It’s almost that time of the offseason for NFL teams to make cuts to get under the salary cap before free agency, and this year’s class includes some marquee names. According to the latest NFL rumors from CBS Sports, players that could be cap casualties could include Carlos Rogers, Cortland Finnegan, Champ Bailey, DeMarcus Ware, Vince Wilfork, Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, Julius Peppers and Chris Johnson.
The San Francisco 49ers have a number of young players to lock up to long-term deals, including quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and Rogers is due $8.1 million. The Niners may part ways with their top three corners, including Rogers, Tarell Brown, and Perrish Cox, and be forced to rebuild the entire secondary. The team will definitely look for young talent in the draft, but may look to load up on veterans willing to play for less money.
Finnegan is all but certain to be on his way out of St. Louis, according to the report, as the cornerback carries a $10 million cap hit. The Rams have a young up-and-comer in Janoris Jenkins and could continue building up the back end of their defense through the draft.
The Denver Broncos have a big decision to make with Bailey, who will be 36 years old at the start of the 2014 season. Bailey wants to keep playing, but he brings a $10 million cap hit with him. The Broncos also have to make a decision on the younger Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who’s a free agent and might have to convince Bailey to take a pay cut if he wants to stay.
Ware is one of the big-name surprises to possibly be cut this offseason. Coming off his worst season as a pro, one that was riddled by injury, Ware is owed a $12.25 million base salary which makes him vulnerable for release. Both sides would need to agree to a reduced contract if he wants to stay in Dallas, especially since the Cowboys are $23.8 million over the cap.
Despite being a victim to injury in 2013, Wilfork’s absence along the New England Patriots’ defensive line was evident. The defensive tackle is due $7.5 million this season and a cap hit of $11.6 million, which is troubling for a team that needs to revamp its receiving corps and ink Aqib Talib to a deal. New England could resolve the issue by signing Wilfork to an extension.
It’s been a long time coming for Sanchez’s divorce with the New York Jets, who said farewell to the former No. 5 overall pick when they drafted Geno Smith and started him Week 1 last season after Sanchez got hurt. Sanchez’s release will save the team $11.5 million against the cap. As for Holmes, who never really lived up to expectations as a No. 1 receiver in New York, cutting him will save the team $8.25 million, along with the $9.5 million from Antonio Cromartie’s deal. Cromartie is expected to return for a reduced salary, according to reports.
Four years ago, the Chicago Bears landed then the top free agent on the market in Peppers, but could that marriage now be coming to an end? Peppers, 34, took a step backward in 2013 is owed more than $18 million this year. Peppers will need to accept a pay cut in order to stay in the Windy City or he’ll be out on the street, as the Bears have a lot of holes to fix on the defensive side of the ball that could be used with Peppers’ salary alone.
Then, there’s the much-discussed release of Johnson. The former 2,000-yard back wants to be the centerpiece of an offense and the Tennessee Titans want him and his $10 million cap hit off the books. Johnson will become one of the most coveted backs on the free-agent market and should catch on with a team with relative ease, though his desire to be a featured back may be somewhat farfetched.