Big-Name NFL Players Who Could Get Cut This Offseason
The NFL offseason can be an anxiety-ridden time for veteran players. While some are headed toward free agency with no idea what the market could hold, others are under contract but uncertain about their futures.
Even notable veterans can wind up on the cut pile ahead of the new league year—especially those with little or no guaranteed money remaining on their contracts. Unfavorable cap situations, declining performance or a change in coaching philosophy can turn a player from franchise staple into job hunter.
Let's examine seven notable veterans who are under contract but could still be on the move in 2020.
Before we dig into the list, let's examine some noteworthy cut candidates who don't, well, make the cut.
Trey Burton, TE, Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears tight end Trey Burton can and likely will be among players released this offseason. He had a disappointing 2019 campaign with just eight games played, 14 receptions and 84 yards. Releasing him would save more than $1 million in cap space next season and would eliminate his $8.85 million 2021 salary entirely.
Bears fans may expect this move, but calling Burton a big name would be a stretch.
David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson is a big name, as the veteran back went over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 2016. However, he has struggled with injuries and efficiency since then, making him a prime candidate to be cut.
Only, he isn't. Johnson isn't a realistic cut candidate because releasing him would cost Arizona money in 2020. He is set to carry a cap hit of about $14.2 million but would cost the team $16.2 million in dead money. It's far more likely the Cardinals attempt a trade.
Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins
It feels unlikely that seven-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams will ever play for the Washington Redskins again. He held out until the trade deadline last year and publicly criticized the franchise's medical staff.
However, Williams is under contract for 2020, and it's just as unlikely the Redskins will let him walk. Given the soured relationship between the two parties, Washington could be inclined to trade him or retain his rights out of spite.
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Though there are no guarantees, there's a strong chance the Cincinnati Bengals will use the No. 1 pick in April's draft on a new quarterback. If this is the plan, then veteran Andy Dalton could be let go.
Logistically, it would make sense to keep the nine-year veteran. He could play the mentor role and start if necessary while a player like LSU's Joe Burrow is groomed for the NFL. After such a long relationship, however, Cincinnati may be willing to let Dalton pursue a starting job if that's his wish.
Dalton has no guaranteed money on the final year of his contract.
Essentially, he could be cut as a favor of sorts or if the team doesn't feel like paying $17.7 million for a player who may not start more than a game or two.
Tony Jefferson, S, Baltimore Ravens
Tony Jefferson is a fantastic safety when healthy. Unfortunately, he was not that in 2019. A torn ACL ended his season after just five games, and it may end his time with the Baltimore Ravens as well.
Jefferson joined the Ravens in 2017 and has been a mainstay in the secondary. However, Baltimore maintained a playoff-caliber defense without him, which could make him expendable for the final year of his contract.
Cutting Jefferson would save the Ravens $7 million in cap space. While Baltimore is projected to have more than $34 million available, another $7 million could be valuable as the team looks to improve its pass rush and/or hang on to pending free agents like Matthew Judon and Michael Pierce.
Upgrading the pass rush appears to be a priority this offseason.
"One scout with the team said the decision-makers are heavily focused on drafting pass-rushers and building up a defense that can dominate when they have a lead," Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller wrote.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, New Orleans Saints
The New York Giants cut cornerback Janoris Jenkins late in the regular season. The New Orleans Saints claimed him for depth purposes, meaning they also inherited his $11.25 million in 2020 salary. It's highly unlikely he completes that final year of his contract as a member of the Saints.
Jenkins' deal doesn't contain any remaining dead money. New Orleans can release him without taking a financial hit.
The Saints could desperately use an extra $11 million too—especially with a big decision looming with quarterback Drew Brees. With Jenkins and Brees' 2020 phantom year on the books, the Saints are projected to have a mere $12.5 million in cap space available. Unless they can convince him to sign a more team-friendly deal, Jenkins will likely play elsewhere next season.
Nate Solder, OT, New York Giants
Jenkins is widely thought to be a free-agent failure for the Giants. Left tackle Nate Solder could be considered the same. While it might be harsh to call him an abject failure during his time in New York, Solder has not lived up to the four-year, $62 million contract he signed before the 2018 season.
According to Pro Football Focus, he was responsible for five penalties and 11 sacks allowed in 2019.
The Giants could save $6.5 million in cap space this offseason by releasing Solder. More importantly, they'd eliminate his $20.5 million 2021 salary and give the rebuilding process a fresh start along the offensive line. The latter piece of the equation is the most important, as developing quarterback Daniel Jones should be the No. 1 priority of new head coach Joe Judge.
Eliminating pressure as much as possible should be Judge's first step. Jones fumbled 18 times in 13 games last season, losing 11 of them.
Josh Norman, CB, Washington Redskins
Cornerback Josh Norman is a former Pro Bowler and was once considered an ascending defender in the NFL. This past season, he was benched in November and was inactive for three of the final six games.
According to Matthew Paras of the Washington Times, interim coach Bill Callahan said he benched Norman so he could get a look at other players.
Norman is entering the final year of his contract, and the Redskins could save more than $12 million in cap space by cutting him. There's a chance new head coach Ron Rivera—who previously coached Norman with the Carolina Panthers—retains him. Realistically, though, his diminished play could send him to the unemployment line.
Marcell Dareus, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is perhaps the biggest potential cap casualty on the Jacksonville Jaguars roster—and Jacksonville is projected to have just over $1 million in cap space.
While Dareus is a talented veteran and a two-time Pro Bowler, he's also set to carry a 2020 cap hit of $22.5 million. Jacksonville can avoid paying $20 million of that by sending him into free agency.
Not only would releasing Dareus free up some much-needed cap room, but it would also open the door for 2018 first-round pick Taven Bryan. The Florida product only made one start as a rookie but started eight of Jacksonville's final nine games in 2019 after Dareus was placed on injured reserve.
While Dareus will only be 30 next season and likely has plenty left to offer a team, his price tag and situation make him a poor fit for the new Jaguars regime.
Joe Flacco, QB, Denver Broncos
It was once fun to ask whether quarterback Joe Flacco was elite. After a trade from the Ravens and a disappointing, injury-marred season with the Denver Broncos, it's fairer to ask if he's still starting material. Denver seems content to ride with 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock as the starter instead.
"We're excited about where Drew is so, we don't like to show our hand, but it's unrealistic to say we're going a different direction," team president John Elway told reporters after the season.
If the Broncos are happy with the idea of starting Lock, then Flacco could indeed find himself on the open market. Though he has $13.6 million in dead money remaining on his contract, he's also due to carry a cap hit of $23.65 million in 2020.
Cutting the one-time Super Bowl champion would save the franchise roughly $10 million while also eliminating the risk of a quarterback controversy should Lock struggle.
All contract information via Spotrac.