2015 Release Candidates: NFC West

Most clubs have fairly set rosters at this point, as OTA, minicamp, and preseason performances won’t do much to alter roster composition. The majority of key releases came in March, but there are still several scenarios where certain contributors could lose their roster spot in the coming months. For the most part, we’ll focus on situations where the cap savings would be in excess of $1MM.

Because free agency has already passed, financial ramifications won’t play a huge role in these decisions; there aren’t a ton of high-profile free agents on which to spend that saved money, so these calls will mostly be made based on performance. However, any cap space saved through these potential releases could be rolled over into 2016, so that’s something clubs have to consider.

We’ve already looked at the AFC EastNFC East, AFC NorthNFC North, AFC South, and NFC South, and AFC West, so let’s wrap up with the NFC West…

Arizona Cardinals:

  • Lorenzo Alexander, LB: Alexander, 32, is basically a special-teams only player at this point in his career; he saw 336 special teams snaps in 2014, as opposed to just 51 on defense. For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus didn’t rate him positively even on special teams duty, handing him a -4.0 grade (subscription required). But Alexander is regarded as a valuable veteran presence on Arizona’s roster, and given that the club would save less than $2MM by releasing him, he will probably make the final 53. Prediction: not released.
  • Ted Larsen, G: Larsen had a forgettable 2014 season, during which ranked as the league’s No. 68 guard among 78 qualifiers, per PFF. He won’t be playing left guard again, as the Cardinals handed Mike Iupati $40MM to handle that spot on the offensive line, but Larsen is actually listed atop Arizona’s depth chart at center. But the Cardinals were apparently so displeased with Larsen’s (and A.Q Shipley’s) camp performance that they re-signed last year’s starting center Lyle Sendlein, whom PFF graded as the league’s second-worst center in 2014, in the hopes that he’d be an improvement. Getting replaced by a player of Sendlein’s caliber isn’t a great look for Larsen, and given that Arizona can save $2.2MM by releasing Larsen, I don’t think he’ll last the summer. Prediction: released.

San Francisco 49ers:

  • Ahmad Brooks, LB: Any discussion of a San Francisco release candidate has to be couched with the knowledge that the club has lost a good amount of talent during the offseason. No position on the 49ers’ roster has been more affected by offseason losses than linebacker — Chris Borland and Patrick Willis both announced their retirement, while Aldon Smith was released yesterday following an arrest. So even though Brooks lost playing time last season (and wasn’t effective when he did play, grading as a bottom-five 3-4 outside linebacker per PFF), the team will rely on him as its top OLB in 2015. The Niners could save about $4.7MM by releasing the 31-year-old Brooks, but when their other option at outside ‘backer are rookies Eli Harold and Marcus Rush, the club will gladly by the price to keep Brooks. Prediction: not released.
  • Vernon Davis, TE: The 49ers’ offense didn’t take quite the offseason hit that did the team’s defense, but San Francisco’s starting 11 is noticeably lacking in terms of playmakers. That descriptor might no longer fit Davis, who caught just 26 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns last year, his worst totals since his rookie season. Davis publicly complained about his contract status last summer, but never received a new deal, and now the club save $4.9MM in cap space by cutting him. Earlier this week, however, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said that he’s interested in working out an extension with Davis, so the 31-year-old tight end will definitely stick around for 2015. Prediction: not released.

Seattle Seahawks:

  • Brandon Mebane, DT: The Seahawks don’t have much cap space to work with after extending both Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, and with that in mind, they released Mebane’s running mate at defensive tackle — Tony McDaniel — earlier this week. Clubs don’t need a ton of cap space to get through the season — Seattle should be fine with its ~$4.9MM — but Mebane’s roster spot still could be in jeopardy for several reasons. First, Mebane is coming off an injury-plagued 2014 season; he was placed on injure reserve in November after suffering a hamstring injury. Second, if the Seahawks did feel that they needed more cap room, Mebane would be the logical candidate to go, as the club could save $5.5MM by cutting him. But with McDaniel gone, Seattle probably wants some stability on the interior of its defensive line, and Mebane was a solid player as recently as 2013. Prediction: not released.

St. Louis Rams:

  • Isaiah Pead, RB: It’s been a quick fall to irrelevance for Pead, whom the Rams selected out of the University of Cincinnati in the second round of the 2012 draft. After garnering just 17 rushing attempts through his first two seasons, Pead missed the entire 2014 season after tearing his ACL. He recently accepted a pay cut, lowering his base salary from about $940K all the way down to the minimum. But I wonder if St. Louis is even interested in paying Pead that much — he’s buried on the deptch chart behind Todd Gurley, Tre Mason, and Benny Cunningham, and he isn’t a real factor on special teams, having hovered around 15% ST participation during his first two years in the league. Prediction: waived.
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