Every offseason in the NFL presents a time of roster-purging due to injury, ineffectiveness, or salary issues. This offseason will be no different, and it is time to take a look into who may be on the chopping block for one or all of those aforementioned reasons. Some of these players may be fan favorites who many believe to be untouchable, while others are starters that have had the game of football leave them behind forever. Recent examples include the New York Jets’ house-cleaning extravaganza of 2017, when familiar faces such as Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and David Harris were all released to free agency because the organization felt no need to keep these expensive, waning athletes on a rebuilding team. Other decisions, like the Chicago Bears’ disposal of Victor Cruz, were predicated on the fact that despite a players’ former accolades, they could not hack it in this league anymore. Cruz’s specific situation was shocking just based on the talent-barren depth at the wide receiver position for the Monsters of the Midway.
So bring on the scourge, as washed-up greats are sent packing for greener pastures in the hellscape that is the NFL’s current talent pool. Younger players are the premium assets in this league, costing teams less money, having fresher bodies, and carrying less of an ego. Of course not all of the players you see here may actually be cut, but based on the history of decision-making teams across the league as a whole make, these are the likeliest of candidates to be shown the door at some point in 2018.
The path to a championship in February is paved with the tough decisions made from March-September to let players go at the end of their turn as a value to the organization. No one wishes for these talents to be unemployed, but that is the nature of the beast. When one door closes, however another one opens. Expect these players to find a new home in 2018.
15. Lawrence Timmons – Pittsburgh Steelers
Timmons and the Miami Dolphins have already been through a fair amount of drama. During a Week 2 visit to Los Angeles to square off against the Chargers, Timmons went AWOL, never letting a single Miami official know where he had gone or why. He was suspended by the club shortly after. There have been a few educated guesses as to why he abandoned his employers, including pressing family issues, but that speculation is better left to those more informed on the situation. What we are sure of is Timmons is an old-school linebacker in a new-school game.
Timmons is abhorrent in coverage and is nearly 32 years old to boot. Despite being ranked by Pro Football Focus as the #26 linebacker in the league, the veteran’s skills have clearly diminished and worth well below his $8.225 million salary for 2018. The Dolphins signed him this past offseason, but don’t be surprised if his stay is cut short. Given that Timmons has seemed homesick, with his family still living in Pittsburgh, expect him to take a paycut and finish out his career where it started.
14. Mike Glennon – Carolina Panthers
Another recent signing, Mike Glennon was benched for rookie Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears have not looked back. Glennon was a hot name during 2017 free agency, for no real reason other than that he played in a few games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No savvy team would hand such a massive contract based on nothing but a few lackluster games in Tampa Bay, but here we are. Glennon is now the ultimate albatross in the league, locking down an insane amount of cap space for a backup quarterback. Since shifting to Trubisky, it seems unlikely that John Fox will move back to the long-necked check-down artist because Trubisky is the future of the Bears.
For a middle-of-the-road, rebuilding team, keeping Glennon on the books for a cool $16 million cap hit seems like a dicey proposition considering the alternatives available at backup. With Glennon back on the free agent market, expect him to find a home in Carolina, as the Panthers don’t have Derek Anderson under contract past this season and may want a younger backup behind Newton.
13. Cody Kessler – Arizona Cardinals
Head coach Hue Jackson has been rotating quarterbacks this season faster than a merry-go-round. Cody Kessler is at the tail-end of that whirlwind of QBs, trailing rookie DeShone Kizer and second-year signal caller Kevin Hogan. Kessler has seen little game action, but has constantly been the most disappointing of the three and will be facing even more pressure if the Browns finally draft a quarterback early in next year’s draft. Of the three quarterbacks currently rostered on the Browns, Kessler has the least upside and presents the fewest incentives to keep around.
The former USC great is not giving a compelling argument to Cleveland management about sticking with him past this year. The Browns even went so far as to attempt to procure Jackson’s former player, A.J. McCarron, from their cross-state rivals in an attempt to shake up their QB depth. The low man on the Browns’ quarterback totem pole is a lock to be sent packing this offseason, and right now all signs indicate Kessler is about to be shown the door. Arizona is in dire need of arms with the imminent retirement of Carson Palmer, so QB whisperer Bruce Arians and GM Steve Keims are most likely to kick the tires on the former SoCal star.
