NFL fans are famished for some piece of news regarding the destination of their favorite free agent or the difference-making trade their team will make. Sadly, this pesky lawsuit has provided only the dry, bureaucratic victuals of the courtroom.
Somehow though, like oases in the desert, reports are being made on each team’s post-lockout moves. While some reports are founded on solid ground, many more are merely a mirage for thirsty fans.
In no particular order, the following are 10 of the most surprising and loosely-footed reports circulating the blogosphere.
Donovan McNabb—the Washington Redskins' recently benched quarterback—has been working out this offseason with Larry Fitzgerald and the rest of the Arizona Cardinals. Bloggers around the Web have taken this information and hit the ground running, considering McNabb to be the favored solution to Arizona’s quarterback quandary.
They all seem to be forgetting the happenstance nature of the incident.
McNabb lives in Phoenix, so the workouts are simply convenient for both McNabb and a team that would struggle to gain offseason relevance without a consistent quarterback throwing passes.
Plus, John Beck has more or less decided he is the Redskins' starter, as has the yet-unsigned Rex Grossman, and neither would welcome the idea of McNabb sharing snaps at any coachless team activities going on in Washington.
Kudos to McNabb, whose stock is falling, for finding a way to get workouts in anyway.
With Bob Bratkowski relocating from Cincinnati to Atlanta as the Falcons' new quarterbacks coach, some believe Atlanta will target Chad Ochocinco once the lockout is lifted.
Atlanta’s receiving corps is already very good with star Roddy White leading the group and Michael Jenkins’ respectable production. Plus, head coach Mike Smith has voiced an expected jump in production from Harry Douglas as he gains footing now two years removed from knee surgery.
FalconOcho supporters already have little ground to stand on.
There’s also the Falcons' draft to consider.
Atlanta traded four highly productive current and future draft picks in order to move up 21 spots to claim star-WR prospect Julio Jones. The expensive addition of Jones to an already solid group of young receivers only decreases any chance Atlanta intends to pursue the likes of Ochocinco.
While many believe the Minnesota Vikings intend to pick up a veteran quarterback to ease the pressure off 12th overall draft pick Christian Ponder, some are calling for a more long-term option in 28-year-old Tennessee Titans' QB Vince Young.
Reports that the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson has joined Young for offseason workouts in Houston only add fuel to the fire.
Young’s rookie season was incredibly successful (NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year), but his production has declined significantly since due to injuries and a dramatic feud with long-time coach Jeff Fisher.
While his production may improve in a more supportive environment, Young’s overall attitude and off-the-field issues could be deemed cancerous, especially in a locker room featuring impressionable QB draft picks from each of the three most recent drafts.
Plus, if Minnesota wants to create a contending team, they need to settle on a franchise option now. Quarterback controversy never helped anybody, and Young would come in expecting to start.
A blog maintained by the Los Angeles Daily News’ Scott Wolf simply said, “We hear the Seahawks spoke to former USC quarterback Matt Leinart about joining the team next season.”
While this rumor does not fall under the "trade" category, it is still worth mentioning among the most surprising on the Web.
It isn't because it’s ludicrous to speculate a reunion between Pete Carroll and one of his USC students (history has shown us it’s not, except that this one might be because Carroll passed when Leinart became a free agent last year), but because it’s ludicrous to report any team is speaking to any player during the lockout.
As the Seattle Times‘ Danny O’Neill said in a post responding to the claim, it is expressly prohibited by the NFL to contact free agents who were not their own a) while the lockout is in place and b) until the new league year starts.
Perhaps scorned USC fans are simply trying to punish Carroll for fleeing the NCAA sanctions that hog-tied their team shortly after Carroll’s departure.
Comment feeds and forums are robust with speculation surrounding the Denver Broncos’ surplus of talent on the quarterback depth chart.
While most believe Kyle Orton will likely be the one shopped after he was benched late last season in favor of rookie QB Tim Tebow, there are some out there who firmly believe the franchise has given up on the rookie after just 82 professional pass attempts. This assertion flies firmly in the face of John Elway’s public support of Tebow and his potential in the league.
Plus, with only three NFL starts to go from there would not be a lot of return for the Broncos if they dealt Tebow.
In March though, Jacobs said he’d be willing to restructure that contract in order to stay with the team. More recently, he backpedaled a little, saying he’d wait to see how teammate Ahmad Bradshaw’s free agency turned out.
