30 Big-Name NFL Veterans Most Likely to Get Cut This Offseason

Dan Van WieContributor IIIFebruary 14, 2012

30 Big-Name NFL Veterans Most Likely to Get Cut This Offseason

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    The NFL is in many ways like the jungle. Sure, we have our Panthers, Lions, Jaguars and Tigers, (Bengals). But I was primarily thinking about the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest.

    Every year, there's a certain percentage of NFL veteran players who are told that this is the end of the line. Your locker is cleaned out, and you wait to hear from your agent if some other team has claimed you on waivers or not.

    The reasons for a veteran player to be released can vary across the board. Sometimes, it comes down to performance issues, salary-cap maneuvering, coaching change, scheme change, player gained weight or lost too much weight, player lost a step, not recovering from injuries fast enough, age, or maybe, a combination of multiple factors we listed.

    We have already witnessed one surprising release this offseason, as Oakland Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie has begun cleaning house with the release of cornerback Stanford Routt.

    In some of these cases, a player may opt to simple retire, rather than risk the humbling experience of being waived or released. In some cases, a player will be released, only to come back to the team later on with a new contract that has suddenly become more cap-friendly to his team. We would still consider that scenario to qualify for our presentation, as there appears to be some of those exact situations that need to be resolved in the 2012 offseason.

    On to our presentation of the 30 NFL veterans who are the most likely players to be released in the 2012 offseason.

Chad Ochocinco

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    For any football fan that missed the news, Chad Ochocinco will be no more.

    Chad will officially change his name back to Chad Johnson on July 4th per reports and his Twitter account. So, if you are looking for Chad Ochocinco on a NFL roster in 2012, you won't see his name anywhere. If you are looking for Chad Johnson, you might not see that name either.

    Based on the limited results that Ochocinco produced in 2011, it is hard to picture Johnson back with New England in 2012. Ochocinco caught 15 passes of the 32 targets that Tom Brady threw to him. Ochocinco caught one touchdown pass and also caught one pass in Super Bowl XLVI. At least he was part of a team that won the AFC championship, so he does have something positive to show for his year in New England. 

    Ochocinco is due to earn $3.1 million in 2012, and there's no way that the Patriots will be wiling to pay that amount to a player who averaged less than one catch per game for the entire season. Holy Cow, Batman!

Kevin Faulk

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    Moving on to our next veteran New England Patriots casualty, as they make room for younger players on the 2012 roster, is running back Kevin Faulk.

    Faulk has played his entire career in New England and has been with the team for 13 years.

    For every prior Super Bowl that Tom Brady played in, Faulk was also part of that team. But while Brady played in Super Bowl XLVI, it was Faulk who was told on the morning of the game that he would not be allowed to dress for the contest, which sent him to tears.

    It is not yet known if Faulk will announce his retirement in the offseason, or if he will try to stick for one more year. If he attempts the latter, he will find that the Patriots are trying to create roster space and ample touches for Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.

    Faulk will be a free agent in 2012, so if New England doesn't want him to come to training camp, he will more than likely retire. At least he has enjoyed a long, productive career.

Hines Ward

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    It seems like it is only a matter of time before we will see a blurb on the ticker that flashes the news that Hines Ward has been released by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Ward will try to do whatever he can to convince the team to let him come back for a smaller salary, but it seems like the Steelers are ready to move on without Ward.

    As per this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers are planning to release Ward, but nobody from the team has informed him yet of their decision. The announcement, however, could happen any day now.

    Part of the reason is that the Steelers have a stable of young, talented receivers, and if Ward stays on the team and is part of the active roster, he is then taking snaps away from a younger receiver like Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders.

    For the year, Ward had 46 catches for two touchdowns and averaged only 8.3 yards per catch. The two touchdowns and 46 catches both represent his lowest mark since 1999. The 8.3 yards per catch average is the first time in his career that he averaged less than 10 yards a catch. In fact he only had one catch in 2011 that went for 20 yards or more.

