Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com with lists of possible big cuts coming up in the next few weeks. First in the NFC:
Strong candidates for release
1) Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: This is not the first offseason with Peterson’s future in doubt. Even before Peterson named some potential landing spots on ESPN or broke down the Giants’ offseason on Twitter Rapsheet style, it was obvious the Vikings couldn’t bring him back on his $18 million cap figure.
Peterson knows a pay cut is coming, yet it’s inevitable that things get awkward when he finds out how steep that pay cut is. The NFL just doesn’t pay for soon-to-be 32-year-old runners coming off injury who don’t play on passing downs. An uncomfortable fit with Sam Bradford’s shotgun-heavy tendencies, this finally feels like the year Peterson charges ahead to another team.
2) Sharrif Floyd, DT, Minnesota Vikings: My editors learned this week that teams can cut former first-round picks heading into their “fifth-year option” season with no cap repercussions. Yes, that makes these options even more precarious than the usual management-friendly NFL contracts written in erasable ink. Floyd, due $6.76 million, played only one game in 2016 after knee surgery and coach Mike Zimmer didn’t hide his frustration in response. (Hiding frustration is not Zimmer’s strong suit.)
3) Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears: Chicago’s tortured season-ticket base might revolt if the Bears bring Cutler back again. The concept that the team could retain him is likely a bid for leverage, an effort to extract a low draft pick as compensation for this hollow era in franchise history. It’s a hopeless stance the Bears should give up on before free agency starts.
4) Lamarr Houston, OLB and 5) Eddie Royal, WR, Chicago Bears: Two ACL tears in three seasons should spell the end of Houston’s hard-luck time in Chicago. The team is reasonably deep with edge rushers. The Bears paid Royal, Cutler’s old buddy, a lot of guap the last two seasons for 18 combined games and 607 receiving yards.
6) Connor Barwin, DE, 7) Ryan Mathews, RB and 8) Jason Kelce, C, Philadelphia Eagles: Get ready for Howie Roseman Season. Barwin and Mathews are near-certain goners, clearing the deck for some big-ticket signings. Cutting them both would save nearly $12 million in cap room. Barwin said he is willing to take a pay cut to stay, but he doesn’t fit Jim Schwartz’s defense. Kelce would be tougher to release, but he’s due $5 million and coach Doug Pederson said last season he wouldn’t hesitate to play 2016 third-round draft pick Isaac Seumalo at center. General manager Howie Roseman was noncommittal when asked about Kelce’s future in January.
9) Doug Free, OT, Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones always wriggles free of the Cowboys’ salary-cap issues and will no doubt do it again with restructured contracts and other creative accounting tricks. Cutting loose Free to save $5 million after a down season for the 33-year-old right tackle also makes sense.
10) Jairus Byrd, S, New Orleans Saints: Not long ago, he was ranked No. 1 on our list of top free agents. It’s telling that Byrd’s nondescript 2016 season felt like a victory for the Saints, just because he stayed on the field. Few entrenched NFL operatives pile up dead money for free agency mistakes like Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis.
11) Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers: Whether Kaepernick opts out of his contract or the 49ers release him, there’s no chance the QB will return at his $19,365,753 cap number. It would be surprising if an organization starting from scratch again held on to such a vital reminder of the Jim Harbaugh era.
Romo gets his own category
If this offseason is one big Tony Romo speculation game, it’s only just reached the second quarter. Since so much has been written already, I’ll keep this brief. Romo is still more likely to be traded than released because of the desperate quarterback situations around the league. The clearest path toward Romo getting cut is if he pushes for it to speed up the process. Perhaps that’s where his close relationship with the Jones family helps, like it did when he signed his last contract.
1) Jason Peters, OT and 2) Mychal Kendricks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are caught in a tough spot with Peters. His play is declining at 35 years old, but do they really want to create a hole at tackle by releasing him? (Lane Johnson would likely move to left tackle, but the team would need to find a new right tackle.)
ESPN reported the Eagles already asked Peters to take a pay cut and teams don’t usually go that route unless they are prepared to make a change. PhillyVoice.com reported that Kendricks, a promising young linebacker, is on the trade block. The Eagles should be able to get at least a late-round pick for him if they are patient.
3) DeAndre Levy, LB and 4) Haloti Ngata, DT, Detroit Lions: General manager Bob Quinn has plenty of cap room, so either of these moves would be surprising — yet understandable. Levy has barely played the last two seasons and wasn’t his usual self in 2016 when he did suit up. The fact that the previous regime, not Quinn, signed both players puts them on the radar.
5) Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers: Coach Ron Rivera spoke about Stewart in the future tense this offseason and the Panthers have plenty of cap room, so releasing Stewart would be an upset. He wasn’t the problem in the Carolina backfield last season, but he is due more than $6 million in total compensation, so a release couldn’t be a total shock.
6) Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Martin’s suspension could strangely help him keep his roster spot. The team could evaluate Martin up close in the offseason before deciding how to proceed, but it would be stunning if he came back at his current $7 million salary. The team has too much leverage.
Other potential cuts
1) DeAngelo Hall, S, Washington Redskins: The team could work out a pay cut for Hall, who has missed most of the last three seasons. Or they could decide it’s not worth the trouble.
2) Michael Oher, OT, Carolina Panthers: General manager Dave Gettleman raised questions about Oher’s football future after a concussion sidelined him most of last season.
3) Ahmad Brooks, LB and 4) Zane Beadles, OG, San Francisco 49ers: Brooks has survived four head-coaching changes in San Francisco despite a sketchy off-field track record and declining play. That should change with his cap figure at $6.148 million. Beadles is a reminder of why general manager Trent Baalke lost his job.
5) Brian Robison, DE, Minnesota Vikings: After 10 seasons in Minnesota, Robison said he was ready to move into a backup role behind Danielle Hunter. He could be back at a reduced salary.
6) Justin Bethel, CB, Arizona Cardinals: It’s never a great sign when the head coach calls you a “failure in progress.”
7) Lance Kendricks, TE, Los Angeles Rams: Well-respected by the organization, Kendricks’ production doesn’t match his salary.
8) Alterraun Verner, CB, 9) George Johnson, DE and 10) Evan Smith, C, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: These are three free agency ghosts of the Buccaneers’ recent past who are likely to be put out to sea.
And in the AFC:
Strong candidates for release
1) Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: It can get awkward when a franchise legend’s salary-cap number exceeds his value. Charles has played only eight games over the last two seasons because of knee injuries, and general manager John Dorsey is digging for cap room. The team can save $6.187 million by cutting Charles, money that can be used to sign safety Eric Berry.
2) Darrelle Revis, CB and 3) Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets: The Revis reunion tour has churned out diminishing hits and acrimony. There’s no chance the Jets want an encore with Revis set to make a quarterback’s salary in 2017. If Revis is the best Jets draft pick this century (14th overall in 2007), Mangold (29th overall in 2006) might be No. 2. The team can save $9.075 million by releasing the 33-year-old center, who missed half of last season with an ankle injury. GM Mike Maccagnan should embrace a rebuild.
4) Mario Williams, DE and 5) Branden Albert, LT, Miami Dolphins: This is the second straight year Williams has made this list as a near-certainty to get cut. That’s a sign that his career is nearly over, unless he wants to continue playing at a drastically reduced salary. Unlike Williams, Albert was a terrific free-agent signing by Miami. But that signing happened in 2014, and the Dolphins have since stumbled upon a future star left tackle in Laremy Tunsil. Albert’s play tailed off in 2016, and the team can save $7.2 million in cap room by cutting him.
(UPDATE: NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports the Dolphins are releasing both Williams and Albert.)
6) Robert Griffin III, QB, Cleveland Browns: Hue Jackson talking up RGIII in public is understandable. Browns fans trying to convince themselves Griffin is a palatable option again is much harder to understand. This move needs to happen for my friend Marc Sessler’s sanity, if nothing else.
7) Nick Foles, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: Fun fact: Foles is due $6.4 million in 2017 compensation, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, which would rank 28th among quarterbacks. Tom Brady is No. 22 on that list. Football is strange.
(Also strange: It’s easy to imagine Foles starting in Week 1 for a team like the Bills, Jets or Bears. Garafolo reports the Chiefs are unlikely to pick up the option in Foles’ contract.)
8) Elvis Dumervil, LB, Baltimore Ravens: Dumervil arrived in Baltimore just after the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, having left Denver just before the Broncos’ two Super Bowl appearances. Perhaps that’s why such an excellent career (99 sacks, two first-team All-Pro nods) has been so overlooked. GM Ozzie Newsome has a lot of work to do on the Ravens’ defense, and dodging Dumervil’s $8.375 million cap figure is one obvious place to start.
