Now that the 2013 NFL offseason is here, it's time to turn our attention to the biggest names that could be hitting the waiver wires.
The 2013 NFL offseason has officially begun, and teams can begin waiving players as they try to claw their way under the $120.6 million salary cap figure. According to ESPN's John Clayton, the New York Jets (-$19.4 million), Dallas Cowboys (-$18.2 million) and New Orleans Saints (-$14.7 million) will have the most work to do between now and kickoff in September.
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Michael Vick and Tim Tebow will likely be under the most media focus this offseason, but plenty of other notable names could be left on the cutting room floor. Here are 10 of the most likely cuts coming in the next few days, weeks or months:
Michael Vick - The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback may be the biggest name set to hit the market before his contract has finished. Vick is signed with the team through 2015, and is due $16.5 million next season with the Eagles running just $5.2 million under the salary cap. After a tumultuous 2012 season, the Eagles would want Vick to come back under a restructured contract, something Vick has already said he may not be interested in.
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Vick's saving grace is that he is a potentially strong fit for Chip Kelly's offense as a dual-threat quarterback. The team isn't in a bad position financially, so the Eagles could wait until having a better feel for Vick's compatibility with the offense before making a move. He will have to do a lot to prove he is worth his big contract, however, especially after Nick Foles played capably late in the season.
Tim Tebow - The New York Jets are projected nearly $20 million beyond the salary cap, and cutting Tebow would only save the team a little more than $1 million next season, according to NYJetsCap.com. Still, it's clear that both parties should probably split at this point. Tebow passed for just 39 yards this past season as the Jets went 6-10 and missed the playoffs. When Mark Sanchez was benched late in the season, the Jets started Greg McElroy ahead of Tebow to set off a storm of unwanted press for the club and the quarterback.
Tebow may have to change positions to make a fresh start. He has the frame and athleticism to potentially be an excellent H-back or tight end, assuming he is willing to accept new responsibilities. That also assumes another NFL franchise is even going to give Tebow another chance to develop. The Jacksonville Jaguars were rumored to be interested in the Florida native at one point, but those rumors were soundly squashed.
Matt Cassel - Yet another quarterback performing nowhere close to his contract. There is very good chance Cassel won't be a member of the Kansas City Chiefs next season. Otherwise, the Chiefs will be paying $16.5 million over the next two seasons for a player who was benched in favor of Brady Quinn last season.
Michael Turner - Turner triggered escalators in his contract that will boost his 2013 salary to $6.9 million. That's a lot of money for a running back that averaged just 3.6 yards per carry during the 2012 regular season. The Atlanta Falcons have talent at the position between Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. As for Turner, he will be 31 by the time the 2013 season kicks off. He could find himself with a one-year contract on a team in need of a reliable stop-gap at running back like, say, the Green Bay Packers.
Chris Gamble - The Carolina Panthers will be a projected $11.8 million over the salary cap next season, and they will have plenty of difficult decisions to make over a slew of pricey contracts. Gamble appears one of the most likely to go, simply because he can provide the most immediate relief. According to ESPN, the Panthers would save $7.9 million by letting go of their top cornerback. Unfortunately, the Panthers would be letting good of a very good player. Gamble has 27 interceptions over his nine season with the Panthers.
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Will Smith - The defensive end was very productive in 2012, racking up 58 tackles and six sacks in 16 starts. He will be 32 next season and comes with a $14.4 million cap number, however. The New Orleans Saints will likely try to restructure his contract, but if a deal can't get done there is a good chance he could head elsewhere. The 4-3 DE could be a strong fit for an Eagles unit in need of defensive line help.
Doug Free - The Dallas Cowboys have invested a lot in Free, and so far he has yet to provide much in return. He will count for $10 million against the salary cap next season, after allowing seven sacks and quarterback pressure on 6.2 percent of the passing snaps he played last season, according to the Cowboys' official site. If the Cowboys want to chip away at the $18.2 million they owe over the cap, Free would be an excellent place to start.
James Harrison - The Steelers need to do something about their projected $10.8 million salary cap deficit, and Harrison is set to take home nearly $10 million next season at 35 years old. The outside linebacker recorded his lowest sack total since the 2006 season, and missed three games due to injury. As good as Harrison has been, it may be time for the Steelers to cut ties.
Quintin Mikell - The St. Louis Rams are just $1.8 million under the 2013 salary cap, but they are very likely to eke out some room with roster cuts, according to Ryan Van Bibber at Turf Show Times. Mikell may be at the top of the cut list, with $9 million owed to him next season. He was a productive strong safety last season with 101 total tackles and four forced fumbles, but will likely need to take a pay cut if he hopes to stay with the Rams through 2013.
Santana Moss - The Washington Redskins are just $4 million over the cap, and they have three clear potential candidates for release to put help themselves back in the black. London Fletcher, DeAngelo Hall and Santana Moss account for a combined $20.8 million against the 2013 salary cap, as noted by Hogs Haven. Fletcher may retire and Hall is too valuable to let walk without trying to restructure his contract. Moss, on the other hand, is somewhat more dispensable as an aging slot receiver who had just 41 receptions last season. While Moss can still be an effective offensive weapon, he isn't worth what the Redskins are paying him.