Today we are finishing up our look at possible cuts on offense with a focus on the interior of the offensive line. In general I think this is a position where cuts don’t happen as much because salaries are generally on the lower end, except for younger players who have recently signed and are in no danger of a release.
1. Brandon Fusco, Vikings
Cap Saved: $3.2 million/Cash Saved: $4 million
The Vikings probably have the worst offensive line in the NFL and Fusco is certainly part of that. Among right guards Fusco’s $4 million salary ranks 7th and his $4.8 million cap number ranks 8th so it’s difficult to see the justification for his return. The $3.2 million in cap savings is actually the second highest figure at his position so the reward is clearly there for Minnesota if released.
2. Evan Smith, Buccaneers
Cap Saved: $4.5 million/Cash Saved: $4.5 million
Smith lost his starting job to Joe Hawley last season and is little more than a backup at this stage. $4.5 million is far too high a figure for any of the interior positions to pay for someone who may start one or two games and play in about 15% of the team’s offensive snaps. Smith has looked good at times in the past but things didnt really work out with the Bucs. Perhaps a hance of scenery will do him well.
3. Orlando Franklin, Chargers
Cap Saved: $2.8 million/Cash Saved: $6 million
The Chargers need to begin the process of upgrading their offensive line, not expecting the norms to change by simply awaiting another year. I would see the Chargers retaining Franklin simply because he has a salary guarantee that vests early in free agency and long before the draft, but I’d expect them to approach him about a pay cut similar to King Dunlap last season.
4. DJ Fluker, Chargers
Cap Saved: $8.8 million/Cash Saved: $8.8 million
I get the concept of chasing draft expectations and allowing that bias to sometimes cloud your judgement, but it would be hard to believe that the Chargers will objectively look at Fluker as a top tier player, which this salary makes him. Fluker allowed over 4 sacks on the season and has been hit with 6 penalties, which is an improvement from 2015 but not enough of one to justify the salary. I would not be stunned if the team extends him on a contract that guarantees him $8 million for the next four or five years, but they should not lock into this season which will become fully guaranteed at the start of free agency.
5. Nick Mangold, Jets
Cap Saved: $9.1 million/Cash Saved: $9.1 million
As a Jets fan this is a difficult one to write about. Mangold has been the best Jets player for the last decade and will clearly wind up in the teams ring of honor whenever he decides to retire. But Mangold is coming off of an injury filled season and the Jets look to be in need of a total makeover, which normally would not include a 33 year old highly compensated center. The Jets could offer him a retirement special contract that might keep him around until he wants to retire and pay him his $9M in exchange for playing out his career at a lower cost.
6. Alvin Bailey, Browns
Cap Saved: $1.6 million/Cash Saved: $2 million
The Browns certainly don’t need the cap space, but Bailey was one of the new regimes few free agent signings. Bailey did not contribute much, though I’m not sure he was expected to do so, but I think the late season suspension could be enough to move on. The team will need to make an effort to improve their line next season regardless of what they decide.
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.