It's a weird off-season in the NFL. And yes, that's an understatement.
There's no salary cap right now. There's been no free agency. And that's the least of the NFL's problems.
With no collective bargaining agreement, uncertainty is the order of the day.
That said, just as surely as the sun rises and sets, there will be trades when the labor dispute ends (assuming it ends). And all 32 teams could be involved one way or another.
Keep in mind that trade speculation in NFL can be the most shoddy speculation in any major American sport. Football trades are more rare than deals in other sports most of the time.
Yet rumors abound. And there are hints to some possible trades, so lets have a look.
After trading many draft picks in the Julio Jones deal (not just for this year but next as well), I don’t rate Atlanta’s probability of trading again soon.
They certainly won’t be selling anytime soon, with a young quarterback surrounded by a good corps of talent.
And the transparent notion about their first round splash this year was their unquestionable resolve to make a run next season. After being outgunned last year in the playoffs, they’re determined to rectify the situation.
Put them down on the list of teams in the market for a quarterback. Can you even name who their opening day starter would be off the top of your head (definitively anyway)?
That this was not a priority in the draft is as confusing as it possibly is revealing. Clearly Ken Whisenhunt didn’t think too highly of the quarterbacks in the draft.
The alternative explanation is that he’s confident he can swing a deal for someone. The Kevin Kolb/Carson Palmer list begins, though the names of Donovan McNabb and Kyle Orton have also come up.
Can they surround Joe Flacco with more help?
Not in need of anything major, as long as their cornerbacks can stay healthy this season and rookie Jimmy Smith can live up to his potential.
They could use more help with their pass rush, but I'm not sure who would be available on the market for this need.
They have a proven history of swinging deals though (the most recent being the Anquan Boldin trade).
Overall though, I’d rate their chances of a deal low.
As a team with quarterback questions, you can never count them out entirely.
Bolstering their defense would be something that should be the priority though. The division they’re in (the AFC East) is tough for defenses, especially against the Patriots.
Still, I think there’s a good chance that they stand pat and build through future drafts.
Does he need help in the form of another wide-out?
It would be easy to simply put the Panthers in the “yes” category for trade likelihood. After all, they were the worst team in the league last year.
But with multiple options at quarterback (albeit only one long term option realistically) and solid running backs, I don’t think they’re overly likely to make a deal.
Having said that, there are rumors growing almost by the hour about Steve Smith wanting out. Why exactly he would suddenly demand this now is beyond me (why not last season?)
But the rumors are there, possibly with the Chargers being his destination...
Jay Cutler: perpetually looking for a receiver who can't seem to get open...
They can never have too much talent around Jay Cutler.
That’s not a slight against Cutler as much as it is a recognition that the past few seasons has shown the limitations of a QB in the Cutler-mold when he has second-tier receivers.
If they did make a trade, it would probably be for a wide-out to help Mr. Cutler, but nothing to note yet.
Ding Ding Ding...and one of the winners of this column's “most likely to pull the trigger” teams are the Bengals.
When the draft began and the Bengals took Georgia receiver A.J. Green, there was speculation that maybe it was a message to disillusioned quarterback Carson Palmer.
Perhaps the Bengal hierarchy were extending an olive branch. Look at what we got for you. Just come on back and we’ll straighten this out.
In reality, this was never the case. On their way to one of the highest-rated drafts of the year, Cincinnati picked TCU quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round.
So the Bengals did send a message to Palmer: get your bags packed.
There’s obviously a lot of debate about when/where the former first overall pick could go.
Teams might not be lining up to acquire the former USC star, due to his past injury and poor performance last year. And the Bengals brain-trust might not all be sold on trading him.
He still has value, especially to a team like the Cardinals or even Seattle. I expect it’ll get done, but not for a first rounder without some criteria (i.e. Palmer wins X number of games or throws X number of touchdowns).
Another team with many needs who, nonetheless, seems set at quarterback.
Colt McCoy is apparently their guy, and any additions they made/make are to surround the second year slinger with talent.
No overwhelming need to make a trade though. Obviously their major trade was with Atlanta in the Julio Jones deal.
