NFL: Preseason-New York Jets at New York Giants

This time every year, we get a wave of rookies who were picked to unseat veterans and ultimately lead to the roster demise of those elder players.

With the rookie wage scale in place for over a decade now, the cost of young, springy players makes it alluring for teams to utilize them as contributors over pricey, established players even if there's some element of unknown with the first-year pros. 

Let's take a look at the veterans most likely on the chopping block after the draft. While these transactions can of course happen across the entire league, they're typically most prevalent on the clubs over or near the salary cap. I've narrowed my focus to teams that are likely to be looking for more financial breathing room heading into the summer. 

Cap savings if released: $15.4M pre-June 1 and post-June 1
Potential rookie replacement: Will McDonald IV

Lawson was good for the Jets in 2022, no doubt about it. Rugged run defender, high-energy outside rusher. Registered 49 pressures and seven sacks in his first season with Gang Green. Was Lawson tremendous? Can't say that. Those 49 pressures came on over 430 pass-rushing snaps. That close to 11% pressure-creation rate is relatively low for an alpha rusher, particularly one who's olderish and, most critically, expensive. 

The Jets picked McDonald, a similarly sized defender to Lawson, at No. 15 overall. Not to mention, GM Joe Douglas jumped back into the first round of the 2022 draft to pick ... edge rusher Jermaine Johnson and, ironically, got better pressure efficiency from last year's fifth-round pick Micheal Clemons at the same position. 

Yes, it seems like this Jets team is all in with Aaron Rodgers and Co., meaning there's no way they'd cut or trade an established commodity like Lawson on Robert Saleh's defense. But crazier things have happened, and when it comes to roster spots in the NFL, younger, cheaper labor typically wins out. 

Cap savings if released: $1.5M
Potential rookie replacement: Marvin Mims

This one is clear as day. I'm actually surprised Hamler's on the roster right now. Why's that? Because Sean Payton's first selection in Denver was the comparably sized, speedster wideout Marvin Mims to be the genuine vertical scorcher in his offense. 

Hamler has explosiveness himself, he's just simply been unable to stay healthy in the NFL and hasn't been overly productive when he's been on the field. 

Only 24 years old, Hamler would probably have a hefty market if/when he's released by the Broncos

Cap savings if released: $8.26M pre-June 1 and post-June 1
Potential rookie replacement: Derick Hall

Nwosu was an integral part of the Seahawks' defense in 2022, playing on nearly 80% of the snaps and littering the stat sheet with production. He had 66 tackles and 9.5 sacks. But I don't think it'd be bonkers if Seattle let him go. And my reasoning has many layers. 

Per OverTheCap, Seattle is "effectively" over the cap by more than $4M, the highest figure in the NFL. That means the Seahawks are aligned to be over the cap once they account for their top 51 salaries and draft class.

Also, in the last calendar year, Pete Carroll and John Schneider have added Boye Maye -- a 2022 second-round pick -- Derick Hall -- a 2023 second-round pick -- and spent a fifth-round choice on Mike Morris a few weeks ago. They'll be getting back Tyreke Smith too, a fifth-round pick from 2022, who missed his rookie season due to injury. Nwosu's inclusion on this list isn't to suggest he's as good as gone, but at his current price, with the youth around him on the edge of Seattle's defensive line, he could be expendable. 

Cap savings if released: $2.7M pre-June 1 and post-June 1
Potential rookie replacement: Felix Anudike-Uzomah

The Chiefs have now spent back-to-back first-round picks at the edge-rusher position -- George Karlaftis and Felix Anudike-Uzomah. Of course, given their clear win-now status, Kansas City is much more likely to keep veteran pieces than let them go, and Danna has been a good soldier on outstanding Chiefs teams.  

But clearing close to $3M could be enticing for GM Brett Veach, and we can't forget Kansas acquired Charles Omenihu this offseason. He's an inside-out defensive lineman who'll add more depth in the trenches. Despite Danna giving the Chiefs sound ROI on a fifth-round pick from 2020, the club has since added higher picks and spent at the defensive end spot in hopes of giving Chris Jones more help up front. 

Cap savings if released: $8.5M pre-June 1 and post-June 1
Potential rookie replacement: Emmanuel Forbes

Fuller is still a reliable outside cornerback, fresh off a fine 2022 campaign. But suddenly, there's competition at cornerback in Washington. Beyond the young and super-long Benjamin St-Juste, there's now first-round playmaker Emmanuel Forbes in the cornerback room. 

Cam Dantzler was added off waivers this offseason too. Does Washington want to trot out such a young cornerback group in 2023? Probably not. But per OverTheCap, the Commanders are set to be over the cap. That nearly $9M in savings would go a long way on the books. 

Cap savings if released: $8.9M pre-June 1, $19.4M post-June 1
Potential rookie replacement: Michael Wilson

It still doesn't make much sense for the Cardinals to have Hopkins on the roster. I understand that every new GM and head coach want to win immediately. So it's not as if Monti Ossenfort and Jonathan Gannon are content punting on their debut seasons in those roles in Arizona simply because the roster is well behind the vast majority of the NFL. 

However, those two must realize the club isn't close to competing at a serious level even in a watered-down NFC. And the value for soon-to-be 31-year-old Hopkins drops every day. Those savings figures are sizable, particularly if Hopkins is released with that useful post-June 1 designation that'd spread the dead cap hit over two years. 

No, the Cardinals can't expect Michael Wilson to fill the superstar-sized void that'd be created if Hopkins was gone. But spending a third-round pick on a low-volume perimeter wideout, who labored through an injury-plagued career at Stanford, indicated they wanted to emphasize being prepared to fill that outside receiver spot if Hopkins simply needs to be released or traded for the long-term betterment of the organization.