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.