26 NFL Veterans Who Need to Restructure Their Contracts or Risk Being Cut
As we saw with the emotional press conference this week, when Peyton Manning got a chance to give the city of Indianapolis a sincere farewell, literally anybody in the NFL is capable of being released.
For Manning, his unique circumstances dictated that something needed to be done, and the Indianapolis Colts did what they thought was in the best interests of their franchise.
Manning is not alone. Other NFL veterans who have already been released in the 2012 offseason include Pittsburgh WR Hines Ward, Seattle CB Marcus Trufant, San Diego DE Luis Castillo, Pittsburgh LB James Farrior, Baltimore CB Chris Carr, Oakland CB Stanford Routt, Baltimore CB Dominique Foxworth, Pittsburgh DE Aaron Smith and Baltimore WR Lee Evans, just to name a few.
From that group, Routt has already signed a new deal with Kansas City and Peyton Manning figures to join the ranks of the employed again within the next week or so.
There are a number of reasons why players are being released right now. Some teams want to free up salary cap space in preparation for the start of free agency on March 13 at 4:00 p.m. In other cases, teams are unwilling to pay a huge roster bonus that was built into a contract. Some players have injuries too severe to be ready for 2012, while others are being released to make way for younger, cheaper replacements.
Not everybody on this list will be released, especially if they are able to come to terms and work out a new contract that is more cap-friendly to their current employer. If a new deal isn't able to be worked out, then that increases the odds significantly that they will be released.
What we want to do today is name the top 26 NFL veterans who still have a likely chance of being released during the 2012 offseason, if they are unwilling to restructure their contract. Some will be released soon (like Kamerion Wimbley), while others might not get the bad news until closer to the start of training camp.
There were a handful of players we had identified for this article earlier this week, but they have just been released, so they were eliminated from the presentation.
26. Marion Barber, Chicago Bears
In an article from ESPN Chicago, there is some concern expressed as to whether Marion Barber will remain with the Bears in 2012.
For starters, there is Barber's performance. In the last two seasons, Barber has failed to average 4.0 yards per carry. He averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in 2010 and followed that up with a 3.7 average in 2011.
Where he would routinely gain 885 to 975 yards when he was in his prime years with the Dallas Cowboys from 2007-2009, Barber now has rushed for 374 and 422 yards in the last two years.
On top of that he is due to receive a base salary of $1.9 million in 2012, along with a $250,000 workout bonus and a $100,000 roster bonus. Then you factor in that Kahlil Bell started to look pretty good to the Bears down the stretch in 2011, and you realize that it might take Barber to make a "hair cut" in pay.
25. Ronald Bartell, St. Louis Rams
You've seen this script before.
Team signs a player to an expensive contract. Player gets hurt early in the season and the team has very little to show for their investment. The old general manager and head coach are replaced, so nobody in the new re-org is in your corner. Team cuts player and saves a ton of money the following season.
That appears to be the exact scenario for CB Ronald Bartell and the St. Louis Rams.
This story that ran in SportsIllustrated.com says that Bartell still wants to play in 2012. The problem is that he fractured his neck, and now that he has turned 30 years old, there is a reasonable question as to how healthy he is.
To make matters worse, you have a new regime running the St. Louis Rams, and nobody there is beholden to Bartell and the $6.2 million salary he is due to receive in 2012.
Finally, there's a tweet by Profootballtalk.com's Gregg Rosenthal, stating that he thinks the Rams are interested in free-agent CB Eric Wright of Detroit, who would serve as the replacement for Bartell.
It doesn't look very promising for Bartell right now.
24. Tony Pashos, Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns tackle Tony Pashos will be 32 years old by the time the 2012 season starts. He decided to have surgery this week on his ankle, according to this tweet from Mary Kay Cabot.
Pashos is due $3.35 million in 2012. While that number on the surface doesn't seem outlandish for a tackle in the NFL, you then have to compare that with the level of his play.
According to this assessment from Rotoworld, the level of compensation doesn't match the quality of his play, and that is the bottom line.
A different picture is painted from the rankings done by ProFootballFocus.com, if you look at their chart for the performance of tackles in 2011.
It will be interesting to see how this specific situation unfolds during the 2012 offseason.
23. Chad Clifton, Green Bay Packers
Chad Clifton is getting up there in age, he is coming off a major injury and is expensive. In short, that adds up to three strikes and you're out!
It remains to be seen what exactly the Green Bay Packers will do with tackle Chad Clifton this offseason.
