NFL Free Agency 2011

NFL Offseason 2011: The 25 Most Intriguing Subplots

Eli NachmanyCorrespondent IIIMay 11, 2011

NFL Offseason 2011: The 25 Most Intriguing Subplots

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Nnamdi Asomugha #21 of the Oakland Raiders stands on the sidelines during the closing minutes of their loss to the Miami Dolphins at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 28, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra S
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    With the lockout in full gear, the NFL has had a weird offseason with many twists and turns.

    This isn't your average, on-schedule NFL offseason—it seems as though anything can happen.

    From players on trial to taboo trade speculation, the lockout has given us a taste of something we're not used to—we've eaten it up.

    Without further ado, here are the top 25 subplots of this truly intriguing, lockout-influenced offseason.

Carson Palmer Wants Out

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    BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 2:  Carson Palmer #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals passes against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens lead the Bengals 6-0 at the half. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
    Larry French/Getty Images

    Carson Palmer has finally had enough in Cincinnati, and has given Mike Brown and the rest of ownership an ultimatum.

    Palmer wants to be traded/released or he will simply retire from the game altogether—a threat legitimized by teammate Chad Ochocinco on Twitter.

    The disgruntled quarterback was recently replaced when the Bengals drafted Andy Dalton, so it's feasible that the team will comply with Palmer and let him go.

    Mike Brown did provide some interesting news fodder when he, at first, vehemently denied Palmer's proposal.

The Jim Harbaugh Sweepstakes

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 07:  Jim Harbaugh speaks at a press conference where he was introduced as the new San Francisco 49ers head coach at the Palace Hotel on January 7, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Jim Harbaugh was heavily courted before he chose what team he wanted to coach in the NFL.

    The 49ers and Dolphins both vied for the coach's services, but the 49ers persisted and won Harbaugh.

    After successfully making Andrew Luck into a blue-chip prospect (more on Luck in a later slide), Harbaugh is now faced with making Colin Kaepernick into an NFL starter.

    The 49ers signed Harbaugh for 5 years and $25 million total, and Harbaugh is excited to restore "one of the legendary franchises in all of football."

Kevin Kolb Trade Speculation

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 02:  Kevin Kolb #4 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on against the Dallas Cowboys on January 2, 2011 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Eagles have said from the beginning that they can get a first-round pick and more for Kevin Kolb.

    Kolb played well in limited time, and can be a starter for a host of quarterback-needy teams in the league, driving his trade value up.

    Kolb is young, competitive and ready to prove he can be a starter.

    All signs point to Arizona for the Eagle quarterback, and Kolb could elevate the Cardinals to the top of the NFC West.

The Downfall of the Tennessee Titans

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    NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 21:  Quarterback Vince Young #11 of the Tennessee Titans talks with a member of the training staff after leaving a game against the Washington Redskins at LP Field on November 21, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Redskins won 19-
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    The misfortunes of the 2010 Titans spilled over into the 2011 offseason in a big way.

    After owner Bud Adams and coach Jeff Fisher finally came to a consensus to cut the immature Vince Young, Adams turned around and nixed Fisher, too.

    The Titans were left in shambles, a 6-10 team with no coach or quarterback, and the team feebly attempted to rebound by promoting Mike Munchak to head coach while also drafting Jake Locker.

    The Titans may be down for a long, long time.

Randy Moss Wanting to Return to the Patriots

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    NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 21:  Randy Moss #84 of the Tennessee Titans is introduced before a game against the Washington Redskins at LP Field on November 21, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Randy Moss couldn't stay on one team in 2010.

    He hopped from the Patriots to the Minnesota Vikings to the Tennessee Titans (where he won't be resigned).

    Moss' unsavory locker room behavior alienated some of his teammates and coaches, and the veteran wideout bounced around.

    After the year, though, he expressed a desire to return to New England, prompting discussion from both sides of the Moss argument.

Tiki Barber's Desire to Return

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    WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 28:  Former National Football League player Tiki Barber listens to testimony during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee about football brain injuries on Captiol Hill October 28, 2009 in Washington, DC. A recent NFL study of ret
    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    Tiki Barber retired on top after 2006, still with great numbers and playoff appearances to boot.

