There continues to be plenty of talk about the potential trading of T.J. Duckett. Personally, I don’t see it happening. There just really isn’t a market out there for Duckett, unless of course a starter gets injured. But then again, so many teams are liking more and more the smaller, quicker backs, that Duckett is becoming somewhat old-fashioned in the NFL.
Frankly, ability aside, Duckett would start on few teams. Very few teams would want a big powerful runner that doesn’t particularly catch or block well. And I believe moreso than his running skills, those flaws in the passing game hurt Duckett more than anything in terms of his trade value. If he was the type of player that could probably catch 30 or more passes and be effective on third downs as a receiver and/or blocker, then I’m sure other teams would have beaten down the Falcons door long ago to take him off our hands. In fact, if that were the case, he’d probably be starting for the Falcons and thus we wouldn’t be talking about trading him. But it is not the case, and thus we are stuck with a lame duck running back for another year.
Some people think the Falcons will cut Duckett at the end of training camp if he’s not traded. I seriously doubt that. Duckett is a headache waiting to happen to us Falcon fans, but he’s still a very valuable player to this roster. He’s one of the best short-yardage and goalline backs in the league. Sure, he definitely struggled in those roles down the stretch last year, but up until that point he was basically every bit as good as Jerome Bettis. I believe Duckett’s play in 2006 will mirror more of his early 2005 play than that of late. And so the Falcons need him. They won’t be able to hand off to Dunn or Norwood on 3rd and 2 and consistently get a first down. Sure, Griffith can pull some slack if Duckett is lost. Griffith is a good runner, but he’s not the same caliber as Duckett.
So I think if the Falcons can’t trade him this summer (and I doubt they will), they should just keep him this year as a lame duck knowing he will be signed away next off-season by some team. Actually, I’m pretty curious to see what sort of offers Duckett gets next spring. I don’t think many teams will be breaking down his door to sign him to a big lucrative contract like what LaMont Jordan got a few years back. It seems a forgone conclusion that Duckett won’t be a Falcon after this year, but I think if the market doesn’t go his way, you may see No. 45 willing to accept a deal to return to Atlanta.