NFL News & Analysis

Cut candidates for all 32 NFL teams: Alex Smith, Alshon Jeffery and Jimmy Graham among cap casualties for 2021

Jan 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL offseason has officially begun, and some of the more expected roster cuts have already been executed. As things stand, NFL teams don’t know the exact salary cap number for 2021, but they do know one thing: they need to create room — and fast. Here is the most likely cut candidate for all 32 NFL teams.

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WFT

ARIZONA CARDINALS: Edge Devon Kennard

Current Projected cap space: $11,833,440
Post-June 1 cut cap savings: $6,656,250
Post-June 1 cut dead money: $1,250,000

With the emergence of Haason Reddick as an every-down outside linebacker and with the expected occasional rush off the edge from 2020 No. 8 overall pick Isaiah Simmons, Kennard becomes expendable for Arizona. Reddick needs to be re-signed first, of course, but that or a franchise tag certainly seems possible.

Kennard played just 362 snaps in 2020. While he managed to put up his best pass-rushing grade since 2014, that isn’t saying much, given his 64.0 mark was his first above 60.0 in six seasons.


ATLANTA FALCONS: G James Carpenter

Current Projected cap space: (-)$20,283,889
Cut cap savings: $4,024,791
Cut dead money: $2,416,667
Post-June 1 cut cap savings: $5,233,125
Post-June 1 cut dead money: $1,208,333

Given the salary-cap difficulties every team is facing, some positions become more luxury than necessity. High-priced interior offensive linemen can often be in the former group. The Falcons have had their fair share of offensive line difficulties, and longtime center Alex Mack is also set to hit free agency, but Atlanta will have to bring some new faces in to continue overhauling the unit.

Carpenter has back-to-back seasons grading below 60.0 and will turn 32 years old in March. Atlanta will look to get younger up front.


BALTIMORE RAVENS: DI Brandon Williams

Current Projected cap space: $18,064,773
Cut cap savings: $7,500,000
Cut dead money: $6,920,000

The Ravens don’t have a pressing need to make this move, and Williams was still a solid nose tackle clogging up the middle for Baltimore last year, grading out at 67.2 overall. But with a ton of Ravens players in need of new contracts — both free agents like Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue and young stars like QB Lamar Jackson and TE Mark Andrews — Baltimore has to clear room somewhere.


BUFFALO BILLS: EDGE Mario Addison

Current Projected cap space: (-)$1,011,351
Cut cap savings: $6,190,625
Cut dead money: $4,000,000
Post-June 1 Cut cap savings: $8,190,625
Post-June 1 Cut dead money: $2,000,000

Addison will be 34 years old for the 2021 campaign and has now seen his overall grade drop by 6.5 points in consecutive seasons, from 69.9 in 2018 to 63.4 in 2019 and finally to 56.9 in 2020. He’s trending in the wrong direction as Father Time catches up to him, and Buffalo has to get younger at edge rusher. 

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) on the field before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

CAROLINA PANTHERS: DI Kawann Short

Current Projected cap space: $31,050,936

Carolina beat us to the punch here, but this move was a foregone conclusion. The Panthers cleared $8,603,250 off their books with the release and took on a hair over $11 million in dead money for the once-dominant Short.

The eighth-year veteran was one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL not long ago. He earned a 91.3 grade from 2017 to 2018, fourth at the position, but injuries limited him to 199 total snaps over the last two seasons. Carolina couldn’t justify his price tag.


CHICAGO BEARS: TE Jimmy Graham

Current Projected cap space: (-)$2,503,900
Cut cap savings: $7,000,000
Cut dead money: $3,000,000

Graham is still a great red-zone target in the twilight of his career. His seven red-zone touchdowns led to an 81.6 receiving grade from the 20-yard line and in last season. He can still win against most defensive backs and linebackers at the catch point, but his ability between the 20s is a different story entirely. 

Set to turn 35 years old during the 2021 season, Graham is the second-oldest tight end in the NFL currently under contract (Texans' Darren Fells is the true elder statesman). The Bears can’t justify this number, given they still don’t have a starting quarterback or No. 1 wideout under contract.


CINCINNATI BENGALS: DI Geno Atkins

Current Projected cap space: $37,653,130
Cut cap savings: $9,500,000
Cut dead money: $5,200,000

Atkins played just 127 snaps in 2020 and graded out at 54.0, both marks by far the lowest of his career. The career Bengal had played at least 775 snaps and graded at 76.2 or better in five straight seasons before his first-ever bad year, but it’s fair to wonder if age is perhaps catching up to the soon-to-be 33-year-old. 

