As the 2012 fantasy season comes to a close, Rotoworld's football pages will morph into NFL offseason guides. We fancy ourself the premier player news site on the internet, and will cover coaching changes, free agency, trades, and April's draft with the same dedication we did during the regular season. It's become cliche at this point to say "There is No Offseason" in the NFL. It's true, though. And year-round Rotoworld readers know it.
Draft analyst Josh Norris, along with budding-star columnists Eric Stoner and Alen Dumonjic, have kept Rotoworld's new NFL Draft page brimming with analysis of the next pro stars and will continue to as the Senior Bowl, Scouting Combine, and Pro Day season approach. Nick Mensio has already outlined our 2013 NFL Free Agent Master List, keeping you up to date with all impending unrestricted and restricted free agents around the league.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be examining potential offseason salary cap casualties and trade candidates, based on performance and contract situations. Quarterback is the single most important position in professional sports, so we'll kick things off with a breakdown of signal callers who may become available this offseason. Bang Mensio's list for the top quarterback free agents.
Michael Vick -- Vick turns 33 in June and is owed a non-guaranteed $15.5 million salary in 2013. The Eagles can cut him shortly after the Super Bowl with a $0 salary cap hit, but may reconsider if they land Oregon's Chip Kelly to replace Andy Reid. Rookie Nick Foles remains a raw, developmental project and would be a poor fit for Kelly's speed-spread offense. Should Kelly surface elsewhere (Panthers?), the Eagles would likely part ways with Vick, and the Jets are expected to be in hot pursuit.
Carson Palmer -- Coming off a season in which his statistics were padded handsomely by deficit-induced comeback mode, Palmer is owed a non-guaranteed $13 million salary in 2013. The Raiders could create short-term cap relief by releasing Palmer, though the odds favor him returning as a placeholder veteran in front of a rookie the organization drafts in April. Palmer is more likely to be let go in 2014.
Ryan Fitzpatrick -- Fitzpatrick, 30, is due a $3 million roster bonus in March, in addition to a 2013 base salary of $4.25 million. The Bills can save nearly $500,000 in salary cap space by releasing him before the bonus comes due. GM Buddy Nix has spoken openly of replacing Fitzpatrick, ideally on draft day, as the Harvard grad has established himself as a backup-caliber quarterback.
Kevin Kolb -- 30-year-old Kolb is due $11 million in non-guaranteed salary and bonuses in 2013, including a March roster bonus of $2 million. Myriad injuries have limited Kolb to 14 starts the past two years, and he's been mostly ineffective when healthy. The Cards flirted with Peyton Manning last spring, confirming their lack of long-term faith in Kolb. Expect him to be released before the bonus date.
Matt Cassel -- Turnover machine Cassel accounted for just seven touchdowns compared to 19 combined interceptions and fumbles lost in eight 2012 starts, ultimately getting benched for Brady Quinn. Despite Quinn's struggles, the Chiefs never turned back to Cassel. He's due $7.5 million in non-guaranteed salary in 2013, and would make sense as Tom Brady's backup in New England again once cut. Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has always had an affinity for Cassel.
Matt Hasselbeck -- Jake Locker has shown few signs of stabilizing the quarterback position in Tennessee, but it's even more obvious that Hasselbeck isn't the answer. Noodle-armed at age 37, Hasselbeck's downfield passing ability has evaporated and he's become increasingly interception prone. The Titans are unlikely to pay Hasselbeck's non-guaranteed $5.5 million salary for a clear backup whose only real value would be to continue serving as Locker's clipboard-holding mentor.
Tim Tebow -- Both the Jets and Tebow have determined that New York is no longer the right place for him after 2012's failed attempt at a Wildcat offense under spitball coordinator Tony Sparano. Tebow's $2,586,875 salary will make him virtually impossible to trade, so look for the Jaguars and perhaps Rams to pursue Tebow after the Jets release him sometime in February.
Charlie Whitehurst -- Always oddly held in high regard by Chargers GM A.J. Smith, Whitehurst's days are numbered with Smith and coach Norv Turner's bags all but packed in San Diego. Whitehurst's $1.3 million salary will be easy to slash from the Bolts' payroll as they pursue a backup quarterback with some semblance of long-term potential.
