While the 2012 NFL salary cap has not fully been decided yet, you can believe it is going to be at about 125 million dollars, not a dramatic change from 2011. Considering that the last off-season was extremely limited in terms of time constraints and other factors due to the lockout, you can believe that the new league year is going to be extremely active.
Teams are going to be jockeying for salary cap room in order to fill needs in what promises to be a talented free agent class. One of the ways teams will find themselves in a situation to sign key players is going to be to release individuals currently on their roster who either count a lot against the 2012 cap or aren't performing up to their contract.
This series of articles is going to focus on players that could find themselves hitting the free agent market after being released by their current team. Each article will breakdown a particular division. Today, I am going to start with the AFC West.
S- Brian Dawkins: $9.6 million cap hit
The future Hall of Fame safety did make the Pro Bowl this season, but that was based solely on his name. He had one of the worst seasons of his stellar career in 2011 and is going to be turning 39 in October. The Broncos do have Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, both 2011 draft picks, as cheaper alternatives in the secondary.
CB- Andre Goodman: $4.4 million cap hit
Is it either going to be Goodman or Champ Bailey that is going to get the hook this off-season: myy money is on the tenth year player from South Carolina. He did start all 16 games this season, acquiring double-digit passes defended. However, Goodman is set to count $4.4 million against the Broncos cap and they are going to be looking to get younger at corner.
DL- Ty Warren: $5.3 million cap hit
This is a bit of a formality. Warren missed the entire 2011 season and is set to count over $5 million against the cap. Expect him to be on the way out as reports indicate Denver will look at defensive linemen via the draft.
RB- Knowshon Moreno: $1.7 million cap hit
This is more about performance than it is about money. Moreno just hasn't lived up to expectations since being a first round pick in 2009. Injuries caused him to miss half of the 2011 season, but the Broncos are going to have to make a decision on his future this off-season. Look for him to hit free agency.
San Diego Chargers
LB- Shaun Phillips: $5.7 million
The 2010 Pro Bowl performer saw his sack total fall to the lowest number of his career this season (3.5). His cap figure of nearly $6 million is going to be a major point of contention for the San Diego Chargers this off-season. Either he lowers that cap number or faces the possibility of getting released. They are not going to pay a pass rush specialist nearly $2 million for each sack he acquired last season.
CB- Quentin Jammer: $4.4 million
Another player that has had a really good long career for the San Diego Chargers, but saw his performance fall off a great deal this season. The former first round pick failed to record an interception for only the second time in his ten-year career and saw his passes defended total drop to single digits for the first time. San Diego will look to get younger at corner, which means that Jammer could be the odd man out.
DL- Tommy Kelly: $8.9 million
At this point it isn't entirely clear what type of defense that new Raiders' head coach Dennis Allen is going to run. If he does decide to go with the 3-4 scheme, Tommy Kelly might find himself without a home. He has played inside over the course of the last four seasons after not cutting it as a run-stopping defensive end from 2004-to-2007.
Additionally, the linemen is set to make nearly $9 million in 2012, which is a huge cap figure for a team that will not have much money to spend in free agency and is lacking draft picks. New general manager Reggie McKenzie might also want to get some new people in there, which could lead to a small roster purge once free agency stats: especially on the defensive side of the ball.
LB- Rolando McClain: $5.6 million
This isn't just about McClain's recent bout with the law. He really wasn't that good this season, struggling in both pass coverage and stopping the run. Oakland still owes this talented linebacker nearly $19 million over the next three seasons. They might want to just cut their losses at this point. Additionally, Aaron Curry played really well after coming over from the Seattle Seahawks following a mid-season trade.
TE- Kevin Boss: $4.0 million
The Oakland Raiders were completely shocked when Zach Miller bolted for the Seattle Seahawks during the compacted 2011 free agency period. This forced them to make a snap decision on Kevin Boss, who really didn't provide the receiving ability that Oakland had hoped. He caught just 28 passes in 13 games and struggled finding a connection with Carson Palmer. Oakland also has a tight end, Brandon Myers, who they seem to be relatively high on.
Kansas City Chiefs
DL- Glenn Dorsey: $5.8 million
Dorsey has been a consistently decent performer for the Kansas City Chiefs over the course of the last few seasons, but nowhere near what they expected when he was selected fifth overall in 2008. With both Brandon Carr and Dwayne Bowe set to hit free agency, the Chiefs are going to have to free up money on their 53 to retain them.
DL- Tyson Jackson: $2.5 million
He isn't set to make much money, but a possible release has nothing to do with financial restrictions. The N0. 3 overall pick in the 2009 draft has continually struggled for the Chiefs. He doesn't make plays in the offensive backfield, has issues against the run and doesn't even give close to going 100 percent a majority of the time. The Chiefs have a strong foundation on defense, but he will not be a part of it.
OL- Ryan Lilja: $3.0 million
One of the worst interior linemen in the NFL in 2011, Ryan Lilja will be lucky to find himself on an opening day roster, let alone starting. Kansas City—much to the applause of their fan base—will get an upgrade at this position. Lilja belongs nowhere near Arrowhead come September.
Note: My next installment will look at the AFC North tomorrow.