By Rob Staton
Free agency hasn't exactly exploded into life this year - unsurprising due to the uncertainty surrounding a potential new CBA and the uncapped year making a lot of potential free agents RFA's. But there's been a few interesting moves that have already shaped how things may pan out in April's draft.
The Miami Dolphins have cut safety Gibril Wilson, a sign that they wish to make changes at the position. In my latest mock draft I suggested the Dolphins could potentially draft Earl Thomas (S, Texas) - a move which seems more likely today. Taking someone like Thomas in that situation would help due to his flexibility in coverage - important when you share a division with Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. Of course, this could prove to be 'freeing up space' for recently cut Antrel Rolle - but Thomas remains an even more realistic proposition today.
Of course the big news in Seattle was the departure of Nate Burleson for Detroit. I'm not surprised Burleson left, the Seahawks clearly didn't wish to pay a substantial contract worth numerous years for a receiver approaching 30 years of age. It's a nice fit for the Lions, who are seeking a complimentary receiver to the super Calvin Johnson and also another secondary weapon for cannon-armed Matt Stafford. It makes the Lions less likely to consider a wide out in the first 2-3 rounds and considering they missed out on Antonio Cromartie, a cornerback in round two becomes a possibility as projected in my latest mock.
So what about the Seahawks? It makes receiver a much greater need than people thought it would be 12 months ago. If Deion Branch is released as expected, it suddenly makes the receiving options: Houshmandzadeh, Butler, Obomanu. That's critical. Regular visitors to the blog last year will know how much I believed the Seahawks should have taken Michael Crabtree. That was in part due to Crabtree's extreme talent and what I believe to be elite potential. It was also with a situation like this in mind. Suddenly, having to spend one of those early picks on a receiver becomes a much stronger possibility. Dez Bryant at #6 or #14? Brandon LaFell, Damian Williams or Golden Tate at #40? It's a big need now and one that will have to be answered. Rest assured that reported talks with Arnaz Battle and Kelley Washington won't be the answer.
A lot of speculation is likely to appear suggesting the Seahawks will now trade for Denver's Brandon Marshall. This will be incredibly difficult. Denver are not in the mood to give away a talent like Marshall, even if they really do want to get him off the roster. From a bargaining position, the Seahawks would be shot. Knowing the great need for a wide out, the Broncos would have complete power in discussions. They'll ask for a first round pick. Seattle probably won't be willing to pay that considering the baggage that comes with Marshall. On paper though, it's a move that would suit both teams. Denver wouldn't be trading to a conference rival and Seattle would get one of the best players at his position - playing at his peak - to fill a need. I just don't think #40 is going to do it.
The Rams are supposedly close to bringing in A.J. Feeley. This will be another strong indicator that they intend to draft Sam Bradford. The Rams will sign a quarterback before the draft. The fact they're looking at back ups and stop gaps and not making a splash on a more long term solution is indicative of their intentions. Coughing up a second rounder for Michael Vick is one thing. Bringing in A.J. Feeley on the cheap is a sure fire sign that St. Louis are thinking QB first overall.