As per this article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Chad Clifton had surgery to relieve the pain he was experiencing in both his hip and his back. Clifton is already 35 years old. Clifton will turn 36 before the upcoming season starts. He is scheduled to earn a salary in 2012 of $5.25 million and is also due to receive a roster bonus of $203,125.
His play in 2011 was questionable at times, reflecting on the way that he gave up pressure on Aaron Rodgers from the New York Giants pass rush.
It is not yet known if the Packers will release Clifton or ask him to take a pay cut to stay with the team.
22. Dante Hughes, San Diego Chargers
According to this article from the San Diego Union Tribune, the Chargers top three corners for 2012 appear to be Marcus Gilchrist, Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason, so corner Dante Hughes may be a candidate to be released in this offseason.
Hughes is schedule to earn $1 million in salary in 2012. His play in the slot wasn't very inspiring, so he will have to somehow impress the Chargers into believing that he is worth the money.
21. Andre Goodman, Denver Broncos
Andre Goodman of the Denver Broncos had a rather rocky 2011 season. Care to guess who Chad Johnson beat to score his first touchdown pass of 2011? You got it, Andre Goodman. When you get beat badly by Chad Johnson, you know you are in trouble.
Goodman is scheduled to earn $4.62 million in 2012, and from the way that he played in 2011, you have to think that the Broncos will ask him to take a pay cut, or will just ask him to leave and don't come back.
How strong has Goodman's play been? Well, in this study of NFL cornerbacks, Pro Football Focus did a study of corner play in 2011 and found that Goodman was ranked in the bottom 20 of all NFL corners for run support.
Maybe he is doing the job in pass coverage instead? The last two full seasons he played prior to 2011 was in 2008 and 2009. In those two years he had 19 and 17 passes defended, respectively. What did he have in 2011? Try 10. In those same years, 2008 and 2009, he intercepted five passes both years. How many in 2011? Two interceptions.
All of that for $4.62 million? I can just hear the equipment manager now: "Hey Andre, John Elway wants to see you in his office."
20. Aaron Curry, Oakland Raiders
Before we address LB Aaron Curry of the Oakland Raiders specifically, we have to look at the overall situation of the Oakland Raiders.
According to this story from Profootballtalk.com, the Raiders have a financial mess on their hands due to the upcoming salary cap. The Raiders have to find a way to clear out more than $22 million in salary cap prior to free agency starting on March 13.
That is because the Raiders had a 2011 cap allotment of $145.7 million, which was the highest of any NFL team. That figure is $16.6 million higher than the team that was behind them in cap allotment, the New York Giants.
The Raiders have made some strides towards reaching that goal, but they have more work to do. They are letting Michael Bush test free agency and put a franchise tag on Tyvon Branch.
They have already released Stanford Routt and restructured the deals for Michael Huff and Richard Seymour.
Coming back to Aaron Curry, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story stating that they believed that LB Aaron Curry would be safe, but I am not so sure that he will survive unless he takes a pay cut first.
Curry is scheduled to make $5.75 million in 2012. As much room as the Raiders need to free up for their salary cap, I can't see how Curry isn't asked to take less in 2012. It is hard to imagine the Raiders releasing Curry, but how many Raiders fans would have thought that the team would release Stanford Routt and Kamerion Wimbley before free agency started?
If he re-works his deal, he should be fine for 2012.
19. Spencer Johnson, Buffalo Bills
Spencer Johnson has been playing musical chairs going from defensive end to outside linebacker as the Buffalo Bills have been toying with different schemes and a hybrid look over the past couple seasons under old defensive coordinator George Edwards.
Now with Dave Wannstedt taking over as the new defensive coordinator in Buffalo, and moving to the 4-3 defense, the Bills have to generate a stronger and more consistent pass rush. Johnson hasn't exactly been a major force over the past four years, coming over from the Minnesota Vikings.
Every year, Johnson contributes two sacks for Buffalo, something he has done for four straight years. The Bills are trying to find a genuine sack artist, and are said to be looking at free agent Mario Williams. Johnson is set to earn $3 million in 2012, and that is money that could go towards a Mario Williams or John Abraham, etc.
18. Cedric Griffin, Minnesota Vikings
Cornerback Cedric Griffin of the Minnesota Vikings is in a rather interesting situation.
We have been talking about a number of veteran players who will probably be asked to take a salary cut, which will hopefully be enough to save their jobs. But then we come to situations like the one involving Cedric Griffin.
