Some NFL veterans rang in the New Year basking in the glow of postseason glory; others, simply booking vacation plans. However, there are some notable names that should be white-knuckled about even having a job for the 2013 NFL season.
As we learn every offseason, the NFL is a league that doesn't care about what you've done in the past.. Teams will ruthlessly move on even when performance isn't the issue in order to save a few million bucks or give a younger player a place atop the depth chart.
With so much turnover already happening in the mere few days since the 2012 regular season ended, certain players have to be counting the minutes until their pink slip arrives. Who are the most noteworthy players likely to be on the chopping block?
Here is a look at a few veterans bound to be cut this winter:
Carson Palmer (QB, Oakland Raiders)
Oakland may have lost its season finale to San Diego on Sunday, but has a positive takeaway that could end Palmer's time in silver and black.
Terrelle Pryor, who the Raiders have spent the past two years developing, started at quarterback in Week 17 and performed admirably. The former Ohio State star combined for three touchdowns and 199 total yards with no sacks against a Chargers defense that finished inside the top 10 in yardage allowed and racked up 11 sacks a week earlier.
With the continued rise of dual-threat quarterbacks throughout the NFL, it will be interesting to see if Oakland follows the trend and tabs Pryor as its starter next season.
One thing is for certain, though: Palmer won't be back at his current price. The Raiders signal caller is due a base salary of $13-million for 2013, but it's non-guaranteed money, so the team can cut Palmer without paying him a dime. At this point, that may be the most attractive option.
Palmer was the Raiders' offensive lifeblood throughout the 2012 season, but mostly by proxy. Oakland's struggles defensively forced it into constant passing situations and Palmer wound up putting up 4,018 yards and 22 touchdowns against 14 interceptions as a result.
Those aren't terrible numbers by any stretch, even considering his 85.3 quarterback rating. But are they worthy of a $13-million base salary? Absolutely not.
Without a big contract restructuring, the Raiders may be forced to cut a man they gave up a first-rounder in 2012 and second-rounder in 2013 for.
Michael Vick (QB, Philadelphia Eagles)
If there was any doubt whether the Eagles would cut Vick ithis offseason, it was erased on Sunday. Vick returned to the starting lineup for an injured Nick Foles and looked every bit like a man who hadn't played football for a month and a half.
He completed only 19 of 35 passes for 197 yards before being relieved by backup Trent Edwards, as the Eagles' season ended with an embarrassing 42-7 loss to the New York Giants.
That performance culminated a second consecutive disappointing campaign for Vick. After ascending to his pre-jail heights in 2010, Vick has been on a slow decline ever since. This season. the 32-year-old signal-caller finished with only 2,362 yards and 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Like former head coach Andy Reid, Vick's days have been numbered for a while and all that remains is the inevitable end.
As for when that endgame might come, don't look for a long wait. The Eagles can cut Vick any time between now and Febrauary 6 without having to pay a dime of his 2013 salary. However, if Vick is still on the roster a day later, Philadelphia is on the hook for a $3-million cap charge.
The restructuring option isn't even on the table. Vick is reportedly unwilling to restructure his contract, which calls for him to make a $15.5-million in base salary next season.
In other words, Vick may want to start looking at temporary real estate outside the great state of Pennsylvania.
Nate Burleson (WR, Detroit Lions)
The 31-year-old wide receiver's season ended unceremoniously after a Week 7 leg fracture, and it's starting to look like Burleson's time in Detroit will end with that injury as well. Per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions have 24 players hitting unrestricted free agency in the offseason.
Unfortunately for Detroit, there isn't much money to be thrown around. The trio of Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson take up an exorbitant amount of the team's salary cap and guaranteed money. In fact, it's likely that Stafford and/or Suh will receive extensions in the offseason simply to lower cap hold in 2013.
Regardless, extending the contracts two stars with salaries indicative of their performance and past contracts won't exactly wipe the slate clean. The Lions will have to skimp costs wherever possible and that may start with Burleson.
The veteran wideout is due a $4.5-million base salary next season, a figure Detroit will almost certainly be unwilling and unable to pay. Ryan Broyles looked fantastic in Burleson's absence before hurting his knee and Titus Young hasplenty of potential if he wasn't such an unrepentant malcontent.
With Young's status up in the air and Broyles still recovering from injury, the Lions could be talked into a contract restructuring. For now, Burleson seems at least open to the idea of a pay cut, according to Birkett:
We’ll see what happens. I talked to the coaches, actually talked to (general manager Martin Mayhew) upstairs today and talked about my value to the team, being missed on and off the field. I told him I want to retire here. He said he feels the same way.
If Detroit and Burleson can find a middle ground, there's a chance to salvage the relationship. However, until that restructuring becomes finalized, Burleson looks pretty likely to be headed out of town.