NFL Rumors: 12 Biggest Whispers of the Offseason Right Now

Vincent FrankCorrespondent IMay 6, 2013

NFL Rumors: 12 Biggest Whispers of the Offseason Right Now

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    What offseason? 

    While the National Football League is quickly readying for the slow part of the year, there was still news to be had around the sport immediately after the 2013 NFL draft came to a conclusion. 

    From the disclosure that Houston Texans safety Ed Reed may be out for a few months with a hip injury to Santa Clara, just outside of San Francisco, likely winning the battle to host Super Bowl L, this past week has been filled with some interesting news. 

    Let's take a gander at the top 12 rumors around the NFL right now. 

Ed Reed's Hip Surgery

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    In what should be considered a major surprise, new Houston Texans safety Ed Reed underwent hip surgery in April, information that was just disclosed to the masses last week. 

    John McClain of The Houston Chronicle filed the following report on Reed's "secretive" injury: 

    Free safety Ed Reed will miss the Texans’ organized team activities and three-day minicamp after undergoing arthroscopic surgery last week to repair a labral tear in his hip.

    Reed, 34, is undergoing rehabilitation in an attempt to be ready for the July 26 start of training camp.

    Other reports indicate that Reed should be ready to go by training camp (via The Sporting News). 

    Houston lost Glover Quin to the Detroit Lions in free agency and replaced the 27-year-old safety with a veteran seven years his senior. 

    If Reed is slowed down further by this injury and unable to go in time for the regular season, rookie second-round pick D.J. Swearinger would likely get the call as Houston's last line of defense at free safety. Not exactly an ideal scenario for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. 

    As it is, this is definitely a story to pay attention to. 

Santa Clara to Host Super Bowl L?

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    The Miami Dolphins were told that they needed to do about $350 million in renovations at Sun Life Stadium if they stood a chance of hosting the Super Bowl in 2016 (via CBS Sports). The report suggested that those renovations will not go through after a bill was rejected by Florida lawmakers.

    The San Francisco 49ers are in the process of building a new state-of-the-art stadium in Santa Clara, about 45 minutes from Candlestick Park. The stadium will be ready to go by the 2014 NFL season. 

    These two locations were the finalists to host Super Bowl L, but it seems that Santa Clara will win the bid. It would be just the second time that the Bay Area has won the rights to host the ultimate game (via NFL.com) 

    An official announcement is set for the end of May. More good news for those of us located in Northern California. 

Branden Albert to Play Left Tackle in Kansas City After All

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    The on-again, off-again drama between franchised offensive tackle Branden Albert and the Kansas City Chiefs seems to be off again. 

    It appears that Kansas City has made the decision to play No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher at right tackle, which would keep Albert in the more glamorous role of protecting Alex Smith's blindside (via NFL.com).

    Outside of the obvious financial aspect of playing left tackle, Albert seemed to take Kansas City's flirtation and eventual selection of a left tackle to heart. He can now prove his worth as a left tackle and cash in next offseason. 

    Long term, it seems like Kansas City is willing to either let Albert walk or acquire a pick for his services. That just doesn't seem to be in the plans prior to the start of the 2013 season. This means that Smith will have two stellar bookends in protection in his first season with the Chiefs. 

    That's absolutely huge. 

Tim Tebow's Next Stop?

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    It seems that many teams around the National Football League have gone out of their way to say they're not interested in Tim Tebow. A lot of this has to do with the media circus the enigmatic backup quarterback would bring with him. 

    Without getting too far off track, Tebow has the New York Jets to blame for that. 

    As it is, there might be a couple teams interested in his services. The New England Patriots have been linked to the former first-round pick, who was just recently waived by the Jets (via NFL.com). 

    It's unclear what role Tebow would play for a new team, but a recent report by The New York Post suggests that some front offices would be interested in him only if he moved to tight end. 

    League sources confirmed that the few teams that contacted the Jets about Tebow were open to trading for him only if he was willing to move to tight end, but Tebow continues to refuse that possibility.

    Another possibility is running back. 

    As it is, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of interest in Tebow at quarterback. Teams might be intrigued by his physical abilities, but no longer view him as a viable signal-caller in the NFL. 

