If DeAngelo Hall hadn't forced himself onto the trading block before this week, he may have finished the job Wednesday.
As several high-profile players have been the recent subjects of trade speculation, including Cincinnati's Chad Johnson and Miami's Jason Taylor, Hall criticized the Atlanta Falcons for cutting defensive tackle Grady Jackson earlier this week. The comments, coming less than a month after he was fined $100,000 for a sideline tirade directed at Falcons coach Bobby Petrino, could be the wedge that ultimately forces the franchise to deal their prized cornerback.
In a candid interview with reporters at the Falcons' practice facility, Hall called the team's decision to single out Jackson for poor play "asinine", "ridiculous" and "ludicrous." They were the sharpest words yet from Hall this season, in which the Falcons have gone 1-6 and seemingly been in a spiral since quarterback Michael Vick's offseason federal indictment and subsequent guilty plea on dog-fighting charges.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Hall also concurred with a statement made by tight end Alge Crumpler that the coaching staff was minimizing the role of veteran players this season.
While general manager Rich McKay said earlier this month that the Falcons weren't interested in moving Hall next offseason, this latest barrage may be cause for new consideration. It's clear Hall has been unhappy with his contract since Nate Clements landed a deal potentially worth $80 million from the San Francisco 49ers in the latest round of free agency.
One source close to Hall even raised the possibility that the cornerback would hold out of training camp until he got a new deal. That never materialized, and Hall has since appeared to be unhappy for a variety of reasons. A former Falcons player now with another team said the cornerback felt the franchise "kicked Mike (Vick) when he was down," and that he has never been on the same page as Petrino.
"He's not feeling (Petrino)," the player told Yahoo! Sports this week. "They're not even talking. Not at all, nothing. (DeAngelo) was already pissed about his (contract) and then they fined him and that was pretty much the last straw for any relationship."
Asked if Hall was still expressing a desire to be traded behind closed doors, the player replied, "If the Denver Broncos found a way to make it happen with Champ (Bailey), DeAngelo knows (the Falcons) can find a way to make it happen."
After Wednesday, it looks more likely than ever. But Hall likely won't be the only big name on the block this offseason. Here is a look at seven other players who could find their way into trade talks this offseason.
Chad Johnson, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Johnson is still a major weapon for the Bengals, but if head coach Marvin Lewis is back next season, Johnson could be shipped out. Lewis has clearly taken some pokes at Johnson in recent weeks, including some comments about NFL players (like Johnson) not having the coolest demeanors due to their junior college backgrounds. And while Lewis has refuted any notion that Johnson is headed for the trade block, there are clearly some significant issues that have to be worked out for a return in 2008.
So what is likely to push Johnson to the block? First, T.J. Houshmandzadeh has risen to the point where he can be legitimately considered a No. 1 receiver. Secondly, Johnson has still got high trade value. He turns 30 this offseason, still giving him 2-3 years of peak level play. And his contract averages a palatable $4.6 million in base salary per season for the last four years of his deal. And with Chris Chambers drawing a second-round pick from the San Diego Chargers, the Bengals could draw the same, if not better, compensation for Johnson.
Jason Taylor, DE, Miami Dolphins
The Chambers trade sent a pretty clear shockwave through the Dolphins locker room, signaling that a rebuilding effort is under way. And like most rebuilding efforts, highly paid veterans with trade value find their way out the door. Will Taylor be one of those guys? It's difficult to say, partly because of his roots in both the Dolphins franchise and the city of Miami. But Taylor did go as far as saying he had no idea what would happen in the offseason while trying to quell speculation that he wanted to be dealt this offseason.
Though he'll be 34 heading into next season, Taylor is still in top-notch physical shape and still making plays. He'd be an attractive pickup for cap-healthy teams that are a defensive playmaker away from making a Super Bowl run. Such teams could still get top-notch performances out of Taylor if they bookend him with another high-caliber defensive end or putting him next to an upper-tier defensive tackle. And while he may be reluctant about saying he wants out of Miami midway through this season, the prospect of returning to a team that will likely lose 13 or 14 games this season may be all the convincing he needs. That, and the likelihood that there will be some major turnover before the '08 season.
Anderson will become a restricted free agent in March and a league source told Yahoo! Sports the Browns will likely extend a qualifying offer that would require another team to give up a first- and third-round pick should it sign him. The Browns could match any contract offer, but that appears unlikely with first-round pick Brady Quinn on the roster. Cleveland isn't going to sign Anderson to a lucrative long-term deal and also retain Quinn.
