2011 NFL Free Agency | 15 Faces That Could be in New Places
With the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers set to take the main stage in this year’s NFL Super Bowl in two weeks, it’s time (at least for now) to turn our attention to the next season.
With the 2011 Senior Bowl and 2011 NFL Draft creating waves with April fast approaching, NFL free agency and trade rumors are starting to sizzle. Even with the NFL’s CBA (collective bargaining agreement) seemingly on hold, there’s still nothing wrong with taking a look at some of the big names that could be moving from their current teams to a new franchise in 2011.
Here are the top offensive players that could be donning a new jersey next season, via free agency or trade:
1. Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Palmer is rumored to wanting out of Cincy, and why wouldn’t he? The Bengals are undoubtedly getting rid of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, and Palmer’s regressed play has also likely worn his own welcome out with the Bengals. While the trade demanding rumors haven’t been completely validated by Palmer himself, it looks like the former number one overall pick could be slinging passes elsewhere next year.
Three teams that will target him: Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks
The Raiders and Seahawks continue to back Jason Campbell and Matt Hasselbeck, respectively, but even the biggest Palmer critic has to know he still has more talent than both of these veteran quarterbacks. With the right supporting cast and proper backing, Palmer still has the potential to be a solid NFL quarterback. I actually believe Al Davis is as enamored with Campbell as he leads on, while I think Pete Carroll has to be somewhat licking his chops over the possibility of getting his former USC student in Palmer.
Verdict: Seattle Seahawks
Palmer needs to go somewhere where he’s appreciated and used correctly. Who better than his former college coach to help turn him into a respectable football player. Hey, if Mike Williams can do it, why can’t Palmer?
2. Chad Ochocinco, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
From one troubled Bengals star to another, Ochocinco appears to finally be on his way out of Cincy, after years of troubling antics and trade rumors. Ochocinco’s play has regressed over the past three seasons, and while a lot of that can be attributed to poor quarterback play, injuries, and a weak supporting cast, it’s clear by his own remarks that his days in striped are numbered.
Three teams that will target him: New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins
Ochocino has not-so-quietly voiced his willingness to play for the Patriots, while there are even quieter whispers that New England would entertain bringing on another talented, but trouble, prima dona receiver (see: Randy Moss). Oakland, on the other hand, is another destination that grows stronger by the day, as Ochocinco worked with new Raiders head coach Hue Jackson in Ciny, and Oakland is always lacking sure-handed, reliable receivers. Washington may not be a front-runner, but with their absence of a true gamer at receiver (sorry, Santana Moss), Ochocinco has to be one of many star receivers on their radar this off-season.
Verdict: New England Patriots
Randy Moss didn’t pan out, and Terrell Owens is too old for the Pats to risk it. Bill Belichick will claim Ochocino as his latest pet “salvage” project. In the name of Corey Dillon, it just makes sense.
3. Donovan McNabb, QB, Washington Redskins
McNabb is still under contract, but we can’t see the Redskins keeping him on as a well-paid back-up. We also can’t see him agreeing to that, and even more, we can’t see him remaining in D.C. as the starter. Not when the likes of Rex Grossman matched his entire season of player in just three weeks (sad, but true).
Three teams that will target him: Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills
Minnesota is probably done with the stop-gap “veteran quarterback” add, but you never know. With Joe Webb as their current front-runner to start in 2011, you know Leslie Frazier and co. have to at least be considering it. Arizona makes the most sense, as the Cardinals ran threw a slew of bel0w-average (if not putrid) quarterbacks in 2010, and with a lot of talent still remaining on their offense, they could be a competent quarterback away from another division title. Buffalo will likely add a quarterback in the draft, and they also seem to like Ryan Fitzpatrick, but McNabb still has the athleticism and arm that Chan Gailey likes in his starting quarterback.
