Free Agency is a tough period for teams and fans, as organizations go through rosters to determine who they'll be able to keep and who will be leaving town.
While some players have more importance than others in contract negotiations, the effect of free agency is massive. Teams are package deals. Cut a key part of the roster, and it could result in a complete chain reaction for the rest of the lineup.
With that said, teams can't keep everybody, and will be making some tough choices in the very near future on who will make up their roster for next season..
Here is one NFL player that will stay on with their team, and one player that will be hitting the road.
Here to stay: DE Calais Campbell
Going away: RB LaRod Stephens-Howling
The Arizona Cardinals have had a rough season so far, and it will be interesting to see who will be coming back in 2012.
I have a good feeling that the team will make room for defensive end Calais Campbell. The Cardinals' defensive line is lacking in talent (other than other defensive end Darnell Dockett), and it will be tough to see them give up another quality talent on that line.
However, I don't think the team will hold on to running back LaRod Stephens-Howling.
While he has proven himself to be a major threat on special teams, and with his game-winning touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys, I'm just not sure where he fits. Chris "Beanie" Wells most likely has the starter role next, and Stephens-Howling will have a tough competition with running back Ryan Williams (the rookie who has missed the entire season with an injury sustained in the preseason).
Here to stay: RB Jason Snelling
Going away: DE John Abraham
He may not always be the biggest producer in the game, but I can see the Atlanta Falcons having an interest in holding on to backup running back Jason Snelling. The running back has been the most effective when making receptions out of the backfield, and in these situations can be a critical fill-in for the overworked Michael Turner.
With that said, I'm not so sure the Falcons will be keeping veteran defensive end John Abraham with them into next season. He's getting up there in age (he's 33), and the Falcons could find themselves uninterested in getting into a bidding war for a player whose best plays are most likely behind him.
Here to stay: RB Ray Rice
Going away: G Ben Grubbs
In one of the most obvious decisions in this upcoming off-season's free agency periods, the Baltimore Ravens will want to keep running back Ray Rice. He's one of the top rushers in the league, a focal point for the offense, and he wants to stay in the Charm City.
On the flip side, fellow 2012 free agent Ben Grubbs has been less open about his thoughts on his future free agency. As the team looks for money to re-sign Rice (and give a contract extension to quarterback Joe Flacco), it may find it's coffers a little short when it comes to paying Grubbs.
The loss would certainly hurt the Ravens, whose offensive line has been a major reason for the team's inspired play.
Here to stay: WR Steve Johnson
Going away: RB Tashard Choice
He may drop a few more passes than fans of the Buffalo Bills would like, but there's no doubt that the team will be very interested in keeping flamboyant wide receiver Steve Johnson on the roster.
Hopefully he doesn't (fake) shoot himself in the foot with some poor play at the end of the season.
On the flipside, running back Tashard Choice will likely be on the way out of town this offseason. While Choice has shown flashes of talent before coming to the team, he was bogged down on a roster that featured the impressive Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
Here to stay: G Geoff Hangartner
Going away: TE Jeremy Shockey
The Carolina Panthers are doing well offensively this year, and as a result may want to avoid losing starting guard Geoff Hangartner this offseason. Losing him would result in an even larger distraction for the team as it looks at how it can turn its subpar defense around.
Meanwhile, the team can afford to give up tight end Jeremy Shockey. While Shockey has done well this season, his production can be accounted for with current tight ends Greg Olson and Ben Hartstock. Shockey's injury history is also reason for some concern should the Panthers look to extend his deal.
Here to stay: RB Matt Forte
Going away: S Brandon Meriweather
Running back Matt Forte has been a proven commodity in the Chicago Bears backfield, and the team would be absolutely off its rocker to let him go this offseason. Forte, who while underpaid has refused to engage in the holdout tactics of fellow backs, will hopefully see his price tag go up.
While the team may try to lowball him following his MCL sprain, when negotiating the team should think about the positive things Forte can still provide the team.
Meanwhile, the team will most likely split with safety Brandon Meriweather. Brought in from the New England Patriots earlier in the year, he hasn't lived up to expectations in the team's usually stout defense.
Here to stay: RB Cedric Benson
Going away: CB Adam "Pac-Man" Jones
Despite his troubling off the field activities, it would be a surprise to see Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson not return for the 2012 season. He's been the superior back for the team this year, as demonstrated by the team's relative struggles while he was suspended.
On the other side of the ball, cornerback Adam "Pac-Man" Jones has not lived up to expectations that were placed on him when he was brought in, and they weren't really all that high in the first place. Unfortunately, Jones has probably realized that for teams to ignore his troubling behavioral issues, he will have to excel against his opponents. So far, he has not done so.
