2011 NFL Free Agency: The Most Likely Cap Casualty for Every NFL Team
Each year, every franchise has to make tough decisions regarding which players to keep on their roster and which free agents to target.
Sometimes, players are cut because they either aren't good enough or don't fit a team's scheme (think Donovan McNabb in DC: a good player, but not right for Shanahan's scheme).
Other times, players are let go or not re-signed, not because they aren't good, but because they cost too much towards a team's salary cap.
Though we don't know what will come of the current NFL owners and players discussions, what we do know is that there will be a salary cap. There is also a possibility it could be a bit stricter than in the past (or not; we're still fuzzy on those details).
I present to you a list of players who could find themselves traded or released due to the salary cap.
A fan favorite and a team leader, linebacker Paul Posluszny will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Buffalo Bills face a tough decision with him.
Should they spend the big bucks it will take to keep Posluszny in Buffalo, or will they just let him go?
Honestly, I think the Bills want to keep him more than they want to go out and sign a free agent, but it will all depend on the new collective bargaining agreement.
We'll have to keep watch over this, but Posluszny could become a cap casualty.
The Miami Dolphins could have a couple of cap casualties on their hands once the lockout is over.
The first two are fairly obvious: running back Ricky Williams and quarterback Chad Pennington.
Both players are currently aging by football standards and their contracts are up. Since they are mere shadows of what they once were, I doubt that the Dolphins would bring them back for the league minimum.
Running back Ronnie Brown also makes my list because there are whispers around the league that several teams are interested in signing the free agent. This would definitely drive up his price, and the veteran might be too much for the Dolphins to re-sign.
New England Patriots
It's always hard whether the Patriots release and trade players due to age or cap concerns. So, I'll just assume it's usually a little of both.
Two men who fall under both categories are running backs Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk.
Both backs are up there in age, and Bill Belichick has shown in the past that he really doesn't care who's in the backfield. To him, short passes and screens are just as effective as a run up the middle.
Both men want to stay with the Pats, but I highly doubt they will.
New York Jets
This offseason seems to be all about quarterbacks and corner backs.
The Jets don't have to worry about their franchise QB going anywhere; however, their second best corner might cash in on the run on CB's in the upcoming free agent period.
Antonio Cromartie could be looking at some serious cash if he chooses to walk from the Jets—a sum of money they might not want to deal out considering they're going to be working on Darelle Revis' contract extension in just two short seasons.
If they match any high-priced offers from other franchise for Cromartie, they'll have to pay a lot more than that to Revis, which they probably would like to avoid.
Cromartie probably only stays in New York if the Giants sign him.
Marc Bulger could be looking at some starting jobs this offseason, so the price he'll demand will likely be too much for the Ravens to swallow for a backup to Joe Flacco.
The Ravens might make a low offer to him, but this bird is flying to coup.
If the Bengals can't convince wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and quarterback Carson Palmer to come back into the fold, then the Bengals might not have to worry about any cap casualties because their two highest-paid players will be gone anyway.
Corner back Eric Wright could be a cap casualty, not because of the Browns but because of Nnamdi Asomugha, who will set the money bar pretty high for corners this offseason.
There isn't a lot of talk right now concerning 25-year-old LaMarr Woodley. The linebacker, who is a stone cold fit in the 3-4 defense, could get a lot of love from teams like Washington and Buffalo.
In fact, the Redskins seem to be very interested in him and with Dan Snyder's fat checkbook, Woodley's asking price might be too high for the Steelers to stomach.
If Woodley gets the attention I think he's going to get, then he'll probably be gone unless he gives the Steelers a pretty sizable hometown discount.
With recurring injuries to star wide-out Andre Johnson last season, Jacoby Jones didn't fill in the way the Texans may have hoped.
With the extra opportunities, the 6-2 wide-out only managed 51 catches for 562 yards and three touchdowns.
With Johnson locked up for the next couple of seasons, I doubt the Texans will spend the money to keep Jone around.
The Indianapolis Colts have never been dedicated to the running game, which is why they've let previous Pro Bowlers Marshal Faulk and Edgerrin James go.
I don't think they'll waiver from that with Joseph Addai. He's a solid runner and will probably want to be rewarded for his efforts. Sadly, the Colts are going to be spending way too much money on Peyton Manning to afford Addai.
Mike Sims-Walker has expressed an interest in returning to the Jaguars this offseason. However, he has also expressed an interest in getting a big pay-day.
The latter might interfere with the former.
I can't say for sure whether or not Sims-Walker will be back in Jacksonville next season; I think it mostly depends on how much outside interest he gets.
This one is obvious, but Vince Young is out in Tennessee. Although this is more of a personnel move than a salary cap issue, I feel that if a player with Young's talents was making less money, the Titans would find an excuse to keep him on the roster.
Champ Bailey is getting up there in years but is still considered one of the best cover corners in the NFL.
The Denver Broncos have to ask themselves if they want to go into full rebuilding mode or putt along by adding a piece here and a piece there.
I doubt Bailey is going to come cheap, so the Broncos will have to weigh his age versus his price. If the price is too high, Bailey might be looking for work elsewhere.
Kansas City Chiefs
Mike Vrabel has been an All-Pro linebacker his entire career in the NFL, a career that is now on the downside of his prime.
At 35 years of age, it will be a tough sell for the pseudo-rebuilding Chiefs to bring back.
