The end of the NFL brings uncertainty for players and coaches alike. Let’s take a look at the potential NFL cut candidates in the upcoming 2021 offseason.
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The Eagles need to identify a number of cut candidates in 2021
As we turn our attention towards next season in the NFL, the Eagles are currently projected to be at least $50 million over the salary cap. Therefore, they are going to be a prime team when it comes to high-profile NFL cut candidates in 2021. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest names that could be leaving Philadelphia in the coming months.
Could Alshon Jeffery be on his way out of Philadelphia?
Alshon Jeffery is due to earn $18.5 million in the 2021 season. $12 million of that comes in the form of a non-guaranteed salary. However, for the Eagles to cut Jeffery this offseason, they would need to take the hit on his remaining prorated bonus that accelerates onto the cap. Therefore, while the Eagles would save $12 million in salary, they would still have $10.5 million of dead money on their cap in 2021.
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However, cutting Jeffery would save $8 million against the cap in 2021 while also removing cap obligations in 2022. Jeffery has played just 17 games for the Eagles in the past two seasons, with 605 yards and five touchdowns.
Zach Ertz could be another potential Eagles’ cut candidate in 2021
At the start of the season, there was plenty of talk about a contract extension for Zach Ertz. As we end the season, that looks more and more unlikely. Instead, Ertz becomes a potential cut candidate in the 2021 NFL offseason. By cutting Ertz, the Eagles could save $4.7 million on the cap in 2021 while also removing cap obligations in 2022 and 2023.
In 2020, Ertz played just 10 games, pulling in 33 receptions on 66 targets. His 50% catch rate is by far the worst of his career.
Derek Barnett and DeSean Jackson could be other cap casualties this offseason
Barnett has been a rotational player on the Eagles defensive line since he was drafted. He has logged 19.5 sacks in that timeframe. However, that production is not enough for the Eagles to miss the opportunity to clear just over $10.5 million in cap space.
Since returning to Philadelphia last season, DeSean Jackson has played just eight games. He has just 23 receptions on 36 targets for 395 yards and three touchdowns. Cutting Jackson would save $5.1 million against the cap, leaving $5.8 in dead money.
The New Orleans Saints need to clear a lot of cap space in 2021
The Saints appear to be in even more cap trouble than the Eagles. Projected to be more than $75 million over the salary cap for 2021, the Saints need to find ways to shed cap this offseason.
Drew Brees retirement would save the Saints a big chunk of cap space
As it stands, Drew Brees is due to count $36.1 million against the cap in 2020. If he were to retire, the Saints would save $13.5 million of that. His full $25 million in salary would clear, but over $11 million in prorated bonus would accelerate onto the cap.
With Taysom Hill counting $16 million against the cap, the Saints cannot afford to have over $50 million tied up in the QB position next season.
Could the Saints have to cut a number of their offensive linemen in 2021?
With the Saints so far over the projected cap in 2021, they will have to make some extreme moves. That could even involve cutting a number of their offensive linemen. Combined, Ryan Ramczyk, Terron Armstead, and Nick Easton are set to count over $34 million against the cap in 2021.
It is doubtful the Saints cut all three. The most likely two to be cut are Easton and Armstead. That would clear a total of $12 million and leave $10 million in dead money. Ramczyk would be more likely to get an extension than be cut. The Saints could easily work out a deal that reduced his $11 million cap hit in 2021.
Which other Saints are cut candidates in the 2021 NFL offseason?
Several defensive players are potential cut candidates for the Saints in 2021. Kwon Alexander looked like a potentially easy decision, but his Achilles injury complicates matters. Another name that will likely depart is defensive tackle Malcolm Brown. Brown is set to count $6 million against the cap in 2021, with $5 million of that potential savings if they move on.
In the defensive backfield, Janoris Jenkins is set to count $14 million against the cap in 2021. A potential saving of $7 million makes him an ideal cut candidate for the Saints. The other player in that defensive backfield with a cap hit over $10 million is Marshon Lattimore. With a cap hit of $10.2 million, the Saints are likely to look at working out an extension with the former first-round selection.
At wide receiver, the Saints could decide to move on from Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders’ impact has been somewhat minimal this season, and saving $4 million of his $10 million cap hit could be an attractive option.
Could we see the Green Bay Packers make cuts in the 2021 NFL offseason?
While not up against the cap to the same extent as the Saints and Eagles, the Packers have some concerns. With 41 contracted players, the Packers are set to be $20 million over the projected cap.
