The Best Player Who Could Be Cut from Every NFL Roster in 2022 Offseason | Bleacher Report -

The Best Player Who Could Be Cut from Every NFL Roster in 2022 Offseason | Bleacher Report

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    Now that the 2022 NFL draft is over, teams can turn their full attention toward OTAs and the upcoming season.

    That means some veteran players will soon be competing for their jobs. 

    Between free-agent signings, draft picks and trade acquisitions, every team will have increased competition at certain positions heading into OTAs. As teams begin thinking about the 53-man roster cutdown later this summer, they’ll have to decide which players to keep around.

    Not every team has a major household name who could be cut. Large guaranteed contracts play a massive factor in job security. Front offices typically prefer avoiding dead cap hits unless it results in considerable financial flexibility or a huge haul of assets.

    Here, we’ll go through all 32 NFL teams and find the best player who could be cut during the 2022 offseason. These players are either facing stiff competition at their positions, have bloated salaries that make them a potential cap casualty or both.    

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    The Arizona Cardinals overhauled their receiving room this offseason, and they might not be done just yet.

    Christian Kirk, who led the team with 77 receptions for 982 yards and five touchdowns last season, signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. With DeAndre Hopkins facing a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, the Cardinals traded their first-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who played with quarterback Kyler Murray at Oklahoma.

    The trio of Brown, Rondale Moore and A.J. Green should allow Murray to move the ball down the field during Hopkins’ suspension. However, 2019 second-round pick Andy Isabella doesn’t appear to be in Arizona’s long-term plans after catching only one pass for 13 yards last season.

    If the Cardinals did cut Isabella this offseason, they’d save roughly $1.1 million and would be left with a dead cap hit below $350,000. Since he has also played only sparingly on special teams, his roster spot may in jeopardy following the acquisition of Brown.

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    Cornerback Kendall Sheffield once appeared to be a potential steal for the Atlanta Falcons. The 2019 fourth-round pick started 20 games over his first two seasons, tallying 97 tackles and six pass deflections.

    Sheffield entered the NFL with raw technique, but his speed and fluidity in coverage raised hope about his continued development. However, he got buried on the depth chart during his first season under defensive coordinator Dean Pees last year.

    Sheffield played only 52 defensive snaps all season, all of which came in Week 17. A hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve to start the season, but he was healthy enough to participate on special teams after he was activated.

    The Falcons could save more than $2.5 million by cutting Sheffield, and they’d be left with a dead cap hit below $200,000. Their addition of veteran cornerback Casey Hayward and re-signing of Isaiah Oliver may have sealed Sheffield’s fate. 

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    Some free-agent deals don’t work out. Just ask the Denver Broncos about offensive tackle Ja’Waun James.

    The Broncos signed James to a four-year, $51 million deal in 2019, but two major injuries and his decision to sit out the 2020 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic led to his release last May. Although he was recovering from a torn Achilles, the Ravens signed him to a two-year, $4.6 million deal knowing that he likely wouldn’t be ready to return until 2022.

    James did miss the 2021 season as expected, but the Ravens aggressively chased other options to ensure the right tackle position wouldn’t be an issue in 2022. They signed veteran Morgan Moses to a three-year deal and selected Daniel Faalele in the fourth round of the draft, which reduced their need for James.

    The Ravens could save $2.5 million by cutting James, and they’d be left with only a $750,000 dead cap hit. They could use the money they save on him to spend on a veteran receiver after trading away No. 1 option Marquise “Hollywood” Brown during the 2022 draft.

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    The Buffalo Bills’ decision to upgrade at running back this offseason likely doesn’t bode well for Zack Moss.

    Moss lost the starting competition to Devin Singletary last year, and he mustered only 3.6 yards per carry on 96 attempts as a backup. He did add 23 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown as a receiver, but he played only 42 percent of the Bills’ offensive snaps.

    The Bills signed Duke Johnson to a one-year, $1.3 million contract in March, so he could be in line to absorb some of that receiving work out of the backfield. They also spent the No. 63 overall pick on Georgia running back James Cook, adding even more competition to their running back room.

    With Cook and Johnson in the fold, Buffalo could save nearly $1.2 million by cutting Moss and would be left with a dead cap hit below $250,000. Since Moss doesn’t play on special teams, he could be on the wrong end of a roster crunch this offseason.

