|If Woodson becomes a free agent, it won't be for long. (Getty Images)|
Charles Woodson is headed for free agency, but even as a 36-year-old defensive back, he shouldn't be out of work long. In today's pass-first NFL, cornerbacks and safeties come at a premium. Woodson with 55 career interceptions has experience at both positions.
And while the Packers weren't interested in paying him the $9 million he was due in 2013, he'll still be in demand. Agent Tom Poston told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that Woodson "sounds like he has a lot of football left," and that his client would "like to go play for a contender, win another Super Bowl. He caught that bug."
Assuming that Woodson won't be looking to recoup all of the $9 million he was set to make next season, who might be potential suitors?
New England has the cap space (the Patriots are approximately $10 million under, although they'd like to re-sign right tackle Sebastian Vollmer) and the secondary needs. They also fulfill the "play for a contender" prerequisite, and coach Bill Belichick has never shied away from guys who appear to be on the downsides of their careers. Corey Dillion, Randy Moss and Rodney Harrison are obvious examples, and there was speculation last month that, should Ed Reed not return to the Ravens, he could end up with the Pats.
Are the Bengals a contender? They've been to the playoffs the last two seasons, are young on both sides of the ball and have a ton of cap space. There are worse situations to be in. Although Woodson won't be a long-term answer for any team, he's an upgrade over unrestricted free agent Chris Crocker. Like New England, Cincinnati isn't afraid to take a gamble on a player with a checkered past or one who's long in the tooth. Last year's secondary included Pacman Jones, Terence Newman and Nate Clements. Woodson would be an upgrade over any of the three.
Indy won 11 games last season and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is now the coach in Arizona. But a big part of the Colts building on their 2012 success will be contingent on an improved defense. According to Football Outsiders, the unit ranked 31st overall (ahead of only New Orleans) and was almost as bad against the pass (27th) as the run (32nd). Part of that can be blamed on youth, but some of it is personnel. Tom Zbikowski started 11 games as the Colts' strong safety, even though he's more effective as a defensive backup and special-teams star. Indianapolis also has the cap space (second only to the Bengals, some $40 million under the salary cap). Again, Woodson's not in the long-range plans, but he could be a one or two-year bridge to a young player not yet ready for full-time duty.
Until Washington caught fire the last two months of the season and reeled off seven wins in a row, most of the finger-pointing for the 3-6 start was in the direction of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Strong safety Brandon Meriweather appeared in just one game last season due injuries (both freak and conventional). He's still under contract, but free safety Madieu Williams is an unrestricted free agent and Woodson could fill that role. Washington has some $8 million in cap space to work with, too.
Houston was the league's third-best defense last season (and fourth against the pass), according to Football Outsiders, but that doesn't mean they're not looking to improve. After all, the Texans lost in the playoffs for the second straight season, and better play from the secondary might've changed that. The Texans consider free-agent free safety Glover Quin an offseason priority, but Woodson's versatility would only upgrade this unit. Houston, like the other teams mentioned above, also has cap wiggle room ($4 million under).
* Buccaneers. Not necessarily a contender (at least from the vantage point of February), but they have tons of cap space. Plus, there could be a vacancy at free safety if 37-year-old Ronde Barber doesn't re-sign. (Hey, Woodson is younger than Barber, which technically qualifies as a youth movement.)
* Seahawks. As Yahoo.com's Brian McIntyre wrote Friday, "Prior to becoming the Seahawks general manager, John Schneider worked in the Packers' front office. Another connection is that (Richard) Sherman's agent, Kevin Poston, is the brother of Woodson's agent, Carl Poston. The Postons ran Professional Sports Planning, though within the last year, Kevin has branched off with his own agency called Deal." Also: Sherman fully supports the move.
* Lions. They don't qualify as a contender, nor do they have the cap space, but Woodson went to college at Michigan. Of course, using that logic, the Browns are also in the mix since Woodson grew up in Fremont, Ohio, some 85 miles away.