What If? Who Each NFL Team Would Put into an Expansion Draft

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJuly 21, 2021

What If? Who Each NFL Team Would Put into an Expansion Draft

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    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    On Wednesday evening, the NHL will hold an expansion draft, with the Seattle Kraken (hey, I didn't name them) building their roster for the league's 32nd team by taking players from the other 31 clubs.

    It's been a while since we saw this happen in the NFL—about two decades, as a matter of fact. In 2002, the Houston Texans went through a similar experience.

    That Texans team won four games in its first season, which was actually something of an achievement.

    The Cliffs Notes version of the rules then were as follows: Each team had to leave five players unprotected. If the Texans chose a player, that team could pull one of its remaining four off the board. If Houston picked two players from a specific team, then the final three could be pulled back.

    There were others, but we're not going that far into the proverbial weeds here.

    Most of the guys eligible for that draft were, well, scrubs. But there were some big names as teams looked to unload contracts. There were 25 players who had been to the Pro Bowl who were eligible.

    What would happen if the league added a 33rd team via an expansion draft in 2021? What stars could find themselves headed to the Portland Phantoms or Oklahoma City Desperados?

    Here's a look at a list of players who could be made available for that hypothetical, including a Super Bowl MVP.    

                        

    NOTE: It's important to keep in mind that the 2002 expansion draft happened before both free agency and that year's draft. This is a much different (hypothetical) situation. To that end, I excluded all rookies and, with a few exceptions, stayed away from veterans who switched teams in the 2021 offseason.    

AFC East

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    BUFFALO BILLS

    RB Taiwan Jones, QB Davis Webb, DT Justin Zimmer, Edge Jerry Hughes, Edge Mario Addison

    The first two names aren't likely to generate much interest from an expansion team. Jones is a 32-year-old scatback who touched the ball zero times last year. Webb is heading into his fifth professional season without ever having attempted a regular-season pass.

    The veteran defensive linemen are the more likely targets for an expansion team. With two new edge-rushers (Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham) joining the team in the 2021 draft and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei back after opting out in 2020 amid COVID-19, the Bills could afford to shed a veteran DL (and his salary).

    Also, per the rules in 2002, if a player were taken, the Bills would get to remove someone from the unprotected list. So if, say, Addison were picked, Buffalo could pull Hughes off the board.

                                                                 

    MIAMI DOLPHINS

    WR Jakeem Grant, WR Allen Hurns, CB Xavien Howard, G Durval Queiroz Neto, S Nate Holley

    There are two players who might generate some interest from an expansion team.

    The first (and one of the biggest names in this entire article) is two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard, who led the league with 10 interceptions last season. It seems unfathomable that a team would let a player of his caliber just walk out the door. But the contract impasse between the 28-year-old seems to be going nowhere, and Miami might welcome the chance to be rid of the headache.

    Of course, an expansion team might pass on taking a player who wants a massive contract and probably wouldn't be happy about joining a bottom feeder.

    Wide receiver Jakeem Grant might also garner some interest after making eight starts over the past three years in Miami. The 28-year-old is an excellent kick returner as well, but with a cap hit of $4.7 million in 2021 and William Fuller V and first-round rookie Jaylen Waddle now in Miami, he's expendable.

                                                     

    NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

    WR N'Keal Harry, DL Tashawn Bower, ILB Harvey Langi, TE Dalton Keene, G Marcus Martin

    If you're expecting any revelations or splashes here, you're going to be disappointed. Head coach Bill Belichick isn't exactly known for being a wild risk-taker.

    That's not to say there aren't a couple of interesting names. Wide receiver N'Keal Harry is a 2019 first-round pick who has already requested a trade. A deal won't bring much of a return after Harry's two ho-hum seasons, but the Patriots might decide to get rid of him altogether.

    Inside linebacker Harvey Langi made six starts and recorded 60 tackles for the Jets in 2020, but the Pats wouldn't bat an eye were he to leave before playing a snap for the team given its depth at that position.