His age and the cap will probably spell the end for Vrabel's time in Kansas City.
Al Davis and the Raiders are notorious for over-paying players ("Just win, baby"), but unfortunately for them, that over-paying means there won't be enough cap room to bring back Nnamdi Asomugha, who is expected to bring in a ton of wealthy offers from around the league once free agency opens up.
San Diego Chargers
2010 wasn't the banner year the Chargers thought it would be. They got off to a rough start and if it wasn't for playing in a terrible division, they wouldn't have even come close to the postseason.
For that reason, the team has to look long and hard at their current roster to decide who they plan to bring back and who to sign.
It's looking more and more like Vincent Jackson will get the franchise tag as the Bolts try to work out an extension.
With that in mind, free agent Darren Sproles might find himself on the outside looking in when it comes to contract negotiations.
The Cowboys have two offensive weapons that could be gone once the lockout is over.
First up is the high-priced and underperforming wide-out Roy Williams.
Williams was brought in by Jerry Jones, who traded away a first-round pick (among others) to secure him from the Detroit Lions, who were all too happy to see him go.
Williams is expected to be traded or cut before the season begins. I'd lean towards cut because I don't see any franchise insane enough to take on his contract as well as give something up for him.
The next is Marion Barber. In the NFL these days, it seems like running backs get old quickly and are a dime a dozen.
Barber has taken a beating as the Cowboys' up-the-middle guy, and there isn't a lot of tread left on the tires.
Expect the Cowboys not to re-sign him in the offseason.
New York Giants
This offseason the Giants are probably going to have to make a choice between Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
Bradshawn is a free agent, and Jacobs is making a lot of money.
It's highly unlikely that the Giants will be able to afford both running backs given the slue of free agents they need to re-sign.
Because Bradshaw has more upside, expect Jacobs to be let go unless he reworks his deal.
The Philadelphia Eagles applied a transition tag to David Akers before the lockout and I agree with Pro Football Talk in that they need to pull it back before he signs a one-year deal.
Akers is old and isn't the sure thing he was last season. Besides that, the Eagles drafted a kicker in the fourth round of this year's draft.
If they don't pull back the transition tag before Akers signs, they'll be stuck paying an over-the-hill kicker.
The Redskins have a plethora of decisions to make this offseason.
Some have been made for them because of money. Donovan McNabb's bonus at Week 1 means he's gone. Albert Haynesworth's bad attitude and high salary means he's gone.
This isn't even before free agency.
The Redskins are probably not going to pay the high salaries that will be demanded by cover (yet stone hands) corner Carlos Rogers and mediocre line backer Rocky McIntosh.
The Bears have some offseason holes to fill, mainly along the offensive line, but I don't think they will have to release any of their players because of the cap.
The big pay day for Nnamdi Asomugha could mean dollar signs in the eyes of other corner backs.
The Lions had one of their best defensive seasons in a long time, and corner back Chris Houston could parley that into a lucrative offseason.
The Lions seem to be firm in building their team through the draft and not through throwing money around. If that's the case, Houston might be elsewhere next season.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers want to get back to the Super Bowl. In order to do so, they might have to say farewell to long-time receiver Donald Driver.
Driver, being an unrestricted free agent this offseason, could cash in with a team that needs veteran presence withing their receiving corp.
However, if he's willing to take a pay cut, he could wind up back in green and gold.
Tavaris Jackson wants to start in this league, and he'll want to make starter money.
With the Vikings likely trading for Donovan McNabb, and considering that they've drafted their quarterback of the future in Christian Ponder, Jackson isn't going to start or get starter money from the Vikings.
This was a tough one to write because Tony Gonzalez has played so well for the Falcons, but I feel that at his age, the Falcons probably won't sign him for the amount of money he expects to make.
The Panthers could release DeAngelo Williams and trade Steve Smith due to their high-priced contracts.
Both are good players, but the Panthers are rebuilding and need to clear out cap space.
For Smith, in particular, the Panthers could attain a relatively high draft pick.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints suddenly have a crowded back field. Choices must be made.
The obvious choice is to let Reggie Bush shop himself around for a trade.
He makes too much money for the small contributions he makes on offense.
The Saints either need to turn him into a wide receiver full-time or parts ways with the former Heisman winner.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are an up-and-coming young team. With that said, they've got an old man on their roster whose contract is up.
Ronde Barber might be one of those "if he was younger we'd pay him" guys, so he might find himself shopping his services around the league, especially if the Bucs are serious about going after Asomugha.
However, if Barber doesn't mind making the league minimum, he might still be with the Bucs when the season starts.
Joey Porter is due $5.75 million this year, and releasing him wouldn't negatively affect the Cardinals' salary cap.
It should be a no-brainier for the the Cards to let Porter go.
San Fransico 49ers
Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and is expected to receive some pretty big offers from teams like the Redskins—offers that the Niners won't match.
Also Nate Clements is due $7.25 million this year, and being that he's on the down end of his career, he isn't worth it.
Unless he reworks his deal, expect him to be released once the lockout is over.
Stacy Andrews underperformed in 12 starts last season at right guard. This year, he's due to make $5.25 million.
This one is pretty cut and dry for the Seahawks' brass.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams are a relatively young team eager to add pieces to make a push for the playoffs this season.
With that said, there isn't really a high-priced player on the team who could be cut in order to save room for the cap.
Any cuts made by the Rams this offseason will have more to do with ability than money.