As we head into the 2022 league year, several players serve as potential cut candidates. A large amount of those players will be depth options, with small contract and salary cap implications. However, there will be candidates to be cut in the 2022 NFL offseason who will create ripples in cap space and the potential rush to get them signed for next season.
A previous version of this article had Anthony Hitchens, Bobby Wagner, and A.J. Klein as potential cut candidates.
NFL Cut Candidates in 2022 are led by Jimmy Garoppolo and Frank Clark
An interesting element when considering potential cut candidates is how those players can approach “free agency” compared to players whose contract is simply ending. A cut player can immediately sign with a new team and does not have to wait for the new league year. Therefore, we could see teams moving on from veterans as early as the days following the Super Bowl. This gives those players a chance to get ahead of the market and sign with a new team.
Let’s look at which marquee players could be potential cut candidates ahead of (or during) the 2022 NFL offseason and what it means for the teams in terms of cap space.
Jimmy Garoppolo could leave the San Francisco 49ers
It seems crazy that we are talking about a quarterback who played in the Divisional Round as a potential NFL cut candidate in 2022. Further confusion can be added when you consider that Jimmy Garoppolo also led his team to the Super Bowl just two seasons ago. However, after the 49ers drafted Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft, it always seemed likely Garoppolo would be on his way out in the 2022 offseason.
Just $7.5 million of Garoppolo’s contract is guaranteed heading into this offseason. Therefore, of his $27 million cap hit, just $8.4 million in prorated signing bonus would remain as dead money if he were released. Depending on how they feel about Lance, the 49ers might try to renegotiate with Garoppolo to guarantee a little more of his salary but reduce his overall cap number. However,, if the 49ers can find a team willing to take on his $24.2 million salary, we could see Garoppolo traded.
Could the Kansas City Chiefs move on from Frank Clark?
The Chiefs will head into this offseason in an interesting position but have already started making moves with the release of Anthony Hitchens on February 22. That move saves them $8.5 million. As it stands on March 9 after franchise tagging Orlando Brown, the Chiefs need to clear at least $4.5 million before MArch 16.
The decision-making process may revolve around their defense. Frank Clark is due to count $26.3 million against the cap in 2022. However, they could save $12.7 million of that by moving on. Clark’s output over the past two seasons has been 10.5 sacks in 29 regular seasons games.
Those numbers are not up to the standard of his current contract. Nonetheless, in the 2019 and 2020 playoff runs, he had 8 sacks in just six games. Another strong performance in the current playoffs could make him a tough player to move on from.
The Chiefs have limited options to open cap space this offseason. They may decide to go down the route of restructures or extensions, which would solve their immediate issues but push the tough decisions into the future.
Could cut candidates include Derek Carr or Bryan Bulaga?
This is a fascinating trio of potential cut candidates this offseason. Derek Carr almost perfectly underlined what he offers the Las Vegas Raiders as a quarterback. His passing yardage was in the top five, but his touchdown-to-interception ratio of 23:14 is underwhelming. Additionally, we saw in their playoff game this year that when the spotlight shines brightest, he may not be the right option to lead this team through the playoffs.
The Raiders could save $19.9 million by releasing Carr this offseason. However, two elements might make it unlikely to happen. Firstly, the Raiders have a projected $40 million in cap space this offseason, with 35 players under contract currently. Secondly, there is no obvious upgrade for the 2022 season. A player like Garoppolo might be available, but is he really an upgrade?
Bulaga has been a disappointing acquisition for the Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers have taken on two former Green Bay Packers in free agency with mixed results. The acquisition of Corey Linsley was perfect, but Bryan Bulaga has been a disappointment, largely due to injury. Bulaga is among NFL cut candidates in 2022 because he’s played just 11 of the 33 possible games since joining the Chargers.
Injury concerns are not new for Bulaga. He played a full 16-game season just three times in nine years with the Packers. Bulaga enters the third year of his contract with a $14.1 million cap number. However, his $8.25 million base salary is not guaranteed. A roster bonus of $2.5 million is also due on March 20. If the Chargers move on ahead of that, they could save $10.8 million, leaving just $3.3 in dead money. Bulaga is a high-upside option at right tackle, but his lack of reliability from an injury front is a major concern.
Other NFL Cut Candidates in 2022
OT D.J. Humphries, OL Justin Pugh, LB Jordan Hicks
CB Marcus Peters, OT Alejandro Villanueva
WR Cole Beasley
CB A.J. Bouye
CB Trae Waynes, S Vonn Bell
WR Jarvis Landry, QB Case Keenum
CB Anthony Brown, K Greg Zuerlein
OLB Trey Flowers, RB Jamaal Williams
Green Bay Packers
OLB Za’Darius Smith, OLB Preston Smith, WR Randall Cobb
QB Carson Wentz
LB Myles Jack
DE Danielle Hunter
New York Giants
LB Blake Martinez, TE Kyle Rudolph
New York Jets
DT Sheldon Rankins
New England Patriots
WR Nelson Agholor
New Orleans Saints
DT David Onyemata, S Malcolm Jenkins, CB Bradley Roby, DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, RB Mark Ingram
LB Joe Schobert, DT Tyson Alualu
San Francisco 49ers
EDGE Samson Ebukam, CB Emmanuel Moseley
RB Chris Carson
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TE Cameron Brate
Washington Football Team
S Landon Collins, DE Matt Ioannidis, OL Ereck Flowers Sr.