    And no, Belichick probably wouldn't leave Stephon Gilmore unprotected, not with just one year left on the veteran corner's contract.

                  

    NEW YORK JETS

    ILB C.J. Mosley, WR Jamison Crowder, DE Kyle Phillips, CB Javelin Guidry, DT Tanzel Smart

    The first two names here are the only ones of note.

    Jamison Crowder is a veteran slot receiver who has hauled in six touchdowns in each of his two seasons in New York. But the 28-year-old's role in the Jets' new-look offense is uncertain, and it's unlikely the team will bring him back after his contract expires in 2022.

    That brings us to inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who inked a massive five-year, $85 million contract with the Jets in 2019. The eighth-year veteran has been named to four Pro Bowls and has eclipsed 100 total tackles the same number of times. But in two seasons in the Big Apple, Mosley has played in all of two games and made nine stops.

    The Jets would probably throw in one of those end-of-bench reserves listed here just to be rid of his contract.    

NFC East

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    DALLAS COWBOYS

    ILB Jaylon Smith, QB Ben DiNucci, WR Cedrick Wilson, OLB Francis Bernard, S Steven Parker

    Frankly, it is sorely tempting to include Ezekiel Elliott here. The running back's play has declined over the past couple of years—an alarming trend given his position and career workload. The Cowboys have a capable replacement in Tony Pollard. And Elliott's six-year, $90 million contract is the ugliest on the roster.

    However, the Cowboys enter every season with Super Bowl aspirations (or delusions, depending on how you look at it). And it's doubtful team owner Jerry Jones would risk watching Elliott get snatched up, even if the argument can be made that would be a bad move for a new squad.

    On the other hand, linebacker Jaylon Smith (who is also coming off a down season, especially in coverage) is another story.

    With Leighton Vander Esch, Micah Parsons, Jabril Cox and Keanu Neal at off-ball linebacker, the Cowboys have the depth at the position to absorb the loss of Smith and would clear nearly $10 million off the books.

    Given the Cowboys' annual dance with the salary cap, the extra wiggle room would come in handy.

                         

    NEW YORK GIANTS

    OT Nate Solder, WR Sterling Shepard, OLB Cam Brown, CB Quincy Wilson, S Montre Hartage

    There is, without question, not a team in the league that would rather see a veteran poached in an expansion draft.

    In 2018, the New York Giants gave offensive tackle Nate Solder a four-year, $62 million contract to protect the blind side. The return on that investment has been pretty much nonexistent. Solder allowed 11 sacks in 2019 and sat out the 2020 season over concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Giants would probably also just as soon be rid of sixth-year veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard. After catching 66 passes for 872 yards in 2018, Shepard got a four-year, $41 million extension. But he has failed to record even 700 receiving yards in the two seasons since and has just six touchdowns through the air.

                            

    PHILADEPHIA EAGLES

    K Jake Elliott, DT Fletcher Cox, CB Michael Jacquet, G Sua Opeta, TE Caleb Wilson

    To be fair, Fletcher Cox remains a very good defensive tackle. The 30-year-old may not be quite the disruptive force he was during his 10.5-sack 2018 campaign, but he was just named to his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl.

    But Cox is both an aging star and the highest-paid defensive player on the team. The Eagles are in the opening stages of a rebuild, and while trading Cox would be preferable, getting him off the books in an expansion draft would work as well.

    The Eagles should pray that an expansion draft would involve kicker Jake Elliott leaving town. Giving Elliott a five-year, $19.3 million extension in 2019 was a terrible use of cap space, and Elliott hit on a career-low 73.7 percent of his field-goal attempts last season.

                                    

    WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

    S Landon Collins, WR Kelvin Harmon, G Najee Toran, DE Daniel Wise, OT Saahdiq Charles

    There's only one name on Washington's list of unprotected players that's apt to turn heads.

    When Landon Collins is healthy and on his game, he's as talented as any box safety in the league. The 27-year-old has topped 100 tackles in four of his six professional seasons, has been named to three Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro in 2016.

