NEW YORK (AP) — Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Ronde Barber grabbed the headlines by retiring, walking away from the game when they almost certainly still could have contributed to NFL teams.
Their departures overshadowed the pink slips handed to some longtime starters — and stars. And as training camps open, the likes of John Abraham, Dallas Clark, Richard Seymour and Willis McGahee are unemployed.
So are Bart Scott, Kerry Rhodes, Brandon Lloyd and Vince Young.
What’s the deal? Or, better yet, why haven’t these solid players gotten any deals yet?
Here’s a Pick 6 of positions where veterans with strong resumes are available, maybe even for a discounted price:
DEFENSIVE LINE: NFL teams really bulked up on defensive linemen in this year’s draft, with nine selected in the first round. But with rotations on the D-line the norm, most rosters will have eight linemen who get onto the field in each game.
Available are three-time Super Bowl champion Seymour, last with Oakland, who has indicated he will retire without the right contract offer, and Abraham. Seymour is the more versatile, but Abraham is much more of a sacks threat and had 10 with Atlanta in 2012, when Seymour played only eight games because of injuries. Neither would come cheap and both are at the age — Abraham is 35, Seymour turns 34 in October — where they would be part-timers.
RUNNING BACK: Most teams are set with their starter, but as just about every club outside of Minneapolis and Seattle has discovered, more than one running back is essential.
On the market is McGahee, released by Denver in a youth movement and for salary cap purposes. Also available are Cedric Benson, Beanie Wells, Brandon Jacobs and Michael Turner. All have off-field or injury or durability issues and appear to be beyond their primes.
Yet when RBs inevitably go down in training camp or flop in the preseason, these guys could expect their phones to ring.
LINEBACKER: So much depends on whether a team uses a 3-4 or 4-3 alignment. On the street are Scott, who fits best in the 3-4, Keith Brooking, Thomas Howard, Takeo Spikes and Joe Mays. Spikes, Brookings and Scott fit exclusively on the inside.
RECEIVER/TIGHT END: Clark’s career numbers and leadership would indicate he will land somewhere soon, especially with every team incorporating more plays for tight ends. Could he even wind up in troubled New England?
That’s where Lloyd last worked, making 74 catches and 12 more in the postseason. Other wideouts available are Randy Moss, Early Doucet and, yes, even Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Teams tend to bring in and send out DBs all the time, so future employment seems likely for safeties Rhodes, Quintin Mikell and Jordan Babineaux. Same for cornerbacks William Middleton, Stanford Routt and Sheldon Brown. But they’ll probably need to play special teams, too.
QUARTERBACKS: You won’t find any likely starters here, maybe not even No. 2 QBs, but among those who could lend experience somewhere are Young, a former Offensive Rookie of the Year, Byron Leftwich and Matt Leinart.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org