James positioning himself for a trade
Only a month into the offseason, the NFL's most explosive wide receiver, Randy Moss, already has changed teams. In coming weeks, there will be plenty of rhetoric over the possibility that Indianapolis Colts tailback Edgerrin James could be dealt away. At least a half-dozen veterans have been granted permission by their current teams to seek out potential trade suitors.
OK, so the NFL hasn't exactly become a full-blown swapfest. Not like other American professional sports. But what Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay for years has referred to as "The No-Trade League," because of the paucity of meaningful and high-profile deals, has seen a profound increase in wheeling and dealing the past couple of seasons, and there could be more to come.
Teams have been more successful of late, however, in making the trade pieces fit.
Last season, there were trades involving 11 wide receivers, nine of them starters. The Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos struck a megadeal involving tailback Clinton Portis and perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, among the NFL's premier performers at their respective positions. Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, who led the AFC in sacks in 2003, was dealt to the Chicago Bears. Big-time playmakers such as Terrell Owens, Marty Booker, David Boston and Keyshawn Johnson all gained new addresses in trades.
The coming weeks, particularly in the days leading up to the NFL draft April 23-24, could bring considerable action in the suddenly resuscitated trade market.
The most compelling name that will be rumored in trade talks almost certainly will be that of James, who seems intent on either talking his way or dealing his way away from the Colts. Word is that newly retained agent Drew Rosenhaus already has floated some long-term contract numbers to Indianapolis officials and that there is a wide disparity between what James is seeking and what the Colts might pay. The Colts can essentially force James to play under the "franchise" marker for a year, but if team officials are concerned their star runner will boycott camp, they might become more inclined to cut a deal that would bring them several high-round draft choices.
Rosenhaus has a proven track record for stirring things up and for being able to create trade opportunities for unhappy clients. That is part of James' rationale in hiring him.
But there figure to be trade discussions on a lot of fronts in the offseason and, while some league observers aren't ready yet to concede the end of "The No-Trade League" as we have known it for many years, there has been a not-so-subtle shift in thinking.
"There aren't as many barriers now as there used to be," one owner said at the Indianapolis scouting combine. "Teams have done a much better job of managing their caps and there is more space now to absorb a trade. But we're never going to be a big trade league like baseball, no matter what happens, really. It's still a sport that isn't all that conducive to trading. But that being said, yes, [trades] are on the upswing, and I think teams are more open now to discussing them."
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Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .
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