    That resume earned Collins a six-year, $84 million deal with Washington in 2019. He's the team's highest-paid player with a multiyear contract. 

    However, Collins' 2020 season was a mess. He recorded a career-low 41 stops in seven games before tearing his Achilles. With Collins sidelined, Kamren Curl emerged as a quality starter at the position.

    He also made Collins expendable.   

AFC North

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    BALTIMORE RAVENS

    CB Tavon Young, WR Binjimen Victor, C Trystan Colon-Castillo, DT Aaron Crawford, ILB Chris Board

    For the most part, the unprotected players for the Baltimore Ravens are a "who's who" of "who?". Chris Board saw just 25 percent of the defensive snaps last year, but with veteran L.J. Fort and youngster Malik Harrison ahead of him on the depth chart, his loss would barely be felt.

    However, there is one player of note, at least when he's healthy.

    Over his first three professional seasons, Tavon Young showed the Ravens enough to earn a $25.8 million extension. However, since then, it has been one thing after another for the 27-year-old. He suffered a neck injury that wiped out his 2019 season, and then he tore his ACL two games into the 2020 campaign.

    The Baltimore secondary didn't miss a beat with Young sidelined, so it's possible that the Ravens are just ready to move on.

                        

    CINCINNATI BENGALS

    CB Trae Waynes, WR Mike Thomas, G Michael Jordan, S Brandon Wilson, P Kevin Huber

    At first glance, Cincinnati's unprotected players may not be that enticing. After all, one is a punter.

    But there are a couple of players who could appeal to an expansion team.

    Guard Michael Jordan (no, not that one) had PFF grades last year that were somewhere between "not great" and "abjectly awful." But Jordan is also just 23 years old and offers some starting experience.

    Leaving Trae Waynes unprotected is all about erasing a mistake. The three-year, $42 million deal the Bengals gave Waynes in free agency was one of the worst deals of 2020. Waynes then proceeded to suffer a pectoral injury that wiped out his entire season.

    Getting out from under that contract would be worth the hole it would create in the Cincinnati secondary.

                                             

    CLEVELAND BROWNS

    TE David Njoku, OLB Mack Wilson, QB Kyle Lauletta, S Sheldrick Redwine, CB A.J. Green

    There isn't a ton of star power among the expansion draft-eligible players. But there are a couple of players who entered the league with high expectations.

    Tight end David Njoku hasn't lived up to his first-round pedigree since joining the Browns in 2017. He has missed 15 games over the past two seasons. With Harrison Bryant and Austin Hooper in the fold and Njoku all but certainly leaving in free agency next year anyway, the Browns could decide that now is the time to cut bait.

    Linebacker Mack Wilson has flashed at times and has 22 starts over his first two seasons, but with Anthony Walker and rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah now in town, his playing time is about to all but evaporate. Ditto for safety Sheldrick Redwine, who is at best fourth at the position behind John Johnson, Ronnie Harrison and Grant Delpit.

                                                    

    PITTSBURGH STEELERS

    QB Mason Rudolph, RB Kalen Ballage, ILB Ulysees Gilbert III, DE Chris Wormley, TE Zach Gentry

    So, um, this is not an especially exciting group.

    After bringing in former Washington starter Dwayne Haskins in the offseason, it's not hard to imagine Pittsburgh leaving one of its two backup signal-callers unprotected. Rudolph has made enough starts that we know who he is: a low-ceiling backup. He's certainly not the heir to Ben Roethlisberger.

    It was a close call between Ballage and Benny Snell Jr. as to which plodder the Steelers pray never sees the field outside of spelling Najee Harris. However, Snell has more experience in Pittsburgh's offense, so Ballage, who has a 3.1 yards-per-carry average, is left unprotected.   

NFC North

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    CHICAGO BEARS

    Edge Robert Quinn, DE Akiem Hicks, QB Nick Foles, WR Chris Lacy, ILB Austin Calitro

    The Chicago Bears wouldn't just make several veterans available. They would call said expansion team and lobby for their players to be taken.