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    The Carolina Panthers entered this offseason needing to give their offensive a major facelift. Adding tackle Ikem Ekwonu, center Bradley Bozeman and guard Austin Corbett helped accomplish that feat.

    However, that added depth doesn’t necessarily mean that the Panthers will be open to parting with veterans Cameron Erving or Pat Elflein. They’d save only $2 million and would be left with a $4.5 million dead cap hit if they released Erving, and Elflein’s cap hit ($4.2 million) is smaller than his dead cap hit would be after a release ($6.6 million).

    Instead, the Panthers may look to make some cuts along their defense. The most talented player whom they could afford to lose is backup cornerback Rashaan Melvin.

    Melvin was a depth piece for Carolina last year after rookie first-round pick Jaycee Horn suffered a broken foot. He has enjoyed success as a journeyman over the last five years and brings value as a plug-and-play veteran, but he turns 33 in October. 

    With Horn likely to be back at full strength, Melvin may have a hard time beating out recent draft picks Keith Taylor and Troy Pride Jr. for roster spots. Carolina should give the veteran as much time as possible to find a new home once Horn proves he’s ready to return.

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    With a new regime taking over, the Chicago Bears could be in for a major roster overhaul over the coming years. However, it’s hard to find a talented player on their razor-thin roster who’s in danger of being cut this offseason.

    The most notable potential cut is edge-rusher Jeremiah Attaochu, who missed 12 games in his first season in Chicago last year. He tore a pectoral muscle in mid-October and ended the season with only two tackles in five games.

    The Bears could save $2.05 million by releasing Attaochu and would be left with only a $1.05 million dead cap hit. That would allow new defensive coordinator Alan Williams to focus on developing recent draft picks Dominique Robinson and Trevis Gipson.

    Attaochu could be a nice rotational player on a contending team if he’s fully healthy, but he’ll do little to change the rebuilding Bears’ immediate future.

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    The Cincinnati Bengals’ upgrades along their offensive line justifiably garnered a ton of attention this offseason. However, it would be unwise to overlook the moves they made to bolster their secondary.

    Cornerback Eli Apple had some bright spots during his first season with the Bengals last year, including two interceptions and 10 pass deflections. However, Los Angeles Rams wideout Cooper Kupp also embarrassed him in the waning moments of Super Bowl LVI. 

    The Bengals now have options to replace Apple after adding defensive back Daxton Hill in the first round and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt in the second round of the draft. Hill has already said he’s willing to play anywhere in the secondary, including boundary corner.

    Since Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton already have locked in their starting roles with their high-level play, Apple might be the odd man out. The Bengals could save $2.75 million by cutting him, and they’d be left with only a $1 million dead cap hit.

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    When the Cleveland Browns acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson in a blockbuster trade with the Houston Texans in March, Baker Mayfield seemed to be on his way out of town. But with OTAs rapidly approaching, he’s still a member of the Browns.

    Several teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans, would clearly benefit from a healthy Mayfield under center. However, Mayfield’s $18.9 million salary for the 2022 season and Cleveland’s lack of leverage in trade discussions has led to a standstill.

    The Browns don’t need to rush a trade or release of Mayfield. His contract is fully guaranteed regardless of whether he’s on the team or not. But keeping Mayfield as a backup to Watson would be a distraction that neither party should want.

    If Mayfield becomes a bigger headache for the Browns before a trade partner meets their asking price, they might have to consider their alternatives. They shouldn’t want to outright release him, but the fact that no team is in a hurry to trade for him doesn’t bode well for their ability to recoup much in a deal.

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    It’s often painful for a front office to cut bait on a top-100 pick. However, at some point, teams have to pay no heed to draft stock and cut dead weight from their roster.

    The Dallas Cowboys are at that point with 2019 second-round pick Trysten Hill, who has been a complete non-factor in three seasons. He’s played in only 18 games and notched 27 tackles and 0.5 sacks.

    The 24-year-old may be an interesting reclamation project for another team, but Dallas is too deep at the tackle position to continue developing him. The Cowboys need their depth at other positions, not to keep a third nose tackle.

    They could save nearly $1.2 million by releasing him and would be left with less than a $400,000 dead cap hit.

