We all knew that this free-agency explosion was going to happen the moment the NFL lockout ended. And people were excited about where stars like Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Nnamdi Asomugha, Sidney Rice and others would ultimately wind up.
But the other half of the coin—the releasing of big-name, multimillion-dollar stars—deserves equal time.
Teams all across the league are forced to cut payroll either to afford new free agents, afford incoming traded players, afford their draft picks or simply to make it underneath the new salary cap.
And while restructuring deals is likely going to be a major factor, those players will all find homes, despite being cast off.
Whose unemployment is going to be extremely short? Check out this list.
2010 Stats: 37 catches, 530 yards, 5 TDs
Experience: 7 years
Was the Cowboys decision to trade a first-, third- and sixth-round pick for Roy Williams back in 2008 a terrible decision? Absolutely. Will it keep another team from bringing in the recently released wide receiver? No way.
Williams is still big, fast and under 30.
Just as noteworthy is the fact that plenty of teams are looking for wide receiver help. He's not going to turn into a first-option player or even a second-option, but every team has four-receiver sets and Williams can make a contribution...provided he's willing to take a backseat role.
2010 Stats: 49 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 3 sacks
Experience: 10 years
Stroud really is one of the most underrated, under-appreciated players of the last decade so it shouldn't be too surprising that he's again being shoved to the curb before even playing one snap for the Patriots.
Nevertheless, there are several teams out there that can use him, especially in the 4-3, where he flourished for the Jaguars a few years.
At first glance, his age (33) is a concern, but for whatever reason, interior defensive linemen have a knack for hanging around the game forever: Jamaal Williams, Pat Williams, Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers come to mind. Assuming his shoulder is OK, he has plenty of football left in him.
Experience: 7 years
Starks' neck was supposed to be all healed from the injury that cost him all of 2010, but his weight has reportedly been an issue and that's what prompted a release from the Steelers, who could try to bring him back at a reduced salary if he gets into shape.
Still (contingent upon his weight and stamina), it's hard to imagine that a reasonably healthy, 29-year-old tackle who has started and won a pair of Super Bowls will be left without a home once the season starts. If nothing else, he's a good insurance policy at a lower price, which he'll be forced to accept.
2010 Stats: 40 catches, 599 yards, 5 TDs
Experience: 10 years
Of all the cuts the Ravens have reportedly made, this is the most surprising I think. It certainly was to Joe Flacco.
Baltimore might try and bring him in at a reduced price, but since it has Ed Dickson, that should still be considered questionable.
Although he's been banged up a bit the last few years—he missed 10 games in 2007 and his hamstring was a real problem last year—he's proven to be a reliable pass catcher and a great threat in the red zone. Not every team has Antonio Gates or Vernon Davis.
Experience: 10 years
Seubert isn't quite as well decorated as the man he played next to for several seasons—also released lineman Shaun O'Hara—but he's younger and a bit more versatile.
Seubert is capable of playing both guard and center, as he proved last season when he stepped in for O'Hara for 10 games, earning enough respect from GM Jerry Reese for Reese to call him the team's MVP.
And since the Giants were so good at both running and passing the ball last year, you'd have to figure a few clubs out there view him as the right fit for an open spot.
Experience: 11 years
Former teammate Rich Seubert might be younger and able to play both center and guard (although O'Hara did come into the league as both) O'Hara is still going to be a bit more highly coveted, mainly because of his resume: three straight Pro Bowl spots.
There is always a place for good offensive linemen, especially veteran centers who have seen every kind of front and every kind of blitz.
For a short-term deal, O'Hara can be a steal.
2010 Stats: 61 catches, 802 yards, 7 TDs
Experience: 15 years
I still think the release of Heap was a bit more surprising because Mason is so...well, let's be honest, old.
But given his track record it's almost impossible to think this is the end of the line for the 37-year-old.
There are too many teams out there with young, inexperienced receivers and Mason can come in, teach them a few things and be a great second option in the passing game. A team with a young quarterback and a handful of young wide receivers like St. Louis could really benefit from having Mason.
2010 Stats: 113 carries, 374 yards, 4 TDs
Experience: 6 years
Barber never lived up to his first-round status in Dallas, but I don't think the Cowboys gave him too many opportunities to do so. They were always a pass-first offense, and after drafting Felix Jones, the number of carries continued to dwindle for Barber.
He seems to be so talented and such a great runner that teams are going to view him as a potential complementary or change-of-pace back. Given some of the vacancies (Washington, Cincinnati) and injuries to incumbents (San Francisco, Jacksonville), Barber should be snatched up in a hurry.
2010 Stats: 19 solo tackles
Experience: 8 years
Two out of the last three seasons completely ruined by injury ended Barnett's stay in Green Bay. But because the most recent was a wrist injury (and that didn't seem to hamper Brian Urlacher in 2010) he shouldn't be any slower or any less able to make an impact on the defensive side of the ball.
If Barnett manages to stay healthy, he's a lock for 100-plus tackles, and is more capable of rushing the passer than his sack totals indicate. Also, given the fact that he has now had plenty of work in both the 3-4 and the 4-3, his options aren't limited.
2010 Stats: 1,255 yards, 59.6 completion percentage, 10 TDs, 3 INTs
Experience: 5 years
Even though it appears that no team wanted to trade for Young, someone is going to sign him once he hits the open market, especially since Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb, Tarvaris Jackson, Kevin Kolb and Kyle Orton all seem to have possible suitors for 2011.
There are concerns about Young's leadership, his accuracy and even his health—he has missed a lot of time due to injuries over the last few years—but for a team that only has to give up money and not draft picks, that's not enough to at least take a flyer on the former third overall pick.