NO CAP, NO WILLIS?: Without a salary cap in 2010, many veteran players are in danger of being released. The main reason why is there will be no signing bonus proration issues without a salary cap. Bonus proration, as a league source indicated, is the main reason why veteran RB Willis McGahee was still on the team this season. Had they released him, the Ravens would have taken on $9.25 million of accelerated signing and option bonus proration on their 2009 cap.
McGahee, who is now backing up second-year RB Ray Rice, carries a base salary of $3.6 million for 2010. It's widely believed McGahee will be playing elsewhere in 2010.
2010 COULD BE WIMBLEY'S LAST?; ANDERSON GOOD AS GONE?; WORKOUTS GALORE: While fourth-year OLB Kamerion Wimbley had a big rookie season back in 2006, he hasn't fared as well in recent seasons. However, the final year on Wimbley's six-year deal will void because he met minimum playing time requirements in just one season. The Browns have a buyback option for the final season at $7.765 million, which they aren't likely to use unless he raises his level of play significantly. It's possible that they choose to sign him to an extension before the 2010 season ends.
It's been a struggle for veteran QB Derek Anderson since his break out season in 2007. Anderson has thrown for 11 touchdowns in his last 14 games, but even worse, he's completed just 47.6 percent of his passes. Anderson carries a huge cap number for next year at over $11.8 million. That number will be reduced to $9 million without a salary cap, but Anderson's base salary of $7.45 million is way too large for a struggling signal caller to deserve. To make matters worse, a source said he carries a $2 million roster bonus that's due on March 20.
In an interesting sidenote, team in the NFL has worked out more players this season than the Browns. According to a league source, the team has worked out over 90 players.
OKOYE ANOTHER PLAYER WHO COULD BE VOIDING FINAL YEAR?: Like some first-round picks, DT Amobi Okoye is yet another player who will be able to void the final year of his contract. Okoye signed a six-year deal as a rookie than could be voided to five provided he met minimum playing time thresholds in just one year of the deal. Okoye, by starting in his first year, met the minimum requirement. The only other issue that he has to meet is to be on their roster by early April of next year, a source said.
Okoye, after struggling a bit in his second season in 2008, has started to show more consistency this season.
STAYING HEALTHY IMPORTANT FOR ROOKIE: Like many first-round picks in recent years, rookie Donald Brown has escalators in his deal for for statistical achievement. Unfortunately, the running back has missed two games due to injury and looks likely he'll miss out on an extra $400,000 this season.
According to a league source, Brown can make up to $3.2 million over the life of his contract if he reaches certain levels of performance. To make $400,000, Brown has to rush for at least 701 yards in any season. Brown, through 11 games, only has 263 yards on the ground. With just five games left, Brown would have to rush for 438 yards to make the extra money. If he doesn't achieve that number, he'll still have an opportunity to make it up in 2010.
Kansas City Chiefs
UNDRAFTED ROOKIE MAKING HIS MARK: While the Kansas City Chiefs have struggled to a 3-8 record, they have some players that have been playing well, but have fallen under the radar. Rookie ILB Jovan Belcher, according to player sources, might be a star in the making. The former University of Maine defender opened some eyes during training camp with his physical play, but once the regular season started, he's taken his game to a new level. Belcher, a player said, plays at a high intensity level on each down and also brings that same intensity to practice. Belcher has 31 solo tackles and a huge pass defensed during the team's victory at the Oakland Raiders back on November 15.
Like Belcher, fellow ILB Corey Mays went undrafted. Mays, who is with his third team in the last three seasons, might have found a home. Mays also is a very physical linebacker and is one of Kansas City's best tacklers. Belcher and Mays figure to be involved prominently in the Chief defense for a while to come.
PLAYING TIME IMPORTANT FOR ROOKIE CORNERBACK: When the Miami Dolphins selected CB Vontae Davis in the first round of this year's draft, the expectation was that he would eventually start, but probably not until year two. Davis, who signed a five-year deal, has an escalator valued up to $3.1 million which is due in the final year of his contract. Davis can make an extra $350,000 in any season if he plays in 65 percent of the defensive snaps and $375,000 if he plays in 75 percent of the snaps.
Davis got a break when starting CB Will Allen was lost for the season due to torn ACL back in Week 6 and has started ever since. If he starts the rest of the games, Davis will easily eclipse the 65 percent playing time mark and will have a shot at 75 percent.
New York Jets
ONE AND DONE FOR SHEPPARD?: When the Jets signed veteran CB Lito Sheppard to a re-worked contract extension in March, many were surprised that the team would do so based on his injury history over the past few seasons. Sheppard, who has dealt with various injuries which caused him to miss five games this season, is due what equates to a $10 million option bonus if he's on the roster on March 11, a source said. The final four years of the deal only will be live if the Jets decide to pay the bonus. The Jets actually didn't give Sheppard any guaranteed money in the deal, so they won't owe him anything more than his $3 million base salary for this season if they decide to part ways with him.
The Jets acquired the veteran defensive back from the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2009 fifth-round pick and a 2010 conditional draft pick. The 2010 pick could be as high as a second-rounder if the Jets decide to pay Sheppard the $10 million bonus and if he also plays in at least 85 percent of the defensive snaps. Of course, there's no way they will pay an injury prone player that type of money. Sheppard, because of all the playing time he's missed this season, won't come close to playing in 85 percent of the snaps. Had Sheppard played in at least 85 percent of the defensive snaps, but the Jets declined to pay him the option bonus, the teams would have swapped picks in 2010. Because Sheppard won't come close to that playing time level and is highly unlikely to get the large option bonus, the Jets won't won't owe the Eagles the second pick as set forth in the conditions of the trade. The Jets essentially gave up a fifth-round pick for a one-year evaluation of the veteran defensive back.
The Jets wanted Sheppard because he played in a mostly man coverage scheme with the Eagles, which is similar to what the Jets use on defense. Unfortunately, they'll have to look to replace Sheppard next season--there's no other way to look at it.
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