Cincinnati made a big investment in DI D.J. Reader during the 2020 offseason, but injuries knocked him out for much of the season, as well. He’s set to return in 2021, and the Bengals may look to continue their youth movement as they transition from the Andy DaltonA.J. GreenGeno AtkinsCarlos Dunlap era.


CLEVELAND BROWNS: DI Sheldon Richardson

Current Projected cap space: $20,224,057
Cut cap savings: $11,500,000
Cut dead money: $1,666,668

Richardson has maintained a very high floor of play throughout his career, no matter where he’s been. His lowest single-season grade is 69.5. He kept that trend going in 2020, earning a 71.1 grade on 878 snaps, the most he’s played since 2014.

Cleveland may also lose interior defender Larry Ogunjobi to free agency, creating a bit of a void up front for the Browns. Still, a Richardson release frees up a lot of cap space for a team that may be aggressive in trying to take that next step — and perhaps to pay J.J. Watt.


DALLAS COWBOYS: NONE

Current Projected cap space: $19,356,093

There were rumblings that the Cowboys were at least considering moving on from LB Jaylon Smith, but it hasn’t become clear exactly how realistic that is. Dallas will likely try to run things back in 2021 with a much healthier version of a similar roster.

Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end Jurrell Casey (99) in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Empower Field at Mile High. Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER BRONCOS: DI Jurrell Casey

Current Projected cap space: $31,137,021
Cut cap savings: $11,874,750
Cut dead money: $0

The Broncos acquired Casey for a seventh-round pick before the 2020 season, but he missed the majority of the year to injury. He graded out at 74.4 with a respectable 67.6 pass-rush grade in the three games he did play. However, new Broncos GM George Paton had nothing to do with that move and will look to improve Denver’s roster as much as possible in a highly competitive AFC West.

Fellow interior defender Shelby Harris had an outstanding season, earning an 88.3 overall grade and 83.5 pass-rush grade. He’s set to hit free agency, and Denver may need to use some of the money saved from a Casey release to retain him.


DETROIT LIONS: CB Desmond Trufant

Current Projected cap space: (-)$8,365,122
Cut cap savings: $6,187,500
Cut dead money: $6,000,000

The Lions are currently projected to be over the salary cap in 2021 despite the team winning only a combined eight games over the past two seasons.

New general manager Brad Holmes has already begun aggressively overhauling this roster, trading quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Rams and bringing Jared Goff to the Motor City. Holmes and new head coach Dan Campbell have even been honest in saying they’re undergoing something of a rebuild and targeting 2022/2023 to truly be competitive. 

Trufant had a disastrous 2020 campaign within the league’s most porous defense, posting career-lows in overall grade, coverage grade and run-defense grade. He’ll turn 30 this upcoming season and has a hefty price tag for a team that knows it won’t compete. There’s no reason to not let Trufant look to bounce back elsewhere.


GREEN BAY PACKERS: EDGE Preston Smith

Current Projected cap space: (-)$11,451,306
Cut cap savings: $8,000,000
Cut dead money: $8,000,000
Post June 1 cap savings: $12,000,000
Post June 1 dead money: $4,000,000

Green Bay has already been busy this offseason, releasing linebacker Christian Kirksey and right tackle Rick Wagner. There’s still work to be done to get under the cap, though some of that should come via extensions for wideout Davante Adams and 2020 MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Nevertheless, Smith struggled mightily in 2020, with career-lows in overall grade (53.1), pass-rush grade (54.1) and coverage grade (45.7). The Packers have developed 2019 first-round pick Rashan Gary into a solid, stand-up outside linebacker after he was more used to putting his hand in the dirt in college at Michigan. His ascent has made Smith expendable, and if Green Bay wants any shot at landing Wisconsin star J.J. Watt, Smith would have to be the odd man out.


HOUSTON TEXANS: RB David Johnson

Current Projected cap space: $5,984,133
Cut cap savings: $6,412,500
Cut dead money: $2,100,000

The Texans have a few options here, and considering the current situation in Houston, it may not be a bad idea to take advantage of every last one of them. Cutting Benardrick McKinney could clear $6,437,500 with only $1.5 million in dead money, and finding a trade partner for Bradley Roby could clear $8,253,676 off the team's books with just $2 million in dead money left behind.

Outside of an injury-shortened 2017 season, Johnson had his worst season so far as a pro. One facet of play that stood out, and not in a good way, was his 45.5 receiving grade — a big part of the value he’s supposed to bring to any offense.