Jacobs realized what others haven’t seemed to: Bradshaw might be an unrestricted free agent this year, depending on how free agency rules are determined. Having recently signed with aggressive agent Drew Rosenhaus, Bradshaw may well be signing a hefty contract with another team, leaving Jacobs as the main backfield threat on Tom Coughlin’s squad.
Plus, the Giants will undoubtedly try to steer any of Jacob’s potential suitors toward recently un-retired running back Tiki Barber, unless they opt to release him the way they’re expected to release Plaxico Burress when he is released from prison.
In the midst of lockout uncertainty, some fans seem to find it easier to just ignore the details. It’s speculation without the respect for—or even reference to—the true possibilities.
So, as people are looking at star receivers for their team of choice, some are focusing on last year’s Vincent Jackson drama to fuel their arguments.
Nevermind the current truth surrounding Jackson and the San Diego Chargers is that the team has tagged Jackson as their franchise player (provided such a beast exists in the 2011 season). Jackson has also expressed a desire to stay in San Diego.
After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ cornerback Aqib Talib was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charges in March for allegedly firing a gun at his sister’s boyfriend, fans are calling for the star defender’s immediate release.
Somehow, the Tampa Bay faithful have forgotten the immense contributions Talib has amassed in his short tenure with the team.
Just last year, before an injury in Week 13 sidelined him for the season, Talib had six interceptions, which were enough for him to tie for second place in the league. The NFL Alumni Association then named Talib the Defensive Back of the Year.
Sure, his short professional stint has been peppered with a few off-field issues and one poorly handled suspension. Is that enough for fans to call for the Bucs' return to irrelevance?
While a suspension is expected for Talib as his recompense to the NFL for his arrest, it seems the Bucs’ front office has no intention of replacing the hot-headed defenseman. For starters, Raheem Morris said the issue has not even been discussed behind the scenes in Tampa, illustrating the team’s apparent priorities do not focus on Talib.
Plus, not only did the draft came and go without Tampa Bay selecting a cornerback (even though, in addition to any issues with Talib, Ronde Barber is nearing the end of his career), the Bucs did select a defensive player with a similar rap sheet to Talib’s record. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Tampa’s 20th overall selection (the same pick at which Talib was selected in 2008), once punched a cab driver and garnered an aggravated assault charge.
It seems Morris and company are starting to see an on-field upside to players with off-field drama.
The NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi speculated Monday that the Cleveland Browns—and not the favored teams of the NFC West—would be a likely destination for Philadelphia’s top trade fodder, Kevin Kolb. Lombardi said Kolb’s connection to Brown’s general manager Tom Heckert, as well as the 2012 first rounder Cleveland pilfered from Atlanta during the draft, as justification to his claim.
Cleveland’s roster still features three quarterbacks though: last year’s rookie starter Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace.
Even with questions surrounding McCoy’s ability as a downfield passer (he completed only 10 of 32 passes with lengths greater than 20 yards—seven of those were intercepted), and rumors that the ever-struggling Delhomme will be released this season, the Browns still have Wallace, who was handpicked by Mike Holmgren in Seattle’s 2005 draft.
Added together, the minor quarterback woes in Cleveland’s camp certainly don’t add up to a first-round pick.
After reports surfaced that the Carolina Panthers’ star receiver had cleaned out his locker and his family’s luxury suite at Bank of America Stadium, rumors flew that Smith had requested a trade.
Smith has since come forward, saying the claims were false and illustrated a trade is not what he asked for. Rather, he said he discussed with the team his desire to be placed in a competitive situation.
It’s a patient suggestion from the team’s four-time Pro Bowler.
In the 10 years since Smith was drafted by the Panthers, the team has had just three winning seasons (only four since their inaugural season in 1995, plus three .500 seasons overall). In those 10 years, Smith has lead the team in receiving yards in all but his rookie season in 2001, as well as 2004 when he suffered a season-ending back injury in Week 1.
With the first overall selection of Auburn star Cam Newton in April’s draft, it seems the Panthers are doing all they can to provide Smith with the competitive situation he craves.
It seems senseless, too, for a team with drastic need of a rebuild to willingly unload their best offensive player so prematurely. In addition to mere veteran leadership, NFL.com’s Steve Wyche pointed out the benefits of Carolina keeping Smith on the team.
“Smith still commands double teams and with him taking attention off the running game and tight end Jeremy Shockey, Newton could stand a better chance.”
The cost of dealing Smith simply outweighs the return.