We're getting closer and closer to the NFL offseason as coaching jobs are being filled, retirements are being announced, and rumors of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots parting ways are starting up again. Come on, haven't you all realized he's going to finish his career at 60 years old with Cyborg Bill Belichick coaching him and grizzled assistants taking the brunt of their screams?
So as we start preparing for the Super Bowl - or, if you're really a sadist, the Pro Bowl! - let's take today to talk once again about the NFL offseason. Like every offseason, players are going to be cut because the NFL is a business and teams need to fix their salary cap situations, so you can kiss certain players goodbye and burn their jerseys.
Today, we're going to look at some of those players who might surprisingly be cut and others who are obviously on their way out. Players who are hitting free agency this offseason like Sammy Watkins or Kirk Cousins are ineligible for this list because they're not getting cut.
Are you ready to either get your hopes up or cry about your team cutting a player whose jersey you just bought for Christmas?
15 Surprising: Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Many of you will argue that this is far from a shocking move, which is true to an extent. But you'd think that Bortles leading the Jaguars (!!!) to the AFC Championship Game would help his case, right? While it's very obvious that Leonard Fournette and the defense are to thank for Jacksonville's improbable season, we all are also aware that quarterbacks almost always stand to benefit from moments like this.
However, there's not much else working in Bortles' favor other than a strong December. The current Jaguars regime isn't the one that drafted the former UCF star and Jacksonville will have plenty of quarterback options through either the draft or free agency (Alex Smith?), so we'll likely have to see Blake Bortles Facts don a new uniform in its avatar.
14 Surprising: Robert Quinn, DE, Los Angeles Rams
This would have been more shocking if the Rams were still in St. Louis and Quinn was still a full-time player, but would the upstart Rams really want to cut their second-longest tenured player after an 8.5 sack season that saw him get to the quarterback almost as many times as he did in 2015 and 2016 combined? Though defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has to be happy about Quinn's return to form, the Rams also have to accept that they can save over $11 million by cutting Quinn this spring.
Los Angeles could always rework Quinn's contract, but the team might want to choose to add pass-rushers through the draft with several of their key contributors needing extensions in the new few years. Would you rather have Quinn or Aaron Donald?
13 Obvious: Mike Glennon, QB, Chicago Bears
Unfortunately for Mike Glennon, this decision was pretty much made when the Chicago Bears drafted Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick last April. Glennon started the first few games, played poorly, handed the keys over to Trubisky in late September, and sat on the bench for the rest of the season. With new coach Matt Nagy arriving and having worked with several potential journeyman quarterbacks he could sign cheaply this offseason (Chase Daniel?), keeping Glennon around with his bloated contract makes no sense for any party.
But because Glennon isn't Colin Kaepernick, the soon-to-be-former Bear should have no problem getting a backup quarterback job or training camp invite this summer. The team to watch out for? The New York Jets, because they're obviously signing either Glennon or Brock Osweiler.
12 Surprising: Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks
There have been talks in recent weeks about the Seahawks cutting Thomas and the All-Pro safety going to the Dallas Cowboys, but the talk just felt like wishful thinking for a while. Would the Seahawks really move forward from the Legion of Boom and start cutting players like Thomas and Richard Sherman? (Note: we do expect Sherman to be cut as well, but that is more obvious than parting ways with Thomas.)
Simply put, yes.
The Seahawks can save $8.5 million by cutting Thomas.
Thomas was one of the first players to help make Seattle a perennial contender and as we saw with some of the team's coaching moves, Seattle fully understands that this is Russell Wilson's team and the window of winning with the old core has passed by. If only Marshawn Lynch had run up the middle...
11 Suprising: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Wouldn't it be funny if the Seattle Seahawks cut Earl Thomas, who has been vocal about wanting to play for Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys one day, and said Cowboys cut Dez Bryant, who winds up going to Seattle to win a ring with Russell Wilson? When - because at this point, it is a when, not an if - the Cowboys decide to save money by cutting Bryant, look for the Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and Denver Broncos all to come calling.
How much does Bryant have left in the tank after three straight underwhelming (by his standards) seasons?
Still enough to warrant enough attention on the market, but not enough for the Cowboys to consider re-working his heavy contract in hopes of bringing a Super Bowl back to Dallas with a fan favorite involved.
10 Obvious: Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Don't even bother looking surprised at this one. Martin was probably the league's worst running back in the 2017 season and is owed $6.75 million next year, but that money isn't guaranteed. Therefore, when Doug Martin hits the free agent market and teams only slightly consider bringing him in for training camp, you can say that you saw it coming.
"I think the lack of, or having a hard time getting the run game going was ... you know, Doug just didn't have ... he just wasn't ever the same," Buccaneers GM Jason Licht told the Tampa Bay Times. "And it wasn't until late that [Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber] kind of arrived and things started going a little better with him, starting with the Green Bay game and on and on."
9 Surprising: Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Giants
This is a bit of a gray area because as of right now, we don't know if Brandon Marshall is going to retire or not. If Marshall does retire, that's one thing, but what happens if the veteran wideout decides he wants to come back under a new general manager - and David Gettleman's personality of "my way or the highway" may not mesh well with Marshall - and new head coach (expected to be Pat Shurmur)?
In a way, this question applies for Eli Manning as well:
Do the Giants want to try winning with the remnants of the veteran core, or slowly begin a transition period (but not a rebuild) not unlike what the crosstown Yankees did?
We're going to include Marshall on here because we can see him getting cut, but as for Eli? Not even we know the answer to that quite yet...
