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On the bubble: NFC players who could be released

We already hit some notable AFC names on the roster bubble. Here's a look at the NFC players who could be released before March 9, when the new league year starts.

Note: Unless otherwise cited, salary-cap figures in this piece were found on

Strong candidates for release

1) Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: This is not the first offseason with Peterson's future in doubt. Even before Peterson named some potential landing spots on ESPN or broke down the Giants' offseason on Twitter Rapsheet style, it was obvious the Vikings couldn't bring him back on his $18 million cap figure.

Peterson knows a pay cut is coming, yet it's inevitable that things get awkward when he finds out how steep that pay cut is. The NFL just doesn't pay for soon-to-be 32-year-old runners coming off injury who don't play on passing downs. An uncomfortable fit with Sam Bradford's shotgun-heavy tendencies, this finally feels like the year Peterson charges ahead to another team.

2) Sharrif Floyd, DT, Minnesota Vikings: My editors learned this week that teams can cut former first-round picks heading into their "fifth-year option" season with no cap repercussions. Yes, that makes these options even more precarious than the usual management-friendly NFL contracts written in erasable ink. Floyd, due $6.76 million, played only one game in 2016 after knee surgery and coach Mike Zimmer didn't hide his frustration in response. (Hiding frustration is not Zimmer's strong suit.)

3) Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears: Chicago's tortured season-ticket base might revolt if the Bears bring Cutler back again. The concept that the team could retain him is likely a bid for leverage, an effort to extract a low draft pick as compensation for this hollow era in franchise history. It's a hopeless stance the Bears should give up on before free agency starts.

4) Lamarr Houston, OLB and 5) Eddie Royal, WR, Chicago Bears: Two ACL tears in three seasons should spell the end of Houston's hard-luck time in Chicago. The team is reasonably deep with edge rushers. The Bears paid Royal, Cutler's old buddy, a lot of guap the last two seasons for 18 combined games and 607 receiving yards.

6) Connor Barwin, DE, 7) Ryan Mathews, RB and 8) Jason Kelce, C, Philadelphia Eagles: Get ready for Howie Roseman Season. Barwin and Mathews are near-certain goners, clearing the deck for some big-ticket signings. Cutting them both would save nearly $12 million in cap room. Barwin said he is willing to take a pay cut to stay, but he doesn't fit Jim Schwartz's defense. Kelce would be tougher to release, but he's due $5 million and coach Doug Pederson said last season he wouldn't hesitate to play 2016 third-round draft pick Isaac Seumalo at center. General manager Howie Roseman was noncommittal when asked about Kelce's future in January.

9) Doug Free, OT, Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones always wriggles free of the Cowboys' salary-cap issues and will no doubt do it again with restructured contracts and other creative accounting tricks. Cutting loose Free to save $5 million after a down season for the 33-year-old right tackle also makes sense.

10) Jairus Byrd, S, New Orleans Saints: Not long ago, he was ranked No. 1 on our list of top free agents. It's telling that Byrd's nondescript 2016 season felt like a victory for the Saints, just because he stayed on the field. Few entrenched NFL operatives pile up dead money for free agency mistakes like Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis.

11) Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers: Whether Kaepernick opts out of his contract or the 49ers release him, there's no chance the QB will return at his $19,365,753 cap number. It would be surprising if an organization starting from scratch again held on to such a vital reminder of the Jim Harbaugh era.

Romo gets his own category

If this offseason is one big Tony Romo speculation game, it's only just reached the second quarter. Since so much has been written already, I'll keep this brief. Romo is still more likely to be traded than released because of the desperate quarterback situations around the league. The clearest path toward Romo getting cut is if he pushes for it to speed up the process. Perhaps that's where his close relationship with the Jones family helps, like it did when he signed his last contract.

Potential surprises

1) Jason Peters, OT and 2) Mychal Kendricks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are caught in a tough spot with Peters. His play is declining at 35 years old, but do they really want to create a hole at tackle by releasing him? (Lane Johnson would likely move to left tackle, but the team would need to find a new right tackle.)

ESPN reported the Eagles already asked Peters to take a pay cut and teams don't usually go that route unless they are prepared to make a change. reported that Kendricks, a promising young linebacker, is on the trade block. The Eagles should be able to get at least a late-round pick for him if they are patient.

3) DeAndre Levy, LB and 4) Haloti Ngata, DT, Detroit Lions: General manager Bob Quinn has plenty of cap room, so either of these moves would be surprising -- yet understandable. Levy has barely played the last two seasons and wasn't his usual self in 2016 when he did suit up. The fact that the previous regime, not Quinn, signed both players puts them on the radar.

5) Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers: Coach Ron Rivera spoke about Stewart in the future tense this offseason and the Panthers have plenty of cap room, so releasing Stewart would be an upset. He wasn't the problem in the Carolina backfield last season, but he is due more than $6 million in total compensation, so a release couldn't be a total shock.

6) Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:Martin's suspension could strangely help him keep his roster spot. The team could evaluate Martin up close in the offseason before deciding how to proceed, but it would be stunning if he came back at his current $7 million salary. The team has too much leverage.

Other potential cuts

1) DeAngelo Hall, S, Washington Redskins: The team could work out a pay cut for Hall, who has missed most of the last three seasons. Or they could decide it's not worth the trouble.

2) Michael Oher, OT, Carolina Panthers: General manager Dave Gettleman raised questions about Oher's football future after a concussion sidelined him most of last season.

3) Ahmad Brooks, LB and 4) Zane Beadles, OG, San Francisco 49ers: Brooks has survived four head-coaching changes in San Francisco despite a sketchy off-field track record and declining play. That should change with his cap figure at $6.148 million. Beadles is a reminder of why general manager Trent Baalke lost his job.

5) Brian Robison, DE, Minnesota Vikings: After 10 seasons in Minnesota, Robison said he was ready to move into a backup role behind Danielle Hunter. He could be back at a reduced salary.

6) Justin Bethel, CB, Arizona Cardinals: It's never a great sign when the head coach calls you a "failure in progress."

7) Lance Kendricks, TE, Los Angeles Rams: Well-respected by the organization, Kendricks' production doesn't match his salary.

8) Alterraun Verner, CB, 9) George Johnson, DE and 10) Evan Smith, C, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: These are three free agency ghosts of the Buccaneers' recent past who are likely to be put out to sea.

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