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With the season nearing the grand finale—the Super Bowl—many teams are sitting at home, considering personnel decisions for next season already. There is little time to rest and relax with the draft in April, contracts to be negotiated, and moves that need to be made as soon as possible. Who may be cut and who may be traded in when the market starts moving? Let’s speculate on the possibilities:
Drew Bledsoe, Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
Bledsoe lost his starting job to Tony Romo after just six games. At .500 under Bledsoe, the Cowboys were able to turn it around and make the playoffs with Romo at the helm. He may be worth keeping around for insurance, but Bledsoe doesn’t appear happy in his new role and may demand that he be traded or released so that he can pursue a starting job elsewhere. His trade value is low because of his age and recent play, but there are teams like Oakland or Minnesota that may look at Bledsoe—although it seems probable that he won’t be brought in as a starter anywhere.
Mark Brunell, Quarterback, Washington Redskins
Jason Campbell is the present and future of the Redskins franchise. In seven games this season, Campbell passed for ten touchdowns, while Brunell threw for only eight in his ten appearances. If Brunell can accept a bench spot as his new permanent home, the team may keep him around to support Cambell, but if the team doesn’t want to keep paying the more than five million dollars he is due next season, they could cut him. If Brunell agrees to re-structure his contract, it’s a good bet that he’ll stay in Washington.
Joey Harrington and Daunte Culpepper, Quarterbacks, Miami Dolphins
This quarterbacking pair is one of significant interest. A bettor might wager that a healthy Culpepper regains his role as the starter and Harrington returns to the bench to open the 2007 season. That wouldn’t be a terrible wager by any means, but it’s worth noting that Culpepper’s health is still going to be a question—although optimism is the pervasive attitude. Harrington wasn’t special during the eleven games he took part in, but he may have been better than Culpepper was in the first four Miami games. Harrington’s value is slight, and a late pick or a player of mediocre talent might be gained by the Dolphins in and exchange. It’s quite unlikely that Culpepper goes anywhere, and the team hasn’t given up on him yet—from all that is known—but he’s worth a mention simply because of the concerns surrounding his lack of production in his limited time this season.
Brad Johnson, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings
Brooks Bollinger and Tarvaris Jackson were both given the opportunity to play in Johnson’s place because of the lack of production from the thirty-eight-year-old quarterback. Johnson could be looking for work elsewhere, since Jackson appears to be the quarterback that the Vikings want to prepare for the starting role. Johnson’s time in the NFL may be up, since his trade value is minimal at best, and there are few teams that would be interested in the former Super Bowl winner.
Byron Leftwich, Quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars
The former first-round pick played in just six games this season, and for the second straight season, backup David Garrard had to finish a chunk of the season. Not only did Leftwich perform below hopes and expectations before Garrard took over, but he was also knocked out by injury. Leftwich’s name has been rumored alongside a few NFL teams, but nothing has been serious enough to warrant mention just yet. The quarterback may fetch a mid-round draft choice.
Kevan Barlow, Running Back, New York Jets
Barlow scored six times for the Jets this season, but his number of carries fluctuated throughout the season and he was inactive for five of six games to end the season, including a playoff loss to New England. Since rookie Leon Washington began to standout late in the season and is considered the running back of the future, Barlow’s time in New York may be close to an end after just one season. His contract is over three million dollars for the coming season, so that figure will probably have to be re-structured if Barlow is to remain a Jet.
Julius Jones, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
Jones stayed healthy for the entire season, which is a plus, but the brother of the Bears’ Thomas Jones isn’t quite the runner that Dallas needs, it seems. Second-string back Marion Barber is continually being heralded as the better and tougher runner, and the team may look to Barber as the soon-to-be starter. Barber averaged more than half a yard more per carry and had ten more touchdowns because of his ability to pick up tough yards. If Barber is going to be given the main workload, Jones could be dealt away to a team willing to take a chance on a decent back. A third round pick may do the trick, and Jones is still relatively young at just twenty-five. A team like the Carolina Panthers might prefer Jones over their current running back DeShaun Foster, depending on DeAngelo Williams’ readiness.
Chris Perry, Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals
Perry doesn’t make a lot of money, and the Bengals would take a hit if they cut him, but a trade of the former first-rounder might be possible. Perry has played in just twenty-two games in his three seasons, but has shown flashes of being a solid player. The trouble is that the Bengals already have Rudi Johnson, and Johnson has locked down the number one spot by running for over 1,300 yards in each of the past three seasons. If Perry hangs around, he’ll continue to play second fiddle to Johnson, but if the team is confident in Johnson, they may decide to deal Perry away now, and get compensation for him while he’s still fairly young. Perry’s aspirations may play the biggest role in determining what the Bengals try to do.
Greg Jones, Running Back, Jacksonville Jaguars
With the third best rushing attack in the league, Greg Jones must have had a great season, right? Not exactly. Jones tore his ACL for the second time in his career—this time during a preseason game. With an attack of Fred Taylor and rookie Maurice Jones-Drew at running back, and Derrick Wimbush at fullback, the team was able to run wild for much of the season. Jones doesn’t seem to have a spot to come back to, unless the team truly believes he’s the best option at fullback. Injuries have cut the trade value of Jones immensely. Even Taylor might face some problems with sticking around, since Jones-Drew has proven that he is a legitimate NFL running back.
Randy Moss and Jerry Porter, Wide Receivers, Oakland Raiders
Few would be surprised if Moss were dealt this off-season. The cantankerous wide receiver had worst career season, and while the blame doesn’t lie solely on his shoulders, his admission of disinterest and lack of desire is. The receiver has hinted more than once that he wouldn’t mind leaving the Raiders behind for a new home. Porter is more likely to stick around, especially if he can get in the good graces of the new head coach—whoever that may eventually be. A team like Atlanta has been discussed when it comes to Moss, and his trade value sits below his actual talent value. For Porter, the Raiders would probably have to settle for a fourth-round draft pick at best, if they decide to move him and can find a taker.
Keary Colbert, Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers
Colbert has dropped off the NFL map. When Keyshawn Johnson was brought in to help alleviate some of the pressure put on Steve Smith, many assumed that Colbert’s chances would be reduced, but no one figured that the drop-off would be so drastic. The former USC standout caught nearly fifty passes in his rookie season, and many felt the receiver had considerable potential, but his sophomore total for receptions was cut nearly in half, to twenty-five. This season, Colbert caught just five passes. If another team senses that potential still exists in Colbert, they could consider giving up a mid-round or late-round pick for him, and the Panthers might be fine with that. The Bills or Buccaneers could be an option when it comes to teams looking for receiving depth.
Ashlie Lelie, Wide Receiver, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons brought in Lelie hoping to have found a deep-threat receiver for Michael Vick, but Lelie never stood-out from the rest of the receivers on the roster. He caught only twenty-eight passes for one score, and dropped some potentially big passes. The Falcons may look to shop Lelie for help at another position, or they could just hang on to him and hope he starts producing like a first-round pick should.
Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions
Williams posted only eight catches and had a single touchdown in eight games this season. He apparently doesn’t work hard enough, and doesn’t seem to care enough to become the top receiver that some had pegged him as when he entered the draft—only to be denied the first time. The Lions have not been happy with Williams, and they may make an effort to move him now, while he’s young and other teams might still see some potential in the receiver. A mid-round choice, or another player who has worn out his welcome for another team could be the simple return.
Boss Bailey, Linebacker, Detroit Lions
Bailey has a down season in Detroit, and while the team would benefit from keeping Bailey around to play alongside Ernie Sims, Bailey’s salary will jump for the 2008 season. His performance over the past two seasons has been average at best, so the team could deal him now, while he’s young and his contract is low enough to really entice teams. A high—non-first round—to mid-round pick, another relatively young offensive lineman, or a secondary player may all be of enough value to Detroit.
Danny Clark, Linebacker, New Orleans Saints
Clark made nearly two million dollars this season, didn’t see the field much, and didn’t produce much because of it. Hopes were somewhat high for Clark when he joined the Saints, but he wasn’t able to earn more playing time, and the team could look to save money by letting him go or trying to find a trade partner. Interest in trading for Clark won’t likely be high.
Dexter Coakley, Linebacker, St. Louis Rams
Coakley has failed to impress as a member of the Rams. He made more than four million dollars this season, and made just twenty-nine total tackles. It wouldn’t be a significant surprise to see the Rams simply release the veteran linebacker and move on, unless the team can somehow find a trade partner to take him off their hands.
Carlos Emmons, Linebacker, New York Giants
Injuries have slowed Emmons recently, and at thirty-three, his best days are likely behind him. If the Giants cut Emmons this off season, they will save two millions dollars against the cap this season, and even more in 2008. Linebacker LaVar Arrington may help make the club’s decision easier.
Steve Foley, Linebacker, San Diego Chargers
Foley’s situation is quite different from other potential cuts. Foley was shot by an off-duty police officer before playing a game this season and was ruled out for the season after the incident. The Chargers can still recoup his roster bonus and have already withheld his salary for the season. The team could decide to cut ties altogether, and release the troubled linebacker.
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Defensive End, Green Bay Packers
Gbaja-Biamila lost playing time this season to Cullen Jenkins and doesn’t appear to be in line to regain his role as the starter. His salary of five million dollars in 2007 makes his situation a difficult one for the Packers. The team could simply release KGB, and save cap room. The Packers are not crunched for cap space, though, so they could keep the defensive lineman around and see what happens.
Kris Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Carolina Panthers
Among other potential cap casualties in Carolina, Jenkins may be the most recognizable name. Jenkins played in every Panthers game this season, but wasn’t quite as effective as hoped, even though he played well. If the tackle wants to stay with his current team, he may have to be willing to re-structure his contract. The Panthers will try to re-structure before simply releasing him, but the team will certainly be making some changes.
Marquand Manuel, Safety, Green Bay Packers
Manuel didn’t live up to expectations, and the Packers may simply release him to save cap space and be rid of the safety. Manuel is a weak link on the defense, and most don’t even consider his play worthy of a starting spot. Few would be surprised to see Manuel looking for a new team in 2007.
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