NFL Offseason 2011: The 25 Most Intriguing Subplots
With the lockout in full gear, the NFL has had a weird offseason with many twists and turns.
This isn't your average, on-schedule NFL offseason—it seems as though anything can happen.
From players on trial to taboo trade speculation, the lockout has given us a taste of something we're not used to—we've eaten it up.
Without further ado, here are the top 25 subplots of this truly intriguing, lockout-influenced offseason.
Carson Palmer Wants Out
Carson Palmer has finally had enough in Cincinnati, and has given Mike Brown and the rest of ownership an ultimatum.
Palmer wants to be traded/released or he will simply retire from the game altogether—a threat legitimized by teammate Chad Ochocinco on Twitter.
The disgruntled quarterback was recently replaced when the Bengals drafted Andy Dalton, so it's feasible that the team will comply with Palmer and let him go.
Mike Brown did provide some interesting news fodder when he, at first, vehemently denied Palmer's proposal.
The Jim Harbaugh Sweepstakes
Jim Harbaugh was heavily courted before he chose what team he wanted to coach in the NFL.
The 49ers and Dolphins both vied for the coach's services, but the 49ers persisted and won Harbaugh.
After successfully making Andrew Luck into a blue-chip prospect (more on Luck in a later slide), Harbaugh is now faced with making Colin Kaepernick into an NFL starter.
The 49ers signed Harbaugh for 5 years and $25 million total, and Harbaugh is excited to restore "one of the legendary franchises in all of football."
Kevin Kolb Trade Speculation
The Eagles have said from the beginning that they can get a first-round pick and more for Kevin Kolb.
Kolb played well in limited time, and can be a starter for a host of quarterback-needy teams in the league, driving his trade value up.
Kolb is young, competitive and ready to prove he can be a starter.
All signs point to Arizona for the Eagle quarterback, and Kolb could elevate the Cardinals to the top of the NFC West.
The Downfall of the Tennessee Titans
The misfortunes of the 2010 Titans spilled over into the 2011 offseason in a big way.
The Titans were left in shambles, a 6-10 team with no coach or quarterback, and the team feebly attempted to rebound by promoting Mike Munchak to head coach while also drafting Jake Locker.
The Titans may be down for a long, long time.
Randy Moss Wanting to Return to the Patriots
Randy Moss couldn't stay on one team in 2010.
He hopped from the Patriots to the Minnesota Vikings to the Tennessee Titans (where he won't be resigned).
Moss' unsavory locker room behavior alienated some of his teammates and coaches, and the veteran wideout bounced around.
After the year, though, he expressed a desire to return to New England, prompting discussion from both sides of the Moss argument.
Tiki Barber's Desire to Return
Tiki Barber retired on top after 2006, still with great numbers and playoff appearances to boot.
Right after his retirement, the Giants put together a magical season and won the Super Bowl—Barber is still bitter to this day.
The veteran running back said this offseason that he wants to return to the NFL in 2011 after a five-year hiatus, mainly because he's broke and needs money to pay his divorce settlement after cheating on his eight-month pregnant wife.
Good luck grandpa.
The Madden Cover Vote
EA Sports picked one player from every NFL team and set up a 32-team bracket in which fans voted for the players they wanted to see go to the next round.
ESPN SportsNation helped the competition along by posting the vote on their website, garnering insane fan interest.
When the smoke cleared, Peyton Hillis and Michael Vick were left standing in the finals, showing that a portion of Americans have forgiven Vick for his past wrongdoing.
Cleveland, showing that they need someone to replace LeBron James, banded together and voted for Peyton Hillis, making him the Madden 12 Cover Athlete.
Cam Newton/Jimmy Clausen and the Number Two
Cam Newton wore No. 2 at Auburn, and Jimmy Clausen wore No. 2 last year for the Panthers.
Clausen is showing some fire for an embattled sophomore quarterback, saying about the jersey number, that "It's mine now."
Newton, the No. 1 overall pick and media darling of the Carolinas, may end up wearing the number in 2011, but Clausen isn't giving up his jersey, or job, without a fight.
