Change of scenery, big results?
Whether through trades or free agency, these players are poised to help new teams
Since there have been recent reports about progress in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the NFL owners and players -- which would mean the eventual end to the current lockout -- it's worth looking at some topics that have not received sufficient attention this offseason. One of the major questions is which players will have the biggest impact on new teams. We all know there are talented free agents on the market. There also could be a few trades that affect the league's balance of power this fall.
So instead of talking about the lockout one more time, here are the five players with the best chance to change a new team's fortunes next season. To avoid confusion, this list doesn't include free agents who currently have franchise tags (such as San Diego wide receiver Vincent Jackson) or restricted free agents with high tenders (such as New Orleans guard Carl Nicks). This is all about the players likeliest to change addresses in a couple months.
1. Kevin Kolb, quarterback: Kolb had the misfortune of sustaining a concussion just as Michael Vick was ready to show the world how much he'd evolved as a quarterback in Philadelphia last season. Don't make the mistake of thinking that means Kolb can't play. He's still the same quarterback who spent three seasons learning behind Donovan McNabb and training with the same coaches who helped turn Vick from an electrifying improviser into a complete quarterback. Kolb will have serious value once the Eagles decide to trade him. If he lands in Arizona -- which seems to be the team most eager to deal for his services -- the Cardinals will be Super Bowl contenders once again.
2. Nnamdi Asomugha, cornerback: It's easy to think cornerbacks have become grossly overpaid in a league in which the rules are biased against pass defense. But Asomugha is one of the rare defenders who will be worth every dollar he receives from his next employer. Few cornerbacks are blessed with his combination of size (6-foot-2, 210), agility and quickness. This three-time Pro Bowler is arguably the best player at his position. Even fewer have the ability to excel in man coverage, which Asomugha was asked to play often during his eight seasons in Oakland. Should Asomugha wind up with a defensive coordinator who wants to use him in more roles, we might very well see an increase in his interceptions (he's had 11 in his career) and his versatility. Regardless of where he lands, nobody will be disappointed with his production.
3. Albert Haynesworth, defensive tackle: Though many people think Haynesworth will be a corrosive malcontent wherever he goes, he still has a few obvious qualities that will make teams want him once Washington either cuts him or finds a suitable trade. He's still 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds. His major problems with the Redskins started when he scoffed at the idea of moving from a 4-3 defensive tackle to a 3-4 defensive end in Jim Haslett's defense last season. Haynesworth still has the potential to be dominant if he lands with a coach who knows how to motivate him, which is why there has been ample talk about his reuniting with former Tennessee Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn in Philadelphia. Haynesworth still has enough pride to prove his career in Washington won't be the defining chapter in his story.
4. DeAngelo Williams, running back: The knock on Williams is that he's injury-prone. Critics point to the 13 games he missed over the last two seasons as proof. The reality is he is productive when he's on the field. Williams blew up in 2008, when he ran for a career-high 1,515 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. He ran for 1,117 yards in 2009, when he once again prospered under the two-back system employed by the Carolina Panthers. The key for Williams is making sure he's teamed with another runner who's capable of keeping him fresh and away from constant wear and tear. The Panthers had such a weapon in Jonathan Stewart. The next team that finds a similar partner for Williams -- the Miami Dolphins have been rumored to be interested -- will be just as likely to see worthwhile rewards.
5. Ike Taylor, cornerback: Taylor isn't as talented as Asomugha, but he is the second-best player at his position on the open market. What he lacks in production -- he has 11 career interceptions in eight years -- he makes up for in toughness and tenacity. Sure, Taylor is 31 years old and he has certainly benefited from playing on a Pittsburgh Steelers team that knows how to pressure quarterbacks. But he's also playing the right position for cashing in on free agency. He'll find a big payday and a team that will benefit from his aggressive style.
Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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