Fantasy Football: One Cut Candidate From Each AFC Team
Following on from our look at players on NFC rosters that could be in danger of losing their jobs in the next few weeks, here are is our look at likely cut candidates on AFC rosters.
Salary cap information is courtesy of OverTheCap.com
Baltimore Ravens -- Patrick Ricard
Cap Savings: $2,000,000
Dead Money: $1,983,334
The Baltimore Ravens have already released Mark Ingram this offseason, the most obvious cut candidate on their entire roster based on how the 2020 season went down. They don't have a lot of offensive players on particularly expensive deals, with most of their core skill players still on rookie contracts.
Fullback Patrick Ricard could be seen as something of luxury if we're being hypercritical. He played fewer than 40% of the Ravens' offensive snaps in 2020, hauling in nine passes for 45 yards and registering a single rushing attempt. But his deal is not one that screams to be gotten off a books in 2021 given his value as a blocker.
Buffalo Bills -- John Brown
Cap Savings: $7,931,250
Dead Money: $1,600,000
The Josh Allen-John Brown linkup has been one of the most productive partnerships on the Buffalo Bills' offense over the last two years. Allen averages 9.7 adjusted yards per attempt when looking the way of Brown. But injuries limited the wideout to just nine games in 2020, and the emergence of Gabriel Davis in his stead (35 receptions for 599 yards and seven touchdowns at an impressive 17.1 yards per catch) makes Brown an obvious candidate to be moved given his current deal.
Cincinnati Bengals -- C.J. Uzomah
Cap Savings: $5,075,000
Dead Money: $1,083,334
C.J. Uzomah missed most of the 2020 season after tearing his Achilles in Week 2. He recorded eight grabs for 87 yards and a score before suffering the injury. In his absence, the Cincinnati Bengals got solid play from Drew Sample at the tight end spot. Sample caught 40 passes for 349 yards and a touchdown in 2020.
Uzomah carries the 12th highest cap charge for a tight end across the NFL in the coming season. Combining that with his injury makes him an obvious candidate to be sent packing. It's a cruel game.
Cleveland Browns -- David Njoku
Cap Savings: $6,013,000
Dead Money: None
It's never really gotten off the ground for Odell Beckham with the Cleveland Browns. In the two seasons since he left the New York Giants, OBJ has 97 receptions for 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns. His yards per reception of 14.0 is identical to the one he boasted with the G-Men. But he's averaged less than 60 yards per game and caught just over 55% of his targets.
Beckham's torn ACL, however, means that the Browns won't be able to cut him, as he is unlikely to be passing a physical anytime soon. So the only way he is out the door is if the Browns can find a trade partner.
Another possible cut candidate could be David Njoku. The tight end is set to play out the 2021 season on his fifth-year option, and his $6,013,000 salary becomes guaranteed on March 17th. Njoku played just 38.6% of the Browns' snaps in 2020 and had a mere 19 receptions for 213 yards and two scores. Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant could make the former first-round selection expendable.
Denver Broncos -- Nick Vannett
Cap Savings: $2,678,125
Dead Money: $875,000
The Denver Broncos are not in terrible shape when it comes to the cap, and most of their skill players are youngsters still eeking out a living on rookie deals. This makes it easier to live with most of them should management feel the need to make any changes to the roster. One obvious exception would be running back Melvin Gordon. But he wasn't terrible in 2020, rushing for 986 yards and nine touchdowns. He was only 15th among 23 running backs in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per attempt with 0.02. But his release would leave $6.5 million in dead money.
If someone needed to be cut loose, Nick Vannett would seem to be the lone obvious candidate. He played on 33% of their offensive snaps in 2020 and amassed a total of 14 receptions in his 15 games. These earned him a whopping 95 yards and a score.
Houston Texans -- Duke Johnson
Cap Savings: $5,025,000
Dead Money: None
It's hard to speculate as to what moves such a well-run franchise like the Houston Texans will make this offseason given their track record of moves designed to make the team better and a happier place for all concerned. That being said, both running backs called D. Johnson are not safe. Duke Johnson would be the easier cut, with no dead money left if they release him.
Johnson averaged a career low of 4.6 yards per touch in 2020, and he's averaged only 5.6 yards per touch on 232 touches during his two years with the team. Why they even bothered trading for him in the first place continues to be a mystery that plagues long-standing members of the Duke fan club like myself.
Indianapolis Colts -- Jack Doyle
Cap Savings: $4,350,000
Dead Money: $1,500,000
The Indianapolis Colts are in great shape from a cap point of view and are one of the teams in the league who can look to go out and snap up desirable free agents. That being said, the production of Jack Doyle is something they could look to improve upon. Doyle caught 23 passes in 2020, his lowest tally in a full season since 2015. He did average a career-best 10.9 yards per grab. If the Colts need to make a move, he could go. But they don't have to be so ruthless if they don't want to be.
Jacksonville Jaguars -- Tyler Eifert
Cap Savings: $5,250,000
Dead Money: $1,125,000
After playing 14 games combined between 2016 and 2018, Tyler Eifert has appeared in 31 games for the Bengals and the Jacksonville Jaguars over the last two seasons. But it's clear that while he is on the field, the playmaker he once was is not there. He averaged a meager 9.6 yards per reception for the Jags in 2020 on his way to 36 grabs for 349 yards and two touchdowns.
The Jaguars' offense stunk in 2020, this much is true. And Eifert could benefit from a new scheme and quarterback in the new year with what will be a revamped Jacksonville attack. But armed with a boatload of cap space and a large number of draft picks, the Jaguars should look to upgrade over Eifert.