Verdict: Arizona Cardinals
The move could help keep Larry Fitzgerald from jumping ship. After all, if McNabb had any semblance of an offensive line or explosive weapons in Washington, the Skins’ 2010 season could have gone much differently. Ken Whisenhunt has noted this.
4. Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans
Young lost the battle of wits with head coach Jeff Fisher (and several others, mind you), and is almost certainly done as a Titan. That means a release or trade, and while his value isn’t at it’s highest, he still has enough talent for another team to think he can be the answer at quarterback.
Three teams that will target him: Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals
There’s no doubt the Vikings, Redskins, and Raiders could ponder swiping Young, as well, but Buffalo makes a lot of sense with Chan Gailey’s love for potential and athleticism at the position, while Jack Del Rio continues to refer to starter David Garrard as anything but an elite NFL quarterback, and the Cardinals, well, we know they’re desperate for an answer at the most important offensive position.
Verdict: Buffalo Bills
Chad Gailey loves himself an athletic quarterback. Buffalo will likely draft a quarterback in the first round (Jake Locker, anyone?), but Young could be the guy that gets this organization back to respectability for the next couple of years while they break a rookie in.
5. Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints
Bush is a pure scat back a returner, and not much else. Ineffectiveness and injuries have plagued his once promising career, rendering him fairly one-dimensional in terms of flat-rate value. When healthy, he’s still a ticking time bomb of highlight reel possibilities, but he may be too great of a risk for many teams to waste their time on him.
Three teams that will target him: Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints
Detroit has to move on from Maurice Morris and Kevin Smith, and we saw what happens when they cling to an injured back all season with Jahvid Best. Best will be back to full health, but Bush could be an added dimension the Lions offense is lacking. Bush could also go the Carson Palmer and Mike Williams route and team back up with former USC coach Pete Carroll, while it’s also extremely possible he resigns for as little as the Saints want just to stick around and compete for another championship.
Verdict: Seattle Seahawks
It’s down to Seattle and New Orleans, in my humble opinion. Bush’s best chance at making something special out of himself is seeing what his former college coach can do with him in the pros.
6. Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers
V-Jax didn’t sit on the season for 10 weeks to let he Chargers disrespect him all the way to a new contract. Look for V-Jax to follow his nose to the team waving the most money in his face.
Three teams that will target him: New York Jets, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears
The Jets might be without their top two star receivers if they don’t play their cards right, and if they do lay them down correctly, they could drop Mr. Drop Braylon Edwards, and snag the more reliable Jackson. Washington is always in desperate need of help at receiver and could be willing to pay the highest amount, while anyone with any sense can see the Bears still need to upgrade at receiver.
Verdict: Washington Redskins
Washington has missed out on some big name receivers over the past few years, but this time they get their guy. Daniel Snyder will wave a fat paycheck around for a young, talented receiver, and Vincet Jackson will be a stepping stone toward greatness once the Redskins nab their quarterback of the future in the 2011 NFL Draft.
7. Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Think the Benglas are going to have a new look in 2011? Yeah, so do we. With Palmer and Ochocinco almost definitely leaving, look for Benson to follow suit and jump ship. He struggled a bit in 2010, but still topped 1,000 yards for the second straight season, and believe it or not, was about the only good offensive player in Cincy down the stretch in 2010.
Three teams that will target him: Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals
Miami will very possibly lose both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown this off-season putting Benson’s market value very high for a team that seems to lack an identity. Adding Benson would help them re-establish their offense and get going in the positive direction. New England has two capable running backs, but could be looking for a bigger bruiser to help shoulder the load, while the lack of necessity for a top back could scare Benson into sticking it out with the Bengals.
Verdict: Miami Dolphins
If Ronnie Brown returns, Benson will stay in Cincy. If he doesn’t, Miami will start over with a new look, and Benson will head their attack. Yes, we know the Miami front office wants to gear more towards “Marino ball”, but with Chad Henne as the top option at quarterback still, beefing up the ground game makes the most sense at the moment.
8. Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami Dolphins
Brown brings value as a solid inside runner, along with experience in Wild Cat packages and solid receiving skills. He lacks elite speed, especially after numerous leg injuries, but still has a lot to offer to a new team. Miami should look elsewhere for an every down runner, while Brown should latch on somewhere with a two-back system.
Three teams that will target him: Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins
There’s still a possibility Miami retains their beloved running back, but with Benson possibly looking like a more attractive (and safer) option, Brown looks to be on his way out. Put Cincinnati at the top of the list with an immediate opening if Benson lands in Miami, while Brown could play second fiddle to Ahmad Bradshaw in New York if/when Brandon Jacobs leaves town.
Verdict: Cincinnati Bengals
The swap is complete. Brown’s running style fits the Bengals, and he still has the tools and legs to be an every down back. He’ll likely share the load with Bernard Scott or another young speedy back, but Cincy looks like a good place for him to call home.
9. Terrell Owens, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Despite showing that he is far from done in the NFL, T.O. is almost certainly done in Cincinnati. He’s 37 and will slow down eventually, but he still possesses the speed and physicality to be a top receiver for a number of teams. Now that teams see he can play nice and perform at a high level, his value will be much higher than it has been the past two seasons.
Three teams that will target him: Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs
There are a number of teams that should go after Owens, but it’s not very likely any of them will be teams that are at the moment serious Super Bowl threats. Oakland is always in the mix to make an uneducated splash, while St. Louis needs some major help at receiver and Chris Chambers isn’t a viable number two opposite of Dwaye Bowe in KC anymore.
Verdict: Oakland Raiders
Kind of like the pairing of Brett Favre and Randy Moss in 2010 (if only for five minutes), some things just seem destined to happen sooner or later. Owens has always had the skills Al Davis craves, and the Raiders also appear to be on their way up. Owens undoubtedly wants to play for a contender, but with a nice paycheck and the slight chance of competing in a weak AFC West, Owens will take the bait.
10. Kevin Kolb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Vick is here to stay in Philly, one way or another. Whether it’s a three-year deal or the franchise tag, Vick sticking around will spell the end of the almost-Kolb era in Philadelphia, leading to a trade that is likely to fall around draft day (pending a CBA deal).
Three teams that will target him: Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers
Minnesota isn’t content with Joe Webb, but considering the team is in complete rebuilding mode, they also may not be up for trading a bunch of picks when they could simply spend one pick on a guy they deem better than Kolb. However, there’s no down-talking their need for an upgrade at the position. Cleveland seems to be set with Colt McCoy, but it’s no secret the Browns were high on Kolb last year, and also made a strong play for Sam Bradford in draft day trade rumors. The 49ers are another possibly landing spot, as new head coach Jim Harbaugh needs some kind of talent at quarterback to build with.
Verdict: Minnesota Vikings
I still think the Browns will debate whether or not they trust in McCoy all off-season, but in the end, the Vikings are going to want to make a move that gives them a young quarterback with loads of potential. They’re in rebuild mode, but landing Kolb would push that rebuilding phase up a year, as he’s more prepared and just as talented as most of the quarterbacks slated to go early in this year’s draft.
11. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers
It looks like 2011 will be the Jonathan Stewart show in Carolina, which means D-Will could be looking for a job this off-season. He still has great speed and can make huge plays, so his value is high despite and injury-ravaged 2010.
Three teams that will target him: Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos
Green Bay may have found a gem in James Starks and should be getting a healthy Ryan Grant back next season, but there’s still room for improvement at the position. Williams brings more explosion and versatility than any back Green Bay has, and while it’s against GM Ted Thompson’s nature, this could be the splash the offense needs to be a completely unstoppable force in 2011. Miami should also be in the market for a running back, while former Panthers head coach John Fox could try to get his former running back on the cheap in Denver.
