10 NFL Players in Jeopardy of Being Released in June
Every single June there are a number of veteran NFL players who find themselves out of jobs. Either their contract suggested a bonus in the first summer month or their former team found a decent replacement in April's draft.
Either way you put it, certain high-profile players could find themselves looking for jobs by this time next week. This doesn't mean that they're unable to perform up to par in 2013. Rather, it is just an indication that their value to the club they currently play for is pretty much nonexistent.
Denver selected running back Montee Ball in the second round of April's draft. Couple that selection with 2012 third-round pick Ronnie Hillman and the writing is on the wall for either Willis McGahee or Knowshon Moreno.
Look for McGahee and a handful of other solid veterans to get their walking papers this upcoming month. Today's article will focus on a total of 10 players I expect to get pink slips.
All contract information provided by Spotrac.
Corey Peters, Defensive Tackle, Atlanta Falcons
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Corey Peters ranked last among defensive tackles against the run this past season.
If that wasn't bad enough for his chances to make the 53-man roster, it is being reported that Atlanta is close to signing free-agent defensive tackle Richard Seymour (via NFL.com).
This would leave Peters on the outside looking in as it relates to Atlanta's defensive tackle rotation. Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry will share rotational duties with Seymour should he sign next month.
There is no reason for the Falcons to pay a fourth defensive tackle the $1.5 million that Peters is set to earn in 2013.
Vonta Leach, Fullback, Baltimore Ravens
Vonta Leach is set to count $4.3 million against the cap this upcoming season. That makes him the highest paid fullback in the NFL by about $1.3 million.
Considering that Baltimore spent a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft on Kyle Juszczyk, it is possible that it decides to cut ties with the best blocking fullback in the league.
This move would impact Ray Rice's success on the ground, but it would also save Baltimore a good $3 million against the cap once you take into account dead money.
That's money the Ravens could use to upgrade at another position after other teams cut the fat this summer.
While Leach is a valuable performer in front of Rice in the backfield, the importance of his position just doesn't mesh well with the amount of money he is set to earn in 2013.
Devin Hester, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears
Brad Biggs over at The Chicago Tribune filed a report last month that might be alarming to fans of Devin Hester in Chicago:
The interesting topic the Bears haven't tackled yet is roster management if Devin Hester is going to be a return specialist and used strictly on special teams.
That would put the team in a position where four specialists were needed rather than the typical three. But coach Marc Trestman said Tuesday it is early and after Hester earns a roster spot as a returner, other possibilities will be considered.
First, this seems to indicate that Hester is not guaranteed a roster spot when training camp breaks. Second, there doesn't seem to be any room on Chicago's offense for Hester.
Are the Bears willing to pay a pure special teams performer the $2.9 million that Hester is slated to count against the cap in 2013?
Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett are slated to be Chicago's top three wide receivers this season. At the very least, Hester would be no better than Jay Cutler's fourth target on the outside.
It just isn't sustainable to keep a pure special teams player on the roster at this cost, especially with Eric Weems more than capable over taking over as a full-time return specialist.
Willis McGahee, Running Back, Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos "reached" for former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball in the second round of April's draft. This means that Denver has spent an early-round pick on a running back in each of the last two years.
That's not a good sign for veteran running back Willis McGahee, who rushed for 731 yards and four scores in 10 games last year.
The 31-year-old running back is set to count $3 million against the cap in 2013. It goes without saying that he wouldn't be worth that type of money as a part-time third-down back, at best.
In the end, John Elway and Co. are going to have to choose between McGahee and former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno as it relates to a spot on the 53-man roster.
While Moreno leaves a lot to be desired, he is five years younger than McGahee.
According to Mike Klis of The Denver Post, McGahee was absent from camp earlier this month. This is news considering that he was the only healthy member of the Broncos who didn't show up (h/t Rotoworld).
Expect this move to happen in relatively short order.
Antonio Smith, Defensive End, Houston Texans
The Houston Texans can save $6 million against the cap if they release Antonio Smith prior to the start of the season.
That's a whole heck of a lot of money for a cash-strapped franchise in need of upgrades at other positions.
While Smith did record seven sacks this past season and is slotted to be Houston's starting right defensive end, there is something to say about all-around play.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Smith ranked 22nd among 3-4 defensive ends against the run in 2012.
It doesn't take an expert to come to the conclusion that this performance against the run in a 3-4 scheme just isn't sustainable. What's even less sustainable is the $9.5 million Smith is set to count against the cap in 2013.
Jared Crick and Tim Jamison are holdover options to replace Smith. In addition, Houston could scour the open market for a cheaper alternative.
