Finally, free agency is almost set to start, but one of the dynamics of the expected frenzy is flying under the radar for most fans.
Expect a lot of players to re-sign with their original teams. Remember, unlike 2010, there is now a salary cap in place. It's expected to be around $120 million dollars, which is right around what it was in 2009 when the NFL still had a cap.
That means the elite talent will still get their deals, but the rest of the players will be taking a big gamble if they decide to hit the open market.
Will a new team offer significantly more money? Will they be able to fit in with their new team and be successful in such a short period of time before the season starts?
With those nuggets in mind, here is one player every team in the NFL should avoid re-signing.
These players don't fit with their existing team, their skills have eroded, injuries have become a permanent problem, they weren't that good to begin with or it's simply time to move on for any one of a number of factors.
Some of these players are already gone all but officially. Others will represent very difficult decisions for teams.
As always, I encourage your feedback. Who would you put on the list?
The Cards are going to need a weapon at tight end to go with new quarterback Kevin Kolb or whoever their new quarterback might be.
Patrick has proven in his four seasons he isn't it (only 11 catches for 104 yards on 2010). The Cardinals drafted tight end Rob Housler out of Florida Atlantic, but he is super raw. Another Cardinals free agent, Stephen Spach is a one-dimensional blocker.
The Cardinals are well under the salary cap and are one of many teams that should look at Raiders free-agent tight end Zach Miller if Oakland doesn't re-sign him.
Actually, you could put a pair of former Ohio State Buckeyes on this list because cornerback Ashton Youbouty has displayed about as much ability on the gridiron as Ashton Kutcher.
Regardless, Da'Norris Searcy was the Bills' fourth-round pick in 2011, and George Wilson signed an extension in March to protect Buffalo against this loss.
Whitner, a No. 1 draft choice in 2006, did have 140 tackles last season, which by far was a career-best, but a lot of the stops were down the field. His numbers were also inflated as a result of Buffalo's otherwise porous defense, minus linebacker Paul Posluszny, a free agent the Bills need desperately to re-sign.
You don't re-sign linebackers who are 30, injury-plagued and have had one good tackling season in the last five (104 tackles in 2008).
Tinoisamoa is also a lighter linebacker whose play will drop off even further as the pounding to his body will take a dramatic toll.
Atlanta can't keep all three of their marquee free-agent offensive linemen: Blalock, guard Harvey Dahl and tackle Tyson Clabo.
Dahl is arguably the best of the group, so it comes down to a choice between the other two. The Falcons drafted Alabama offensive lineman Mike Johnson in the third round in 2010 for just this possibility, and he'll replace Blalock as the new starting guard.
I was tempted to go with defensive lineman Tony McDaniel here because he wants to be a starter and be paid like one. That's unlikely in Miami, but if he finds the market less than generous, the Dolphins could consider bringing him back.
McQuistan was acquired before the start of the 2010 season from Dallas. He is able to fill in on the line, but he also has a penchant for penalties at critical times, and the Dolphins have drafted linemen (Mike Pouncey and John Jerry) the last few years who should phase McQuistan out of the equation.
Yeah, like I wanted to type his name.
Seriously though, what Baltimore's playoff loss to Pittsburgh last season proved is that the Ravens needed an infusion of youth at the wideout position.
Enter draftees Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss.
Exit free agents Houshmandzadeh and Donte' Stallworth.
The 'Boys are over the projected salary cap by a significant amount, perhaps near $20 million if the numbers of ESPN analyst John Clayton are correct. They could wind up cutting wide receiver Roy Williams, running back Marion Barber and cornerback Terrance Newman.
The argument could be made that the only free agent they absolutely need to re-sign is left tackle Doug Free. Barron's substandard level of play should get him a one-way ticket out of the league.
This will be a controversial selection.
Davis is or was a very talented weak-side linebacker. But he has had back-to-back ACL surgeries, and his last action was seven games in 2009.
Davis is barely 6'0", and explosiveness and speed were a big part of his game before the injuries that will likely rob him of those skill sets.
The NFL can be a cruel business, but Carolina wouldn't be very smart to re-sign Davis except with a very incentive-laden contract.
Then again, the Panthers were the worst team in the NFL last year for a reason.
The nine-year veteran and five-time Pro Bowler has had a very nice career, but he has clearly lost a step—or two, or three.
In his two years with the Bengals, Williams has played in just 16 games.
A more telling statistic is that in his last three years in the league, he has one interception.
In his first six campaigns, he had 19 picks.
Either Reggie Nelson or Robert Sands should be able to improve the safety play for Cincy.
Santana Moss had 93 catches last season, so this is not about whether or not Moss is still a good player. He is a very good player in this league.
However, the Redskins need to look at building this team for the future.
While that might be impossible for owner Daniel Snyder to stomach, it's the right move for the franchise.
Moss is 32 years old. He is also 5'9" and only averaged about 12 yards per catch. Moss also only had six catches for touchdowns in 2010.
The bottom line is, he is not irreplaceable and not the best use of Snyder's annual spending spree.