If Anderson continues his strong play in the final 10 games, his trade value will be sky high this offseason. He's big and has a strong arm, and will be 25 heading into next year. And he offers Cleveland the best of two worlds. Not only can the Browns let Quinn learn and make up for lost training camp time during his rookie campaign, but Cleveland can parlay a former sixth-round pick into high draft choices. Then again, if Anderson throws 30-plus touchdowns this season and looks like something special for the long term, the Browns may be forced to consider other options: Bring back both quarterbacks for '08 (as San Diego did with Drew Brees and Philip Rivers in '05), or trade Quinn.
This is starting to look like a Steve McNair situation. Unless the Eagles pull a fast turnaround, it's clear this is a franchise in transition. And highly paid but aging quarterbacks don't typically withstand the guillotine during transition unless they are at the top of their game. Like McNair in his last season with the Tennessee Titans, McNabb just doesn't seem like the dynamic playmaker that could overcome his team's shortcomings and put wins together.
The facts are that McNabb has been lukewarm at best this season, and still looks like he's getting over last year's knee injury. The Eagles drafted his successor in Kevin Kolb in April. And making matters a bit more pressing, McNabb's base salary takes a significant jump after next season's $6.3 million tab to a reported $9.2 million in '09. But he still has value on the trade market, assuming he can come to terms on a restructured contract with a new team. With Rex Grossman on the outs in Chicago, and Brian Griese turning 33 this offseason, McNabb's hometown Bears are no longer an unthinkable destination.
While Vilma has been one of the Jets' best defensive players, he still doesn't appear to be the right fit for coach Eric Mangini's 3-4 defensive alignment. Yahoo! Sports spoke with an AFC pro personnel scout in training camp who speculated the Jets might be willing to listen to offers for the linebacker after the season if Vilma didn't take a significant step (as in a Pro Bowl level jump) forward in the team's scheme. Well, Vilma has been good, but not elite. And there are still opinions that he could be one of the best 4-3 middle linebackers in the league. That translates into some serious trade value. And with only one year left on his contract (at about $1.1 million in base salary), the Jets would be looking at a minimal salary cap hit in a trade.
And now there is the latest controversy over whether Vilma has been hobbled by a knee injury. He was uncharacteristically pulled out of several plays against the Bengals Sunday, after which Mangini claimed Vilma had a serious knee injury. Vilma denied being hurt on WFAN Radio in New York – though the New York Daily News reported Thursday that Vilma could have season-ending knee surgery. With no contract extension in sight, it's a situation that bears watching this offseason.
Chad Pennington, QB, Jets
While the Jets still haven't made the switch to Kellen Clemens, it's clear that Pennington's starting days in New York are running out. Pennington's numbers haven't been atrocious, but he hasn't engineered wins this season, either. He'll be 32 when next season starts, and considering his past health issues, he's likely nearing a point when his arm strength will diminish significantly. It's a situation that compares favorably with the decision the Washington Redskins faced with Mark Brunell and Jason Campbell last season. Like Campbell, Clemens will eventually get his shot.
That will leave Pennington and his '08 salary ($4.8 million) on the outs. Unless Pennington once again restructures a significant pay cut into the remaining years of his salary as he did in 2006, he's likely to be released. But the Jets will surely shop him first, hoping for a desperate taker that can convince Pennington to work out some kind of salary compromise in exchange for the shot to remain a starter somewhere else.
This is dependent on Trent Edwards holding onto the starting job long term. Should that happen, there are two schools of thought with Losman. One is that the Bills hold onto him through '08, in which he has an extremely manageable $650,000 salary. That makes sense, considering Losman would give the Bills a solid backup who is already familiar with their scheme. And should anything go haywire with Edwards in 2008, Losman would have another shot at landing the long-term contract extension that he was looking to ink this offseason.
The second school of thought depends on how Losman handles sitting behind Edwards the remainder of this year and then into the offseason. If he continues to say all the right things, he would likely be a lock to return next season. But should he become vocal about wanting another shot at the starting job, the Bills could see what kind of interest is out there, much the same way the Jacksonville Jaguars did before cutting Byron Leftwich. Losman is still plenty young – he'll be 27 going into next season – and he possesses tremendous athletic gifts. That might be enough to tempt a suitor into offering a middle-round pick to pry him loose from the Bills.