    Akiem Hicks is a longtime stalwart for the Bears defense who made the Pro Bowl in 2018. But the 31-year-old isn't the player he once was and has been mentioned in trade rumors for much of the offseason.

    Edge-rusher Robert Quinn is the second-highest paid player on the roster in Chicago. Last year, the $14 million per season the Bears invested in the 31-year-old got them a whopping two sacks.

    Then there's quarterback Nick Foles, who may be the highest-paid third-string quarterback in the NFL. If he didn't carry a staggering dead-cap hit ($14.3 million) in 2021, the MVP of Super Bowl LII would already be done.

    Getting that contract off the books would make Bears GM Ryan Pace positively giddy.

                

    DETROIT LIONS

    Edge Trey Flowers, G/OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, CB Mike Ford, S Godwin Igwebuike, QB David Blough

    Here's a news flash: The Detroit Lions are rebuilding…again.

    It's tempting to include Jared Goff here, as it would present a unique opportunity to get out from under one of the more onerous contracts in the league. But the Lions have insisted they have confidence in Goff as a long-term answer under center.

    However, this expansion draft could be an opportunity to dump a couple of disappointing veterans and free up a boatload of cap space.

    When the Lions gave Halapoulivaati Vaitai $45 million over five years, it was to be a starting tackle, not an overpriced (and rather mediocre) guard. Edge-rusher Trey Flowers is a stout edge-setter, but he's never had more than 7.5 sacks in a season and is coming off the worst campaign of his professional career.

    The Lions have too many holes to be paying Flowers $18 million per year.

                   

    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    Edge Preston Smith, QB Blake Bortles, DT Willington Previlon, CB Stanford Samuels III, TE Josiah Deguara

    Leaving veteran quarterback Blake Bortles unprotected depends on the Aaron Rodgers saga being resolved. And like most of the teams, the players on this list aren't especially impressive

    There is, however, one exception.

    In his first season with the Packers, edge-rusher Preston Smith lived up to the four-year, $52 million deal his signed in 2019, racking up a dozen sacks.

    But Smith's production fell way off last year. And with Rashan Gary coming off a season in which he had more sacks (five) in fewer snaps than Smith (four), getting Smith's salary off the books could be appealing.

                      

    MINNESOTA VIKINGS

    OLB Anthony Barr, OLB Nick Vigil, DT Michael Pierce, G Dru Samia, CB Tye Smith

    The Vikings are sort of stuck in 2021. They're not a bad team by any stretch. But it's also hard to view them as a serious threat to teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams in the NFC.

    However, they can't afford to lose any prominent players in an expansion draft (even overpaid ones) unless they have enough depth at the position to absorb the hit.

    They have that depth at outside linebacker. So either veteran Anthony Barr (whose contract was already reworked in the offseason) or free-agent signee Nick Vigil could be expendable. If one were selected, the other could be pulled back. The team also has promising rookie Chazz Surrat waiting in the wings.

    Defensive tackle Michael Pierce has played zero snaps for the Vikings since signing with them in 2020. The 28-year-old opted out of last season, and his availability for training camp is in question thanks to a calf injury.

AFC South

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    HOUSTON TEXANS

    WR Randall Cobb, OT Charlie Heck, WR Donte Moncrief, RB Mark Ingram II, ILB Kamu Grugier-Hill

    The Houston Texans may be the most talent-deficient team in the NFL. But there are players on this list who could have at least some appeal.

    Wide receiver Randall Cobb is grossly overpaid in Houston (three years, $27 million), but we are talking about a slot receiver who has topped 75 receptions three times and has a 1,000-yard season on his resume. As recently as 2018 in Jacksonville, fellow wide receiver Donte Moncrief averaged three catches per game and notched 668 yards.

    Running back Mark Ingram II is the wrong side of 30, but he topped 1,000 yards on the ground and made the Pro Bowl with the Ravens in 2019. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill made seven starts over the past two years with the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins.

