It's inevitable in the NFL that, each year, every team will have to make some moves to trim its roster so new players—both rookies via the NFL draft and veterans via trade or free agency—can be added.
By mid- to late-April, most NFL franchises have made the most obvious cuts to their rosters. But with the draft rapidly approaching and minicamp, OTAs and training camp on the horizon, there still may be a move or two that’s necessary for a franchise to function.
Here is one major roster cut that every NFL team could make before the 2013 season kicks off.
Note: All salary and cap info comes from Spotrac unless otherwise noted.
There’s nothing really wrong with tight end Jeff King, except for the fact that he’s basically a blocking tight end who’s set to make $1.8 million in 2013.
Pro Football Focus lists King as one of the top-10 most overrated Cardinals in regard to their proprietary stat performance-based value.
King caught 17 passes last season, but Arizona general manager Steve Keim told AZCardinals.com that Rob Housler is an “emerging star” for the Cardinals.
It’s not fiscally sound to pay a blocking tight end close to $2 million.
As long as the Atlanta Falcons are playing in a 4-3 defensive scheme (and they are headed into the 2013 season doing just that), the team is set at one defensive tackle spot with Jonathan Babineaux, the team's "get into the backfield and wreak havoc" tackle who's a pass-rushing savant.
What the Falcons need out of their other defensive tackle is for him to be a run-stopping wall of bricks.
Corey Peters is not that guy.
Peters was Atlanta's worst run-defending defensive lineman last season, according to Pro Football Focus. The Falcons took a huge nose dive in run defense last year, allowing 4.8 yards per carry and giving up 123.2 yards per game.
In the final year of his contract this season, Peters is slated to make $1.5 million. With Peria Jerry a better run-stopping option and a group of eager youngsters on the defensive line, Peters can easily go to free up some money for the group of rookies Atlanta is about to draft.
The Baltimore Ravens might look to running back Vonta Leach as a cap casualty if the team needs to free up any more money.
No one will argue that Leach as a fullback more than adequately does his job opening holes for Ray Rice. But Leach as an employee of the Ravens is set to make $4.33 million in 2013, and that might not make it past the salary cap division of the accounting department.
Football is a business. Even though Leach is good at his job and is a star in the locker room too, he may be considered overpaid if the team starts looking around for more financial room to make some moves.
Who is Brad Smith?
Anyone can see the man and point out who he is physically, but who is Smith the football player? Is he a quarterback? Is he a wide receiver? What about a special-teams ace?
The answers to those questions range from “yes” to “ehhhh” to “maybe.” But mostly, when it comes to Smith’s role with the Buffalo Bills, the answer is “I don’t know what Smith does or should do.”
What is known is that Smith will cost the Bills $3.75 million in 2013 and $4 million in 2014. For that kind of money, shouldn’t he have a defined role?
New Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman is about to be in a world of hurt—fiscally speaking, that is.
Former GM Marty Hurney built an underperforming, yet massively overpaid running back corps and signed several contracts that are about to explode in the face of the Panthers franchise.
Running back DeAngelo Williams is one of the myriad players who's scheduled to make more money than his on-field performance warrants. Williams has a cap hit of $8.2 million in 2013, and over the next three seasons he'll cost Carolina $27.6 million.
It’s highly unlikely that Gettleman will find any willing trade partner to take on that salary nightmare. And since Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert are already on the roster, Williams is never going to carry the football enough to be worth that kind of money.
The Panthers will have to start cutting salary over the next season or two. Why not start now with Williams to ease into the hurt that’s on the way? Sure, the team is going to have to carry some dead money and won’t see a total relief from releasing Williams. But there’s not really any other choice.
I’ve expanded my inbox limits in preparation for the slew of hate mail I’m going to get with the following declaration: The Chicago Bears need to cut ties with defensive end Julius Peppers.
Is Peppers one of the most talented pass-rushers in the NFL? Without a doubt, yes. Is he also overpaid? Once again, without a doubt, yes.
Peppers is set to make $16.183 million in 2013 and over the next three seasons will cost the Bears $53.049 million.
It’s somewhat easy math to look at Peppers’ just-over-10-sacks-per-year average over the last three seasons to figure that he’s getting more than $1 million per sack. That’s decent money.
It’s ridiculous money, actually.
If the Bears were on the cusp of a Super Bowl, I’d have no problem keeping Peppers around; he’d likely be one of the main reasons why the team succeeded. But the Bears aren’t that close and will soon have to make some decisions on retooling.