It's good to see Clausen have some desire to succeed, but Newton will probably win out.
Roger Goodell vs. the NFLPA
This is the story of the offseason.
Roger Goodell and the NFLPA have been jockeying for position and both sides staunchly disagree about many components of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement proposals.
The disagreement and unrest has spilled over and become a lockout in which players can't have any contact with coaches.
The real losers are the fans, who just want to see some football.
The Proposal of an 18-Game Season
By the Super Bowl, the two teams left had been beaten to a pulp, fighting for a ring.
Now, the NFL is proposing the addition of two more games to the season in the interest of profit, citing that the fans want it.
Interestingly enough, he never says that the fans want more regular season games—he only states that the fans don't want the preseason because it's a time-consuming bore.
Goodell has continually tried to put words in the fans' mouths and faced vehement booing at the NFL Draft.
Andrew Luck Returning to School
After a magical season where he and Jim Harbaugh ran into the sunset together with a win in the Orange Bowl, it was presumed that Luck would be the No. 1 pick and Harbaugh would be the most coveted rookie coach.
The pundits were right on one account—Harbaugh was the most coveted rookie coach to be had.
Luck, however, returned to school for another year in a move that could end up costing the young quarterback millions of dollars if he flops in his year back.
Fans are already discussing whether or not their teams will be players in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes for 2012.
DaQuan Bowers' Slide
At one point, Da'Quan Bowers could have been the first overall pick in the draft.
Questions about Bowers knee took a major toll on his draft stock, but even right before the draft, Bowers was a virtual lock to go 20th to the Buccaneers according to a host of mock drafts.
Bowers' knee, though, made teams too reluctant to use a high pick on him, and Bowers fell all the way to the mid-to-late second round when the Buccaneers nabbed him.
The defensive end had one of the worst slides in recent memory, and is a medium-risk/high reward type now for Tampa Bay.
Denver Broncos' Quarterback Situation
With John Elway as the executive vice president of football operations in Denver, the Broncos quarterback situation has been predictably interesting.
The team has two (three if you count Brady Quinn) capable starters at quarterback, Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton.
No matter who is taking snaps for the Broncos come the first game of the year, the storyline was certainly an interesting one.
Raiders Players Unhappy About Losing Tom Cable
Shane Lechler, a respected veteran on the Raiders, has been one of the loudest and clearest voices from the Raiders locker room about the release of Tom Cable.
Lechler remarked, "I’m not so sure this isn’t a terrible decision.”
The Raiders are unhappy that they went 6-0 in their division, finished a promising 8-8, and just lost their leader in Cable.
With Hue Jackson in and Tom Cable out, look for the Raiders to be on a downward path in 2011.
Peyton Manning's Impending Deal
Peyton Manning has been one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game over the last 10 or so years.
Jim Irsay says that Manning will be compensated accordingly with a record contract, dispelling any rumors of the Tennessee-product will be in a different jersey come the 2011 season.
Bill Polian, on the other hand, says that Manning's career is close to an end, further perpetuating the cat-and-mouse game that is contract negotiation.
Manning is going to get paid, no doubt, but the storyline of his new deal has been quite interesting.
Cam Newton's Pre-Draft Circus
After a trying college season filled with adversity, Cam Newton's journey to be the first overall pick was not easy.
Newton had to deal with questions about incidents at the collegiate level, concerns about comments he made about being an icon, and Nolan Nawrocki's staunchly negative report of Newton in a draft magazine.
Warren Moon, Newton's mentor, came to the Auburn quarterback's aid, and shifted Nawrocki's meaning from football to race.
When all was said and done, though, Newton was the first overall pick, but he certainly had to deal with his share of detractors.
Unsavory Player Behavior Off-The-Field
Players make boneheaded decisions here and there, but this offseason has been a true low-light in players representing the NFL.
Aqib Talib pistol-whipped his sister's boyfriend and proceeded to shoot at him while the boyfriend fled the scene.
Dez Bryant was punished for having his pants sag too low, as well as for not paying off jewelry debts.
