The great thing about the salary cap era is we’ll never see the same players on a roster, it’s always mixed up. Some players fit better at their old places than their new, and vice versa, and it sets up a totally unpredictable season ahead. I’ve chosen to go through each team in the NFL and find one player that I’d let go if I was the organization, or even trade away. And considering there’s 32 teams in the NFL, I’ve decided I’ll split this into two separate articles, and right now I’ll focus on the NFC.
WR Larry Fitzgerald – I already feel, as I write this, I’m asking for a Cardinals fan mafia to visit my house, but before you load up and travel across the country, I’d like to argue my case. Larry Fitzgerald will turn 33 years old at the end of preseason and is a $15 million cap hit right now. Fitzgerald’s entering the final year of his contract, but I believe it’d be smart to cut him loose, or more importantly, try trading him. Fitzgerald just came off a career year with playing through a whole season and having a career-high in catches with 109. Ideally, you’d dump him and his salary off at an AFC team, more preferably the AFC North, so they won’t meet Fitzgerald if he elects to re-sign there after the 2016 season’s done. I’d make the case he’s still highly respected around the league and having a future Hall of Fame wide receiver hasn’t gotten them a Super Bowl ring, so it’d be best to depart now while he has value. If not a trade, cut him and save the cap.
WR Roddy White – I’m picking on receivers today, huh? This is another aged wideout, 34 years old, who is getting paid, and has been superseded by a younger receiving talent. Roddy White has two years left on a 4-year, $30 million deal signed back in 2014 and is coming off his first full-season played since 2012. However, despite playing in two more games this season compared to last, his numbers significantly dropped from 80 catches for 921 yards, to 43 catches for 506 yards. Most importantly, the veteran caught 7 touchdowns back in 2014, but only found the endzone once in 2015. When a veteran receiver quits giving you points, that’s when you release him and move on. The Falcons will be fine with Julio Jones, who is a superstar, and could find a nice receiver in the draft for a cheaper price.
RB Jonathan Stewart – Let me begin by saying the Panthers are in a good position as they’re atop the NFC and would benefit in keeping their main group together. However, if I had to let one go, it’d be Jonathan Stewart. Stewart’s had trouble staying healthy with a light workload, never playing a full season as a starter. He had 989 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns this season which has been greatly over-exaggerated by the fans. I’d love to see Carolina part ways with Stewart who turns 29 in March, and find a running back in the draft.
QB Jay Cutler – With the contract a nearing 33-year old quarterback has, you’d need to find a trade partner. Many cursed Cutler and wanted him out of Chicago a year ago at this time, and now they act as if Adam Gase made all the difference. If you look at the stats, the 2014 and 2015 seasons look nearly identical. Grant it, his receiving core wasn’t all that great, so maybe we should give him some credit. I don’t believe Cutler’s stock remains high very long, and I wouldn’t be shocked with the lack of star quarterback talent in this upcoming draft, that teams at least inquire about the availability of Cutler. It’s a deal I don’t see getting done, but would heavily consider if I was calling the shots in the Windy City.
CB Brandon Carr – Now let me remind all Cowboys fans. I’ve heard from quite a few wanting Greg Hardy, Rolando McClain, and/or Mo Claiborne gone from the organization, and as strong as those cases may be, I’m not counting players who are not contractually-binded to the team in 2016, which those three men are not. Carr, however, counts nearly 14 million against the cap in 2016 and hasn’t intercepted the ball since 2013, a key component in Rod Marinelli’s defense. Brandon Carr turns 30 years old in May, and it’d be best if we don’t bring Carr back to the team. He’s certainly not worth the money and both parties could benefit from his departure.
TE Brandon Pettigrew – I could likely go Stephen Tulloch here, but I’m going for Pettigrew. Pettigrew’s contract will count against the salary cap, over 4 million in 2016. Pettigrew had 7 catches for 67 yards in an 8-game season ended by an ACL. Let that sink in… In eight games, he recorded a total of seven receptions for only 67 yards. Pettigrew is an obvious release, and I’d be baffled if he’s not. The Lions drafted Eric Ebron tenth overall back in the 2014 draft, and it’s time to see what UNC’s greatest tight end can do in the NFL.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
OT Bryan Bulaga – If one thing is certain, the Packers need to improve their offensive line rapidly. I had to choose between TJ Lang and Bryan Bulaga, but I’ll pick their offensive tackle, who has had trouble staying on the field, not playing in a full NFL season since his rookie year back in 2010. Bulaga’s number against the cap jumps from last year’s $3.6M to $5.5M in 2016, and it just gets worse from there. Cutting Bulaga would begin the process of improving the offensive line and protecting Green Bay’s franchise quarterback.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
TE Jared Cook – This man’s name continues to come up as players who should be leaving the Rams organization, and it’s only a matter of time. Cook eats up a big salary cap number at $8.3 million for the upcoming 2016 season. Let’s not forget that backup tight end Lance Kendricks is also well compensated for his roster spot, but Jared Cook only caught 39 passes in the 2015 season, but didn’t reach the endzone on a single one of those catches. I’d hope the Rams, in their move to Los Angeles, would cut some money out of the tight end spot and put elsewhere to improve this team.