    A new story by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette paints an even worse picture of Ward's chances of returning. It stated that Ward didn't play any snaps down the stretch because the Steelers coaches didn't think he could get open. Ouch !!

    Ward is probably not ready to accept his fate, but his days in Pittsburgh are drawing to a close.

Marcus McNeill

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    As per this article from the Union-Tribune San Diego, the San Diego Chargers are likely to cut tackle Marcus McNeill in a move that would free up nearly $10 million in salary cap. That is a significant amount of money to free up, allowing the Chargers to make other moves.

    It would then follow suit that the Chargers try to replace McNeill with Jared Gaither, who joined the team during the 2011 season.

    You may recall that McNeill staged a holdout and wound up signing a huge six-year deal in October of 2010 that paid him almost $49 million. Since then, he has injured his neck, back and knee. Add up an expensive contract, poor health and a good replacement and you have all the ingredients needed to make McNeill an ex-Charger.

    Once McNeill is released from his expensive contract, he is eligible to sign a new deal, and there is already speculation out of Atlanta, from this story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Falcons would be interested in him. And the beat goes on.

Thomas Davis

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    Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers linebacker, has spent seven years with the team. That might quickly be coming to an end.

    Davis has torn his ACL three times so far, and as a result, he has only been able to play in just nine games the last three years, out of a possible 48-game total. He is physically just too unreliable to count on.

    In addition, the Panthers will be on the hook to pay Davis a roster bonus of $8 million on March 15th. That means that you will see his name on the transaction wire sometime between now and the next month. 

    After he is waived, it is possible that the two parties could reunite and work out an incentive-laden deal that compensates Davis for the number of games he plays, as opposed to the number of surgeries he has. That is what this article in Pro Football Weekly suggests as a possible conclusion.

Lee Evans

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    Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans had an opportunity to send the Baltimore Ravens to Super Bowl XLVI, but his crucial drop of a Joe Flacco pass late in the fourth quarter prevented the Ravens from securing the win. It was the first time in Evans' career that he experienced the NFL playoffs, and based on his production for Baltimore, it might turn out to be his last time as well.

    From this article by the Carroll County Times, it is believed that the Ravens will release Evans based on the limited production he generated in 2011, in combination with the salary cap hit they take by keeping him. Lee is due to receive $3.3 million in base salary and then another $1 million for a roster bonus that is due to be paid on March 18. Evans' salary cap number in 2012 will be $5.61 million.

    For a guy with just four catches for 74 yards and no touchdowns, that is an awful lot of money to pay. What is odd about his year, besides being injured for most of the year, is how seldom Evans and quarterback Joe Flacco were able to connect on passes. Evans caught only four passes out of 26 targets, which is an extremely low percentage for two seasoned veterans.

    What is ironic is that in the prior season, Week 7 of 2010, Evans caught six passes out of 10 targets for 103 yards and three touchdown catches against the Ravens. His quarterback was Ryan Fitzpatrick. What a difference a year makes. In his career, Evans has gained over 6,000 yards in receptions and has 43 touchdown catches.

    If Evans is able and willing to tear up the old contract and re-negotiate a new deal, then there is the possibility that he could come back. But if he is unwilling to do that, then he will become a free agent.

Dwight Freeney

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    One of the more interesting rebuilding efforts going on in the 2012 NFL offseason, will be to see what players are still part of the team in the new season. Wholesale changes have been made in the coaching staff, and the roster could also see wholesale changes made on both sides of the ball.

    The Colts are definitely getting younger, and one of the wily veterans who might become a roster casualty is Dwight Freeney. Freeney is still playing solid football, so this would not be a performance issue.

    No, with Freeney, this is about salary cap space and bringing in younger guys who they can build around. In 2012, Freeney is due to collect $14.035 million in salary. That number is bumped up to $19 million against the cap, as per this item from Rotoworld.

    It is always possible that the Colts could attempt to trade Freeney, as many NFL teams are looking to upgrade their pass rush. The other issue at hand is how will the Colts employ Freeney in 2012 if he is retained by the team.