Westbrook was actually the 49ers' second-leading rusher last season with 340 yards, a 4.4 yards per carry average and four touchdowns.
This isn't about his ability to be a backup running back; this is about Westbrook's history of multiple serious concussions.
It's his right to keep playing, but I hope teams can find other options at running back, and he can retire before absorbing more blows to the head.
With David Garrard being given one more shot to lead the Jaguars and the next option being first-round draft pick Blaine Gabbert, there is very little reason for Jacksonville to invest significant money in a third-string quarterback. Luke McCown is on the roster and can hold that job.
Edwards has shown just enough potential over his career to tease, but the reality is he has only had a quarterback rating over 74.0 once and thrown for double-digit touchdowns once in his career (85.0 and 11 touchdowns in 2008 for the Buffalo Bills).
Edwards in not a serious option for a team in need of a starting or primary backup quarterback and may be looking for another line of work.
Bobby Carpenter is the football equivalent of fool's gold.
At 6'2" and 249 pounds, he looks the part and even on an occasional snap, plays like a starting NFL linebacker.
But beware Detroit; even though he had 30 tackles for you in limited duty in 2010, he is not a starter in this league and is so poor dropping into pass coverage that NFL teams know to attack his zone or go to his man right away.
Remember, he barely had a cup of coffee in St. Louis and a cold latte in Miami last season before both teams jettisoned him.
There's a clear reason why.
This former first-round 2006 draft pick of the New England Patriots ran for 745 yards, a 4.3 yards per carry average and six touchdowns in his rookie season. He had similar seasons in 2007 and 2009, but never put it together for the Broncos since he was traded from the Pats last season.
As troublesome as the Denver backfield is with an underachiever in Knowshon Moreno and a worn-out Correll Buckhalter, the answer to the Broncos' running woes needs to be found elsewhere.
As I mentioned earlier, not all decisions to re-sign or not re-sign players are easy, and this happens to be one of the toughest.
Jenkins had seven sacks last season and really pushes the interior offensive line back.
But he is 30 years old and has significant durability issues.
He is going to get a very nice contract in a thin free-agent market for this type of player, which might be the primary reason for the Packers to take a pass.
Finally, the Packers are pretty deep on the defensive line with Mike Neal, Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji and Howard Green.
A career journeyman who has played for five teams in just six seasons, Bell carried just 31 times for 71 yards and a paltry 2.3 yards per carry average in 2010.
The unquestioned "bell-cow" back in Cleveland is Peyton Hillis, and Cleveland looks to get back promising Montario Hardesty from a torn ACL. Even if Hardesty is slow to recover, Bell is not the answer as a complement to Hillis.
Not only do I feel the NFL should ban the Texans from bringing back any defensive back on last season's squad to the team in 2011, but their jerseys should be burned like the toast their defensive backs were all season for the league's worst pass-defense.
On a semi-serious note, one step to improve the Texans secondary is to give a blank check to free agent Nnamdi Asomugha or Johnathan Joseph to play cornerback.
Another move is to avoid re-signing Bernard Pollard. The sixth-year player had four interceptions in 2009, but none last season. He does make a lot of tackles, but they are usually after an opposing player has made a big gain. Pollard is not the Texans' worst defensive back by far, but the unit needs a fresh start.
Sometimes it's just better for both sides to move on. Kansas City has their starter in Matt Cassel and their future possibly in rookie Ricky Stanzi.
Croyle has played in just seven games the last three seasons, and while he was not impressive in limited action, it's worthwhile to see what he can do with a change of scenery.
As for the Chiefs, if anything were happen to Cassel, I don't get the feeling they would feel too secure turning over the reins to Croyle.
This selection is bound to create some discussion as well. Addai hasn't gained 1,000 yards rushing since the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
Still, Addai is a viable, productive player when healthy, and he has good skills as a receiver.
But he is a far cry from the back who originally burst onto the NFL scene. That may be as much due to the Colts' offensive line as anything, but I think Indy can make an upgrade here.
The Colts already have veteran Donald Brown on the roster, and they spent a fourth-round pick on Delone Carter in this year's draft. Plus, there are a bevy of running backs tentatively scheduled for free agency.
Pat Williams has been an outstanding run-stopper in the NFL for most of the last 10 years. That's a heck of an accomplishment in this league.
He's 38 years old.
The Vikings don't have a ton of depth at defensive tackle, although fourth-round draft pick Christian Ballard might surprise some people.
Pat Williams is 38 years old.
Williams is also listed at 317 pounds, and if you believe that, you'll probably buy me as a runway model. He'll sign a one or two-year deal somewhere due to the dearth of talent at the position, but it's time to move on in Minnesota.
Because Williams is 38 years old.
Gilles is a slow, overweight mauler who wasn't good enough on a line that gave up 49 sacks to rank 29th in the league.
Say hello to new guard and first-round pick Danny Watkins, who will solidify the interior line play with toughness and underrated athleticism.
The lockout further hurts a player like Gilles because he needs constant workouts and training camp to get in some sort of playing shape.
Kevin Faulk has filled a variety of roles for the Patriots for so long, that re-signing the local legend seems like the right thing to do by the player.
