The NFL rumor mill is buzzing, with many teams strapped for salary cap space and needing to clear out exorbitant contracts to alleviate dire financial straits.
According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, the salary cap is likely to be set at $121.5 million for the 2013 season.
That's a microscopic increase from this past year, which means several high-profile veterans aren't exactly safe. "It's a business" is a commonly uttered phrase in the offseason. Despite a player's years of loyalty to an organization or prior contractual commitment, business moves are made all the more frequently.
Here is a breakdown of a few marquee names that are likely to get the pink slip by early March.
Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland Raiders
The lack of viable franchise quarterbacks available through the draft and free agency may keep Palmer in place, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports believes that the 33-year-old quarterback won't be held onto with his $13 million base salary.
Sources indicated to La Canfora that there is "no way" the Raiders will pay him that much to lead the team in 2013.
That should lead to Palmer's release. The market may be favorable to him, though, with many teams seeking a savior under center. It just won't result in the type of salary that Palmer is currently due.
Terrelle Pryor flashed some promise in starting the season finale. However, he is too raw at this point to be counted on as the long-term answer in Oakland. Palmer's best move may be to sign to a lesser deal, as he would be the prohibitive favorite to win the starting job.
He may be currently overpaid, but Palmer is not the Raiders' biggest problem. The front office has to address multiple needs, and Palmer can still thrive if given another shot. Look for him to possibly sign a one-year deal at about half of his current price tag.
Bart Scott, LB, New York Jets
It has been reported by the New York Daily News' Seth Walder and Manish Mehta that Scott will be cut amidst the Jets' nightmarish salary cap situation under new GM John Idzik. As noted by ESPN's John Clayton, New York is a whopping $19.4 million over the prospective limit—the most in the entire NFL.
Scott is due $6.9 million for the upcoming season and is the most notable player who would be released amongst the many cap casualties the Jets will likely suffer.
Mehta took to Twitter to justify the release of the 32-year-old linebacker on Friday, indicating that his recent decline in production makes it a savvy decision:
Bart Scott was important/valuable piece to Jets D in '09-'10. His impact significantly dipped for myriad reasons past 2 yrs. Best to move on— Manish Mehta(@MMehtaNYDN) February 8, 2013
As mentioned above, a plethora of factors have contributed to Scott's lackluster play. The Jets have been among the most troubled organizations after two disappointing seasons that saw them miss the playoffs.
The bottom line is that Scott still has several years ahead of him and has been remarkably durable throughout his successful 10-year career. With his leadership, high football IQ and long history with head coach Rex Ryan, it's easy to imagine a scenario in which he returns to the Jets in 2013 with a less lucrative, short-term deal.
James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Harrison is one of the most controversial players in all of football but isn't quite the dominant player Steelers fans have seen in years past. Before next season gets underway, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year will be 35 years old.
That age, combined with the $6.6 million in base salary may cause him to leave Pittsburgh, according to La Canfora.
The Steelers have already awarded lucrative deals to linebackers Lamarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, whose contracts run through the 2016 season (h/t spotrac.com).
Such a heavy investment in that position should ultimately force Harrison to leave town. Given his experience and outstanding track record, there should be plenty of suitors willing to pay Harrison $6.6 million—or even more.
However, Chris Wesseling of NFL.com points out that Harrison has lost a lot of speed as an edge rusher and that releasing him would free up roughly $5 million in cap space.
Another element that may hurt Harrison's value is the fact that he missed the first month of the 2012 season and also played only 11 games the previous year. That said, expect Harrison to find an NFL destination, but probably not with the team he's played for his entire career.