    It appears that with new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, the thought is that the Colts would ask Freeney to stand up as an outside linebacker. We are talking about a guy that has played for 11 years as a defensive end, and you now want to ask him to switch as this late stage of his career? This is similar to what happened to Chris Kelsay with the Buffalo Bills when they switched defensive schemes and Kelsay looked like a fish out of water for the first 10 weeks of the switch.

    I enjoyed the analogy that Rotoworld used in their update on Freeney, which concluded with: "Keeping the Pro Bowl pass-rusher on the roster at that rate would be like decking out a jalopy with a Rolls Royce hood ornament".

Mike Williams

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    When a team falls completely apart like the Tampa Bay Bucs did in the final 10 games of the 2011 season, you know that there are going to be many changes. It started with the firing of the Bucs head coach Raheem Morris and his coordinators.

    Now we have new head coach Greg Schiano, who is going to be asked to instill a new level of sense of urgency to the program, and a no-nonsense approach. This is where the rubber meets the road, and I think Mike Williams meets the road in a hard way.

    A report from Walter Football.com claims that Williams and LeGarrette Blount took too many short cuts in 2011 and were too wrapped up in partying. Williams would stay out late partying, and then would fall asleep in team meetings. Not only that, but he lost weight during the season and started to appear to be frail, making it difficult to get free from pressure. Williams had plunged to the fourth-round of the NFL draft in 2010 due to being lazy, and he has backed up that image in the pros.

    Look at how much his game took a turn for the worse, noting that he caught 65 passes in each of his first two years. In his rookie year, he gained 964 yards, last year the yardage dropped to 771. His average was 14.8 as a rookie, but only 11.9 last year. He had 11 touchdowns as a rookie, but only three touchdowns in 2011. Finally, he caught 18 passes of at least 20 yards as a rookie, but only had nine in 2011. His game definitely went south.

    I think Schiano is going to come in to the 2012 season, and he is going to look for somebody who he can use as an example; somebody he can really make a statement with. I suspect that soon enough, Williams will do something that gets him in the dog house, and just like that, he will be released by the Bucs.

Takeo Spikes

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    Another long-standing NFL veteran who might be in jeopardy in the 2012 offseason is San Diego Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes, according to this article from the Union Tribune San Diego.

    The Chargers had signed Spikes originally to a three-year deal, but he was basically viewed as a one-year rental player. Spikes is now 35 years old, and clearly, he's in the twilight of his career.

    The Chargers have a younger, cheaper player waiting in the wings in Jonas Mouton, who was injured last year.

    If the Chargers keep Spikes, they would have to pay him $2.875 million in 2012. Mouton, on the other hand, is due $523,000, so this would save the Chargers more than $2 million.

    If released, Spikes would likely resurface with another team, assuming that he still wants to continue to play.

Luis Castillo

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    While we are on the topic of the San Diego Chargers, another potential veteran casualty is defensive end Luis Castillo.

    Per the same article from the Union Tribune San Diego, the Chargers could clear all of the $6 million salary cap number for Castillo, except for $1.025 million, if they release him this offseason.

    Since Castillo broke his leg in the opening game of 2011, the Chargers were able to get a good read on players like Vaughn Martin and Corey Liuget, and feel that they can adequately replace Castillo with the younger players. 

    Castillo hasn't exactly been lighting up opposing quarterbacks. Since 2006, the highest sacks total that Castillo posted is only 2.5. That isn't going to cut it for the $4.9 million base salary they are going to be paying him.

    It doesn't hurt that they try to save some cap room in the process, especially if they are trying to free up money to retain Vincent Jackson.

Brandon Jacobs

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    It is always news when a Super Bowl championship team releases a key member of the team, but that might very well be the outcome this offseason for running back Brandon Jacobs and the New York Giants.

    Brandon Jacobs will be entering the final season of his current contract in 2012, which calls for him to receive $4.4 million plus another $500,000 roster bonus which is due in March.

    Jacobs has seen his production continue to drop. In the four years, his rushing totals have continued to drop every year, from 1,089 to 835 to 823 and now 571 yards last year.

