Contract year: Aiming for big payday

Published Jul. 15, 2010 1:00 a.m. EDT


As I approach this position, I’ll assume that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning re-up and continue their dominance in their respective hometowns. The third member of the omission club, Mr. Favre, is left out for obvious reasons. I do expect Favre to return in 2010 and play out the second and final year of his deal with the Vikings. Let’s leave the speculation about a longer-term deal on the table for now.

Donovan McNabb, Washington

McNabb takes over a restructured Washington offense to be orchestrated by Kyle and Mike Shanahan. He’s spoken publicly about wanting to end his career in Washington after coming over from Philadelphia. McNabb’s ability to win games isn’t in question. Rather, it’s his ability to stay healthy through a 16-game slate, something McNabb’s done once since 2003 (he did play 15 games for the dominant 2004 Philadelphia team and sat down for a game). The Redskins do not have a successor in place, so a lot is riding on the 33-year-old veteran quarterback. I suspect that he remains in Washington barring a disastrous season under center or a serious injury.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia

What else do you need to say? The jury remains out as to whether Vick will remain with the club into training camp, let alone the 2011 season, following the birthday party fracas. His role in the events remains cloudy, and there ever-vigilant eye of Roger Goodell is obviously interested in the details as they emerge.

It’s Kevin Kolb’s unit after signing a hefty two-year contract, and the team drafted Mike Kafka out of Northwestern with an eye to the long haul. Vick may play a bigger role in the offense than he did in 2009, but I’m not anticipating a long-term presence in Philadelphia (legal issues aside).

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle

Hasselbeck enters the final year of his contract with the heir apparent added this off-season in the form of Charlie Whitehurst (San Diego). Hasselbeck has the best supporting cast surrounding him in some time with rookie Golden Tate working alongside T.J. Houshmandzadeh, John Carlson and a re-tooled running back situation. If Russell Okung and company can protect him, Hasselbeck could experience a bit of a renaissance in Pete Carroll’s system. Still, his lengthy injury is daunting, and another horrid performance in the win-loss columns could lead Carroll to previewing the future down the stretch. Barring a big-time point barrage and wins, Hasselbeck could be looking for a new squad in 2011.

Running Backs

Wide Receivers


Tight End

Vernon Davis, San Francisco

Davis experienced a tremendous breakthrough campaign during 2009, racking up nearly 1,000 receiving yards with 13 touchdowns. He absolutely crushed his previous statistical output and now ranks among the top players at the position.

Quarterback Alex Smith also came into his own last year, and a full season with potential star Michael Crabtree leaves me optimistic that this offense will achieve new heights in 2010. Re-signing Davis is a priority for the team, and I believe that a deal gets done in short order.

Antonio Gates, San Diego

What’s there to discuss here? Gates routinely ranks among the leaders at tight end for each of the key statistical categories and obliterates opponents in the red zone. He’s obviously the top priority for the Chargers among the litany of free agents seeking new deals in Southern California. Gates isn’t going anywhere.

Owen Daniels, Houston

Daniels continues to seek a long-term deal from Houston, but he’ll need to prove that his injury woes are behind him and perform at his first-half level of 2009 to secure it. He was on pace to crush his career bests last year before sustaining his ACL injury. The high-octane Houston offense is one to watch in 2010, and Daniels’ presence will be key to its success.