Once the NFL’s player lockout finally ends, every NFL team will be in a frenzy, trying to re-sign their own players, snatching up the top free agents and making trades to fill the needs they were unable to address in the draft.
Like Andy Reid in Philadelphia, every team must have free agency big boards, compilations of players that could be available for every free agency scenario. As soon as the NFL announces the rules under which the 2011 NFL season will operate (whether it imposes last year’s rule providing that an unrestricted free agent have six-years of experience or any number of other provisions) each team will produce the appropriate gameplan and hit the phones.
Most of the marquee transactions will happen in the first 24 hours after the lockout is lifted.
Kevin Kolb, tired of not being provided with a starting role in Philly, wants to be traded if he's not starting next season, first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer. He is one of the top-rated quarterbacks on the market this offseason (thanks, in part, to the efforts of the Eagles’ PR department) without a lot of game day opportunities to back it up.
Seattle and Arizona look to be the front-runners in the Kolb sweepstakes and most expect a bidding war akin to the one they engaged in over Whitehurst in early 2010. This time, though, Arizona’s desperation gives it an edge. The Cards will drop the 2012 first and second rounders without hesitation and trust Kolb to thrust them back into contention in the way Matt Cassel did the Chiefs.
With both Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith voicing their desire for a reunion, according to the National Football Post, it looks like the 49ers’ second-round acquisition of Colin Kaepernick is either a contingency plan or a stock-piling for the future. One of the earliest, and least surprising, post-lockout moves will be Smith signing on the dotted line in San Francisco.
Before the draft in April the Minnesota Vikings—still considered one good QB away from Super Bowl victory—were expected to replace recently re-re-retired veteran Brett Favre with the NFC East’s Donovan McNabb. This was before Minnesota picked up Florida State QB Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick.
Since then, the instances of McNabb’s name tied to the Vikings have given way to a Bernard Hopkins racially-charged quote about Donovan McNabb not being black enough, and many are predicting the end of his career.
The Vikings, though, can still benefit from a veteran presence to bring up Ponder, or at least to fall back on in the event of disaster at the hands of the three baby quarterbacks on (or soon to be on) the team’s roster. The Vikings will go for McNabb as a contingency plan.
Reggie Bush has spent much of the offseason blowing smoke on Twitter. Now he seems to have realized the true marketability of his $11.8 million contract—alongside a free agent running back market showcasing the likes of Darren Sproles, Cedric Benson and Cadillac Williams—and has said he’d be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Saints.
“This is something that me, my agent and the Saints have to collectively come together to talk about and just come to a meeting point—a happy medium—because obviously there’s going to have to be some type of pay cut,” Bush said to ProFootball Talk. “There’s going to have to be some type of renegotiation.”
A renegotiation would indeed make Bush more of a depth chart commodity than he stands now. They will restructure the former Heisman winner’s contract and he’ll stay a Saint at least one more year.
The Denver Broncos quarterback controversy in 2010 did nothing to help the team, and ultimately the season ended with interim head coach Eric Studesville giving Tim Tebow the snaps Kyle Orton had been taking through the first 13 games.
Though the Broncos front office declines to declare favoritism over any of their three potential starters, many think Tebow will be given the reins once the season begins.
John Elway and John Fox surely know they need to do the Mile High city a favor and come to a decision before the season opens in September, ideally before any training camp activities begin. They’ll hand the team over to player-of-the-future Tebow, use Brady Quinn in a backup capacity and ship Kyle Orton out for a solid return while the QB market is ripe.
Last season the St. Louis Rams were, arguably, the best team in the NFC West but failed to beat Seattle in Week 17 for the division title.
Their team of the future is almost complete now with QB Sam Bradford entering his second season as a starter and rookie targets Greg Salas and Austin Pettis acquired in April’s draft. Now they need to secure a solid backup for aging running back Stephen Jackson.
NFL.com's Michael Lombardi illustrated the contributions which the Chargers’ Darren Sproles would make to the Rams, and with San Diego’s backfield already a little crowded, the Bolts are not likely to try too hard to retain Sproles’ services, making negotiations with him easier than with the likes of Tampa Bay’s free agent Cadillac Williams or with the Saints and Reggie Bush’s bloated contract.
This hallmark signing will set the stage for the Rams to dominate the NFC West.
Cincinnati has long been credited by its players as a team not worth playing for. Quarterback Carson Palmer’s demand to be traded certainly hasn’t been the first the Bengals have dealt with over the years, and the front office is not in the habit of entertaining such requests. So, history shows that even now, with Palmer’s Cincinnati home sold, Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis are more likely to let the starter retire and rest their hopes on the younger Palmer brother, Jordan, or second-round draft selection Andy Dalton.
It’s probable, though, that with the first-round selection of WR A.J. Green and promising performance by Jordan Shipley last year, the Bengals plan to let Terrell Owens go his own way into free agency and plan to shop high-maintenance receiver Chad Ochocinco before he gets too old or does something to impede his ability to catch footballs.
Rex Ryan likes his reputation as a loud-mouth and queller of the NFL’s more colorful players. Rumors connecting him to the likes of diva Randy Moss and sharp-shooter Plaxico Burress have been tossed about this offseason, and with three of the Jets’ top receivers possibly hitting free agency this year—depending on the rules that are yet to be determined—at least one of them is likely to turn to truth.
Without the aid of HBO’s Hard Knocks (although, perhaps NYJ is the only team willing to accept the limelight) Ryan will welcome a player with mild character issues to keep the team’s (and his own) image in the public’s eye. Perhaps Ochocinco’s next ridiculous touchdown celebration will be on a pass thrown by Mark Sanchez?
Nnamdi Asomugha became the top defensive free agent on the market last January when a little-known incentives clause caused his contract with Oakland to be voided. Earlier in the offseason, he voiced a willingness to return to Oakland, but since then, reports have surfaced indicating interest from big-market teams in the NFC East, most notably from ESPN's Adam Schefter.
I’m sure Asomugha’s willingness to stay with the Raiders will quickly be trumped by Jerry Jones’ money and Rob Ryan’s desire to out-coach his trash-talking twin brother.
Pete Carroll and Matt Hasselbeck are atop the rumor reels as everyone tries to guess each party’s intentions.
The latest headline outlines Hasselbeck’s response to having not been one of the official recipients of Seattle’s playbook when Carroll sent them out during the brief lifting of the lockout. It seems like a power play almost, Carroll trying to illustrate the importance of loyalty and rules No. 1 and No. 3 of his “Three Rules” directive: “Always protect the team” and “be early.”
Hasselbeck won this battle, though. He has acquired the playbook through his teammates.
In this QB-hungry market, the aging Hasselbeck is right to dip his toe in and try to get as much cash as possible, and, more importantly, as long a commitment as possible. The market, though, is so saturated with such a wide range of talent at this position, that a repeatedly injured, aging veteran like Hasselbeck is more likely to end up babysitting one of the very many rookies that have just entered the league than he is to give a team the final boost to Super Bowl victory.
Plus, Carroll stated himself that the team cannot “afford” a QB at this time and it is in their best interest to concede a lengthier contract to maintain stability under center while they continue to rebuild. Undoubtedly Hasselbeck is Carroll's Plan A.
The two parties will each make some concessions and come to terms quickly after the lockout is lifted.