The NFL’s Ten Most Expendable Players – 2011
One of the reasons for this year’s NFL lockout is that football players are some of the most expendable athletes there are in all of professional sports. They may be the toughest, fastest, most athletic athletes there are in sports, but just about every player can be replaced without changing the way you or I enjoy watching the game of football.
That said, there are still some players that are quite indispensable. Peyton Manning really can’t be replaced. It does the Tennessee Titans no good to get rid of Chris Johnson. Losing Troy Polamalu would change the entire structure of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense. And as the San Diego Chargers found out last season, letting Vincent Jackson sit out the season kept their team out of the playoffs in what is a very, weak, weak division.
On the flip side of that, there are several players out there that are very expendable—and I’m not just talking about the 51st guy on the roster. I’m talking about bona fide starters and guys with names that every ardent NFL football fan has heard of. Many of these guys are going to find out just how expendable they are once this lockout is over and free agency turns into a game of musical chairs. So without further adieu, here are the NFL’s ten most expendable players as we enter into the 2011 NFL season.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons
There’s no question, that in the history or tight ends, Tony Gonzalez might be the least replaceable guy in the annals of American football. However, Tony is old now. Very old. And his ability to get open and change the game as a receiver has made him very expendable as of late. With just 70 receptions, 656 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns, Gonzalez isn’t just expendable to the Falcons, he’s expendable in fantasy football leagues across America! The fact that he was never the best blocker in the world doesn’t help him cause. Tony just better hope the Falcons can’t pick up a healthy Todd Heap or something like that on the free agent market, or else he could see his playing time, or worse yet—his roster spot, become something of the past.
Kevin Kolb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback has a lot of value on the trade market right now, and so he’s probably one of the more obviously expendable players in the league right now. With Michael Vick as the Eagles starter, Andy Reid knows that he can’t invest too much time and money into a guy who is not the future of the team right now. Sure, Vick is an injury-case waiting to happen, but a solid backup quarterback (ehemm, Brett Favre) is not a hard thing to find—especially for a guy like Reid, who makes solid backups out of ant hills on a yearly basis.
Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints
Reggie Bush was a star at USC, but he has been everything but since entering the NFL. He’s not the best runner on his team—hell, he isn’t one of the five best runners on the team. As a receiver out of the backfield, he’s great, but he’s no threat to run the ball (just 4.2 yards per carry on 36 attempts last year), then teams don’t account for his rushing ability and his receiving skills are accounted for by the opposing defense. Let’s face it; as long as the Saints can sign a running back—any running back—there’s no chance that Reggie Bush is getting that $12 million salary on his current contract, and he will be cut or that contract will be restructured to reflect his true value once free agency begins after the lockout is over.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers
At its roots, the term expendable means I don’t need you to do what I do. Well, the Green Bay Packers job is to win football games, and that they did last season—all the way to the Super Bowl. They did it without Finley too, who was on the IR during the Packers run to the championship. In that time, the Packers found a worthwhile tight end in Donald Lee, who essentially did everything quarterback Aaron Rodgers asked of him. That begs the question, who was making Finley look so good prior to the injury? Was it Finley’s talents or Rodgers’ arm? Maybe it was a little bit of both, but the latter certainly found a way to compensate without Finley when he wasn’t just expendable, but nonexistent during the Packers championship season.
Nick Barnett, LB, Green Bay Packers
See “Jermichael Finley.”
Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins actually have a need at running back. As good as Williams and Ronnie Brown have been in the past, they are no longer dependable for 16 games, especially behind a non-veteran offensive line. Williams will likely get the door during free agency, as the Dolphins seek to get a younger, more explosive backfield.
Roy Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Roy Williams is one of the highest paid receivers in the NFL, and yet he’s one of the worst. He’s not even the second best wide receiver on the team, and he was slated to be the first when he was initially traded for a couple of seasons ago. Now the Dallas Cowboys are struggling to get back under the newly proposed cap after a season without one. It’s very likely that Roy-boy is sent packing if the Cowboys have a hard time restructuring his or other players’ contracts.
Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos
Kyle Orton has put up the yardage in Denver, but unfortunately, he may become a victim of young-person potential. The Broncos were moving the ball early last season, but they weren’t winning games. And with a new regime in place, who wants to go with the old quarterback who can’t win? That makes Tim Tebow the likely starter in Denver this season, and it makes Orton a casualty of Tebow’s potential. He may or may not get cut, but he’s not leading that team out of the locker room in NFL Week 1.
Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Again, we face the question of, “who’s making the player?” The player himself or the all-world quarterback? Peyton Manning has made many a receiver look like a Pro Bowler in his day, but some guys never get attached with that label. We all just assume that Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison were good receivers all along, they just happen to play with Manning. We also make the same assumption of Dallas Clark. But can we be sure that’s the case—especially with Clark? When Clark went down last season, Jacob Tamme looked like the reincarnation of Ben Coates after being an unheard of entity the year before. That leads me to believe that anybody can play tight end in the Colts system, and if I were Clark this season, I’d do my best to show I was worthy of keeping around—because I’m not 100% sure that he is.
Casey Hampton, NT, Pittsburgh Steelers
Last but not least is one of our generation’s best nose tackles. He never got a lot of credit or publicity, because of the nature of his position, but Casey Hampton was one of the best that ever did it. Keyword: “was.” Bless his soul, but Hampton isn’t what he used to be. In 15 games last season, Hampton had just 20 tackles and a sack. To put that in perspective, he had more than twice as many tackles and sacks a season ago. At 33 years old, it’s natural that Hampton is on the decline. But being on the decline makes you more expendable, and the Steelers would be better off getting a younger, more athletic player to take some snaps away from Hampton during the 2011 NFL football season.