There’s likely no way Chicago can offload Peppers and his mega contract on anyone, so why not start retooling now?
Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko has a great number of things going for him.
Peko is a class act in the locker room and a space-clogging beast in the middle of the defensive line. He eats up blockers like waffles and frees up his linebackers to do good work.
Another thing Peko has going for him is his paycheck heading into 2013. He’ll make $5.1 million unless the Bengals decide that’s just too much money to spend on a space hog.
Brandon Thomas and Devon Still are younger and waiting in the wings. If either or both show they have the chops to step up and do the same things Peko does, Peko could be on the wrong end of that financial conversation with the front office.
Only one Cleveland Browns offensive lineman with more than 11 snaps last season rated out negatively in Pro Football Focus’ overall rating system.
Right guard Shawn Lauvao.
Lauvao gave up three sacks and 27 quarterback pressures and was a worse run-blocker than pass-blocker.
Looking at the ledger sheet for 2013, Lauvao is slated to make $1.497 million for the Browns in what will be a contract year. Even though the Browns’ offensive line is decent, there is some uncertainty and they may choose to address that early in the draft.
Dallas Cowboys right tackle Doug Free will be a $10.02 million cap hit to the team in 2013 unless he restructures his current contract—a deal with four years and $41.02 million remaining on the books.
Free may not be keen on restructuring because of the rumors that the money that would be made available, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, would go to sign free agent right tackle Eric Winston.
If the Cowboys signed Winston, Free might be relegated to backup right tackle. That’s be a huge ego drain after Free lost his left tackle job and had to move to the other side of the line.
If Free refuses to restructure, he may find himself the owner of a pink slip. There’s no way the Cowboys are going to enter the season paying Free the scheduled amount of money he’s due. No way.
Joe Mays’ 2012 football season was cut short because of an injury, and he may not have a job among the starting linebacker corps too much longer.
The Denver Post speculated that if the Broncos signed linebacker Stewart Bradley, it could mean the end for Mays. Well, the Broncos did sign Bradley, and now Mays is on release watch.
May is supposed to make $4.16 million in 2013 and $4.66 in 2014, but that’s just too much money for a backup linebacker and backup special-teamer.
During Matthew Stafford’s much-maligned first two seasons where he played just 13 games, it made a heck of a lot of sense to the Detroit Lions to keep a stable backup quarterback on the roster. But Stafford’s injury woes seem to be behind him.
Stafford played a full complement of 16 games in each of his last two seasons and threw for a combined 10,005 yards while doing so. What does that mean for backup quarterback Shaun Hill?
It’s not likely good news.
Hill has played in just three games (attempting 16 passes) over the last two seasons and hasn’t started a game since the 2010 campaign. He’s slated to make $3.25 million in 2013, but that may be a pipe dream.
A backup quarterback that’s likely to have to play a ton can demand that salary; Hill cannot.
Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Ryan Pickett is an able-bodied, run-stopping defensive end who didn’t miss a tackle last season and accounted for 16 run stops, according to Pro Football Focus.
But as a pass-rushing option, he is almost an absolute zero.
Pickett was on the field for just 75 pass-rush snaps in 2012 and got zero pressure on opposing quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. That means no sacks, quarterback hits or hurries.
At 33 years old and in the final season of his contract in 2013, Pickett is on the books for $6.7 million. Will the Packers keep him around to solely contain the run? Likely not, if they can find any other ways to spend that money.
If the Houston Texans wanted a way to save almost $6 million in 2013, there’s an efficient way to do it: by releasing defensive tackle Antonio Smith.
Smith’s supposed to be a $9.5 million cap hit to the Texans next season. Sending him away, after the team pushes some dead money forward, saves Houston $6 million.
According to Pro Football Focus, Smith ranks No. 13 in pass-rush productivity among 3-4 defensive ends and No. 44 against the run. Those numbers aren’t good enough to command the $9.5 million cap hit the Texans are on the hook for.
Don’t forget that Smith turns 32 this year.
It’s not often that I think I’d suggest a player under the age of 30 be released after he played every one of his teams snaps. But that’s what I am about to do.
Right guard Mike McGlynn was one of two Indianapolis Colts offensive linemen who played 100 percent (1,167 of 1,167) of the team’s snaps.
The problem is that McGlynn didn’t rate well at all during those 1,167 snaps.
