Boy, it must be nice to be in the NFL quarterback business, huh? Players at the NFL’s marquee position are more sought after than ever before, signing contracts for upwards of $50 million per season and requiring a massive bounty in trade discussions. The franchise tag, as well as other factors, were a deterrent to QB (team) mobility in the past... but no longer. By starting up retirement rumors, taking shots at the front office via social media or interviews, or simply demanding to sit out, quarterbacks have become all-powerful.
But quarterbacks are not the only players guilty of forcing the issue. And to be honest, forcing the issue is not the best way to describe what is going on here. Guys are using their leverage, which is more than fair, given the fact that they are the main attraction — AKA the product these billion dollar companies (teams) are selling. Players at every position are asking for trades, holding out of camp, you name it, to try and get more money or find a more desirable situation. I recently told my boss I felt under-compensated, shared a Mr. Burns meme on LinkedIn to spite him, and called off on a Friday, but it didn’t work out so well for me... I guess being a world-class athlete is a little different than my situation.
With free agency and the NFL draft coming up, we will likely continue to see a flurry of moves and activity. Former Ohio State players should be prominently involved, but not necessarily changing teams. Guys like Nick Bosa and Terry McLaurin are up for possible contract extensions, and I just don’t see the San Francisco 49ers or Washington Commanders letting that drag out. Highly-compensated (vastly overpaid) Zeke Elliott has been mentioned as a possible release candidate, but the Dallas Cowboys would have to eat a large dead-cap number to get rid of him. Trades and/or cuts for former Buckeyes should be minimal, but a number of them have either been involved in previous blockbusters or surprisingly changed teams. Here are some of those more notable transactions.
Eddie George — Released following his seventh 1,000-yard rushing season
George was a very productive running back for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. In eight seasons, he never missed a game (or start), while racking up 10,000 rushing yards and 74 total touchdowns. The former Buckeye legend and Heisman Trophy winner also made four straight Pro Bowls, and was recently named a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But George’s production and HOF-worthy career came at a price.
George averaged roughly 370 total touches per season during his time with the current Titans. His heavy workload - combined with his determination to play through injury - took a major toll on his body, and by the end of his run with the franchise, he was barely averaging three yards per carry. The Titans asked him to take a pay cut after the 2004 season, but George had other ideas.
The franchise leader in many statistical categories (at the time) was released in the summer of 2004. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys a few weeks later, but was backing up a rookie by midseason. He did not suit up again after that season, and officially retired in 2006. The glory days were over, but George will always be remembered as a hell of a running back; he should be in the NFL Hall of Fame before too long. Running backs don’t play forever, and this former Buckeye learned that allegiances become weak when production does not match the price tag.
Joey Galloway — Traded for two 1st round picks in 2000, Keyshawn Johnson four years later
I feel like people forget about Joey Galloway the NFL player, and know him only as Joey Galloway the ESPN talking head. However, the former Buckeye speedster had six 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and played professionally for approximately 26 years. Seriously, the man played forever! He was selected eighth overall in the 1995 NFL Draft, and put up stats well into his thirties. He was also involved in multiple high-profile trades.
After 4.5 (holdout) productive seasons with the Seattle Seahawks to begin his career, Galloway wanted to be paid amongst the NFL’s elite wide receivers. As is the case today, when you want to talk money, get the Dallas Cowboys involved. Seattle traded Galloway to Dallas for two first-rounders in 2000, and the Cowboys gave a new contract to the guy who they assumed would be their Michael Irvin replacement. Unfortunately, his production fell off, and Dallas was looking to flip the asset just a few years later.
Galloway was swapped for Tampa Bay’s Keyshawn Johnson in 2004, and would go on to have a serious career resurgence. He produced three consecutive 1,000-yard season from 2005-2007, becoming the first player in franchise history to do so. His career tailed off after that, but Galloway finished with nearly 11,000 yards and 77 touchdowns. He also has the distinction of being traded for a former #1 overall selection and multiple, future first-rounders in separate deals.