8 Surprising: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers
Normally, a running back getting cut after averaging 3.6 yards per rush despite scoring 15 touchdowns in his two most recent seasons wouldn't be too surprising, but this is the Carolina Panthers: they cut their best players at the wrong time and hold onto their struggling veterans for far too long. Stewart will still hit the end zone plenty of times to consider him in fantasy, though the Panthers may seem to be realizing their window to win with Cam Newton isn't quite what it was a few years ago.
Stewart led the Panthers in rushing and is still a fan favorite, but he'll be out on the open market in the coming weeks as Carolina can save some money and focus on making Christian McCaffrey their main running back. Is that the right move? I still can see Carolina adding a bigger running back to complement C-Mac, but we digress...
7 Obvious: Jerry Hughes, DE, Buffalo Bills
I don't know what the Buffalo Bills are going to do with many of their positional groups this offseason, but I can tell you that Jerry Hughes is almost guaranteed to be on his way out. Hughes looks nothing like the dangerous pass-rusher who had two consecutive ten-sack seasons in 2013 and 2014 and was held to four quarterback stops this season, his fewest since 2012 with the Indianapolis Colts.
Buffalo will have pass-rushing options, especially if Robert Quinn hits the market, but don't expect to see Hughes in upstate New York next season. Maybe Hughes will take a pay cut to play a reserve edge role with the Jaguars and former coach Doug Marrone? If that happens, come back here and compliment me on seeing the future.
6 Surprising: Marshall Newhouse, OT, Oakland Raiders
Here's the thing with Marshall Newhouse, who previously was hated for his lackluster play with the New York Giants: all Newhouse needed to be for the Raiders was competent and he did exactly that. However, the Raiders have a better offensive tackle in Vadal Alexander and they can free up just under $2 million by getting rid of Newhouse. By doing this, Oakland then has no dead money and can use more money on signing All-Pro Khalil Mack to a major contract extension.
Even if Jon Gruden signed a 10-year contract, Oakland's window of winning is quickly closing and this year really hurt their long-term chances. Losing Newhouse will hurt, but when the Raiders cut this next player, I think the team might be a bit better off...
5 Surprising: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders
What Marshawn Lynch did in his prime with the Seattle Seahawks should not be forgotten and it may even be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame when he's eligible. Though Lynch finished the year averaging 4.3 yards per rush, which actually is the third-highest mark in his career behind only 2012 (5.0) and 2014 (4.7), the five-time Pro Bowler was inconsistent and might not have too much left in the tank.
Oakland will have enough running backs to pursue in the draft - we would've loved to see Bryce Love land there, but he decided to return to school for his senior year. Still, San Diego State's Rashaad Penny would be a nice fit - and there's not much reason to bring Lynch back for next year. As fun as it is to imagine a buddy cop show between the motor mouth Gruden and the silent Lynch, I think that's a bit unrealistic.
4 Obvious: Tavon Austin, OW, Los Angeles Rams
If you don't know what "OW" means, it simply refers to the Offensive Weapon designation that players like Tavon Austin sometimes receive. Officially, Austin is a running back/wide receiver, but has looked nothing like the explosive playmaker the Rams thought they were getting in the 2013 NFL Draft and the team would be crazy to bring him back next year.
Los Angeles can afford to take a $8 million cap hit for dropping a player who clearly has no role in Sean McVay's offense and barely saw any playing time this year.
Does Austin have any hopes of being an actual NFL contributor at this point in his career? Who knows? Watch the Patriots take a chance on Austin and him put up 1,000 yards on the ground and through the air.
3 Surprising: Mike Gillislee, RB, New England Patriots
And speaking of the New England Patriots and their running backs, would anyone really be surprised if Mike Gillislee was cut after this season? After scoring four touchdowns in his first two games, Gillislee was phased out of the offense and battled a knee injury, two combinations that make him almost a guarantee to be cut under Bill Belichick.
Until the time comes for Belichick to cut Dion Lewis, Gillislee doesn't really have a place in New England's offense going forward and we know what happens to those players. They get cut. They don't get traded to somewhere where playing time is actually attainable, but they get cut. Sorry, Mike Gillislee, but you knew the risks of signing with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots!
2 Surprising: Jason Kelce, C, Philadelphia Eagles
At this point, it's either going to be Jason Kelce ($6 million) or Jason Peters ($5.3 million) that are cut for the sake of salary cap saving, but if it's Kelce, we'll be both surprised and accepting because...well, he's on this list. Kelce had an All-Pro case this season and is a reflection of the journey this organization has been through in recent years, but we may be seeing his final days in a Philadelphia uniform because this game is a business.
If it's Peters, that one will sting as well, but the Eagles likely are going to move away from some of their big-name players and our official prediction is Kelce. Feel free to let us know if you think it will be Peters instead of Kelce.
1 Obvious: Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets
If Todd Bowles wasn't coming back to New York, I don't think things would really change. Forte was signed to be an explosive playmaker and has showed that potential in flashes, but the former Bears star didn't do too much this year and the Jets are preparing to move away from more veterans who don't have too much of a fit in their current plans. At least the Jets are getting to the point to where with an improved quarterback situation, they may be a .500 team - and that's not an insult, this team needs positives like that.
Have we seen the last of Forte if the Jets cut him? Perhaps, but at least we never saw him suit up in those incorrect Bears uniforms Madden tried to give them. Those were ugly...
Which of these player's releases would you be most surprised by? Which do you think is the most obvious? Let us know in the comment section below!