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    The Denver Broncos thrust cornerback Michael Ojemudia into early action as a rookie in 2020 due to injuries piling up in their secondary, and he rewarded them with a great start to his career.

    Ojemudia started 11 games as a rookie, and he racked up 55 solo tackles and four forced fumbles. He also ranked second among rookies in completion percentage allowed through mid-October of his rookie season, according to Pro Football Focus

    However, the Broncos retooled their secondary last offseason, and Ojemudia then struggled with a hamstring injury all year long. He played in only two games last season.

    This offseason, the Broncos signed veteran cornerback K’Waun Williams in free agency and selected Pitt corner Damarri Mathis with a fourth-round pick. They could save roughly $800,000 by releasing Ojemudia, although they’d be left with a roughly $500,000 dead cap hit.

    Teams needing a physical zone corner should be watching Ojemudia’s status carefully, because he is talented enough to play somewhere.

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    The Detroit Lions lacked impactful edge-rushers in recent years, but general manager Brad Holmes has turned that into a position of strength. No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson and second-rounder Josh Paschal will help define this defense’s potential for the foreseeable future, but they have plenty of help, too.

    Romeo Okwara is coming off a torn Achilles, so his return is a bit of a wild card. However, Charles Harris, Julian Okwara and 2022 sixth-round pick James Houston are all ready to fight for playing time as well.

    That may leave 2019 fourth-rounder Austin Bryant on thin ice.

    After tallying only 25 tackles and zero sacks over his first two years combined, Bryant had 31 tackles and 4.5 sacks last year. However, the Lions could save nearly $1 million by cutting him, and they’d be left with a dead cap hit below $200,000.

    The likely odd man out due to the numbers game in Detroit, the 25-year-old should draw interest from defenses needing a power rusher in his prime.

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    It’s never a good sign when a top-100 pick at a position of need can’t get onto the field as a rookie.

    Amari Rodgers was supposed to provide receiving depth and the occasional impact play on manufactured touches for the Green Bay Packers. After all, his career at Clemson was filled with highlights of post-catch creativity.

    But instead of making a point of involving Rodgers last season, head coach Matt LaFleur kept him on the bench. The 5’9″, 212-pound wideout caught only four passes for 45 yards and ran the ball once for 11 yards.

    Rodgers made his biggest impact as a rookie on punt and kick returns. However, it’s difficult for Super Bowl contenders to justify rostering a pure return man, especially when they could save more than $400,000 by releasing him.

    Green Bay lost both Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling this offseason, but it added Christian Watson, Sammy Watkins and Romeo Doubs. Rodgers’ best chance to make the Packers roster in 2022 is to become a fierce punt gunner and standout as a return man.

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    New Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith served as the team’s defensive coordinator last season, so he was plenty familiar with his personnel. After being promoted to head coach, he said the team needed to upgrade at cornerback to “play the type of football that we want to play,” per Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk.

    The Texans did so by adding Derek Stingley Jr., Steven Nelson, Isaac Yiadom and M.J. Stewart on top of re-signing Desmond King. They now have a ton of competition at that position.

    Houston already started thinning out its cornerback depth chart by trading Lonnie Johnson Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2024. The competition must play out, but Jimmy Moreland currently seems to have the toughest route to make the final 53-man roster.

    Moreland played only eight defensive snaps last season despite showing promise as a slot corner in Washington. Houston already has several slot corners in King, Tavierre Thomas and potentially Stewart if he doesn’t move to safety. 

    None of Moreland’s $2.5 million salary for this season is guaranteed, which makes him a potential cap casualty. He would be a great depth piece, but the Texans have invested too much into other cornerbacks to justify rostering him.

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    Ben Banogu has been a complete non-factor for the Indianapolis Colts since they took him with a second-round pick in 2019.

    Leading up to the draft, the 6’3″, 250-pounder’s Relative Athletic Score was elite across the board outside of his weight and bench press, per Pro Football Network’s Kent Lee Platte. Unfortunately, that athleticism hasn’t translated to on-field success.

    Banogu has played only 439 defensive snaps and logged 2.5 sacks in three seasons. His snap count has dwindled in each of those years, going from 26 percent as a rookie to only 12 percent this past season.

    The Colts’ trade for Yannick Ngakoue likely seals Banogu’s fate barring a massive training camp breakout. They can save roughly $1.3 million by cutting him loose, and they’d be left with a dead cap hit below $600,000.

