Adrian Peterson, RB Minnesota Vikings ($18 million)
Peterson is already talking like someone who knows he’ll be in a different uniform next year. No running back is worth $18 million for one season, especially not one on the wrong side of 30 coming off a major knee injury.
Colin Kaepernick, QB San Francisco 49ers ($16.9 million)
The 49ers’ new brain trust will likely want a fresh start at quarterback, and with the second overall pick, San Francisco should be able to land its top QB target in the draft. There’s no need to keep Kaepernick and his big cap number around to be a lame duck next season.
Tyrod Taylor, QB Buffalo Bills ($15.9 million)
The Bills gave Taylor a prove-it deal an offseason ago. And while Taylor may have proven to be an adequate starter in the league, Buffalo does not seem to be committed to him going forward.
Jay Cutler, QB Chicago Bears ($14 million)
A breakup would be best for all parties here. Cutler is the best QB the Bears have had in a long time, but the team needs a fresh start behind center.
Clay Matthews, LB Green Bay Packers ($10.9 million)
This is probably the most unlikely cut on this list, but Green Bay has to at least think about re-structuring Matthews’ deal. He’s no longer the player he was when he initially signed this deal, and that’s a lot of money the Packers can save by parting ways with the fan favorite.
Nick Foles, QB Kansas City Chiefs ($10.7 million)
Foles was never going to see the second year of the two-year deal he signed with Kansas City last offseason. Not one dollar of his 2017 salary is guaranteed.
Russell Okung, LT Denver Broncos ($10.1 million)
Man, Okung’s agent really needs to be fired. What’s that? Okung negotiated this team-friendly deal he signed with Denver last year himself? Well, that makes a lot of sense. He played OK in 2016, but Denver needs to rebuild this line from the ground up and that $10.1 million will go a long way.
Jimmy Graham, TE Seattle Seahawks ($10 million)
This is another long shot, but the Seahawks have to consider giving up Graham, whose production in Seattle hasn’t justified his big cap number, and using that money to build a competent line in front of Russell Wilson.
Mario Williams, DE Miami Dolphins ($8.5 million)
Williams is no longer the pass rusher Miami thought it was getting when it handed him a two-year, $17 million deal last offseason. Fortunately for the Dolphins, they can move on from the veteran with minimal cap penalties.
D.J. Fluker, RG Los Angeles Chargers ($8.8 million)
Fluker recently guaranteed a playoff berth for the Chargers next season, but he may not be around to see it through. The disappointing 2013 first-round pick hasn’t played well enough to justify his cap hit for 2017.