32 NFL Backups Who Could Start with Other Teams
Every team seems to have that player that deserves more than a backup job or a part-time gig. The NFL is full of stories of players who were backups and suddenly became heroes because of a simple twist of fate.
Almost every team has talent deeper than it's starters. That's part of building a sturdy NFL franchise. Some of those players could have found starting jobs elsewhere, but with only so many positions open in the NFL, a lot of good players have to wait their turn.
Here's a look at 32 players that could start on other teams—or on their own squads—if things change from the current outlook.
Arizona Cardinals: Floyd Womack, OT
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Womack is another older player who’s settled in as a backup after several years of stellar service in Seattle. He still has the to skills to start, however.
A tackle-needy team like Pittsburgh would be a good fit.
He’s another player who could be productive right where he’s at also. The Cardinals have had some defections along the line, and could use a veteran to help protect new quarterback Kevin Kolb. The current tackles are okay, but Womack could be better.
It’s surprising to see “Porkchop” in a backup role, but it’s not likely the end for the big guy.
San Francisco 49ers: Madieu Williams, FS
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Williams has been a starter before and also has had productive years while in Cincinnati and then Minnesota. He could certainly help a team in need of safety help, but instead he’s currently buried on the depth chart in San Francisco.
He may even be a better option for San Francisco than the guys currently ahead of him. Williams is a big guy, but he moves pretty well and makes plays all over the field. He’s not as dynamic as Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed, but he will get the job done.
Williams would be a fit for a lot of teams, but he may end up starting in San Francisco if he can flash the same skills he’s shown in previous stops.
Seattle Seahawks: Justin Forsett, RB
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Forsett has seen a lot of time for Seattle thanks to their recent lack of a productive passer, and he’s looked very promising in his opportunities. Still, he’s second on the depth chart even though he could start for several teams.
He’s a fast runner, so he could be very helpful to a team like San Diego, which lost the speedy Darren Sproles in free agency and is very thin at running back since Ryan Mathews was a rookie flop.
Forsett is still young and should be an effective tandem partner in Seattle again this year, especially since they failed to find a clear answer at the quarterback position.
St. Louis Rams: Hank Fraley, OG/C
Fraley was a longtime starter in Philadelphia and has the versatility to play multiple positions along the offensive line. He’s due to be a backup guard in St. Louis this season, but could see time if the Rams have injuries. He should be their primary backup on the inside.
Fraley was a great starter in his day, and probably could still contribute on a team that requires the services of a starting guard or a team that needs a center, a position he played for most of his career.
If Fraley doesn’t make it on the Rams, he will definitely be on someone’s roster. Last year was a big year for injuries along the lines and this year will be even more difficult with the shortened preparation time.
New York Giants: Aaron Ross, CB
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Ross was a highly-touted prospect coming out of school, but he’s become an afterthought in New York as other players have seized the opportunity to take on larger roles in the defense.
Ross is another underrated guy who could start on a lot of teams. He’d be a great fit in Pittsburgh or San Francisco, both of which have a good corner but could use a second guy. He has good coverage skills and can also make plays at times. He’s another guy who won’t get embarrassed in single coverage.
Ross will contribute again this season in New York, but could be a bigger piece for another team if he can get out of New York.
Washington Redskins: Reed Doughty, SS
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Doughty has seen a lot of time during his Redskins tenure and has flashed the ability to be a sturdy playmaker at the strong safety position. Right now, he’s behind some good players in Washington, so he could be dealt away if the team finds a good trade.
Doughty has the talent to start. He is a hard hitter, playmaker and decent coverage guy who’s been underrated because he hasn’t gotten a consistent opportunity. He could shine for a team in need of a good safety.
There doesn’t seem to be a likely opportunity for him in Washington, so the best thing for Doughty is to continue to take advantage of his opportunities, and to play his way onto a team that can really use him as a starter.
