by J.I. Halsell
The NFL Draft is the beginning of the careers of hundreds of players, but it also means the end of the road for others. Here is a look at some players who may be cut over the next few weeks.
1. Oakland Raiders Quarterback JaMarcus Russell
With the acquisition of quarterback Jason Campbell, it seems a far-gone conclusion that the 2007 No. 1 overall draft pick will not be a member of the Raiders in 2010. Russell is accounting for $15.3 million against Oakland's team salary. If released, Russell's 2010 dead money number will be $19.9 million because of team salary accounting rules and the bonus acceleration that is part of these rules. But in an uncapped year, this enormous amount -- which is slightly higher than Peyton Manning's team salary number -- is not a hindrance to the Raiders. From a cash perspective, the release of Russell will save the Raiders $6 million in salary, as $3.5 million of Russell's $9.5 million salary remains guaranteed. With the start of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) looming, the Raiders would be wise to release Russell before he suffers a season-ending injury, which would leave the Raiders responsible for the full $9.5-million salary.
2. Seattle Seahawks Wide Receiver Deion Branch
Branch has been a disappointment through his entire tenure in Seattle. The drafting of Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate in the second round -- coupled with the continued development of 2009 third-round pick Deon Butler -- leads to the conclusion that Branch's days could be limited in the Pacific Northwest. Branch accounts for $8 million in team salary. By releasing Branch, the Seahawks could save themselves $5.5 million this season. Like Russell, Branch could collect that money if he suffered a season-ending injury during OTAs. The risk isn't worthwhile for a player who may not factor into your plans for 2010.
3. Oakland Raiders Defensive Tackle Tommy Kelly
The release of Kelly, one of the top-10 highest paid defensive tackles in the game, is very unlikely. Nevertheless, Oakland drafting second-round defensive tackle Lamarr Houston may not bode well for Kelly's future. The Raiders have acquired young pass rushers Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves, and these acquisitions may allow Richard Seymour to kick down to defensive tackle more frequently, which could squeeze out Kelly. Kelly currently accounts for $7.4 million in team salary. By terminating him, the Raiders would save $4.5 million in salary but incur a dead money charge against their team salary books of $11.5 million. However, as I mentioned in the case of Russell, 2010 is the year to take on significant dead money.
4. Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Roy Williams
I do not foresee this termination occurring, primarily due to the fact that Williams' $3.5-million salary is fully guaranteed, and Jerry Jones would like to get some sort of return on that investment, even if it's minimal given the presence of first-round wide receiver Dez Bryant. Like Kelly, Williams accounts for $7.4 million against the Cowboys' team salary books. If the team were to terminate Williams, it would still be on the hook for $3.5 million in salary plus a dead money charge of $17.5 million.
5. Cincinnati Bengals Defensive End Robert Geathers
Geathers, a 15-game starter in 2009, is surely going to be pushed by 2010 second-round pick Carlos Dunlap and 2009 third-round pick Michael Johnson. Dunlap and Johnson could very well push Geathers out of the building. By terminating Geathers, who accounts for $5.5 million, the Bengals could save $3.5 million in Geathers' salary. Geathers' fate can easily depend upon the recovery of defensive end Antwan Odom, who was having a breakout season prior to suffering an achilles injury.
6. San Francisco 49ers Safety Michael Lewis
With fellow safety Dashon Goldson solidifying his status in the 49ers secondary in 2009, Lewis will have to battle second-round pick Taylor Mays for the starting safety position opposite of Goldson. The 49ers can save themselves $4.1 million by releasing Lewis. If Lewis cannot beat out Mays for the starting position, then $4.1 million is a lot of money to pay to a third safety. First, Lewis has to hope he even gets the opportunity to compete in training camp.
7. New Orleans Saints Cornerback Randall Gay
The drafting of first-round cornerback Patrick Robinson does not bode well for the future of six-year veteran Gay. The Saints have invested high picks in three young corners -- Robinson, Tracy Porter, and Malcolm Jenkins. The team also made a significant financial investment in cornerback Jabari Greer. At best, Gay is the Saints' fourth or fifth cornerback, and with $3 million due to him in a combination of a $500,000 roster bonus and $2.5-million salary, it would not be surprising to see the Saints let Gay go. And the decision could come soon -- his roster bonus is due May 1.
Football Outsiders reader Dr. Obvious asks:
"Is [Steelers linebacker Lamarr] Woodley, and any other Pro-Bowl quality player under a rookie contract screwed?"
Twitter follower @JonathanCarter0 asks:
"What are ways that Tennessee could get around the 30% rule and get Chris Johnson that money?"
My fellow capologist Ian Whetstone did a great job breaking down the nuances, specifically the 30 percent rule, prohibiting a lucrative multi-year extension of Woodley in a recent article. Add Titans running back Chris Johnson and Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson to the list of young players who are disgruntled with their respective contracts. If this were a normal league year with a salary cap, then signing these players to multi-year deals reflective of their productivity would not be a problem. As far as how one can get a deal done to reward these players in spite of the 30 percent rule, there are certain complex contracts structures that could potentially work. The complexities of such deals probably diminish the likelihood of one coming to fruition. The simple -- and more likely -- temporary resolution is to sign these players to short-term contracts of one or two years that hold them over until the labor environment changes. For example, if a player and club agree that the player's market value is $6 million per year, then a two-year deal with minimum salaries totaling roughly $1 million and a signing bonus of $11 million could be executed.
Follow J.I. Halsell on Twitter: @SalaryCap101.