12. C.J. Anderson – Carolina Panthers
The Denver Broncos started this season off better than they could have imagined. Trevor Siemian looked like he turned the corner and became a serviceable quarterback and the offensive line appeared to be as solid as could be expected. C.J. Anderson was the workhorse of this offense and everything appeared to be humming as the Broncos stood strong at 3-1. The wheels fell off, however, on Monday night against the New York Giants. In what should have been a rout of the reeling Giants, the Broncos abandoned the run and put the balls into the hands of a panicking Siemian. Nothing has been the same since that point of the season.
Those reasons may not directly impact what happens to Anderson, but the stalwart running back’s recent production has dampened the coaching staff’s trust. Devontae Booker, a second year back, is geared to take over the lead role in what appears to be an emerging running back by committee. Anderson’s struggles coupled with the fact that his contract represents $0 in dead cap next year makes him the clearest candidate to get cut.
The likeliest landing spot appears to be alongside Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, who desperately need to revamp their backfield. Behind a better line and with a much more talented quarterback, Anderson should feast.
11. Kareem Jackson – Indianapolis Colts
The Houston Texans are struggling to defend the deep ball in 2017. For a secondary with such a high payroll, it would be expected that this defense would be a bit stingier against the pass. Losing J.J. Watt certainly does not help the situation, but the stats in 2017 speak for themselves. Kareem Jackson is the highest profile name patrolling the secondary, but is also the biggest disappointment of all. Sitting at Pro Football Focus’ 95th ranked corner, little positive can be said about Jackson’s contributions.
With the former Alabama standout struggling so mightily, the Texans would be better off cutting the 8th year veteran and sitting on $2.25M of dead cap rather than riding a $9M cap hit into next season. Better options at corner can be found for cheaper. Jackson will likely be headed towards the Indianapolis Colts, who just cut ties with Vontae Davis and need to look for available cornerbacks on the open market.
10. Robert Turbin – Chicago Bears
Robert Turbin has bounced around the league as much as anyone during his career, but his latest injury could be signalling a departure from a Colts team that he has called home for two seasons. Buried in the depth chart behind Frank Gore and now Marlon Mack, the rookie speed-merchant from the University of South Florida, Turbin would now find himself playing third fiddle had his season not already ended.
With no dead cap on the books for 2018, it makes more sense to let Turbin test free agency rather than roster him for another year. Nothing about the Colts’ future is certain with Andrew Luck sidelined, and Turbin certainly has not made himself indispensable during his time with Indianapolis. With more enticing options available to them at running back in next year’s draft and free agency, the six-year veteran should be shown the door. Turbin may have a tough time finding suitors in free agency coming off of a dislocated elbow, but the Chicago Bears will be looking for a power back to spell Jordan Howard on goal-line carries rather than rely on scat-back Tarik Cohen in those situations.
9. Jonathan Stewart – Pittsburgh Steelers
It feels as though Jonathan Stewart has been part of the Panthers since the organization’s inception in 1995. Obviously that is not the case, but with an influx of younger, more explosive talent is threatening to take away JStew’s role as the lead back in Carolina. Young stud Christian McCaffrey is getting more usage as the weeks progress, eating not only into the passing game, but more recently siphoning carries away from the elder statesman in the backfield. Usurping Stewart has been made easier thanks to the fumbling issues that persist for the former Oregon Duck. Pro Football Focus is extremely low on the power back, rating him as one of the least effective ball carriers in use.
With just $1.5M in dead cap next year, it would be beneficial for the Panthers to finally cut ties with Stewart rather than elongate an already struggling marriage. Cam Newton needs a more reliable running attack. RBs are a dime-a-dozen these days, and replacing Stewart should be a top priority. Stewart could benefit from a change of scenery, and following in the footsteps of another former Panthers’ running back DeAngelo Williams. Pittsburgh seems like the right landing spot as the Steelers try to find the right handcuff should Le’Veon Bell be unavailable for any reason.
