The recent releases of big names such as Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams and LaRon Landry are a reminder that the NFL is entering business season. More veterans will be dumped before the March 10 kickoff to the league year.
Here's our look at AFC players in danger of getting released this offseason:
Conspiracy theorists' delight
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos quarterback: Gregg Rosenthal outlined the latent Manning imbroglio in his NFL Scouting Combine recap. While the odds are heavily in favor of Manning's return to Denver, the contract subplot looms as a potential hangup. How serious are the Broncos about a paycut? Serious enough to send Manning back into the arms of John Fox and Adam Gase in Chicago?
Strong candidates for release
1. Percy Harvin, New York Jets wide receiver: The Jets appear to be split into two camps. There are those who believe $10.5 million and the loss of a fourth-round draft pick is too steep a price to pay for a wide receiver without consistent game film since October of 2012. The other view is that a talent-starved team with plenty of cap space has no business cutting receivers of Harvin's playmaking ability.
2. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver: The Chiefs have already cut Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins. Due a nonguaranteed $10.75 million after failing to find the end zone in 2014, Bowe should be next on the chopping block. Is that decision on hold until Andy Reid makes a run at a reunion with free agent Jeremy Maclin?
3. Mike Wallace , Miami Dolphins wide receiver: Wallace's Miami future is up in the air after his self-benching in the season finale. He's not going to accept a paycut from the $9.85 million he's currently owed.
4. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts running back: The Colts set up Richardson's release with a two-game suspension in January, thereby removing the guarantees from the slothful tailback's $3.184 million salary.
5, 6 and 7. Matt Schaub, Maurice Jones-Drew and LaMarr Woodley, Oakland Raiders: Three of the worst signings of 2014. Broken beyond repair by too many hits over the past decade, Schaub was doomed from the start in Oakland. Jones-Drew somehow managed to make Trent Richardson look fast last season, averaging a creeping 2.2 yards on 43 carries. Woodley totaled more missed games than tackles last year.
8 and 9. Dannell Ellerbe and Cortland Finnegan, Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins can save more than $8 million by cutting Ellerbe, who missed 15 games following hip surgery last season. Leading tackler Jelani Jenkins turned out to be an upgrade as his replacement. Finnegan, 31, is a declining player due a nonguaranteed $5.48 million.
10 and 11. Michael Griffin and Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans: Griffin has been one of the most overpaid safeties in the league since signing a five-year, $35 million contract in 2012. The Titans can save nearly $5 million against the cap by cutting the 30-year-old coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum. Greene hasn't topped 400 yards in either of his two seasons since landing a head-scratching three-year, $10 million deal from the Titans.
12. Phil Taylor, Cleveland Browns defensive tackle: Taylor is a first-round selection who has been paid as such, but he's struggled to stay on the field. Both he and Ahtyba Rubin were paired as the anchors of Cleveland's interior defensive line, but their lack of effective time together makes the investment a questionable decision. The Browns have a lot of cap space, but Taylor is due to make $5.47 million in 2015, his final season under contract in Cleveland. That's a lot for a guy who has registered 20 tackles in his last 20 games.
Potential surprise cuts
1. Darrelle Revis, New England Patriots cornerback: Revis' contract was meant to be a one-year, $12 million rental, but the Patriots hold a $20 million option that would count a prohibitive $25 million against the cap. The Pats will try to reach an agreement with Revis on an extension, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, but there's no urgency until April, when a $12 million roster bonus is due.
2. Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle: Much like Terrell Suggs last year, Ngata's cap number ($16 million) is untenable. The Ravensfully expect their run-stuffer back on a reworked deal, but that's easier said than done.
3. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers safety: Team president Art Rooney II wants Polamalu to retire with the Steelers, which suggests a compromise if the eight-time Pro Bowler wants to play another season. Too often a liability in coverage, Polamalu isn't close to a $6 million player.
4. Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs pass rusher: The Chiefs can save $9 million by cutting Hali, but the aging edge rusher had made it clear he's open to a paycut. Can the sides find common ground on a new contract with 2014 first-round pick Dee Ford waiting in the wings?
5. Chase Daniel, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback: Daniel is a high-end clipboard holder, but $4.8 million is a steep cap number. The Chiefs have drafted Aaron Murray and signed Terrelle Pryor as alternatives behind Alex Smith.
6. Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots defensive tackle: We wouldn't expect the Pats to release one of owner Robert Kraft's personal favorites, but the move would save over $8 million in cap room. That could be a consideration with Revis and free agent safety Devin McCourty in need for big-money contracts.
7. Danny Amendola, New England Patriots wide receiver: Amendola's strong playoff run might have saved his roster spot, even with a $5.7 million cap hit.
8. Andy Levitre, Tennessee Titans guard: Two years into a six-year, $46.8 million contract, Levitre has been an injury-prone mediocrity in Nashville. After watching him allow six sacks a season ago, the Titans could opt to cut bait.
9. Lardarius Webb, Baltimore Ravens cornerback: Although Webb's $8 million salary counts $12 million against the cap, he might be saved because his release would create $10 million in dead money. Battling through injuries, Webb was a liability for much of the 2014 season.
10. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans quarterback:Ryan Mallett is clearly Houston's first choice to start, which leaves Fitzpatrick as a well-compensated insurance policy.
Other potential cuts
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