In part two of our offseason player preview, we look at a few players that make less headlines, and Terrell Owens.
There are other interesting offseason stories aside from Julius Peppers and Donovan McNabb. These story lines will be good entertainment for fans and writers alike. In fact, the owners and coaches may even have some fun with these guys in the offseason.
- Brandon Marshall, wide receiver – Marshall has made it very clear he wanted out of Denver last season. He recently sited Darrent Williams’ death as another reason for requesting to leave. Marshall finally gets his wish as he enters free agency this year as a restricted free agent. His intentions and desires remain a question. Some players just want to go to a contender, some want money and fame, and some want more playtime and the ability to start. Marshall is a little short in the money department, but I do not see that as his deciding factor. He will most likely just look for a team he feels comfortable with that can succeed. The teams I expect to make a run for him are the Rams, Panthers, Dolphins, Ravens, and Jaguars. All of those teams are in need of a young, play-making wide receiver and weapons for their respective quarterbacks. In the end, I expect the Ravens to get the final word on Marshall.
- Darren Sharper, safety – Darren Sharper was one of the biggest reasons the Saints won the NFC Championship and Super Bowl XLIV. He transformed their defense from a laughing stock to a strength. The issue for Sharper is his impact could be over as soon as it peaks. He enters free agency as a coveted veteran still able of being a defensive force. New Orleans has already reported that they are not applying the franchise tag to Sharper. He has expressed his desire to return to New Orleans, but also his preference for a multi-year contract. I expect the Saints to offer Sharper a two-year contract to try to lock him up. If they do not come to an agreement soon, Sharper will test the free agency and would likely get a lot of attention. I could honestly see any team in the NFL making a run for him, but at the age of 34 he would likely not sign with a team that is not in contention for his second straight Super Bowl ring.
- Thomas Jones, running back – Thomas Jones provides a very interesting, and unfortunate story for 2010. He is expected to be released by the Jets soon and that would open many doors for both parties. The Jets struck gold with their rookie running back Shonn Greene, and have one of the league’s more serviceable and versatile backups, Leon Washington returning from injury. Jones is arguably the most underrated player in the NFL for the past five seasons. In each of those seasons, he has eclipsed the thousand-yard mark and only turned the ball over four times. His touchdown count was low until the past two seasons, scoring 27 times. He is a work horse running back that can provide a reliable option for any team in need of a powerful running back. His career is nearing the end, but he is a perfect candidate for a tandem backfield. A return to Chicago is not out of the question, but look at many of the same teams listed in part one for Tomlinson and Westbrook. The Lions could always use more reliability on offense and the Browns need someone to run the ball. Jones has spent his whole career in cold weather, which works in favor of both teams.
- Terrell Owens, wide receiver – As always, Terrell Owens will provide some offseason entertainment. He knows he is nearing his career’s end and, with any common sense, will play the free agency accordingly. His stint in Buffalo was a waste. Owens has reached the point in his career when he is a second option and should focus more on being a possession receiver. If he gets his head on straight and proves to teams he is ready for that stage of his career, he could get a good contract. Look at teams that need a second option or simply another weapon for their quarterback. The Panthers and Jaguars come to mind. Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme needs as many weapons as possible and Jacksonville has not had a solid receiver since Jimmy Smith. Owens would be a nice compliment to Steve Smith in Carolina or Mike Sims-Walker in Jacksonville. Also keep an eye on teams that have no viable receiving threats and would take a chance on such a “high risk, high reward” player like Owens, including the Bears, Rams and Buccaneers.
- Vincent Jackson, wide receiver – Vincent Jackson is an underrated receiver in the NFL. He becomes a free agent this season and is in line for a significant pay increase. He deserves a multi-year, high salary contract. I expect the Chargers to make an offer to match his capabilities, but if they do not offer that, things could get interesting. He is in a similar situation as that of Brandon Marshall. He is looking for a pay increase, but with an addition of success. Jackson is a solid number one receiver and will go to a team as such. Look for the Bears and Jaguars to make a push, as well as a few others. However, you can expect him to return to San Diego, only with a bigger bank statement.
These are perfect examples of why the NFL offseason is so exciting. We as fans are in line for a lot of fun. The next few months will be eventful and the entire landscape of the NFL could change.