Verdict: Denver Broncos
It sounds to crazy that it just might work. Pairing Williams and Knowshon Moreno isn’t exactly like what Williams and Jonathan Stewart had going on in Carolina, but it still would work. Fox loves two-back offenses, and these two explosive backs can do a lot of things, while both can handle the pounding inside. Having a powerful and talented running game should help ease the pressure on likely second year starter, Tim Tebow, as well.
12. Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos
John Fox hasn’t committed to Tim Tebow as his quarterback for 2011, but Tebow is no Jimmy Clausen (in a good way), and the Broncos already let it slip that Orton is available for a trade. Orton’s days are numbered, and there are plenty of quarterback-needy teams that could pull the trigger on a deal.
Three teams that will target him: Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers
Minnesota and Arizona will both think about it, but if they both land the guys they really want (Kolb and McNabb), it could leave Orton without a great match. But who better than the Panthers to strike up a deal with former coach John Fox, and upgrade at the quarterback position?
Verdict: Carolina Panthers
Jimmy Clausen doesn’t appear to be the answer, and while the Panthers will almost certainly draft high at quarterback again, adding a competent veteran should be objective one. Orton will start the season ala Matt Moore last year, and will play for another gig elsewhere in 2012 or 2013.
13. Braylon Edwards, WR, New York Jets
Edwards was a relatively solid piece of the offensive puzzle in New York, but his time in the Big Apple was a mixed bag of big plays and big drops. He could stick around, but he’s likely to up his price tag, and with other receiver-needy teams out there, he could be on his way out.
Three teams that will target him: Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams
You can throw New York, San Diego, and a slew of other teams on this list, but look for the Redskins, Bears, and Rams to be the leaders in the rumor mill. Washington is in desperate need to a big play receiver, while the Bears and Rams also need some major help.
Verdict: Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler didn’t get Brandon Marshall in either of the past two seasons, and he never will. Think of Edwards as a solid consolation prize. Chicago has several decent receivers, but no true gamer exists in their corps. Edwards would put the offense over the top, and could help them land right back in the NFC Championship game.
14. Plaxico Burress, WR, Free Agent
Burress is schedule for release and is expected to sign somewhere to play in 2011. His last team, the New York Giants, probably have kept tabs on him while he’s been in jail, and could have first dibs. While he’s 34 and likely rusty, he still has the size and talent to be a big addition to a team that needs big talent.
Three teams that will target him: New York Giants, New York Jets, Chicago Bears
The Giants appear set at receiver with three very talented players at the position, but it’s no secret that their offense has never been quite the same since Burress left the team. However, it could be the other New York team that snags him for another championship run, while the Bears should be in the running until they steal Braylon Edwards from the Jets.
Verdict: New York Jets
With Braylon Edwards jumping ship, the Jets get Burress on the cheap. Burress is aging and isn’t a sure thing with being out of the league for the past two and a half years, but he could be just what the Jets need to stay current on the offensive side of the football.
15. Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers
Smith hasn’t had a competent quarterback throwing him the ball in what seems like a decade now. If he can get out of Carolina alive and with his speed and talent intact, bank on it happening. With John Fox no longer around, Smith is as good as gone.
Three teams that will target him: St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins
St. Louis should continue their bid for an upgrade at receiver, and with Smith’s speed and play-making potential in a dome on the mind, they could go after him hard. Cleveland is a quiet team that could be searching for some nice receiver additions that can fit their West Coast Offense, while the Miami Dolphins could also use some speed and gritty veteran experience at the position.
Verdict: Cleveland Browns
It may not make much sense at first glance, but Smith going to Cleveland is the perfect landing spot. He’ll be backed by a great offensive line, a power running game, and will work in a familiar offense. He may balk at having to work yet again with a young quarterback, but McCoy’s progress is encouraging. Having a great mind like Mike Holmgren calling the shots may be enough to convince him to sign.
Other players who could be heading elsewhere in 2011:
Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants
Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins