The start of every league year brings with it some roster purging, particularly those moves triggered by veteran players due a substantial roster bonus. I took a look at those players who stand to make roughly $2 million or more from roster bonuses due between March 5 and March 12 (this list does not include Eagles QB Michael Vick, who has a $1.5 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the league year, and whom the Eagles will not let walk away).
In most of these cases the player is highly likely to be back with his current club, but not all of them. Here's the list in order of most likely to depart to least likely.
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Browns QB Derek Anderson ($2 million roster bonus; $7.45 million salary) - Anderson lost the starting job to Brady Quinn a couple of times in '09, and is coming off a horrendous season. He got this contract based off his one standout season, and despite Cleveland's QB issues, can't foresee them rewarding his 2009 season with a $2 million payout.
Browns DE Corey Williams ($1.7 million roster bonus; $4.2 million salary) - Williams was acquired by an old regime in Cleveland and played sparingly in Eric Mangini's first season there. If the Browns move Shaun Rogers, that could perhaps make Williams more likely to stay, but paying him close to $6 million, based on his production in Cleveland, would be steep.
Jets RB Thomas Jones ($3 million roster bonus; $2.8 million salary) - Jones is coming off another highly productive season, but is also getting up there in years. Shonn Greene emerged late in the season and Leon Washington, coming off season-ending surgery, isn't making much, either. The Jets are not averse to spending and are going to run the ball a ton again in 2010, so this will be a key and telling decision for them moving forward after a surprising run to the AFC Championship Game.
Cardinals S Antrel Rolle ($4 million roster bonus; $8.1 million salary) - After struggling early in his career, Rolle played at a Pro Bowl level in 2009. But the Cards have other players looking for new deals and generally hold a firm budget on spending. $12 million for a safety is a lot of money for them, even with Karlos Dansby likely coming off the books. One of the more interesting March subplots.
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Seahawks LB Lofa Tatupu ($4 million roster bonus; $1.85 million salary) - There is no way I can see Tatupu leaving Seattle right now. The Seahawks need playmakers and leaders to build around, and Tatupu is a central piece of their nucleus. This current deal was negotiated based on him blossoming into a star and he has that kind of potential.
A couple other situations to keep an eye on:
» Patriots LB Adalius Thomas fell deep into coach Bill Belichick's doghouse in 2009, and has failed to live up to his free agent contract. He is due to make $4.9 million in 2010, and I don't know of anyone who thinks he will get it in New England. The Patriots could drag this out into the offseason if they like, though, with no salary cap on the horizon and no roster bonus to try to circumvent. I wonder if the Jets, run by Thomas' former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, will come calling if/when he is released.
» Bears LB Lance Briggs has a $3.3 million roster bonus due on June 10, on top of his $3.145 million salary. The Bears generally hold the line on spending, but according to sources, came away from their internal organizational meetings deciding to keep Briggs for 2010 even at this cost, barring something unforeseen. Similarly, the team also seriously mulled the option of parting with DT Tommie Harris, who is coming off a poor season with a career-low 2.5 sacks, but for now expect to retain him. Harris is due to make $1.25 million in 2010, with a $2.5 million roster bonus due in June, and a $500,000 offseason workout bonus as well.