The Packers took Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but, like all of Green Bay's first-round selections since the CBA was updated in 2011, was deemed unworthy of having his fifth-year option exercised. The decision is fully justified, as Jones has been disappointingly average in his tenure as a Packer thus far and would command a hefty $6.57 million. However, defensive coordinator Dom Capers hasn't written off the UCLA product quite yet. Jones will reportedly shift to an 'elephant linebacker' role in 2016 as a means for him to play both alongside, and in place of, teammate Julius Peppers. Should Jones prove effective in his new role, he may earn a deal similar to that of Green Bay's 2012 first-round pick, Nick Perry, who signed a one-year, $5 million contract after having his own fifth-year option declined a year before.
Liuget had tallied 34 tackles (28 solo) and three sacks before his Week 13 injury against the Broncos. The 26-year-old, who signed a five-year extension prior to last year's training camp, reportedly weighed between 313-315 pounds throughout the 2015 season, but is expecting to cut his weight down to 295 by the season opener. With the Chargers selecting Joey Bosa with the third overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Liuget and Bosa could form an impressive duo on the defensive line capable of wreaking havoc on opposing offenses should both players stay healthy.
The soon-to-be nine-year veteran, a free-agent acquisition from the Giants, saw 2.5 of his 9.5 sacks in 2015 come when he was shifted inside, a strategy that he commends his former coaches for implementing. With the addition of Spence, considered by some to be the most gifted pass rusher in the draft, Ayers can foresee opportunities at tackle in his first Bucs season as well, particularly after what he put on film last season. "I think that's something that (the Bucs) saw that I do extremely well,'' Ayers said of kicking inside. "And I definitely think I'm in a situation here where they're going to try to utilize me the way Coach Nunn and Coach Spags did. I think they're going to put me in position to be successful.''
The move isn't a total surprise given the cap gymnastics general manager John Elway will have to go through in the coming years to keep more prominent players in Denver. Williams contributed three sacks to the Broncos' 2015 pass rush as he put together his best season under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and line coach Bill Kollar. If he takes another step, Williams could still see a payday in 2017. If not, 2015 sixth-rounder Darius Kilgo and reclamation project Phil Taylor could emerge.
Mingo has managed just seven sacks in three seasons since being the sixth overall pick in 2013, so it's no surprise that the Browns declined his option, which would have paid him around $12 million in 2017. As a result, Mingo will become an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming campaign, when he'll aim to improve his pass rushing numbers with the help of about 20 pounds of muscle added this offseason.
Ogletree was limited to only four games played last season due to a fractured fibula suffered in October, but was rather productive through his first two NFL seasons, totaling 228 tackles, 10 forced fumbles and three interceptions over that span. Although he'll be coming back from injury this year, Ogletree is expected to start at middle linebacker for the Rams, who released long-time defender James Laurinaitis earlier this offseason. Along with that move, Los Angeles' decision to exercise Ogletree's option provides a further vote a confidence that he'll remain a key contributor through the 2017 campaign.
The 32nd overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Elam struggled mightily through his first two seasons, then missed all of 2015 with a torn biceps. He should be healthy for training camp but will likely just compete for backup role. The Ravens signed Eric Weddle to start at one safety spot, and they're expected to test out converted cornerback Lardarius Webb at the other.
Culliver signed a four-year, $32 million deal with the Redskins just last offseason, but made only six appearances for Washington prior to suffering a torn ACL and MCL during a November practice. Not only is Culliver a high-priced veteran coming off an injury, but the Redskins also drafted cornerback Kendall Fuller in the third round, and made a huge splash by adding All-Pro corner Josh Norman recently as well. Given those considerations, the 27-year-old Culliver was made expendable and will now look to land elsewhere prior to the season.
Harrison recently completed a six-week training period that helped him determine that he'll indeed return for a 14th NFL season. All but one of those have come with the Steelers, for whom he posted 40 tackles and five sacks as a 37-year-old last season. Clearly still capable of making an impact, Harrison will once again provide valuable depth and experience to the Steelers' defense this time around.
Ansah was drafted as a high-upside prospect at No. 5 overall in 2013 and has since emerged into one of the NFL's premier pass rushers. Through three seasons, he's totaled 30 sacks, including a career-best 14.5 last season, which accompanied 47 tackles and four forced fumbles as well. A fast-rising talent, Ansah will remain with the Lions through 2017, when his salary is expected to rise to $12.7 million.