Strong candidates for release
1) Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys: It's been a great run. Lee wants to return to the Cowboys in 2019 -- and perhaps the two sides can work out a pay cut -- but he doesn't have much of a role if Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are healthy. Dallas owner Jerry Jones can get sentimental about longtime Cowboys, but carrying Lee with a cap figure over $10 million is going too far.
3) Malcolm Smith, LB, San Francisco 49ers: Smith was part of GM John Lynch's large first free-agency class from two years ago. So was Pierre Garcon, whose option was declined between the time the rough draft of this article was written and the final version went up. Lynch is under pressure to find more hits this time around.
9) Glover Quin, S, Detroit Lions: The former second-team All-Pro's excellent six-year run in Detroit appears at an end after Quin struggled to adapt to coach Matt Patricia's system.
1) Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It was initially confusing to see McCoy's name mentioned so often as a candidate for release after the season, with Todd Bowles' scheme change mentioned as the most common reasoning. Bucs general manager Jason Licht's noncommittal comments on the best Bucs player of the decade felt telling. However, considering Licht's track record, it requires a big leap of faith to believe he'll spend $13 million in cap room on someone better than McCoy.
2) DeSean Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Usually players fear being cut. D-Jax wants it. His unhappiness in Tampa is out in the open, yet coach Bruce Arians expressed a desire to recruit him ... to stay. Only a badass could lead the league in yards per reception in his 11th season, and Jackson knows his services are still in high demand, no matter where he plays.
3) Olivier Vernon, DE, New York Giants: Vernon hasn't been healthy enough to live up to his monster contract, and he's not worth the $15.25 million base salary he's due in 2019. But the odds on general manager Dave Gettleman finding anyone better this offseason is small. At 28, Vernon knows he'd have a strong enough free-agent market to resist a pay cut.
4) Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants: Unlike Flacco, Manning would be extremely unlikely to have a trade market. This release would be a surprise, especially if Eli is open to following his older brother's path of accepting a pay cut in exchange for incentives on his contract.
5) Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Like the first three names in this section, Agholor could be a tradeable asset. I'd expect the Eagles to bring him back on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal -- unless they can upgrade via trade, at which point his $9.387 million contract would look more onerous.
Other players in trouble (in alphabetical order): Arik Armstead, DE, San Francisco 49ers; Kurt Coleman, S, New Orleans Saints; Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins; Mike Glennon, QB, Arizona Cardinals; Jermaine Gresham, TE, Arizona Cardinals; T.J. Lang, G, Detroit Lions; Cameron Meredith, WR, New Orleans Saints; Barkevious Mingo, LB, Seattle Seahawks; Mike Remmers, G, Minnesota Vikings; Dion Sims, TE, Chicago Bears(UPDATE: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Feb. 20 that the Bears are expected to release Sims.); Torrey Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers; John Sullivan, C, Los Angeles Rams.