                        

    INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

    RB Jordan Wilkins, WR DeMichael Harris, OT Julie'n Davenport, CB Marvell Tell III, S Ibraheim Campbell

    The Colts are absolutely a playoff contender in 2021, and general manager Chris Ballard has done an excellent job of building a competitive roster without handing out bloated contracts.

    The worst pact is undoubtedly quarterback Carson Wentz's, but the team isn't about to leave him unprotected after bringing him over in a trade.

    Instead, the players available are young reserves who (for the most part) haven't had the chance to play a large role in the pros.

    There's a bit of upside here. Jordan Wilkins has averaged 4.9 yards a carry for his career, Julie'n Davenport is an athletic 26-year-old tackle made expendable by Eric Fisher's arrival and Ibraheim Campbell was an eight-game starter in Cleveland in 2016.

    But most of these players would be hard-pressed to start even for an expansion team.

                                         

    JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

    WR Jamal Agnew, ILB Joe Schobert, CB Chris Claybrooks, RB Dare Ogunbowale, DE Daniel Ekuale

    After winning just one game in 2020, the Jaguars aren't a team that can afford to shed talent. And the players made eligible (for the most part) are non-factors. There are an overpaid special teamer (Jamal Agnew at three years, $14.3 million), three low-end reserves...and the NFL's seventh-highest-paid inside linebacker.

    Joe Schobert's first season with the Jaguars was productive. He led the team and was fourth in the league with 141 total tackles. But Schobert was brought in by the old regime, and it's fair to question how the team's move to a 3-4 base defense will affect him.

    This isn't to say that Schobert isn't an excellent player, But the team has a potential replacement waiting in Damien Wilson, and if the new brain trust wants to clear his nearly $10 million cap hit off the books, this would be one way to do it.

                              

    TENNESSEE TITANS

    ILB Rashaan Evans, OT David Quessenberry, CB Quenton Meeks, RB Jeremy McNichols, WR Chester Rogers

    The Tennessee Titans have aspirations of making the Super Bowl in 2021, so they aren't going to be eager to make a bunch of talent available in an expansion draft.

    With that said, there's at least one starter who might be available. Inside linebacker Rashaan Evans has started 16 games in each of the last two years for the Titans, but he's a liability in pass coverage—so much so that the team passed on his fifth-year option for 2022. There's also a capable player waiting behind him in David Long Jr.

    David Quessenberry is a tackle with starting experience. Wide receiver Chester Rogers caught 53 passes with the Colts in 2018.

    Sorry, but Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown are off the table.

NFC South

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    ATLANTA FALCONS

    Edge Dante Fowler Jr., TE Lee Smith, WR Tajae Sharpe, S T.J. Green, CB Tyler Hall

    Given that the Falcons are coming off a four-win season and already traded the best wide receiver in franchise history in Julio Jones, they probably wouldn't be in an especially giving mood.

    But there's one big name that could be left unprotected in an effort to undo one of the franchise's biggest free-agent mistakes of the past decade.

    The Falcons have already reworked the three-year, $45 million contract they gave edge-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. in 2020. And it's fair to question how they would generate a pass rush if the 26-year-old were taken in an expansion draft.

    But it's also not like they generated a pass rush with Fowler in 2020. After tallying 11.5 sacks with the Rams in 2019 and getting a fat payday, the sixth-year veteran had a measly three QB takedowns in 2021.

               

    CAROLINA PANTHERS

    G Pat Elflein, RB Reggie Bonnafon, ILB Julian Stanford, CB Troy Pride Jr., S Sam Franklin

    The headliner of this quintet is an offensive lineman who just signed this spring.

    But getting out from under Pat Elflein's three-year, $13.5 million contract would be a wise move for the franchise.

    Despite the fact that the Vikings had plenty of problems up front in 2020, the team cut the 27-year-old last November.

    The reason, as Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus pointed out, was that Elflein was one of the worst guards in the league in 2020: "Elflein finished 2020 with a 30.5 pass-blocking grade, the fifth-worst among all guards who registered at least 100 snaps. He allowed pressure on 10.0 percent of his reps in pass protection, the fourth-worst among that same group of guards."

