New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie had one of the worst seasons of his eight-year NFL career in 2013, but he's set to carry the team's highest cap hit in 2014. That means he's likely to become a cap casualty this offseason, and according to the New York Daily News, even he acknowledges it.
"I think I (will be)," Cromartie said on NBC Sports Network when asked if he thinks he'll be released. "Just because my cap number is very high. And I had one of the worst seasons of my career this past year. I was banged up. I got hurt in Week 2, but that's not an excuse."
"I just had a bad year," continued Cromartie, who is set to count $14.98 million against the cap. "That falls heavily on me and no one else."
While the 29-year-old recorded three interceptions -- he's had at least three in five consecutive years now -- a look deeper into the stat book shows his ineptitude in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, he gave up 937 yards and seven touchdowns -- both third-worst in the league -- and allowed passers throwing into his coverage to post a 100.7 quarterback rating. All-in-all, he graded out as the 103rd-ranked cornerback (out of 110) at Pro Football Focus.
Cromartie certainly isn't the only player whose production hasn't lived up to their salary, and is among several big names that could become cap casualties this offseason.
There was a time when Johnson was worth the $10 million he's scheduled to count against the Tennessee Titans' cap in 2014. Once the most explosive running back in the game, he's seen a steady decline in production since signing a monster contract in 2009. He bottomed out in 2013, rushing for only 1,077 yards and a career-low 3.9-yards per carry. He's made his departure even more likely by publicly stating he wants to go to a team that will utilize him properly.
While Peppers had some big-time games this season, it was his tendency to completely disappear in others that has the Chicago Bears considering releasing him. Thirty-six of his tackles and 6.5 of his sacks came in five games -- in the other 11, he had just 10 tackles and one sack. That level of inconsistency is concerning for a player scheduled to count $18 million and $20 million against the cap over the next two seasons.
The Dallas Cowboys are roughly $25 million over the projected cap, and could shave off $7.4 million of that by releasing their star defensive end. They could save even more by restructuring his deal, but considering his career-low six sacks in 2013 and the fact that he'll turn 32 in July, cutting him may be the better option. That being said, nagging injuries contributed to his lack of production and he's only two seasons removed from a 19.5-sack year. Jerry Jones will have to decide if the aging defender is nearing the end of his career or if 2013 was an aberration.
The Cowboys could also look to free up cap space by releasing Austin, whose once-promising career has been derailed by chronic hamstring issues. The wideout had just 24 receptions for 244 yards and failed to find the end zone once this season, despite the lax coverages freed up by Dez Bryant's presence on the other side of the field. Austin is clearly no longer worth his $5.5 million base salary and will likely be off the roster in June.
While Gates saw his highest reception and yardage totals since 2009 this season, his four touchdowns were his lowest total since his rookie season in 2003. The San Diego Chargers tight end will turn 34 in June and still has two years remaining on the five-year extension he signed in 2010. He'll count $7.7 million against the cap next season.