We'd like to say that cuts are never easy, but it's not exactly the truth. After all, the NFL and the 32 teams in the league are ultimately businesses. When you get down to it, a business has to make some tough decisions from time to time, especially as it concerns their employees. When someone isn't working out, then there comes a time when you've got to let them go and move on. Maybe it's not the most pleasant decision in the world, but recent NFL history has proven that even the biggest cuts can seemingly be made quite easily by most teams.
As we slowly move into another NFL offseason, we prepare for what is an almost inevitable wave of player cuts. When you're looking at possible cuts for your team, you can't really think about the cuts you want them to make, the cuts they're likely to make, or even the cuts you don't want them to make. Instead, you have to remember that cuts are an inevitable part of the process and focus instead on the cuts that these teams absolutely have to make. Some of these cuts involve big players who must be let go because of contract issues or poor performance. Others involve troubled athletes, players that never realized their promise, and others who simply didn't work out. Each of them represents one roster cut every NFL team will have to make this offseason.
32 Arizona Cardinals - Larry Fitzgerald
This decision is based on a couple of factors. First off, Larry Fitzgerald will likely determine his own fate in regards to whether or not he plays next year. However, we don’t think that he should. Fitz is set to eat up a lot of cap next year for a team that is in desperate need to rebuild. If it’s going to be his last season (which is very possible) the Cardinals could do themselves a favor and Fitzgerald a favor by sending him somewhere where he’ll be competitive.
31 Atlanta Falcons - Mohamed Sanu
Truth be told, Mohamed Sanu has been playing better each year he’s been on the Atlanta Falcons. Sanu is one of those guys that is a reliable third option who gives teams that one more player they have to account for. That’s nice and all, but the problem is that Sanu is due to be the seventh highest paid player on the Atlanta Falcons. We all know the wide receiving future of this team is Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Now is the time to move on from Sanu.
30 Baltimore Ravens - Joe Flacco
This may be the most obvious and surprising cut on this list. We all knew Joe Flacco had limits, but he was the kind of Matt Stafford-like quarterback who was just good enough to make it hard to get rid of him. Of course, Flacco also has a Super Bowl win to his name, which earned him a few more years in Baltimore than he probably should've gotten. The problem is that the Ravens are pretty much all-in on Lamar Jackson at the moment. That means there’s just no room for Flacco’s contract.
29 Buffalo Bills - LeSean McCoy
The toss-up here is between LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay, but we’re going with McCoy because he’s the more interesting case. McCoy could have a year or two of productivity left in him. The problems is that it’s going to be hard to argue that McCoy can thrive on a Buffalo team that has so many holes. The Bills aren’t really desperate for cap space, but they’ll probably be happy to move on from McCoy’s deal while looking towards the future at running back.
28 Carolina Panthers - Torrey Smith
The Panthers aren’t actually hurting from any crippling contracts or players who are an obvious detriment to the team. That leaves us looking at Torrey Smith and Dontari Poe as the most likely cuts. The nod here goes to Smith, but that’s only because Poe is young and it’s hard to replace a defensive tackle. As for Smith, he was a low-risk, high-reward acquisition that just hasn’t panned out for the Panthers. Newton needs the right receivers around him to grow, and Smith isn’t one of them.
27 Chicago Bears - Dion Sims
We’d love it if the Bears cut Allen Robinson, but there’s virtually no chance of that happening. Instead, we’re going to dive a bit deeper into the roster to explain why Dion Sims is the clearest 2019 cut. First off, Trey Burton is Chicago’s primary tight end. That’s pretty much undisputed. That leaves Dion Sims making a pretty respectable salary as the number two tight end in an offense that certainly doesn’t rely on that package. This isn’t the most necessary or boldest cut, but it’s a smart one.