The Packers shave the flexibility to keep crucial players
With a potential cap saving of $13.5 million, Davante Adams may look like a player that can be cut. However, Adams is playing superb football right now, and losing him is likely not an option. The Packers have the flexibility to extend or restructure Adams’ contract as opposed to moving on. They may decide to do that with other NFL cut candidates in the 2021 offseason. However, let’s take a look at some names who could be on their way out of Green Bay.
Could one of the Smiths make way to clear cap space in 2021?
The two Smiths have made a useful duo since being brought in prior to the 2019 season. However, with a combined cap hit of over $35 million, could the Packers look to cut one of them? With the like of Rashan Gary stepping up, the Packers may consider one of the Smiths expendable.
Cutting Za’Darius Smith would save $11 million, leaving $10 million in dead money. Meanwhile, cutting Preston Smith would save half of his $16 million cap hit in 2021.
Christian Kirksey could be another cut candidate in the 2021 NFL offseason
In the second of his two seasons in Green Bay, Christian Kirksey could be on the way out of the door. The 28-year-old linebacker has only played 54% of the snaps and can be used to clear valuable space. $6 million of Kirksey’s $8 million deal can be saved by cutting him. It seems like it should be a simple choice compared to the other options the Packers have.
Are the Steelers set for a widespread refresh in 2021?
While the Steelers were 11-0 at one point this season, they look like an old roster that has worn down. Therefore, we could see several Steelers as potential cut candidates in the upcoming 2021 NFL offseason.
Could Ben Roethlisberger be done in Pittsburgh?
Despite the team’s record this season, Roethlisberger has looked a fading light at times. With that taken into account, it makes sense the Steelers may look to save nearly $20 million in cap space by moving on.
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Cutting Roethlisberger would leave $22.3 million in dead money but clear $19 million. If the Steelers can draft a QB they feel comfortable with, they may be set to hit refresh on their team.
Joe Haden and Steven Nelson could both be playing their final season in Pittsburgh
Nelson and Haden are valued members of the Steelers roster. They have played 90% and 88% of the defensive snaps, respectively, this season. However, combined, the two are set to count nearly $30 million against the cap in 2021. Cutting both could save over half of that while cutting either one could save a quarter. The most likely scenario is that Haden is cut, but if the Steelers want to add players elsewhere, Nelson could have to go as well.
Could the Steelers look to shake up their offensive line?
Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro are another pairing set to cost close to $30 million against the cap in 2021. Both are 30 or older and entering their final season under contract. If the Steelers want to keep Roethlisberger, they may have to weaken his offensive line significantly. The most likely scenario is that one of these two gets cut, along with one of Nelson or Haden.
It would be a shock if the Steelers were not in the market for tight ends this offseason
With Vance McDonald and Eric Ebron set to cost a combined $15 million against the cap, both are cut candidates in 2021. Cutting both could save a touch over $11 million, which would be valuable savings for a team looking to challenge again in 2021.
Could we see wholesale changes in Houston in the 2021 NFL offseason?
With a new regime often comes sweeping changes, and in Houston, that may be no different. With Deshaun Watson still relatively cheap in 2021, the Texans will look to start shedding salary before his cap hit spikes in 2022.
Could we see the departure of J.J. Watt in 2021?
With the Texans looking like they could be in for a tough couple of years, it might make sense for J.J. Watt to leave if he wants to play for a contender. The fearsome defensive end is set to cost a massive $17.5 million against the cap in 2021.
However, all of that could potentially be saved if the Texans were to move on. Ultimately, the new regime will want to talk with Watt, but a change of scenery could be ideal for both sides.
The Texans could be hunting for new skill position players in 2021
Three names that immediately pop as cut candidates in the upcoming 2021 NFL offseason are Brandin Cooks, David Johnson, and Duke Johnson. Combined, they are set to cost $26 million against the cap. Cutting all three could save $24 million of that. The Texans definitely need a new plan at running back. However, with Will Fuller potentially on the way out, they may want to hold onto Cooks for one more year. Especially after giving up a second-round pick for him.
Which other NFL players are high-profile cut candidates in 2021?
Let’s take a look at some other cut candidates in the 2021 NFL offseason.
2021 is the first year that cutting Matthew Stafford becomes financially viable. The 32-year-old quarterback is set to count $33 million against the cap in 2021, $14 million of which could be saved. With the Lions having just $11 million in projected cap space, Stafford is one of a handful of players that could be departing Detroit.
Garoppolo is set to count more than $26 million against the cap in 2021. If the 49ers wanted to move on, they could save $24.1 million. With just 34 contracted players, the 49ers may decide they need more than the $22 million in cap space they have available.
Entering the final year of his deal, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year could be on his way out of New England. However, the Patriots have plenty of projected cap space ($62.5 million), so they may look to trade Gilmore during the season instead of cutting him.