Per Chase’s request (yet again), and with the help of many (from SC to CO to CA to everyone on this post) we’re going to do a football relativity comparison with the major rumors that have circulated through the NFL this offseason. 10 is the rumor with the most importance AND most substance, while 1 is the rumor with the least importance OR substance. We haven’t addressed every rumor out there this offseason, or every rumor suggested, but we’ve tried to hit the major ones, with a focus on some of the gossip that is still percolating.
10 – Broncos will trade QB Jay Cutler – This rumor ran rampant leading up to the draft, and it ended up being true. The Broncos’ pursuit of Matt Cassel put the team’s new regime at odds with their supposed franchise quarterback, and as both sides dug in, things deteriorated quickly. (Click the link to find out who we blamed for the whole mess.) Before long, owner Pat Bowlen pledged to deal Cutler, and that’s what happened, with Cutler going to Chicago for a King Street ransom. This rumor tops the list because it actually proved to be valid.
9 – Regular season will expand to 17 or 18 games – Commissioner Roger Goodel has expressed his desire to lengthen the season. It makes sense, at least financially. Owners can get full sellouts for an extra home game that will replace a preseason game, and the TV contracts would go up as well. For players, though, money isn’t the only consideration. The cost of two extra games and all those extra snaps could shorten careers, heighten injury risks, and make life more difficult. So this will be an issue in collective bargaining. Extra games could also make international games easier, not only in London and Toronto but also in other locales like Mexico City, China or Japan, Germany, and others. This will be a marquee issue in the upcoming round of CBA negotiations, along with the question of a rookie salary cap and others. We will hear a lot about this over the coming year.
8 – Cardinals will trade WR Anquan Boldin – This is a TBD situation, in part because the Cards really don’t want to trade Boldin and are therefore asking for the moon and a star or two. Boldin wants to be paid like teammate Larry Fitzgerald, who’s pulling down $10 million a year, but Boldin just isn’t quite on that dominant level. Still, Boldin would be a clear-cut No. 1 option for a contender like Tennessee, the Giants, or Philly. A deal seems unlikely now that the draft is over, but Boldin is still holding out hope.
8 (con’t) – Panthers will trade DE Julius Peppers – This is another TBD situation. Peppers, a free agent, was franchised at huge cost by the Panthers, but he’s made it clear that he wants out so that he can play in a 3-4 defense somewhere. The most prominent rumor connected Peppers to New England, but nothing happened before the draft. The Panthers say they are determined to keep Peppers, and so a trade still appears unlikely. But if Peppers declines to report to training camp, the chatter will hit high gear once again.
7 – QB Brett Favre will come out of retirement to play for Vikings – Favre has pulled this retirement-oops-changed-my-mind routine before, and if he comes back with the Vikings this year, he’ll probably do it again next year. The difference this offseason is the Vikings’ admitted interest in Favre, who is free after the Jets removed him from the reserve/retired list. Count on this dragging out at least past some of the team minicamps, because Favre’s desire to stay home in Mississippi during the spring and summer is a tick stronger than his desire to play football. (That doesn’t start winning until the spotlight goes on in September.) This rumor is down on the comparison list because it feels stale after being on the mill for two or three years in a row.
6 – Coaching carousel – There has been an unbelievable spate of Super Bowl winning coaches either pushed out (Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden) or stepping away (Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren) this offseason. They join fellow Super Bowl winners-turned-announcers Bill Cowher and Brian Billick off the sidelines. And already, we’re hearing multiple rumors about where people will end up. Shanahan was linked to Kansas City this offseason, and he’s already been attached to Chicago and Dallas for 2010. Holmgren, who is ostensibly retired, could land in San Francisco or elsewhere as a GM or team president. Cowher continues to be linked to Carolina becuase of his roots there, even though John Fox’s job appears stable at this point. Gruden, perhaps noting the coaching market is flooded, is joining Monday Night Football, which will keep him in the public eye until he’s ready to get the job he wants. Regardless, with quality resumes like these out there, the coaching carousel in 2010 will be high-powered and high-octane, as it revolves more rapidly than usual.
5 – QB Michael Vick will return to the NFL – This rumor is gaining steam with Vick’s imminent release from prison. Once he is released, there are two huge shoes that still have to fall. One seems pretty natural — the Falcons will release Vick rather than having him clog up their salary cap over the long term. But Atlanta first must get Vick to repay the signing bonus he has promised (either $6.5 million or $7.5 million, depending on a court ruling). Now that they’ve agreed to the amount, that seems to be a natural, but Vick is so cash poor that this step could take a while. More importantly, Vick must avoid NFL suspension. Commissioner Roger Goodell could let Vick slide, citing the high price (in prison time and money) he has already paid for his mistake. He could sit Vick for an entire season. Or it could be something in between. But this should be a huge NFL story through the otherwise quiet days of June and July.
4 – London wants to host a Super Bowl – This was an interesting business rumor that cropped up during the offseason. London, host of the 2012 Summer Olympics as well as NFL regular-season games the last two years, has expressed interest in bringing the Super Bowl over. The NFL has not shot this idea down, most likely for business reasons. As long as London thinks a Super Bowl is still a possibility, don’t you think ticket sales and sponsorships for NFL projects in the here and now will be brisker? I don’t think it will ever happen, but the NFL has a vested interest (that means $$$$) in making London believe it could.
3 – Browns will trade WR Braylon Edwards – Edwards isn’t as accomplished as Boldin, and his performance in 2008 was well below his standout ’07 campaign. But Edwards’ height, speed, and talent still makes him a potential No. 1 receiver for a contender, and so the fact that the Browns were willing to deal him before the draft (and maybe after) is still important. Edwards’ name was most often connected with the Giants, but the Eagles and perhaps the Titans made sense as well. Of course, all three of those teams picked receivers in the first round, and so chances of a trade now seem slim. The Browns would actually be better served to keep Edwards, especially after dealing Kellen Winslow, because that team has precious few impact guys right now. For all his faults and foibles, Edwards is still a checkmark in the impact category.
2- Bengals will trade WR Chad Ocho Cinco – This was a red-hot rumor in the ’08 offseason, with the Redskins reportedly offering two first-rounders for Chad Johnson. (Can we call him a player to be named later because he soon thereafter changed his name?) There were rumblings again this offseason, in part because so many contenders needed No. 1 receivers. But the Bengals were not inclined to deal 85, especially after his former running mate T.J. Houshmandzadeh left for Seattle via free agency. That meant the rumor never really got traction, and Ocho Cinco will be locked into Cincinnati once again this offseason.
2 (con’t) – A team will move to L.A. – This is a back-burner issue right now, but there are a few teams that still seem to be candidates to move. One is the Chargers, who hold outs and want an upgraded stadium. They face similar challenges building in the San Diego area that the league has tried unsuccessfuly to hurdle in L.A. for years. The other may be the Jaguars, who face declining attendance in a market that has never really caught fire. The Jaguars’ owner denies such a move, but the lack of an ideal situation in Jacksonville means the rumor will persist. A long shot is the Vikings, who are working toward a new stadium in Minnesota but who have an out after the 2011 season.
1- Franchises opting out of league pension plan – This is admittedly very wonkish, but the approval of potential changes to the NFL pension plan led to widespread rumors of veteran assistant coaches either retiring or moving to the college ranks to protect their retirement savings. The rule was credited, at least in part, for the retirements of Colts aides Tom Moore and Howard Mudd. It’s yet to be seen whether this ends up being sound and fury signifying nothing or something that’s actually substantive.