Here to stay: K Phil Dawson
Going away: RB Peyton Hillis
It's not often when you can say reliable and Cleveland Browns in the same sentence, but kicker Phil Dawson is the real deal. He's been one of the team's major bright spots, and the difference in several games (such as their win over the Seattle Seahawks).
On the flip side, running back Peyton Hillis has found himself to be very unreliable this season due to injuries. Whether its the Madden cover curse in effect, or the result of the Browns mismanagement of his skills and athleticism, he has found himself as a major distraction to the team's efforts. It would be a surprise to see him back in Cleveland next season.
Here to stay: LB Anthony Spencer
Going away: LB Bradie James
He may not be exhibiting the same kind of dominant play as he did in 2009, but I'd be surprised if the Dallas Cowboys didn't bring back linebacker Anthony Spencer in 2012. He has found himself very effective playing opposite defensive end DeMarcus Ware, and even in an off year he has shown that he can put up some very solid numbers.
However, I don't think lineback Bradie James will be coming back to the team next season. He has not lived up to what the team had hoped for him, and at times has seemed out of place in the team's defense. There's some time for him to redeem his season, but I doubt the Cowboys will want to drop big money to have him back in Dallas in 2012.
Here to stay: WR Eddie Royal
Going away: QB Brady Quinn
While there was a lot of talk about the Denver Broncos letting wide receiver Brandon Lloyd leave town, I'm positive they wouldn't make a move like that if they weren't confident about the depth they already had. In this sense, the Broncos will most likely be bringing back in wide receiver Eddie Royal.
While he hasn't had the same impact as he did in his rookie season, he has proven himself to be a very reliable contributor to the team's offense.
With the ascension of quarterback Tim Tebow, it looks like backup quarterback Brady Quinn will find himself off of the roster in 2012. I'm not going to say he has no hope in getting a starting job down the road, but he may find things will be getting much harder for him to succeed.
Here to stay: RB Kevin Smith
Going away: RB Maurice Morris
Assuming running back Jahvid Best can recover from his recent concussions, there will be a small question on which back will continue to have a roster spot on the team. Given the team's recent play, it looks likely that spot will go to running back Kevin Smith, and not to Maurice Morris.
While Morris is a reliable (albeit a little boring) back, Smith has dazzled with a few electrifying plays (most evident in his 140 yard, three touchdown performance against the Carolina Panthers). The team has to like Smith's potential to be a difference maker down the road.
Here to stay: TE Jermichael Finley
Going away: RB Ryan Grant
The Green Bay Packers have been dynamic in running their passing attack, and tight end Jermichael Finley has played a major role in this success. One of the most productive in the league at the position, there is no doubt he will be back at Lambeau in 2012.
However, I can't say the same for running back Ryan Grant. He's not the same rusher that blew up on the scene in 2008 and 2009, and the team has found more depth at the position that has taken all of the spotlight in that portion of the game.
Here to stay: RB Arian Foster
Going away: WR Bryant Johnson
The Houston Texans have found their biggest success while using their rushing game, and a big part of that success has been the use of running back Arian Foster. Teamed with running back Ben Tate, the Texans have put together one of the most effective ground attacks in the league.
However, the team will most likely not show much interest in bringing back wide receiver Bryant Johnson. Despite the team struggling to keep its receiver healthy, he's only been able to bring in two catches for a total of 22 yards. It wouldn't be a surprise for the team to want to try someone a little younger and fresher next season.
(This slide previously referenced RB Steve Slaton as the player going away. However, Slaton was already cut by the team and has been with the Miami Dolphins since September)
Here to stay: WR Reggie Wayne
Going away: QB Peyton Manning
I'm going to assume that quarterback Peyton Manning will not be returning to the team in 2012, and that assumption will remain in place until I hear any positive news about his recovery (so far the news has sounded both grim and very painful).
With the Colts on their way to a winless season, the team will be in a prime position to grab first overall pick in the 2012 draft, and they will probably want to use that pick on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
If that were the case, it would appear that Manning would not be back with the team in 2012.
However, the team will need offensive weapons to team up with Luck (or whoever lines up under center), and will definitely want to bring back wide receiver Reggie Wayne. While Wayne may be frustrated with not catching passes from Manning, the team will need him to perform in what could be a very shaky offense.
Here to stay: WR Mike Sims-Walker
Going away: TE Marcedes Lewis
The Jacksonville Jaguars are at a bit of a crossroads, replacing both their owner and their head coach in the matter of about a week. With that in mind, they will need to hold on to some offensive weapons. Wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker will be one of those weapons. His athleticism will be prized even as the team struggles to set an identity.
