This division will have the most talented salary cap casualties of any division in the NFL, and it isn't even that close. The Dallas Cowboys are about 18 million dollars over the cap and still have to worry about re-signing a couple prominent free agents of their own. Washington, as always, isn't in a good cap situation either.
When you have under performing teams with a lot of talent there promises to be some roster makeovers when free agency begins. Jerry Jones has stated he is happy with the "core" of the team, but that has to be just public relations at its best.
The list of casualties won't be just limited to "America's Team" (reference to badness). You are going to see a trickle down affect in a division that seems to be wide open. Three teams have an opportunity to get the leg up when the season starts, however, they are going to want to identify perceived weaknesses by adjusting the roster accordingly.
RB- Marion Barber: I had him on the list of possible trade candidates, and that remains to be seen. However, it is more likely that Dallas cuts ties with Barber completely be releasing him. The former starting back signed a 45 million dollar contract three years ago and is due over 5 million in 2011. It is going to be hard to get a team to bite on that type of contract, while still getting a decent bounty in return.
Listen, Barber is still a productive back in the NFL and will catch on somewhere to be utilized in a rotation of sorts. He just won't be earning the cash that he made in Dallas the last couple of seasons.
WR- Roy Williams; This under achieving wide receiver set the Cowboys franchise back a couple of years because of what Dallas gave up in acquiring his services from Detroit (1st, 3rd, 6th and 7th round picks). In turn the Lions were able to draft Brandon Pettigrew among others. Immediately, the Cowboys signed Williams to a 54 million dollar contract with 27 million guaranteed. The former #1 pick has since lost his starting job and doesn't fit into the Cowboys future plans.
It is imminent that Dallas will release Roy Williams once free agency begins and there will be a lot of suitors out there. Look for him to sign a short term contract in order to build up his value for the 2012 or 2013 free agency periods. Could be a fit in San Francisco.
C- Andre Gurode: The five time pro-bowl player is set to make nearly 6 million in 2011 and may be expendable if the Cowboys salary cap situation is as bleak as it seems. Dallas did draft a possible replacement in David Arkin, who probably isn't ready to take over full time. I expect the Cowboys to look elsewhere in terms of shedding money, but they may be forced to part with this solid offensive linemen.
OT- Marc Colombo: He is set to make about 2.5 million in 2011, and as rotoworld put it "was one of the worse offensive linemen in the NFL last season". While I am not ready to make that proclamation; he was pretty darn bad. That said, Colombo does have a history of success in the NFL and will catch on somewhere as a primary backup.
G- Leonard Davis: He is turning 33 by opening day and is set to make nearly 6 million in 2011. The Cowboys really cannot afford to lose one of their best offensive linemen, but if it means re-signing Doug Free then Mr. Davis will be gone. I think he has a few good years left on those over worked knees and would be a nice addition to a team looking to add a stopgap guard. Depending on what think of Chilo Rachal, the 49ers may fit perfectly into that category.
LB- Bradie James: I understand that releasing your top tackler makes no sense, but logistically the Cowboys are going to have to find areas of depth where the can cut money off the cap. Sean Lee was a 2nd round pick in 2010 and impressed coaches last season. Additionally, Jerry Jones has made it clear that Keith Brooking will be back in 2011. James is set to make 3.5 million this year and is coming off of injury. It is unlikely Dallas parts way with James, but the possibility remains.
CB- Terence Newman: His play has dropped off a bit over the last couple of seasons as the aggressiveness we saw earlier faded. Newman is due 8 million in 2011 and has been over taken by the enigma that is Mike Jenkins. Additionally, the Cowboys has a couple young options in Alan Ball and Bryan McCann, who cost a lot less. I think that the chances of Dallas releasing Newman is at about 80-20 right now. If so, there will be a lot of play for this talented corner on the open market.
New York "Football" Giants
RB- Brandon Jacobs: The Giants will attempt to find a trade partner for Jacobs once free agency begins, but that is going to be harder said than done. First, he is set to make nearly 5 million this year and has been a negative egocentric presence for the better part of the last two years. Secondly, teams know the Giants are in a salary cap mess, and may wait until he is release outright.
Once Jacobs does hit the open market there are going to be ample interest in his services. I doubt that he is an every down back at this point, but will be a nice addition on a rotational basis in the backfield. Teams like New England, Miami, Washington and Cincinnati will be calling once Jacobs is released
G- Rich Seubert: He has been a mainstay for a really good New York team over the last few seasons. However, the Giants did select Mitch Petrus in 2010 and have to find a way to shed money from their payroll. Seubert is due nearly 2.5 million this year and may end up looking for a new team when free agency starts.
There will be a lot of teams, including the 49ers, looking to add this veteran guard to their starting lineup. He has always been a solid inside blocker and still has a couple good seasons left in him.
