It happens every year with every NFL team around this time of the year. Whether cap space is needed or not, clubs cut veteran players with high cap numbers. Sometimes it is because of underperformance. Sometimes it is due to injury. And sometimes it is simply because the contract no longer makes sense. Like common sense (and Josh) point out, I don't buy this non-sense about the Bengals cutting Dunlap, however, the Bengals will cut some players this off season and here are some veterans you could see the Bengals release in order to make room for younger players - or simply free up some cap space for free agent signings.
Here are some possible cap casualties in the off season for the Bengals:
Base Salary: $2,500,000
Cap Number: $2,700,000
Cap Savings: $2,700,000
Odds of Being Released: 80%
Reasons to Keep: Despite his nickname ("Jumpy"), Geathers numbers don't jump off the page at you, but, with 10 years with the team, Geathers is the longest tenured Bengal. He is a solid player, would be a good rotational guy, he is a good locker room leader and the coaches like him.
Reasons to Cut: Geathers will be 31 at the start of the season, but it is an old 31 (10 yrs, 134 games). He is also coming off an elbow injury that cost him the entire 2013 season and he cost nearly $3M against the cap. Since his 10.5 sack season in 2006, Geathers has averaged just 2.66 sacks per year in the 6 seasons since. He is a player that is unlikely to be picked up if cut, so in the worst case scenario, the Bengals could potentially cut him and bring him back at a much lower number.
Base Salary: $2,300,000
Cap Number: $3,000,000
Cap Savings: $2,500,000
Odds of Being Released: 60%
Reasons to Keep: Speaking of good locker room guys, BJGE is about as good as they come. He is the epitome of a "team player" and though he only had 756 yards (3.4 YPC), he did have 7 touchdowns.
Reasons to Cut: First and foremost is performance. With just 756 yards and 3.4 YPC, 2013 was arguably BJGE's worst season of his career. After not fumbling once in his first four NFL seasons, BJGE has fumbled 5 times in the last two seasons and it has now been four years since he averaged 4 YPC. 7 touchdowns isn't bad, but it is deceiving. If not for one of the worst officiating calls of the year, it would have been 6. His average touchdown run was just 2.57 yards, 4 of his 7 touchdowns came from 2 yards out or less (5, 2, 1, 4, 1, 1, 4) and in 16 games and 220 carries, he managed just one run of 20 or more yards (25). In fact, he had more fumbles (2) than runs over 20 yards. BJGE also contributes nothing in the passing game (4 catches for 22 yards). These are the types of numbers that can easily be replaced if not improved on by a younger and much cheaper back. Lastly, BJGE will be 29 before the start of the season and though he doesn't have many carries on his legs (1,008) we all know the track record of running backs after they turn 30.
3) Kyle Cook
Base Salary: $2,500,000
Cap Number: $3,340,000
Cap Savings: $2,060,000
Odds of Being Released: 30%
Reasons to Keep: Cook is a veteran and great locker room guy. He knows the offense and according to ProFootball Focus, Cook is a "solid" starter. Lastly, at $2.5M, he is affordable.
Reasons to Cut: "Solid" is not exactly a glowing recommendation and in the very next breath, ProFootball Focus correctly pointed out that "Cook remains the weakest link on a strong unit." You don't have to have 30 years of coaching experience to see that Cook is often beaten and overwhelmed in both the run game and the pass game. The Bengals need to see improvement from Andy Dalton in 2014 and where he struggles most is against teams that can pressure him, especially with pressure up the middle. Upgrading at the center position would go a long way towards helping Dalton. Cook is a great guy and would be a very solid backup, but I have been looking for a top center since Rich Braham left after the 2006 season - after 5 years as the Bengals starter, I don't see Cook becoming that guy.
Base Salary: $1,100,000
Cap Number: $2,034,375
Cap Savings: $1,434,375
Odds of Being Released: 60%
Reasons to Keep: He is a former Defensive MVP and has an attitude and mean streak about him which opponents still respect, and with a cap number of just over $2M, he is very affordable.
Reasons to Cut: He turns 36 before the season and though opponents still respect him, they no longer fear him. For 9 years, Harrison terrorized quarter backs in the Steelers 3-4 defense. Unfortunately, he did not do the same in the Bengals 4-3 scheme. He just never seemed to fit in the Bengals defense and spent most games as a sideline observer. When he was in the game, the only times I noticed him was when I noticed him looking lost. I wasn't huge on the signing of Harrison to begin with, but I thought he might provide an "it" factor the Bengals haven't had since Takeo Spikes. With the exception of one amazing interception and return against the Browns, Harrison was about as visible as common sense in a Keeping Up with the Kardashian's episode. While he may be affordable, the question with Harrison is two-fold: 1) Does he want to still play? In interviews last year it seemed like his head was still in Pittsburgh and he didn't seem to embrace the fact that he was now a Bengal. And 2) is 31 tackles and 2.0 sacks worth $2M or could the Bengals find more production from a younger player? Don't expect Harrison to be cut before the draft, but with the DE/LB options the Bengals will have available in the draft, combined with Lamur, Porter and Joiner returning from injuries, Harrison could find himself on the outside of the NFL numbers game.
Base Salary: $1,900,000
Cap Number: $2,000,000
Cap Savings: $2,000,000
Odds of Being Released: 60% (if the Bengals draft a 1st round corner) - 30% if not
Reasons to Keep: Newman had a solid year and provides a good veteran presence both on the field and in the locker room.
Reasons to Cut: Newman will turn 36 days before the opener and Kirkpatrick started showing promise at the end of the year. The only way Kirkpatrick can improve is seeing the field, and if Hall is healthy and the Bengals decide to go with a 1st round corner, they may cut Newman so the young corners can begin to develop.
Base Salary: $1,000,000
Cap Number: $1,050,000
Cap Savings: $1,050,000
Odds of Being Released: 30%
Reasons to Keep: He is the special teams leader and doesn't cost much.
Reasons to Cut: He will turn 28 in the first month of the season and rarely contributes (on the field) outside of special teams. With a deep class of quality running backs in the 2014 draft and a high likelihood that the Bengals take one of them, Peerman may find his time with the Bengals coming to a close.
7) Josh Johnson
Base Salary: $730,000
Cap Number: $955,000
Cap Savings: $880,000
Odds of Being Released: 70%
Reasons to Keep: He is inexpensive and provides a running threat that Dalton does not.
Reasons to Cut: Johnson was Gruden's guy. He was brought in because he knew Gruden's system. With accuracy concerns and Hue calling the plays in 2014, Johnson will likely be replaced by someone who 1) fits Hue's system and 2) can provide some competition and push for Dalton - Josh Johnson cannot push Dalton.
8) Rey Maualuga
Base Salary: $2,250,000
Cap Number: $3,828,125
Cap Savings: $2,703,125
Odds of Being Released: 10%
Reasons to Keep: The Bengals just re-signed Maualuga last year and he played pretty well in 2013 - and coming from me, that says a lot!
Reasons to Cut: Maualuga has just one year left on his deal, they have a viable (and less expensive) replacement in Vinny Rey and cutting Maualuga would save the Bengals $2.7M in cap space. When the Bengals signed Maualuga last year, they did not believe they had a better option. However, with Vinny Rey outplaying Maualuga in 2013, the Bengals may feel comfortable letting Maualuga walk just one year after re-signing him.