However, I do think the team will go into 2012 without long-term tight end Marcedes Lewis. Lewis, who has been with the team since 2006, will find himself as the odd man out as the team looks to bring in better talent across the board.
Here to stay: WR Dwayne Bowe
Going away: RB Thomas Jones
The Kansas City Chiefs have been ravaged by injuries in the 2011 season, and going into the offseason they will definitely want to hold on to their one prized player avoiding injury, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.
However, I don't think the team will hold on to veteran running back Thomas Jones. Jones, who filled in for the injured Jamaal Charles, will most likely see himself out of work should Charles come back to full health.
Here to stay: DE Paul Soliai
Going away: J.P. Losman
The Miami Dolphins will have a tough decision this offseason as it attempts to determine whether to hold on to defensive end Paul Soliai. Soliai, who was given the team's franchise tag last offseason, will draw a big pricetag when he hits the open market. The only way the Dolphins don't bring him back is if they're scared off by fellow bidders.
With that said, I don't think the team will bring back its second-string quarterback J.P. Losman. Losman, who played in the UFL the past few years after a failed stretch with the Buffalo Bills, will again be wondering if there's any place that will take him in for the following season (even worse, the UFL appears to be on its last legs).
Here to stay: WR Devin Aromashodu
Going away: TE Visanthe Shiancoe
The Minnesota Vikings are lacking in depth at wide receiver after star Percy Harvin. With this in mind, it's clear Devin Aromashodu should get major consideration to return in 2012. In addition to putting together some solid numbers the past few weeks, he's received the endorsement of the team's receivers coach George Stewart.
However, I don't see the team keeping tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. While he is very talented, the team's drafting of tight end Kyle Rudolph gives the team the space to let him walk away with little impact.
Here to stay: WR Wes Welker
Going away: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Quarterback Tom Brady is (one of three passers) on pace to shatter the single season passing yard record set by Dan Marino, and a big reason for this is his connection with wide receiver Wes Welker. Welker is not the biggest or fastest player on the field, but has a knack for getting (very) wide open. There's no doubt the team will want him back.
However, I don't think the Patriots will pursue running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis hard in the offseason. While he has been a solid producer this season, he seems to fit the mold of the players the team avoids paying extra for. Unless Green-Ellis can handle being undervalued, he will most likely be rushing elsewhere next year.
Here to stay: QB Drew Brees
Going away: WR Robert Meachem
This is beyond obvious. There is no way the New Orleans Saints will even consider for a second letting franchise quarterback Drew Brees walk away this offseason.
On the flip side, I think the team could live without wide receiver Robert Meachem. While he was a nice part of the championship team of only a few seasons ago, the team can do just fine without him. With the price tag Meachem will most likely will want, the team will let him go elsewhere.
Here to stay: WR Mario Manningham
Going away: CB Terrell Thomas
He's not the best wide receiver on the New York Giants roster, but I can see the team wanting to bring back Mario Manningham for another season at least. He has proven himself to be a viable contributor as both the second option and in the slot, and that flexibility will make him very valuable to the organization.
On the defensive end, the team will most likely wave farewell to cornerback Terrell Thomas this offseason. While he has shown flashes of excellent play, his injury concerns may be too much for the team to want to deal with.
Thomas has missed the entire season after an ACL injury taking place during the preseason.
Here to stay: WR Plaxico Burress
Going away: RB LaDainian Tomlinson
He was a risk to pick up in the offseason, but wide receiver Plaxico Burress has shown his value this year. His stats have not caught up to his best numbers as a New York Giant, but Burress has been a big target for quarterback Mark Sanchez (especially in the red zone). With more time to get to game speed, Burress may have one or two seasons of high-quality play left.
Meanwhile, I think the team will let running back LaDaninian Tomlinson roll out this offseason. While Tomlinson has been valuable in a leadership role (and as a blocker), he appears to have lost too much pace to continue to be very effective as a rusher down the road.
Here to stay: CB Tyvon Branch
Going away: QB Jason Campbell
The Oakland Raiders have struggled defensively (especially without cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha), but they have a solid contributor in Tyvon Branch. Given his solid play, it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to let him roll out of town.
While quarterback Jason Campbell played well in the first half of the year, I can't imagine a scenario where the team will hold on to both him and Carson Palmer. If Palmer can get the team to the AFC West title (and a playoff spot), there's no way he would lose the starter role. In this case, Campbell would most likely be on the way out.
Here to stay: WR DeSean Jackson
Going away: WR Steve E. Smith
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been disappointing with his sloppy play and selfish antics, and those kind of actions will likely turn off free agency suitors. However, the apprehension of other teams will play into the Eagles hands. With few rival bidders, the Eagles may be able to pull Jackson back in at a reasonable price.