26 Cincinnati Bengals - John Ross
We don’t know if Andy Dalton has much of a future in Cincinnati, but it’s hard to imagine that he gets cut by the start of next season. Vontaze Burfict’s recent health troubles may force the Bengals hand in regards to his future, so that leaves us looking at John Ross as the most obvious high-profile cut candidate. Ross is the latest in the line of incredibly athletic wide receivers who just aren’t good enough to really make a difference in the NFL. He’s got to go.
25 Cleveland Browns - Tyrod Taylor
This is pretty much a given considering that his contract is expiring, but Tyrod Taylor is not going to be a Cleveland Brown by the time the next season rolls around. Taylor could theoretically be a good number two for quite a few teams and a fringe starter on some other teams. There’s no way they keep him around now that Baker Mayfield is definitively their guy. What’s really scary, though, is how low the Browns' payroll is and how many guys they have in the right positions. This will be a team to fear.
24 Dallas Cowboys - Sean Lee
The Cowboys have a ton of young players they are going to have to pay very soon. That means they’re also going to have to make some tough decisions. While Allen Hurns and Tavon Austin are almost certainly going to be shown the door, it’s Sean Lee who the Cowboys simply must cut while they can. Lee’s undeniable talent simply doesn’t matter if he can’t stay healthy. The Cowboys have a clear Lee replacement in Leighton Vander Esch, and they don’t need to carry his heavy contract any longer.
23 Denver Broncos - Case Keenum
This is a tough one, but it’s one that many people won’t disagree with over enough time. Case Keenum is not the guy in Denver. However, he is the second highest paid guy on the team (behind Von Miller). While Denver doesn’t have an obvious replacement available at the moment, they should have never taken on someone like Keenum while they have so many deficiencies in so many areas. There are cheaper options out there who represent more intriguing “for now” quarterbacks that Denver can pursue.
22 Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford
The Detroit Lions are in worse shape than you know. They have a lot of contract bloat in positions that you typically only pay if you’re a team that feels like they can win now. They’re not that team. That means they’re going to have to make some tough decisions in the near future in regards to personnel. While they may not be able to cut Stafford outright, we think that he’s going to be a tempting piece of trade bait in the near future. It’s honestly the only shot the Lions have at turning things around in the next five years.
21 Green Bay Packers - Jimmy Graham
Jimmy Graham is one of the guys that helped change the popular perception of what a tight end should be. When he was playing with Drew Brees, he was one of the great matchup nightmares in NFL history. The problem is that Graham has never really been the same without Drew Brees and that he’s been on an athletic decline for the last several years. Graham is just not the guy he used to be, and the Packers are paying him too much for what they’re getting from him.
20 Houston Texans - Demaryius Thomas
Nobody is going to fault the Texans for pulling the trigger on the Demaryius Thomas trade. They were in “win now” mode, they needed some wide receiver depth, and Thomas has been brilliant in the past. However, it’s time to admit that this trade isn’t going to work out. Thomas is well-past his prime and his recent health troubles make it almost impossible to justify him as being anything more than a mid-season rental. It’s a shame, but Thomas might just be done as a notable receiver.
19 Indianapolis Colts - Ryan Grant
Again, this is pretty much a given considering that he signed a one-year contract, but Ryan Grant has got to go. The Colts desperately need a real number two wide receiver, but Grant is not going to be that guy. The good news is that the Colts aren’t really eating any absurd contracts and they have most of the right guys they need in the right places. That means that the Grant cut is pretty much a given, but there are no other players on the team that are even close in terms of possible cuts.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars - Blake Bortles
As bad as this season was for the Jaguars, the truth of the matter is that they’re not in a bad position. They just need a few new people to inject some energy into the franchise again. Obviously, that means moving on from Blake Bortles. The Bortles experiment was worth a shot in Jacksonville, but it’s clear to everyone that he’s not the guy that this team needs for what it is they want to do on offense and achieve in the league. It’s as obvious as a cut gets.