Dallas Cowboys: Jon Kitna, QB
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Kitna is getting on in years, but he proved last year that he still has the skills to lead a team. He’s an accurate passer who can take a pounding if necessary. He also has the ability to make plays.
He hasn’t gotten his due during a long career, but he’s had some great years. His best tenure came with the Lions. During that time he even put together a 1,000-yard season.
He’d be a great option for a team like Miami looking to repair a quarterback position or a team with a young passer like Cincinnati that is trying to bridge the gap. He could make a so-so offense like Miami’s competitive again because he isn’t mistake-prone.
Philadelphia Eagles: Marlin Jackson, CB/S
Jackson can play corner or safety but has seen most of his time at the latter position. He’s a playmaker, but he’s spent significant time injured the last couple of seasons. That has cost him. Right now he’s buried in a very talented Eagles secondary.
Jackson could help a team in need of a playmaker in the secondary and, with his versatility, it wouldn’t matter much where they needed him back there. Teams like Detroit and Arizona seem like they could use another player in their defensive backfield, so they could be a partner in a potential trade if Philadelphia trims the fat.
Jackson should be starting somewhere, so he likely won’t stay a backup for very long if a starting job presents itself.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Myron Lewis, CB
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Lewis is very young, but he’s currently a backup with some serious potential. Lewis had a decent rookie year in limited action, and should get more time with Tampa Bay this season as he develops a knowledge of the professional level and of his own defensive system.
Lewis could probably step in on a veteran team right now and be a playmaker. He’s got good hands and can make sure tackles. I think he’d show pretty well in a starting role, but he hasn’t had the opportunity yet. He could also be a nickel corner for a team like the Jets or Patriots.
It’s likely that as he gets more experience he’ll see more time and an expanded role. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him starting somewhere soon.
Carolina Panthers: Sean Considine, S
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Considine was pretty well regarded before in Philadelphia, but he’s kind of fallen off the face of the Earth since then.
Right now, he’s a backup in Carolina. That’s good, but he has the ability to be more than that.
Considine is a hard hitter with the ability to bring in an interception or two a year. He’d be good on a team that needs strong safety help but has another player or two in the secondary. He also could see time at free safety, but he’s best fit as a stay-at-home strong safety who plays back and prevents the deep pass.
Several teams could use secondary help, so Considine certainly could find steady work somewhere if he gets cut loose for some reason.
New Orleans Saints: Shaun Rogers, DT
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Rogers is another guy who’s been a starter for a long time and is now moving into a support role with the Saints because of age. It’s harder for defensive tackles to maintain their game as they age, but Rogers has been pretty good.
I think he could still be helpful to a team that needs some veteran leadership and perhaps another year or two from a starter before a younger player takes over. He’d have to play in a 4-3 system because he doesn’t have the skills left to be a 3-4 nose tackle or end.
Rogers will get a lot of time in New Orleans, probably in a platoon situation, but could be a starter for another couple of years in the right situation.
Atlanta Falcons: Mike Peterson, LB
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Peterson has been around for awhile and has been a solid starter for years. Most recently, he’s moved to a support role with Atlanta now that he’s getting long in the tooth.
Peterson can still bring it though when necessary. He could certainly be a starter for a year or two on a linebacker-starved team. There are a lot of teams trying to break in crops of new guys. Peterson could be a very valuable piece in a system like that.
He could be a fit in Cleveland, Oakland or even in Detroit.
Minnesota Vikings: Asher Allen, CB
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Allen is a young player who was impressive at times last year for the Vikings. He’s got some good skills and can make plays, but he isn’t consistent yet and still needs some work in coverage and with being fooled by double moves.
Allen would be a fit for a young defense that is looking to improve its corner play. He could be good in Carolina, Tampa Bay or St. Louis. Those teams could use the help and would also give him some support so he could grow into a starting role.
Allen could even move up in Minnesota. He certainly has a lot of potential.
