10 Big-Name NFL Players Who Should Be Released Prior to Free Agency

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystFebruary 7, 2013

10 Big-Name NFL Players Who Should Be Released Prior to Free Agency

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    There's a popular saying in the National Football League: "There is no offseason."

    Some players are finding that out the hard way, as already prominent veterans such as running back Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants and Detroit Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch have been cut loose in cost-cutting moves by their teams.

    Theirs won't be the last heads to roll, however, and here's a look at some big-name players who might want to get their houses on the market.

    They may be on the move, out of a job or both.

Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Just because the Philadelphia Eagles didn't release Michael Vick prior to $3 million of his 2013 salary becoming guaranteed doesn't mean that the 32-year-old is out of the woods.

    In fact, the Eagles can even get out of paying that if they later release Vick and he signs on with another team that pays him more than that for the season.

    What does seem to be a safe bet is that the Eagles aren't going to pay Vick $15.5 million in 2013.

    If Chip Kelly decides that Vick can run his spread-option offense and Vick is amenable to restructuring his contract, then Vick's time in the City of the Brotherly Love may not be over.

    However, if Vick isn't willing to take a pay cut, then odds are he's out the door.

Doug Free, OL, Dallas Cowboys

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    The Dallas Cowboys signed offensive tackle Doug Free to a four-year, $32 million contract extension in 2011 that will pay him $7 million in base salary in 2013.

    Um, oops.

    Free was mostly awful a season ago, grading out as one of the worst players at his position in the NFLaccording to Pro Football Focus. By season's end, he was rotating snaps with Jermey Parnell.

    It's never a good sign when writers for the team's own website are calling for a player's release, but that's the case with Free, who Jonathan Bales of dallascowboys.com calls a "sunk cost."

Tyson Jackson, DE, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Tyson Jackson isn't exactly a "big name," but therein lies part of the problem.

    Since he was selected with the third overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, Jackson has been a massive bust, with all of five sacks in four seasons.

    The Chiefs and Jackson renegotiated his rookie contract last year, but that contract is now set to pay him nearly $15 million in base salary in 2013.

    There is absolutely no chance that's going to happen.

Charles Woodson, CB/S, Green Bay Packers

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    There's no denying that Charles Woodson has had a phenomenal NFL career, one that will someday likely land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    However, there's also no denying that Woodson is a 36-year-old player coming off a major injury who is set to make more than $10 million in 2013.

    As Woodson's own agent said according to Tyler Dunne of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel "I guess the Packers have to make a decision," and Carl Poston is absolutely right.

    Much like with Michael Vick, this one may come down to a choice of restructure, relocate or retire for Woodson.

Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland Raiders

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    The trade that the Oakland Raiders made with the Cincinnati Bengals that brought quarterback Carson Palmer to the Bay Area will go down in the annals of NFL history.

    As one of the dumber trades ever consummated.

    In exchange for a 2012 first-round pick and a 2013 second-round pick, the Raiders got a quarterback who was over 30 years old, has thrown 30 interceptions in less than two seasons with the Raiders and who is set to make $43 million over the next three seasons.

    This is just the sort of bad contract that the rebuilding Raiders are trying to get out from under, and it's time to move on.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Oakland Raiders

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    While the Raiders are taking a chainsaw to the offense, they might as well take a look at the wide receiver position as well.

    Back in 2009, Darrius Heyward-Bey was a classic Al Davis draft pick. A blazingly fast wide receiver whose skill set included, well, being blazingly fast.

    Granted, Heyward-Bey has shown some signs of improvement, but in four NFL seasons Heyward-Bey has yet to record a single 1,000-yard year.

    Add in the scary concussion he sustained during the 2012 season and it's awfully hard to justify Heyward-Bey's $7.8 million salary and $10 million cap charge for 2013.

Dunta Robinson, CB, Atlanta Falcons

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    When the Atlanta Falcons signed cornerback Dunta Robinson to a six-year, $57 million contract in 2010, they were hoping for an elite "shutdown" cornerback.

    The Falcons haven't exactly gotten one, as Pro Football Focus graded the ninth-year veteran as a middle-of-the-pack player at his position in 2012.

    Eight million is a lot to pay for a middle-of-the-pack cornerback. Given the Falcons' lack of cap space, it's likely that, unless Robinson is willing to renegotiate his contract, he's going to be shown the door.

Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons

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    Dunta Robinson isn't the only player about whom the Atlanta Falcons face a tough decision in 2013.

    Running back Michael Turner had by far his worst season since joining the Falcons in 2012, managing all of 3.6 yards per carry and showing all the explosiveness of a wet firecracker.

    At this point, the 31-year-old Turner is the very definition of a plodder, and Turner also hit incentives last season that push his salary to an untenable $6.9 million in 2013.

    It's possible that the team could ask Turner to take a pay cut, but frankly at this point Atlanta's best move is to just sever ties with Turner altogether and address the running back position in either free agency or the draft.

Jared Gaither, OT, San Diego Chargers

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    Given the sad state of the San Diego Chargers' offensive line, it may seem questionable to advise releasing the player who was projected to start the season at left tackle last year.

    However, Gaither played in only four games last year, and his very presence in San Diego has become a huge distraction for the team.

    Many of Gaither's teammates have questioned his commitment, with one player telling Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune that “I can’t even look him [Gaither] in the eye.”

    The four-year, $24.6 million contract that the Chargers signed Gaither to last March now appears to have been an absolute catastrophe. While new head coach Mike McCoy told Acee that Gaither has "a clean slate," the wise move would be to erase Gaither from the team altogether.

Matt Cassel, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

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    He was far from the first player to reap the rewards of an NFL team's foolishness, but moving forward, any team that signs a quarterback to a ridiculous contract after one good season should be said to have "stormed the Cassel."

    The Kansas City Chiefs did just that with Matt Cassel in 2009, inking him to a six-year, $63 million deal after Cassel had one solid season filling in for the injured Tom Brady in New England.

    Cassel hasn't come close to that level of production since, and after his turnover-filled faceplant in 2012 it's all but a foregone conclusion that the Chiefs will release Cassel soon.