    Right after his retirement, the Giants put together a magical season and won the Super Bowl—Barber is still bitter to this day.

    The veteran running back said this offseason that he wants to return to the NFL in 2011 after a five-year hiatus, mainly because he's broke and needs money to pay his divorce settlement after cheating on his eight-month pregnant wife.

    Good luck grandpa.

The Madden Cover Vote

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    NEW YORK - APRIL 28:  Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns participates in a photo shoot for the cover of EA Sports Madden NFL 12 on April 28, 2011 in Time Square, New York City  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for EA Sports)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    EA Sports picked one player from every NFL team and set up a 32-team bracket in which fans voted for the players they wanted to see go to the next round.

    ESPN SportsNation helped the competition along by posting the vote on their website, garnering insane fan interest.

    When the smoke cleared, Peyton Hillis and Michael Vick were left standing in the finals, showing that a portion of Americans have forgiven Vick for his past wrongdoing.

    Cleveland, showing that they need someone to replace LeBron James, banded together and voted for Peyton Hillis, making him the Madden 12 Cover Athlete.

Cam Newton/Jimmy Clausen and the Number Two

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Jimmy Clausen #2 of the Carolina Panthers throws a pass in the second quarter during their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Cam Newton wore No. 2 at Auburn, and Jimmy Clausen wore No. 2 last year for the Panthers.

    Clausen is showing some fire for an embattled sophomore quarterback, saying about the jersey number, that "It's mine now."

    Newton, the No. 1 overall pick and media darling of the Carolinas, may end up wearing the number in 2011, but Clausen isn't giving up his jersey, or job, without a fight.

    It's good to see Clausen have some desire to succeed, but Newton will probably win out.

Roger Goodell vs. the NFLPA

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 19: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (L) and NFL owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys arrive for court-ordered mediation at the U.S. Courthouse on April 19, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mediation was ordered after a hearing on
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    This is the story of the offseason.

    Roger Goodell and the NFLPA have been jockeying for position and both sides staunchly disagree about many components of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement proposals.

    The disagreement and unrest has spilled over and become a lockout in which players can't have any contact with coaches.

    The real losers are the fans, who just want to see some football.

The Proposal of an 18-Game Season

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    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots walks off the field after connecting with Randy Moss for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants during Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at the University of P
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    By the Super Bowl, the two teams left had been beaten to a pulp, fighting for a ring.

    Now, the NFL is proposing the addition of two more games to the season in the interest of profit, citing that the fans want it.

    Interestingly enough, he never says that the fans want more regular season games—he only states that the fans don't want the preseason because it's a time-consuming bore.

    Goodell has continually tried to put words in the fans' mouths and faced vehement booing at the NFL Draft.

Andrew Luck Returning to School

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal celebrates after he threw a 38-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Virginai Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miam
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    After a magical season where he and Jim Harbaugh ran into the sunset together with a win in the Orange Bowl, it was presumed that Luck would be the No. 1 pick and Harbaugh would be the most coveted rookie coach.

    The pundits were right on one account—Harbaugh was the most coveted rookie coach to be had.

    Luck, however, returned to school for another year in a move that could end up costing the young quarterback millions of dollars if he flops in his year back.

    Fans are already discussing whether or not their teams will be players in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes for 2012.

DaQuan Bowers' Slide

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    AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Da'Quan Bowers #93 of the Clemson Tigers against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    At one point, Da'Quan Bowers could have been the first overall pick in the draft.

    Questions about Bowers knee took a major toll on his draft stock, but even right before the draft, Bowers was a virtual lock to go 20th to the Buccaneers according to a host of mock drafts.

    Bowers' knee, though, made teams too reluctant to use a high pick on him, and Bowers fell all the way to the mid-to-late second round when the Buccaneers nabbed him.

    The defensive end had one of the worst slides in recent memory, and is a medium-risk/high reward type now for Tampa Bay.