    The Giants used to rely on Jacobs to pick up the key yards for first downs to move the chains, but his ability to do that has continued to drop as well, with diminishing totals in the last four years; 57, 43, 39 and 32 first downs in 2011.

    His average yards per rush has dropped to just 3.8 yards during the regular season and fell even further to 3.1 yards per rush in the playoffs.

    If Jacobs is willing to work out a different deal with the Giants, which Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News reports that he is, then it is possible that he can stay with the club. But, if he is not willing to take a steep enough pay cut, it would not be a surprise to see him be released by the team.

Terrence McGee

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    Terrence McGee has been a solid corner for the Buffalo Bills over the years. McGee has played nine years in the NFL, usually to very little fanfare. He is not loud or brash, just does his job and plays hard for his team.

    But the biggest issue now for McGee is being healthy enough to stay on the field. A variety of injuries have forced him to miss games, and he is now missing more games than he is healthy for, which is never a good thing.

    In the past five years, the number of games he has played continue to shrink: 15, 14, 11, nine and six. McGee has come up with just one interception in the last three years and has no fumble recoveries and no forced fumbles in the last five years.

    In his prime, he would come up with 18 to 21 passes defended in a season. Now, those totals are reduced in the last three years to seven, two and two. In short, he is just not making enough plays on defense to warrant keeping his job.

    McGee is set to earn $3.6 million in 2012, so combined with the health issues and turning into a pedestrian player, it would not be a major surprise to see the Bills release him.

Chad Clifton

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    Chad Clifton has been battling in the trenches for the Green Bay Packers for many years. Clifton is now 35 years old and has been in the NFL for 12 years.

    According to this article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Clifton is being viewed as a potential casualty of the salary cap. If the Packers release Clifton, they will save $5.7 million against the salary cap, and that is a substantial number.

    He is starting to wear down after all the years of battling in the line, and the Packers have younger tackles they can plug in like Marshall Newhouse or Bryan Bulaga. It didn't help Clifton's cause that he had a rough game in the Packers playoff loss against the formidable New York Giants pass rush.

    It is almost a perfect storm for the release of Clifton, as age, health, performance and money. are all becoming factors. When there are that many reasons being stacked up against you, that is a good indication the end is near.

Levi Brown

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    Chad Clifton is not the only veteran tackle in the NFL that might be in jeopardy during the 2012 offseason.

    Tackle Levi Brown of the Arizona Cardinals is another potential salary cap victim, as the salary cap figure for Brown is huge, in the $17-$18 million range. That includes a base salary of $8.3 million and another $9.675 million in a roster bonus.

    That is the belief of Kent Somers of AZ Central.com, who wrote this article looking at the issues facing the Cardinals with Brown.

    If the Cardinals are believed to have a shot at landing Peyton Manning in free agency, it may very well boil down to who is manning the left tackle position for each of Manning's suitors. In a comparison analysis like that, the Cardinals would not fare very well. They need to find an upgrade over Brown.

    It would be one thing if Brown was really good at his job, but that is just not the case. Perhaps he may be able to make a deal with the Cardinals to take a big pay cut, but that still won't make him a better player, only a more affordable one.

Jimmy Clausen

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    Jimmy Clausen hasn't exactly enjoyed the smoothest of starts to his NFL career. Clausen was selected with the No. 48 overall draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in the 2010 NFL Draft.

    JaMarcus Russell lasted three years with the Oakland Raiders before he was released, but Clausen might have trouble lasting with his team as long as Russell did. Clausen may set the new standard for a quick exit.

    In Clausen's rookie season, in which he rotated at quarterback with Matt Moore, Clausen never topped 200-passing yards in a single game. While watching from the sidelines in 2011, Clausen had a great vantage point to watch rookie Cam Newton top 400-passing yards in each of his first two starts. Oh, so that's how you do it !