Pro Football Focus has McGlynn ranked No. 119 among the NFL’s offensive guards because he gave up 45 total quarterback pressures, including four sacks and 32 hurries.
Indianapolis is on the hook for $1.925 million for McGlynn in 2013 and wouldn’t have to carry any dead money forward by releasing him.
The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t hurting for cap space.
But no team is really doing itself a favor by stashing dead weight on its roster, and backup offensive guard Jason Spitz is making too much money to keep around.
Spitz is slated to make $1.75 million in the final year of his contract in 2013. He spent last season on injured reserve and likely won’t crack the stating lineup if healthy this year.
The Jaguars could free up most of his salary by releasing him.
With the arrival of cornerback Dunta Robinson to act as Kansas City’s third cornerback, Javier Arenas’ worth absolutely plummeted.
Arenas is now the fourth cornerback on the Chiefs’ roster and will be in the mix for punt return duties.
The problem for Arenas is the fact that he’s scheduled to make just over $1 million in the final year of his contract in 2013. But he’s likely not going to hit the field on defense, and he wasn’t a top-10 punt return specialist last season. Why pay him $1 million.
The Chiefs may choose not to.
When it comes to place kickers and roster spots, it all boils down to numbers. Kicking is easy to translate into math, and so is the salary cap.
Math will be Dan Carpenter’s worst nightmare.
Carpenter made 22 of 27 field goals last season. His 81.5 percent success rate placed his as the No. 24 kicker in the league. It’s true that all of his misses came from beyond 40 yards, but still, that 81.5 percent success rate is ugly.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that the Miami Dolphins may bring in a kicker to compete with Carpenter. If the competition is even close, the Dolphins can save a lot of money by replacing him with a rookie.
Carpenter is scheduled to make $2.7 million in 2013.
I may be barred from ever entering the state of Minnesota again after this (which is unfortunate, because I rather enjoyed walleye fishing up there in my visits as a kid), but the Vikings would be wise to release defense end Jared Allen.
Yes, I know that Allen is a beloved fixture among Vikings Nation. Yes, I know he’s an outstanding defensive end.
With apologies, this move is strictly about money and risk. I’m a Jared Allen fan too.
But if I was signing the paychecks for the Vikings, I’d have a hard time stomaching Allen’s $17.06 million check for the 2013 season, the final year of his contract. It would make it even more difficult after hearing about Allen’s recent multiple surgeries.
1500 ESPN Radio reported that Allen had two surgeries in one day during the offseason. The doctors repaired a torn labrum (shoulder) and "cleaned up” his knee.
As the star just turned 31 years old, it’s time to start thinking restructure or trade if you’re the Vikings. A trade isn’t going to happen if you’re any team in the NFL since this is Allen’s contract year. Restructuring is tough because of the risk involved from shoulder and knee surgery.
Maybe the Vikings could get out in front of it all by releasing Allen and spending the money on rebuilding.
Stephen Gostkowski might not make it to Week 1 with the New England Patriots.
I think the lesson here is this: If you’re a kicker, don’t make too much money. Even if you are really good.
Gostkowski finished ranked No. 19 in the league with an 82.9 percent success rate last season. Maybe he isn’t really good. Maybe he’s just average.
His paycheck states otherwise.
Gostkowski will make $3.4 million in 2013 unless the Patriots decide to go in another direction. Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston wonders if New England will bring in competition for Gostkowski this year.
The New Orleans Saints are in a good situation at running back. At least, it seems that way.
The Saints have five capable running backs on the roster: Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, Mark Ingram and Travaris Cadet. The problem is, having so many running backs stunts the growth of any one and forces a team to divvy up carries in an equitable manner when using one or two backs as workhorses might be the better option.
Last season, three backs got more than 100 carries: Ingram had 162, Thomas had 144 and Sproles had 123. Ivory carried the ball 42 times.
One of those 100-plus-carry running backs is expendable. The guy to go should be Thomas.
Sproles is too valuable as runner and receiver, and he also has some special-teams value. Thomas, at $2.5 million for 2013, is the next most expensive option.
If the remaining four backs stayed healthy in 2013, New Orleans wouldn’t even miss Thomas. But the team would put the money saved to good use.
This might be an unpopular move, but the New York Giants should get rid of safety Antrel Rolle.
Rolle has been with, and been overpaid by, the Giants for three seasons now. He’s underperformed in each season. And that’s not a statement to how good Rolle is, but how good he is compared to his contract.