    For what it is worth, the former Heisman Trophy winner would like to go to a team where he can sit behind a solid veteran starter and a good coaching staff in order to refine his game (via Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole). 

Quarterback Competition in Cleveland?

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    The old saying goes that a new regime wants its own shiny new toy under center. This has been repeated over and over again throughout the recent history of the National Football League. 

    General manager Michael Lombardi and his associates are no different in Cleveland. They don't appear to be sold on Brandon Weeden as the quarterback of the future for a fledgling Browns organization. Instead, they may be intent on going into the 2013 season with Jason Campbell as the starting quarterback, which is pretty much all you need to know about Weeden's future in Cleveland.

    Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plane Dealer filed the following report late last week: 

    Backup quarterback Jason Campbell will be given a legitimate shot to beat out Brandon Weeden for the starting job, and the competition between the two is more than just lip service, league sources said.

    Weeden, a surprise first-round pick of the Browns last April, played pretty well as a rookie. That being said, his age coupled with a lack of tremendous upside has caused some to believe that he'll never be more than a marginal quarterback in the National Football League. 

    For his part, Campbell has had some success in starting stints with both the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders. He's a stopgap at best.

Dallas Cowboys Targeting Doug Free's Replacement?

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    While Doug Free continues to play hardball about a possible renegotiated contract, the Dallas Cowboys are apparently looking for an upgrade at right tackle (via PFT). 

    Why not? Free ranked a ridiculous 66th among offensive tackles this past season and committed the most penalties of any offensive lineman in the league (via Pro Football Focus, subscription required). 

    That doesn't mesh too well with the $10 million he is set to earn in 2013 (via Spotrac). 

    Dallas was said to be targeting Tyson Clabo, who signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. This takes one of the better tackles off the market, but also sets the price tag for players like Eric Winston and Winston Justice. 

    Even if the Cowboys and Free are able to come to an agreement on a restructured deal, they could make the decision to move him inside, where an upgrade is needed at right guard. Either way, expect the Cowboys to add a veteran right tackle at some point between now and the start of training camp. 

DeAngelo Williams on the Block?

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    Many pundits gave the Sheldon Cooper "shocked face" when the Carolina Panthers spent a sixth-round pick on former Oregon running back Kenjon Barner. 

    It just didn't make a whole lot of sense. 

    This is an organization that had spent a ton of money to lock up both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams over the last couple seasons. It also signed Mike Tolbert to a four-year contract last offseason and has one of the most electrifying running quarterbacks in the NFL. 

    Something had to give. 

    Well, reports now indicate that Williams may be placed on the trade block or released prior to the start of training camp. 

    Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer indicated that a couple of teams that had inquired about Williams prior to the trade deadline last season "weren't offering much." 

    This shouldn't come as much of a surprise considering Williams' price tag and the fact that he is on the wrong side of 30. 

    Carolina may be forced to release Williams and bite a chunk of his remaining contract in order to give playing time to young alternatives. 

    As it relates to the veteran running back, he hasn't been bad in limited playing time over the last couple seasons. In fact, the former first-round pick is averaging 5.3 yards per touch since the start of the 2011 season.  

Redskins Starting Two Rookie Safeties?

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    The Washington Redskins' safety situation this past season bordered on atrocious. The likes of Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty and Madieu Williams just didn't get it done. 

    According to Pro Football Focus, four of the Redskins' top five safeties had negative coverage grades in 2012 (subscription required). That's not going to do the job when you are looking at contending for a conference championship against the dynamic offenses in Green Bay, Seattle, San Francisco and Atlanta. 

    Enter into the equation Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas, two of the highest-ranked safety prospects in the 2013 NFL draft. 

    Washington set out to upgrade a weakness and went all in. 

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had both Rambo and Thomas in the top five of his positional rankings at free safety. Getting Thomas in the fourth and Rambo in the sixth represented solid value at need positions. 

    It's still to be determined where each is going to play and if both will start in 2013. 

    According to The Washington Post, higher ups with the Redskins see Thomas as a free safety and also believe that Rambo can play strong safety. 

    Former NFL safety and current analyst Matt Bowen has his reservations about these two rookies being able to handle starting roles in 2013 (via The Washington Post). 

