Oct 20, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) reacts in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Julius Peppers – DE – Chicago Bears
Now more than ever the NFL is not interested in past achievements, which is a shame. Defensive end Julius Peppers has stayed one of the best at his positions for over a decade, reaching eight Pro Bowls. Sadly it seems his time with the Chicago Bears after four highly productive years is starting to wind down. At age 33 he no longer looks like the same dominant player he was. Through seven games he has just one sack. Combine that with a salary cap number that will balloon to over $18 million next season and it means unless he gets a sack in every game the rest of the season there is little hope of the Bears bringing him back. That’s especially true since cutting him could give them $50+ million of cap space next March.
Marques Colston – WR – New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees has never had a more steady or dependable wide receiver than Marques Colston. The numbers don’t always reflect it but Colston was one Brees seem to go to every time he needed a big catch. Unfortunately at age 30 he isn’t producing like he once was. In seven games he has just 27 catches for 342 yards and a touchdown. That puts him on pace to finish under 1,000 yards for the first time since 2008. Add in the lacking impact in the red zone and it’s a problem the cash-strapped New Orleans Saints can’t ignore. They will need breathing room, and with younger receivers starting to step up Colston could become the odd man out.
Ike Taylor – CB – Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have tried to make the transition of their defense as steady as possible from the old star veterans to the next generation. It hasn’t looked pretty at times though things seem to manage well enough. Next on the list of possible cuts is cornerback Ike Taylor. Though the best, most experienced corner on their roster, he turns 34-years old next season and will carry a cap number just shy of $12 million. Everyone might expect the debate to come down to him or Troy Polamalu. Considering he has no interceptions or forced fumbles in 2013 so far, Taylor is becoming way too expensive to keep around anymore.
Nate Burleson – WR – Detroit Lions
With most of their salary cap sunk into Ndamukong Suh, Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford the Detroit Lions took some big risks when they spent a lot in free agency. This means they are likely to do some trimming in 2014 regardless of how successful they are this season. One name that could end up on the street is receiver Nate Burleson. It’s not ideal because the Lions love his ability to compliment Johnson as well as his leadership. Yet after two injuries that have robbed him of large parts of the last two seasons, it becoming more and more difficult to justify his $7.5 million cap number next year.
Sam Bradford – QB – St. Louis Rams
By far the hardest cap casualties are the quarterbacks. They make the most money but are also the most important to winning in the NFL. So teams must make sure they’re making the right decision. The St. Louis Rams will face that dilemma next year. Sam Bradford was drafted in 2010 to be their starter for the next 10 years but a lot of things have made that mission difficult. Coaching inconsistency was a big part, then lacking talent and now a torn ACL that has sidelined him for the rest of 2013. There are plenty of excuses but few answers. The bottom line is Bradford enters next season at age 26 with zero playoff appearances and a $17.6 million salary cap figure. Since the Rams have two first round picks in the 2014 draft and a deep quarterback class expected, is it really possible they wouldn’t cut him loose and start fresh with a younger, cheaper option?
Matt Schaub – QB – Houston Texans
The same can be said for Matt Schaub. His problem though is age and the unpleasant realization that he may have peaked as a quarterback for the Houston Texans. After two Pro Bowl seasons, 2013 has marked his worst with the team. It’s gotten so bad that head coach Gary Kubiak has favored undrafted free agent Case Keenum over him at starter. Unless Schaub somehow returns and gets the team going on a winning streak there is little hope he’s back next season. His $14.5 million cap number will only make that decision easier.