Any trade at this point would generally be for a team that’s a piece or two away.
For the sake of Cleveland fans (who deserve something good) I hope I’m wrong about saying this, but I think their more than a couple pieces away.
You can never count out the Cowboys in this regard.
Still, a trade is never a first measure for the Cowboys when free agency is still yet to occur.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they at least pursue some defensive help.
A trade seems less likely, but then again who say the Roy Williams trade coming a few years ago?
Detroit apparently tried for a time to move up and draft LSU star cornerback Patrick Peterson, but having failed to snag the shutdown DB, the Lions look less likely to make a trade.
One issue has been the linebacking corps, but they could probably address this in free agency (thus they wouldn't have to give up a piece in order to make the deal).
More importantly, how will their defense step up this season?
After having a non-existent pass-rush last season when Elvis Dumervil went down, John Elway and the Bronco front office drafted linebacker Von Miller second overall.
And they even considered trading back into the first round to get Nick Fairley when he dropped out of the top ten. In the end, they decided the strength was in numbers, not individuals.
The Orton trade might be on tap, but other than that nothing definitive yet.
With players like James Jones, Donald Driver and Cullen Jenkins possibly becoming free agents, Green Bay has some needs to fill (which they partially did in the draft), even if they are the Super Bowl champions.
Actually, it's especially true that they have needs due to the Lombardi trophy having taken up residence on the frozen tundra once again.
This is probably due to the fact that, as any coach or player would attest to, the only thing more difficult than winning a championship is defending it.
One notable item for Houston this off-season is the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.
This has already caused a stir with the word that Mario Williams will make the switch from defensive end (where he's been very successful) to a an outside linebacker.
The jury is still out on how effective Williams can be in coverage or playing in space, but no one doubts his pass-rush abilities.
Like Peyton Manning, the Colts aren't overly flashy, but no one can doubt how successful they've been in the last decade.
Probably one of the most stealthy in terms of rumors. Even the 24-hour rumor mills on the internet are pretty bereft of Colts trade rumors.
Yet why would they be making a deal? Any needs that they have can be answered through the draft (where Indianapolis has proven very successful in the past) or free agency.
Again, the idea of a team making a trade (and thus giving up some talent of their own) is the least appealing option for acquisition. Maybe a measure of last resort though, you can never be sure.
Again, nothing doing for the Jags at this point.
Obviously, they have issues at the quarterback position.
With Blaine Gabbert being the new first round quarterback on the block, the natural inclination is to wonder what becomes of current starter David Garrard.
Yet I have a feeling Garrard lingers for a while, since Gabbert is a talented prospect who lacks NFL polish as of now.
He will take time to acclimate to a standard NFL offense (where they don't just run empty backfield).
With Scott Pioli as their general manager, it's possible that a number of things could happen (including a trade).
But I haven't heard anything or seen any reason to believe that there's an impending trade.
Most likely the Chiefs are a team who will move deftly through free agency and then call it quits on the offseason.
With Ronnie Brown a probable free agent, the Dolphins have a tacit need at running back.
However, drafting Kansas State ball carrier Daniel Thomas (coupled with Ricky Williams' continued presence) means the Dolphins certainly don't need to make a trade.
If Miami still needs a running back, then there's a proven history of adding undrafted rookies or low cost free agents who work out.
The Dolphins also have expressed interest in the Carson Palmer trade sweepstakes, but who knows (since, as I pointed out on the Bengals page, Cincinnati owner Mike Brown might not want to part with Palmer anyway.)
They now have Christian Ponder to add to the post-Farve quarterback situation, but does that really clear anything up?
I'd say no, in the short term anyway, since a rookie QB isn't generally an immediate impact player.
That leaves them still in the hunt technically. The most intriguing rumor is Donovan McNabb.
Always a draft-day trader, New England may decide to cut a deal to help their beleaguered pass-rush (which they failed to bolster in the draft).
Bill Belichick may also move to trade lineman Logan Mankins if his situation can't be rectified (the Patriots tagged Mankins as a franchise player against his will).
Bolstering their defensive line through the Shaun Rogers signing and drafting Cameron Jordan, New Orleans already has gone much of the distance in their offseason needs.