8. Cliff Avril – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Unfortunately for Cliff Avril, his 2017 season was cut short due to a neck injury which has caused numbness in his arm. Finishing 2017 with just one sack and two tackles in four games, the pass-rushing specialist of yesteryear is almost assuredly at the end of his prime. Pete Carroll’s defense has functioned perfectly fine without contributions from Avril so far this year and should not be in need of his services moving forward.
Cliff’s 2018 cap hit represents a pay raise of $2.5M to $8M from his current $5.5M contract. There’s little doubt for a team struggling against the cap to make this type of move, especially when considering the defender’s dead cap next year of just $500,000. It would be a shock if Avril was still with the Seahawks next year considering this perfect storm brewing in the background.
It may prove worthwhile for a team struggling in rushing the quarterback to snag Avril on the cheap during the next free agency period. Tampa Bay has the lowest sack total of the entire league through half of the 2017 season.
7. Adrian Peterson – New York Giants
Before you take your pitchforks out, consider this: at 32 years of age, Peterson’s best days are behind him. That is a full-blown fact. The Cardinals and coach Bruce Arians are going to run Peterson into the ground the rest of the 2017 season. Peterson’s value goes down the drain in 2018 when a fully-healthy David Johnson resumes his full slate of duties in the Cardinals’ backfield, and assuming the organization would like to save themselves $3.5M in cap space next season, AD will be forced out the door.
Peterson is by no means struggling this season, save the London game against the Los Angeles Rams that got out of hand once Carson Palmer went down with a broken arm. It would not be out of the question for Peterson to go down with the ship should opponents start stacking the box against him, forcing Drew Stanton to throw the ball. This sure-fire Hall of Fame running back is enjoying a resurgent season after wallowing away in New Orleans for a short stretch, but all could come to a screeching halt due to countless factors.
Peterson’s preferred destination would be with a squad that builds its offense around pounding the rock, and the New York Giants have been desperately searching for a consistent running game to support Eli Manning. Look for this odd-couple to get together and produce next season.
6. Mike Gillislee – Miami Dolphins
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are the shrewdest organization in the league. Gillislee looked like the guy the New England Patriots could lean on in the running game for 2017, but quickly started losing relevance in the Pats’ crowded backfield. With Dion Lewis taking over the bulk while Rex Burkhead and James White catch passes from Brady, it appears Gillislee has found himself being marginalized in an offense that has no mercy for players that cannot carve out a role for themselves.
Belichick and owner Bob Kraft are notorious for their turnstile in New England, squeezing out players’ value like their morning orange juice. Gillislee’s contract comes with no dead money next season if they cut him, so while he was a fun toy in the beginning of the year while Lewis healed from injury, there appears to be no consequence to releasing the former Buffalo Bill. With the departure of Jay Ajayi, Gillislee could find a hospitable home in Miami, reshuffling that backfield so that he is featured and either Damien Williams or Kenyan Drake can be the change of pace.
5. Brandon Marshall – Retirement
Brandon Marshall came into the Giants organization riding a couple of hot seasons with the New York Jets, but it became painfully clear that the former Pro-Bowl wideout is now a shell of his former self. Marshall had a tough time getting separation from corners before his season-ending injury, and his annual deluge of drops have plagued what production may have been possible.
At 33 years old, it is extremely unlikely Marshall comes back resembling anything that fans and players have come to expect from him. Before the season started, the former Bronco made it known that this contract would be his last. As the Giants begin their rebuilding phase, keeping ‘The Beast’ around does not make much logistical sense considering his cap hit will top $6M in 2018. Although it is due to circumstances out of his control, it appears this injury might force Marshall into an earlier retirement than he would have preferred. There just does not appear to be a team that would want to take on a 34-year-old Marshall for the money he would want.
