AP Images/Scott BoehmCould Brandon Marshall be on his way out of Chicago?
It's that time of the NFL season when teams approach veterans with contract reductions in order to get under the salary cap. Or, in some cases, the player is simply overpaid or is near the end of his career, so the team feels compelled to either release the player or to lower his base salary.
With that being the case, here's a look at veterans who could be targeted for a pay reduction or release leading up to March 10 (when all NFL teams must be in salary-cap compliance), based on what I've heard from talking to front-office sources around the league.
Matt Schaub | QB | Oakland Raiders
Salary-cap number: $5.5 million
League sources said the former Raiders coaching staff favored Matt McGloin over the veteran Schaub. And Schaub would have been cut for sure had they returned. None of Schaub's $5.5 million base salary is guaranteed, so the team can easily get out of his contract.
Reggie Bush | RB | Detroit Lions
Salary-cap number: $5.28 million
Bush has a small roster bonus ($250,000) due on March 14, but he carries a salary-cap number of just under $5.3 million. That could be looked at as too high considering the team has two other backs (Joique Bell and Theo Riddick) who figure to play prominent roles going forward.
Brandon Marshall | WR | Chicago Bears
Salary-cap number: $9.58 million
Marshall's statistics started to drop last season before he suffered rib and lung injuries. While he turns 31 next month, Marshall is still one of the NFL's best players at his position. Some of his declining numbers could be attributed to the lack of consistency at quarterback. His $7.5 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 12.
Mike Wallace | WR | Miami Dolphins
Salary-cap number: $12.1 million
When former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland signed Wallace to a five-year, $60 million deal with $30 million guaranteed, the contract was criticized by some NFL execs as being overpriced. However, at that time, Wallace was one of the NFL's best deep threats at wide receiver. Now he has been almost reduced to possession receiver status. Exactly $3 million of his $9.85 million base salary is fully guaranteed, but the team could designate him as a post-June 1 release and save nearly $7 million in cap space should it decide to cut him. Some execs believe WRs Brian Hartline ($7.35 million) and Brandon Gibson ($4.26 million) could be targeted to lower their cap numbers.
Dwayne Bowe | WR | Kansas City Chiefs
Salary-cap number: $14 million
Bowe, who did not score a touchdown during the 2014 season, likely will be targeted for a pay cut if he's not released prior to the start of free agency on March 10. Moreover, $1.5 million of his base salary is fully guaranteed even if he's not on the roster, but the Chiefs can save more than $9 million by designating him as a post-June 1 release.
Marques Colston | WR |New Orleans Saints
Salary-cap number: $9.7 million
Colston will go down as one of the best draft picks in Saints history based on his outstanding production. However, the seventh-round pick in the 2006 draft turns 32 in June and carries a big salary-cap number, which could force New Orleans to approach him to lower it. Veteran inside linebacker David Hawthorne also could be targeted for a pay reduction due to his $6.01 million cap number.
Marcedes Lewis | TE | Jacksonville Jaguars
Salary-cap number: $8.2 million
A source said that Lewis will either get a pay cut or will be released prior to March 10. The Jaguars have the most projected salary-cap space in the NFL (more than $60 million), so targeting him for a reduction in pay would be due mostly to his age (turns 31 in May) and declining stats.
Anthony Collins | LT | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Salary-cap number: $6 million
The signing of Collins last season was a no-brainer since he was coming off his best season with the Bengals in 2013. However, he wound up losing his starting job with the Buccaneers to Demar Dotson, who moved over from right tackle. Collins has $3 million of his $6 million base salary fully guaranteed even if he's not on the roster. And the remaining $3 million becomes fully guaranteed on March 12.
Jahri Evans | G | New Orleans Saints
Salary-cap number: $11 million
If you asked me before last season if Evans should take a pay reduction, I would have told you that there was no way. However, the veteran interior offensive lineman turns 32 in August and carries a high cap number. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the team is considering a pay cut, restructuring for Evans or even a release. The Saints, in recent years, have continued to restructure deals by pushing cap numbers higher for future seasons, which will eventually catch up to them. They are currently well over the projected $143 million salary-cap limit.