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: NONE

Current Projected cap space: $43,635,239

There are really only two options here, and both are likely to stick in Indianapolis, especially considering the team doesn’t have cap space issues at the moment. Right guard Mark Glowinski is a solid player, and with left tackle Anthony Castonzo‘s retirement, the Colts likely don’t want too much turnover along the offensive line for new quarterback Carson Wentz.

Tight end Jack Doyle is also an outside possibility, but the tight end room in Indianapolis is thin, and Doyle is the best player they have at the position for now.


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: NONE

Current Projected cap space: $82,022,150

The Jaguars already made the only obvious move on the roster, which was refusing to pick up tight end Tyler Eifert’s option for the 2021 season. Jacksonville cleared $5,250,000 with the move and will carry just $1,125,000 in dead money. The Jaguars have more cap space to work with than any other club this offseason, so they’ll be doing far more adding than cutting.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: LB Anthony Hitchens

Current Projected cap space: (-)$23,132,376
Post-June 1 cut cap savings: $6,437,500
Post-June 1 cut dead money: $4,223,750

2020 third-round draft pick Willie Gay Jr. is waiting in the wings and started to eat into Hitchens’ playing time as the season went on. He sustained an injury and missed the Chiefs' playoff run, but he will be back in 2021 and should be starting in an every-down capacity. Hitchens is a liability in coverage, grading in 40.0s for his second season of the past three, and the other parts of his game are following suit.

Kansas City has to make some moves to begin its quest for a third straight Super Bowl appearance, and this is an obvious first step.


LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: S Lamarcus Joyner

Current Projected cap space: (-)$18,935,669
Cut cap savings: $8,700,000
Cut dead money: $2,500,000

The Raiders fired defensive coordinator Paul Guenther after a tough loss to the Indianapolis Colts in December, and they recently announced the hiring of Gus Bradley to fill that role. Bradley will look to overhaul an extremely porous Raiders defense, and one obvious move is releasing safety-turned-slot-corner Lamarcus Joyner. 

Joyner’s past two seasons graded out at 47.5 and 53.8, respectively, with the 30-year-old defensive back struggling to maintain a once-high level of play. Las Vegas also just needs to clear some cap room for other additions, making this a bit of a no-brainer.


LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: G Trai Turner

Current Projected cap space: $23,801,246
Cut cap savings: $11,500,000
Cut dead money: $0

Turner was traded from the Carolina Panthers to the Los Angeles Chargers prior to the 2020 season in a swap of offensive linemen, with left tackle Russell Okung switching coasts, as well. The Chargers had the worst offensive line in the NFL in 2020, and Turner was no exception, putting up by far the worst grade of his career (34.8). Injuries did cause him to miss a big chunk of the 2020 season from Weeks 3-9, but it wasn’t pretty when he took the field. 

There’s simply no reason to pay this much for a guard coming off the type of season Turner had, regardless of the salary cap situation ahead.

Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers (90) against Green Bay Packers during the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES RAMS: DI Michael Brockers

Current Projected cap space: (-)$33,986,331
Post-June 1 cut cap savings: $6,500,000
Post-June 1 cut dead money: $3,333,333

Brockers had an interesting offseason in 2020, agreeing in principle to a deal with the Ravens before an ankle injury discovered during his physical examination caused them to back out. The Rams had planned to sign A’Shawn Robinson to assume his place along the interior of the defensive line, but Robinson was mulling opting out for much of the offseason.

The Rams swooped in and brought Brockers back into the fold for another run in Los Angeles. And Brockers was solid but unspectacular in 2020, with a ninth straight season of failing to earn a 65.0-plus pass-rush grade. He’s a sure tackler and strong run defender, working well in tandem with the best pass-rushing interior defender the league has ever seen in Aaron Donald.

Nevertheless, with a huge cap deficit — only increased by trading Jared Goff and taking on former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in return — the Rams need to cut costs wherever they can. Robinson returned in Week 10 and provides that run-stuffing presence on a cheaper deal and at just 26 years old.


MIAMI DOLPHINS: NONE

Current Projected cap space: $22,769,465

The Dolphins don’t need to cut anyone, as their cap situation is still healthy even after a huge spending spree in the 2020 offseason. Given all of the turnover this roster has seen the past few seasons, some continuity would probably be welcome. With the No. 3 overall pick via the Texans as well as their own first-rounder, Miami will look to supplement this veteran roster with an influx of young talent.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS: T Riley Reiff

Cut cap savings: $11,750,000
Cut dead money: $2,200,000

Tight end Kyle Rudolph was another candidate here, and he’s even expressed some displeasure with his current role in the Vikings' offense.


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: NONE

Current projected cap space: $62,211,837

The Patriots are flush with cap space and don’t have any obvious cut candidates.