4. Markus Wheaton – San Francisco 49ers
The Chicago Bears offense should be seeing plenty of turnover in the offseason, and Markus Wheaton may be one of the first to be called. The former Steeler has not fared well in his stint away from Big Ben, struggling to stay on the field and connect with both Mike Glennon and Mitchell Trubisky. In what was supposed to be a solid addition to a receiving corps in desperate need of playmakers, Wheaton has flat-out been a disappointment. To make matters worse for Wheaton, Trubisky has rarely been called upon to make plays through the air.
A receiver like Wheaton is not going to help Trubisky gain any comfort throwing the ball if he is consistently dropping the ball when he takes the field. With just $750,000 in dead cap next year, the logical move would be to drop Wheaton and find similar pass-catchers for a fraction of Wheaton’s cost next season, at $5.75M. Desperate for pass-catchers, the talent-bereft San Francisco 49ers, with the freshly acquired Jimmy Garoppolo, are in need of new toys for their prospective franchise quarterback to throw to next year.
3. Brandon LaFell – Jacksonville Jaguars
On pace for a healthy dose of regression, Brandon LaFell could find himself on the chopping block as the Cincinnati Bengals address more pressing concerns on the offensive line this offseason. LaFell is on pace for a steep decline in production from last season’s 64 catch, 862 yard, six touchdown stat line, which provided a steady complement to star A.J. Green. Andy Dalton has leaned less on LaFell, perhaps a product of the declining skillset of the LSU product.
LaFell’s contract is one that can be easily clipped after the season, creating financial freedom for the franchise to improve their run and pass blocking. Rated as one of the worst in the league, it will be imperative to figure out that scenario rather than commit to an aging, secondary receiver. Despite stellar production in the past, it would be wise to move on from a disappointing receiving option that comes with the hefty price-tag of $4M.
The Jacksonville Jaguars look like they are a year or two away from being real contenders for the Super Bowl, and the addition of a solid, trustworthy possession receiver that can move the sticks and make QB Blake Bortles comfortable would be a huge addition.
2. Marcedes Lewis – Detroit Lions
The only club option on this list, Lewis’ sporadic output makes the likelihood of his retention on a run-first Jaguars squad highly unlikely. Despite the big body he provides in the passing game, the life-long Jaguar has failed to record a reception in half his games this season. In what appears to be the most lucrative career for a flash-in-the-pan ever, Marcedes and the Jags could be ready to part ways after this season as his contract commands no dead cap.
Lewis, through the eight contests he has participated in this year, has caught just 10 passes on 26 targets. Based on Jacksonville’s gameplans on a weekly basis, it appears that quarterback Blake Bortles has found more reliable targets in Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, and rookie Dede Westbrook. While the emotional side of the fan may see Lewis’s career rooted in Jacksonville and believe he will never be released, a-la Antonio Gates, there’s more evidence pointing to his departure than not.
Matthew Stafford and the Lions have had enough of Eric Ebron dropping passes in the end-zone, and Darren Fells is a free agent next season. Lewis could feast in the red-zone with Stafford slinging it.
1. DeMarco Murray – Seattle Seahawks
In what could be one of the most shocking turns for a team in the offseason, DeMarco Murray has a realistic shot to be released at the season’s end. With Derrick Henry waiting in the wings and what looks like the downturn of Murray’s career in plain sight, the Tennessee Titans would be hard-pressed to retain the services of a running back on the wrong side of 30 with a potential young stud sitting on their roster. Tennessee’s youth movement, led by Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry, and a now-healthy Corey Davis, is pressing up against Murray’s will to stay in the league. As the season progresses Henry will continue to engulf this backfield, increasing his own carries at the expense of the former Cowboy star.
The man lovingly known as ‘Spray Tan’ is dangerously close to averaging his lowest career yards per carry since that aberration of a season in Philadelphia two years ago. This time, however, it may not be just a strange coincidence that Murray is precariously dangling near career-lows.
The Seattle Seahawks appear to be the perfect landing spot for Murray. Carroll and company want a three-down back, and Murray has shown no desire to be relegated into a timeshare. Should the ‘Hawks commit to their mid-season shift of committing to a running back, inking Murray would go a long way to improving that role. Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy have both been utter disappointments in 2017.
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