Detroit Lions: Nathan Vasher, CB
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Vasher has been a starter before and is now working as a third corner in Detroit. He has the skills to be a solid number two man for most teams, although he isn’t a perfect fit for everybody. He’d need to be paired with a strong corner.
Vasher has some holes in his game, particularly with speedy guys. He’s also not a big play corner, so he wouldn’t be ideal for teams that lack another solid player in the secondary. He could, for example, be an upgrade for someone like the Arizona Cardinals or the Dallas Cowboys.
Vasher is in a good spot now as the third corner in Detroit. He could be a good starter for some teams, however.
Chicago Bears: Marion Barber, RB
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Barber had an up and down Dallas career that ended with him losing playing time to Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. He’s a tough runner who runs to contact, which has lead to several injuries for him. Still, he figures to be a guy who could help another team as a starter.
Right now, he’s stuck behind Matt Forte on the depth chart and figures to mostly be a short-yardage back in Chicago. He could be a starter for a team like Arizona, Indianapolis or Detroit. All three of those teams need help at the position and could use a veteran who can punch the ball in.
Detroit is probably the best fit because they have a need for red zone offense greater than the other two. Barber could take the pressure off of Matt Stafford.
Green Bay Packers: James Jones, WR
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Jones had a great season in 2010 and became a favorite target of Aaron Rodgers. He seems primed for another big season in 2011 and could work his way up the depth chart for the Packers. He could be a starter for another team now, however.
Jones has great hands and is a fast guy, so he could certainly stretch the field for a team like Miami or St. Louis. Both of those teams lack a proven deep threat and could use a guy like Jones to make their offenses extra dangerous.
Of the two, the best fit would be in St. Louis since Jones would get to work with a quarterback who seems primed for big things in 2011. Miami has no proven quarterback, so it could be a tough job to break out there.
San Diego Chargers: Randy McMichael, TE
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McMichael has bounced around the league lately, but he has the skills to be a solid starting tight end. In San Diego, he’s going to primarily be a backup that is counted on for blocking. He’ll be like an extra lineman when he’s on the field.
McMichael isn’t much of a receiver, but can make the rare catch and isn’t a liability on the field. He’s a big guy, so he’s not going to be fast, but he can bowl over people when necessary.
There are a lot of teams that have a great receiving tight end but struggle with blocking. He could have been a good fit for a team like Tennessee which does a lot more running than passing and figures to need the help to keep Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker upright.
Denver Broncos: Willis McGahee, RB
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McGahee is an older back with a lot of miles on him, but he’s still effective and boasts some excellent receiving skills. I get the feeling that, despite his age, injury concerns and mileage, he could still be a feature back in the NFL.
McGahee would have been a good fit for Miami, where Reggie Bush is not a lock to be a good feature back. McGahee would have brought some of the same skills at a reduced price. He’s certainly not a guy with Bush’s talent, but he does have a better track record.
McGahee should be a big help for Denver, which is trying to figure out whether or not Knowshon Moreno can be a feature back. If he works hard, he could become the Broncos’ feature back.
Kansas City Chiefs: Steve Breaston, WR
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I was quite surprised to see Breaston sign with a team that already had two starting receivers. It seems that Breaston will go back to a third receiver/slot role with Kansas City unless Jonathan Baldwin or Dwayne Bowe struggles. He’s certainly got the talent to be a number one guy in this league.
Teams like the Bears and Broncos lack a true number one receiver and could certainly benefit from a guy like Breaston, so it was a shock that no one else made a major play for him in the free-agent market. Perhaps teams were too focused early on Randy Moss or Chad Ochocinco.
Breaston should thrive with the Chiefs, but it would be interesting to see him as the primary target on a team. I think he has the talent for that role.
Oakland Raiders: Michael Bush, RB
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Bush has been productive when healthy for Oakland. He’s been a nice compliment for Darren McFadden and was surprisingly quick to return to Oakland. It would be interesting to see how Bush would perform as the feature back for another team.
He’s a quick, tough runner who could be a great fit on a team like Indianapolis or Arizona, which both figure to be pass-heavy teams that will rely on a running back more as a change of pace. Bush likely doesn’t have 250 or more carries per season in his body.
Bush will likely continue to be a great tandem back with Oakland, but he could be a player that teams target if they feel like their offense is just a running back away from being explosive. There are plenty of teams that are leaning toward being one-dimensional right now.
Miami Dolphins: Will Allen, CB
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Allen has been an on-again/off-again starter throughout his career. He certainly is better than a lot of corners who are likely to claim starting jobs in the NFL, so he could be a good value piece for the Dolphins to dangle in a trade.
Allen would be a solid number two for teams like Pittsburgh that have one good corner but questions around their others. The Steelers likely wouldn’t pull the trigger for a trade and seem to be comfortable with Bryant McFadden, but they're just one example of teams that have questionable depth.
Allen is certainly better than a backup guy on a bad team.
Buffalo Bills: Roscoe Parrish, WR
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Parrish first came onto the scene as a stellar kick returner. He’s since become a nice piece of the receiving corps as well and seems like a player who could take on a larger role in the offense.
Parrish has great wheels and is a decent route runner. He’s also got sure hands—something that teams need in a receiver. He’s another guy who won’t be a clear number one but could be a very good number two.
Receiver is a position right now that has a lot of talent throughout the league, but some teams, like Miami, are in serious need of a steady player at the position and could certainly use someone with Parrish’s talents.
New York Jets: Brodney Pool, FS
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Pool has bounced around the league a little bit, but he’s contributed at every stop. The Jets are pretty deep in the secondary these days and could probably spare Pool. Other teams are not so lucky.
The Buffalo Bills could use a safety, even if it’s just to give them some competition at a thin position. Pool could start for a lot of teams and doesn’t figure to play a huge role in the Jets’ defense if their young guns continue to develop.
Pool is a solid cover player that, despite being smaller for the position, can make some good plays and won’t get embarrassed by any tight end or slot receiver. He probably isn’t a long term fit, but he could help bridge the gap for a team with depth concerns.
New England Patriots: Aaron Hernandez, TE
Hernandez is yet another player that had a magical season after working with Tom Brady. While some might dismiss that as a great quarterback making a player look better than he actually is, Hernandez stood out in a deep group of receivers and tight ends in New England.
As I’ve said with the other tight ends on the list, Hernandez would be a big help to a tight end-needy squad. He’s a better receiver than blocker, so a spread or versatile system would probably be best. He also could probably play in the slot receiver spot if needed.
The Chiefs have some up and comers at tight end, but a guy like Hernandez would be a great addition for a team that’s trying to become a consistent contender once again. He’d instantly give Matt Cassel a solid target to go with his revamped receiving corps.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Rashad Jennings, RB
Jennings is a relative unknown outside of Jacksonville because he plays behind the excellent Maurice Jones-Drew. Still, he is a good, slashing runner that had a high yards-per-carry average the last two seasons and seems like a player who could move up and be a starter.
Several teams need running backs, especially Arizona and Detroit. Both of those teams have had issues developing good running backs and getting a solid ground game together and both have swung and missed on free agents previously.
A guy like Jennings would probably be excellent as the top guy in a tandem, but its reasonable to think he could be a solo act as well. He certainly has more to contribute than being a part-time player.
Tennessee Titans: Jordan Babineaux, SS
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Babineaux saw considerable time with Seattle and was mostly impressive during his tenure. Now he’s looking like a potential backup in a Tennessee secondary that’s in flux. He could eventually emerge as an option somewhere for the Titans, or he could be helpful to a number of teams.
The St. Louis Rams added Quintin Mikell, but seem like a team that could use a player like Babineaux as well. In addition to them, the Lions seem rather thin at safety. A guy like Babineaux could provide steady play and even some big plays as well.
If I had to put money on it, I’d say that Babineaux will probably start for Tennessee at some point this season. If he doesn’t, he’ll be a nice piece either for a trade or in free agency.