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: LB Kwon Alexander

Current projected cap space: (-)$69,500,461
Cut cap savings: $13,165,625
Cut dead money: $0

New Orleans already got started chipping away at their massive cap deficit, but they still have plenty of work left. Alexander suffered an unfortunate and severe injury, rupturing his Achilles late in the 2020 season. Like Green Bay Packers LB Christian Kirksey, he’ll likely be released with some type of injury designation. The savings here are too big to pass up, and Alexander was a midseason rental in a swap of linebackers anyway, with the Saints sending Kiko Alonso to San Francisco.

Tampa, FL, USA;New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder (76) blocks during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS: T Nate Solder

Current projected cap space: $906,453
Post-June 1 cut cap savings: $10,000,000
Post-June 1 cut dead money: $6,500,000

Solder opted out of the 2020 campaign and the Giants drafted his eventual replacement at left tackle with the No. 4 overall pick, selecting Georgia’s Andrew Thomas to lock down the blindside for Daniel Jones going forward. There have been rumblings Solder may look to retire anyway, so this seems like a move they have to make either way.


NEW YORK JETS: DI Henry Anderson

Current projected cap space: $67,948,314
Cut cap savings: $8,200,000
Cut dead money: $1,333,334

With 2019 No. 3 overall pick DI Quinnen Williams showing why he was widely regarded as one of the top interior defender prospects of the last several years, and with 2018 third-round DI Nathan Shepherd seeing a sharp uptick in snaps to close out the season, the new guard has arrived along the Jets interior. 

Anderson finished the season with a respectable 67.9 overall grade and put up his fourth run-defense grade above 72.0 in the last five seasons, but the savings here are too big to pass up. Even though the Jets are flush with cap space, they obviously have a ton of work to do on this roster to become competitive.


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: WR Alshon Jeffery & DI Malik Jackson

Current projected cap space: (-)$42,939,668
Post-June 1 cut cap savings:
Post-June 1 cut dead money:

The Eagles have already been and will continue to be very busy this offseason. Beyond cuts, Carson Wentz was shipped off to Indianapolis and TE Zach Ertz seems likely to be the next guy traded away. 

Before either of those moves, Philadelphia quietly renegotiated the contracts of both Jeffery and Jackson. The players agreed to drop their 2021 salaries way down to $2 million, and Philadelphia will release them both with a post-June 1 designation as soon as the 2021 league year begins on March 17. When healthy, both players are still capable of producing, but the Eagles don’t really have a choice here and they clearly know that.


PITTSBURGH STEELERS: NONE

Current projected cap space: (-)$19,062,914

The Steelers’ two best candidates to clear cap space via a release — center Maurkice Pouncey and TE Vance McDonald — have both already announced their respective retirements since the 2020 season ended.


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: C Weston Richburg

Current projected cap space: $13,359,654
Post-June 1 cut cap savings: $7,950,000
Post-June 1 cut dead money: $3,512,791

The best answer here is frankly QB Jimmy Garoppolo, but San Francisco appears to be running it back with him under center at least one more time. In three full seasons with the 49ers, Garoppolo has appeared in more than six games just once. Granted, the 49ers went to the Super Bowl the one season he was able to stay healthy, but Garoppolo has shown his relatively modest ceiling at this point.

Richburg has not played to the level of his contract after signing a top-of-the-market deal to join the 49ers, and Kyle Shanahan was able to plug and play other guys without too much trouble, as Richburg missed the entire 2020 campaign.

The 49ers have a ton of pending free agents, most notably fellow offensive lineman Trent Williams, who will likely look to become the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL this offseason.


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: EDGE Carlos Dunlap

Current projected cap space: $4,391,354
Cut cap savings: $14,037,500
Cut dead money: $0

This will probably be a tougher decision than Seattle originally anticipated after acquiring Dunlap in a deadline trade from the Bengals in exchange for C/G B.J. Finney. Dunlap was likely viewed as an important addition for a 2020 playoff push, with Seattle absolutely desperate for help at edge rusher.

Dunlap went on to make a handful of game-altering plays, including a fourth-down sack on Kyler Murray in Week 11 that essentially clinched a win for the Seahawks. Nevertheless, he still finished the season with a career-low 60.3 grade and turns 33 at the end of February.

With 2020 second-round pick ED Darrell Taylor taking a medical redshirt year in his rookie season, he’ll look to get into the lineup in his sophomore campaign and bring an edge rush presence Seattle must have if their defense is going to meaningfully improve. With other defensive players like Shaquill Griffin and K.J. Wright set to hit free agency, Seattle may not have a choice but to clear Dunlap’s cap off the books.


