Ten storylines that will dominate fast-paced, post-lockout world
Johnathan Joseph, not Nnamdi Asomugha, might be the best value at cornerback
Donovan McNabb may have to wait to find a team, with Vikings a likely destination
The new deal Peyton Manning will get from the Colts could limit the team
The post-lockout activity will be fast and furious on numerous fronts, but here are the 10 NFL storylines that demand our attention in the whirlwind of signings and trades to come:
1. Whither Nnamdi?: Even while some teams might still be learning how to say his name, plenty of clubs will be angling to pay the 30-year-old former Raiders cornerback, who is the obvious grand prize in this year's free agency class. Asomugha may not have a catchy Revis Island-like moniker, but the four-time All-Pro has the track record, with opponents seldom even trying to throw in his direction (according to ESPN he has allowed just 52 pass completions in the past three seasons).
The Texans and Lions seem to be the most motivated suitors, with glaring needs at cornerback and money to burn. But the Cowboys, Bucs, Eagles, Ravens or Redskins might be poised to overpay and instantly upgrade their defense with the kind of talent that rarely reaches the open market.
-- And another thing: Bengals free agent cornerback Johnathan Joseph will probably command less than half the annual salary Asomugha gets, but he might wind up being the best value in the defensive back market. Look for Cincinnati to open up the checkbook and make every effort to re-sign him.
2. The Kolb Sweepstakes: Technically speaking, the Kolb-to-Arizona trade hasn't been executed yet -- it only seems like it has. We've been anticipating Kolb becoming a Cardinal for so long now that it might feel rather anticlimactic should it happen. Arizona is looking to ship cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a draft pick to the Eagles in exchange for the 26-year-old Kolb, and that's likely to be more enticing than anything Seattle can dangle in front of Philly.
-- And another thing: Kolb isn't the only available arm who's still young enough to build around. Don't forget about Vince Young, he of the 26-14 record as a starter in the NFL. Somebody's going to give him a second chance, and it could be Philadelphia, Miami or Buffalo.
3. Will Santonio the Jet be landing elsewhere?: I find it almost impossible to imagine Holmes getting away from New York, where he loves playing for chatty Jets head coach Rex Ryan and a team that has been knocking on the door of the Super Bowl for the past two seasons. Sure, Washington could make Holmes the kind of market-setting offer the Redskins are known for. But then he'd have to actually, you know, go play in Washington, where John Beck appears to be the starting quarterback in 2011. And before Holmes does that, I'd suggest he talk to Laveranues Coles about the relative merits of both franchises and how much happiness money can buy.
-- And another thing: Minnesota free agent Sidney Rice is no consolation prize in the receiver market. Even though he's not a burner, he's a home-run deep threat who can help take the top off a defense. The Vikings should bust a gut to keep him, but if he moves on, I would expect Washington, St. Louis or New England to be the team that swoops in and strikes a deal.
4. The Hasselbeck question: It certainly sounds like the ship has sailed for Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks, and it's hard to picture a better scenario for him than moving on to Tennessee and playing the role of the Titans' bridge quarterback to the Jake Locker era. The two know and like each other from their days in Seattle, and Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt has a comfortable history with Hasselbeck as well, dating from their Seahawks tenures. But what if either San Francisco or Arizona comes after Hasselbeck and he can't resist the opportunity to seek twice-a-year revenge against Seattle, the team he believes he should still be leading? That could be fun.
-- And another thing: Don't sleep on the Kyle Orton trade market. The Broncos reportedly have signaled their willingness to quickly deal their ex-starter, and Miami is said to be very interested. Seattle and Arizona would be other possible suitors, depending on how the rest of the QB carousel turns.
5. Who wants Donovan?: In an indication of just how far his post-Philly star has fallen, Donovan McNabb might be the available veteran quarterback who has to wait the longest to find out where his next NFL venue will be. The Redskins will be determined to try to extract a fourth- or fifth-round pick in exchange for McNabb, but everybody knows they have to release him at some point, so it'll be a hard bargain to drive. The Vikings continue to make solid sense as McNabb's ultimate destination, because Minnesota needs a safety net option behind youngsters Christian Ponder and Joe Webb. Seattle and Miami will no doubt at least monitor McNabb's situation.
