Spotrac released a list of over 100 possible cap casualties as we starting looking forward to the new league year in March. Their description for the list is as follows:
We’ve identified players from each NFL team who may be trending toward the 2018 roster bubble, based on performance vs. compensation & dead cap structure. The list below shows the individual financial implications to trade or release each player based on various bonus dates some may have. We’ll continue to update this list as new reports emerge.
Stampede Blue has run through the list and will mention players at positions of potential need who could make sense as Chris Ballard plans to put a fresh face on a new-look offense and defense. We will break down the options by position.
Keep in mind that these are not free agents and are not being considered as a part of an overall free agent strategy. They are only being mentioned as potential cap cuts who might enter free agency to add to the current pool.
Latavius Murray MIN RB $6,350,000 Pre 3/16 Trade/Release: $1.2M ($5.15M savings) Murray’s deal was always structured as a 1 year contract if needed. His $5.15M 2018 salary fully guarantees on March 16th so this will be a quick decision.
The Vikings had a strong year with a group of backup quarterbacks leading an offense that utilized a running back committee throughout the 2017 season. At only 26 years old, Murray was a productive backfield option who was worth every penny Minnesota paid him due to an injury to rookie sensation Dalvin Cook, who tore an ACL.
With Cook likely to return this season and big decisions to be made at other positions, including the need to sign or draft a quarterback, spending over $6 million on a rotational back might be a bit too much. If they go this route, Murray would be a nice complement to Mack in the Colts backfield.
Mark Ingram NO RB $6,245,000 Pre 3/16 Trade/Release $1.645M ($4.6M savings) Ingram + Kamara has been quite a show in 2017, but the business reality of the RB position still puts Ingram’s 2018 roster spot in jeopardy. A restructured extension could be possible here.
While it may be hard to believe that the Saints would move on from Mark Ingram after they had so much success pairing him with Alvin Kamara, sometimes it comes down to logistics. There is little doubt that Kamara is a rising star who needs to touch the ball as often as he can. He is similar to David Johnson in Arizona, where handing a significant portion of carries to someone else seems to only do opponents any favors.
At 28 years old, Ingram is a well rounded running back when he is healthy. He can contribute in all three phases and might present a more reasonable pairing with Marlon Mack in Indianapolis where a time-share could be more beneficial.
The Denver backfield has been a strange beast for years. Throughout a season there may be three starting running backs who seem like the clear top option. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman were battling it out a couple of seasons ago and just last season there were rumblings that Devontae Booker could take over the lead role.
Anderson is 27 years old and could be the type of player who would benefit from a change of scenery. When healthy, Anderson has put together strings of highly productive games. If his medicals checkout, he could be a nice piece in a remodeled Colts backfield.
Randall Cobb GB WR $12,750,000 Trade/Release: $3.25M ($9.5M savings) His receptions, yards, and touchdowns have decreased in each of the past 3 seasons. Entering a contract year in 2018, the Packers may need to move on.
The 2018 off-season feels like the year of the wide receiver. There are already a ton of pending free agents who should demand quite a bit of attention in the free market. What is great for teams is that the abundance of supply should help keep contract discussions competitive.
At only 27 years old, Randall Cobb has dealt with a Packers offense full of weapons. Jordy Nelson has been the top dog for Aaron Rodgers for years and Davante Adams has stepped up as the current/future number one. While Green Bay could choose to let Nelson go, it seems unlikely given his chemistry with Rodgers.
Cobb can play in multiple roles and is best out of the slot. He can get behind the defense with his speed and has been used to stretch the defense laterally on sweeps out of the backfield. He would add to the veteran presence in the wide receiver room and thrives when he is paired with receivers like Hilton and Nelson.
Michael Crabtree OAK WR $7,750,000 Trade/Release: $0 ($7.75M savings) His production (among others) has slipped in 2017, and with word of turmoil between he and the organization swirling, the Raiders will likely take the cap savings.
While Crabtree might be pushing the envelope in terms of age, at least based upon Chris Ballard’s initial haul in free agency, 30 is not too old to be productive on a three to four year deal — heavily front loaded of course. He would bring a physical presence to the Colts receiving corps that it currently lacks entirely.
The Raiders offense was a huge disappointment in 2017 but there isn’t a major indication the Crabtree was a primary reason for the drop-off. He was the most reliable receiver on the team and if he hits free agency would definitely present a reliable option.
Torrey Smith PHI WR $5,000,000 Trade/Release $0 ($5M savings) Smith was a nice complimentary option in the Eagles offense, but may simply be pushed out for cap purposes. A pay cut might be possible here.
While Indianapolis has had horrible luck with free agent receivers who have been passed around the league, Torrey Smith is an intriguing option. At 29 years old, Smith is not going to be the primary threat for his team anymore but he is a savvy veteran who can stretch the defense and still do damage. He could be a relatively cheap rotational option.
Eric Ebron DET TE $8,825,000 Pre 3/14 Trade/Release: $0 ($8.825M savings) On pace for 40 catches and 3 TDs, it doesn’t appear as though Ebron is anywhere near the #10 overall selection the Lions made him in 2014.
