You would expect a lot of talent to eventually become available from this division once salary cap cuts are made. However, doing research I found that really isn't going to be the case. Of course, the New York Jets are going to have to make some difficult decisions and there will be some talent to be had when all is said and done.
This morning I am going to take a look at AFC East release candidates and give you my opinion on what players, if any, the 49ers should target.
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- Lee Evans; His production has dropped off the map recently. In fact, Evans had his two worse seasons of his career in 2009 and 2010. Some of that has to do with injury (missed 3 games in 10'), and a lack of a passing attack. However, Buffalo doesn't seem to be pulling any punches with him and have quietly talked about either trading or releasing him. Additionally, Evans is due nearly 5 million in 2011 and the Bills have another "#1 receiver" in Steve Johnson. It remains possible that the former 1000 yards receiver will be playing elsewhere in 2011.
DE/LB- Chris Kelsay: He signed a large 5Y-28MM contract extension in September of 2010, and accumulate just 3.5 sacks last season. Additionally, the Bills don't seem to be happy with his pass coverage and rush defense; making him extremely expendable when free agency starts. They don't have a lot of depth or talent up front on defense, but Kelsay is 31 and not worth the contract he signed less than a year ago.
LB- Aaron Maybin: Due less than a million in base salary next season, it doesn't make sense that Buffalo would release a 1st round pick with just two years playing experience. However, those two years were god awful. Maybin hasn't compiled a single sack in 28 career NFL games and has been credited with just 1 force fumbles. Those are stats that make even the most optimistic of observers yell "BUST". Expect Maybin to be a training camp casualty if he doesn't get his act together.
FB- Lousaka Polite: Despite being an extremely solid short yardage runner and competent blocker, the Miami Dolphins did spend a draft pick on a fullback (Charles Clay), and Polite is set to make 1.5 million in 2011. The Dolphins are in need of cutting from their 104 million dollar payroll somewhere, and Polite is expendable.
C- Joe Berger: The selection of Mike Pouncey in the 1st round of April's draft makes Berger's release almost imminent. The veteran guard//center is due about 1.5 million and will not be back at that cost in a reserve role. He could find some play on the free agent market to be a primary backup inside or for a team in desperate need of a stopgap center.
OT- Vernon Carey: He very well could be a surprise cut when the new league year starts. Despite being a solid offensive tackle, logistics is working against Carey. He is due about 5 million in 2011, and the Dolphins have ample young options to replace him opposite Jake Long. I wouldn't be surprise if Carey is released, in fact I expect that to happen. If so, there is going to be a nice market for his ability on the open market. Carey has been strong in pass protection and is solid in the run game as well. Overall, he is an extremely underrated offensive tackle.
CB- Will Allen: He did agree to a pay cut from 5 million down to 1.5 million in February, but as rotoworld reported "it might not be enough to keep his job". Allen hasn't been able to stay healthy for a consistent period of time and is turning 33 in 2011. It does appear that Miami will end up cutting Allen, and he will hit the open market. You really are looking at a marginal pickup in regards to Allen at this point. The comparison for 49er fans that I would draw is Will James.
TE- Alge Crumpler: The Patriots added two tight ends in the 2010 draft and another one in 2011. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski seem to be real deals and Crumpler is owed 1.5 million this year. He used to be an extremely talented tight end, which he might still be, but Crumpler is making his money as a blocking end these days. This is where he is going to find a market if released.
DT/DE- Ty Warren: The Patriots continue to build great things up front and seem to have a plethora of young talent there right now. Warren has been one of the better overall 3-4 ends in football, and should be retained in 2011. However, New England doesn't show a lot of support for their veterans and Warren is set to make over 4 million dollars this season. Additionally, he is coming off of an injury and is 30. If the Patriots are looking to make cuts somewhere, it may actually be with Warren.
DT- Marcus Stroud: Stourd is set to make about 1.5 million and could find himself as the #3 NT on a deep New England Patriot front 7. At 33 years old, the Patriots are looking to move on to younger players, but Stroud can still play football and is darn strong up the middle.
New York Jets
RB- LaDanian Tomlinson: He had a great first season in New York and is only set to make 2.4 million in 2011. On the surface it seems LT will be back with the Jets in 2011. However, they are in an incredible bind when it comes to the salary cap (nearly 10 million over). The Jets need to find money to re-sign some of their top free agents and be able to pay David Harris' franchise tender. I could conceivably see a scenario where they save 2.4 million, release LT and go with Joe McKnight and rookie Bilal Powell to backup Shonn Greene. Not probable, but extremely realistic.
WR- Jerricho Cotchery: The Jets have three unrestricted free agents in Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith. So, Cotchery is an important part of the team. However, in order to re-sign one or two of these players the Jets are going to have to save money somewhere. He is due about 3.2 million in total 2011 salary, so it remains a real possibility. This will be a late off-season release because the Jets need to see how the cards are going to fall before letting him go.
G- Brandon Moore: Moore is due about 5 million dollars in 2010 and the Jets do have some young options at that position. He is a real talented guard and it would be a difficult loss for New York. However, you have to look at their salary cap and ask "what comes first?" Antonio Cromartie as a #2 corner, especially with the Jets lack of a pass rush is more important at this point. I think Moore is likely to be released.
LB- Calvin Pace: He is set to make 3.5 million in base and between 1-2 million in bonuses in 2011. The Jets have uses elsewhere with that money. Pace is a solid linebacker and contribute 5.5 sacks in 2011, however, as I said before "they are in an incredible bind when it comes to the salary cap". Some decision are going to have to be made that isn't going to make much sense on the surface.
LB- Bart Scott: Due roughly 8 million total in 2011, Scott wasn't as productive in 2010 as in the past. He still is a solid linebacker, but at 8 million is it worth it? With all the salary cap concerns for these New York Jets it is probable that they are going to release one of their high profile players. Scott would be the most likely candidate at this point because of a combination of a lack of performance and an 8 million dollar 2011 salary.
Analysis: There are a couple players I see on this list that could interest the 49ers, but not many. Once again we have to look at the positions San Francisco is looking at upgrading and how each player would actually fit into that system. For example, Bart Scott may seem like an intriguing options, but he isn't much more than an older version of Manny Lawson at this point in his career. A player that is good at everything, but isn't great at one thing. This means that he is unable to get to the quarterback on a consistent basis. Yes, I know sounds a lot like the aforementioned Lawson.
One of the players that "could" interest San Francisco would be Lee Evans. He hasn't produced a great deal over the last couple of seasons, but I believe that could have more to do with offensive scheme and quarterback play more than anything else. He is still a breakaway candidate and would give San Francisco a nice vertical threat. Additionally, Evans wouldn't cost the same as Sidney Rice or Vincent Jackson; meaning they could target top tier players at other positions while upgrading at wide receiver.
Another option is Ty Warren, who could be slotted in opposite Justin Smith at defensive end and form a real nice tandem in the 49ers 3-4 defense. Warren has always been solid against the run and does get in the offensive backfield more than his sack numbers would suggest. He would be an immediate upgrade over what the 49ers currently have. But, will the Patriots let their longtime defensive end go? That is the primary question at this point.