The NFL labor dispute has dragged on for nearly four months now after the NFLPA de-certified in March, leading the league to lock out the players in response.
The 2011 offseason has been unlike one we've ever seen.
Interruptions and alterations have effected the entire schedule of events thus far, and in protest of the lockout, I'm going to treat you all to educated speculation on the 2012 season. If we can't have football this year, heck, we'll just discuss the future of it.
Without further adieu, here's a look at five stars who could be on the move in 2012.
It's a massive stretch to label Ryan Mallett a star, but it's anything but a stretch to say he's got real star potential.
The New England Patriots selected Mallett in the third round in April’s draft with the pick they received from Minnesota in the Randy Moss deal. It was the highest pick the Patriots have used on a quarterback since 1993, when Drew Bledsoe was selected with the number one overall pick.
The Patriots are highly dedicated to Tom Brady, and their quarterback is equally dedicated to keeping his starting job for a long time. If we should have taken any lesson from Brady’s career to this point, it’s that he shouldn’t be doubted.
Mallett represents an investment opportunity for New England. He’ll spend his rookie season red shirting to learn the offense. The Patriots may showcase him in their preseason match ups and in garbage time while Brady sits.
If he can develop, and show enough potential to start, the Patriots could begin fielding calls for the 6’6’’, 250-pounder who has the background and skill set of Brady with the physical prowess of Roethlisberger.
They invested in a stock here because of the return potential. New England used only one of their three picks in the third round on Mallett. With time, that third round investment could turn into a first rounder or more.
Chris Cooley is a veteran in decline, but he's far from worthless.
Just last year, he matched his career high in reception yards with 849 as one of the most consistent and productive members of Washington's receiving corps. Cooley can still move the chains and is a consistent pass catcher in Washington; however, his ability to reach the endzone has been steadily declining over the last three seasons.
Cooley averaged nearly seven touchdowns a season between 2004 and 2007. Over the last three seasons, that average has dropped to two touchdowns a season, and there's little reason to think he'll be getting better entering his 30's.
The Redskins could choose to move him in 2012 when he'll only have a year left on his contract.
Tony Romo is absolutely a star in the National Football League, but if he can't fix his issues in the clutch, he could soon loose that star on his helmet.
He's a completely capable passer; we've seen him throw for over 4,000 yards twice, and he's passed for 25 or more touchdowns on three separate occasions.
The bottom line is that Romo has not performed in Dallas when it's counted most. After sitting out the majority of the 2010 season with a collarbone injury, he'll be under the microscope in 2011. Next season will be his sixth as the starter in Dallas, and at this point, he's compiled a 1-3 record in the playoffs.
Is it likely that he falls on his face as hard as he did in 2007?
Probably not, but his leash can't be as long as the Cowboys let on. That franchise wants to win and win now. If Romo can't get it done, they'll find someone who can.
Jay Cutler is in a similar situation in Chicago.
He made significant strides last season, his first in Mike Martz's offense, and many project him to finally take the step up into the upper echelon of quarterbacks. Still, he threw 16 interceptions, fumbled 10 times and was sacked 52 times.
If he fails to permanently solve his inconsistency and accuracy woes, Chicago might look to move on.
Cutler has a $8.47 million salary in 2013. If he doesn't perform in 2011, the Bears could look to draft his replacement in the 2012 draft or target him in free agency.
This is a make or break year for him as a Bear.
I'm already dreading the reaction I'm sure to get for including Chris Johnson in this piece, but hear me out on this one.
The Tennessee Titans obviously aren't going to be moving Johnson as a result of production.
He was the first player since 2003 to rush for 2,000 yards or more, and Johnson has a 5.0 yards per carry average since entering the league three years ago. He's only 25 years old, runs a 4.24 40-yard dash and has led the league in rushing; in other words, there's nothing more that you could ask from him.
The problem is what Johnson is going to ask from the Titans for his next contract. He's destined to break the bank, and Tennessee already proved willing to let the most dominant defensive player in the league walk over contractual demands.
Johnson will be a free agent in 2013 and is slated to earn $2.21 million in 2012. If Tennessee decides ultimately that he's unaffordable, they'd be insane not to seek proper reimbursement for him.