Although NFL fans were promised a hectic period of free agency and trades once the NFL lockout was lifted, nobody said it was going to be a lengthy experience.
The beginning of training camps league wide ran so close to the beginning of player movement, it's understandable that most of the major moves would be done by week two of the offseason. By now, the biggest of the available big names have, for the most part, come off the board. Matt Hasselbeck, Kevin Kolb, DeAngelo Williams, Reggie Bush and Nnamdi Asomugha, have already been signed or traded and are busy focusing on next season with their respective teams.
For those difference makers and impact players who are still in limbo, new rumors seem to surface every day. Here we'll take a look at six of the top players whose names have been mentioned in trade rumors, and hand out grades to the teams involved if in fact these deals actually go through:
Granting veteran LB Lofa Tatupu's wish for a release instead of a pay cut or a trade might come back to bite the Seahawks, since the Giants have a need at linebacker and could have been logical partners in a trade involving Tatupu and Osi Umenyiora.
Seattle is still the team I've heard most strongly linked to Umenyiora, whose agent has been granted permission by the Giants to seek a trade. The Ravens, Browns and Patriots have also been mentioned, as the price for one of the best defensive ends in the league has apparently dropped down to a second or third-round draft pick.
The Giants can theoretically afford to lose Umenyiora thanks to their existing D-line depth (namely Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul), but it's still hard to see them getting back equal value for a bona fide star player.
With or without Kyle Orton, the Broncos aren't going to the playoffs next season, which happens to be the quarterback's final season under contract. True, Denver did address some areas of need in the draft and in free agency, but you can't turn around a team that had the league's worst defense and needed an offensive makeover in one offseason.
So what's the point of keeping Orton? This is the kind of dilemma that falls into Chris Bosh territory—and if tradition holds, if Denver doesn't make a move, they will regret keeping Orton just so he could lead them nowhere special in 2011 before walking away in 2012.
The trade sending Orton to Miami has been rumored for a while, but some sources claim it fell apart around the time training camps opened because Denver wanted too much. Others say it's still on the table. I think it will ultimately happen and Orton will end up on the Dolphins. Tim Tebow has done enough to make Orton expendable to the Broncos, the Denver fans want to see Tebow and Orton has too much value for a rebuilding franchise to just let him go for nothing without taking advantage of what he can bring back in a trade.
On Miami's side, Orton would be an upgrade over Chad Henne who can help the Dolphins make a push in the AFC East with play-makers such as Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush at his side.
Remember when the Washington Wizards won the NBA Lottery and it was pretty much guaranteed they would take John Wall? From that moment on, no matter how many times the team may have denied it, Gilbert Arenas was trade bait.
That's what it's like for Asante Samuel right now. Last week's acquisitions of cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie don't mean the Eagles have to trade Samuel—a four-time Pro Bowler in his own right—but the writing should be on the wall for the expensive, aging vet.
Carolina has been the team most often linked to Samuel in trade rumors. The Charlotte Observer says the biggest thing standing in the way of a trade is Samuel's contract, which can be restructured. The Panthers need to replace former starting CB Richard Marshall, who signed with Arizona, and bolstering their secondary would make pass-rushing DE Charles Johnson (just signed to a $72 million deal) even more of a problem for opposing offenses.
Now if the Eagles keep Samuel, either he or Rodgers-Cromartie will be the best No. 3 cornerback in the league. But if the team does trade Samuel, they can afford the hit to the secondary to stack up draft picks or address a need on another unit that isn't as loaded.
Carson Palmer is stubbornly settling into retirement if Cincinnati doesn't trade him, and the Bengals are stubbornly settling into letting Palmer stay retired. He's been put on the "did not report" list, where he could spend the entire season—while Cincinnati has Bruce Gradkowski and Andy Dalton taking reps at quarterback—before seeking a trade again next year.
Among teams who don't have a proven commodity at QB now and probably still won't have one next year, the Redskins stand out. Unless John Beck gets really good really fast, Washington will still be in the market whenever Palmer becomes available.
For the Redskins, Palmer (at best) could approach his past Pro Bowl form with a decent O-line and playing for a coach who worked with John Elway. At worst, he makes no bigger impact than Donovan McNabb made in Washington. For the Bengals, who have no plans to actually play Palmer ever again, anything they get in exchange for him is a profit.
It's impossible to predict exactly where he'll land, but I don't think Palmer has thrown his last NFL pass.
At last check, Cam Newton's new best friend isn't going to be traded after all. Steve Smith says he wants to retire in Carolina—a surprising statement considering he is consumed by winning and the Panthers don't win—and the team certainly isn't going to give away their star receiver if he's not publicly complaining.
Still, the rumors linking Smith to the Ravens haven't completely gone away. Late last week, Gaston (N.C.) Gazette reporter Steve Reed said he still thinks Smith will be traded if the Panthers get a good offer. It is obvious Baltimore would become an even more serious Super Bowl contender with a receiver of Smith's caliber.
Personally, though, I doubt anything will happen. Cam Newton can sleep easy.
This is more of a suggestion than a rumor, because while Houston might be making Steve Slaton available, so far there hasn't been a specific trade partner mentioned. But I think the Bucs make the most sense.
Tampa needs a fast change-of-pace running back who can complement demolition specialist LaGarrette Blount, and I don't think sixth-round pick Allen Bradford (USC) is necessarily the answer. Slaton is only three years removed from a season in which he racked up 1,659 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns, and if the Bucs can get him for a low draft pick, why wouldn't they do it?
As for Houston, I understand that Arian Foster is the No. 1 guy and he's made Slaton expendable, but they're not using their (in my opinion) second-best RB nearly enough and are giving up on him too soon. For a team on the verge of making the playoffs, Slaton could be an effective weapon if they actually take him out of the drawer.