Denver Broncos' Quarterback Situation

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    DENVER - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos looks on against the San Diego Chargers at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    With John Elway as the executive vice president of football operations in Denver, the Broncos quarterback situation has been predictably interesting.

    The team has two (three if you count Brady Quinn) capable starters at quarterback, Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton.

    The Broncos front office has disrespected both parties, publicly shopping Orton and knocking Tebow.

    No matter who is taking snaps for the Broncos come the first game of the year, the storyline was certainly an interesting one.

Raiders Players Unhappy About Losing Tom Cable

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    SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 05:  Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable looks on from the sideline during the first half against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 5, 2010 in San Diego, California. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 28-13.  (Pho
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Shane Lechler, a respected veteran on the Raiders, has been one of the loudest and clearest voices from the Raiders locker room about the release of Tom Cable.

    Lechler remarked, "I’m not so sure this isn’t a terrible decision.”

    The Raiders are unhappy that they went 6-0 in their division, finished a promising 8-8, and just lost their leader in Cable.

    With Hue Jackson in and Tom Cable out, look for the Raiders to be on a downward path in 2011.

Peyton Manning's Impending Deal

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    HONOLULU - JANUARY 30:  Peyton Manning, #18 of the Indianapolis Colts, stands on the field during the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on January 30, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
    Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    Peyton Manning has been one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game over the last 10 or so years.

    Jim Irsay says that Manning will be compensated accordingly with a record contract, dispelling any rumors of the Tennessee-product will be in a different jersey come the 2011 season.

    Bill Polian, on the other hand, says that Manning's career is close to an end, further perpetuating the cat-and-mouse game that is contract negotiation.

    Manning is going to get paid, no doubt, but the storyline of his new deal has been quite interesting.

Cam Newton's Pre-Draft Circus

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  Cam Newton, #1 overall pick by the Carolina Panthers holds up a jersey on stage after he was picked during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    After a trying college season filled with adversity, Cam Newton's journey to be the first overall pick was not easy.

    Newton had to deal with questions about incidents at the collegiate level, concerns about comments he made about being an icon, and Nolan Nawrocki's staunchly negative report of Newton in a draft magazine.

    Warren Moon, Newton's mentor, came to the Auburn quarterback's aid, and shifted Nawrocki's meaning from football to race.

    When all was said and done, though, Newton was the first overall pick, but he certainly had to deal with his share of detractors.

Unsavory Player Behavior Off-The-Field

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    CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 10: Aqib Talib #25 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers returns an interception against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Players make boneheaded decisions here and there, but this offseason has been a true low-light in players representing the NFL.

    Aqib Talib pistol-whipped his sister's boyfriend and proceeded to shoot at him while the boyfriend fled the scene.

    Dez Bryant was punished for having his pants sag too low, as well as for not paying off jewelry debts.

    Kenny Britt was arrested for outstanding traffic warrants in New Jersey, and Albert Haynesworth will be on trial for sexually assaulting a waitress when he ran his credit card down the front of her dress and proceeded to fondle the waitress.

    The NFL has some cleaning up of its image to do.

Larry Fitzgerald Requesting Kevin Kolb or Marc Bulger

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12:  Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up before the NFL game against the Denver Broncos at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Bro
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Larry Fitzgerald was unhappy with the Cardinals' bad 2010 season, and had something to say about it.

    The star receiver requested that the team bring in either Kevin Kolb or Marc Bulger, both of whom are viable options under center.

    Kevin Kolb to Arizona is looking like more of a possibility at the present moment, and the trade would do wonders for the Cardinals' efforts to keep Larry Fitzgerald happy so he'll re-sign with the team.

    The trade would make the Cardinals instant contenders, so Fitzgerald may have a point.

Player-Held Workout Camps

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets looks on during their 19 to 24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Some teams should be proud of their young quarterbacks stepping up as leaders and holding players-only camps in the current state of the NFL.

    Mark Sanchez has organized Jets West Camp in Mission Viejo, California, keeping his team ready for the 2011 season with workouts and football discussion.

