Super Bowl 2011: 10 Veterans Itching To Join the Super Bowl Teams
Super Bowl XLV has come and gone and the 2010-2011 NFL season is officially over. Yes, some of the discussion will look back at what happened in the game, but most will look forward at next season from this point on.
There is a strong free-agent class brewing in 2011, headlined by a few marquee players at each position. Where they end up could alter the league's power centers significantly. Could some end up with this year's Super Bowl contestants?
There is no doubt the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers have needs. Both teams are strong at most positions, but an upgrade in the right places could put both of these teams on top for years to come.
Here are 10 free agents that would love to suit up for the Packers or Steelers.
10. James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers
Jones just finished winning a Super Bowl with the Pack, but his return is uncertain.
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There are reasons for the emerging James Jones to stick with Green Bay, and reasons for him to leave Green Bay.
First, the reasons to stay: Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback; he gets plenty of looks because of the attention given to Greg Jennings and Donald Driver; he broke in with the Packers; the Packers are really good and have a great shot at being better next year.
The reasons to leave: he can make more money elsewhere; changes of scenery are sometimes nice, especially to warmer weather; he could be a No. 1 receiver instead of a No. 3, as he is in Green Bay.
From an outsider's perspective, the situation in Green Bay seems to be as good as it gets. Jones probably wants to stay, but it looks like there's no guarantee that he will at this point.
9. Jammal Brown, LT, Washington Redskins
Brown could be available at a bargain price for Green Bay to bolster its line in anticipation of Ryan Grant's return.
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Brown, the six-year veteran out of Oklahoma, has spent the last two seasons getting back to 100 percent from injury. He played for the Redskins this season after his first five with the New Orleans Saints.
As an elite offensive tackle, he could be had relatively cheap because of his injury but could help immensely for Green Bay as stalwart left tackle Chad Clifton ages. Brown, 29, could be eased in to replace the 35-year-old Clifton, who will enter his 12th season, all with the Packers.
8. Jermon Bushrod, RT, New Orleans Saints
Bushrod struggled at left tackle this season, and might not be a priority for the Saints this offseason.
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Bushrod, the four-year veteran, could be the odd man out in New Orleans. After starting 14 games at left tackle for the Super Bowl Champion Saints in 2009-2010, Bushrod struggled this season.
With Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks also a free agent, the Saints aren't likely to make Bushrod a priority, especially if they believe that Charles Brown out of USC is the left tackle of the future.
Pittsburgh should capitalize on Bushrod falling between the cracks in the Bayou. With long-time right tackle Willie Colon also a free agent and rehabbing from a torn Achilles, there is uncertainty for the first time in a while about the Steelers' right tackle position.
Bushrod, at 6'5" and 315 pounds, could replace Colon and learn quickly from the rest of the Steelers' elite offensive line.
7. Champ Bailey, CB, Denver Broncos
Bailey would be a strong addition to the Pittsburgh secondary, which has suspect corners.
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This would be a good signing no matter who you have on your depth chart at corner. But with Ike Taylor due for free agency, this makes even more sense for the Steelers, who are about average against the pass.
Bailey has been an elite cover corner for his entire career and would strengthen the Pittsburgh defense immensely against the pass.
With no real motivation to stay with the dreadful Broncos, why wouldn't both sides try to make a big splash by joining together?
6. Quintin Mikell, SS, Philadelphia Eagles
Mikell would stabilize Green Bay's transient strong safety position.
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Mikell has started in all eight of his seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles, playing a big role in one of the league's perennial best defenses.
He would fit right into the unstable strong safety spot in Green Bay, with the ineffective Atari Bigby being pushed out and the young Charlie Peprah not as experienced. Both players are free agents, as is Mikell.
In the slim chance that Philly doesn't re-sign their star safety, Green Bay would have a great option to stabilize their defensive backfield with an experienced and talented player.
5. Mike Tolbert, RB, San Diego Chargers
Tolbert put himself on the map by filling in admirably for Ryan Mathews.
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Tolbert, the three-year vet from Coastal Carolina, might be ready to spread his wings and fly to another nest.
He ran the ball very well for San Diego in the absence of starter Ryan Mathews but isn't likely to retain the starting job he flourished in. He won't be content returning to a backup role after showcasing his ability to the league last season.
The Chargers will almost certainly want him back, but he might try to make his payday and find some more carries than he would get by staying in San Diego.
Ryan Grant's return from a season-ending injury is tenuous, and James Starks is probably Tolbert's equal. The Packers would certainly benefit from pursuing Tolbert because he won't demand feature-back type of money and would be great insurance and depth in case Grant doesn't return well.
4. Vonta Leach, FB, Houston Texans
Leach, a Pro Bowler, paved the way for league-leading rusher Arian Foster all year long.
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For being an elite power rushing team, the Steelers don't have much at fullback. Second-year player David Johnson is more of a tight end and hasn't lived up to the storied history of Steeler fullbacking.
Leach, a seven-year veteran, is coming off a career year paving holes for NFL rushing champion Arian Foster in Houston. He is a vital piece in any rushing-dominant attack and would be an ideal fit for the hard-working, physical Steelers.
3. Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions
Smith lost favor in Detroit because of injury and the investment in Jahvid Best.
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Kevin Smith is looking like a great bounce-back candidate for the 2011 season.
After a solid rookie campaign that included 976 yards and eight TDs, Smith was on his way to putting up 1,000 yards in his second year when he suffered a knee injury that ended his season in mid-December.
The knee injury caused him to miss most of the 2010 season. Knowing that would be the case, Detroit took Cal running back Jahvid Best to fill the spot, essentially signaling the end of Kevin Smith's career in Detroit as a feature back.
Now Smith is eager to get back on the field to show that he's fully back from his knee injury. He most likely will not be back for the Lions, who are mesmerized with Best. Smith is still just 24 years old and could be had cheaply by the Steelers.
This would be a great match for the Steelers because their pass-catching back, Mewelde Moore, is a free agent and could be out the door. Smith showed the ability to run and catch with Detroit, making 71 receptions in his two years. If it came down to Moore or an uncertain Smith, I'd take Smith because of his age, low mileage and versatility.
2. Kevin Boss, TE, New York Giants
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Boss is a well-rounded tight end who is capable of catching passes but excels in run blocking. With rising tight end Jermichael Finley returning from an injury that cost him the last 11 games of the season, Green Bay is in no need of another pass catcher on the line.
Boss would be brought in as a dependable run-blocking tight end who would also be perfect for run fake, play-action throws. His 18 career touchdown catches and the Giants' successful rushing attack lend support to both points.
1. Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers
Jackson is almost certain to leave San Diego after a turbulent 2010.
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Several hot-headed receivers are on the market this offseason, making a deep pool at the position. The prize catch, though, is undoubtedly Jackson, whose relationship with the Chargers is virtually intractable.
Jackson would be a high-priced replacement for either Donald Driver or James Jones (or both of them) but would be worth every penny. His ability stands out on the field when he plays, and pairing him with Greg Jennings would form an unparalleled passing game in Green Bay.
The third receiver is already in place in Jordy Nelson. Green Bay's current issue is who to give the No. 2 job to. Re-sign Jones for more than he's worth and start the outward transition for the aging Driver? Let Driver have one more shot to lock the job down in spite of his declining skills?
Signing Jackson, letting Jones walk and cutting Driver is the best option for Green Bay and the most efficient use of roster space. His welcome in San Diego is worn out, and it's time for him to sign with a stable team that has a strong coach and quarterback to quell his outspoken and fiery demeanor.