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Potential Salary Cap Casualties


Fish Tank Frenzy
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Scouts Inc.

 

On Feb. 22, NFL teams can begin releasing players in advance of the free-agent signing period, which begins March 2. Veteran quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Jeff Garcia already have been told of their impending release.

 

Who else has their contract on the chopping block? Our scouts have examined every roster and compared on-field performance with salary and contract status to come up with an extensive list of veterans still under contract who nevertheless could find themselves out of work this offseason. At the very least, some of these players will be candidates for contract restructuring.

 

Some of the players on the list might surprise you. Would you believe Marshall Faulk? What about Jerome Bettis? Check out the rest of the list:

 

Offense | Defense | Complete free-agent list

 

Quarterbacks

 

Steve McNair, Tennessee

He is due $7.5 million in 2005 and an astronomical $50 million bonus in 2006 on a backloaded contract. Durability is a big concern, and those numbers will be restrictive for the Titans even if McNair does stay on the field. McNair has said he's willing to restructure his contract, but he hasn't said definitively whether he plans to return next season.

 

Aaron Brooks

Brooks

Aaron Brooks, New Orleans

Coach Jim Haslett's reprieve in New Orleans might have saved Brooks. He is a great talent who doesn't play with a sense of urgency. The Saints might ask him to redo a deal that will pay him $5.5 million in 2005.

 

Jake Plummer, Denver

It isn't a lock the Broncos will pay the $6 million roster bonus he is due March 1. Plummer's salary isn't out of whack, but the organization could go another direction after an up-and-down season.

 

Drew Bledsoe, Buffalo

The Bills already have announced they will release Bledsoe and elevate second-year QB J.P. Losman to the starting job.

 

Rich Gannon

Gannon

Rich Gannon, Oakland

There is almost no chance he will return. He has a huge, $8 million base salary in 2005 and is not a good fit in coach Norv Turner's offense or on this club.

 

Brad Johnson, Tampa Bay

Unless he takes a dramatic pay cut, he won't return to a roster that is pretty well set at quarterback. A salary of $6 million in 2005 and $7 million in '06 is outlandish for a 37-year-old third-stringer.

 

Jay Fiedler, Miami

Neither Fiedler nor A.J. Feeley appears to be the long-term answer at quarterback for Miami. Fiedler is too pricey (more than $5.7 million in 2005) for a backup, and his biggest supporter (Dave Wannstedt) is gone.

 

Brian Griese

Griese

Brian Griese, Tampa Bay

He carries a $2 million salary figure for 2005, but also is due a $6 million bonus in March. Griese isn't likely to see that money, but he played well enough in 2004 to earn a restructured deal.

 

Rodney Peete, Carolina

He gives the coaching staff a level of comfort, but he isn't worth $1 million annually at his age. Peete could renegotiate and return for a year, but the Panthers need to start developing a young backup.

 

Chris Weinke, Carolina

At 32, he is no better than a journeyman backup and no longer can be considered a developmental project. It's unlikely Carolina will pay him the $1.2 million he is due in 2005.

 

Fullbacks

 

James Hodgins, Arizona

He was expected to be a force in the run game, but it didn't happen. (He finished the season on injured reserve.) Though Hodgins has great size, all he can do is block, limiting his usefulness in Dennis Green's system.

 

Mike Anderson, Denver

A severe groin injury hampered him all last season, and he will be a 31-year-old injury risk carrying a $2.16 million base salary in 2005. The Broncos have other options at his position.

 

Running backs

 

Marshall Faulk

Marshall Faulk

Marshall Faulk, St. Louis

He is starting to look like a part-time player, with age and durability becoming big concerns. He has a $7 million cap number for 2005, so it might be time for he and the Rams to part company.

 

Jerome Bettis, Pittsburgh

He is the comeback story of 2004 and is running like a player five years younger than his 33 years. Turning him loose will be a tough call for this organization, but Bettis is due more than $5 million in 2005.

 

Michael Bennett, Minnesota

Though not a candidate to get cut, he very well could be traded. The Vikings are loaded at running back, prefer to build through the draft and could net a fairly high draft choice for him.

 

Tight end

 

Kyle Brady, Jacksonville

At age 33, he still is a physical and effective run blocker, but he offers little as a receiver. With more teams using offensive tackles as short-yardage blocking tight ends, can Jacksonville live with Brady's cap number (almost $3 million)?

 

Dwayne Carswell, Denver

He has been serviceable, but Denver uses many tight ends, and Carswell hardly is dominant. The Broncos could go younger and cheaper in a committee approach.

 

Jay Riemersma, Pittsburgh

He is 32, comes with endless durability questions and isn't the blocking tight end Pittsburgh wants. We can't see the Steelers paying him $1.3 million in 2005.

 

Wide receiver

 

Derrick Mason

Mason

Derrick Mason, Tennessee

His name seems to be on this list every year, but he always dodges the bullet. But Mason's $3.2 million base salary and $1.5 million in incentives for 2005 might be too much for the cap-strapped Titans to handle this time.

 

Rod Smith, Denver

He could see his skills start to decline soon, and his salary will be in the $5 million range in 2005. But he is Denver's most consistent weapon, and the Broncos don't have a replacement ready.

 

Isaac Bruce, St. Louis

St. Louis has good, young depth at receiver, and Bruce's salary over the next four years (from $4 million to $7 million) isn't a drop in the bucket. The Rams might have to let a good player go before he becomes a liability.

 

Kevin Johnson, Baltimore

Once a solid No. 1 receiver, he has been no better than a No. 3 for the Ravens, who need an upgrade. His base salary of $1.4 million and potential bonus of over $2 million is too much. Do you renegotiate or cut a 29-year-old backup? Johnson might do the Ravens a favor by opting out of his contract in favor of free agency.

 

Koren Robinson, Seattle

His off-field problems and favorable salary make him a strong trade candidate. The Seahawks are turned off by his act and dropped passes.

 

Troy Brown

Brown

Troy Brown, New England

He is the ultimate team guy, but he is 34, his production on offense is in steep decline and his cap number is around $5.7 million. Coach Bill Belichick doesn't play favorites.

 

Muhsin Muhammad, Carolina

Carolina almost dumped him a year ago but wisely chose not to. Due a huge $10 million bonus in the offseason, he likely will renegotiate and receive a more cap-friendly deal.

 

Jerome Pathon, New Orleans

The Saints aren't known as big spenders, and a $3.25 million salary for a quality No. 3 receiver probably is too much. But he is a tough matchup in the slot, so the team might try to restructure his deal.

 

David Terrell, Chicago

The ultimate teaser, he never has lived up to great expectations. He no longer can be considered a developing talent, and the Bears' offense desperately needs a playmaker.

 

Az-Zahir Hakim

Hakim

Az-Zahir Hakim, Detroit

With Charles Rogers and Roy Williams making a lot of money, the position is financially out of whack. Hakim, the No. 3 receiver, has a $4 million cap number in 2005.

 

Derrius Thompson, Miami

He has the size and skills but never has played up to expectations. The Dolphins have a new coaching staff, loads of needs and won't want to pay $1.2 million for a No. 3 receiver.

 

Center

 

Jeff Mitchell, Carolina

One of the most underrated players in the league, he rarely makes a mistake. The Panthers want to keep him, but his $2 million salary and $1 million bonus are steep. He could be a candidate for renegotiation.

 

Trey Teague, Buffalo

The Bills would like to upgrade the position in free agency or the draft. They are not likely to keep Teague, who is scheduled to make a $1.25 million base salary and is due a $1 million bonus in training camp.

 

Jeff Hartings, Pittsburgh

He still is a good player, but at age 32 he is starting to slip. With a $4.2 million base salary, he could renegotiate and get another year or two out of his career.

 

Mike Wahle, Green Bay

He is due a $5 million salary and $6 million roster bonus in 2005. The Packers likely will try to bring him back at a more cap-friendly cost, but Wahle could be released if he balks.

 

Offensive guard

 

Ruben Brown, Chicago

His 2005 salary ($1.265 million) is acceptable, but he has lived on reputation the last few years and the Bears probably want to get younger on the offensive line.

 

Admin Allen

Allen

Admin Allen, Dallas

The Cowboys would like to save some money and get younger at this position. Allen's base salary of $4.5 million in 2005 could lead to him restructuring or testing the open market.

 

Ron Stone, Oakland

He had a subpar, injury-marred 2004 season and at 34 is a shell of the player he was a few yeas ago. Due $2.6 million in base salary and incentives in 2005, he isn't likely to return to Oakland.

 

Rex Tucker, Chicago

He is tough, but his body has taken a beating. The $2 million Tucker is owed for 2005 is a steep cost for a guy who isn't likely to give you 16 games.

 

Doug Brzezinski, Carolina

A journeyman backup who has limited range and athletic ability. The Panthers want to rebuild their offensive line with younger players, and his $1.5 million salary in 2005 is reason enough to look for help elsewhere.

 

Mo Collins, Oakland

The Raiders seem committed to Collins in the short term, but his base salary and incentives in 2005 exceed $6 million. The cost is steep, but starting over at quarterback could ruin any progress that has been made.

 

Frank Middleton, Oakland

Coming off an injury-marred season and possibly breaking down physically, he is due $3 million in base salary and incentives next season. It's unlikely he will be back.

 

Offensive tackle

 

Chris Samuels

Samuels

Chris Samuels, Washington

A tremendous talent, he has been an up-and-down performer whose pay is commensurate with a much more consistent player. His 2005 cap number is more than $9 million. Will the team try to renegotiate?

 

Kyle Turley, St. Louis

Beyond obvious durability issues, his rift with coach Mike Martz seems irreparable. Add to that equation a $3.65 million base salary in 2005, and Turley is likely to be playing for someone else next year.

 

Jon Runyan

Runyan

Jon Runyan, Philadelphia

He no longer is a dominant player, and first-round pick Shawn Andrews is being groomed to replace him. With a $5.5 million base salary, he could be let go by the cap-conscious Eagles.

 

Brad Hopkins, Tennessee

Tennessee might have to clear out both starting offensive tackles due to salary-cap problems. Hopkins still is a good player, but the Titans probably can't afford his $4.75 million salary for 2005.

 

Matt Lepsis, Denver

His move from right tackle to the left side was impressive, but with a base salary of $3.5 million and reachable incentives of $1.5 million he is a renegotiation candidate.

 

Fred Miller, Tennessee

He is part of an overpaid offensive tackle tandem, with $9.1 million in base salary and easily reached incentives due him in 2005. That is too costly for a 32-year-old right tackle.

 

Scott Gragg, San Francisco

At 33, he has a lot of wear and tear on his body and is starting to slow down. The 49ers have severe salary-cap problems and need to get younger. Dumping his 2005 salary ($3 million) seems a likely part of the solution.

 

L.J. Shelton, Arizona

Overrated athletic ability and nagging injuries make him a target in the Cardinals' housecleaning. He was placed on injured reserve during the season, and the coaching staff has no confidence in him.

 

Anthony Clement, Arizona

He's getting almost $2.5 million to be a backup. Dennis Green wasn't happy with the play of the offensive line, so big changes are in store.

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