NFL Cuts 2021: Predictions for Likeliest Big-Name Releases Before Season

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2021

NFL Cuts 2021: Predictions for Likeliest Big-Name Releases Before Season

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    Vera Nieuwenhuis/Associated Press

    Tim Tebow was the first of what should be many big-name cuts this summer before the start of the NFL regular season. 

    Reasons for teams cutting big names vary. With Tebow, the name recognition only went so far for a player nine-years removed from his last pro stint and trying to learn a new position. 

    Sometimes it's merely a case of teams wanting to embrace a youth movement. Think, Adrian Peterson getting cut last year in Washington. Other times, teams might be trying to clear up cap space or keep more players at other positions, while it might simply come down to a veteran underperforming. 

    Here are some of the biggest names who could lose their roster spot before the regular season. 

Landon Collins, S, Washington Football Team

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Landon Collins only appeared in seven games last year, so it's easy to forget that the Washington Football Team gave him a six-year contract worth $84 million in 2019. 

    That made Collins one of the NFL's highest-paid defenders, but he responded in 2019 with a 69.2 Pro Football Focus grade (in the "backup" range) despite 117 total tackles over 15 games. Over seven games in 2020, the grade diminished to 60.0 before a season-ending Achilles injury. 

    Collins is now the second-highest cap hit in Washington at $16.9 million. And while the team isn't hurting for cap space, a seventh-round pick by the name of Kamren Curl broke out last season in Collins' place, and cutting the veteran now would still save the team $7.7 million.

    While Washington wants to straddle the line between contender (playoffs last year) vs. rebuilder (need for a long-term quarterback), cutting loose Collins to save cash after ineffectual play while giving more snaps to a long-term asset could be an option. 

Nate Solder, OT, New York Giants

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    It wasn't too long ago that Nate Solder was one of the most notable free-agent signings on an open market, as the New York Giants gave him a four-year deal worth $62 million in 2018. 

    After several stellar seasons in New England, Solder wound up being a dud on the left edge of the Giants' line, producing a 75.7 PFF grade in 2018 with five penalties and seven sacks allowed over 1,027 snaps. He followed that in 2019 with a 64.9 PFF grade with five penalties and 11 sacks over 1,011 snaps before opting out of the 2020 season. 

    With Andrew Thomas on the left side and Matt Peart on the right, New York could decide to save money against the 2022 cap after a recent restructure by cutting Solder, who is 33 and more than a year removed from a full-contact game. If money isn't a factor, it could at least clear up roster space for long-term outlook players. 

Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Kyle Zedaker/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kept the championship crew together this offseason, losing nobody notable after a title run. As a result, the team has the only negative cap balance in the NFL ahead of the season. 

    Which puts somebody like tight end Cameron Brate in danger. 

    Brate got a six-year extension worth $40.8 million from the Buccaneers in 2018 after scoring 14 touchdowns over the prior two seasons. The problem is, he's scored just 12 over three seasons since putting ink to paper, and the Buccaneers in recent years have made him redundant by adding first-rounder O.J. Howard and Rob Gronkowski

    It doesn't help that a lesser-known name like Tanner Hudson has looked really good this preseason, either. So Tampa Bay might eye the long-term with Brate, especially considering he's due a cap hit of $7.3 million in 2022 and $8 million in 2023.