Richard Marshall, Cornerback, Miami Dolphins
It seems that the Miami Dolphins are in the midst of completely revamping their cornerback situation. They exhausted early-round picks on Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, both of whom impressed the brass early in rookie camp (via The Miami Herald).
Taylor recently underwent sports hernia surgery and should be back by training camp (via Pro Football Talk).
This could force Miami to hold on to Marshall, but all things equal it would rather part ways with the veteran. He is set to count $5.7 million against the cap in 2013 and is coming off an injury himself.
James Walker over at ESPN filed the following report earlier this month:
(Dmitri) Patterson and Marshall both have fairly high salaries this season. If both rookies show they’re ready to play, it’s not out of the question that Miami could cut at least one veteran to save on salary and cap space. Keep an eye on the progress of Taylor and Davis during the spring camps and training camp this summer.
Considering that Miami traded Vontae Davis prior to the start of the 2012 season and let Sean Smith walk in free agency, it may just look to cut the fat completely and go with a young defensive secondary.
In addition, free-agent acquisition Brent Grimes could fill the void as Miami's veteran presence at cornerback.
Antrel Rolle, Safety, New York Giants
According to a report by ESPN, often-injured cornerback Terrell Thomas might see some playing time as a nickel safety this season.
It's believed that playing that type of role would put less pressure on Thomas' knees, which would be one way to keep the veteran on the field.
If that's the case, safety Antrel Rolle could be the odd man out in New York.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Rolle possessed a negative 5.8 grade in pass coverage this past season. That ranked him dead last among regular Giants safeties.
The 30-year-old defensive back is also set to count $9.2 million against the cap in 2013. New York could save nearly $5.3 million be releasing him prior to the start of the season.
It could easily find a cheaper backup alternative on the market, one that likely possesses more upside in coverage.
DeMeco Ryans, Linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles
Linebacker DeMeco Ryans was traded from the Houston Texans last offseason partly because it appeared he didn't fit well in Houston's 3-4 defensive scheme.
The veteran responded by recording over 100 tackles and starting all 16 games for Philadelphia this past season.
Now that the Eagles are switching to a 3-4 scheme under new head coach Chip Kelly, it appears that Ryan could be looking for a home this summer.
Ryans is also set to count $6.7 million against the cap this upcoming season.
Philadelphia has a ton of cheaper alternatives on the roster. New addition Emmanuel Acho could be a possible replacement.
Carlos Rogers, Cornerback, San Francisco 49ers
Carlos Rogers jumped onto the scene and lived up to his first-round billing in his initial season with San Francisco back in 2011. He recorded 19 passes defended and six interceptions in a Pro Bowl performance.
This past season wasn't as kind to the veteran cornerback.
He recorded just seven passes defended and one interception. In fact, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded Rogers out as the third-best cornerback on the 49ers.
The 49ers also added former Pro Bowler Nnamdi Asomugha on a team-friendly deal last month. The veteran cornerback apparently looked good in his first practices with San Francisco last week (via SF Gate):
The decision to start Asomugha over Chris Culliver, even in an OTA practice, says something about how the coaches feel about Asomugha. Some speculated that the former All-Pro wouldn’t make it to training camp and the relatively inexpensive one-year contract suggests the 49ers could release him at any time.
However, Asomugha showed well. Asomugha often latched on quickly to the receivers he was covering and he muscled them.
If Asomugha proves his worth, there is a scenario where San Francisco could cut Rogers. It would leave the team with Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver and Asomugha as its top three cornerbacks.
There is also some who believe San Francisco could use the money it saves from releasing Rogers to find a veteran receiver after Michael Crabtree suffered an Achilles injury last week.
Michael Robinson, Fullback, Seattle Seahawks
On the surface, it would seem that Michael Robinson is guaranteed a roster spot in Seattle this upcoming season. He earned a Pro Bowl trip back in 2011 and has acted as a solid receiving threat from the fullback position.
That being said, Pro Football Focus (subscription required), ranked Robinson as the 22nd-best blocking fullback in the NFL this past season.
It doesn't take a mathematician to come to the conclusion that the $2.5 million Robinson is set to count against the cap in 2013 doesn't match up well with his performance on the field.
In addition, the Seahawks exhausted a sixth-round pick on former Louisiana State running back Spencer Ware. The youngster is also slated to see time at both running back and fullback this year.
Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist here at Bleacher Report. Vincent is the head sports editor over at eDraft, co-host of Draft Sports Radio, which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. ET, and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus.
Go ahead and give him a follow on Twitter @VincentFrankNFL.