But professional football is a business, and the Patriots spent not one, but two early draft picks (second-rounder Shane Vereen and third-round selection Stevan Ridley) on running backs. Vereen projects to do some of the same things as Faulk.
Faulk is recovering from knee surgery, and his 13-year career is probably coming to a close.
The Pats also have BenJarvus Green-Ellis as their returning starter, and look for New England not to re-sign their other free agent running backs in Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor either.
The Patriots seem to know when to cut ties with a player, and it's that time for these veterans.
Naanee isn't without a fair bit of talent (23 receptions for 371 yards and a 16.1 yards per catch average), but there are a few significant factors that will probably make San Diego avoid re-signing him.
Vincent Jackson is the team's franchise player, and San Diego will make a big effort to re-sign Malcom Floyd, who averaged 19.4 yards per catch. That's a lot of money tied up in receivers. The Bolts also have Patrick Crayton as a very good third option.
It also doesn't really help Nanee's case to be re-signed when he was arrested this offseason for public intoxication and resisting arrest.
The Saints were one of the hardest teams to analyze for this list because a lot of their free agents have made contributions to the team and the ones that haven't are players that New Orleans probably won't even consider bringing back.
My first inclination was that the selection of Mark Ingram in this year's draft might make Pierre Thomas expendable, but Thomas has a dynamic quality and when healthy is extremely productive (his career yards per carry average is a gaudy 4.7). New Orleans might be able re-sign him at a reasonable price.
The unfortunate beneficiary of Thomas staying is Julius Jones who did a decent job for the Saints last season when other players such as Thomas were injured.
He is something of a career journeyman, but still has over 5,000 yards rushing in his career, a fine 4.0 yards per carry and he is still 29 with not an outrageous amount of miles "on his tires".
There is just not room for him in New Orleans because the Saints will also bring back 2010 leading rusher Chris Ivory.
Cofield is a valuable interior defensive lineman who fights blockers and can get upfield. The problem is speculation that he wants a big-money long term deal and the G-men are reportedly around 11 million dollars over the cap.
New York also wants to re-sign free agent running back Ahmad Bradshaw and that won't be cheap.
First of all, by all accounts, Tampa Bay will have a ton of money in free agency, so that's not an issue.
Second, no team can afford to waste money on players that don't produce.
Williams only produced 435 yards on the ground last season and a paltry 3.5 yards per carry average. Ever since injuries derailed a promising career, Williams is a shell of the running back he was at Auburn University and in his rookie year in the NFL. The Bucs used him on third downs, but that's not enough reason to keep him at this point.
Sometimes the NFL just isn't fair, but really how many things are?
Braylon Edwards is a good, if somewhat inconsistent, wide receiver.
Santonio Holmes is a better wide receiver.
It really comes down to that for the Jets. They are right around the salary cap as is and have several free agents they need to consider re-signing. The limited money they will have to spend providing they get under the cap can't be spent at one position.
Even if another team signs Holmes, don't be surprised if the Jets look in the direction of Randy Moss rather than Edwards.
How do the Titans not to look to sign their leading pass-rusher with 12.5 sacks last season?
Well for starters, Babin is looking for a significant contract after eight years in the league. The Titans are a rebuilding squad whether the team will admit it or not.
Also, the Titans have a new defensive coordinator in Jerry Gray and a new defensive line coach, Tracy Rocker. Both coaches are thought to prefer bigger players on the defensive line.
Babin is 6'3" and 260 lbs. after partaking in an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The Rams don't have a ton of free agents who are integral to their success.
Goldberg started all 16 games last season, but there are better offensive linemen for a team that could be close to $40 million under the salary cap. See previous links for more salary cap information.
Protecting Sam Bradford is priority No. 1, or at least it should be, and Goldberg is more of a backup at multiple positions.
Truthfully, I'm not sure that Bruce Gradkowski isn't the best quarterback on the Oakland Raiders' roster.
Yes, that was a blatant shot, especially at Jason Campbell.
But Campbell is the starter, and Kyle Boller was signed to be the backup.
It's not like Gradkowski didn't have his chances, but his career completion percentage is an atrocious 53.2 percent, and his quarterback rating over the same span is 65.9.
That's not good enough from the undersized (6'1" maybe) signal-caller from Toledo.
In the quarterback carousel known as the NFL, Gradkowski may find a job somewhere as he is only 28, but it shouldn't be in Oakland.
Chester Pitts is a backup lineman with a high base salary due to 10 years of service.
Seattle is likely to seek help at his position through free agency, even though they drafted two offensive linemen—James Carpenter and John Moffitt in 2011.
Oh, and Pitts has been one of the more vocal player representatives during the lockout.
Striiike Three! You're Out!
Gay lost his job as a starting cornerback last season, but played in the nickel. Minus safety Troy Polamalu, the secondary was the weakest part of the Pittsburgh team in 2010.
The Steelers selected two cornerbacks in the 2011 draft, Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen, who will likely battle for the nickel job as rookies.
Translation: The Steelers should and will avoid re-signing the former Louisville Cardinal.