|Jeremy Shockey (left) and Clinton Portis will move on to new teams. When and where, though, is to be determined.|
The clock is ticking, not only for NFL owners and players to get a new CBA constructed by Thursday night, but also for teams to sign some big-name, Pro Bowl-type street free agents, including one former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Clinton Portis might be the biggest name of those remaining, and while his departure from the Redskins might not have been a surprise, it's intriguing to picture where he might end up. Ditto the recently cut Tommie Harris and Jeremy Shockey from the Bears and Saints, respectively.
Here are some of the big-name players out there free to be signed now, with an appropriate landing spot for each. Teams better hurry, though, because technically there could be no free-agent market come Thursday night, when the CBA expires.
Portis to... Green Bay? Denver?
This one truly is a wild card.
Portis turns the dreaded 30 in September and has 2,230 carries to his name. Age is the ultimate kryptonite for running backs but Portis isn't quite there yet. No, the bigger concern for an interested club will be all the injury problems he has had (only carried the ball 54 times last season).
Yet, if I were Green Bay, I'd roll the dice, providing Portis would be willing to accept a limited role and minimal money for the opportunity to play for a ring. It might be experimental, but the Super Bowl champs could use him. For all his antics, Portis has always played very hard. With Ryan Grant coming off a major ankle injury and James Starks having a limited résumé, some insurance at this position would be smart. The Packers were 24th in rushing last season, and averaged just 3.8 yards per attempt. Adding Portis could take some pressure off Aaron Rodgers, if Grant loses a step or Starks proves to be false advertising.
Shockey to... N.Y. Jets? Carolina?
There was little shock value in the release of Shockey. The gregarious tight end was let go for what is deemed a cheaper, better solution in Jimmy Graham, who made five starts and had 356 receiving yards to go with five touchdowns for the Saints last season.
So where might Shockey go?
How about the Jets? Their passing offense wasn't overly effective out of two-tight end sets last year, with Mark Sanchez compiling only a 73.0 passer rating out of that formation with no touchdowns (in 57 attempts.) Shockey would be an interesting second option to Dustin Keller, and his tenacity would fit in nicely with coach Rex Ryan. Shockey would have a chance to take another bite out of the Big Apple while getting a shot at another Super Bowl.
He could go to Carolina, a place where his college offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, now fills the same position for the Panthers. Problem is, new head coach Ron Rivera wants a full-time guy, and Shockey is 30 with some injury concerns. Another question to consider: Why would a nine-year vet, with two Super Bowl rings, want to sign with the worst team in the league? Then again, you never know with Shockey.
Harris to... Tampa Bay? Carolina?
This is one release that surprised some folks in the NFL Network newsroom Tuesday. But Harris just hasn't been an impact player the last couple of years. While there's been some speculation that he could end up in Carolina with his former defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, a great spot for Harris to touch down would be Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers have two second-year defensive tackles in Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, and adding a guy like Harris isn't the worst idea ever. Besides being a mentor, fewer snaps might translate into more effectiveness for a player entering his eighth season. Harris and McCoy both played for Oklahoma, and we all know how those allegiances go.
Sanders to ... Jaguars? Back to Colts?
It used to be unthinkable that the Colts would let safety Bob Sanders go anywhere. That was before he spent more time in street clothes than blue and white. The 2007 Defensive Player of the Year has missed 39 of a possible 48 regular-season games since 2008.
Part of it is an offshoot of his game; Sanders is a very physical player. More than that, he's an impact player, when healthy. So what team would want to take a risk on a 29-year old safety that can change games, or miss them altogether?
Maybe the same people who released him in the first place. Indy wasn't desperate to let him go. Rather, they just don't want to overpay for what is now an unknown commodity. If not the Colts, how about division-rival Jacksonville, which has had poor safety play for the last couple of seasons? Sanders would bring an attitude to a defense that sorely needs one. Ditto Houston, another AFC South team whose secondary play has been questionable, and might benefit from having a guy that knows the division bully very well.
Sanders grew up in a Tampa 2 scheme, so any team that plays it could give him a look. But the reality is, the team that knows him best -- Indianapolis -- is probably the one most willing to take a risk on the oft-injured safety.
Woody to... Buffalo?
There are a dozen teams that could use a right tackle. So trying to determine where Damien Woody will end up after being released by the Jets is damn near impossible. But if I were Buffalo, I'd jump on him, despite the fact he's coming off an Achilles' tendon injury.
The Bills' line hasn't just been ineffective; it's been consistently bad, much like the "Iron Eagle" series. It doesn't help matters when nobody is left standing by the end of the year, which would be one scare in acquiring Woody.
Injuries aside, an upgrade at offensive tackle would not be the worst thing for a team that has had trouble running the ball consistently, and makes up for it by not passing well. Taking a chance on Woody would help this club in pass protection and might give running back C.J. Spiller a chance to get to the edge more often (providing he gets the carries).
Plus, how much would Woody enjoy beating up on his old team twice a year?
» Amen, Jason La Canfora. My colleague at NFL Network hit the nail on the head regarding the CBA and, most especially, Albert Haynesworth in a column he wrote last week.
Haynesworth has been the poster child for why the owners traditionally have never liked guaranteeing money. "You're not going to remember Albert Haynesworth as a bust," Haynesworth said at the time of his signing.
He was wrong. He'll be remembered as the biggest free-agent bust.
» You'll notice I didn't mention Jason Taylor or Kris Jenkins in the list of free agents above. Taylor will probably retire after being cut loose by the Jets, although it would be something if the Dolphins gave him one more crack.
Jenkins is coming off back-to-back seasons that ended prematurely because of knee injuries. I wouldn't expect a return to Carolina. This is a guy who has played lights out when healthy, but he's a risk -- even for a team that needs help at nose tackle.
» Who is the next big name to get cut? Could it be Marion Barber? Once a favorite, Cowboys fans have turned on Barber faster than CBS did on Charlie Sheen. That aside, Barber is due $500,000 if he's on the roster past March 3rd.
If the Cowboys do release the Barber, they had better find a guy (Tashard Choice?) who can run in short-yardage situations, because it sure isn't Felix Jones' forte.
Elliot Harrison is the research analyst for NFL RedZone on NFL Network.