Our look ahead to potential cuts in 2017 turns to the wide receiver position.
1. Victor Cruz, Giants
Cap Saved: $7.5 million/Cash Saved: $7.5 million
Teams often get a reputation for being heartless when it comes to contract decisions, especially with players off injury, but the Giants have done pretty well by Cruz who has struggled with injuries over the last two years. Cruz never matched his production off his breakout 2011 season and this year has seen some of his playing time and targets be eaten up by rookies as the season as worn on. It’s possible the Giants will lean more on Cruz in the playoff stretch, but barring a miracle finish to the year it would seem likely that this is the end of his Giants career.
2. Danny Amendola, Patriots
Cap Saved: $6.5 million/Cash Saved: $6.5 million
The Patriots signed Amendola to be their next Wes Welker and that never came close to actually happening. Pretty much every season with Amendola has been the same- miss a few games from injury, have one surprising big game, take a pay cut to remain in New England. I would lean towards the time for pay cuts to be done and Amendola to be out next season. They have Chris Hogan signed for the next few years and Malcolm Mitchell is also solidifying himself in the rotation which should leave Amendola as the odd man out.
3. Eddie Royal, Bears
Cap Saved: $5 million/Cash Saved: $5 million
Outside of costing a few million less than Brandon Marshall it’s hard to find any logical reason for replacing Marshall with Royal and guaranteeing Royal $9 million in the process. Maybe they were blindsided by his fluky touchdown production in San Diego but it was a pretty lofty guarantee for someone who most teams would peg as a 3. He has basically been non-existent in his time in Chicago, playing in just 18 games over two years, averaging under 35 yards a game on a paltry 8.7 YPR with just 3 touchdowns.
4. Harry Douglas, Titans
Cap Saved: $3.75 million/Cash Saved: $3.75 million
While things have gone better for the Titans this year, Douglas has had no part in their improvement. Douglas has played in under 20% of the Titans offensive snaps and has a statline of just 10 reception for 162 yards which has made him one of the worst values in the NFL. Douglas will be 33 next year which makes it even less likely for him to return.
5. Steve Johnson, Chargers
Cap Saved: $3.5 million/Cash Saved: $3.5 million
Johnson has had a nice career with three 1,000 yard seasons in Buffalo, but those days are long behind Johnson. Johnson more or less filled the Royal role of touchdown grabber in San Diego in 2015 when healthy, but has missed the entire 2016 season because of injury. The Chargers can’t come back in 2016 with a 30 year old Johnson, who hasn’t played in 16 games since 2012, Keenan Allen, who has missed 23 games in the last two years, and a 37 year old Antonio Gates. Allen and Gates are likely safe which should make this decision easy.
6. Jarius Wright, Vikings
Cap Saved: $1.48 million/Cash Saved: $2.6 million
The Vikings are one of those teams that often takes a glass half full approach on some extensions which I believe is what they did with Wright, assuming they could lock in a potential number 2 receiver for number 3 money. After just one year he has fallen to 6th on the receiver depth chart and has just 6 receptions for 43 yards with multiple inactives over the course of the year. On a $/performance basis he ranks about on par with the players who missed all but a game or two because of injury, which arguably makes him the worst value at the position, even though his salary is not massive. I’d have put him higher on this list but he is still at an age where he can be productive and teams sometimes will chase that performance for an extra year. Wright has a small guarantee that will vest on the 5th day of the year so that will be the decision date for Minnesota.
7. Torrey Smith, 49ers
Cap Saved: $4.8 million/Cash Saved: $8 million
A few years ago Smith looked like he was going to be one of the highest paid receivers in the NFL, before he tailed off in his free agent season and struggled with drops. His situation hasn’t really improved in San Francisco and they don’t even have a quarterback in place to take advantage of his best asset which is his speed down the field. Smith only had 663 receiving yards last year and probably won’t surpass 300 this season unless he is recovered from a concussion to play in two meaningless games at the end of the year. Smith has an injury protected salary in 2017 but as long as he is healthy by April 1 the 49ers won’t owe him anything else if they release him.
8. Eric Decker, Jets
Cap Saved: $5.75 million/Cash Saved: $7.25 million
The Jets should be entering yet another rebuilding phase in 2017 and that should not leave a big opportunity for Decker, who is coming off two injuries that could have him slow to return anyway. The Jets have three younger receivers on the team that they would like to use in the future and that should leave room for, at the most, one veteran receiver. It would seem that Decker would not be that veteran target.
9. Brandon Marshall, Jets
Cap Saved: $7.5 million/Cash Saved: $7.5 million
Outside of the injury issues you can re-read the paragraph on Decker and it pretty much all applies to Marshall. Unless the Jets are going to avoid rebuilding and try to use free agency to build a team to compete next year is there a point to having a 33 year old receiver who has struggled even more so than usual with drops if you can possibly move him for a late draft pick?
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.