Speaking of contracts, Rolle is set to make $9.25 million in 2013 and the same amount in 2014. He’s the third-best cover safety on his own team, according to Pro Football Focus, and isn’t a sure tackler.
Couldn’t the Giants spend that money (they’d free up just over $5 million this year by releasing him) wisely elsewhere?
I think it’s safe to say the New York Jets would like to be done with the Mark Sanchez era.
According to ProFootballTalk, the Jets are trying to deal Sanchez to Tampa Bay as part of the Darrelle Revis deal or separately in a standalone trade. But that might not be the best option for the Jets.
According to the New England Sports Network, the Jets could still be on the hook for $13.9 million if Sanchez is traded. It may be better for the Jets to flat-out release him.
By designating Sanchez a June 1 cut, the Jets could free up enough money to help them pay for their 2013 rookie class and make a start preparing for the 2014 salary cap.
Sebastian Janikowski was a top-five kicker last season, connecting on 91.2 percent of his field-goal attempts and giving the Oakland Raiders reason to believe that, as long as their offense was past the 50-yard line, Janikowski could bail them out if the offense stalled.
Head coach Dennis Allen told the Oakland Tribune in December just that:
It's a comforting feeling for me knowing that when we get across the 50, I feel confident being able to put him in the game and feel like we can make the kick and get three points.
While Janikowski’s success rate is nothing to sneeze at, all three of the field goals he missed in 2012 were beyond 50 yards. He was 6-of-9 from that range. But while it’s still admirable that he has enough leg to trot out there and attempt nice long-distance kicks, at 35 years old, could his leg be losing that long-distance touch?
If it is, why pay Janikowski $5.1 million next season? If he’s not going to consistently differentiate himself from other kickers (two kickers had a better success rate on 50-plus-yard field goals last season), should he still require the top-end salary?
I bet on the open market Janikowski wouldn't get $5.1 million.
I bet linebacker Philadelphia Eagles DeMeco Ryans hates the 3-4 defensive scheme.
It’s not because he’s can’t function in the 3-4, Ryans told the Philadelphia Inquirer that part of the reason the Houston Texans were ranked No. 2 in the league in defense in 2011 was because he was comfortable in the 3-4.
But numbers don’t lie. Ryans was removed from passing situations in Houston and became a liability in the 3-4. That’s likely why he came to Philadelphia at the price he did. Ryans was a better fit for the Eagles’ 4-3 defense.
Now, however, a year after he escaped a 3-4 in Houston to play in Philadelphia, the Eagles are planning to switch to the 3-4.
Ryans may have to keep running.
He just might actually be able to function in Chip Kelly’s 3-4 defense, but he’s not going to be an every-down linebacker. Since he’s going to make $6.7 million in 2013, wouldn’t the Eagles be wise to part ways with him?
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel is usually the player causing opposing quarterbacks to hear footsteps. Now, however, one of his teammates has Keisel looking in his rear-view mirror.
Third-year end Cameron Heyward is gunning for Keisel’s job, and Keisel may not be able to hold him off.
According to Pro Football Focus, Keisel had a slightly better pass-rushing productivity rating at 5.3 than Hayward had at 4.5.
Keisel had five sacks and a total of 33 pressures in 495 pass rush snaps. Heyward only had two sacks and eight total pressures, but he also only played on 144 pass-rush snaps. Give Heyward 495 pass rush snaps and math tells us he would have registered 27.5 total pressures. Still not as many as Keisel, but close.
In the run game, Heyward is mammothly superior to Keisel.
Since Keisel is slated to make $4.5 million in 2013 and Heyward 1.83, it may make sense for the Steelers to part ways with Keisel instead of keeping him as a high-priced backup.
Harvey Dahl is still a mean and potent offensive guard.
Dahl played in 14 games for the St. Louis Rams before a torn bicep forced him to the injured reserve list in Week 15. Prior to the injury, Dahl was St. Louiss best guard and the No. 8 guard in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking efficiency.
Dahl was given a three- to four-month timeline on recovering from his injury, which places him well within the time line to get to training camp on time.
He also has a great relationship with the coaching staff, especially offensive line coach, Paul Boudreau. It wouldn’t seem that Dahl is going anywhere.
That said, if Dahl’s injury doesn’t heal like it’s supposed to, it may be tough for St. Louis to carry his $4 million contract for 2013 and the same for 2014. It wouldn’t be a pleasant transaction, but that’s a lot of money for an injured, almost 32-year-old lineman.
