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Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson among NFC cut candidates

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We already hit some notable AFC names on the roster bubble. Here's a look at the NFC players who could be released before March 14, when the new league year starts.

Note: Unless otherwise cited, salary-cap figures in this piece were found on OverTheCap.com.

Strong candidates for release

1) Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Giants: Considering his age (he'll turn 34 in March), salary and the surplus of young talent around him, Marshall would be at risk of getting released following October ankle surgery even if his first September with the team had gone well. It didn't, with Marshall and Eli Manning failing to show any chemistry together. New coach Pat Shurmur knows that giving Marshall playing time will only take targets away from Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram.

2) Jordy Nelson OR Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers: This is shaping up as an either/or scenario. Green Bay handed receiver Davante Adams a big extension in December, and it would surprising to see the Packers bring back their top three receivers for more than $35 million. Nelson, who caught 53 passes for 482 yards in his 10th NFL season, might best be used out of the slot at this stage of his career -- but that's where Cobb lines up. Nelson could be open to taking a pay cut, which might be required for either player to return. Of course, Aaron Rodgers' head might explode if the Packers get rid of both Nelson and Cobb.

3) Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Perhaps no other running back in the last decade has mixed such high highs with such low lows. Martin's rushed for 1,400 yards in two separate seasons (2012 and '15) and failed to top 600 yards from scrimmage in any of his other four seasons. The Bucs are sure to allow Martin to start from scratch elsewhere rather than pay him more than $6 million coming off a second straight rough year.

4-7) Mike Glennon, QB, Dion Sims, TE, Markus Wheaton, WR, and Marcus Cooper, DB, Chicago Bears: Glennon is the headline name here, a quarterback deemed redundant on his own roster before OTAs even started last season. I wanted to list this crew as a group because it highlights Bears general manager Ryan Pace's regrettable 2017 free-agent haul.

Giving Glennon $18.5 million guaranteed didn't work out, but at least he started some games. Wheaton was handed $6 million guaranteed and produced three catches in 2017. Cooper also was paid $6 million and wound up only playing 47 defensive snaps after Week 4 -- despite being healthy. Sims gave the team so-so blocking at tight end for the exact same price. Cutting this entire group opens up nearly $27 million in cap space for Pace to try to spend more wisely this time around.

8-9) Jonathan Stewart, RB, and Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers: These two Panthers stalwarts have helped define this rugged team over the decade, but Stewart is turning 31 in March while Johnson is turning 32 in July, and both are coming off down seasons. Cutting the pair would save over $6 million in cap space for the next Panthers general manager, whoever that may be. (They really could use a general manager soon.)

10) Adrian Peterson, Arizona Cardinals: Veteran backup running backs who don't play special teams have a hard time keeping jobs in today's NFL, even when they are all-time great players. David Johnson's return to health likely spells the end of Peterson's brief tenure in the desert.

11) Tavon Austin, WR, Los Angeles Rams: Of all the curious personnel moves made during the Jeff Fisher era, handing Austin $28.5 million in guarantees was the strangest. (Or at least the strangest documented by "Hard Knocks.") Austin is still due $5 million guaranteed in 2018, but the Rams seem likely to cut their losses after coach Sean McVay only gave Austin two snaps in the team's playoff loss to Atlanta.

12) Cliff Avril, DE, Seattle Seahawks: One of the best value free-agent signings of the decade back in 2013, Avril missed 12 games last season because of neck surgery. Even if he's cleared to play again, the Seahawks figure to cut him to save $7 million-plus in cap relief.

On the bubble

1) Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Bryant's status for 2018 was already going to be a big offseason storyline before Cowboys VP Stephen Jones said Dallas would "look at" Bryant's future and Jerry Jones admitted the team needed more from its top receiver. (Bryant posted a career-low yards-per-catch figure of 12.1 in 2017, finishing with 838 yards and six scores.) Now it figures to dominate sports talk radio in Dallas for the better part of a month.

The best guess is that the Cowboys will come up with a compromise, like a short extension to lower Bryant's cap hit, because that's the sort of move the Cowboys often make. They are rarely accused of getting rid of their great players too early.

2) Orlando Scandrick, CB, Dallas Cowboys: Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli started three rookies at cornerback late in the season and loved what he saw. That left Scandrick, an underrated veteran of 10 seasons in Dallas, essentially making a farewell speech when he was placed on injured reserve before Week 17.

3) Robert Quinn, DE, Los Angeles Rams Quinn is only 27 years old, which helps explain why the Rams have been patient in hoping for him to recover the breathtaking form he showed so early in his career. Staying healthy in 2017 was a big step after two seasons plagued by back issues and other injuries, but he wasn't the snap-to-snap force he was before. It would cost the Rams $12.4 million against the cap in 2018 to see if Quinn can recapture his old magic. With as much cap space as there seems to be around the league, that sounds like a fair price.

4) Josh Sitton, G, Chicago Bears: While Sitton provided quality play in 2017, his status for 2018 is in doubt. The team took potential trade calls on him at the deadline last year and he has a $8.6 million cap figure. If he were cut again (Sitton was released by the Packers in 2016), Sitton might be the all-time PFF likes me more than my own team All-Star.

5) Torrey Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: General manager Howie Roseman has a good problem. He has so many contracts below market value that it's hard to find veterans to release. The Eagles are the only team in the NFL currently projected to be over the salary cap and will have to let go of a few capable players to make room. Smith helped make up for a rocky season (36 catches for 430 yards and two TDs) with a productive playoff run (13 catches, 157 yards and a score in three games), but he was ultimately the team's fourth option in the passing game.

6-7) Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CBs, New York Giants: There has been a lot of speculation that DRC is on the chopping block, but he was still providing quality snaps as a nickel corner last season when he suited up. It makes a lot more sense for new defensive coordinator James Bettcher to stick with DRC and release Apple. To save cap space, the Giants would have to designate Apple as a post-June 1 cut, but either way, cutting him would be a move made with more than finances in mind.

8-9) Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati, OL, Arizona Cardinals: GM Steve Keim can choose to blow up Bruce Arians' old squad or rebuild in pieces. Veldheer and Iupati are clearly overpriced, costing a combined $19.9 million in cap space, but the team has to be confident it can do better with draft picks and replacement-level talent. Quality offensive linemen so rarely make it to free agency, with both players proving to be an exception when Keim first signed them.

Other players in trouble: 49ers outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, Saints tackle Zach Strief, 49ers guard Zane Beadles, Bucs guard J.R. Sweezy, Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub, Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo, Falcons defensive tackle Jack Crawford, Vikings receiver Jarius Wright, Cowboys defensive end Benson Mayowa, Giants special teamer Dwayne Harris, Redskins defensive tackle Terrell McClain and Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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