9) Adam Jones, CB and 10) Rey Maualuga, LB, Cincinnati Bengals: Jones’ latest off-field issue and Maualuga’s on-field limitations could mean the end in Cincinnati for two longtime defensive stalwarts.
11) Jared Odrick, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars: Odrick has the second-highest cap figure ($8.5 million) on the Jaguars — and he probably would be best used as a rotational defensive end.
12) Russell Okung, LT, Denver Broncos: John Elway has until March 8 to pick up $19.5 million guaranteed over the next two years of Okung’s contract, an option the team almost surely will decline. The offensive line has vexed Elway for a few years now, especially at tackle.
13) Brandon Flowers, CB and 14) D.J. Fluker, OG, Los Angeles Chargers: Flowers has suffered four concussions the last three seasons and said in January he’s “got to pray about” the possibility of retiring. Fluker was GM Tom Telesco’s first draft pick with the organization, but no amount of loyalty should make the team pay him $8.8 million on the fifth-year option it exercised last year. Cutting pricey free-agent pickup guard Orlando Franklin could also be a possibility.
The Tyrod dilemma
Sanity can still prevail in Buffalo with what NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport called the “very real” possibility that Tyrod Taylor stays with the team on an adjusted contract. Taylor fits new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison’s scheme well, and the Bills are unlikely to find a better quarterback in free agency or on the trade market.
Still, there’s a chance that the Bills will cut Taylor before the March 11 deadline to exercise an option that would guarantee him $30.75 million. The Browns, among other teams, could be waiting in the wings to see if Buffalo GM Doug Whaley completes his quest to rid the Bills of any competent quarterbacks.
Potential surprise names
1) Brandon Marshall, WR and 2) David Harris, LB, New York Jets: Marshall’s salary ($7.5 million) isn’t outrageous for a solid starting receiver, which Marshall should be in 2017. The question is whether Marshall will get in the way of younger players, specifically Robby Anderson. Harris has long been an unheralded rock for the Jets and should only be released if Mike Maccagnan goes Full Rebuild.
3) LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills (and possibly other high-priced teammates): This would admittedly be a stunning move, but bear with my logic.
McCoy is a very awkward fit in new coordinator Rick Dennison’s one-cut running attack. The Bills could decide to risk letting McCoy go a year too early rather than hold on to him a year too long. If the team designates McCoy a post-June 1 cut, they get $6.25 million in cap room and — more importantly — save $6 million in cash to spend elsewhere. The Bills have a number of high-priced players who may no longer work with the new coaching staff. Tight end Charles Clay is paid like a superstar for role-player production, although his contract makes him difficult to cut. Defensive end Jerry Hughes and defensive tackle Kyle Williams are also questionable fits with new coach Sean McDermott. GM Doug Whaley may be loath to blow this team up because of the dead money involved, but there’s a case to be made to start clearing the decks.
4) Jason McCourty, CB, Tennessee Titans: This would be a surprise primarily because he’s the only guy you know in the Tennessee secondary.
Other potential cuts
1) Danny Amendola, WR and 2) Sebastian Vollmer, RT, New England Patriots: Amendola is like a groundhog that only comes out on Super Bowl Sundays. He will have to take a pay cut for a third straight offseason to stick in Foxborough. Vollmer is a wonderful German teacher and host, but the Patriots have committed to right tackle Marcus Cannon long term, while Vollmer missed 2016.
3) Sen’Derrick Marks, DT and 4) Davon House, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars: These defenders might not get the playing time to warrant their big salaries.
5) Arthur Jones, DT, Indianapolis Colts: Look for a lot of ex-GM Ryan Grigson’s signings to leave the building.
6) Ryan Clady, LT and 7) Marcus Gilchrist, S, New York Jets: Did I mention the Jets are rebuilding?
(UPDATE: Clady is a free agent, as the Jets won’t be picking up his option for 2017, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported. Clady was due $10 million this upcoming season.)
8) Benjamin Watson, TE, Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens may also ask tight end Dennis Pitta to take a pay cut in order to return.
9) Shareece Wright, CB and 10) Kyle Arrington, CB, Baltimore Ravens: It’s hard to overstate how many areas on defense the Ravens need to address this offseason. Cornerback is near the top of the list, and it’s possible the team could move on from safety Lardarius Webb, too.
11) Dan Williams, NT, Oakland Raiders: Conditioning issues have plagued the nose tackle, who is getting starter money for a part-time role.