The Jacksonville Jaguars have indicated that they are shopping Dennis Northcutt for trade offers. The odds of this happening seem long because the team has made it clear he will be released if no viable deal can be made.
With his departure, that will leave the Jaguars with Torry Holt as the only proven veteran receiver.
Aside from Northcutt, Mike Walker and Troy Williamson are the only other receivers currently on the roster with any sort of NFL resume'.
Statistically, both were relative non-factors for the Jaguars last season, with Walker being the only one to register a 100-yard game. Both players have been plagued by injuries that have prevented them from being in the rotation on a regular basis.
Behind the three veteran receivers stand a group of untested players acquired in the draft or through free agency: Nate Hughes, Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard, Todd Peterson, Andy Strickland, and Tiquan Underwood.
These are names which hardly strike fear in the hearts and minds of defensive coordinators. In fact, in most cases the general response expected when these names are mentioned is, "who?"
While the actions of the Jaguars might give the perception they are comfortable with this group of players competing for roster spots, flags should be going up that the receiving corps could be a potential problem in 2009.
Holt has the pedigree you want in a veteran receiver. His resume' is chalked full of stats any team would find appealing.
However, his knee issues are a legitimate concern. Through mini-camp and organized team activities, Holt has been dealing with soreness and swelling in his surgically repaired knee. Should this become an issue during the season, there is no veteran option that gives the Jaguars a true replacement other than a group of unknowns.
There is a reason why he lingered in free agency after being released by St. Louis, and why only two teams showed any real interest in Holt.
The Jaguars gambled by signing him despite the fact that his knee was highly suspect. He passed the physical, but the team has been extremely careful to limit his reps with the offense.
That still has not prevented him from requiring additional rest as the knee flared up, including a well publicized use of the "veteran card" when he sat out the second practice of the first mini-camp in May.
Northcutt was hampered last year by a playbook that limited his opportunities on the field. As injuries and frustrations with other receivers grew, Northcutt was finally turned loose and allowed to become more integrated into the offense, starting the final three games of the year.
He responded by rattling off more than 260 yards receiving in those games, including back-to-back 100+ yard performances.
Parting ways with the veteran receiver so early in the process represents a significant risk for a team with so many questions surrounding the receiving corps.
As one of the most consistently productive receivers on the roster over the past two seasons, his experience and willingness to mentor the younger receivers is something that has been noted as a significant asset.
Northcutt has been a reliable outlet for David Garrard, and has developed the type of chemistry with his quarterback which allows him to thrive in that role.
Perhaps one of the younger players fighting for a roster spot will outperform him in training camp or the preseason, earning the right to take the position from him, but there does not seem to be a need to make a move with Northcutt right now.
An open camp competition will give the team a much better indication of what they have in the group of six receivers fighting for the remaining two or three roster spots.
The move to try to trade Northcutt this early in the process is certainly a curious one.
Even if the player requested this, the team was under no obligation to grant his request, unless they felt he was expendable.
With such a large group of unknowns fighting for their position on the team, it would be logical to think the Jaguars would want to let the situation play itself out before making any decisions.
Northcutt may prove to be expendable, but what is the rush in pushing him out the door? The focus should always be on what is best for the team.
Because the team is dealing with such a young, inexperienced group of receivers currently, the prudent move would be no move at all for the immediate future.
Is trading Northcutt for a draft pick in 2010 really a matter of urgency?
There would seem to be plenty of time to figure out the correct path. There is no need to rush.