Kansas City Chiefs -- Damien Williams
Cap Savings: $2,175,000
Dead Money: $533,334
The hero of the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers just over a year ago, Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 season over COVID concerns. This will, I'm sure, not play a part in the Chiefs' decision to move on from him. But KC invested a first-round draft pick in Clyde Edwards-Helaire last year, and while his rookie season was somewhat disappointing, they will be hoping for big things in his second year on the job. Williams is not on mega bucks, but it looks like a cut the Chiefs could make if they truly believe Edwards-Helaire can make the leap in Year 2.
Las Vegas Raiders -- Marcus Mariota
Cap Savings: $11,350,000
Dead Money: None
The Las Vegas Raiders have already indicated that they intend to release Tyrell Williams, a move that will save them $10.6 million in 2021. But they are still in precarious waters in cap terms, and while they would prefer to dangle Marcus Mariota in a trade -- and may find suitors -- they could be forced to bite the bullet and wave goodbye to him. They would save a lot more money if they released or traded Derek Carr ($19.6 million if they cut him, with just $2.5 million in dead cash), but they have already apparently rejected offers to obtain their veteran signal caller.
Keeping Carr leaves Mariota as the odd man out. It doesn't make sense for a team to carry two passers who have the 14th and the 19th highest cap charges at a single position in a single season given the roster's weaknesses elsewhere.
Los Angeles Chargers -- Mike Williams
Cap Saving $15,680,000
Dead Money: None
I should stress straight away that I do not believe for a moment that the Los Angeles Chargers will cut Mike Williams. I simply do not think he will play in 2020 under this salary. Williams is set to play out the year on his fifth-year option, which means he is set to carry the ninth highest cap charge for a wide receiver in the NFL. No, not happening.
Williams has not been a bad player for the Chargers by any means. He is a year removed from leading the NFL with 20.4 yards per reception, and he has averaged a solid 16.7 yards on his 151 career catches. But almost $15.7 million? No. I'd expect an extension in the coming weeks to make his 2021 number more palatable.
Miami Dolphins -- Jakeem Grant
Cap Savings: $2,887,500
Dead Money: $1,800,000
The Miami Dolphins have quite a war chest of assets heading into the 2021 season, laden with both draft picks and cap space. They could look to move on from Jakeem Grant, who carries the fourth-biggest cap number among their offensive skill players in the new year. Grant averaged an impressive 10.1 yards per touch last season but earned only 39 touches throughout the campaign. Miami may, however, look to keep him in the building for his return skills after he averaged 11.1 yards per punt return a year ago.
New England Patriots -- Julian Edelman
Cap Savings: $3,437,500
Dead Money: $2,666,668
Throughout the Bill Belichick era, the New England Patriots have notoriously been a team that likes to be a year early with regards to cutting loose veterans who they feel have given all they can for the cause. Releasing Julian Edelman would seem to be a move they would have made in the past, but whether they still have the stomach given their lack of talent among the skill positions on offense is open to debate.
The Patriots' offense was putrid in 2020, and while Edelman cannot be fully blamed after missing a large part of the year with a knee injury, he didn't look like himself when on the field. He finished with 21 receptions for 315 scoreless yards as he averaged 52.5 receiving yards per game. That was his lowest clip since 2012. He wasn't helped by a Catchable Target Rate of just 71.8%, according to PlayerProfiler, but the same trackers logged him with a 7.7% drop rate and just the 79th most separation at target. Your move, Bill.
New York Jets -- Jamison Crowder
Cap Savings: $10,375,000
Dead Money: $1,000,000
You could make the case that Jamison Crowder was the best thing about the New York Jets' offense in 2020. He did lead the team in all the major receiving categories on his way to 59 grabs, 699 yards, and six touchdowns. But you'll forgive me if I don't think this is worth paying $11 million for when you are likely to blow up your entire offense anyway. The Jets need another fresh start, and while they would likely prefer to keep Crowder around, his present price tag may prevent that from happening.
Pittsburgh Steelers -- Ben Roethlisberger
Cap Savings: $19,000,000
Dead Money: $22,250,000
Cutting the leading passer in franchise history, leaving more than $20 million in dead money when you are already projected to be more than $20 million over the salary cap? You are not serious, right? Well, I am actually. The dead money charge for moving a quarterback has shown to be no obstacle to teams in the last few weeks, with the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles incurring massive dead money hits to move Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, respectively. The Pittsburgh Steelers also have something of a track record when it comes to absorbing massive cap hits to be rid of players they do not want to not play for them after they traded away Antonio Brown in 2019.
Plus, and this is where we get the heart of the matter, Ben Roethlisberger looked awful for large parts of the 2020 season. He averaged a middling 6.77 yards per attempt in the Steelers' first nine games in 2020 but a woeful 5.54 in his last six. His passing touchdowns in those splits fell from 2.4 per game to 1.8, while his interceptions more than doubled from 0.4 per outing to 1.0. Of the 32 quarterbacks with at least 300 drop backs in 2020, Roethlisberger was 18th in Passing NEP per drop back with 0.14. For context, Mitchell Trubisky averaged 0.16.
Father Time is undefeated, this we know. On the field, Big Ben has been one of the great Steelers in franchise history. But the team is already starting to show signs that they don't feel his play matches his salary. I'd be surprised if they outright released him, but the world of sport has so few genuine happy endings. A restructuring of his deal is almost certain.
Tennessee Titans -- Adam Humphries
Cap Savings: $4,750,000
Dead Money: $5,000,000
The health and wellbeing of the player concerned may play more into this decision than what he can do on the field. Adam Humphries played in just seven games for the Tennessee Titans last season, catching 23 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns. But he suffered a concussion in Week 8, played in a single game afterward, and is still being monitored by the team three months later. The health and wellbeing of the players should be the primary concern for the league and all 32 teams. This is a scary situation, and we'll have to see how it ends.