    In the 2010 season, Clausen threw three touchdown passes to nine interceptions and had a QB Passer Rating of just 58.4. According to this story on ESPN.com, Clausen will create a salary cap number over $1 million if the Panthers release him prior to March 27. That is when he has a roster bonus due that will pay him $923,000, which is significantly more than his 2012 salary of $490,000. 

    In 2011, Clausen watched all 16 games from the sidelines as an inactive player. He was third string on the Panthers, and when you can't beat out Derek Anderson for a backup job, that pretty much tells you all you need to know about Clausen's talent level.

    The one thing that Carolina Panthers can be grateful to Clausen for, is that because his quarterback play was so bad as a rookie, the Panthers earned the No. 1 overall draft pick to be able to select the savior of the franchise—Cam Newton.

    If Clausen would have directed the Panthers to two or three more wins, things would be much different now in Carolina. Who knows, maybe Clausen would still be quarterback of the team. OK, that was a stretch. It would probably be Derek Anderson.

Dominique Foxworth

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    Baltimore Ravens corner Dominique Foxworth is another NFL veteran who should be looking for a new employer in 2012.

    In this article from the Baltimore Sun.com, Foxworth's position with the Ravens is in jeopardy because of the combination of the team owing him $5.6 million in 2012, along with playing in only two games over the past two years. That would make anybody susceptible to being a candidate for the waiver wire.

    In addition, the Ravens already have been grooming his replacement, as they have Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith that they can plug in.

    In fact, there is concern that Foxworth's knee won't be back to normal for some time. In this report from ESPN.com, Foxworth may not be physically able to play again, since his knee is that bad.

Yeremiah Bell

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    Miami Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell has been a key component of the Dolphins defense for many years. He has led the team in tackles for the past four years running and has been the team captain. Despite those credentials, the 2012 offseason might see the team release Bell over salary cap concerns.

    As things stack up right now, according to this article from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Bell has the fourth-highest salary cap number on the entire Dolphins roster ($6.2 million). That trails only Jake Long, Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby. As such, that makes Bell expendable.

    Bell is due $4.3 million in salary in 2012. With the Dolphins looking to shed payroll to free up salary cap room for a certain quarterback that used to play in the AFC South, and to put some more weapons on the team to entice him to play in Miami, players like Bell may have to be sacrificed for the greater good.

    Given his level of play, Bell shouldn't have many problems finding another team to play for. Who knows, maybe Bell and the Dolphins can restructure his contract and find a way for him to stay with the team.

Will Smith

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    New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith started out the 2011 season by being suspended by the NFL for two games due to violating the league's policy against banned substances. Smith then played the rest of the year, putting up decent numbers, but nothing that could be called as a great year.

    Smith generated 6.5 sacks, had 35 tackles and forced two fumbles. He had three tackles for a loss and defended two passes. He was second on the Saints in sacks, by the way.

    But as any football fan who follows the Saints knows, the team has some huge decisions to make regarding free agency, as the team is scrambling to see who they can retain from this group of star players: QB Drew Brees, G Carl Nicks, WR Marques Colston, WR Robert Meachem and CB Tracy Porter.

    So given the magnitude of those choices, other players who are not performing up to the level of their salary cap number are subject to a potential release. Enter Will Smith. Smith's salary cap number for 2012 is over $10 million. That would go a long way towards signing somebody from the list above. Can the Saints afford to lose his pass-rushing ability?

    Smith will be collecting a $7 million base salary in 2012 along with a roster bonus of $1 million on March 27. It would not be a surprise if he is released in the week prior to the bonus becoming due.

Casey Hampton

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    If Pittsburgh Steelers fans want to know why we're listing nose tackle Casey Hampton in this presentation, there are quite a few reasons why he qualifies.

    For starters, Hampton is now 34 years old, and he turns 35 in the first week of September. You have to wonder how strong his legs are going forward, since he just had ACL surgery due to his torn ACL from last season.

    Then we come to the money part. Hampton counts $8.1 million against the salary cap in 2012, and $4.89 of that would be in the form of his 2012 salary.

