By ALAN TRUEX
Kerry Rhodes is the free-agent star nobody wants. Last year he started for an Arizona defense that led the NFL in interception percentage and ranked 11th in yards per pass . He had four intercept-ions, 67 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Pro Football Focus, which grades all players on all plays, rated him the fourth best free safety in the league.
So why has no one offered him a contract? OK, he’s 31, not as fast as he was a couple of years ago. But he’s big, at 6-2, 215 pounds, and he tracks the ball, and there are older safeties who are starting: Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ed Reed, Charles Woodson.
The real reason why Rhodes is being shunned is his perceived homosexuality. Although he has gone to great efforts to deny he’s gay, a former trainer of his who claims to be his ex-lover has posted photos that show a degree of intimacy thought to be unusual among straight men.
There are many NFL players who would rather not undress and shower with men who might be sexually attracted to them. Teams fear Rhodes could upset the delicate chemistry of the locker room.
But for many NFL teams this represents a bad business decision. Here are nine that would be improved by starting Rhodes at free safety: Green Bay, San Francisco, Cleveland, Jets, Carolina, Dallas, Washington, Denver and St. Louis.
Some of them are likely to regret walking away from Rhodes.
Aldon Smith is predicting he not only smashes Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 sacks (with an assist from Brett Favre) but that he goes on to reach 30. Smith recorded 19.5 sacks in 2012, so he’s expecting more than a 50% increase in production.