1. Elvis Dumervil, Ravens
Cap Saved: $6 million/Cash Saved: $6 million
Two years ago Dumervil had 17 sacks and was an All Pro selection, but his performance has plummeted since making the turn past 30. His sack total dropped to 6 in 2015, his lowest figure since 2008, and finished with just 3 sacks this year as he was slow to recover from an injury. The Ravens look to be the oldest team in the NFL an need to begin a purge of the older veterans.
2. Lamarr Houston, Bears
Cap Saved: $5 million/Cash Saved: $6 million
The decision to sign Houston was one of Chicago’s worst in recent years, which is saying something for a struggling team. Houston basically has no natural fit in the defense and will be coming off his second ACL injury in three seasons. In his three years with the Bears Houston has now missed 22 games because of injury and it would seem foolish to count on him in 2017.
3. JT Thomas, Giants
Cap Saved: $3 million/Cash Saved: $3 million
Thomas was only with the Giants for one season before the approached him to take a paycut from $3 million to $1.625 million, to remain on the team in 2016 and its unlikely he would be offered the same deal this year. Thomas spent the entire season on IR and the Giants defense certainly does not need him, especially at $3 million next year.
4. Emmanuel Lamur, Vikings
Cap Saved: $2.8 million/Cash Saved: $2.8 million
Lamur should thank head coach Mike Zimmer for this contract. Lamur had one decent season with the Bengals but failed to produce in his walk year. The Bengals rarely let players go and if they are willing to do that it should raise a red flag. Lamur’s decline continued as he logged barely any playing time on the Vikings defense and finished the year with just three tackles.
5. Erin Henderson, Jets
Cap Saved: $2.8 million/Cash Saved: $2.8 million
Henderson spent much of the season on the NFI list, appearing in just 5 games and notching 12 tackles. Henderson needed a standout year to ensure a roster spot in 2017 and with the Jets likely moving to a youth movement it would not seem that Henderson did enough to remain on the team.
6. D’Qwell Jackson, Colts
Cap Saved: $5.5 million/Cash Saved: $5.5 million
Jackson’s signing is another example of some of the problems that have plagued the Colts approach to roster building the past few years. Jackson was released by the Browns and the Colts quickly pounced on a plus 30 linebacker rather than looking for younger talent to put on defense. Jackson has had an ok career with the Colts but his numbers dropped last season and he ended the year suspended at a crucial time in the Colts season.
7. DeAndre Levy, Lions
Cap Saved: $1.2 million/Cash Saved: $6 million
Levy probably has the best timing of almost any player in the NFL striking a big $8.4 million a year extension with the Lions right before his career was basically derailed by injuries. Since signing the contract Levy has only appeared in 6 games and started 4 of them. Levy peaked at the perfect time, exploding for 121 solo tackles in 2014 as the Lions made a big playoff push primarily based on the strength of their defense. The Lions had no need to extend him in 2015 but with salaries rising at the position they rushed it to avoid any issues down the line with a player who looked like he became a star. They may offer him a pay cut before releasing him. If they fail to release him his salary will become guaranteed for the year.
8. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Cap Saved: $4.2 million/Cash Saved: $4.2 million
Misi has finished the last two years on IR for the Dolphins and hasn’t appeared in 16 games since his rookie year in 2010. Misi will be 30 next season and the Dolphins should look to find a more impactful player. It would not be a shock if Miami renegotiated his contract to pay him as a low cost reserve, but his $4.2M salary is the highest of his entire career so it is highly unlikely they would risk that number.
9. Dan Skuta, Jaguars
Cap Saved: $4.1 million/Cash Saved: $4.1 million
I’m not sure there is anyone, not even Skuta himself, that understood why the Jaguars opted to sign Skuta to a $20.5 million contract in 2015. Skuta has only started 10 games for Jacksonville in two years and produced 1.5 sacks and 46 tackles for the team. He doesn’t really have a natural fit on the Jaguars defense and would be better utilized in a different defense. The only reason I don’t have him higher on this list is because the Jaguars decisions on player contracts generally confuses me and I’m very often wrong, so Ill assume the same applies here.
10. Rey Maualuga, Bengals
Cap Saved: $3.7 million/Cash Saved: $3.7 million
The Bengals dependency on homegrown players has led to Maualuga probably have a longer and more lucrative run than he would have had if he began his career with any other team in the NFL. With the Bengals finally looking much older on the field this past season players like Maualuga should probably be cut. He’ll be 30 next year and finished the season with just 17 tackles in 14 games.
11. Ahmad Brooks, 49ers
Cap Saved: $7.8 million/Cash Saved: $7.8 million
I probably should have Brooks much lower on this list since it seems every year I believe he will be released and every year San Francisco holds onto him. Brooks is a steady enough second pass rusher that you can generally pencil in for 6 sacks a year, but at his current cost, even when any de-escalators kick in, I am not sure the value is there for a 33 year old player on a 2 win team.
12. Pernell McPhee, Bears
Cap Saved: $6.3 million/Cash Saved: $7.3 million
McPhee cashed in a few years ago with a 7.5 sack season and a great deal of hype in his walk year with the expectation that even more playing time would lead to more impact. Often that doesn’t work out as planned and McPhee looks to be in that category. McPhee struggled with injuries most of the season and lost his role as a starter after just one year. That key reserve role suits him fine but he’s paid to make an impact not be a reserve. The Bears may very well be chasing a sunk cost on this one.
13. Mychal Kendricks, Eagles
Cap Saved: $1.8 million/Cash Saved: $5 million
Kendricks only started 8 games in 2016 and only played in about 27% of the Eagles snaps. He clearly fell out of favor with the coaching staff and I’m sure there are some who may be questioning the effort. Still he is young and the cap savings are minimal, but if he isn’t motivated and that’s the primary issue, better to put the $5 million in actual salary to better use. They will need to make an early decision or look for trade partners as a portion of his salary will become guaranteed early in the offseason.
14. David Harris, Jets
Cap Saved: $6.5 million/Cash Saved: $6.5 million
Harris has very quietly been able to negotiate two of the more team friendly contracts in the NFL over the last six or seven years. From a football standpoint there is probably little way to justify this salary for Harris who is an 85% playtime player who should be on the field for at the most 50% of the snaps. But Harris is also the leader of the defense and along with Nick Mangold probably one of two Jets that are considered their best of the last ten years. I would not be surprised if Harris signs a two year extension that brings his cap number down a bit rather than being cut.
15. Brian Cushing, Texans
Cap Saved: $5.6 million/Cash Saved: $6.8 million
I put the likelihood of Cushing being cut as low, but he has a $9.5 million cap charge and is no longer the type of player to justify that number. His $6.8 million salary is high, fourth among ILBs in the NFL, but the Texans are still a competitive team and competitive teams lean towards the short term and they may not see a better alternative out there. They may see if they can reduce his number for the year with a promise of free agency in 2018. His salary in 2018 increases to $8.5 million and it would seem release at that point is a given anyway.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.