Candidates for release
- Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders quarterback: The Jets get much-deserved attention for their bloated contracts, but former Raiders owner Al Davis left general manager Reggie McKenzie in a salary-cap hell of his own. The most egregious example is the nearly $14 million in dead money left behind from free agent Richard Seymour's contract. Scheduled to earn $13 million himself, Palmer has no chance of returning as the starter unless he takes a pay cut. In full-blown rebuilding mode, the Raidersmight find that it makes more sense to give Terrelle Pryor a one-year trial run.
- Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback: Benched twice in favor of Brady Quinn last season, Cassel has reached the point in which a change of scenery is needed for himself, as well as Chiefs fans. Due $7.5 million, Cassel has no chance of returning. It will be interesting to see if he reunites with Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels in New England, allowing the Patriots to shop backup Ryan Mallett.
- James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker: Although coaches still are counting on Harrison opposite LaMarr Woodley this season, the Steelers' front office is expected to balk at his $6.57 million salary. Unless all three sides can find middle ground, the declining star will be in another uniform for his age-35 season.
Breer: The Pittsburgh pinch
- Jared Gaither, San Diego Chargers offensive tackle:Local and national observers expect Gaither to be history in San Diego after alienating coaches and teammates alike last season. Coined "Big Lazy," Gaither has earned a reputation with both the Chargers and Baltimore Ravens for malingering. The Bolts will take a $6 million cap hit to release Gaither.
Candidates to restructure
- Santonio Holmes / David Harris / Sione Pouha, New York Jets: Holmes isn't worth $11 million coming off Lisfranc surgery, but $7.5 million of that is guaranteed. Harris' $10.9 million salary is cost-prohibitive for a cap-strapped team after a subpar season in 2012. Pouha is due a reasonable $3.8 million, but that number counts $4.9 million against the cap. It doesn't help that his level of play fell off last season.
- Troy Polamalu / Heath Miller / Ike Taylor, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette paints a salary-cap picture so dire that the Steelers could lose several key veterans if the players don't agree to pay cuts. Polamalu ($7.5 million) has missed multiple games in three of the past four seasons. Miller ($5.16 million) is coming off a torn ACL, PCL and MCL in his right knee. Taylor ($6 million) appears to have fallen behind free agent Keenan Lewis in the organization's pecking order.
- Anquan Boldin / Jacoby Jones / Vonta Leach, Baltimore Ravens: Three-time All-Pro Leach probably is the best bet of the trio to be outright released, as his $3 million salary counts $4.33 million against the cap. The Ravens can save much-needed cap space by extending the contracts of Boldin ($6 million) and Jones ($3 million, plus $1 million roster bonus in March).
- Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos running back: Moreno's $1.7 million salary in the final year of his rookie contract carries a $3.28 million cap hit. The Broncos might have lost confidence in Moreno's ability to stay on the field after he suffered yet another knee injury in the season-ending loss to the Ravens.
Other potential cuts
Kansas City Chiefs: WR Steve Breaston, TE Kevin Boss - The Chiefs announced that both veterans were released late Tuesday afternoon.