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May 11

Looking at Veteran Players Impacted by the NFL Draft

While most fans and players are excited about welcoming new faces to a team via the draft, there are many veterans who are directly impacted by the presence of the new players. Starting on Monday some teams will begin the process of telling certain veterans that its time to either take a pay cut or be cut since there are now more options at their position. We already saw that happen Friday, to some extent, when the Bills traded WR Stevie Johnson to the San Francisco 49ers. So let’s look at some of the players who may feel some negative impacts from the results of the draft.

LT Michael Roos, Tennessee Titans

Roos is in the final year of his contract with Tennessee and carries a $6.625 million salary. The Titans would receive no penalties if they chose to do it.  The Titans already signed Michael Oher in the offseason to play the other side so the drafting of Taylor Lewan should signal the end of Roos’ time in Tennessee. I would wonder if the Titans would first approach him about a pay cut down to the $3-4 million range and keep him as a one year insurance policy or just release him outright. It would be hard to picture him staying at his current salary and the Titans have already issued pay cuts this year.

RB Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers

Gore is one of the highest paid running backs in the NFL and also one of the oldest. There is no dead money associated with releasing Gore, who is in the final year of his contract, and San Francisco has an extremely tight salary cap. We saw the team stockpile runners last year and Carlos Hyde just adds to the mix. It is hard to envision Gore playing at the $6.45 million cap and cash number in 2014. I don’t think the team will want to cut him since he is an important locker room presence but they need him on better terms. They can make it sound much nicer by wrapping it into an extension.

DT Kendall Langford, St. Louis Rams

Set to count $6 million against the cap with a $5 million salary it would seem that the addition of Aaron Donald signals the end of Langford. The Rams are always tight with salary cap space and releasing Langford will save them $4 million in room. They already signed Alex Carrington as a low cost rotation player this season so Langford, at the least, will be approached about a pay cut. The Rams have one this with other players in the past throwing in an early roster bonus the following year to facilitate release, but Langford might have to slash his salary in half this year to stay.

RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals

The law firm was already in danger with the emergence last year of the much younger Giovani Bernard and now the selection of Jeremy Hill would seem to seal his fate. This is the final year of BGE’s contract and they will either let him ride it out all summer to protect the team in the event of an injury or do something in the coming weeks to resolve the situation. Not sure about a pay cut even being discussed for him.

LB Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs selected DE Dee Ford in the first round of the draft and the logical hit would be on the older Hali rather than the younger Justin Houston. Now the Chiefs already spent $2 million on Hali his season and they likely want to have three pass rushers to cover for injury as their defense fell apart when the injuries occurred last season to the pass rushers, but he still has over $6 million coming his way this year and $9 million next season. If he arrives out of shape the June 1 cut is certainly on the table and if he refuses an extension he could be someone that moves during the season.

G Donald Thomas, Indianapolis Colts

Thomas signed as a free agent with the Colts last season and landed on IR for almost the entire season. His contract contained a low signing bonus relative to his salary which should make him expendable this year now that they could slot Jack Mewhort into the position. If Thomas’ contract is not moved then I would anticipate backup Joe Reitz, on a $1.4 million tender, to either be released or approached about playing for the minimum this year.

LB Trent Cole, Philadelphia Eagles

The soon to be 32 year old is essentially in the final year of his contract due to balloon payments that see his salary rise to $10 million in 2015. He is scheduled to make $5 million this season which may even be a bit steep. Marcus Smith would seem to be a project, but a first round pedigree gives the Eagles some leverage. Cole’s fair market value is probably a bit up from Shaun Phillips who signed a contract worth $2.5 million a year in the offseason. I’d think he’ll be approached about ripping up his contract and taking on a more reasonable three year deal worth between $3 and $3.5 million a season moving forward. Brandon Graham could also be in danger but I would say that is more dependent on how he looks in the summer.

QB Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings

Ponder’s time was already near an end with Minnesota now its simply finished. It is likely that Matt Cassel will get the starting job, but Ponder at least had an outside chance of competing for it in the summer and would have gotten the call when Cassel suffers what has become an annual series of injuries. Now those possibilities go to Teddy Bridgewater who the Vikings jumped back into the first round to select. Ponder should push hard for a trade now to a better situation rather than mop up duty in the preseason.

S Dawan Landry, New York Jets

The Jets do play multiple defensive backs so the selection of Calvin Pryor may not spell the end for Landry, but the Jets could save $1.5 million by releasing Landry. Landry’s deal was essentially a one year stopgap measure and by drafting a safety in round 1 it would seem his time as a starter is certainly done. They could bring his salary down a few dollars to the veteran minimum if they want to keep him.

WR Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks

Baldwin was tendered at the 2nd round level by the Seattle Seahawks and often we see teams try to negotiate that one year contracts down once the player is prepared to sign. The Seahawks already pushed the price down on Jeron Johnson so it’s a move that they certainly will consider. Johnson was part of a crowded secondary and the Seahawks use of a 2nd round pick on Paul Richardson doesn’t do the same for the receiver position, but at this stage it’s a risk for the player to not take the reduction in salary.