17 Kansas City Chiefs - Sammy Watkins
The Chiefs honestly need to make more acquisitions than cuts in order to stay in contention, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t drop a few assets. So far as that goes, you’ve got to wonder what Sammy Watkins role on this team really is. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are locked into this offense, but now that that Chiefs also need a running back, you’ve got to wonder if the front office is going to be able to justify Watkins hired gun soundtrack for subsequent seasons.
16 Los Angeles Chargers - Travis Benjamin
The Chargers offense is in an interesting place. They’re not exactly “dynamic,” but there are a lot of weapons on that side of the ball that makes them dangerous in most games. In fact, they have so many weapons that we highly doubt they’d miss losing a guy like Travis Benjamin. Benjamin isn’t even really the third wide receiver on this offense anymore, but he’s still the second highest paid receiver on the team. There’s just no way to justify that on a team that is loaded with so much offensive talent.
15 Los Angeles Rams - Ndamukong Suh
Here’s another one-year contract that’s pretty much guaranteed to not be renewed. Ndamukong Suh was an interesting hired gun acquisition by the Los Angeles Rams. They went into this year as a real Super Bowl contender and figured that Suh could put their defense over-the-top. In reality, Suh has been somewhat underwhelming.
This defense is still the Aaron Donald show, which is fine, but it doesn’t leave much room to justify paying Suh what they’re paying him. Suh might help the Rams make a playoff run, but we think he’s gone next year.
14 Miami Dolphins - Danny Amendola
The Dolphins are a bizarre NFL team that somehow manage to be consistently competitive without having many obvious pieces of talent on their roster. They’re seemingly in danger of falling off the cliff at any moment, but they resist doing so most of the time. All the same, we don’t think that Danny Amendola fulfills his full contract with the team. Amendola is just one of those guys who just only excels in certain systems. The Dolphins just don’t run one of those systems. As such, Amendola feels like an expensive cog in the wrong machine.
13 Minnesota Vikings - Laquon Treadwell
There are some more exciting names you can put on this list, but if we’re just trying to focus on smart cuts, then you’ve got to wonder whether or not Laquon Treadwell has a chance of making this team next year. In theory, Treadwell should be able to benefit from playing alongside two of the scariest receivers in the league. In reality, he still struggles to break through even the lightest of coverage. He’s young and he’s not very expensive, but it’s more of a matter of trying to do better.
12 New England Patriots - Rob Gronkowski
Technically, we say that the Patriots should trade Rob Gronkowski instead of cutting him outright, but we could honestly see him being cut if a trade isn’t possible. Rob Gronkowski might just be the most purely talented tight end in NFL history. He’s also one of the biggest matchup nightmares ever. However, it’s becoming clear to most that he’s losing a step or two. That wouldn’t be such an issue if it weren’t for the fact that Gronk is making near wide receiver one money.
11 New Orleans Saints - Mark Ingram
The Saints don’t have a lot of holes on their roster - and they have even fewer money pits - but you do have to wonder whether or not they make an offer to Mark Ingram. Alvin Kamara and Ingram make for one of the better one-two punches in the league, but it’s clear that Kamara is the more overall promising prospect. We just don’t think that the Saints are going to be willing to pay Ingram long-term money just to expand their backfield war chest.
10 New York Giants - Eli Manning
The New York Giants’ problems aren’t all on Eli Manning. They’re really not. However, it’s pretty much clear to everyone that Eli Manning’s time in New York is approaching an end. The Giants have gotten more out of Manning than many could have hoped they would have, but they are at least a couple years away from being truly competitive. Eli Manning is not going to have enough good years left in him to get to that point. It’s a shame the Eli era is over, but it’s almost certainly over.
9 New York Jets - Bilal Powell
The Jets offense is not good. They’re weak at wide receiver, Sam Darnold is still coming along, and their backfield is just a mess. Of the three problems, though, we think that you can only really make cuts to the backfield and not be drastically further behind. Bilal Powell has just never been anything more than solid. That’s fine, but he’s the kind of guy you want to have on your team if you already have a more reliable running back. Such as it is, we don’t think the Jets can get much out of him.