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    Teams often give first-round picks multiple years before moving on from them, but Jacksonville Jaguars edge-rusher K’Lavon Chaisson may prove to be the rare exception this offseason.

    Despite playing 31 games (including 11 starts), Chaisson has racked up only 50 tackles and two sacks in his two seasons. He had the third-most combined quarterback pressures and run stops among rookies in 2020, according to Pro Football Focus, but he played only 39 percent of the Jaguars’ defensive snaps this past season.

    Chaisson moved from a two-point stance at LSU to a 4-3 end in 2020 and a standup rusher in 2021. That lack of continuity may not be the primary reason for his stagnation, but it hasn’t helped, either.

    Jacksonville spent the No. 1 overall pick this year on fellow edge-rusher Travon Walker. Pairing him with blossoming young teammate Josh Allen and free-agent addition Arden Key largely answers that positional need for the Jaguars.

    If Chaisson fails to impress his third coaching staff in three seasons, it could mark the end of his tenure in Jacksonville. The saving grace for Chaisson is that he’d cost more to cut than to keep due to the structure of rookie contracts.

    Cutting him after June 1 would count $6.1 million against the cap in 2022 and then save about $2.4 million in 2023. Keeping Chaisson this season would cost $3.6 million. 

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    Outside of replacing Tyrann Mathieu with Justin Reid, the Kansas City Chiefs appeared to take a step back this offseason after losing star wide receiver Tyreek Hill and cornerback Charvarius Ward. But rather than panicking to replace them, they filled out their depth chart at both positions in free agency and the draft.

    The Chiefs signed wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency, drafted Skyy Moore and took a flier on undrafted free agent Justyn Ross. Meanwhile, they traded up to No. 21 and selected Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie, who should help replace Ward. 

    The Chiefs now appear to have significant depth at receiver and cornerback. They’ll need to make tough decisions at both positions once they begin cutting down their roster, which could put Cornell Powell’s roster spot in jeopardy.

    The 2021 fifth-round pick is a late-blooming prospect who didn’t see the field as a rookie. He needs more time to develop, but the win-now Chiefs may not have the luxury of waiting for him.

    Powell’s $705,000 salary is fully nonguaranteed, so he’ll need a strong performance during OTAs and training camp to keep his roster spot.

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    The Las Vegas Raiders made a number of poor investments and poor decisions during the Mike Mayock-Jon Gruden tenure. Signing running back Kenyan Drake last year was an especially dumbfounding move.

    Two years after drafting running back Josh Jacobs in the first round, the Raiders gave Drake a two-year, $11 million deal. Drake was never the missing answer for the offense, but the Raiders paid a premium for him.

    The signing fell flat, as he produced only 93 touches for 545 total yards and three touchdowns. The Raiders didn’t have the offensive line for Drake to be an effective runner from the start.

    New Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler could’ve been comfortable with the Jacobs-Drake duo, but he doubled down this offseason with the acquisitions of Brandon Bolden, Zamir White and Brittain Brown. 

    Ziegler already restructured Drake’s contract to make 2023 a void year, so the full value of the deal won’t be realized. Cutting Drake would only save $250,000 against a $3.6 million dead cap hit. However, if Vegas keeps four backs on the roster, it’s hard to imagine the new regime keeping the backup from the previous group of decision-makers.  

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    The start of free agency seems like forever ago, but one of the first moves made after the Super Bowl was a blockbuster. The Los Angeles Chargers struck gold when they traded a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 sixth-rounder for pass-rusher Khalil Mack. Mack was later joined by free-agent cornerback signee J.C. Jackson to round out the Chargers defense.

    Los Angeles continued to bolster its depth throughout free agency and the draft, even if there weren’t other stars added. One of those players was fourth-round rookie Isaiah Spiller. Spiller, an impressive back while at Texas A&M, should immediately challenge for snaps behind Austin Ekeler. 

    Adding depth behind Ekeler was crucial. Not only has the 30-year-old Ekeler started 16 games just once, but the backup tandem of Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree III failed to produce at an efficient level last year. Kelley averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on 33 totes, and Rountree was even worse with an average of 2.4 yards on 36 carries.

    Spiller will push one of them off the roster. Considering Kelley is a plodding back with little receiving value, he’s the most obvious man out.