    That ain't gonna help quarterback Sam Darnold turn his career around.

                 

    NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

    S Malcolm Jenkins, CB Grant Haley, RB Dwayne Washington, OT Ethan Greenidge, Edge Noah Spence

    The New Orleans Saints entered the 2021 offseason in the worst salary-cap situation in the NFL. Thanks to the creative accounting of GM Mickey Loomis, they extricated themselves from that mess temporarily. But, per Over the Cap, the Saints will be right back in cap hell come next spring at $37.6 million in the red.

    Making veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins available in an expansion draft would potentially clear $11.7 million off that 2022 cap…without hurting the Saints defensively all that much.

    Yes, Jenkins is an accomplished veteran with three Pro Bowl trips and two Super Bowl wins to his credit. But the 33-year-old looked every bit of his age last year, allowing over 70 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed.

                                      

    TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

    TE Cameron Brate, QB Blaine Gabbert, RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn, CB Herb Miller, Edge Anthony Nelson

    There isn't a team that would be stingier in an expansion draft than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are more than just the defending Super Bowl champions. They wanted to keep the band together so badly that they brought back all 22 starters from the squad that thumped the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

    The biggest name the Bucs might put on the "take me" table is a guy whose contract has come to far outshine his production.

    When Tampa Bay signed Cameron Brate to a six-year extension worth just under $41 million in 2018, the 30-year old was a significant part of the offense. But with Rob Gronkowski in town in 2020, Brate's numbers weren't even a little impressive. His 28 catches were his fewest since 2015, and his 282 yards and two scores were both the lowest totals since his rookie year.    

AFC West

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    DENVER BRONCOS

    QB Drew Lock, OG Graham Glasgow, RB Royce Freeman, WR Damion Willis, CB Essang Bassey

    An expansion draft would be one way for the Denver Broncos to solve their quarterback conundrum.

    The Broncos have insisted the battle between Lock and Teddy Bridgewater remains open, but some (if not most) pundits expect Bridgewater to win out. Making Lock available in the expansion draft would settle the matter and remove the temptation for head coach Vic Fangio to play musical quarterbacks, which is almost never a good idea.

    The other prominent name included here is guard Graham Glasgow, who signed a four-year, $44 million contract with the Broncos in free agency last year. Glasgow wasn't bad in 2020, but he wasn't great, either. Denver also has a comparable (and much less expensive) option on the roster in second-year pro Netane Muti.

         

    KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

    Edge Frank Clark, ILB Anthony Hitchens, S Will Parks, CB Chris Lammons, RB Darwin Thompson

    While the Kansas City Chiefs might leave veteran edge-rusher Frank Clark unprotected in an expansion draft, it's less likely that the new team would take him.

    Clark's average salary of $20.8 million per season ranks fifth among all edge-rushers. He hasn't had a 10-sack season since joining the Chiefs in 2019, and he's also facing a potential multigame suspension after being charged with felony weapons possession.

    The other name of note is veteran inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens. He ranked second on the team with 78 tackles in 2020, but his $9 million average annual salary is a lot to pay an average player, especially with youngsters Willie Gay and Nick Bolton ready to hold down the middle of the Chiefs defense.

         

    LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

    OLB Cory Littleton, Edge Clelin Ferrell, RB Theo Riddick, WR Trey Quinn, OT Sam Young

    The Las Vegas Raiders could use an expansion draft to rid themselves of a mistake or two.

    Prior to the 2020 season, the Raiders signed linebacker Cory Littleton to a three-year, $35.2 million contract. Littleton topped 125 tackles with the Rams in 2018 and 2019, but he allowed a completion percentage north of 70 percent and whiffed on a staggering 17 tackles with the Raiders last season.

    Then there's edge-rusher Clelin Ferrell. In 2019, the Raiders drafted the Clemson star fourth overall, ahead of Josh Allen, Brian Burns and Montez Sweat.

