Are you ready for mayhem?
The NFL offseason is usually filled with aging players getting axed by their team to save some valuable salary-cap space, but this year will be a much bloodier affair. With the 2021 NFL salary cap expected to drop to the $180 million range, most NFL teams will have to make some drastic cuts.
We’ve already seen players like J.J. Watt and Kyle Rudolph get released, and they likely won’t be the last. No team will be safe, so let’s take a look at one key player from every team that could become a cap casualty.
Arizona Cardinals: Robert Alford, $7.5 million
Robert Alford has been held back by injuries, which means he’s just not living up to his hefty salary. Plus, the rest of the Arizona secondary should be good enough to pick up the slack.
Atlanta Falcons: James Carpenter, $4 million
The Falcons have already been busy this offseason in dumping salaries. James Carpenter could be next on the chopping block for a team that is looking to get a lot younger.
Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Williams, $7.5 million
It would hurt to lose Brandon Williams from the Baltimore defensive line, especially since the Ravens are not far from being a Super Bowl contender. But there aren’t too many other ways the team will be able to save money this offseason.
Buffalo Bills: John Brown, $7.9 million
With Stefon Diggs in the fold, the Bills just don’t need John Brown that much, at least for $8 million. He’ll be missed, but they can probably find similar production elsewhere at a cheaper price, especially with the emergence of rookie sensation Gabriel Davis.
Carolina Panthers: Shaq Thompson, $10.2 million
The Panthers have already cut ties with Kawaan Short and Stephen Weatherly as they try to get younger on defense. Shaq Thompson could join them soon enough, as his salary doesn’t align with his production last season.
At this point, the extra money could be more valuable than keeping Thompson in Carolina.
Chicago Bears: Akiem Hicks, $10.5 million
For the Bears, it’ll likely either be Akiem Hicks or Kyle Fuller being asked to leave the Windy City. Jimmy Graham and Buster Skrine have already been victims, but losing Hicks could also free up some much-needed money for a team that needs to win now to save Matt Nagy’s job.
Cincinnati Bengals: Geno Atkins, $9.5 million
It’s going to be tough to part with Geno Atkins from an emotional standpoint. He’s been with the Bengals for such a long time. But if he gets cut, Cincinnati is going to have enough financial flexibility to make a few big moves this offseason
Cleveland Browns: Sheldon Richardson, $11.5 million
The Browns are desperate to dump a big salary like Sheldon Richardon’s $11.5 million. And with Richardson not quite living up to his price tag, Cleveland could free up some money and upgrade the position.
Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Brown, $2.75 million
Anthony Brown hasn’t performed up to standards with the Cowboys, who should be able to put together a competent secondary without him. Plus, a little money saved will be important when they eventually give Dak Prescott a mega-deal.
Denver Broncos: Von Miller, $18 million
Coming off a serious knee injury, the former Super Bowl MVP may not be able to return to his old form, meaning he’s just worth the money he’s owed.
Detroit Lions: Desmond Trufant, $6.2 million
Both Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman are likely to leave Detroit this offseason. In addition to a new coaching staff, the Lions will likely overhaul the position and hope that former No. 3 pick Jeff Okudah can make the leap in Year Two.
Green Bay Packers: Preston Smith, $8 million
It's up in the air if Preston Smith will return to Green Bay next season. He could easily bounce back to his 2019 form. But if he doesn’t, the Packers may not want another year of him underperforming based on his salary.
Houston Texans: Benardrick McKinney, $6.4 million
Parting ways with Watt and Nick Martin was just the beginning for Houston. There are plenty more tough decisions ahead for the Texans, with Benardrick McKinney being the biggest name who could be cut.
Indianapolis Colts: Jack Doyle, $4.35 million
Jacksonville Jaguars: Brandon Linder, $8.6 million
Brandon Linder is among multiple offensive linemen who could be on the chopping block in Jacksonville. The Jags aren’t exactly scrambling to free up cap space, although a little more flexibility could go a long way for a team that’s about to welcome Trevor Lawrence into the fold.
Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Fisher, $11.3 million
Obviously, the Kansas City offensive line was a disaster without Eric Fisher in the Super Bowl. But the 30-year-old is now coming off a serious Achilles injury, so his future value could be diminished. Unless the Chiefs can restructure his deal, Fisher could become a cap casualty.
Las Vegas Raiders: Trent Brown, $14 million
If they can’t find a trade partner, cutting Brown isn’t out of the question.
Los Angeles Chargers: Trai Turner, $11.5 million
Trai Turner’s salary is too much for a guy who battled injuries in 2020. At a cheaper salary, the Chargers would surely like to keep him in front of Justin Herbert. But $11.5 million is too much money for a player who’s an injury risk.
Los Angeles Rams: Michael Brockers, $4.7 million
In theory, the L.A. defense should be able to survive without Michael Brockers. In fact, he might be a little easier to replace than a couple of the offensive linemen who are on the chopping block, as the Rams look to cut some payroll.
Miami Dolphins: Bobby McCain, $5.7 million
Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, $7.2 million
The Vikings don’t want to part with Anthony Barr, who is still well worth his salary. However, he’s coming off an injury and has made it clear that he doesn’t want to restructure his deal. That could force Minnesota’s hand if the Vikings need to free up some cap space.
New England Patriots: Julian Edelman, $3.4 million
Julian Edelman’s health is starting to fail him, almost to the point where he may decide to call it a career. The Patriots could make the decision a little easier by cutting him. After all, New England isn’t the sentimental type.
Of course, if Edelman wanted to keep playing, he’d probably just end up in Tampa with Tom Brady.
New Orleans Saints: Kwon Alexander, $13.2 million
The Saints don’t have much choice but to cut Alexander unless they can restructure his deal in a team-friendly manner.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, he probably won’t be the only notable player let go, giving the Saints several sizable holes to fill once they finish making cuts.
New York Giants: Kevin Zeitler, $12 million
In a perfect world, the Giants would re-work Kevin Zeitler’s contract and keep him long-term. On the other hand, he would save them a good chunk of money, perhaps allowing them to avoid cutting two or three other players who are on the chopping block.
New York Jets: Alex Lewis, $5.2 million
The Jets have already been busy this offseason and Alex Lewis could be the next to go. The team has plenty of open cap space, but Lewis seems like an easy cut based on his salary and his subpar performance.
Philadelphia Eagles: Zach Ertz, $4.7 million
With Kyle Rudolph being released for the Vikings, trading Zach Ertz becomes a little more challenging for the Eagles. There’s a chance they might have to part ways with the tight end to get under the salary cap and create some flexibility this offseason.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Joe Haden, $7 million
With Ben Roethlisberger coming back for another year, the Steelers have a lot more work to do to get under the cap. Cornerback Joe Haden is the most likely cap casualty, even if he doesn’t think it’ll come to that.
San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo, $24.1 million
It’s not impossible to think the 49ers could cut ties with Jimmy Garoppolo, just over a year after he led them to the Super Bowl. There have been plenty of rumblings that the team is ready to move on from the injury-riddled quarterback.
The Niners could easily part ways with the handsome signal-caller and take a minimal cap hit.
Seattle Seahawks: Carlos Dunlap, $14 million
The Seahawks will try to re-sign Carlos Dunlap on a cheaper contract, but cutting him seems unavoidable. He was a nice short-term acquisition for Seattle. However, his future with the Seahawks is far from clear.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cameron Brate, $6.5 million
It’ll likely be a choice between Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard for the Super Bowl champs. It’d be great to keep both, but they can win a Super Bowl with only one of them on the field, and a little bit of money could help them improve elsewhere as they gear up to defend their crown.
Tennessee Titans: Kenny Vaccaro, $3.9 million
Kenny Vacarro is good, but he’s not exactly an integral part of the Tennessee defense. In other words, the Titans will gladly find a cheaper alternative if it means saving a few million bucks.
Washington Football Team: Alex Smith, $14.7 million
Alex Smith deserves nothing but praise for the way he came back from that devastating injury and the role he played in helping Washington reach the playoffs in 2020. But good feelings aside, Smith is not worth keeping if it’ll save the team nearly $15 million.
He’ll be gone soon enough and looking for a new job, most likely as a backup.
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