    The Steelers will probably try to draft a young defensive tackle in the draft. Based on how successful they are with that, they may consider bringing Hampton back at a reduced contract, if he doesn't wind up landing with another team.

Anthony Fasano

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    Miami Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano is a consistent performer, but he has presumably already hit his ceiling.

    After spending six years in the NFL, Fasano can't seem to eclipse his personal best of 39 catches in a season. During the last four years in Miami, Fasano has caught 34, 31, 39 and 32 passes respectively.

    The South Florida Sun-Sentinel was analyzing the Dolphins offense in this article, and they speculated that Fasano's contract and salary cap number might be an issue going forward.

    His salary cap number is $4.375 million and his salary in 2012 is $3.6 million. Those numbers don't really fit with a player that can't catch more than 39 passes in a year.

    Maybe the Dolphins will try to structure a new deal with him, but there's the chance that he is just released by the Dolphins.

Mike Wright

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    New England Patriots nose tackle Mike Wright has experienced two rough years in a row due to concussions. They have been bad enough to keep him off of the field for 21 of the last 32 regular season games.

    His salary for 2012 is reasonable at $2.35 million, but this is more a health issue than it is about freeing up salary cap room. If a player isn't able to be counted on, you have to move on to the next man up.

    Sometimes life in the NFL is cruel, but that is the way that it works.

Nate Burleson

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    Nate Burleson has enjoyed a nine-year career in the NFL, playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and the Detroit Lions.

    In an article on Pro Football Talk.com, Burleson is thought to be a candidate to be released by the team. The Lions have $4 million tied up with Burleson for 2012, and they have another $5 million tied up with defensive tackle Corey Williams.

    The big issue is that the Lions have $21 million tied up with Calvin Johnson, but the Lions haven't had any luck in getting Johnson to agree to a new deal, which would allow them to free up some cap space.

    As a result, the Lions will probably have to release either Burleson or Williams, or possibly both. It is a difficult situation because both players had a good 2011 season, but this is the reality of dealing with the new salary-cap situations.

Donald Driver

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    Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver finds himself in a situation very much like Hines Ward.

    Driver is obviously getting long in the tooth, as a wide receiver at 37 years old, still playing in the NFL. The Packers have tremendous depth at wide receiver, and that is not helping his chances very much for coming back in 2012. Like Ward, he is also willing to take less money for the chance to play one more year. It is sounding like those wishes are going to be falling on deaf ears.

    According to this article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Driver is ready to sacrifice some of his $2.6 million salary in 2012 to stay in Green Bay. That is all well and good, but then the Packers would be on the hook for a roster bonus of $2.2 million. That is a stumbling block and is leading to the likely conclusion that Driver will be released by the Packers.

    Driver just isn't ready to walk away from the game yet, so if the Packers do decide to release him, Driver is prepared to play for another team in 2012, because he thinks he is still good enough to play.

Nate Clements

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    Cincinnati Bengals corner Nate Clements was able to sign a two-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals in the crazy free-agency period of 2011.

    Clements was only paid $1 million salary in 2011, but is now due to receive $4.3 million in 2012 according to the deal he signed. The deal was worth a total of $10.5 million, of which $6 million was guaranteed.

    The Bengals would be able to save a fairly significant chunk of that salary by just releasing Clements, and considering that Clements seems to be struggling more in pass coverage, it is looking harder for the Bengals to justify shelling out all that money. The Bengals like the way that Clements helps out in stopping the run however.

    It is possible that the Bengals might decide to offer Clements a chance to play safety, where he wouldn't be so much of a liability. If Clements accepts a position change, he could remain with the team. If he isn't ready to do that, then he is a candidate to be released.

Cullen Jenkins

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    The Philadelphia Daily News ran a story that when the Philadelphia Eagles GM Howie Roseman signed defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins to a five-year deal, what he might have really been thinking was that he had just snagged Jenkins as a one-year rental player.

    If that is in fact the plan for Roseman, then the Eagles can carve out $7.75 million from the salary cap. Jenkins has a $5 million roster bonus that is coming due in a little less than one month from now, March 13. Jenkins is slated to earn a base salary of $2.75 million in 2012.

