2017 Potential Cuts: Running Back

Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking ahead to players who may be cut/traded/renegotiated in 2017. The first entry was for the QB position and today I’ll look at the running backs in the NFL, who may see 3 of the top 5 contracts drop off the charts next year.

1. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Cap Saved: $7 million/Cash Saved: $7 million

Charles is very popular with Chiefs fans, but he has only been active for 8 games in the last two years, and only a real participant in five of those games. He has had multiple injuries and even for healthy players, the age of 31 is usually not considered a strong age for high level play at the position. Charles $7 million cap hit is the 4th highest and his $7 million salary is 2nd highest among all running backs. The Chiefs have other concerns with their salary cap and have already moved on from Charles on the field.

2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
Cap Saved: $18 million/Cash Saved: $18 million

The last of the monster running back contracts has amazingly made it all the way to 2016. How much of an outlier is this contract? His $18 million 2017 salary is $11 million higher than the next highest paid running back in the NFL. Peterson looked like he may have been slowing down in 2015 after the fast start, had a bad start to 2016, and ended up injured for most of this season. He’ll be 32 years old in 2017 and the Vikings need to start looking toward the future and not the past. Is it possible he will be back? I’m sure it’s possible but I can’t imagine any possible way he would be brought back at a price anywhere near this. Even taking the legend status into account $6 million should be his max, and even that seems high.

3. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
Cap Saved: $4.75 million/Cash Saved: $6.25 million

This should be the last of the old Panthers albatross contracts that really confined the Panthers front office over the last three years to come off the books. Stewart is the 3rd highest paid running bank when ranked by APY, has the 3rd highest cap charge and the 4th highest salary in 2017. His last (and only) 1,000 yard season came back in 2009. He has a nose for the end zone with 14 scores in 23 games over the last two years, but hes always an injury risk and pretty much a bruising style runner in an era where you pay for dynamic players. Not sure what logic there would be to keeping him on his current contract other than just being familiar with him.

4. Ryan Mathews, Eagles
Cap Saved: $4 million/Cash Saved: $4 million

Mathews is a difficult player to judge. When he is healthy and given opportunities he can be as dangerous as top level backs in the league. But he is often banged up and the more carries he gets in one game probably means he’ll be ineffective the following week or two. The Eagles use a committee system and at one point this year it seemed Mathews was the odd man out before injuries brought him back into the spotlight. Even if he closes the year out well I think the Eagles have better areas to use $4 million.

5. James Starks, Packers
Cap Saved: $3 million/Cash Saved: $3 million

Starks had a decent 2015 season as a reserve and spot starter which helped him land his contract with the Packers, but 2016 has been an entirely different story. Ineffective play, some injuries, bad luck, etc… has marred the year for him and it would seem that the Packers have found the players who will be playing this position next year.

6. Alfred Morris, Cowboys
Cap Saved: $1.7 million/Cash Saved: $1.7 million

I though Morris, who exploded onto the scene a few years ago before falling out of favor in Washington, was going to be a sneaky good signing for the Cowboys, but, with how well Ezekiel Elliot has been, Morris has basically been invisible all season. He got one opportunity in their blowout of Cleveland and didn’t really distinguish himself. They can get that same production and probably a more versatile back for a lower cost.

7. Rashad Jennings, Giants
Cap Saved: $2.5 million/Cash Saved: $2.5 million

The Giants use Jennings more than any other back on their team, but the results have been mediocre at best. Jennings is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and does little to take the pressure of Eli Manning and the passing game. While the offensive line is partly to blame for Jennings problems, the Giants could use a more dynamic and younger (Jennings will be 32 next year) player.

8. Chris Ivory, Jaguars
Cap Saved: ($1 million)/Cash Saved: $2 million

What the Jaguars saw in Ivory when they signed him to a $6.4 million per year contract this past offseason is one of the great mysteries of free agency. Ivory still has $3 million in guarantees on his contract which is the only reason I didn’t put him higher on this list. Teams often chase bad investments, but the Jaguars should follow the lead of teams like the Bucs and just release him rather than sinking more money into a player. Cap space isn’t really a concern for Jacksonville so losing $1 million for the year should not be a big deal and it can send a message to all the overpaid players in the locker room from a new staff that this is not an acceptable level of play.
9. Anthony Sherman, Chiefs
Cap Saved: $1.8 million/Cash Saved: $1.8 million

Sherman plays a position that simply isn’t utilized that much in the NFL as evidenced by his playing time which is under 20%. Obviously there are situations where he does important things for Kansas City, but given the team’s needs for cap room for other players in 2017 someone like Sherman could be expendable.
10. Darren Sproles, Eagles
Cap Saved: $4 million/Cash Saved: $4 million

I put Sproles much lower on my list than the other players, but I also can not see a scenario in which both Mathews and Sproles return, so I think you have to include both players on a list like this. Sproles is still an effective 3rd down receiver and is a threat on punt returns. The negative is that he will be 34 years old which is way old for a running back, even one who doesn’t have the wear on his body that many others do.