By Scott Henry (Twitter: @4QuartersRadio)
With free agency’s usual five-month time frame being condensed into five weeks, the phones of both team executives and the players they’re pursuing are about to be set ablaze with constant activity. Some teams would rather lay low, but the ten teams that follow have one available move that would fill a tremendous need, offer roster or cap flexibility, or simply get the fan base excited.
1. Cardinals trade for QB Kevin Kolb
If the Cardinals attempt to head into the season with John Skelton or Max Hall under center, they run a serious risk of alienating the face of the franchise, WR Larry Fitzgerald. This deal is rumored to be all but done, and what remains to be seen is how big a package of picks the Cards are willing to part with. The possibility of CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie being a part of this deal is also gaining traction. The coaching staff may be tired of harping on Cromartie for his inconsistent play and work ethic. A straight-up Kolb-for-DRC deal would also save Arizona from having to part with those precious picks.
2. 49ers attempt to sign CB Nnamdi Asomugha
Executives for the 49ers have already gone on record stating that the team intends to move forward with the players they currently have. Asomugha should be an exception. Current Niners CB Nate Clements has been decent, but decent shouldn’t rate a $14 million salary. If he doesn’t take a pay cut, he could take a pink slip, and the Niners’ pass defense (24th in 2010) can’t afford that. After hiring head coach Jim Harbaugh from Stanford, the 49ers face another unique opportunity to add a big name with local ties in Asomugha, a Cal product. The combination of dominant production and local cachet could go much further toward the political goal of securing a new stadium than owner John York’s brusque, condescending attitude toward the very people he needs to schmooze.
3. Saints trade RB Pierre Thomas
Sure, Reggie Bush is a lot more expensive. True, Bush’s primary value is on kick returns rather than handoffs. What’s also true is that Bush is reportedly willing to take a pay cut to stay in New Orleans. Thomas just signed a four-year contract extension, but that was before Alabama RB Mark Ingram fell into the Saints’ laps in the draft. It’s a lot easier for Ingram and former street free agent Chris Ivory to replace Thomas than Bush, plus Thomas’s deal, while lengthy, isn’t the bloated price tag that Bush carries.
4. Titans attempt to sign QB Marc Bulger
Much has been made of the connection between the Titans and veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck, but it may make sense for Pete Carroll to try and re-sign the longtime Seahawks signal-caller. With Bulger, the Titans could get everything that they would get with Hasselbeck: veteran presence, extensive experience as a Pro-Bowl-level starter, and unfortunately, extensive experience on the trainer’s table. Still, Bulger has had a year to heal his bruised body and psyche as Joe Flacco’s backup, while Hasselbeck has continued to trot out to the Seattle huddle and take abuse. If Bulger can buy the Titans even most of a season to teach Jake Locker how to be a professional, he’ll pay his freight, which is also likely to be less pricey than Hasselbeck’s.
5. Colts attempt to sign S Quintin Mikell
Bob Sanders missed more games after last Thanksgiving than Mikell has missed in his entire eight-year career. Sanders’ release leaves a void at strong safety that the Colts did not attempt to fill with a draft pick. Mikell isn’t the kind of safety that offenses have to game plan around, but the simple fact that he’s also not a guy that his defense has to plan to play without counts for a lot. He’s recovered five fumbles (returning one for a touchdown), intercepted five passes, and broken up 27 more in the past two seasons, numbers that speak to him being an underrated big play threat. With Mikell next to Antoine Bethea, the Colts’ safety duo would be a definite position of strength for someone other than the team’s doctors.
6. Broncos attempt to sign RB DeAngelo Williams
John Fox’s Carolina offenses were run-heavy, and succeeded when there were two solid backs to split the load. Who better for Fox to bring into his new digs in Denver than one of those same two running backs? Williams’ injury-shortened 2010 season should be a glaring indication that he could benefit from another committee approach, as could Denver’s inconsistent incumbent, Knowshon Moreno.
7. Cowboys attempt to sign S Michael Huff
The Cowboys didn’t make a run at Bob Sanders and essentially ignored the secondary in the draft. Huff is a former University of Texas standout who has yet to miss a game in his five-year career. As a bonus, Huff was a second-team Associated Press All-Pro last year. He’s had experience at both safety positions, an invaluable bonus in case ex-coach/new Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips decides to poach strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh.
8. Bills re-sign LB Paul Posluszny
Posluszny took to Buffalo’s new 3-4 scheme like a duck takes to water, placing third in the league with 151 tackles despite missing two games. Without him in the lineup, the Bills’ linebacking corps would be led by the inconsistent Andra Davis and the remains of Shawne Merriman. There may be no free agent in this market who holds more power over his team’s future. If owner Ralph Wilson wants to keep the seats remotely filled in his namesake stadium, he’ll need to break character and shell out serious cash to keep “The Poz,” who’s being heavily linked to ex-Bills DC Perry Fewell’s current employer, the New York Giants.
9. Dolphins trade for QB Kyle Orton
New Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll got good work last season out of Cleveland’s Colt McCoy. When asked at his introductory press conference about his prospective starter in Miami, Chad Henne, Daboll said, “Well, Chad, yeah, he’s on our roster.” As ringing endorsements go, that one rings about as true as a manager’s vote of confidence from George Steinbrenner during the ‘70s and ‘80s. While the Fins might not be quite ready to show Henne the door, a veteran option would be helpful, and Kyle Orton might be the best one on the market. From most indications, Orton’s set to lose his starting job in Denver to Tim Tebow, and he’d like an opportunity to remain a starter. Stepping in to push, and potentially replace, Henne could be a rejuvenating change of scenery for Orton, not to mention the effect it could have on Orton’s former favorite target, Brandon Marshall.
10. Rams attempt to sign RB Darren Sproles
Steven Jackson is among the last of the workhorse running backs. At the age of 27, he’s already in the NFL’s all-time top 40 in terms of carries. And he likes it that way. Still, as the Rams continue to improve the offense around young quarterback Sam Bradford, they need some way to keep Jackson’s mileage down. While Darren Sproles is far from a featured back, he’d make a great fit in the same role that Kevin Faulk played under current Rams OC Josh McDaniels when the two were together in New England. Sproles has caught 104 passes the last two seasons in San Diego, making him a great fit on third downs when Bradford needs a safety valve out of the backfield. Also, Sproles is still a danger on kick returns, which would take some workload off of one of Bradford’s favorite receiving targets, Danny Amendola.