Kenny Britt was arrested for outstanding traffic warrants in New Jersey, and Albert Haynesworth will be on trial for sexually assaulting a waitress when he ran his credit card down the front of her dress and proceeded to fondle the waitress.
The NFL has some cleaning up of its image to do.
Larry Fitzgerald Requesting Kevin Kolb or Marc Bulger
Larry Fitzgerald was unhappy with the Cardinals' bad 2010 season, and had something to say about it.
The star receiver requested that the team bring in either Kevin Kolb or Marc Bulger, both of whom are viable options under center.
Kevin Kolb to Arizona is looking like more of a possibility at the present moment, and the trade would do wonders for the Cardinals' efforts to keep Larry Fitzgerald happy so he'll re-sign with the team.
The trade would make the Cardinals instant contenders, so Fitzgerald may have a point.
Player-Held Workout Camps
Some teams should be proud of their young quarterbacks stepping up as leaders and holding players-only camps in the current state of the NFL.
Mark Sanchez has organized Jets West Camp in Mission Viejo, California, keeping his team ready for the 2011 season with workouts and football discussion.
Colt McCoy, too, put together a camp for his players that is going over well—him and Sanchez are stepping up as the leaders their teams have envisioned them to be.
Despite no coach interaction, teams are banding together to stay sharp this offseason.
Rashard Mendenhall Conspiracy Theories
Rashard Mendenhall recently had some juicy comments about the Osama Bin Laden situation, saying that people shouldn't celebrate the death of a man they've never heard speak.
Mendenhall made his voice heard over Twitter, and the running back has garnered some public backlash for his unwillingness to celebrate Osama Bin Laden's death.
The running back states that he was just trying to encourage people to think.
He certainly encouraged thought, just not the type of thought he aimed for.
Tom Zbikowski's Boxing Endeavors
Tom Zbikowski decided to pursue boxing, as he had no obligation to the Ravens or the NFL to keep himself healthy (or clean).
Zbikowski became a cult hero of sorts online for NFL fans who needed something NFL-related to still root for, as the Raven went 4-0 in his first four matches.
After failing a drug test, the boxer has faded back into obscurity.
It is also worth noting that the safety challenged Chad Ochocinco to a boxing match over Twitter—stay classy, Tom.
Chad Ochocinco Playing Soccer
Chad Ochocinco also pursued a different career opportunity during the NFL lockout—soccer.
The star wideout for the Bengals cited that playing soccer was a lifelong dream of his, and Ochocinco proceeded to try out for Sporting Kansas City of the MLS.
Hilariously enough, Ochocinco didn't make the team, and has been placed on a reserve squad after publicizing his efforts to a large extent.
Ochocinco was said to not be up to the speed of the game, and therefore wasn't good enough to make the team.
Brandon Marshall/Brandon Banks Stabbings
This offseason, Brandon Banks and Brandon Marshall were both stabbed and became trending story lines for a few days each.
Marshall's girlfriend stabbed him, police say, in the stomach, and the girlfriend has been arrested.
At one point, Marshall was in concern-worthy critical condition.
For Banks, him and a friend were stabbed outside of a Washington-area nightclub, and while Banks escaped only requiring stitches, his friend required surgery.
Kickoffs Moved to 35-Yard Line
The NFL Competition Committee has resolved to move kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line, increasing the likelihood for touchbacks and also increasing player safety.
The move will hinder teams like the Browns and Bears, both of whom have dynamic kick returners in Josh Cribbs and Devin Hester.
Cribbs has spoken out against the rule already, and his anger is understood now that a major component of his game has been made that much more difficult.
The Bears were also disappointed with the rule change, but weren't as vehement in their public speaking-out.
Free Agent Nnamdi Asomugha
In what may be the most anticipated free agent carousel (if it ever happens) in a long time, Nnamdi Asomugha is set to be a free agent.
Asomugha is arguably the game's best cornerback, and will command a high price when he hits the market.
The shutdown corner will have his choice of the market, able to go wherever he may desire.
Asomugha will not return to Oakland, so there will be no LeBron James-like situation, but his ending destination will certainly be one of interest to all NFL fans.