Over the next two seasons, right tackle Jeromey Clary is scheduled to make $11.95 million. His 2013 salary is supposed to be $5.7 million.
I say “supposed to be” because the San Diego Chargers have to be close to parting ways with him.
Clary has been with the Chargers for seven seasons. The best word to describe his tenure would be “average.” In 2012, though, he was well below average.
After allowing nine sacks and a total of 35 quarterback pressures, Pro Football Focus saddled Clary with a No. 40 ranking among offensive tackles that played at least half of his team's snaps.
At $5.7 million, do the Chargers really want to hold onto a guy who’s been “average” his entire career and who ranked No. 40 last year among his positional peers?
I’m typically one who gives centers the benefit of the doubt. A good “quarterback of the offensive line” can greatly aid an offense’s cohesion, synergy and just about any other 21st-century buzz word.
But centers who are overpaid and may have to fight for their job, well, they get no free pass from me.
Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area believes that the center position may be up for grabs in 2013. Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney may be given the opportunity to replace veteran Jonathan Goodwin, who is the highest-paid offensive lineman the San Francisco 49ers employ.
Goodwin is slated to cost the 49ers $5.02 million in 2013, while Kilgore and Looney together only cost $1.18 million.
If the 49ers coaching staff thinks one of the two young centers could overtake Goodwin, it’s a good possibility that Goodwin, and his huge salary, will be gone by Week 1.
Breno Giacomini’s first season as a starter at right tackle for the Seattle Seahawks didn’t go as swimmingly as either he or the team would have liked.
Giacomini allowed five sacks, two quarterback hits and 36 quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. Only seven offensive tackles in the NFL allowed their quarterback to be hurried more.
When you rank as low as Giacomini did last season, you’d better not cost the team a lot of money. Unfortunately for him, he’s a rather expensive commodity.
In the final year of his contract, Giacomini’s 2013 salary cap hit to the Seahawks will be $4.25 million. That’s not attractive.
Seattle may look to part ways with him and use the proceeds to bring in a replacement. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to duplicate his numbers.
LeGarrette Blount is the football equivalent to “dead man walking”—old Death Row terminology for a convict on his way to the electric chair.
No one’s getting electrocuted in Tampa Bay, but Blount’s days are surely numbered.
When the Buccaneers drafted running back Doug Martin last year, we all expected a dog fight for carries. But Martin wasted no time, taking just about every touch away from Blount and relegating him to a backup role.
Tampa Bay re-signed Blount in March. According to ESPN, the terms of the contract were $1.75 million on a one-year deal with no guaranteed money.
The Buccaneers have been shopping Blount, but there haven’t been any takers. If no one offers up anything for Blount, he will most likely enter camp as the backup, push Martin for a while and ultimately be cut because none of his money is guaranteed and Tampa Bay can easily replace his output with a rookie.
When you’re a high-priced talent, you have certain expectations. Center Eugene Amano hasn’t lived up to his.
Amano signed a huge five-year, $26.247 million contract in 2010, but he hasn’t brought with him the kind of play worthy of that paycheck.
In 2013, Amano is scheduled to be a $6 million cap hit to the Tennessee Titans. The problem is that he may not have a starting job any more.
After Amano sat out the 2012 season with a torn right triceps, Fernando Velasco stepped up. Velasco was the seventh-ranked center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Velasco is only slated to make $2.023 million in 2013, while Amano’s contract will make him the sixth-highest-paid center.
There’s no way the Titans are going to sit back and watch that happen. Velasco is their man going forward, and Amano will be shown the door.
The Washington Redskins aren’t in the best financial situation when it comes to the salary cap. They also sported the third-worst passing defense in the league in 2012.
When money is tight and the secondary leaks like a sieve, I would expect any team to start making changes, especially to high-priced talent.
The Redskins brought in E.J. Biggers from Tampa Bay and re-signed DeAngelo Hall to help the secondary, but they’ve yet to make any kind of move with cornerback Josh Wilson.
Wilson is slated to be a $5.33 million cap hit for the Redskins in 2013, and it’s the final year of his contract. When a guy is making that much money in the final year of his contract and he didn’t perform especially well the year prior, the conspiracy theorist in me comes alive.
If Washington isn’t going to extend Wilson, why pay him handsomely?
Watch for the Redskins to bring in, via the draft, trade or free agency, another cornerback to mix into the secondary with Biggers, Hall and Wilson. If this new addition performs well through camp, Wilson and his huge contract may be no more in Washington.