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    The defending Super Bowl champions enter 2022 after overhauling several key positions. Their high-wire act where they balance high-priced veterans and young players on rookie deals puts a premium on developing quickly. Their model is hard on any player who isn’t a star, because the Rams are highly unlikely to pay him on a second contract.

    Cornerback David Long Jr. appears to be facing the roster crunch this offseason. Long was a third-round selection in 2019 and finally took on a larger role in 2021 after playing on special teams. He started five games, showing competence as a versatile and speedy option.

    Despite his experience, the Rams traded for Troy Hill and drafted two cornerbacks. The cornerback room now features three new faces as well as Jalen Ramsey and 2021 fourth-round pick Robert Rochell. Long’s battle to make the team is a steep uphill climb, and another team should be interested in the 24-year-old former Michigan Wolverine.

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    The Miami Dolphins have almost completed their rebuild that began in 2019. Boasting a defense that has talent on all three levels and is balanced between blossoming young starters and established impactful veterans, Miami focused its offseason on improving its offense. New head coach Mike McDaniel will overhaul the scheme and has targeted specific talent for his plans.

    However, the defense remains especially intriguing since defensive coordinator Josh Boyer stayed in his role after head coach Brian Flores was fired. Theoretically, much of Miami’s defensive personnel will be in similar roles in 2022. That should bode well for veteran safety Eric Rowe, who remade his career in Miami.

    Rowe’s three years in Miami have led to 243 tackles and three interceptions. He’s also specialized in defending tight ends in a unique third safety role. But 2021 saw a dip in his effectiveness as he allowed 48 receptions on 61 targets. 

    Scheduled to earn $5.075 million in 2022 with just $525,000 in dead money if he’s released, Rowe must prove that he’s still valuable enough to keep over younger options. Undrafted free agent Verone McKinley III is a highly talented addition who could push Rowe for a roster spot because he’s more versatile.   

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    The Minnesota Vikings had limited cap room to help tweak their roster, making the draft their primary source of new talent. Because they obviously couldn’t know who would be available to them at any given pick, new Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah re-signed veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson graded almost league average in 2021, finishing 63rd of 129 qualified corners, according to PFF.

    Now that we know Andrew Booth Jr. was added in the second round, the Vikings can move on from Peterson. Cameron Dantzler is an up-and-coming young talent coming off his best season yet, and Peterson turns 32 in July. Playing Peterson in his declining years brings almost no value.

    Adofo-Mensah has almost no financial incentive to cut Peterson since the Vikings would save just $382K with $2.75 million in dead cap. However, the mix of opening playing time for Booth Jr. and allowing Peterson to find another opportunity is enough to justify moving on. Peterson could catch on with a contender elsewhere if an injury opens playing time.   

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    The New England Patriots are as loyal as any team in the NFL until there comes the day when the money doesn’t make sense. After eight seasons with the Patriots, James White’s tenure may be coming to an end. He re-signed with the Patriots on a two-year, $5 million deal after suffering a hip injury that landed him on injured reserve last year.

    White is an unusual running back. He’s more productive as a receiver than rusher, with only one season with more yards on the ground than through the air. Contending teams should be salivating at the opportunity to add White despite his age (30 years old).

    New England would have remained a good option for White to finish his career until the 2022 NFL draft played out. The Patriots selected two rushers on Day 3 of the draft in Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris. Releasing White would save $1.02 million of his $1.52 million cap hit.   

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    Even after two straight offseasons with salary-cap gymnastics, the New Orleans Saints still have an excellent roster. Years of strong drafting have paid off, and they added veterans Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye in free agency. Star receiver Michael Thomas will be back on the field after missing 2021.

    The addition of Thomas and first-round rookie Chris Olave is bad news for 2018 third-round pick Tre’Quan Smith. Smith is a fluid athlete with great size, but it hasn’t translated to consistent success despite the opportunity opening in 2021. Instead, it was Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris who stepped up.

    New Orleans re-signed Smith to a two-year deal prior to drafting Olave. Between his own struggles with availability (he’s missed 13 games over the last three years) and the Saints’ evolving identity after losing Drew Brees, Smith hasn’t grabbed the opportunity. The 26-year-old has ground to make up despite being such a tantalizing athlete.   