    So, if you see that Jenkins has hit the waiver wire over the next four weeks, you will know why.

Steve Hutchinson

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    Minnesota Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson has been fairly open about his plans to retire from the NFL in 2013. There is one slight problem with his retirement plans, in that the Vikings might beat him to the punch.

    According to an article from ESPN 1500 Twin Cities, the Vikings aren't planning to honor the final year of his contract. In 2012, Hutchinson is set to receive $7 million in compensation.

    While he is still playing at a high level, there is just no way that the Vikings are willing to pay him that much to play his final year. If he is willing to take less and retire after 2012, something might still be able to be worked out. If he is not open to a restructure, then his retirement party is moved up one year.

Bryant McKinnie

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    Baltimore Ravens tackle Bryant McKinnie probably wasn't happy to learn that he had been graded out as one of the worst NFL tackles in 2011 by the analysts at Pro Football Focus. Not only was his performance not up to par, but there have been questions about his commitment level to staying in shape.

    Those are not the kind of things you want your general manager to recall about you when the team is trying to find creative ways to sign free agents like Ray Rice, Ben Grubbs and come up with money to sign quarterback Joe Flacco to a long-term deal.

    McKinnie is starting to get up there in age, as he will be 33 years old in 2012. There are a number of factors going against McKinnie, who also has a $500,000 roster bonus due on March 18.

    It isn't that the Ravens would save a ton by releasing McKinnie. His salary cap number would only amount to $4.2 million in 2012, but if you add up enough of those $4.2 million contracts, they can make a difference.

Albert Haynesworth

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    Albert Haynesworth, defensive tackle of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, seems to be an annual feature on which veteran players will be released in the offseason.

    Until Haynesworth gets back in physical shape, and mentally is prepared to do what he has to do to become a warrior again, he will keep appearing on these lists, one year after another.

    No exception for 2012. As per the Tampa Bay Times.com, Haynesworth didn't have a good 2011 season, and so it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if he is released from the team this offseason. He is due to receive a $6.7 million base salary, along with a $400,000 roster bonus on August 1.

    Hopefully, Haynesworth has done a good job of saving a good chunk of his earlier mega-deals, because the offers are only going to continue being smaller and smaller from here on out.

Anthony Herrera

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    In the same article we sighted earlier from ESPN 1500 Twin Cities on Steve Hutchinson, the Minnesota Vikings are also thought to be viewing guard Anthony Herrera as another player that could be released in the 2012 offseason. 

    Injury issues and not holding his own physically at the line of scrimmage are seen as the largest factors in why this could happen. From an age standpoint, he is 32 years old, so you would think he still has some football left in him.

    The Vikings have some younger linemen they can plug in like Brandon Fusco. The Vikings would be on the hook to pay Herrera $2.75 million in 2012, so they would be saving some money that they can apply towards other team needs.

Peyton Manning

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    Our final player in the presentation is Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. A year or two ago, it would be considered blasphemy to even consider including Manning in an article about players that will be released in the offseason, but the unthinkable is looking more and more like it will happen.

    The public relations ploy that Colts owner Jim Irsay introduced earlier today appeared to be a big smokescreen to appease the Colts fans.

    Irsay is hoping that Manning is willing to walk away from the huge $28 million bonus that he is due to receive, and on top of that, will be willing to work out an incentive laden deal that protects the Colts in the event that Manning gets hurt or the nerves don't come all the way back.

    I see this showdown coming to a potential head over the course of the upcoming month, and Manning will force the Colts to either pay him the bonus, or the Colts will have to release him. If that is the way that things work out, then Irsay has no choice but to release Manning, since the Colts are going to be in full operational mode of rebuilding the team with either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.

    Once he is released, Manning is then free to start negotiating with any other team. He can take his time and let his body and nerves come back around before he has to start throwing for teams in private workouts.

    There will definitely be some teams that are prepared to wait for him and will allow him to take as much time as he needs to show that he is all the way back.