On the day that Tiki Barber said it was unfair to label his TV career a bust, WFAN’s (New York) Mike Francesa asked him whether his failed television career was the impetus for him to put on the pads again. He also asked him point-blank if money was the motivation for him jumping back in.

“No, that’s the simple answer Mike,” said Barber. “A lot of people get caught up in, ‘Oh, he needs a job, he’s going through a divorce, and he needs money.’ But it’s not about that. It’s redemption for me. I need to be successful at something, and something I’ve always been good at is playing football. I know I have the physical ability to do that, I know I have the mental ability to do it.”

The comments by Barber are a prime example of professional athletes struggling to say goodbye to a sport they love. Barber shouldn’t get it twisted. At the age of 36 and four years away from putting the pads on from a personnel point of view, the game has passed you by.

Planning for free agency

With more meetings taking place in Boston on Wednesday and more scheduled for Thursday with commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL labor committee, DeMaurice Smith and the player reps, there is much excitement, anticipation and encouragement among media and fans alike. While there is a lot of work to be done in a very short window, at least both sides are in negotiation mode and are past the litigation fight at this point. It’s like a marathon runner that can see the finish line, but there are still several miles to go.

The big news from the meetings was the idea that 2011 free agency would function with the same rules of the last CBA period from 2006-2009, which means players with four or more accrued seasons would qualify for unrestricted free agency.

Listed below are some key positions that I feel teams will target heavily to improve their rosters. The total madness will begin once the free agency flag is waved.

If free agency opens the door for the four-year players, it will enlarge the pool of players to choose from, watering down the giant contracts usually secured by a selected few and spread the money out more evenly, possibly forcing teams to acquire multiple players of quality to fill major hot spots on their rosters. Below are some of the key names that will be sought after.

Wide receiver

Sidney Rice, Vikings: Teams need to check out the hip, love the size, speed and production.

Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars: Will have a new home; Jacksonville won’t be his destination in 2011.

Randy Moss, Titans: Still possesses the vertical speed and ability to stretch the secondary with big-play ability outside the numbers. Father time has taken away his lower body flexibility in and out of breaks and he really struggles in speed cuts with separation.

Terrell Owens, Bengals: Put up good numbers last season, but the Bengals faded as a team with every catch he made. Still can help an established team.

Jacoby Jones, Texans: A dual threat as a receiver and return specialist. Has experience to step into the No. 2 position and stretch the field with his vertical speed

Steve Smith, Giants: General manager Jerry Reese has very good young depth at this position.

Steve Breaston, Cardinals: Should get re-signed by his present team; hard to argue production when the ball is thrown his direction.

Legedu Naanee, Chargers: Player with good combination of size and speed; might be the biggest question mark and the most expendable.

Malcom Floyd, Chargers: Picked up the slack when Vincent Jackson was out; will make A.J. Smith’s job hard on retaining receivers in a pass-first offense.

Running back

Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants: Struggled with ball protection, but running skills with compact frame along with playtime and production make him exceptionally attractive as an every-down back.

Darren Sproles, Chargers: A solid No. 2 running back that loves the game. A sparkplug that still possesses big-play ability as a runner, receiver and return man.

DeAngelo Williams, Carolina: Injuries the past few years have derailed production, but Williams still has the skill set and ability to split time and contribute.

Offensive line

Jermon Bushrod, Saints: Small-school guy that played big as a starter. Has Super Bowl experience and the ability to play either tackle or sink inside as a guard.

Jared Gaither, Ravens: Big man with skills to work with needs a new venue to continue his career, Injury history needs review (back).

Defensive line

Barry Cofield, Giants: Best interior defensive lineman in free agency. Best suited for inside 4-3 defensive player. A run stopper with solid pass-rush skills.

Charles Johnson, Carolina: Played exceptionally well after Julius Peppers went to the Bears. Has size with the ability to turn speed into power off the edge, plays with leverage and was Carolina’s only edge player with production. Should command big dollars.

Brandon Mebane, Seahawks: A plugger and run stopper that developed up-field pressure in the passing game the past two years. This player could command a nice paycheck because of ability and demand.


Let’s not forget about some key players that are trade bait and will most likely be packing up their homes, condos or apartments and heading to another franchise.

Kevin Kolb, Eagles: Will most likely end up in Arizona, if another team doesn’t come out of the woodwork to cause a bidding war.

Steve Smith, Carolina: Even though Cam Newton and Smith have become good friends in a short time, general manager Marty Hurney wants to be able to offer the aging receiver, who still has a lot left in the tank, to other teams.