8 Oakland Raiders - Jordy Nelson
It’s hard to think about the Oakland Raiders making more cuts simply because they’ve already had a talent fire sale this year, but there is room to trim. We’re really looking at both Jordy Nelson and Marshawn Lynch when we’re talking about cuts, but since the Raiders still have an option on Nelson, we’re going to go with him. Nelson could theoretically help some other teams in the league out, but he’s going to be spinning his wheels in Oakland as they enter a massive rebuild.
7 Philadelphia Eagles - Golden Tate
It’s almost impossible to fathom the argument against this cut. Everyone thought that the Eagles got the steal of the trade deadline when they acquired Golden Tate for a third-round pick. However, it’s now looking like Tate is just one of those guys who just isn’t going to work in this system. Maybe Tate turns the corner if you give him an entire year to figure things out, but we don’t think the Eagles pay him for the opportunity to do so. Tate likely goes elsewhere.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers - Chris Boswell
Le’Veon Bell doesn’t technically count as part of this discussion, and we have questions regarding Antonio Brown’s future in Pittsburgh, but it’s kicker Chris Boswell who could prove to be one of the most interesting impending cuts. Boswell signed a pretty sizeable extension recently, but he’s also missed some major field goals that could have theoretically drastically changed the fate of Pittsburgh’s season.
We’ve seen teams move on from better kickers without much hesitation, and we don’t think that Pittsburgh will hesitate to do so here if they find a better - or cheaper - option.
5 San Francisco 49ers - C.J. Beathard
While Pierre Garcon probably needs to go before he impacts the cap too much, there’s a part of us that thinks the 49ers want to see Garoppolo under center for a full season before they do anything too drastic. That being the case, we think that it’s C.J. Beathard who gets the boot. Nick Mullens has proven that he’s at least worth developing in the 49ers system (if they don’t trade him). On the other hand, Beathard is just an unexciting career back-up who doesn’t really have a role on the team.
4 Seattle Seahawks - Germain Ifedi
We’re going to assume that Doug Baldwin stays on this team despite health problems and recent struggles, so we’re going to give the “nod” here to Germain Ifedi. The Seahawks’ entire style of offense depends on a reliable offensive line. So far as that goes, Ifedi is definitively the weak link. In a division which requires you to play Aaron Donald twice a year and whoever the Cardinals likely get to bolster their defense in the draft, having a guy like Ifedi who just struggles so much with the rush is just a liability.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - DeSean Jackson
Since it looks like Winston is going to be the Tampa Bay starter whether they like it or not, we’re left to look elsewhere for possible cuts. However, our search stops short at DeSean Jackson. DeSean Jackson could have been a nice little rental if the Bucs were in a better place, but they’re not. Considering that Tampa Bay has one of the best receivers in the league on their roster (Mike Evans) alongside the emerging Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries, there’s just no room for Jackson on the roster.
2 Tennessee Titans - Dion Lewis
The questions surrounding this cut mostly involve whether or not the Titans are committed to Derrick Henry and whether or not they see Dion Lewis as a good backup for what they’re paying him. At the moment, though, we think that they might see Lewis as more of a cap liability than a real roster asset. Granted, that depends somewhat on what you think their other options are, but it feels safe to say that nobody really saw Lewis as a future star when the Titans arguably overpaid him.
1 Washington Redskins - Jordan Reed
The problem with Jordan Reed is the same problem that almost every team in the league encounters when they’re deciding whether or not to ditch their tight ends. The problem with Jordan Reed is that it’s hard to replace him despite his struggles. Still, we’re talking about a guy who is due to be the sixth highest-paid player on the Redskins roster in 2019 yet hasn’t really done much in recent years to justify being anywhere near that spot. It’s hard to imagine Reed elevating this team.