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NFL players, you are now free to move about the league

With approval of a new labor deal and start of training camps likely this week, an unprecedented flurry of player movement is expected, with more than 400 unrestricted free agents hitting the market.

July 24, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • Top row, from top left: Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb; Cincinnati's Cedric Benson; Pittsburgh's Lamar Woodley; New England's Matt Light. Bottom row, from left: Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha; Washington's Donovan McNabb; Minnesota's Ray Edwards; New York Jets' Santonio Holmes
Top row, from top left: Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb; Cincinnati's… (Nell Redmond / Associated…)

Get ready for the Super Bowl shuffle.

With the start of NFL training camps probably days away, and every team angling for the ultimate prize, a major player reshuffling is in the works. Two years worth of unrestricted free agents are expected to hit the open market this week, and clubs are bracing for an unprecedented flurry of signings.

If things follow the anticipated course and players approve the collective bargaining agreement team owners have offered, free agency will begin Wednesday with franchises getting a chance to retain their own unsigned players, and continue Saturday — the same day camps are expected to start — when teams are eligible to sign the remaining free agents.

There are more than 400 unrestricted free agents this year, roughly double a typical year, because in last year's uncapped season the requirement for free agency was increased from four seasons of service to six. Under the proposed CBA, that number drops back to four seasons.

And it won't be just free agents who are switching teams. There are likely to be some high-profile trades too.

A look at some of the better-known players who could find themselves with new teams this season — or who could at least strike lucrative deals with their current teams:

Quarterbacks

Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia: With the resurfacing of Michael Vick, Kolb didn't get much of a chance with the Eagles to prove what he could do as the starter. He could wind up finding his opportunity out West, as Kolb would be a good fit in Arizona or Seattle, among other places. There are rumblings that the Cardinals might strike a deal involving cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Kolb.

Donovan McNabb, Washington: As much as Mike Shanahan says he loves McNabb, the coach's actions say otherwise. The Redskins could wind up trading him — perhaps to Minnesota? — but they would have to rework his contract first. McNabb is due a $10-million bonus if he's still on the roster after Week 1.

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle: When he's healthy, which isn't often, Hasselbeck is a crafty player who can move the offense. The Seahawks seem unwilling to give him anything longer than a one-year deal. Maybe he'll wind up finishing his career in Tennessee, helping bring along his Northwest neighbor, Jake Locker.

Carson Palmer, Cincinnati: Palmer says he isn't going back to the Bengals and will retire if they don't relinquish his rights. From the look of things, Bengals owner Mike Brown plans to call his bluff. Palmer's old coach, Pete Carroll, would love to have him in Seattle.

Running backs

DeAngelo Williams, Carolina: In 2008, the last time he played a full season, Williams ran for 1,515 yards and scored 18 rushing touchdowns. A popular projection has him heading to Denver for a reunion with Coach John Fox, who is looking to help Knowshon Moreno.

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati: The Bengals gave Benson a second chance and he made the most of it . . . until his recent arrest on a charge of assault causing bodily injury to a family member, that is. Now, he'll be able to test the free-agent market, although Cincinnati has identified re-signing him as a priority.

Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants: Bradshaw was very productive for the Giants last season and has said he'd like to stay. But the Giants have a lot of decisions to make on their high-profile free agents; are they willing to commit the cash to keep both Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs?

Receivers

Sidney Rice, Minnesota: The Vikings would love to keep the 6-foot-4 Rice, who's coming off an injury-shortened season, but he'll have his share of suitors. New England is rumored to be interested.

Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, New York Jets: The Jets can probably keep either Holmes or Edwards but will be hard-pressed to hang on to both free agents.

Malcom Floyd, San Diego: Floyd has not been consistent, but the Chargers could be left short-handed if they let the free agent go and Vincent Jackson also finds his way out of town. Jackson's agent is claiming the receiver's rights have been violated because he has been prevented two years in a row from testing the free-agent market because San Diego put the franchise tag on him (under the old labor agreement). That argument is still pending.

Offensive linemen

Tyson Clabo, Atlanta: Clabo, a right tackle who made the Pro Bowl last season, was a key fixture for the Falcons up front. He should command top dollar from someone, Falcons or otherwise.

Doug Free, Dallas: Free stepped in at left tackle last season for Flozell Adams and made a good case for the Cowboys' keeping him. First-round pick Tyron Smith will probably play on the right side, as he did at USC.

Matt Light, New England: The Patriots already are planning for life after Light, Tom Brady's blind-side protector, drafting Colorado tackle Nate Solder in the first round. Considering the abbreviated off-season, though, they might want to keep Light around for a while.

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