NFL GMs board the 'crazy' train

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the...

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter of their NFL football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January 2, 2011. (REUTERS/Tim Shaffer)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:08 PM ET

TORONTO - Get ready for NFL general managers to hop on the crazy train.

With more than 400 free agents available and dozens of quality players on the trading block, fans won’t be able to tell who is where without a program.

Teams have been waiting two seasons for this opportunity. Those looking for upgrades at the “premier positions” will have the chance to snap up quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

There is also a bevy of high-quality defensive backs up for grabs, as well as some devastating pass rushers.

The NFL is the only professional sports league that champions parity and then does its part to make sure the playing field is level.

It is not a stretch to say that the transactions made in the coming days will significantly alter the NFL’s competitive landscape in the next few years.

The NFL’s best front offices have a golden opportunity to prove once more why they have earned that reputation.

Executives overseeing long-suffering also-rans such as the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders now have a rare opportunity to turn things around.

Here’s a look at the best available impact players:

TRADE BAIT?

Kevin Kolb, Eagles QB

Unproven, but many teams love what they’ve seen in a small sample size (career 60.8% completion percentage).

Michael Vick pushed him out in Philly and Arizona has long been the front-runner (offering Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a pick) but Miami and Seattle are also pushing.

Carson Palmer, Bengals QB

An ugly situation: Palmer wants out, owner says he won’t trade him, Palmer says he’ll retire, team is acting like he currently is retired.

Should cooler heads prevail, Minnesota, Tennessee, Carolina, Buffalo, Miami and Washington are possible destinations.

Vince Young, Titans QB

Tennessee is giving up on the still young athletic marvel. Despite not being much of a quarterback, Young does win games based on his abilities and still has upside if he can learn the game.

Buffalo, Minnesota and Miami could come after him, but he would have to beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick, Joe Webb/ Christian Ponder or Chad Hennie for a starting gig. Though 26-14 as a starter, he might even agree to back up Vick in Philadelphia.

Kyle Orton, Broncos QB

Tim Tebow will be given every opportunity to win the starting job in Denver and Orton won’t be happy about that. The usual suspects looking for a QB (Minnesota and Arizona if they don’t get Kolb, Washington, etc.) could try to land him.

Vincent Jackson, Chargers WR

Has battled with the Chargers for a while and odds are he gets dealt.

Patriots will come hard after Jackson, but will get competition from Chicago and about half the other teams in the league.

Donovan McNabb, Washington QB

The fading star isn’t wanted back in Washington at his current price, so they will try to get a draft pick or two for him. Minnesota and Tennessee (if it decides against Matt Hasselbeck) and Carolina are seen as possibilities.

Steve Smith, Panthers WR

He is an institution in Carolina but the veteran’s time there could be up since the club is rebuilding.

If the Patriots lose out on Jackson, Smith could be their guy. Same goes for Da Bears.

Or he might stay put, so Cam Newton has somebody to throw to.

Jewels of free agency

(Grouped by position)

DeAngelo Williams, RB Carolina

Has been hampered by injuries, but was one of best backs in the NFL in 2008 and ’09. Somebody will take a chance that he can stay healthy and get back to elite status.

Said to be leaning toward returning to Carolina where he’d split duties with Jonathan Stewart, but Denver and Miami are possibilities if he wants to be a starter again.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB New York Giants

Bradshaw is a warrior who plays through pain, so teams might be wary he can last for multiple years. Still, he is a force, scoring eight touchdowns in 16 games and is a threat both rushing and receiving.

Probably stays with the Giants, but Miami could be after him.

Vonta Leach, FB Houston

Fullbacks usually don’t get big money, but Leach is top three at his position.

Houston will show him the cash, but he recently told NFL Radio the Giants, Seattle and San Diego interest him.

Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Oakland

The 30-year-old is considered the best available free agent, even though his stats don’t overwhelm, largely because teams are terrified to throw the ball in his direction.

Everybody will be after him, but Houston, Dallas, Tampa Bay and San Francisco are considered favourites.

Johnathan Joseph, CB Cincinnati

The Bengals have a ton of money to spend and probably keep Joseph. But whoever misses on Asomugha will offer him a similar payday.

That means Cincinnati might have to outbid two-thirds of the league to keep him.

Charles Johnson, DE Carolina

Johnson replaced last year’s top free agent, Julius Peppers, and racked up 11 1/2 sacks after picking up just 10 total the previous three seasons. He’s a beast and will be in high demand, but expect the Panthers to do what it takes to keep him. If not, Washington wants him badly.

