Darrelle Revis, Steve Smith and Julius Peppers will all be debated one day by voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For now, they are going through the humbling, unforgiving process of aging in the NFL.
Initially, it looked like we might have a quiet free agency eve Monday. The morning was highlighted with low-level signings like Michael Hoomanawanui and Chad Rinehart. And then the news on Smith and Revis dropped.
We knew all along that Peppers was not long for Chicago. There's next to no chance that any team will give up compensation to sign him. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport has indicated that the Bears have already picked out Peppers' replacement: They are targeting Lamarr Houston of the Raiders.
There have been rumblings for weeks that Smith's status in Carolina was not secure. Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera couldn't answer direct questions about Smith's future at the NFL Scouting Combine. But we know it was still jarring and emotional for Panthers fans to see that the team is trying to dump the greatest player in franchise history. We'd be stunned if the Panthers got anything in return for Smith; he's much more likely to be released.
This isn't all about cap room. Smith's $4 million base salary is guaranteed this season. The Panthers simply don't appear to think Smith can help their team anymore. Cam Newton is going to be throwing to Greg Olsen and a boatload of new players because the guys in place won't cut it.
Revis, meanwhile, is on his way to joining his third organization in as many years. Rapoport reported that the Buccaneers are looking to deal Revis and his $16 million salary. They know it's an uphill battle. Any team that's interested would have to work out compensation with Tampa and likely negotiate a new contract with Revis. No one wants to pay him $16 million next season, especially the Buccaneers.
It's a stunning admission of a failed trade by Tampa, but new general manager Jason Licht and coach Lovie Smith inherited Revis' contract. They don't believe he's worth $4 million more than any other cornerback in the league.
The Revis story figures to dominate the headlines in the first days of free agency. The Buccaneers will need to release or trade him by Wednesday. The Jets own Tampa's fourth-round pick in 2014 as part of the Revis deal. That turns into a third rounder if Revis is on the Bucs' roster Thursday.
Whereas we fully expect Peppers and Smith to be released, there's an outside chance the Buccaneers could get something back for Revis. He played at a Pro Bowl level in 2013 and figures to be better another year removed from ACL surgery.
Still, any team interested would have to work out a new contract for Revis quickly. The clock is ticking and there's a lot going on this time of year.
Speaking of which: Here's what else we learned Monday:
1. Michael Bennett isn't quite a premier pass rusher, and he didn't get paid like one. Bennett's new four-year deal with Seattle includes $21 million over the first three seasons. He received $16 million in guarantees. That's a perfect price for a very good player who isn't quite dominant.
2. The Miami Dolphins reached a one-year, $3.5 million contract with safety Louis Delmas. We like the gamble for Delmas and Miami. Like Bennett, Aqib Talib and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie last year, Delmas will try to parlay the short deal into big money next offseason.
2. If Branden Albert doesn't sign with Miami Tuesday, then basically every NFL reporter will be wrong.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor also broke the news that he's staying with his team. He agreed to a big pay cut that amounts to a one-year deal for $2.75 million, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Not every Steeler was so "lucky" ...
3. Santonio Holmes cracked our top 100 available free agent list after his expected cut by the New York Jets on Monday. He's either going to be a great bargain or out of the league in a year. There is no inbetween with Holmes.
And remember: This was day before the real madness starts. See you Tuesday.
In the latest edition of the "Around The League Podcast," the guys study the free agency picture with the help of NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.