Griffin is due to make a salary of $4.1 million in 2012. The Vikings don't believe that Griffin is worth that much, so they will be asking him to take a pay cut. Griffin instead has no plans to come back to the Vikings for anything less than what he signed for.
According to this article from ESPN 1500 Twin Cities, Griffin could serve as an insurance policy until the Vikings find another player who could take his place. But Griffin has had two different operations on his knee, and his play is in decline.
By the way, the situation will only get worse from here going forward. Griffin's current contract will bring him $4.85 million in 2013, and in 2014 he will see $5.45 million. Something has to give.
17. Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson, New England Patriots
Chad Ochocinco changed his name back to Chad Johnson in 2012. Will he also have to change his address this year as well?
According to this article from the Boston Globe, the Patriots might wait until Johnson has re-worked his deal, and then release him after that.
If Johnson doesn't want to play along, the Patriots will just release him, as he proved in 2011 that he isn't worth the $3 million salary that he would be due to receive in 2012.
Between running the wrong routes and dropping passes from Tom Brady, not many things worked out very well for Johnson with the Patriots in 2011. In total for 2011, Johnson had 15 receptions for 276 yards and one touchdown. That is hardly the kind of production that you would want to pay somebody $3 million for.
16. Jonathan Vilma, New Orleans Saints
We have all heard by now how linebacker Jonathan Vilma of the New Orleans Saints put up "bounty hunting" money on the table to inspire his defensive unit, and trying to inspire his teammates to knock Brett Favre out.There is a strong sense that Vilma will be drawing a suspension from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Now, there is news coming out of New Orleans from the New Orleans Times-Picayune that after the Saints put the franchise tag on Drew Brees, they are only $7 million under the $120 million salary cap figure projected for 2012. But, that doesn't leave much money left to try to sign Carl Nicks, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem or Tracy Porter before free agency starts next week.
So, that brings us to Jonathan Vilma. The Saints could save about $3.4 million in salary cap space by releasing Vilma. They might just instead ask him to take a salary reduction, and try to save as much as they can going that route.
In 2012, Vilma will earn a base salary of $5.4 million and will get another $100,000 for a workout bonus.
The other issue at hand is the quality of Vilma's play. He played hurt but struggled in 2011, and now with the looming suspension hovering over Vilma and the team, nobody knows what is going to happen.
The Times-Picayune article didn't single out just Vilma, by the way. Other Saints players who could be asked to take a pay cut include: Scott Shanle, Will Herring, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and receiver Devery Henderson.
Another way to save cap space is to ask guys to re-structure their current deal, and the two Saints targeted for that are Jahri Evans and safety Roman Harper, with a chance to save about $2 million in cap space for each player.
15. Asante Samuel, Philadelphia Eagles
Will Asante Samuel still be playing for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012?
The latest news on Samuel comes to us from the Philadelphia Inquirer. In this article, the Inquirer suggests that the Eagles scheme is not a good fit with the way that the Eagles play in the secondary. To further complicate things, Samuel is owed a base salary in 2012 of $9.4 million, and then that number will go up to $11.4 million in 2013.
It is highly doubtful that the Eagles will let him make it to the end of that contract. It is still possible that he could be traded, but there is still the chance that the Eagles will ask him to take a pay cut and work with him from there.
Samuel recently turned 31 years old, so one has to wonder if he is still the player that he was in his prime.
14. DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans
I realize that people will be surprised to see LB DeMeco Ryans on this list. But when you learn that Ryans is going to be making a base salary of $5.9 million you understand why they might want him to re-work his deal.
According to this article from Pro Football Weekly, Ryans has been limited in his snaps on defense. He only played 58.4 percent of the defensive snaps last year, as per Pro Football Focus.
If Ryans is going to be playing less, the Texans will also want him to be earning less.
13. Bryant McKinnie, Baltimore Ravens
Another tackle who might need to look elsewhere for work in 2012 is Baltimore Ravens veteran Bryant McKinnie.
For now, it appears that McKinnie is the in-house insurance policy for the Ravens as they await to find out what happens in free agency to Ben Grubbs and Matt Birk. This article from the Baltimore Sun talks about upgrading the offensive line.
As for McKinnie, he wasn't great as a run-blocker, and Pro Football Focus ranks him as the worst member of their offensive line. McKinnie is due to get a base salary of $3.2 million in 2012.
He has a roster bonus of $500,000 coming due on March 18, so there may be some developments with him over the next 10 days.
12. Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts
I can recall the years when I had Joseph Addai as the top running back on my fantasy football teams.