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: TE Cameron Brate

Current projected cap space: $13,361,683
Cut cap savings: $6,500,000
Cut dead money: $0

Brate has been a solid contributor in the red zone for the Buccaneers for years but may end up as the odd man out with 2017 first-round pick O.J. Howard set to return from injury in 2021. Brate agreed to a pay cut before the 2020 campaign in order to help Tampa Bay fit all the new faces on the books, but things get even more challenging this offseason. 

If Tampa plans to keep all their big-name free agents like Bruce Arians said they would after their Super Bowl boat parade, moving on from Brate may be a necessary tough decision. He graded in the 40s in both run and pass blocking, which Arians likes from his tight ends. Brate can certainly still be a solid red-zone target elsewhere in the NFL as he closes out his career.


TENNESSEE TITANS: WR Adam Humphries

Current projected cap space: (-)$2,192,236
Post-June 1 cut cap savings: $7,250,000
Post-June 1 cut dead money: $2,500,000

Humphries battled concussion issues throughout 2020, and although Tennessee WR Corey Davis and TE Jonnu Smith are set to be free agents, this move may still be a smart one for Tennessee. Their focus will largely be on improving the defense while maintaining status quo on offense, and the $7.25M in cap relief they’d gain on June 2 would be a big help. 

Humphries is a slot specialist who manages to create consistent separation and produce when healthy, but he’s played just 603 snaps over the last two seasons combined. His release enables them to add some more pieces, or even just retain slot cornerback Desmond King II and/or ED Jadeveon Clowney this offseason and try to finally get over the hump in the AFC playoffs.


WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM: QB Alex Smith

Current projected cap space: $38,277,074
Cut cap savings: $14,700,000
Cut dead money: $8,600,000

This may be a tough decision emotionally, but it certainly isn’t from a business standpoint. Smith’s return to the field of play was nothing short of a miracle, but he showed the effects of a brutal leg injury that almost ended his career. 

Washington has a great young defense and a handful of playmakers on offense that could benefit in a major way from a new signal-caller. Clearing a big chunk of cap room with this release can afford them the flexibility to do pretty much whatever they want at the position, while also facilitating other free agent moves, like perhaps a wideout to pair with Terry McLaurin.


 

The moves for all 32 NFL teams

Team Player Transaction Type Cap Savings Dead Money
ARI Devon Kennard Post June 1 Cut $6,656,250 $1,250,000
ATL James Carpenter Post-June 1 Cut $5,233,125 $1,208,333
BAL Brandon Williams Cut $7,500,000 $6,920,000
BUF Mario Addison Post-June 1 Cut $8,190,625 $2,000,000
BUF Mario Addison Cut $6,190,625 $4,000,000
CAR Kawann Short Cut $8,603,250 $11,017,000
CHI Jimmy Graham Cut $7,000,000 $3,000,000
CIN Geno Atkins Cut $9,500,000 $5,200,000
CLE Sheldon Richardson Cut $11,500,000 $1,666,668
DEN Jurrell Casey Cut $11,874,750 $0
DET Desmond Trufant Cut $6,187,500 $6,000,000
GB Preston Smith Post-June 1 Cut $12,000,000 $4,000,000
GB Preston Smith Cut $8,000,000 $8,000,000
HOU David Johnson Cut $6,412,500 $2,100,000
KC Anthony Hitchens Post-June 1 Cut $6,437,500 $4,223,750
LAC Trai Turner Cut $11,500,000 $0
LAR Michael Brockers Post-June 1 Cut $6,500,000 $3,333,333
LV Lamarcus Joyner Cut $8,700,000 $2,500,000
MIN Riley Reiff Cut $11,750,000 $2,200,000
NO Kwon Alexander Cut $13,165,625 $0
NYG Nate Solder Post-June 1 Cut $10,000,000 $6,500,000
NYJ Henry Anderson Cut $8,200,000 $1,333,334
PHI Alshon Jeffery Post-June 1 Cut $2,250,000 $5,590,735
PHI Malik Jackson Post-June 1 Cut $2,000,000 $3,611,000
SEA Carlos Dunlap Cut $14,037,500 $0
SF Weston Richburg Post-June 1 Cut $7,950,000 $3,512,791
TB Cameron Brate Cut $6,500,000 $0
TEN Adam Humphries Post-June 1 Cut $7,250,000 $2,500,000
WAS Alex Smith Post-June 1 Cut $19,000,000 $4,300,000
WAS Alex Smith Cut $14,700,000 $8,600,000
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