WR Mike Wallace – I don’t want to hurt my credibility here, but of all the ones I’ve done so far, this is by far the easiest and most likely to go down… I think the Vikings do cut Mike Wallace, who is due over eleven million in 2016. Wallace caught 28 passes in 2015 as he continues his career decline since Pittsburgh, and he’s clearly not worth that money. The coolest thing is, the Vikings would owe $0.00 to Wallace if they release him, as none of the money’s guaranteed. So do you pay the guy a million per-three catches, or do you release him now and use the money elsewhere to improve a team on the rise? The answer’s right there.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
RB CJ Spiller – It sounds as if nobody wants Spiller to return in a Saints uniform to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and that’s where I’m leaning as well. Spiller’s not a great scheme fit, and I remember putting him on my fantasy team this year and regretting it, asking myself why I did that to myself. Spiller, a former first-round pick, will turn 29 before the season begins and his numbers continue to decline since his 2012 year with the Bills, totaling 1345 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns in the last 3 seasons, the previous one with New Orleans. I say the thing that’ll save Spiller’s career, will also save the Saints $4.5 million in cap space.
NEW YORK GIANTS
ILB Jon Beason – Beason was acquired in 2013 in a midseason trade with the Carolina Panthers. Beason came in and looked like he was going to be a great addition to the Giants, 93 tackles in 12 games with the team. The next two full(?) seasons, he’d play 9 games and total 29 tackles. Jon Beason will now count $6.6 million against the cap in 2016 if he remains on the team, and quite frankly, the Giants should consider letting an injury-prone linebacker go. It almost felt like Jerry Richardson would get punched for trading Jon Beason away, but we’ll likely never know what Jon Beason could’ve meant for this team, because he’s failed to stay healthy. If the Giants could part ways with Tom Coughlin to better the team, then they won’t be stuck in their bedroom weeping for the weekend by letting Jon Beason go.
OT Jason Peters – After the news of Zach Ertz’s new deal, it’s obvious Brent Celek is more than likely on his way out, or likely take a paycut. I decided to go a different route, and I’m going to cut former All-Pro tackle Jason Peters. Peters just turned 34 years old on January 22nd, and I can’t trust for him to stay healthy, especially after three years in Chip Kelly’s brutal system, I could only imagine what it takes out of an offensive lineman the size of Peters. This release would be a smart business move by owner Lurie and the Eagles organization, as cutting him would only take a $1 million hit on the cap, but would save the Eagles $8.3 million to use during free agency. Don’t ask me how that works, I’m just reporting this stuff.
SAN FRANSISCO 49ERS
QB Colin Kaepernick – I’ll be honest, this got me stuck, until reports came out at the right time for me and this article, saying Colin Kaepernick wants out of San Fransisco, and opened up about a trade to the New York Jets. Though I don’t believe the Jets will be a possibility, I do feel the 49ers should dump the quarterback who has no interest in playing for them or new head coach Chip Kelly. Kaepernick’s contract is too gigantic, however, so a deal likely won’t be done unless he restructures before a trade finalizes. He’s due over 16 million this year, and it’ll get up to 21.4 million before his contract expires after the 2020 season.
RB Marshawn Lynch – The Seahawks, if not getting down 31-0 on the road, likely beat the Carolina Panthers and are in a better position than they were. Lynch played that Panthers game hurt with an abdomen injury, forcing the Seahawks to pick Christine Michael back up and let him carry the load. Marshawn Lynch will cost a whopping $11.5 million against the cap, but carries five in dead money if he’s released. I’d say the more likely option is to trade Marshawn Lynch away for a conditional mid-round draft pick and possibly a young running back low on another team’s depth chart. This would be Seattle’s best bet to clear that cap space, take on a new project who could battle his way on the team’s roster during camp, and get going with a younger running back helping Russell Wilson.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
WR Vincent Jackson – Vincent Jackson had 3 touchdowns and 543 receiving yards in 10 games played last season, one where a rookie quarterback in Jameis Winston should have to rely on the veteran receiver. Vincent Jackson isn’t a deep-threat receiver at this stage in his career, with his longest catch of this season being 36 yards, the lowest since his rookie season with the Chargers. This shows me Jackson, who will spend the 2016 season as a 33-year-old man, is on the decline. He has one year remaining on his contract, taking over $12 million away from the cap, but releasing him would only cause less than $2.5 million in dead cash. I believe it’s best to cut ties with Jackson, give Jameis Winston someone he can build chemistry with moving forward, and allow Winston to progress in his second and third years.
QB Robert Griffin III – I hate to be obvious, but this will have to be it. I could put DeAngelo Hall here, but in reality he would be smarter to cut next year when it’s half the dead money. I also place priority of dumping Griffin because of the crucial re-signing that needs to take place this offseason, “Captain” Kirk Cousins. Robert Griffin III was selected number two overall, while the Redskins actually traded up four spots to get him, and he never was worth a dime after his rookie season. Since the Redskins picked up his fifth-year option before the beginning of the 2015 season, when they assumed he’d be their starter, RG3 is scheduled to make over 16 million this year! With that money, they could use it to re-sign Cousins and be solid at the quarterback position if Kirk continues to flourish like he did in 2015. A backup should not be paid a million bucks per game anyway.
So there you have it! Let me know if you agreed or disagreed with any of these, and stay tuned for the AFC One-Man Chopping Block piece, to come later.