    Colt McCoy, too, put together a camp for his players that is going over well—him and Sanchez are stepping up as the leaders their teams have envisioned them to be.

    Despite no coach interaction, teams are banding together to stay sharp this offseason.

Rashard Mendenhall Conspiracy Theories

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs the ball against the Green Bay Packers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. The Packers won 31-25.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Ge
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Rashard Mendenhall recently had some juicy comments about the Osama Bin Laden situation, saying that people shouldn't celebrate the death of a man they've never heard speak.

    Mendenhall made his voice heard over Twitter, and the running back has garnered some public backlash for his unwillingness to celebrate Osama Bin Laden's death.

    The running back states that he was just trying to encourage people to think.

    He certainly encouraged thought, just not the type of thought he aimed for.

Tom Zbikowski's Boxing Endeavors

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    LAS VEGAS - MARCH 11:  Tommy Zbikowski of the Baltimore Ravens weighs in for his Heavyweight fight against Richard Bryant at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 11, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Tom Zbikowski decided to pursue boxing, as he had no obligation to the Ravens or the NFL to keep himself healthy (or clean).

    Zbikowski became a cult hero of sorts online for NFL fans who needed something NFL-related to still root for, as the Raven went 4-0 in his first four matches.

    After failing a drug test, the boxer has faded back into obscurity.

    It is also worth noting that the safety challenged Chad Ochocinco to a boxing match over Twitter—stay classy, Tom.

Chad Ochocinco Playing Soccer

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 23:  Chad Ochocinco reacts during his tryout with Sporting Kansas City on March 23, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Chad Ochocinco also pursued a different career opportunity during the NFL lockout—soccer.

    The star wideout for the Bengals cited that playing soccer was a lifelong dream of his, and Ochocinco proceeded to try out for Sporting Kansas City of the MLS.

    Hilariously enough, Ochocinco didn't make the team, and has been placed on a reserve squad after publicizing his efforts to a large extent.

    Ochocinco was said to not be up to the speed of the game, and therefore wasn't good enough to make the team.

Brandon Marshall/Brandon Banks Stabbings

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    MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 19:  Receiver Brandon Marshall #19 of the Miami Dolphins makes a catch during a game against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Bills defeated the Dolphins 17-14.  (Photo by Marc Serota/G
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    This offseason, Brandon Banks and Brandon Marshall were both stabbed and became trending story lines for a few days each.

    Marshall's girlfriend stabbed him, police say, in the stomach, and the girlfriend has been arrested.

    At one point, Marshall was in concern-worthy critical condition.

    For Banks, him and a friend were stabbed outside of a Washington-area nightclub, and while Banks escaped only requiring stitches, his friend required surgery.

Kickoffs Moved to 35-Yard Line

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    MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 31:  Josh Cribbs #16 of the AFC's Cleveland Borwns runs with the ball for yardage during the 2010 AFC-NFC Pro Bowl game at Sun Life Stadium on January 31, 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The AFC defeated the NFC 41-34. (Photo b
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    The NFL Competition Committee has resolved to move kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line, increasing the likelihood for touchbacks and also increasing player safety.

    The move will hinder teams like the Browns and Bears, both of whom have dynamic kick returners in Josh Cribbs and Devin Hester.

    Cribbs has spoken out against the rule already, and his anger is understood now that a major component of his game has been made that much more difficult.

    The Bears were also disappointed with the rule change, but weren't as vehement in their public speaking-out.

Free Agent Nnamdi Asomugha

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    OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 03:  Nnamdi Asomugha #21 of the Oakland Raiders sits on the bench against the Baltimore Ravens during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on January 3, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    In what may be the most anticipated free agent carousel (if it ever happens) in a long time, Nnamdi Asomugha is set to be a free agent.

    Asomugha is arguably the game's best cornerback, and will command a high price when he hits the market.

    The shutdown corner will have his choice of the market, able to go wherever he may desire.

    Asomugha will not return to Oakland, so there will be no LeBron James-like situation, but his ending destination will certainly be one of interest to all NFL fans.

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