Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Reggie Bush, others on shaky ground

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

Getting under the salary cap wasn't much of a problem for NFL teams before the uncapped year of 2010.

The cap was going up $7 million a year. Many teams stayed to their budgets and had excess cap room. At the end of the 2009 season, 32 teams had $163 million of unused cap space.

Once the collective bargaining agreement is signed and the league is up and operating, teams have to return to the days of getting under the cap. The 2011 cap is going to be at $120 million, and there figure to be several cap casualties, particularly because the 2009 cap was at $128 million.

Let's review 10 players of interest.

1. New Orleans Saints RB Reggie Bush: The Saints want to keep him. Bush says he wants to stay. The numbers just don't work. Bush is scheduled to make $11.8 million this year and has a bloated $16 million cap number. The Saints have $11.7 million of cap room. Something has to give. They also have 26 unrestricted free agents. Cutting or trading him would free up $12.5 million. Sure, Bush could restructure, but would he do that knowing that teams such as Philadelphia, St. Louis and Tampa Bay might be willing to give him a nice long-term deal? Probably not.

2. Minnesota Vikings WR Bernard Berrian: The Vikings grabbed him from the Chicago Bears at a $7 million-a-year price, but younger receivers such as Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice moved ahead of Berrian. He has a $6.258 million cap number. Cutting him saves the team $3.7 million, and the Vikings are more than $5 million over the cap. His chances of staying may be helped if Rice leaves, but Berrian still might have to restructure to stay.

3. San Francisco 49ers CB Nate Clements: This one is interesting. He's the league's first $10 million-a-year cornerback. He has struggled in the past couple of years, and now he has a $17.36 million cap number. There are some people in San Francisco who believe the 49ers might consider signing Nnamdi Asomugha. Releasing Clements frees up $14 million. If he stays, he'll have to take a pay cut.

4. Green Bay Packers LB Nick Barnett: Barnett has been hoping for a trade and he should get one. He has a $6.9 million cap number, and releasing or trading him would save the Packers a much-needed $4.2 million. The Packers also would free up $4.581 million if they release tackle Mark Tauscher.

5. Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young: Young isn't a cap casualty. He's a casualty of his spats with former Titans coach Jeff Fisher. The organization convinced owner Bud Adams to let the quarterback go. Freeing Young would clear up close to $12.8 million of cap room.

6. Baltimore Ravens RB Willis McGahee: The trade for McGahee didn't work out. What worked out was drafting Ray Rice and finding out he was a stud. McGahee has an $8.5 million cap number. Releasing or trading him frees up only $2.5 million, but the Ravens need all the cap dollars they can get to stay in the Super Bowl race.

7. Arizona Cardinals LB Joey Porter: The one-year experiment with Porter wasn't a success. The whole defense had a bad year. The Cardinals don't need cap room, but this looks like a relationship ready to split. He would save the team $4.66 million if he's cut.

8. Washington Redskins DT Albert Haynesworth: It's hard to believe the Redskins can save cap room by releasing or trading him after he signed a $100 million contract a couple of seasons ago. But they can save $3.4 million. Owner Daniel Snyder gave him a $21 million bonus last year to free up cap room for this season.

9. Cincinnati Bengals DE Antwan Odom: The last thing Bengals owner Mike Brown needs is more cap room. If Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco aren't on the roster, the payroll goes to $60 million, and Brown will be forced to spend $46.8 million just to reach the league's new cash floor. Odom showed flashes of being a great pass-rusher, but he struggled with injuries. He has a $6.3 million cap number and would save the team $2.9 million of cap room.

10. New York Giants G Shawn Andrews: The Giants gambled that Andrews could be a fix for the O-line, but unless he gives back a lot of money, he won't be a Giant. His cap number is $7.5 million and the Giants are more than $11 million over the cap. Releasing him frees up $7.333 million.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.