Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The NFL's continued state of unsettlement has created many an anxious moment for the league's current cast of players, some of whom have a reason to be considerably more nervous than others.
Though roster transactions remain suspended due to the ongoing lockout, now entering its third month of existence with no clear ending point in sight, the writing on the wall has been made conspicuously visible for a number of established veterans following the most recent NFL Draft. And while it's become a near exercise in futility to accurately predict both the outcome and eventual conclusion date of the work stoppage, with each side seemingly holding a realistic chance of receiving a favorable ruling when the U.S. Court of Appeals makes its decision in a few weeks, speculating which players will ultimately be seeking a new residence when the transaction freeze is finally lifted is far easier (not to mention considerably more interesting) to project.
Below is a listing of a dozen notable players likely to be cut loose by their present teams once their employers are legally able to do so, along with the probable replacement obtained through the draft. Note that this compilation does not include those already certain to hit unrestricted free agency (i.e. Nnamdi Asomugha, Matt Hasselbeck, Ronnie Brown) once the lockout ends, nor does it contain the top candidates to be traded when the new league year does actually get underway, a group that contains the likes of Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer and Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith.
Palmer, incidentally, could turn out to be the most intriguing wild card of this offseason now that the Cincinnati Bengals have secured what they believe to be a viable alternative to the disgruntled quarterback with the drafting of TCU rookie Andy Dalton in the draft's second round. Though notoriously obstinate team owner Mike Brown still seems determined not to give in to Palmer's very public trade demands, those plans could very well change if Dalton quickly proves he's ready for the rigors of the NFL. With teams like the Cardinals, Redskins, Seahawks and Dolphins still on the lookout for a veteran presence under center, Palmer's value may also never be higher than its present point.
Here are 12 prominent names still under contract who may be on the move in the coming months:
Reggie Bush, RB, Saints (potential successor: Mark Ingram)
Bush acknowledged his days in The Big Easy are in obvious jeopardy with his well-publicized tweet stating "It's been fun, New Orleans" just minutes after the Saints traded up to draft the ex-Alabama standout Ingram with the 28th overall pick. While both head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis have gone on record saying that Bush still remains in the team's plans, there's no chance the versatile back will be brought back at the $11.8 million salary he's due this season, and he may be less amenable to restructure after Ingram's addition.
David Akers, K, Eagles (potential successor: Alex Henery)
The Eagles didn't use a fourth-round pick on the promising Henery to simply create competition for their long-tenured kicker, and Akers' two costly misses in January's NFC Wild Card Playoff loss to Green Bay likely signaled the end of his mostly successful 12-year run with the organization. Philadelphia did apply the transition tag (worth 2.8 million) to the five-time Pro Bowler in February, but it's almost certain that will now be rescinded with Henery on board.
Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys (potential successor: DeMarco Murray)
Due nearly $5 million in 2011, it was just about a foregone conclusion that a Dallas squad in dire need of a payroll slash would rid themselves of the declining Barber regardless of what the Cowboys did in the draft. The team's selection of Murray, who offers a comparable build and skill set than Barber at a lower cost, merely further illustrates the inevitable.Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs (potential successor: Jonathan Baldwin)
Chambers, who turns 33 in August and is due $2.9 million over each of the next two seasons, was a likely roster casualty anyway after a woefully unproductive 2010 campaign, but the Chiefs' somewhat surprising choosing of the talented Baldwin in the draft's first round signifies the final nail in the veteran's coffin.
Marc Colombo, OT, Cowboys (potential successor: Tyron Smith)
Like Barber, Colombo is overpriced, injury-prone and experienced a significant drop-off in his level of play over the past couple of years, and Dallas' tabbing of the extremely-talented Smith with the ninth overall pick provides the team with an instant substitute. With the Cowboys also high on 2010 rookie Sam Young as a swing reserve, Colombo has little chance to return at his $2.4 million salary.
Ray Edwards, DE, Vikings (potential successor: Christian Ballard)
Edwards is one of several players with an uncertain contract status due to the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, as he would be a restricted free agent in the event the league elects to keep the 2010 rules in place for one more season. The Vikings covered their bases by offering a first-round tender worth close to $2.8 million to the five-year pro, but the team's signing of understudy Brian Robison to an extension in March and fourth-round selection of Ballard indicates it's probably ready to move on. If Edwards does wind up restricted, expect Minnesota to shop him extensively in the offseason.
Albert Haynesworth, DL, Redskins (potential successor: Jarvis Jenkins)
Yes, Haynesworth actually does remain property of the Redskins at the time of this column, but it's no secret that the problematic defensive lineman will never play another down with the Burgundy and Gold again. After landing a possible starter in Jenkins in the second round of the draft, Washington will try its best to find a new suitor for Haynesworth on the trade market, though those efforts will likely be in vain considering his exorbitant contract and history of bad behavior. Donovan McNabb, another Redskin in a state of exile, would have also made this list had the club been able to find a quarterback in the draft.
Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers (potential successor: Alex Green)
Though Jackson led the Packers in rushing during last year's Super Bowl run, his role had greatly diminished down the stretch and figured to be even more limited with two-time 1,000-yard runner Ryan Grant set to return from injury this season. With Green Bay snaring Green, a solid receiver who played in a pass-heavy system at Hawaii, in the third round, there looks to be little room for Jackson on a roster that also includes Grant and late-2010 breakout star James Starks.
James Jones, WR, Packers (potential successor: Randall Cobb)
The versatile Cobb, a one-time quarterback at Kentucky who should take over as the Packers' primary return man as a rookie, may ultimately be the heir apparent to the aging Donald Driver, but he's also likely to get an immediate chance to supplant Jones, who seems to have worn out his welcome with Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay staff due to untimely drops and a maddening inconsistency. Though the Pack did give him a tender as a potential restricted free agent, it would hardly be surprising if the team removes the offer once the lockout ends.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals (potential successor: A.J. Green)
While one can never exactly be sure just what the Bengals are thinking, it's as clear as day that Marvin Lewis has had enough of Ochocinco's childish antics and never-ending need for attention. Throw in the fact that the 33- year-old wideout's skills are eroding and No. 4 overall pick Green has all the physical tools to become a top-shelf receiver without the headaches, and it's hard to envision The Ocho's act staying in Cincinnati. Palmer stands a better chance of remaining on the payroll than his longtime top target.
Brad Smith, WR/KR, Jets (potential successor: Jeremy Kerley)
The Jets appeared inclined to retain Smith, the NFL's leader in kick return average a year ago, after offering the converted college quarterback a second- round restricted free agent tender prior to the lockout. However, the addition of fifth-round choice Kerley, one of the most accomplished return men in the college ranks and a worthwhile prospect as a slot receiver as well, seems to make Smith now expendable.
Vince Young, QB, Titans (potential successor: Jake Locker)
Young's name should come as no surprise, since the Titans announced their intentions to sever ties with the one-time franchise face months ago, but the unexpected selection of Locker with the eighth overall pick was an emphatic rebuttal to any remaining skeptics. The move also effectively ends Tennessee's already minuscule chances of trading the moody quarterback, who's due a $4.25 million roster bonus in addition to an $8.5 million salary in 2011.
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