The 2014 NFL free-agency period starts in less than a week, and the rumor mill is heating up in anticipation.
Intriguingly, a couple of this week's rumors surround potential trades. It's not a huge surprise, as teams will often try to facilitate moves before the official start of free agency to free up more cap room and pinpoint their needs.
While it is unclear how many of these rumored moves will actually occur, they speak volumes about the approaches of the teams involved. Here is the latest buzz on a the biggest NFL rumors surrounding potential player movement.
Luck to Decker?
Many Colts fans lamented the meager supporting cast that surrounded budding superstar quarterback Andrew Luck at the end of last season. While healthy returns from the likes of Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen would help on their own, Denver sportscaster Vic Lombardi reports that Indy might have bigger plans:
Among the teams that have interest in Eric Decker ... Indy. If he can't play with PFM, he'd love to roll with Andrew Luck.— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) February 27, 2014
In the Peyton Manning era, the Colts followed up Marvin Harrison with Reggie Wayne, ensuring a true No. 1 receiver for their quarterback. While T.Y. Hilton may develop into Wayne's successor for Luck, owner and CEO Jim Irsay might not be willing to leave that to chance.
Irsay is not afraid to spend, as last year's roughly $132 million spending spree illustrated. As NFL.com's Kevin Patra asserts, Decker's game could be a nice complement to the current bevy of young deep threats:
Despite a gaggle of young receivers and pass-catching tight ends, Indy could view Decker as a long-term replacement for Reggie Wayne, after realizing last season what life without the veteran is like.
Decker's size and route running would be a nice complement alongside T.Y. Hilton and Da'Rick Rogers (who showed flashes of explosive potential last season). Wayne plans to return from his ACL tear, but taking some pressure off the 35-year-old is a necessity for the Colts.
Would Eric Decker be a good signing for the Colts?
Decker's services will not come cheaply, as the Denver Broncos receiver figures to set the bar high at his position among this year's free agents. But according to Spotrac.com, the Colts have over $40 million in cap space and could certainly fit Decker's contract into their books if they so desire.
Irsay is not afraid to make a big splash, and landing Decker would be the type of move that warrants speculation about whether or not the Colts have closed the gap on the Broncos and New England Patriots in the AFC hierarchy.
One and Done in Foxboro?
Danny Amendola suffered a disappointing debut campaign with the Patriots, albeit playing through an extremely painful groin injury nearly the entire season. Nevertheless, New England may be backtracking from the injury-prone slot receiver, as Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei reported that the Patriots "have dangled" Amendola's name in trade talks.
If the Pats want to keep free agent Julian Edelman, who plays a similar role to Amendola in the offense, trading the latter might be the only tenable solution. Thanks to the Aaron Hernandez debacle, New England is tighter to the cap than usual, with about $12.7 million to work with, according to Spotrac.com.
Amendola signed a five-year, $31 million pact with the Patriots last season, and Edelman figures to command a similar contract this season. It makes little sense to devote over $50 million to players with significantly overlapping roles, and Edelman proved he could excel in the role last season.
Amendola has yet to prove anything to New England, though he did have an excellent Week 1 game against Buffalo before his groin injury knocked his season off track. Still, as NESN's Doug Kyed opines, the Pats would not receive much value for the brittle receiver with a long contract remaining:
I can't imagine the Patriots would get much for Danny Amendola if they found a trade partner. Perception around league is that he's brittle.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyedNESN) March 1, 2014
Thus, there's also the possibility that the Patriots outright release Amendola. If New England releases Amendola before 4 p.m. on March 11, they could designate him a post-June 1 cut and spread out his cap hit over two seasons. That would save the Pats roughly $2.88 million in cap space, though Amendola's dead money would be on the cap for two years.
The notoriously tight-lipped Patriots are unlikely to let any more information leak out about Amendola, so any move would likely come suddenly. New England rarely whiffs badly on a big free-agent signing, but Amendola's disappointing campaign coupled with Edelman's breakout season has left the Patriots in a precarious position.
South Beach Shakeup?
The Dolphins made their fair share of head-scratching moves under erstwhile GM Jeff Ireland, and Dennis Hickey may already be trying to undo some of Ireland's decisions.
One of Ireland's last big moves involved a shocking trade up to snag Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan with the third pick in last year's draft. But as CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reports, the Fins may be attempting to move Jordan after a rookie season in which he was sparsely utilized:
A year after trading up to get Dion Jordan with the third overall pick in the draft, the Dolphinshave begun shopping him to other clubs, league sources said. Miami has talked to other teams already to gauge Jordan's trade value.
Jordan did not click with the coaches last season, he had to play through a very difficult shoulder injury, and was not seen as a strong fit in their scheme (he's an edge rusher that best fits a 3-4 defense).
The man who drafted Jordan (former GM Jeff Ireland) is gone, so it might be time for Jordan to move on as well. With Koa Misi and Olivier Vernon occupying defensive end spots with Miami in its 4-3 scheme, finding playing time for Jordan might be tough barring injury.
Trading Jordan would be the ultimate sell-low move, as there is little hope Miami could recoup equal returns from such an unproven commodity. After trading the 12th and 42nd picks in last year's draft for the right to select Jordan, abandoning ship after just a single season would be an admission of a catastrophic mistake.
Unsurprisingly, the Dolphins are denying that Jordan is on the block, along with big veteran contracts like Mike Wallace and Cameron Wake, per NFL.com's Chris Wesseling. However, Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo might have provided a more insightful bit of news:
Just to be clear, I'm not reporting Dion Jordan won't be traded. I'm just reporting he's been told he won't be dealt. #BelieveNoOne— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 28, 2014
The Dolphins could use the cap space to re-sign Brent Grimes and rebuild their moribund offensive line. Nevertheless, it seems foolhardy to give up on a raw talent with huge upside so early in his development, and Miami owes it to themselves and to Jordan to give the first-rounder more snaps next season.