    These two young safeties, coming in, if they want to play this year, as soon as they’re allowed to be at Redskins Park, they should be there until it’s dark,” Bowen says. “They should be hanging with the vets, asking them questions, bugging the coaches, begging them to show them film. That’s what they need to do to play this year, and the Redskins need at least one of them to.

    This should be one of the more interesting stories out of 'Skins camp that isn't associated with the return to health of one Robert Griffin III. 

San Francisco 49ers Redshirting Marcus Lattimore in 2013?

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    One of many great things that comes with having 13 selections in the NFL draft when coming off a Super Bowl season is having the ability to take chances on high-upside talent. 

    The San Francisco 49ers did this with both Cornellius Carradine (second round) and Marcus Lattimore (fourth round). These youngsters are coming off serious knee injuries which caused them to get selected much lower than their talent suggested. 

    While Carradine will be ready to go and make an impact in 2013, Lattimore might find himself riding the pine. San Francisco has one of the deepest running back groups in the entire National Football League and doesn't necessarily need him to get wins. 

    Why not err on the side of caution and enable Lattimore to get completely healthy? 

    This is what head coach Jim Harbaugh indicated immediately after the selection of the South Carolina product (via The Sacramento Bee). 

    We're going to slow the aggressive, physical (rehabilitation) down and make sure that Marcus is going to be 100 percent healthy before he's out there on the field....I've told him that, shared that with him, shared that with his mother, and if he doesn't play this year, he doesn't play this year.

    Considering how San Francisco might view Lattimore as its heir apparent to Frank Gore, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. 

    After all, the likes of Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James should be able to hold down the running back position just fine in the meantime. 

    If I were to wager a bet, Lattimore won't see the field in 2013. 

Joe Webb to Wide Receiver?

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    If you were "lucky" enough to view Joe Webb's performance against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs this past January, the reports surfacing that Minnesota might move him to wide receiver shouldn't catch you by surprise. 

    The Alabama Birmingham product is one of the most athletic players on the Vikings roster, but just doesn't seem to have the necessary skill set to be a quarterback in the NFL. 

    Why not try to utilize his athleticism in other areas of the field? 

    Webb seems to think that a move to wide receiver is imminent (via ESPN). 

    They're still figuring it out....But it looks like, if I am going to receiver, I'm doing a lot more work at it so I can work on my craft at receiver since I haven't been there since, what, 2010 when I first got drafted?

    Don't expect Percy Harvin-type production from Webb should he be moved outside. As he indicated in the interview, he'll have somewhat of a large learning curve. 

    At the very least, Minnesota has decided to have a viable backup quarterback behind Christian Ponder. Who knows how the playoff game would have turned out if that was the case back in January? 

Packers' Offensive Line Shuffle in Front of Aaron Rodgers

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    The Green Bay Packers have to do something to find protection for Aaron Rodgers. They simply cannot rely on him to consistently stay healthy after being hit time after time. 

    The All-Pro was sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL this past season (via NFL.com). 

    With that in mind, Green Bay did not hit the open market in search of upgrades at tackle, guard or center. Instead, it focused on acquiring a couple of mid-round prospects in the draft to create some competition in camp. 

    Mike McCarthy and Co. also plan to move some in-house options around in search of finding the right mix. 

    According to Tom Silverstein of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the plan starts with former first-round pick Bryan Bulaga, who will move to left tackle

    The most noteworthy is that right tackle Bryan Bulaga is moving to the left side to be quarterback Aaron Rodgers' blind-side protector, replacing last year's starter Marshall Newhouse.

    Once you look more into it, Bulaga may not be a better option here. According to Pro Football Focus, the new left tackle ranked lower in pass protection than the guy he is replacing (subscription required). 

    Either way, something needed to be done. 

    Among other changes in the Packers offensive line is the infusion of some young talent

    In addition, the coaches have flipped guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, moving Lang from left to right and Sitton from right to left. Newhouse, 2012 undrafted free agent Don Barclay and 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod will all have a shot to start at right tackle.