Not so fast though.
Before we get carried away in the rumor-mill about the team that will trade for the former USC star, there are apparently rumblings from Saints whiz kid Sean Payton about keeping him around.
The Giants have potential need at the tight end position with Kevin Boss a free agent.
There is a chance that Boss could come back though, so we'll see.
Linebacker, offensive line and running back (if Ahmad Bradshaw leaves) are the other needs.
All of these can be addressed in free agency though, so I don't see them making a trade.
Gang Green did well in the draft and have a recent history of adding key veterans in free agency.
That said, they also pulled off a good trade for wide receiver Santonio Holmes last year (a bargain in my opinion). So there is a chance they could make a deal, but for who?
They seem to have plugged most of their problem areas, with maybe the exception of safety.
Oakland is perpetually on the verge of trading for someone who they questionably need (Richard Seymour for example). So I'm not counting them out.
But they have more than a few needs (though they did show signs of progress last year).
The loss of Nnamdi Asomugha to free agency through a bizarre clause in his contract will hurt and could potentially spark a trade, but nothing serious to report on this front.
The Eagles have one big trade chip whose value is still largely unknown.
I mean, of course, quarterback Kevin Kolb. The former second round pick has shown flashes of competence in his brief NFL career, but what is his true trade value?
The Eagles are certainly willing to listen, yet their inability to trade him (due to the lockout) prior to the draft hurt his value.
Now the list of potential suitors has shrunk. Yet some teams still remain.
The Steelers are the NFL’s pillar of stability. You can count the number of coaches they’ve had on one hand (impossible for any other team over 20 years old).
And their draft strategy is as dull as it is effective: address your needs, don’t worry about the rest (oh yeah, and always take at least one linebacker). It’s produced some pretty good results.
In terms of trades, I don’t think they’re really that likely to pull off a deal (but have you heard the Tiki Barber rumors?)
Is he pointing towards San Diego?
The big rumor has been the Chargers and Panthers receiver Steve Smith.
Obviously, that would be a coup for San Diego, who already has a formidable passing attack.
Beyond that, not much to report.
The quarterback controversy continues. Call him the one man quagmire, or maybe just bad, but Alex Smith will probably get one more shot with new coach Jim Harbaugh.
The 49ers aren’t that far away minus the signal caller situation (again, who knows?) Yet they don’t seem to be poised to make a move, either.
After taking Colin Kaepernick in the later rounds of the draft, they seem to at least have enough quarterbacks with a pulse to fill out the roster (whether or not any of them are good remains a question).
Done in Seattle?
And after a very curious draft, where they reached on a number of picks, the door is wide open to make a trade.
But where though? Obviously Kevin Kolb is in the discussion (I assume other quarterbacks have been talked about too).
Seattle is one of the most interesting teams in this category right now, because no one knows what they’ll do next (not sure if Seahawk fans enjoy this).
Could use another receiver.
Very quietly had a great draft.
Obviously Steve Spaguolo loves having a pass-rush, and Robert Quinn should help in that aspect. Lance Kendricks will have an instant impact at tight end too.
Maybe Chad Ochocinco, but that’s a serious long shot.
Proof that trades aren't always necessary to upgrade...
Still in rebuilding mode (albeit on the upswing),
Tampa has options, but probably little desire to trade. They’ve shown an ability to find diamonds in the rough (LeGarrette Blount) and may not feel like they have to jump on a trade.
The Bucs will probably wait for free agency and see what they’ve got then.
So Jake Locker is technically, if not officially, a Titan.
Interestingly enough, Vince Young (you may remember him from such hits as “the 2006 Rose Bowl National Championship game”) is also still on the roster.
There’s been surprisingly little about Vince since his split with Titan hierarchy, but I’d expect this to gain steam soon.
Donovan McNabb. I’ve already mentioned him a few other times on here, so what’s left to say?
There’s a list of teams who’ve shown interest (Cardinals, Eagles and probably one of two more).
Then there’s Albert Haynesworth, who also is on the trading block, but he’s got his own problems right now so we’ll see.