Santonio Holmes — Shipped out of Pittsburgh after a career year
The Pittsburgh Steelers traded up in the 2006 NFL Draft to grab Holmes with the 25th pick, despite him never having a 1,000-yard season at Ohio State. If you remember those Tressel teams, you are not surprised. However, Holmes did average more than 18 yards per reception in 2005, to go with 11 touchdowns for the Buckeyes. He then contributed immediately for the Steelers, racking up 824 receiving yards as a rookie. He achieved similar production in each of the next two seasons, before being named Super Bowl XLIII MVP. Holmes appeared to be a star in the making.
The following season, in 2009, Holmes continued his upward trajectory. He had 79 catches, for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns for the Steelers, becoming their top target. But surprisingly, his best season with Pittsburgh would be his last with the franchise. Due to a series of poor decisions, the team decided to cut bait, and traded Holmes to the New York Jets for just a fifth-round draft pick. Part of the low asking price was Holmes’ impending suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
The deal worked out poorly for the Jets. Despite Holmes’ spotty track record, the wide receiver did help the team make it to an AFC Championship game in 2010, so they signed him to a five year, $50 million deal prior to 2011. Holmes finished that season with just 51 catches and 654 yards — the lowest yardage total of his career (by far), despite playing all 16 games. He missed most of 2012 due to injury, and appeared in only 11 games the following season (2013). Holmes played a total of 31 games under the five-year pact. He was released after three, and signed with the Chicago Bears, but the writing was on the wall. He was waived after nine games, marking the end of his NFL career.
David Boston — Left original team after just four seasons, signing a seven-year free agent deal elsewhere
Boston was a big deal. Yes, I’m referring to his pharmaceutically-enhanced supplement regimen, but he was also a very productive NFL wide receiver for a few seasons. Also one of the most talented wideouts to ever play for Ohio State, he (like Galloway) was taken eighth overall in the NFL Draft. The Arizona Cardinals selected him in 1999, and after a rookie campaign spent adapting to the next level, Boston exploded in his second and third seasons.
The man who once threw hands with Charles Woodson during The Rivalry totaled 98 receptions and 1,598 yards in 2001, for which he was named First Team All-Pro. Unfortunately, injuries and personal issues forced Boston out of Arizona, and eventually out of the league altogether. After missing eight games due to injury in 2002, and then testing positive for cocaine and marijuana following a DUI arrest, the Cardinals made no effort to re-sign him. The San Diego Chargers were obviously still enamored with his 2001 season, and signed him to a seven-year, $47 million contract prior to 2003.
Boston’s contract was a lengthy one for the time, but San Diego realized the error of their ways after just one season. He was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a measly sixth-round pick in 2004, and it only got worse from there. Boston did not play at all in 2004, due to a positive steroid test and an injury. He played five games in 2005, before... you guessed it... suffering another injury. The former Buckeye was done. From a seven-year contract, to out of the league in three years.
Other notable transactions
Mike Vrabel finds success in New England
It might not have been a surprise that Vrabel left the Pittsburgh Steelers (the team that drafted him) after four years, but it likely shocked the organization when he became a fixture and Super Bowl champion for the New England Patriots. Vrabel was strictly a backup for the Steelers, so they let him walk after the 2000 season. The Patriots signed him, and the rest is history.
LeCharles Bentley returns home with a huge contract, suffers unfortunate injury
Bentley was the highest-rated free agent available following the 2005 season, and he left the New Orleans Saints to sign a six-year, $36 million deal with his hometown Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately, he tore his PCL in training camp, causing him to endure multiple operations and infections as a result. It took two years before Bentley was finally cleared to play, but he ultimately decided against a return to the field. The contract situation turned very ugly, as the former Buckeye center felt that the Browns organization was at least partially to blame. He and the team eventually settled out of court.
Corey Linsley leaves Green Bay, signs largest positional contract in the NFL
Linsley was another former Buckeye center turned prominent free agent. After the Packers selected him in the fifth round of the 2014 draft, he became a staple in their lineup and earned a place on the 2020 All-Pro Team. However, the team chose to spend money elsewhere once his second contract was up, so Linsley signed with the Los Angeles Chargers for five years and $62.5 million prior to 2021. At the time, it was the NFL’s richest contract for a center, and he has rewarded the Chargers with All-Pro caliber play.