The 7 Biggest Names Who Could Still Get Cut in the 2021 NFL Offseason
NFL teams aren't done revamping their rosters by any stretch of the imagination.
While there have been droves of cuts, trades and free-agent signings so far, there is plenty of talent left on a market that has slowed in anticipation of the draft. Those heavyweight staples of the offseason, plus cap constraints and competitions in training camp mean plenty of potential cuts of big names.
Some of the previous cut candidates have already been released, such as Trai Turner, Geno Atkins and Kwon Alexander. Others have been traded (Michael Brockers) or agreed to contract restructures (David Johnson, Preston Smith).
Big-name cut candidates remain, and they could be let go before the season starts due to bloated contract numbers their recent performance doesn't match, plus the likelihood their respective teams find successors.
Brandon Williams, DL, Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens aren't hurting for cap space at the moment with $13.5 million to work with, but the team has to start thinking about an extension for quarterback Lamar Jackson, and its list of 2022 free agents is huge, never mind the cost of onboarding a draft class over the summer.
Which makes Brandon Williams stick out in a bad way.
Williams, 32, is the team's third-highest cap hit at $12.9 million and is coming off a season where he missed three games and only graded at a 67.2 at Pro Football Focus. He was long underrated for his effectiveness, but his role as a run defender could be easily replaced.
Trading Williams would save a little money against his cap hit, but the team could choose to just outright cut him and get the number off the books.
Mario Addison, Edge, Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills only have $4.9 million in cap space ahead of the draft after spending big to retain some of their own, such as linebacker Matt Milano.
That puts someone like defensive end Mario Addison under the spotlight due to his $8.2 million cap hit in 2021, the fifth-highest number on the team.
While he had five sacks last year, that number was down from the nine or more he posted four seasons in a row prior to that with Carolina. He'll be 34 next season and only played 57 percent of the defense's snaps last year, a number that could only decrease.
Cutting Addison would save about $3.4 million for the Bills, so it's a logical move for the team to make at some point, especially with the draft offering plenty of cheap prospects who could reinforce the pass rush on roughly half of the unit's overall snaps.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Chicago Bears
Jimmy Graham's name isn't going to just stop coming up now.
Now 34 years old, Graham enters 2021 coming off a season in which he caught eight touchdowns—his highest mark since 2017 in Seattle after some unproductive years in Green Bay.
With eyes to the future, the Bears already added Cole Kmet with a second-round pick in 2020. He's bound to get an expanded role. While Graham is a nice red-zone target still and new quarterback Andy Dalton could use the help, it's hard to ignore the $7 million in cap savings created by cutting the veteran.
Landon Collins, S, Washington Football Team
Landon Collins will surely only see an increase in attention on potential cut lists here soon.
Washington made a colossal overpay on Collins in March 2019, giving him a six-year contract worth $84 million. He hasn't been able to live up to it thus far, posting a 69.2 PFF grade in 2019 before regressing to 60.0 over seven games last season. Collins then landed on injured reserve after suffering a torn Achilles tendon.
While Collins was out, Kamren Curl—a seventh-round pick—broke out with three interceptions and seems primed for a bigger role. Collins, meanwhile, is the team's second-biggest cap hit at $16.9 million, but cutting him loose with a post-June 1 designation would mean saving $7.7 million.
Given the mixture of a massive contract in a non-premium role (box safety vs. run), a serious injury and a budding replacement, Collins could be one of the bigger names cut loose this offseason.
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers worked some cap magic, retaining most of their win-now core with names like Rob Gronkowski, Lavonte David, Chris Godwin and Shaquil Barrett.
As always, Cameron Brate comes into the conversation as a cut candidate. He'll be 30 this summer, and with Gronk back in the fold, Brate remains an afterthought on a depth chart that also boasts O.J. Howard, a former first-round pick.
Despite playing all 16 games last year, Brate had just 28 catches and two scores on 30 percent of the offensive snaps. His $6.5 million cap hit, top eight on the roster, doesn't have any dead money attached to it, making him a likely cut.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
It seems like a matter of when, not if for the Philadelphia Eagles and tight end Zach Ertz.
The Eagles have just $6 million in cap space, and Ertz has a $12.7 million cap hit, the third-highest mark on the team, and this after appearing in 11 games last year, catching 36 of his 72 targets with just one touchdown.
Philadelphia would likely love to deal Ertz and get something in return for his inevitable departure, which explains the team giving him permission to seek a trade, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
But the lack of production, age and contract Ertz comes with means the Eagles will likely get back little to nothing for the veteran. If the team makes him a post-June 1 cut, it will save $8.5 million against the cap.
Jaylon Smith, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Sitting with just $8.5 million in cap space and a defense that was downright awful under a new coaching staff last year, the Dallas Cowboys have some tough calls to make this offseason.
Think: linebacker Jaylon Smith.
A second-round pick in 2016, Smith flashed massive upside, hence the team hitting him with a six-year extension worth $68.4 million in August 2019. But like the rest of his unit, Smith crashed and burned last year, putting up a 54.2 PFF grade, down from 70.2 the year prior (which wasn't really matching expectations based on the contract, either).
Smith is a $9.8 million cap hit in 2021 and while the Cowboys could hope to tough it out and hope he's better in the new scheme next year, making him a post-June 1 cut would save $7.2 million and push the dead money to future years.
Given the play of the entire unit last year and all the money poured into the offensive side of the ball, it's something that has to at least get some consideration from the Dallas front office.