teams were wheeling and dealing the week after the lockout was lifted, and Arizona was the biggest
winner, as landing Kevin Kolb instantly gives them credibility in the weak NFC
There may have been a delay in NFL transactions this season due to the lockout, but the moves did come fast and furious the week after the lockout was lifted, so even with a briefer period than usual for personnel moves, fans still may have trouble identifying the players on their favorite teams this year without a scorecard.
On the offensive side of the ball, the big winners look like the Arizona Cardinals and the Chicago Bears, as each team added two players from our list of the top 10 offensive skill position player moves this off-season, with the Cardinals quickly transforming from potential also-rans to legitimate threats to win an NFC West Division that is the worst division in the NFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles look like the big winners on the defensive end, as they have assembled one of the best secondaries in league history with the additions of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to incumbent Asante Samuel, but we will have more on defensive moves on a future date.
For now, here are the eight NFL teams that should benefit the most from the 10 biggest offensive player moves for 2011.
Kevin Kolb – QB: Remember that the Cardinals went to the Super Bowl with Kurt Warner at quarterback following the 2008 season, and he then took Arizona to the playoffs the following year. He then retired though, and the Cardinals quickly discovered just how valuable he was last season when they were one of the worst teams in the NFL due to terrible quarterback play. Enter Kolb, who went from sitting on the bench backing up Michael Vick in Philadelphia to giving the Cardinals instant credibility as their starter, especially with one of the most talented receivers in football to throw to in Larry Fitzgerald. Yes, Kolb is unproven at the NFL level, but he had the Eagles’ starting job won before getting injured last season, and we think he is good enough to win games in this week division.
Todd Heap – TE: Heap is a great pass catching tight end that could become Arizona’s second leading receiver once he develops a rapport with Kolb. Granted, he has yet to score more than seven touchdowns in a season, and that came back in 2005, but that could change on a team with an All-World receiver like Fitzgerald, as he will get the opposing defenses’ full attention, opening things up for Heap and the rest of the receiving corps to get lots of touches, especially closer to the goal line. It also helps that Heap may actually be a better receiver than the rest of the Arizona wide-outs with the defection of Steve Breaston to Kansas City.
Marion Barber – RB: We do not expect the Bears to challenge the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North this season, but Chicago does now look better with their upgrade at the offensive skill positions than they did a few weeks ago, when we projected them to finish behind the Detroit Lions in the division. Barber will be the Bears’ third down back, and he will get lots of touches near the goal line, which is where he is at his best. That is where Chicago will show improvement, as starter Matt Forte had trouble finishing drives last season due to his relatively smaller stature, and last year’s backup Chester Taylor was a bust.
Roy Williams – WR: Barber is not the only former Dallas Cowboy to move on to the Windy City, as Roy Williams followed after dropping to third on the Dallas depth chart behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. This is a nice move for Williams, as he will move right into the starting lineup for the Bears and get reunited with his former offensive coordinator Mike Martz and his pass happy offense. Williams is a big target that quarterback Jay Cutler should be able to find when he is under pressure, which unfortunately happens a lot with Martz’s intricate slow-developing passing schemes, and he also has the speed to stretch defenses. Remember that Williams still scored 12 touchdowns over the past two years despite falling out of favor for the Cowboys, so he is a major upgrade at receiver over what the Bears had last season.
Willis McGahee – RB: New Denver head coach John Fox loved using two running backs when he was at Carolina, where DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart shared the carries, so the newly acquired McGahee should carry the ball a lot this season with the Broncos not sold on Knowshon Moreno as the every down back. It also looks like Kyle Orton is still the Broncos’ starting quarterback, so McGahee will get a lot of the goal line touches unless Denver brings in Tim Tebow specifically for those situations. McGahee is a much bigger back than Moreno and remember that he has scored at least five touchdowns in every year since 2004.
Reggie Bush – RB: Bush became expendable in New Orleans when the Saints drafted Mark Ingram, so the move to Miami makes sense, as he will get many more touches than he would have gotten on the Bayou, especially with the Dolphins recently losing Ronnie Brown in free agency. Bush will back up rookie Daniel Thomas for now, but who knows if Thomas can carry the load at this level at his young age, and regardless Bush will be the third down back with his great pass catching ability out of the backfield. Bush’s value this year rises even more when you factor in the instant upgrade he provides Miami as a kick returner.
Donovan McNabb – QB: Granted, McNabb’s best days are probably behind him and the Vikings are still major longshots to do much of anything this season, but the veteran is still an improvement at the most important position on the field, as it saves Minnesota from having to choose between starting the unproven Joe Webb or rushing along the future of the franchise Christian Ponders more quickly than they would like. Having McNabb on hand to mentor Ponder is just as important than what Donovan does on the field, where he should still do better than he did in his one year in Washington, as he now has a game-breaker in Percy Harvin to throw to and a stud running back in Adrian Peterson to support him and help free up the passing game.
New England Patriots
Chad Ochocinco – WR: Chad’s numbers have not been able to keep pace with his mouth during most of his career, but he could actually have a huge year while starting for the most prolific offense in football, and from a pure talent perspective, he could be the best receiver on the New England roster. Now that was also the case in Cincinnati many years and yet Ochocinco still disappointed, but if he cannot produce numbers in a Bill Belichick offense with Tom Brady throwing him the ball, then it should be time for him to retire. We think he could have one of the best seasons of his career though as long as he keeps his head on straight (which admittedly is not always a given).
New York Jets
Plaxico Burress – WR: It was rather surprising that Burress landed with the Jets when all the speculation had him choosing between his two former teams, the New York Giants or the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Jets are still a good choice for him now that they have released former starter Jerricho Cotchery and lost Braylon Edwards to free agency. That makes Burress the immediate starter despite missing the last two years while doing his jail stint, and he is still young enough where it should not take that long for him to get back into football shape. He also has a nicely developing quarterback in Mark Sanchez to get him the football, and he is obviously a major upgrade as the number two receiver behind Santonio Holmes over all the other unproven receivers on the Jets’ roster.
Matt Hasselbeck – QB: Hasselbeck would have had a decent season had he stayed with the Seattle Seahawks, but he could be better at Tennessee as he has more to work with at wide receiver and running back, assuming Kenny Britt does not get suspended and Chris Johnson does not have a long holdout. It was important for the Titans to get quality quarterback, as Rusty Smith was so horrid when given an opportunity last season that he made Vince Young look good. Hasselbeck fits that bill and he will now get to pass against a couple of the worst pass defenses in the NFL on a regular basis in the AFC South in the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars.