The National Football League always features a number of different transactions throughout the regular season. But the first few weeks of the offseason lead to speculation of a number of different changes before next year. Teams who didn’t make the playoffs in 2016 are likely going to make some drastic changes in an effort to rebuild their rosters.
While no players have been cut, traded or signed through free agency yet, teams have already made some big changes. The San Francisco 49ers hired former NFL cornerback John Lynch as the team’s general manager. They have now officially hired Kyle Shanahan as their head coach after his success as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.
The 49ers are likely going to cut some underperforming players and hope to make some trades. But San Francisco isn’t the only team looking to make moves before the 2017 season. Springtime is a very busy time for teams as they prepare for the NFL Draft. New players are going to need contracts. Those new, exciting first round draft choices are going to make those underperforming veterans look expendable.
But some teams might have players who are doing so well, other teams might be envious. This often leads to teams making trades for established players in exchange for draft picks. Either way, there are going to be a number of moves between now and the start of training camp this summer.
The following are eight NFL players who will likely be cut this coming offseason and another seven who will be traded to another team.
15 Cut – Torrey Smith, WR
It seemed like a good move when the San Francisco 49ers decided to sign wide receiver Torrey Smith to a five-year, $40 million contract before 2015. However, he hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations the team had when they signed him. In four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, Smith had 3,591 yards and 30 touchdowns. But in his first year with the team, Smith had just 663 yards and four touchdowns on 62 receptions. Those numbers saw an even more significant decline in 2016.
Last season, Smith had just 49 receptions for 267 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games. With the 49ers likely to look at rebuilding, it might be hard to get another team to trade for Smith, especially when the wide receiver is going to be due $6.5 million along with bonuses. It might be a painful cut in terms of finances, but he’s certainly not performing at the level expected.
14 Traded – Paul Richardson, WR
It’s no secret that the Seattle Seahawks are in desperate need of offensive linemen. While they are starting to see some improvements with younger players like Justin Britt and Germain Ifedi, there are a lot of concerns about the unit as a whole. In fact, some fans feel that was the biggest hindrance that kept the Seahawks out of a deep run in the playoffs this past season. Rather than go after another young player in the upcoming draft, it might be better to trade for someone who is established.
Paul Richardson might not have impressive overall numbers, but he showed some big play potential. It’s just hard for him to get a lot of opportunities in a pass-limited offense that already has Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett. With teams like the Tennessee Titans and the Philadelphia Eagles needing a wide receiver, the Seahawks could at least add more depth by trading Richardson.
13 Cut – Jonathan Stewart, RB
Jonathan Stewart has put up some respectable numbers as a bruising back. However, he’s only had one 1,000-yard rushing season back in 2009. Still, Stewart has put up some respectable numbers despite not playing a full 16 games in each of the last three seasons. Stewart had 824 rushing yards with nine touchdowns in 13 starts in 2016. But as history would explain, running backs who hit age 30 tend to see a big decline in their production.
Toss in the injuries that have affected Stewart’s career with the Panthers, and the nine-year veteran will be a big question mark going into the 2017 season. There are two more years on his contract and it might make some sense for the Panthers to wait and cut him in 2018, with a minimal $2.5 million cap hit. But Carolina has made tough cuts in the past with DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith.
12 Traded – Jimmy Garoppolo, QB
The Chicago Bears are going to need a quarterback and the New England Patriots have one to offer. With Tom Brady suspended during the first four games of the 2016 season, backup Jimmy Garoppolo showed that he has the skills to be a viable starting quarterback in the NFL. His key games in 2016 include 264 yards against the Arizona Cardinals and three touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins. Garoppolo also has ties to the state of Illinois.
The Bears are likely going to end their relationship with Jay Cutler and that leaves an opening for someone to fill during the rebuilding process. Garoppolo could also learn a lot from veteran Brian Hoyer, who could remain with the team as an insurance policy in case Garoppolo suffers an injury.