Colts owner Jim Irsay said at the Peyton Manning press conference that he was going to have to make some roster moves just to sign the 2012 draft picks they make.
When it comes to trying to figure out what those roster moves might be, Rotoworld targets two veteran players who may not be part of the rebuilding efforts going forward in Indianapolis. One player mentioned was running back Joseph Addai, and the second one will be coming up in the slideshow later.
Addai is going to earn a base salary of $2.9 million in 2012, so he is a logical candidate to either be asked to take a pay cut or to work out a new deal so that he won't have to be released. Addai has been saddled with injuries, and isn't the big play back that he used to be.
11. Marcus McNeill, San Diego Chargers
Marcus McNeill has played some solid football as a starting tackle for the San Diego Chargers over the years.
A story in the San Diego Union Tribune states that the Chargers can clear up to $10 million in salary cap space if they release Marcus McNeill. Would the Chargers ask him instead to take a pay cut?
His salary in 2012 is $7.75 million. To guarantee his total compensation of $10.5 million, McNeill will need medical clearance from Chargers team doctors, which presents another stumbling block. Another red flag to McNeill is that he only gets more expensive from here. He is due to make $7.75 million in 2013, $8.75 million in 2014 and $9.75 million in 2015.
The Chargers are trying to negotiate a deal with Jared Gaither, who should be less expensive.
10. Dwan Edwards, Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills signed Dwan Edwards to a contract when he became a free agent in 2010 with Baltimore. Despite being a starter in Buffalo, Edwards has contributed only 3.5 sacks in two years, which is one of the reasons the Bills are stuck in the lower tier of sacks in the NFL.
Edwards did account for 57 tackles in 2011, but it is the lack of big plays that has to be a concern for the defense. In 2012, Edwards is scheduled to earn $3.8 million in 2012, and with the Bills trying to create cap space to land an impact pass rusher, Edwards' salary needs to come down.
The other issue is trying to determine his fit in the 4-3 scheme that Dave Wannstedt is going to. Edwards was signed when the Bills were installing the 3-4, but now that they are going in the other direction, this might be the time to go in a different direction.
9. Matt Light, New England Patriots
Matt Light has been a fixture on the offensive line for the New England Patriots. Out of the last 155 games, Light has started 153 of them. Light has played 11 years for the Patriots and has proven to be a durable performer.
But the Patriots have been grooming successors for Light, as they have been developing Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer.
According to this article from the Boston Globe, the Patriots sound like they are open to bringing Light back to give them some depth on the offensive line, but he has to be willing to take a pay cut to make that happen.
In 2012, Light is supposed to be earning $3.4 million along with a $100,000 workout bonus.
8. Levi Brown, Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals tackle Levi Brown has a contract that needs to be re-worked. That is something Peyton Manning better be researching if he is serious about considering the Cardinals organization.
From an article by Jason LaCanfora of NFL Network, he believes that Cardinals LT Levi Brown will become a free agent, according to his league sources.
Brown is still under contract in 2012, but he will account for $17 million against the Cardinals’ salary cap. Re-negotiations haven't worked out, so there is a stalemate going on.
If they can't work out a new deal, the Cardinals will have to release him. The Cardinals selected him in the first round of the 2007 draft, and he was the No. 5 overall pick of the draft.
So, if Manning joins the Cardinals, who exactly is going to be protecting his blind side?
7. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts
Another potential victim of the dreaded "rebuilding efforts" going on with the Indianapolis Colts is veteran tight end Dallas Clark.
Colts owner Jim Irsay said at the Peyton Manning press conference that he was going to have to make some roster moves just to sign the 2012 draft picks they make.
As we mentioned earlier with the Joseph Addai slide, Rotoworld targets two veteran players who may not be part of the rebuilding efforts going forward in Indianapolis. The second player in question is tight end Dallas Clark.
Clark, scheduled to earn $4.53 million, is another guy on the bubble. He will turn 33 years old this coming June. Clark was banged up again in 2011, and caught just 34 passes for 352 yards in what had to be considered as another disappointing season.
Not the kind of year you want to turn in when your team is looking to re-build.
6. Kamerion Wimbley, Oakland Raiders
Another expensive contract that needs to be restructured is that of Kamerion Wimbley of the Oakland Raiders.
As we walked you through the Raiders salary cap issues earlier in the presentation on the Aaron Curry slide, according to this story from Profootballtalk.com, the Raiders have a financial mess on their hands due to the upcoming salary cap.