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    The New York Giants are still in cost-cutting mode as they repair their salary-cap situation from the Dave Gettleman era. After releasing veteran cornerback James Bradberry on Monday, the Giants swallowed the tough pill of making a purely financial decision. Bradberry was still a plus starter, but his contract structure was disastrous, costing them over $21 million had he stayed on the roster.

    The cuts will continue with new head coach Brian Daboll and company implementing new schemes with their own personnel. The best player who could be realistically cut now is 2019 third-round pick Oshane Ximines. The Old Dominion star has played sparingly in three seasons despite the team’s need for pass-rushing help.

    His usage in New York never mirrored what made him successful in college. The 6’3″, 257-pounder was at his best as a weak-side defensive end. The Giants often wanted him upright and playing in space, but he’s not a fast enough athlete to win on that much of an island. 

    Cutting Ximines would save $995,000 of his $1.2 million cap hit. A fresh start in a better scheme could be the best way for him to rejuvenate his career. 

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    There are times when good general managers overplay their hand or don’t see eye to eye with the coaching staff. The New York Jets’ handling of Denzel Mims appears to be an instance of one or both of those situations. Mims has played in just 20 games over the last two years due to coaches’ decisions despite the offense desperately needing a playmaker.

    He’s been productive in his opportunities. The 6’3″, 207-pounder entered the league as a raw route-runner but has averaged 15.8 yards per catch. If polish was an issue, the coaching staff could’ve adjusted play calls to feed him more advantageous situations.

    The Jets coaching staff seemingly never had faith in Mims, making it strange the team turned down trade offers at the 2021 trade deadline. Recent buzz has suggested Mims is in better shape entering this critical year, but Mims has always been impressive outside of a uniform. Just last year Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur compared Mims to Kevin Durant. 

    What’s more likely than Mims having a sudden transformation is the Jets realizing they missed their window to get an asset for a player buried on the bench. Don’t forget the Jets were involved in potential trades for a star receiver all offseason. After drafting Garrett Wilson and re-signing Braxton Berrios, expect the fifth receiver spot to go to another individual who is a special teams contributor. 

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    It’s one thing to pass on an All-Pro-caliber player for a good but not great contributor. Completely whiffing on a prospect that appears out of his depth in the NFL over said potential All-Pro is another thing. For as well as the Philadelphia Eagles have drafted under Howie Roseman, taking Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson will headline his misses.

    Reagor wasn’t considered a massive reach in the 20s at the time, but it’s clear he had no business being in the first-round mix with hindsight. He’s struggled with major aspects of the receiver position since entering the league from TCU. His route running isn’t sharp, he struggles finishing through contact, and quarterback Jalen Hurts has been unable to find Reagor deep when he does shake free of coverage.

    With only 695 yards and three touchdowns through 28 games and 24 starts, the Eagles have all but moved on already. Their trade and extension of A.J. Brown just one year after drafting DeVonta Smith has pushed Reagor down the depth chart where special teamers reside. Barring a stunning leap of development, the Eagles would be better off eating the $6 million in dead cap that would come with a release than continuing to trot Reagor out.

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    After spending the majority of the 2021 season on the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad, Karl Joseph would have loved to have seen incumbent starter Terrell Edmunds sign elsewhere. Joseph signed a one-year deal to return to Pittsburgh prior to Edmunds’ own one-year deal. Pittsburgh is also bringing back Miles Killebrew to the strong safety mix.

    Joseph played less than Killebrew as well last year. His decision to return to Pittsburgh was a gamble based on potential playing time. Had Edmunds departed, he could have challenged for a starting role.

    Instead, Joseph is going back into a situation where he played in two games and logged two tackles behind others who were also retained. He was a productive player in Cleveland as recently as 2020, where he tallied 67 tackles and an interception in eight starts (14 games). He’d be better off competing in a fresh situation in 2022 than running it back in a positional battle he’ll likely lose again.

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    The idea that the San Francisco 49ers would simply release the quarterback who helped them reach one Super Bowl and almost a second in a three-season span is hard to imagine. However, San Francisco clearly overestimated its leverage in Garoppolo trade talks. Garoppolo and Baker Mayfield are both mediocre and expensive veterans available with only a few starting jobs yet to be decided.