11 Cut – Julius Thomas, TE
The former Denver Bronco tight end was signed to a very lucrative contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015; five years and $46 million with $24 million guaranteed. However, it seemed like a big number for a tight end who had one season with more than 500 receiving yards – 788 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013 with Denver. He did get the contract after scoring another 12 touchdowns in 2014. But that production wasn’t there when he joined Jacksonville in 2015 – 455 yards and five touchdowns.
Thomas continued to struggle in 2016 with only 281 yards and four touchdowns in nine games. Going into the offseason before the 2017 season, cutting Thomas would mean a cap hit of about $8.3 million. That sounds like a big number, but it actually gets worse if the Jaguars wait. The cap hit will actually grow to $9.8 million in 2018 and then up to $10.3 million in 2019. Now would be the best time to cut Thomas; especially after ending the season on the injured reserve with a back injury.
10 Traded – Sheldon Richardson, DE
With the New York Jets likely entering a rebuilding phase, offensive veterans aren’t the only ones who are likely to be cut or dealt. One of the stars on the Jets defense who would be likely to go would be defensive end Sheldon Richardson. He is set to make $8.069 million in 2017 and is not owed any guaranteed money. He’s also coming off a rough season in 2016 with just one-and-a-half sacks and 38 tackles in 15 games.
Richardson will still attract a number of teams who need the help on the defensive line. Richardson isn’t far removed from the eight-sack season in 2014 and the five sacks he had in 2015. The Carolina Panthers are a team who need to have a defensive end and have a lot to offer in terms of draft picks after finishing with a 6-10 record last year.
9 Cut – Brandon Marshall, WR
The New York Jets have a lot of decisions to make during the 2017 NFL Offseason. One of the good things that the team has moving forward is a young group of wide receivers who could be vital to the team’s improvement. Among them in Quincy Enunwa having a bit of a breakout in 2016. With that in mind, the Jets have two older receivers who are likely on the potential chopping block for the team – Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall.
Marshall is three years older than Decker and the cap hit against him is a lot lower ($5.75 million) than that of Decker ($8.75 million). It would make more sense for the Jets to let Marshall go; especially when he was considered a factor in some of the locker room issues for the Jets. Marshall would be a candidate to stay if the team decides to pursue former teammate Jay Cutler. But it’s more likely to cut him before the 2017 season.
8 Traded – Joe Thomas, OT
The Cleveland Browns are going to enter a rebuilding phase. That might be the most overused line in the NFL offseason news through the last decade. But it’s true, again. The Browns are going to need to restock for the future and that makes certain veteran players expendable in a very good way. Joe Thomas is an established offensive tackle that several teams would likely offer a lot for in a trade.
This could lead to good things for the Browns, who already have the first overall selection for the 2017 NFL Draft. There are a number of teams who are in need of a tackle like Thomas, including the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings and the Arizona Cardinals. Possible championship teams like the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots are also going to throw their names in the hat as well.
7 Cut – Jamaal Charles, RB
The average span of a running back’s career in the NFL is one of the shortest of all positions. And once a running back hits the age of 30, injuries and other concerns start to pile up. Jamaal Charles seems to be the most recent example of how age can lead to a downward trend in production. Since entering the league in 2008, he became one of the best running backs in the league with five 1,000 yards seasons out of his first seven in the league.
But last season, Charles suffered from an ACL tear after just five games into the season. That injury became a reason why he missed most of 2016. While out, Spencer Ware became the leading rusher with 921 yards in 14 games. Charles will enter the final season of his contract, but isn’t going to cause a major cap hit. It would be better to reinvest some money towards adding more depth on this playoff roster.
6 Traded – Kirk Cousins, QB
Kirk Cousins has overplayed his contract and is deserving of a long-term deal that gives him decent money. However, the Washington Redskins didn’t seem to want to give him that entering last season with the franchise tag. Cousins would show he was worth a max contract after throwing for 4,917 yards with 25 touchdowns in 2016. Cousins was expected to be a free agent this offseason, but the Redskins are planning to give him the franchise tag.