For a player with an ability to score on any play, they could get away with a major discount.
However, the team will be comfortable letting wide receiver Steve E. Smith leave town. Signed late in the offseason, Smith has not lived up to the potential he showed as a New York Giant, partly due to the injury struggles he's had this season.
Here to stay: S Troy Polamalu
Going away: WR Jerricho Cotchery
He may have had some injury worries this year, but imagining the Pittsburgh Steelers without safety Troy Polamalu is like imagining a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without peanut butter and jelly. It just isn't right.
However, the team will have no qualms of dropping wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. With the team developing a nice stable of young pass-catchers, Cotchery may find himself as the odd man out.
Here to stay: WR Vincent Jackson
Going away: RB Mike Tolbert
With the San Diego Chargers likely to see some reshuffling this offseason (with the rumored firing of head coach Norv Turner), the team will definitely want to keep some stability in the wide receiver position by re-signing Vincent Jackson. One of the physical receivers in the game, there's no doubt Jackson will continue being a valuable target for quarterback Philip Rivers.
However, I think the team will feel comfortable parting ways with running back Mike Tolbert. Tolbert, who splits carries with Ryan Mathews, could find the team being able to find a cheaper goal-line back, leaving him out of a job.
Here to stay: QB Alex Smith
Going away: WR Braylon Edwards
In one of the most unlikely turnarounds of the year, San Francisco 49ers Alex Smith has shown that he can be a viable NFL starter. While has not put up the sexiest numbers around, Smith has been smart and has limited his turnovers in a major way. It would not be a big surprise to see the team lock down its quarterback for a few more years.
On the other hand, the team may see itself not wanting to keep wide receiver Braylon Edwards. While Edwards is very talented, he has struggled to stay healthy this season. In the meantime, the team has found some improved play from Michael Crabtree and its stable of tight ends. Edwards may be plying his services elsewhere next year.
Here to stay: RB Marshawn Lynch
Going away: QB Charlie Whitehurst
The Seattle Seahawks have had little reason for excitement this season, but should be happy with the play of running back Marshawn Lynch. Hitting free agency this offseason, the team knows that it can't let a major fan favorite go Beastmode out of town.
However, the team may find itself parting with backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. While both Whitehurst and starter Tarvaris Jackson have had their share of lousy moments, the team will be best served in bringing in a fresh face to add some competition for the starting job.
Here to stay: WR Danny Amendola
Going away: WR Brandon Lloyd
The St. Louis Rams will have some decisions as to who it will keep as wide receivers in 2012, but I'm convinced the team will hold on to Danny Amendola. While his season was ruined in the first week of the year (he has been sidelined with an injury to his triceps), his performance in 2010 (and his affordable price tag) will likely keep him in town.
However, the team will most likely see wide receiver Brandon Lloyd roll out of town, but that may be for the best. Lloyd will be looking for a big payday, and given his sometimes mixed production, the Rams may be happy to avoid the risk in throwing big money his way.
Here to stay: RB Earnest Graham
Going away: CB Ronde Barber
LeGarrette Blount is the clear number one running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but it may find some value in keeping Earnest Graham around. Until being lost to injury in October, he was very effective in spelling the bruising Blount.
On the other side, the team will most likely see the final play of cornerback Ronde Barber. While Barber has been impressive in staying active (and playing well) for so long, it's tough to see Barber continuing to be healthy and playing at a high level at the age of 37, which he will be in 2012.
Here to stay: DE Jason Jones
Going away: RB Chris Johnson
The Tennessee Titans know they have a good thing in defensive end Jason Jones, and know they won't want to let him walk out this offseason. He has a knack of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and in a pass heavy NFL that skill is invaluable. His solid play is even more impressive as the team sent away fellow defensive lineman Jason Babin to the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason, sending more blockers his way.
While it may be harsh to say running back Christ Johnson's time in Tennessee is over this offseason, the team may see an opportunity to cut their losses on a player they overpaid for this season. He hasn't come anywhere close to the expectations set for him this year, and it the Titans cut him from their roster before the fifth day of the 2012 league year, they will save $8 million.
Here to stay: RB Tim Hightower
Going away: QB Rex Grossman
The Washington Redskins need to hold on to whatever talent they can, and in that sense it will be critical for them to keep running back Tim Hightower. One of the team's best rushing options, he can still be effective should he recover fully from a knee injury that had him placed on the injured reserve this year.
However, the Redskins have been dreadful at the quarterback position this season and Rex Grossman will find himself looking for a new team next season. Grossman, along with John Beck, have been by far the worst part of a woefully-underperforming Redskins team this season.