Five moves that will work, five that won't
Look for McNabb, Kampman, Boldin to thrive; not so for L.T., Campbell, and Martz
Even though we're in the midst of one of the wildest NFL offseasons in recent memory, it's a good time to make sense of what has transpired.We've seen stars traded, familiar coaches pop up in new places, and a draft that lasted three days and set an unofficial record for man hugs laid on commissioner Roger Goodell. All we have to do now is get through the last of the OTA practices and set our sights on the opening of training camp. But before we get to that point, let's take one more look at what the past few months have done to the league's landscape.
Here are five offseason moves that should work out and five others that won't:
Five moves that will work1. Donovan McNabb moves to Washington: This was the biggest trade of the offseason, and it's the one with the greatest potential to shake up the NFC East. First, we have to assume that McNabb -- who spent 11 years leading the Philadelphia Eagles -- will never be more motivated for a season than he will be for this one. We also have to expect that he'll transition smoothly, because he'll still be playing quarterback for a West Coast offense and he'll be doing it under new head coach Mike Shanahan. Sure, the Redskins still have some questions to figure out at wide receiver. But we also know that McNabb thrived without great personnel at that position during most of his time in Philadelphia.Our prediction: McNabb stabilizes a dysfunctional locker room and leads the Skins to 10 victories.2. Brandon Marshall goes to Miami: Marshall might have been a huge pain in the you-know-what during his one year with Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels. There's one key difference about Marshall heading into this season: His bank account is now much bigger than it ever was with the Broncos. Armed with a new $47.5 million contract extension and a team coveting a true No. 1 receiver, Marshall only needs to focus on producing. That shouldn't be a problem, given his track record. The man has caught at least 100 passes in each of has past three seasons. He changed games for Denver when his head was in the right place in 2009.Our prediction: Don't worry about his minor offseason hip surgery. Marshall will surpass the 100-catch mark again this season and help the Dolphins balance a run-heavy offense.3. Santonio Holmes heads to the New York Jets: Say what you want about the off-the-field issues that led Pittsburgh to deal this wide receiver to the Jets, problems that include a four-game suspension to start the season. Those matters didn't stop New York from acquiring him, so they're not going to alter my perception of Holmes' potential. He was a rising star when he won MVP honors in the Super Bowl two years ago, and he'll combine with Braylon Edwards to give the Jets' offense a much-needed jolt in the passing game. So what if he's not a choirboy? Jets head coach Rex Ryan simply needs more playmakers on the outside to help the development of second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez.Our prediction: Holmes catches 70 passes despite the suspension and the Jets use a balanced offense to go deep into the postseason.4. Aaron Kampman signs with Jacksonville: For anybody who's wondering if Kampman will meet the expectations of his four-year, $26 million free-agent deal, please understand this: The man gets it done when he's used correctly. Granted, Kampman only had 3.5 sacks last season while playing outside linebacker for a Green Bay team that shifted to the 3-4 defense. But when he was a 4-3 defensive end for the same organization, he totaled 37 sacks from 2006-08. Now that Kampman's back to his original position, you can expect him to be hungry to prove himself. Granted, he's coming off a season that ended with a torn ACL after nine games.Our prediction: Kampman doesn't return immediately to the form that made him a two-time Pro Bowler, but he'll be good for 10 sacks on a team that had only 14 in 2009.5. Anquan Boldin winds up in Baltimore: It's hard to find a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver who's better suited to compete in the hard-hat-style offense the Ravens run. Boldin is physical, productive and proud of the way he rallies teammates with his work ethic and competitive fire. OK, so he's not the most durable guy in the world (as proved by the one injury-free season he's had since 2003). He still caught at least 80 passes in four of his past five years in Arizona, and it's a safe bet he keeps such numbers going in Baltimore.Our prediction: Boldin returns to the Pro Bowl after becoming Joe Flacco's favorite target and the Ravens make a run at the Super Bowl with the most balanced team in the league.
Five moves that won't work
1. Jason Campbell goes to Oakland: I like Campbell's resolve. I think he's gotten a raw deal in this league because the former Washington Redskins quarterback has played for so many different offensive coordinators and in so many different systems. I also don't believe he has a chance of turning his career around with the Raiders. Campbell doesn't have an aggressive enough personality to take charge of that dysfunctional locker room. He can't count on his current coaches sticking around beyond this season (since owner Al Davis has hired five head coaches in the past eight years). Right now, there's no question that Campbell is an upgrade over his predecessor, JaMarcus Russell. What Campbell isn't, however, is the type of player who can make a difference in the lost world that is the Oakland Raiders.
Our prediction: Campbell produces solid numbers as the Raiders limp through another season with double-digit losses.
2. LaDainian Tomlinson lands with the New York Jets: For all the splashy moves the Jets have made this offseason, this is the one with the most potential to disappoint. Somebody please tell me what Tomlinson gives the Jets that former running back Thomas Jones -- who was released earlier this offseason -- doesn't. Jones ran for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns last season while L.T. gained 730 and averaged 3.3 yards per carry. Maybe the Jets thought Jones wouldn't embrace the idea of taking a backseat to second-year runner Shonn Greene. Maybe they saw Tomlinson as a big name who still brings professionalism and presence to any locker room. What can't be debated, however, is how this will play out in the end. Bottom line: L.T. simply ain't what he used to be.
Our prediction: Greene won't have to worry about losing his job any time soon.
3. Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel reunite in Kansas City: The arrival of two new Chiefs coordinators -- Weis on offense and Crennel on defense -- has some people in Kansas City thinking this team is primed for serious progress after a 4-12 season in 2009. To those optimists, I say this: Sit down, take a deep breath and check the depth chart. For all the experience Weis and Crennel have had with general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley over the years, the fact still remains that players win games. And from all indications, the Chiefs still don't have enough difference-makers on the field to accentuate whatever wisdom they have gracing their sideline.
Our prediction: The Chiefs will be better this fall, but they'll still be picking in the top 10 of the draft come next spring.
4. Mike Martz arrives in Chicago: This move would be exciting if it were 2001. The problem for Bears fans is that more than a decade has passed since Martz burst onto the scene with his high-flying offense and, well, it's not as scary as it once was. That same system fizzled in San Francisco when Martz was with the 49ers (2008), and it didn't alter the Lions' fortunes when he was in Detroit (2006-07). So the idea of Martz turning around the Bears' offense doesn't really fly here. He has a quarterback who threw 26 interceptions last season (Jay Cutler) and a receiving corps that is filled mainly with unproven, no-name targets. In other words, this will be another long year for Bears fans accustomed to a disappointing offense.
Our prediction: There's nothing Martz can do with this offense that will save the job of head coach Lovie Smith.
5. The Cleveland Browns' quarterback situation: There's no denying that this will be a difficult transition year in Cleveland. What will make it even harder for Browns fans is having to watch either Jake Delhomme or Seneca Wallace run their team as rookie Colt McCoy learns the ways of the NFL. Delhomme is coming off his worst professional season (eight touchdowns, 18 interceptions), one that finally led the Carolina Panthers to dump him. Wallace is a career backup who made 14 starts during seven previous seasons in Seattle. At this point, the smart money says Delhomme gets the nod because of his experience and the $7 million Cleveland gave him upon signing. Either way, the end result will be the same: People will be clamoring for McCoy once December arrives.
Our prediction: Delhomme starts the year, Wallace finishes it, head coach Eric Mangini loses his job and McCoy appreciates that none of the blame for this disaster falls on him.
Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.