    Unlike Cleveland, who could cut Mayfield and not save a dime due to Mayfield’s fully guaranteed fifth-year option, the 49ers would save a massive amount of space they could roll over to next year by cutting Garoppolo. $25.55 million of his $26.95 million cap hit would be saved. The 49ers are simply waiting to see if they can shed that salary in return for an asset.

    The worst case for the 49ers is potential trade partners remain concerned about Garoppolo’s surgically repaired shoulder and they cut him. Losing out on a Day 2 draft pick (a possible return for Garoppolo) would sting, but the money saved is more important. Keeping Garoppolo as a backup to Trey Lance for 2022 would be an incredible misuse of money.

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    A nagging neck injury cost Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson 13 games in 2021, and he’s fighting to return to stardom after surgery. Carson had 1,151 rushing yards in 2018 and 1,230 rushing yards and 2019. But injuries and a reduced workload in 2020 and 2021 robbed his career of momentum.

    The Seahawks are set to turn the page and save $3.1 million of his $6.1 million cap hit after drafting Kenneth Walker II in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft. Walker joins Carson, newly re-signed Rashaad Penny, 2020 fourth-round pick DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer on the depth chart. With their highly touted rookie, a healthier Penny and quality depth, the Seahawks might need Carson to return to peak form to keep him. 

    The shelf life of most backs is stunningly short, and Carson is the latest example of how fast a bright star can fade due to injuries. Seattle must get more reliability from the position. Carson would also benefit from a less crowded backfield.   

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the one team seemingly equipped to handle losing two star receivers in 2021 and still push for a Super Bowl run. On top of Chris Godwin’s torn ACL, the Buccaneers also watched Antonio Brown walk off the field mid-game. The Bucs plugged in the combination of Tyler Johnson, Cyril Grayson Jr. and Breshad Perriman and almost got past the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.

    Godwin is back but still recovering from his injury, so the Buccaneers wisely added Russell Gage from Atlanta. The forgotten man among the group is fourth-year receiver Scotty Miller. Miller spent eight weeks on injured reserve due to a turf toe injury and only played sparingly in nine games.

    Miller’s lack of impact was shocking considering the success he found with Tom Brady in their first year together. The speedy 5’9″, 174-pounder averaged 15.2 yards per catch and totaled 501 yards and three scores in 2020. He’s stuck behind the deepest receiving corps in the league but should catch on elsewhere with his ability to get open quickly.

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    The fact that we’ve landed on a backup nickelback for the Tennessee Titans says a lot about their current roster depth. Unless the Titans shock the world by releasing 2021 free-agent bust Bud Dupree, there is no intriguing talent who could be cut. Dupree appears safe since the Titans opted against adding a viable replacement and he would carry a $20.45 million dead cap hit if released. 

    Instead we’re looking at Buster Skrine as the best player the Titans could cut. The 33-year-old has built a long career out of being a slot specialist. He had a solid 2020 season with Chicago, finishing with 66 tackles.

    The feisty yet undersized veteran provided depth for Tennessee and San Francisco last year. With Elijah Molden holding the slot spot down, Skrine will likely be a camp body. He’ll look to extend his career into Year 12.

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    Chris Unger/Getty Images

    The 2021 Washington Commanders offense was supposed to be fun with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing to a plethora of fast and talented receivers. If nothing else, the wily veteran would provide more entertainment for the embattled franchise. Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick was lost for the season in Week 1, and the Commanders’ season went down in flames.

    A major loser from the transition from Fitzpatrick to Taylor Heinicke was rookie third-round pick Dyami Brown. Brown entered the NFL as a speedster who was supposed to open up the middle of the field for Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel. Instead, he caught just 12 passes in 15 games and failed to reach the end zone.

    Now with Carson Wentz running the offense and first-round pick Jahan Dotson joining the team, the Commanders have a stylistic choice to make at receiver. Big-bodied options like Kelvin Harmon, Cam Sims and Antonio Gandy-Golden would add a different element than the entrenched starters. Brown is a more recent and higher investment, but his game is more similar to the roster locks than who he’s competing against.

    Brown would seem to have the leg up since Harmon hasn’t played since 2019 and Gandy-Golden has caught just one pass. However, this could become a special teams battle if Sims locks in the fourth receiver spot. Brown would be at a much higher risk of being cut if that happens.


    All contract information via Over The Cap.

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