-- And another thing: Washington is going to unload disgruntled defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth as well, but again a trade market might be very difficult to develop with everyone knowing the Redskins must move on. Washington's worst-case scenario is cutting Haynesworth and watching him instantly sign with the NFC East rival Eagles, where he would rejoin his former Titans defensive line coach, Jim Washburn. But that's the most likely outcome to the Redskins' Haynesworth debacle.
6. Big-name receivers for hire: If the Jeopardy category was big-name receivers with baggage for cheap, this year's list would have to include Plaxico Burress, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and maybe even Chad Ochocinco. Burress to the Eagles has been the buzz for weeks now, and Moss might find himself a home with the Jets if they lose Braylon Edwards in free agency. As for T.O. and Chad, who knows what's next for the Dynamic Duo? The aging Owens is rebounding from offseason ACL surgery and Ochocinco is a wild card even in the best of times, with Cincinnati perhaps finally having grown tired of his act.
-- And another thing: Veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh is also a free agent after most recently playing in Baltimore. Maybe the Bengals bring him back and let Ochocinco walk.
7. Running backs galore: Carolina's DeAngelo Williams and the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw are the two best talents on the market, but both sound like they're going to give their current teams every possible shot to retain their services. Bradshaw could be pried out of New York if Miami decides to throw a bundle at him, but it's the rest of the available rushers who are likely on the move. That list includes Joseph Addai, Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Ricky Williams, Carnell Williams, Darren Sproles and Julius Jones.
-- And another thing: Reggie Bush and the Saints aren't certain to continue their marriage, especially if Bush doesn't play some serious ball with New Orleans in reducing the $11.8 million base salary he's owed this year. If Bush doesn't return to the Saints, the Steelers, Eagles or Dolphins might be the most interested parties.
8. The Terrelle Pryor case: The former Ohio State quarterback wants to join the NFL in 2011 via the league's supplemental draft. But it's not that cut and dried, and the NFL reportedly won't determine his eligibility for the supplemental draft until after the new CBA is finalized and put to bed in early August. The question surrounds whether Pryor's circumstances changed in an unforeseen way after the NFL's regular draft was conducted (which is what the supplemental draft is for), or if Pryor leaving Ohio State this spring was more a case of him bypassing the regular draft? It could result in Pryor not being eligible for the NFL until the 2012 regular draft, or even a legal challenge from him to force the league to allow him entry via the supplemental.
-- And another thing: It's not a completely related topic, but Tiki Barber's NFL comeback might wind up getting nowhere this year, much like Pryor's bid to turn pro. With such a condensed free-agent signing season, and so many running backs on the market, will anyone give the 36-year-old Barber much of a chance to make their roster?
9. Who's the best buy on the defensive line?: There are no Julius Peppers-level players in this year's market, but that doesn't mean there aren't quality options to pursue. Green Bay's Cullen Jenkins is a versatile talent who fits in any formation, and he might be one of the top priorities for Washington as an experienced and productive 3-4 end. Carolina's Charles Johnson (11.5 sacks last year) and Minnesota's Ray Edwards (eight sacks in 2010) are pass rushers who will get paid and paid well in the earliest days of free agency.
-- And another thing: The Giants have a potential problem on their hands with defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who is demanding either a new contract that pays him elite money, or a trade to a team willing to give him one. Neither scenario can be appetizing to New York, so there's a lot on the line when Umenyiora sits down soon to chat with Giants general manager Jerry Reese. Don't be surprised if Umenyiora is a holdout when camp opens.
10. Could Peyton Manning be a problem for the Colts?: The new deal that everyone knows has to happen between the Colts and Manning still hasn't happened, and now the salary cap is at a lower-than-2009 level of $120-plus million. It could make things more difficult for Indianapolis to both give Manning the record-breaking contract he's looking for and stock the rest of its 2011 roster as well as it would prefer. The uncertain rehab timetable of Manning's offseason neck surgery only adds to the intrigue level in Colts-dom.
-- And another thing: If Manning isn't healthy and ready to go at the start of the 2011 season, or his contract situation becomes an issue, there's always a certain veteran quarterback who might be itching to start another consecutive-games-starting streak, and in the process end Manning's. Somebody make sure Bill Polian has Brett Favre's phone number.
Roberto Luongo, Panthers get best of Cory Schneider, Devils
Ducks score six goals in the 2nd period to beat Avs in wild game