DE- Osi Umenyiora: I know that a lot of people are expecting him to be traded. Osi, who hasn't rule out requesting a trade or holding out, is set to make 3.5 million and wants his contract restructured. The problem is that New York doesn't have the flexibility to their 2011 payroll. Other teams know this and may wait for them to lower their demands in a trade. The other issue, is the fact that New York will be left in a vulnerable position if Osi requests a trade or holdouts. We have seen players released in this situation in the past, and he may be no different. That said, it is more realistic that New York finds a trade partner for him.
If Osi does hit the open market either via trade or free agency there is going to be a lot of teams banging at the chance to acquire his services. He has compiled 52 sacks since 2005, and is a dominating force in the front seven. Additionally, he could play defensive end our outside linebacker depending on the scheme the team plays.
DL- Rocky Bernard: He is set to make nearly 3 million this year and with the Giants additions of young interior defensive linemen I think it is inevitable that Bernard is looking for a new team once free agency starts. At 308 pounds, he can play inside or outside on the d-line, and has been a pretty solid performer. I expect Bernard to get some attention.
C- Jamaal Jackson: Before injuries caused Jackson all but one game of the 2010 season he was one of the best Philadelphia Eagle offensive linemen of recent memory. Extremely underrated in what he does, Jackson started 63 games during a four year stretch from 2006-2009, and is undervalued as a blocker. That said, Mike McGlynn filled in admirably in 2010 and the Eagles drafted Jason Kelce late in the 2011 draft for depth. Jackson is owed nearly 2 million dollar and may be a salary cap casualty. He would also represent a major upgrade from any internal options San Francisco has at the center position.
DL- Jaqua Parker: He is set to make 3.5 million in 2011 and the Eagles may look for younger, cheaper players to step up in his stead. Philadelphia's salary cap situation is looking decent at this point, but you still have to account for the top 5 QB money that Michael Vick is going to get after being franchised. They want to upgrade at other positions, and releasing Parker would enable them to. He did have 6 sacks in 2010, and is a solid pass rusher; a lot of teams will be clamoring for his services.
QB- Donovan McNabb: No team is going to trade for this veteran QB just because of his name and the Redskins have to know this. McNabb, coming off of his worse season as a pro, is set to earn about 11 million dollars in base+incentives in 2011. There is absolutely no way any team picks up that type of commitment for a player that may not be an above average starter in the NFL anymore.
It is pretty obvious Washington will end up releasing McNabb when free agency starts. The likely candidates for his services are Minnesota, Arizona, Carolina, Miami, Buffalo and Tennessee.
TE- Chris Cooley: He is only a couple receptions away from being Washington's all-time leader among tight ends, but that may never happen. Cooley is due 3.5 million in 2011 and the Redskins have a cheaper, younger alternative in Fred Davis at that position. We all know Daniel Snyder likes to make big splashes during free agency, but that won't happen unless they get further under the cap; Cooley is expendable.
DL- Albert Haynesworth: Has to be considered one of the worse free agent signing of all-time, sorry all you Antonio Langham haters out there. "Fat Albert" is set to make 21 million in guaranteed roster money in 2011, and has been a no show in terms of work ethic and productivity on the field. It has been reported that Washington is looking to trade him; Minnesota seems the most interested. However, I would have to conclude that his contract disables any notion of a trade happening. Washington will either hang on to Albert in 2011, or release him; my money is on his being released.
Once on the open market, you will find a lot of teams interested in his services; just not at the price Washington paid. If motivated, he is still a dominating force a long the defensive line. According to Rotoworld, the Philadelphia Eagles seem real interested. Additionally, I wouldn't be against San Francisco possibly taking a flier on him if the situation arises.
Analysis: There does seem to be a lot of talent on this list and I expect a majority of the players to be on new teams when the 2011 season kickoffs. I noted the reasons above, so there really isn't any need to delve further into them.
Who might San Francisco take a look at? Well, there are really some intriguing possibilities.
Roy Williams and Leonard Davis are interesting prospects to fill possible voids on the 49ers roster. Williams has been an enigma of sorts since joining Dallas, but does have a lot of physical talent at his disposal. Additionally, I expect the former college standout to take a shorter term deal in order to build his value. A few seasons back San Francisco picked up a long time Dallas offensive linemen, Larry Allen, and that worked out really well for them over the course of the next couple seasons. Leonard Davis would be an immediate upgrade over Chilo Rachal and could be a nice stopgap player, making a great 1-2 guard punch with Mike Iupati.
Rich Seubert and Jamaal Jackson are also two solid offensive line candidates for the 49ers. Both have been extremely valuable linemen for their respective teams, but may see their tenures come to an end due to younger players taking over. Of the two, I would rather go with Jackson; who I believe is one of the three best centers in the entire NFL.
I mentioned Albert Haynesworth as a possibility, and although, that might have been a little tongue and cheek; he could serve a purpose on the 49ers in 2011. First, if Albert is released the contract he signs will be pretty small as he would try to rebuild his stock. Secondly, the 49ers do have a need at either the 3-4 NT or DE positions. This is an extremely unlikely scenario and one that I wouldn't be too thrilled if it happened.