Reports have shown that the San Francisco 49ers would pursue Cousins through a potential trade. They feel he would be a perfect fit in new head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system. It’s not going to be that easy as Washington will likely seek a few high draft picks and other things in exchange for Cousins. San Francisco having the second overall pick is a good start.
5 Cut – Darrelle Revis, CB
Darrelle Revis started his NFL career with the New York Jets in 2007 and played there for six seasons before making the move to Tampa Bay in 2013 and to New England in 2014. So when the Jets had a chance to sign Revis before the 2015 season, it made a lot of sense. He had 23 career interceptions up until that point, which earned him a five-year, $70.1 million contract with the Jets.
But Revis struggled in 2016 with just one interception in 15 games. Considering that there are three years left on his contract, one would think it’s a challenge to cut him without a financial hit. However, the contract structure allows Revis to either be cut with a minimal penalty to the Jets or an opportunity for the team to request a significant cut in Revis’ pay entering 2017. The latter is extremely unlikely and Revis will likely part ways before the 2017 season.
4 Traded – Adrian Peterson, RB
Adrian Peterson enters the final year of his contract with the Minnesota Vikings in the 2017 season. But it’s highly unlikely the Vikings would want to pay a running back more than $18 million in salary and bonuses next season; especially one who is likely past his prime. Running backs who hit age 30 tend to on a downward trend in their performance. Most of it has to do with health and a number of knee injuries that plagued him in 2016.
Peterson only played in three games and had just 72 yards on 37 rushes. This came despit having 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. The Vikings might be better off trading Peterson and avoid the $18 million cap hit. A great destination would be with the New York Giants, who had struggles running the ball consistently in 2016.
3 Cut – Colin Kaepernick, QB
Colin Kaepernick was once a bright young star leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. They remained a strong team in 2013 with a 12-4 record and a return trip to the NFC Championship. But after that season, the team started to struggle and Kaepernick was showing signs of being human. Things got worse in the 2015 season when he went 2-6 before being benched. He remained on the bench in favor of Blaine Gabbert to start the 2016 season.
Controversy aside, Kaepernick was not able to get the team’s fortunes turned around as the team went 1-10 with him as the starting quarterback. He’s currently scheduled to make a base salary of $14.5 million and will have roster and signing bonuses waiting for him. Considering his performance overall, the 49ers might be likely to let him leave to focus on rebuilding the organization. Kaepernick is also seemingly okay with exercising the opt-out clause in his contract to move on as a free agent.
2 Traded – Tony Romo, QB
No one would have expected the Dallas Cowboys would have found their future franchise quarterback in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. And yet Dak Prescott showed he was the future after taking over for the often injured Tony Romo. This puts Dallas in quite the interesting pickle. While it would be good to have a veteran as a backup in the event of Prescott getting injured, Romo deserves a chance to be a starting quarterback and a chance to play for a championship.
If he can remain healthy, Romo can be quite the valuable asset for a team that is missing that play-caller under center. Common sense would suggest that the Cowboys would trade Romo to Denver. Both teams would benefit equally. The Broncos would have a more established quarterback under center, no offense to Trevor Siemian. The Cowboys would also free up some cap space for the future contract they will have to plan for Prescott.
1 Cut – Jay Cutler, QB
The Chicago Bears are looking to rebuild their team after an extremely disappointing 3-13 record in 2016. Since coming to Chicago in 2009, Cutler has shown some good with mostly bad. Part of that can be blamed on having gone through so many offensive coordinators during his overall NFL career, with Adam Gase leaving for Miami after Cutler showed some progression in 2015. But he was only able to play in five games this past season – throwing five interceptions and a 59.1 completion percentage.
The Bears would likely prefer trading the 11-year quarterback in hopes of getting something in return on their investment. However, it’s hard for a team to be willing to take in a quarterback who will have a $17 million cap hit in 2018 and see it grow to $20 million in 2019. Unless a team is desperate enough, Chicago will have to cut their losses since his contract no longer has guaranteed money involved.
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