The Raiders have to find a way to clear out more than $22 million in salary cap prior to free agency starting on March 13. That is because the Raiders had a 2011 cap allotment of $145.7 million, which was the highest of any NFL team
Wimbley is scheduled to earn a base salary of $11 million in 2012. That $11 million is fully guaranteed if he is on the Raiders roster on March 17 this year.
The San Francisco Chronicle believed that Wimbley was open to negotiating a new contract, but he doesn't want to accept any reduction in his compensation. Here is a link to that story.
Due to the excessive contract, it is quite possible that the Raiders will make a move within a day or two. Looks like GM Reggie McKenzie really has his work cut out for him.
5. A.J. Hawk, Green Bay Packers
According to an article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Green Bay Packers are aware that LB A.J. Hawk turned in probably the worst year of his career to date in 2011. The problem is that they don't know if this will continue in 2012, and he is slated to earn $4.4 million this upcoming season.
It should be noted that head coach Mike McCarthy thinks that D.J. Smith, who was a rookie in 2011 and was a sixth-round draft pick, might be ready to compete with Hawk for the starting job.
So how bad was Hawk's sixth season in the NFL in 2011? He turned in a career-low 84 tackles. He didn't force a fumble, nor did he recover one. While he had five interceptions in 2009-2010, he had none in 2011. In 2010, he had 10 passes defended, and last year that number dropped to three. It's like he just wasn't all there last year.
It is assumed that the Packers will ask Hawk to take a pay cut from the $4.4 million figure, and if he refuses to oblige them, all bets are off as to what would happen next.
4. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants
If Brandon Jacobs gets released by the New York Giants, at least he will have gone out on top with helping them win Super Bowl XLVI.
According to this New York Daily News article, Giants running back Brandon Jacobs needs to take a steep pay cut from his 2012 salary of $4.9 million, if he wants to return to the team. If he refuses do that, the Giants would look to release him, as the team is $9 million over the salary cap.
Meetings between the Giants and Jacobs reps haven't made much progress yet. Jacobs took a pay cut in 2011, and it looks like he will have to do it again to stay in New York.
Although Jacobs played well in the Giants playoff run, he really doesn't have that much leverage. In the 2011 season, Jacobs generated only 571 yards rushing, which was his lowest total in the last five years. In addition, he only averaged 3.8 yards per rush, which is the second time he has failed to crack a four yards per rush average in the last three seasons.
3. Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota Vikings
Unless a major contract restructuring takes place between now and the start of the 2012 season, it seems that the Minnesota Vikings and Steve Hutchinson are going to be headed in different directions.
Hutchinson is 34 years old and is due to earn $7 million on his 2012 salary. The Vikings have talked about restructuring a new deal with Hutchinson, but the two sides appear to be far apart right now, according to this tweet from ESPN 1500 Twin Cities.
It is possible that decisions could be coming down on Hutchinson, Cedric Griffin (who we addressed earlier) and guard Anthony Herrera this coming Saturday. Stay tuned.
2. Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers
How much longer will it be before Donald Driver follows his old teammate Brett Favre into retirement?
As for Driver, he is telling everyone that he wants to play for at least two more years.
According to this article from the Sideline View, Driver isn't worth the $5 million that the Packers are on the hook to pay him for in salary and bonuses.
When the Packers open up their 2012 training camp, if Driver is still on the roster, he will earn a bonus of $1.5 million. Driver is also slated to earn a base salary of $2.6 million. That seems like a lot of money to pay to someone who is slowly but surely declining and taking on a smaller role in the offense.
In fact, if you have followed the recent several years with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, you could say they were in similar plights, slowly but surely being phased out of the offense. For fans of both players it is a hard pill to swallow, but that is the unfortunate way that things work in the NFL.
1. Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts
When the Indianapolis Colts announced that defensive end Robert Mathis had signed a new contract this week, it very well might have also sealed the fate for fellow lineman Dwight Freeney in Indianapolis.
According to this article from Profootballtalk, the salary cap number for Freeney in 2012 amounts to an amazing $19.035 million. When the Colts signed Robert Mathis to a big contract, that left them with little to swing deals for the likes of Pierre Garcon. Something has to give, so unless Freeney is open to re-working his deal, he might be just one more salary cap casualty of the 2012 offseason.
Another issue is that the Colts are switching to Coach Pagano's new 3-4 defense, where Freeney will be asked to play linebacker, which is something he is not supposed to be very keen on doing at this stage of his career.
Times have sure changed in Indianapolis.
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