More Murky Futures:
Philip Rivers -- Rivers is more likely to stay put than be traded or released, but outlooks can change quickly for struggling players in new regimes. While Rivers is owed a relatively hefty $12 million in 2013 base salary -- none of which is guaranteed -- he could likely still fetch an early-round pick on the trade market. Although his arm strength has faded at 31 years old, Rivers should have at least two or three competitive seasons left.
Josh Freeman -- Freeman's 2012 fantasy stats seemingly make him an unlikely candidate to be shopped this offseason, but his on-field performance was far less impressive than the box scores indicate. Freeman's late-season collapse also sends up a red flag for his future in Bucs OC Mike Sullivan's scheme. At the very least, Freeman should face competition for his starting job in 2013. The erratic 25-year-old passer is owed an $8.43 million salary in the last year of his rookie deal.
Alex Smith -- Masterfully manipulated into an efficient passer by 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, Smith was benched for Colin Kaepernick at midseason and has played his last down in San Francisco. Smith turns 29 in May and is due $8.5 million in salary and bonus money. Only $1 million of the base pay is guaranteed. Look for Smith to be dealt to the highest bidder this spring.
Kirk Cousins -- Although he's been the subject of trade speculation after effective 2012 spot play off the bench, Cousins is far likelier to stay in D.C. as Robert Griffin III's backup next season. Cousins has displayed impressive command of the Shanahans' offense, is due just $480,000 in 2013, and offers ideal insurance behind an injury-risk starter. Perhaps he will be traded in 2014.
Matt Flynn -- Flynn's 2012 "benching" occurred far earlier than Alex Smith's, but the two are in similar situations entering 2013. Both veterans lost their jobs to young, legitimately franchise-caliber passers and are game-manager types with limited on-field skill sets. Flynn would be easier for his current team to keep than Smith, though. Flynn is owed a reasonable $5.25 million -- $3.25 million less than Smith -- and could just as soon return for one more year as Russell Wilson's backup.
Ryan Mallett -- If the aforementioned dot connecting accurately reunites Cassel with McDaniels, the Patriots could put strong-armed, 24-year-old Mallett on the trade block. His cheap contract would appeal to cap-strapped quarterback-needy teams, and Mallett flashed in preseason games while beating out Brian Hoyer to be Tom Brady's top backup. Mallett probably remains more likely to spend one more season in Foxboro.
Colt McCoy -- McCoy was the subject of trade rumors this past offseason, but the Browns saw fit to keep him reserved as first-round pick Brandon Weeden's backup. The time has come for Cleveland to move on, as McCoy enters the final year of his rookie contract with no intention from the team of keeping him long term. Another veteran quarterback with game manager-caliber talent, McCoy could probably fetch a late-round pick from a team running a West Coast offense.
Mark Sanchez -- One offseason after guaranteeing him $20.5 million -- including all of his $8.25 million 2013 base salary -- the delusional Jets front office has internally considered trading the quarterback once absurdly nicknamed "Sanchize." They'd be lucky to get a bag of punctured footballs in light of Sanchez's on-field performance, and the contract makes him completely untradeable. Perhaps they'll bite the bullet and cut him outright.
John Skelton -- Skelton's market value is scant after a 2012 season long on opportunity and much shorter on effective play. The Cardinals' organization clearly seems poised to cut ties, and would probably be willing to deal Skelton for a seventh-round pick. Skelton has many flaws, but he's a 24-year-old quarterback with a big arm, starting experience, and one cheap season left on his rookie contract.
Terrelle Pryor -- An unwanted holdover from the Al Davis regime, Pryor failed to earn significant playing time in GM Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen's first season, keeping the bench warm behind Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Pryor cost the Raiders a third-round pick in the 2011 supplemental draft, but wouldn't garner better than late-round offers on the trade market.
Jimmy Clausen -- Clausen didn't play a single offensive snap in 2012 as the third-stringer behind Cam Newton and Derek Anderson. Now entering the final year of his rookie deal, Clausen is not in the Panthers' long-term picture. They'd likely accept a seventh-round pick for him, and happily.
Ricky Stanzi -- Stanzi is signed cheaply through 2014, but he's yet to play a regular season down in his career and ominously couldn't get on the field even as Kansas City trudged through an arguably league-worst quarterback situation in 2012. His fate will be determined by a new front office with no allegiance Stanzi.