Haloti Ngata | DT | Baltimore Ravens
Salary-cap number: $16 million
ESPN's Ed Werder reported that the Ravens have offered Ngata an extension. So the team clearly wants to keep him a while longer. However, not on that enormous cap number for 2015. By extending his contract past this season, they could take his $8.5 million base salary and convert that to a signing bonus, which is fully guaranteed.
Trent Cole | DE | Philadelphia Eagles
Salary-cap number: $11.63 million
The veteran pass-rusher deserves to end his career as an Eagle based on his consistent production since his rookie season in 2005. However, given his age (he turns 33 in October), the Eagles may believe that his cap number is too high. While league sources said the team didn't address his contract during the NFL combine, they are expected to do so before the start of free agency. Another veteran who could be targeted for a pay cut is CB Cary Williams ($8.17 million cap number).
Arthur Jones | DE | Indianapolis Colts
Salary-cap number: $7.1 million
Jones, in his first season with the Colts, missed seven games due to a high ankle sprain. He showed some serious toughness by trying to play through the injury, but he clearly wasn't himself last season. His $6 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 14. The Colts are in excellent cap shape, so they don't need to cut him in order to save space. It comes down to whether they think he's worth the money. And they already cut veteran defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois earlier this week and have little depth left on the defensive line.
LaMarr Woodley | DE | Oakland Raiders
Salary-cap number: $5.19 million
Woodley, at this point in his career, figures to be a part-time player who is only used in a rotation. That's why some execs believe he'll be targeted for a pay reduction should the team decide to pick up his $1 million roster bonus, which is due on March 14.
Jon Beason | MLB | New York Giants
Salary-cap number: $7.69 million
After releasing veteran DE Mathias Kiwanuka, the Giants are in decent cap shape with more than $17 million in space. Beason has $900,000 of his $3.6 million base salary fully guaranteed, so there would be a small cap hit should they decide to cut him. He also has a $1.2 million roster bonus due on March 14.
Tamba Hali | OLB | Kansas City Chiefs
Salary-cap number: $11.97 million
The Chiefs are in a salary-cap crunch, and if they have to use their franchise tag on OLB Justin Houston (just over $13 million), they'd be way over the projected limit of $143 million. Hali is on the final year of his contract, but 2014 first-round pick OLB Dee Ford barely contributed last season (saw only 11.5 percent of the defensive snaps).
Dannell Ellerbe | LB | Miami Dolphins
Salary-cap number: $9.85 million
The veteran linebacker, who missed 15 games last season due to a hip injury, has $3 million of his $8.43 million base salary fully guaranteed. So even if the team decides to cut him, they'll still owe him that $3 million. And 2013 fourth-round pick Jelani Jenkins did a solid job while filling in for the injured Ellerbe.
Veteran tight end receives interest from several teams: When the Philadelphia Eagles released James Casey last week, they wound up saving $4 million in cap space. The move was expected since he was the Eagles' No. 3 guy at tight end. However, the versatile pass-catcher has drawn interest from several teams since his release.
Eight teams have requested visits with Casey, including the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos, whom he'll visit with in the coming days. Why so much interest in him?
Casey is not just a solid special-teams player: He's able to play fullback, H-back and tight end. He fell down the Eagles' depth chart at tight end once the team selected Zach Ertz, but he still has plenty to offer.
Third quarterback draft spot wide open? After talking with several executives during last week's NFL combine, it appears that Baylor's Bryce Petty is leading the race to be the third quarterback selected in the draft.
What evaluators like most is his size (taller than 6-foot-2) and arm strength. While he has to show that he can play in a conventional dropback offense in the NFL, which is why he'll probably sit his first season in the NFL, he has very strong attributes that translate to the next level.