10. Visanthe Shiancoe, Tight End
Chances are that Shiancoe will probably never catch 11 TDs in a single season again like he did in 2009 (he’s caught 5 TDs in the two seasons since then), but he could still be a valuable asset for any team in need of a large target near the goal line.
Shiancoe is a guy that you haven’t heard much about at all throughout the offseason. There was some initial interest from the Seahawks early on but then they landed Kellen Winslow. There was also mention of the Arizona Cardinals back in March, but that wouldn’t make much sense considering they already have Rob Housler, Jeff King and Todd Heap.
So let’s go with a team that you never
hear about making any kind of moves during the offseason: The Cleveland Browns.
The Browns’ passing game has been in disarray and for some odd reason they elected to draft only one wide receiver in the NFL Draft. This could mean that they have plans to pursue one of the many receivers still available in free agency, but that would be giving them too much credit.
Cleveland’s best receiving tight end in 2011 was Evan Moore. Who? Exactly.
What they should do is bring in a veteran guy like Shiancoe while they try and develop their young group of tight ends. Who knows? Maybe fans in the Dawg Pound will even see glimpses of Shiancoe’s ’09 dominance.
Shiancoe’s Future Team:
9. Aubrayo Franklin, Defensive Tackle
Although somewhat of a disappointment throughout his nine-year career, Franklin has proved that he can be a productive run stopper when given the chance to play.
His best stretch was from 2008-2010 when he recorded a combined 121 tackles in 48 starts for the San Francisco 49ers. As a member of the Saints in 2011, he only managed 17 tackles in 9 starts and was eventually let go.
Franklin will be turning 32 this August so it’s tough to say how many good years he’s got left on his 6’1”, 317 lb. frame. But that also means that he’ll most likely come at a large discount and could be a great addition to any team needing a big body to stabilize their defensive line. He’s drawn some interest from the Seahawks, Falcons and Chiefs, but still remains unsigned.
Atlanta could use some help on their D-line after losing defensive tackle Corey Peters until at least the start of training camp. There doesn’t appear to be many other teams after him so Franklin may wind up a Falcon by default.
Franklin’s Future Team:
8. Braylon Edwards, Wide Receiver
Edwards was a huge disappointment in 2011 for a 49ers team that could’ve used some additional weapons to help the underachieving Alex Smith.
In Edwards’ defense, he had to suffer through an injury-plagued year after undergoing knee surgery at the beginning of the season. San Francisco finally released the struggling wide out at the end of December after he only pulled in 15 grabs for 181 yards and 0 TDs in 9 games.
While the former Michigan star has never lived up to being selected No.3 overall in the 2005 Draft, he is only two years removed from a pretty nice season with the New York Jets (53 catches for 904 yards and 7 TDs). But the question remains if Edwards will ever be able to return to his former self after the recent knee issues that have ailed him.
The Cincinnati Bengals sure hope so. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported in early May that the Bengals have expressed interest in Edwards after parting ways with the troubled Jerome Simpson during the offseason. At only 29 years of age, he could be the perfect target to line up opposite of Pro Bowler A.J. Green.
Edwards’ Future Team:
7. E.J. Henderson, Linebacker
It’s a bit surprising that Henderson hasn’t garnered much interest in his services considering his consistent play over the last decade as a Minnesota Viking.
The Vikings may have had one of the worst seasons in franchise history in 2011, but it certainly wasn’t because of Henderson. He had 109 tackles, two sacks and three forced fumbles in 16 games. And even though he turns 32 in early August, his level of production has gradually gone up in the past three seasons.
It’s difficult to say where Henderson will wind up. As recently as late May, a reliable source (Henderson’s grandpa) said he was confident that the linebacker would resign with the Vikings.
Where Grandpa Henderson is getting his information from is unknown, but it would make sense for Minnesota to resign one of the few bright spots on a defensive unit that ranked 21st
overall in the league last year.
Henderson’s Future Team:
6. Matt Roth, Defensive End
Last offseason, Matt Roth was a hot commodity. This offseason…eh, not so much.
Roth missed the last five games of last season in Jacksonville with concussion issues but has shown that he can be a dynamic playmaker when healthy. His versatility allows him to play either defensive end or linebacker at a high level, as is evident by his 11 sacks in the last 27 games.
Even though he’s been medically cleared to play, few teams will take a chance on Roth because of his concussion symptoms. The ones that do can get him at a fraction of what he’s actually worth. Some clubs that have expressed interest include the Steelers, Broncos and Ravens.
The Ravens would make the most sense simply because Roth would be an ideal fit in their 3-4 defensive scheme. The loss of Terrell Suggs may also make Baltimore a little more willing to spend money on the defensive side of the ball.
Roth’s Future Team:
5. Marcus McNeill, Offensive Tackle
McNeill’s size (6’7”, 336 lbs.) and age (29) make him an enticing prospect for any team. But the chronic back problems that have plagued him since his college days at Auburn have made many teams hesitant to roll the dice on the two-time Pro Bowler.
McNeill showed promise early on in his career as he finished 4th
in voting for Offensive Rookie of the Year. But his last solid season was in 2007 when he was a crucial component of the offensive line that blocked for LT as he shattered numerous rushing records. His play began to decline, he was involved in an ugly holdout in 2010, and then was finally let go by the Chargers this past March.
If McNeill can ever return to his rookie form, he would be a stout addition to any offensive line. His size and strength enable him to push back bigger defensive tackles while his speed (5.07 40-yard dash) and quick feet allow him to stay in front of his runners. If he can remain healthy, McNeill would be the steal of this free-agency class.
The Lions and Falcons invited McNeill to come work out for them. But in a case like this, a wild card team could emerge out of nowhere and snatch him up. The Chicago Bears seem like the perfect destination when you take into account their atrocious pass blocking last season. McNeill over J’Marcus Webb at left tackle would be a major upgrade. And if Jay Cutler actually has enough time to settle in the pocket and throw the ball down the field, just imagine the deep bombs he could launch to his new target, former Broncos teammate Brandon Marshall.
McNeill’s Future Team:
4. Ryan Grant, Running Back
Grant was one of the top ten backs heading into the 2010 season after rushing for 1,253 yards and 11 TDs the year before. In the season opener against the Eagles though, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury and his year was over before it ever really began. This opened the door for James Starks, who since has emerged as the No.1 option in the Packers’ running game.
Grant can still be a very formidable option for any team in need of a quality running back. He’s only 29 years old and already has two 1,200 seasons on his resume. Who knows where his career would be right now if he hadn’t missed all of 2010.
The teams that would make the most sense would be the Lions, Raiders or Colts. The Lions have questions surrounding Jarvis Best after he was lost for the year due to a concussion. Oakland lost Michael Bush in the offseason and can’t really rely on Darren McFadden to stay healthy throughout an entire 16-game NFL season.
The Colts are in full-on rebuilding mode and just recently released Joseph Addai. As of now, it looks like Donald Brown and Delonte Carter will have to split the carries. But neither of those guys is good enough yet to carry an NFL team and would be more comfortable in the backup role behind Grant. Bringing in an experienced runner like Grant would also take the pressure off of Andrew Luck and the passing game.
Grant’s Future Team:
3. Plaxico Burress, Wide Receiver
Burress played surprisingly well last season considering he missed the last two years serving a prison sentence for illegal possession of a concealed weapon.
At 6’5”, Burress is still able to stretch a team’s defense and his leaping ability makes him a deadly red-zone weapon, as evidenced by his 8 touchdown catches. Having a receiver you can throw the ball up to when you’re close to the goal line can be the difference in a game, so there should be plenty of teams vying for Burress’ services. Unfortunately there have been questions about his character as many cite his departure from the Jets locker room because of apparent chemistry issues with his teammates.
Many teams could use a boost in their passing game including the Redskins, Browns, Chiefs, Panthers and Rams. Burress has also been linked to the Eagles and his former team the Steelers, who attempted to bring him back last season.
The team that should be pursuing Burress the hardest is the Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton has the arm strength to utilize Burress’ length and speed down the field. And, outside of Steve Smith, the Panthers have no one else they can depend on.
Just imagine Newton’s passing numbers with another big-time receiver opposite of Steve Smith. Scary.
Burress’ Future Team:
2. Cedric Benson, Running Back
Benson is a player who has rushed for over 1,000 yards his last three seasons and- despite a checkered history- can still provide depth and veteran leadership for an NFL team.
No rumors have circulated about Benson meeting with any clubs this offseason, so where he might end still remains a mystery. The New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders could all use a seasoned back to compliment their young starters.
The team that presents an interesting dynamic is the Oakland Raiders. If Benson did wind up in the Bay Area, he would be reunited with former teammate Carson Palmer. The pair was responsible for providing the Bengals with some of their most successful years in franchise history, and could attempt to reignite that spark in the Raider black and silver.
Oakland would benefit greatly from a veteran presence in their backfield and Benson would be able to take some of the workload off of McFadden, who had a breakout year in 2011 but saw his season come to an end after only 7 games due to a foot injury.
Benson’s Future Team:
1. Andre Carter, Defensive End
The consensus seems to be that Carter will re-sign with the New England Patriots. The 33 year-old Carter, who missed the last two games of the 2011 season due to a torn quad, has been working out with the Patriots this offseason.
To figure out why he’s the most sought after free agent still remaining, look no further than his ’11 production: 52 tackles and 10 sacks in 14 games. New England as a team was 30th
in overall defense (411.1 ypg allowed) and 14th
in sacks (40). That means that Carter by himself got exactly ¼ of the team’s entire sack total.
If the Patriots want Carter back (and there’s no reason they shouldn’t), it doesn’t make much sense for him to want to sign elsewhere. The team was one win away from a Super Bowl ring and a veteran coming off a major injury won’t score big money on the open market.
What appears to be the hold-up is that Carter is looking for a long-term deal from New England while the team is “looking to sign him to something closer to the low-cost one-year deal it signed him to last season,” according to a recent report by the Boston Herald.
Carter has already turned down offers from other teams in the hopes of chasing another Super Bowl in New England. For a team that already lost Mark Anderson, signing Carter should be a top priority. As soon as both sides agree on a number that works, that should be able to happen.
Carter’s Future Team:
New England Patriots