Ray Edwards, DE Minnesota

Another DE who will be in demand, Edwards has 16 1/2 sacks the past two seasons and potentially could do even better.

If Minnesota prioritizes its attention on keeping Sidney Rice, Edwards could bolt for Atlanta, Seattle or Washington.

Cullen Jenkins, DE Green Bay

Jenkins isn’t getting any younger (he’s 30), but is solid and a proven contributor.

Washington is said to be extremely interested (is there anybody Dan Synder and Co. don’t like?), but Buffalo could join the chase.

Brandon Mebane, DT Seattle

Teams needing a 4-3 DT will consider the dependable Mebane.

Chicago, Denver and Cleveland are considered favourites if Seattle can’t convince him to stay.

Santonio Holmes, WR New York Jets

The Jets are desperate to keep Holmes, but he’s an elite WR and teams will back up the money truck at his house. The Redskins are always happy to spend and everybody but the Steelers — who foolishly gave Holmes away — probably would take him on their team.

Braylon Edwards, WR, New York Jets

One of Holmes or Edwards probably leaves New York. There’s a slight chance Edwards ends up in jail for violating his probation, so it will probably take a while before he is signed. Whoever loses out on Holmes will try to reel in Edwards.

Sidney Rice, WR Minnesota

Rice is a deadly offensive force when he’s on the field, but the problem is, he’s rarely on the field, thanks to injuries or headaches.

That said, Rice has averaged 15.8 and 16.5 yards per catch the past two seasons.

The Vikings will want to retain him, but Washington, St. Louis, New England, Chicago and others will be in pursuit.

Best of the rest

(Grouped by position)

Matt Hasselbeck, QB Seattle

Says he’s done in Seattle, could go somewhere to help tutor and bide time for a youngster.

Tennessee likely lands Hasselbeck, but Arizona (if it doesn’t get Kolb) San Francisco and Miami possible.

Jake Delhomme, QB Cleveland

Browns won’t pay him $5.4 million so he’ll likely hit the market. Could swap places with Kyle Orton in Denver to give Tim Tebow a helping hand, or head back to Carolina to lend a veteran presence.

Alex Smith, QB San Francisco

At first it seemed like he’d be leaving town as a massive bust, but the word now is he’ll probably stay put, unless teams surprisingly come after him.

Marc Bulger, QB Baltimore

A steady veteran, Bulger would be good fit as a backup or spot starter on many teams.

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati

Teams will forget about his legal troubles since 1,000 yard rushers don’t grow on trees.

Ricky Williams, RB Miami

The former Argo rejuvenated his career in Miami, but it is unclear if the team will re-sign him as he is getting up in age. Ronnie Brown’s future is uncertain as well.

Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta

Versatile back catches a lot of passes but can also cause trouble rushing the ball.

Could be a replacement in Miami.

Zach Miller, TE Oakland

Not a lot of good players available at his position so Miller should get a huge deal.

Randy Moss, WR New England/Minnesota/Tennessee

Wore out a number of welcomes and isn’t the player he used to be, but Moss could still be valuable.

Could join the Jets and definitely won’t return to his old team and Jets rival, New England.

Plaxico Burress, WR prison

Out of jail and eager to show he can still play this ex-Giant will quickly find a landing spot.

He’s 33, but can help a team that needs depth at the position.

Terrell Owens, WR Cincinnati

Like Moss, Owens is almost out of chances. He’s going to be 37 this season but could be a dangerous depth receiver at this point for a team like Chicago, Cleveland, Washington or St. Louis.

Roy Williams, WR Dallas

Huge bust in Dallas but nevertheless showed flashes of brilliance and somebody will give him a third chance.

Tamba Hali, LB Kansas City

Chiefs gave Hali the franchise tag and clearly want to keep him around, but he had a ridiculous 15 sacks last season so it will cost them.

Paul Posluszny, LB Buffalo

A leader who had a down year but has stood out in the past. It would be a mistake to let Posluszny walk.

Antonio Cromartie, CB New York Jets

Overshadowed by Darrelle Revis, Cromartie is a solid corner who also strikes fear in opposing quarterbacks.

Tyson Clabo, OT Atlanta

Made the Pro Bowl and should attract a lot of attention. Falcons would like to keep him.

Eric Weddle, CB San Diego

One of best kept secrets in league, teams will be after him.


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