PFW news on the high-profile playoff performers who could be on the move and more.
Star-gazing: A rundown of high-profile playoff performers who could be on the move
The focus in the NFL is squarely on the playoffs at the moment, but it won’t be long at all before the spotlight starts shining brightly on the numerous players who will soon become available via free agency or trade this offseason.
What follows is a look at a group of particularly intriguing players whose teams made it to this year’s playoffs and whose futures will be well worth tracking in the coming weeks and months, according to league insiders.
Eagles QB Donovan McNabb
While it’s true Eagles owner Jeff Lurie recently indicated McNabb wasn’t going anywhere, and that McNabb would appear to be improving his chances of staying put after leading Philadelphia into the NFC championship game, we hear it’s far from a lock.
Despite Lurie’s statement, the Eagles still must resolve McNabb’s contract situation long-term, in addition to giving him a valid reason for being benched earlier this season — a move that we hear McNabb continues to have a very hard time understanding. Those two factors could still lead to a Favre-esque trade demand.
Said one NFL executive: “I don’t see McNabb being traded, but I never would have thought (Brett) Favre would have been traded, either, so we could see the same (occurrence) all over again. McNabb is what, seven years younger (than Favre)?
“The same way Minnesota was interested in Favre, I could see them having an interest in McNabb. You’ve got a coach (Brad Childress) who is familiar with (McNabb), the same system and a better supporting cast.”
Titans DT Albert Haynesworth
Unlike McNabb, Haynesworth’s season has come to an end after Baltimore’s tense 13-10 victory Saturday over Tennessee. As has been the case much of the season, Haynesworth was right in the middle of the action for a Titans defense that limited the Ravens to only 211 yards.
Now the Titans must decide whether they want Haynesworth to remain a prominent piece of the puzzle moving forward — a decision that we hear could take more than a little deliberation.
Not only do the Titans have two young D-linemen who made major progress as the season wore on (Jason Jones and William Hayes), we’ve heard rumblings that Haynesworth is still considered a loose cannon who could blow up at any minute.
“The team that gives Haynesworth a big deal is stupid,” a personnel evaluator told PFW. “He (was) playing hard because of the incentives. He is the type of guy that needs something to play for. You give him a lot of money, and he’ll eat himself out of the league.”
Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin
It remains to be seen whether Boldin will resume strutting his stuff this postseason after sitting out Arizona’s stunning 33-13 victory Saturday night in Carolina with a strained left hamstring suffered while finishing off a 71-yard TD catch-and-run against the Falcons the previous week.
Boldin’s demand to be traded earlier this season has been well documented, and team sources tell us nothing, to their knowledge, has happened to change his mind. Interestingly, in the five games he has missed this season due to injury (including the playoffs), the Cardinals are 4-1 without him.
Cardinals GM Rod Graves has continued to indicate that the team wants Boldin back. But, with more than a few teams with serious WR issues likely to be very interested in Boldin if he were indeed available in a trade (Eagles and Bears, to name two), Graves could change his tune.
Said one daily team observer: “If it gets to be March and there is still an impasse with Anquan, the team could get an offer it could have a hard time refusing.”
Added another league observer: “Boldin will never be a No. 1 as long as (Larry) Fitzgerald is there, and they’ll always have the issue of putting so much money into two receivers.”
A key factor in Boldin’s future could be the status of all the other Cardinals with contract issues — an impressive group that includes QB Kurt Warner, “franchise” ILB Karlos Dansby, SS Adrian Wilson, DE-DT Darnell Dockett and DE Antonio Smith. Interestingly, all these players except Warner are represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus, who has been known to rock the NFL landscape more than a little.
Chargers RB Darren Sproles
After gaining an eye-popping 328 total yards in the Chargers’ wild-card victory over the Colts while LaDainian Tomlinson was limited by a groin injury, Sproles is a late bloomer on the free-agent radar screen who is attracting increased interest. But at 5-foot-7, opinions remain mixed over the diminutive-but-explosive Sproles’ potential as a full-fledged starter.
Said one veteran evaluator: “Darren Sproles can give you a spark, but he’s a change-of-pace (back) and returner. He’s a dynamic little player, but you’re not going to build your offense around him.”
Giants RBs Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward
A major strength for the Giants this season was a deep RB corps equipped with contrasting styles. The way we hear it from team insiders, there’s still a good chance the team might try to re-sign both Jacobs and Ward, who will be free agents. The duo combined for 138 yards rushing in the loss to the Eagles’ Sunday, with Jacobs gaining 92 yards on 19 carries and Ward picking up 46 yards on 12 carries.
But as one NFL executive put it, “It tells you something that the tandem everyone talks about is still not signed long-term. If you have a great offensive line, you can create running backs.”
Along those lines, it’s worth mentioning that the Giants also have Ahmad Bradshaw and promising Danny Ware in the mix, which could result in either Jacobs or Ward (but probably not both) being allowed to move on.
JAGUARS: Although the interior trio was the bane of the Jaguars’ O-line play in 2008, help will be sought more actively at tackle than at guard or center in the offseason. OLT Khalif Barnes’ disappointing tenure is coming to a close as he forays into free agency, and the healthy return of Maurice Williams and Vince Manuwai could shore up the OG spots without the team needing to invest too heavily at the position in free agency or the draft.
EAGLES: It wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Eagles have a different group of pass catchers next season, and the most likely to leave are TE L.J. Smith and possibly WR Reggie Brown. Through the past three seasons, Brown has regressed and was a healthy scratch late in the season before re-emerging on the game-day roster in the playoffs. His salary is not outrageous, but Brown might not be back if the Eagles find another option at wideout.
REDSKINS: Restricted free-agent PK Shaun Suisham led the league in missed field goals, but he could return to the Redskins. We hear that the team still feels as though he can be an effective kicker (he started the season well) and that he just got into a bit of a slump.
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