Houston Texans: Joel Dreessen, TE
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Dreessen’s play in camp was brought to my attention by Jeff Shull, another featured columnist. I’m glad he gave me the tip. Dreessen is having an excellent camp and looks like a player who could start for any number of teams.
He seems like a player who will hit it big in free agency if he isn’t traded to a needy team first. He’s another guy Baltimore could have used at tight end, but he may also be a good fit for the Raiders, who let Zach Miller leave in free agency.
Dreessen is a big guy who can viciously pound a defender and who can also get open and make the big catch. He seems like a developmental version of Heath Miller or Antonio Gates, although it’s unclear if he’ll become the mirror of either player. He certainly has the high ceiling for such a task.
Indianapolis Colts: Pierre Garcon, WR
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Garcon, like any wide receiver on the roster, sees a lot of playing time in the Colts’ offense, which places a high premium on passing and little emphasis on the run. He’s been a steady player and seems like the kind of guy who could start for any number of teams.
Teams like the Oakland Raiders that need good receivers would be wise to look into Garcon and what it would take to acquire him. He’s perhaps not a true number one receiver, but he definitely has the ability to be a solid number two, especially in a spread system.
It’s likely that Garcon will be a starter in the NFL someday soon, possibly even with Indianapolis. The Colts have gone through a ton of injuries at the position and could eventually use Garcon as a replacement for either Anthony Gonzalez, who can’t stay healthy, or Reggie Wayne, who’s getting on in years.
Cincinnati Bengals: Bo Scaife, TE
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Scaife had some good years in Tennessee but has become the victim of an increase in talented tight ends in the NFL. He’s a solid blocker who also can flash some good receiving skills. He certainly has the ability to start.
Finding a match for a guy like Scaife isn’t easy in a league that is crowded with tight end talent, but division rival Baltimore should have made a run at him in free agency after cutting ties with veteran guy Todd Heap. While Scaife isn’t of Heap’s caliber, he could have filled the hole left in the offense quite effectively.
Scaife will be an asset in Cincinnati, but he probably should have been able to find a starting job somewhere in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns: Seneca Wallace, QB
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Wallace has been productive as a gadget player and also as a quarterback in limited stints, but there are a lot of teams that could use a versatile quarterback that could help bridge the gap to a young starter.
The Cincinnati Bengals are depending on journeyman Bruce Gradkowski to be what will likely be a very short bridge to Andy Dalton, but could use a player like Wallace because he has more talent and could give the Bengals a year or two of solid play.
Another team that could benefit from a player like Wallace would be the Miami Dolphins, who haven’t had success with Chad Henne and are known for running an offense that places a premium on versatile players at their skill positions.
Baltimore Ravens: Dominique Foxworth, CB
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Foxworth has been an on-again/off-again starter throughout his career, but he’s flashed some good coverage skills. He’s a poor man’s Ike Taylor: a player who’s good in coverage but is not adept at making interceptions or big plays.
Still Foxworth has a lot of value. There are several teams that could use a good number two corner and those teams would be wise to get somebody like Foxworth, who’s likely to be squeezed out in Baltimore with the arrival of Jimmy Smith and the return of Chris Carr.
It’s unclear if Baltimore would trade or release Foxworth because he would be a valuable number three or four corner, but if a team offered them something enticing in a trade, he could probably be had.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Doug Legursky, OG/C
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Legursky has been a do-it-all player in his two years with the Steelers. He’s seen time at all of the offensive line spots, starting Super Bowl XLV at center while Maurkice Pouncey was injured.
Legursky might not be a backup in Pittsburgh for long. He’s in the mix for one of the open spots along the offensive line in camp and if he doesn’t land one of those, some team will probably make a run at him either in trades or as a free agent.
He’s got the skills and toughness that teams look for and he could help pretty much any squad right now with the versatility he’s shown. He’s even played fullback for Pittsburgh.