    Lets hope for Rodgers' sake that this plan works out. After all, Green Bay will be tasked with going up against some of the better pass-rushers in the NFL when it takes on Minnesota, San Francisco, Chicago, Cincinnati and Baltimore this upcoming season.

    Ouch!

Quarterback Competitions Aplenty

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    We have already discussed the Cleveland Browns' quarterback situation, so there really isn't any reason to rehash that. 

    It's not like the NFL is starved of training camp battles on other fronts. 

    The selection of Matt Barkley in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft has put the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback situation under a microscope. It retained Michael Vick on a "prove it" contract earlier in the offseason and still has 2012 draft pick Nick Foles on the roster. 

    At this point, it's easy to conclude that there will be a three-way race for the starting job in Philadelphia later this summer. 

    For his part, Barkley seems game (via The Philadelphia Inquirer): 

    "I'm good to go," for rookie minicamp starting May 10, Barkley told reporters in a conference call Saturday. "I just can't wait to get into minicamps and prove myself and show that I do have a strong arm, and I am capable of playing in this league, and playing strong."

    It's highly unlikely, though, that Barkley would be able to show enough to beat out both Vick and Foles for the job. 

    Meanwhile, the "surprise" selection of EJ Manuel in the first round of the draft late last month has raised some questions about the likelihood of Kevin Kolb starting the season under center for the Buffalo Bills. You simply don't invest a high pick on a quarterback with plans to sit him for a year or two. Those situations are few and far between in the NFL today. 

    While the Tennessee Titans did just this with Jake Locker back in 2011, I highly doubt that Kolb will impress the Bills enough to beat out an ultra-talented youngster such as Manuel. 

    This sentiment seems widespread. 

    Adam Schefter over at ESPN indicated as much in a Q&A session immediately after the draft: 

    Being that Manuel was drafted the earliest.....he has to be considered the favorite. That's part of the issue with drafting a QB in the first round: the expectations for him always are so high. Quarterbacks taken in mid-to-later rounds do not have the expectations that a high pick does.

    So Manuel gets to soak up being a first-round pick, but the scrutiny and expectations are the flip side to it. Smith and Barkley also might get their chance at some point this season, but it would be an upset if Manuel was not the first QB from this draft class to start 

    While this really shouldn't be seen as a surprise, I am not entirely too sure Manuel will have success early in his career. He needs to gain more experience and seasoning before being thrown to the wolves. I had the Florida State product with a first-round grade, but he is still a bit of a project. 

    This will definitely be something to keep an eye on throughout the offseason and leading up to training camp. 

    The New York Jets are an entirely different situation. They selected Geno Smith in the second round of April's draft. The West Virginia product sat in the green room at Radio City Music hall enduring the entire first round before finally getting picked up an hour or so into Day 2.

    His expectations are a bit different, especially with incumbent Mark Sanchez still on the roster. All things equal, and if Sanchez actually makes it out of camp without getting released, you would have to expect the former USC signal-caller will start. The primary reason for this is the ridiculous amount of money Sanchez is set to earn in 2013. 

    According to ESPN, it looks like New York will have a three-way race for the starting quarterback job in training camp. 

    The report goes on to indicate that new general manager John Idzik may utilize the same type of quarterback competition we saw with Seattle last season:

    In the Jets' version, rookie Geno Smith will play the role of Wilson; he'll get every chance to show he can play. Sanchez bears similarities to both Flynn (big contracts) and Jackson (incumbents on thin ice). He has to get a decent number of reps because he could be the starter or he could be trade bait. 

    However unlikely a Sanchez trade might be, there is a good chance that Smith will be given every opportunity to earn the starting gig.  

    Again, it would be a less-than-stellar situation for a young quarterback. New York lacks the necessary weapons and scheme for Smith to be successful early in his career. The best scenario for him would be to sit for a season behind Sanchez or David Garrard.

    Do the Jets have the patience to do this? That's the larger question. 

    Other teams that might find themselves in full-on quarterback controversy mode are the Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. 

    It should be interesting. 

     

    Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist here at Bleacher Report. Vincent is the head sports editor over at eDraft, co-host of Draft Sports Radio, which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. ET, and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus.

    Go ahead and give him a follow on Twitter @VincentFrankNFL.