Normally you see a lot of good veterans released around the beginning of June so that teams are able to shed money from their payroll. This season those transactions are going to occur right as free agency starts due to the lockout.
I expect a flurry of players to be released immediately after the new league year begins; there are a few reasons for this. First, the salary cap situation of certain teams will force their hands. Secondly, some veterans are due obscene roster bonuses. Finally, the salary cap is going to be set near 120 million, which means there isn't a lot of wriggle room for most teams around the league.
Today, I am going to focus on those players who are probably going to be released when the lockout ends.
Note: In determining the possibility of player releases I have used the following formula. First, I took a peak at each teams salary cap situation here. Secondly, Rotoworld provides great information in regards to player contract. Finally, I decided to look at teams rosters and coordinate need and salary to determine which players would probably be let go once the free agency period begins.
WR- Darius Heyward-Bey: Due about 1 million in base salary, but has 23.5 million guaranteed over length of his five year contract. By my estimates, the Raiders would save about 5.5 million dollars if they released him. However, long term the guaranteed money could effect their "dead money" situation if that is part of the new CBA.
DT- Tommy Kelly: Signed a long term extension in 2008, his roster bonus this season will be about 5.5 million dollars. The Oakland Raiders will probably be 18 million over the cap. This means that it is innevitable that Kelly will be released.
CB- Chris Johnson: The corner is due about 4.5 million dollars in 2011. I understand the Raiders cannot afford to lose another corner if Asomugha walks, but they need to get under the cap somehow. The 31 million dollar extension that Stanford Routt signed earlier this year really handicapped the Raiders this season; he is owed over 11 million dollars in 2011.
G- Chris Kuper: The standout guard is owed 7 million dollars in guaranteed money in 2011. Denver, which isn't in a good salary cap situation (right at the cap), will have to release a couple players. With Eric Olson, Orlando Franklin and Zane Beadles on board at guard the Kuper will be expendable.
DL- Robert Ayers: Ayers has been a complete bust since being a 1st round selection a couple years ago. Additionally, he is due over 12 million over the next three seasons, including 5.5 million in 2011. I believe his release is imminent.
CB- Andre' Goodman: The starting corner is due at least 3 million in 2011, with a possible roster bonus of another 1.1 million. Denver cannot afford to lose a solid corner, but they may be forced to release Goodman. Perrish Cox and Syd'Quan Thompson are two young corners that could pick up the slack in the event of a Goodman release.
C- Nick Hardwick: Hardwick is due about 4 million dollars in 2011, and the Chargers have a solid back-up option at center. San Diego isn't in a bad cap situation, but they could use the money save elsewhere.
OT- Marcus McNeill: This would seem like a little bit of a reach, but there are couple different reasons why this could happen. First, McNeill is due 11.5 million dollars in 2011; that money could be used for Malcom Floyd or Vincent Jackson. Secondly, the Chargers have cheaper options at the tackle position. However, McNeill is called upon to block Phillip Rivers' blind side, so like I said it seems like a little bit of a stretch.
WR- Chris Chambers: Is due about 3.5 million dollars total in 2011, and had a poor 2010 season. There is no doubt, especially with the pick of Johnathan Baldwin in the 1st round, that Chambers will be released. He is going to be a solid #3 wide receiver in an offense that has a quarterback that can get the ball down field on a consistent basis.
G- Ryan Lilja: He is due about 3 million dollars in 2011 (a bargain if you ask me), but Lilja will be expendable due to the pick of Rodney Hudson. Some teams will make a strong push for him, and I hope one of them are our San Francisco 49ers; he is a solid guard.
G- Brian Waters: The Chiefs will have to decide what guard to choose from. However, Waters may decide to call it quits after his 15th NFL season, that will make the decision much easier. Now, he is owed about 4 million dollars in 2011, so there is no guarantee he will remain with the Chiefs in 2011.
DL- Tyson Jackson: He is due about 7 million dollars total in 2011, and has been a complete bust. The Chiefs may want to cut their losses right now, but they could reserve judgment for one more seasons. However, they have other players that "deserve" playing time, and he is owed 7 million; money that could be utilized elsewhere.
Would the 49ers be interested? I understand that some of these players are not household names, but they are solid contributors. It is kind of like looking through the clearance section of a local Wal-Mart and finding a nice shirt. It wont cost you much, but the rewards can be better than the price.
There are a few players that interest me. Tommy Kelly comes to mind first; he would be a solid player in the 49ers 3-4 rotation and an upgrade over Demetric Evans, and would cost less than Aubrayo Franklin. The thinking is, letting Franklin go, allowing Ricky-Jean Francois and Soap to battle for the net tackle position and enabling Kelly to switch between DE and DT in that scheme. Additionally, he would cost a lot less than Franklin.
I like the options San Francisco may have at guard on this list. Both Ryan Lilja and Chris Kuper intrigue me greatly. They are not top-tier tackles in the NFL, but would be great opposite Mike Iupati at that position in 2011. Additionally, both would represent upgrades over Chilo Rachal.
The 49ers could find a player or two here that would make a great deal of sense moving forward.