did a year ago.

    But it will be interesting to see if he truly gets the chance. While the Redskins don’t have a first-round pick this year, that doesn’t mean they won’t be looking to upgrade the position.