    While those three have all emerged as promising young pass-rushers, Ferrell has been mostly invisible. He has only 6.5 sacks over his two NFL seasons, including a mere two last year.

         

    LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

    OG Tyree St. Louis, ILB Emeke Egbule, CB Brandon Facyson, RB Joshua Kelley, QB Easton Stick

    The Chargers don't have many ugly contracts to shed in an expansion draft, at least not at positions where they can afford to lose them.

    Mike Williams is overpaid at $15.7 million, but he's on his fifth-year option and should serve as the team's No. 2 receiver. Cornerback Chris Harris might not be worth $8.5 million per season at this point in his career, but like Williams, he's entering the final year of his deal.

    As such, the general manager of the hypothetical expansion team would have an uninspiring list of Chargers reserve players from which to choose.

NFC West

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    ARIZONA CARDINALS

    Edge Devon Kennard, ILB Jordan Hicks, DE Jordan Phillips, CB Jace Whittaker, C Lamont Gaillard

    For the Arizona Cardinals, an expansion draft would represent an opportunity to trim some fat from the roster.

    With rookie Zaven Collins and second-year pro Isaiah Simmons set to start at inside linebacker, Jordan Hicks' days in the desert appear numbered. The 29-year-old, who has paced the team in tackles each of the past two years, has been given permission to seek a trade. If that doesn't pan out, Hicks could be released.

    Edge-rusher Devon Kennard and defensive end Jordan Phillips are in similar situations. With J.J. Watt now in the desert and Markus Golden and Chandler Jones both available off the edge, the Redbirds could shave upward of $17 million off their payroll by making Kennard and Phillips available to an expansion team, and the defense wouldn't suffer any sort of substantial setback.

          

    LOS ANGELES RAMS

    WR Trishton Jackson, DT Marquise Copeland, ILB Kenny Young, CB Kareem Orr, S JuJu Hughes

    No NFL team is in win-now mode more than the Los Angeles Rams. As such, they have a number of big contracts on their roster, some of which are dubious.

    But the Rams wouldn't part with anyone of note in an expansion draft. Not after giving up their first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 in the trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

    There is at least a little meat on the bone here. Inside linebacker Kenny Young has made 12 starts over his three seasons in the league, including six last year. But he is also a replacement-level talent, which about the best that can be said about this wholly uninteresting bunch of players.

    Were one to be selected, it would be an upset.

          

    SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

    Edge Dee Ford, RB Jeff Wilson Jr., S Tarvarius Moore, WR Kevin White, OT Colton McKivitz

    The 49ers might be tempted to include quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo here after drafting Trey Lance third overall in April. But while Garoppolo's average annual salary remains robust, the Niners can get out from under the deal at any point with a minimal dead cap hit.

    Edge-rusher Dee Ford is another matter. Ford's five-year, $85.5 million pact looks worse by the day. After piling up 13 sacks with the Chiefs in 2018 (and getting that payday), Ford's sack production fell by half the following year. In 2020, he played in only one game before neck and back injuries sidelined him for the rest of the season.

    Ford is a 30-year-old coming off a lost 2020 season, and he has been reduced to a reserve role behind Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. Watching him get picked in an expansion draft wouldn't elicit many tears from San Fran general manager John Lynch.

         

    SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

    RB Rashaad Penny, Edge L.J. Collier, CB Tre Brown, TE Colby Parkinson, OG Kyle Fuller

    This last group of expansion draft-eligible players isn't likely to send many ripples of excitement through the front office of the league's 33rd team. But the Seahawks don't have many bloated contracts, or at least none they're in a hurry to ditch.

    Running back Rashaad Penny has at least shown some flashes of explosiveness, averaging 5.1 yards per carry for his career. But the fourth-year veteran has also missed 21 games over his first three seasons and has yet to carry the ball 100 times in a season.

    Edge-rusher L.J. Collier might have some minimal appeal given his first-round pedigree. But he's been a major disappointment in his first two seasons, having racked up only 25 total tackles and three sacks.

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