If you are a Detroit Lions fan, you have to be disappointed with the return on investment for Eric Ebron after drafting him in the top 10 of the NFL draft. In that context, you pretty much have to move on. From a different context,he is only 24 years old and still has athletic potential if he is in the right situation.
Signing him a a more reasonable contract to pair with Jack Doyle and rotate with Erik Swoope would help solidify the position.
James Hanna DAL TE $3,500,000 Trade/Release: $750,000 ($2.75M savings) Witten’s expected return puts Hanna’s contract year in question. It seems unlikely he stays at $3.5M
Another veteran option who could bring something to the position is 28 year old James Hanna. The Cowboys are in a position where they’re going to need to find cap space to retain Demarcus Lawrence and sign other players. Hanna could be odd man out, is familiar to Matt Eberflus, and still young enough to play an important role in the tight end rotation moving forward.
Mike Iupati ARI OG $9,700,000 Pre-6/1 Trade/Release: $3.4M ($6.3M savings) Post-6/1 Trade/Release: $1.7M ($8M savings), $1.7M 2019 dead cap He’s battled injuries over the past two seasons, including seeing action in just 1 2017 game. Now 30, a near $10M cap hit may be too rich for Arizona’s blood.
The big question-mark for Iupati is if he can stay healthy. While he is on the high-end of the age scale for Ballard, at 30, he plays at a position where careers more commonly last for another 4-5 years at a relatively high level.
There are other options in free agency that could make more sense but he has certainly played dominant football at his position and grabbing him on a shorter-term prove it contract wouldn’t be entirely out of the cards.
Muhammad Wilkerson NYJ DE $20,000,000 Pre-3/14 Trade/Release: $9M ($11M savings) Wilkerson’s $16.75M salary for 2018 fully guarantees on March 14th. It sounds like he’s all but checked out of NY already, so a move of some sort seems imminent.
While Wilkerson has experienced a lot of bumps during his tenure with the Jets, he has also been a dominant force on their defensive line. He is only 28 years old and could be devastating in the right situation.
He may not make sense in Indianapolis unless the team doesn’t feel good about the trio of Woods, Hankins, and Anderson as interior defenders.
Robert Quinn LAR OLB $12,399,766 Pre-3/16 Trade/Release: $955,354 ($11.4M savings) Post-3/16 Trade/Release: $2,066,645 ($10.3M savings) Quinn is still a formidable edge defender, but the Rams have mouths to feed this spring, which could force his $12.4M cap off the books.
Quinn has proven to be a disruptive NFL defender. At only 27 years old he could be a massive upgrade at defensive end in Matt Eberflus’ new look defense. It is hard to believe that the Rams will not find a way to keep him in the fold but Ballard should give him a look if he hits the market.
Mark Barron LAR ILB $10,000,000 Pre-3/16 Trade/Release $3M ($7M savings) Post-3/16 Trade/Release: $5M ($5M savings) Barron has a $2M roster bonus due March 16th, so like Quinn, his release would be purely ane early business decision.
Chris Ballard has placed an emphasis on speed for the Colts defense heading into 2018. With an expected switch to a 4-3 base front, linebackers will need to cover more ground and have even more pressure in pass coverage. Mark Barron is 28 years old and brings the kind of hybrid talent to the position that Indianapolis will covet.
Dee Ford KC OLB $8,718,000 Pre-3/14 Trade/Release: $0 ($8.718M savings) Ford’s 5th-year option will guarantee on March 14th. Injury has kept him off the field for half of 2017. He’ll be a question mark heading into March.
While there is a very real possibility that Ford will fail his physical prior to the start of the new league year, and therefore not offer any cap savings to the Chiefs, they may be interested in a bargain trade to free up the cap space.
At only 26 years old, Ford has primarily been a pass rush specialist in his NFL career. The Colts don’t have any of those. It could make a lot of mutually beneficial sense for Ballard to work with Kansas City to provide the cap savings the Chiefs need for relatively little in additional compensation, while Indianapolis gains a pass rushing threat they desperately need.
Richard Sherman SEA CB $13,200,000 Trade/Release: $2.2M ($11M savings) Sherman was playing his usual above average CB play before his injury. He’ll enter a contract year in 2018, and a $13.2M hit is rich for a cap-strapped Seattle team. A restructured extension is possible.
There is a very real possibility that the Legion of Boom is in the rear view mirror. Pieces of the Seahawks vaunted secondary are starting to retire or age. Seattle has a relatively tight cap situation and needs to determine when it is time to look forward to the future. After a massive coaching overhaul, it appears 2018 could start the rebuild.
At 29 years old, Sherman can still play shut down football. He will likely not command a contract as large as he is playing under now and has slowed enough to not be one of the top corners in the league, but he is still a very good one. With all of the Seattle connections in the front office, it wouldn’t be a shock to entertain a 2-3 year, front loaded, prove-it style contract if Sherman can stay health. It would likely included heavy performance-based incentives.