2018 Potential Cuts: Wide Receiver

1. Markus Wheaton, Bears
Cap Saved: $5 million; Cash Saved: $5 million

This was one of the worst signings of 2017. The Bears likely expected some upside of a higher 2 and instead got the performance of a practice squad player. Wheaton had 51 yards in 11 games, finishing the year 4th in snaps despite having the largest contract for a receiver on the team. The Bears desperately need receivers, but Wheaton should not be the answer.


2. Brandon Marshall, Giants
Cap Saved: $5.15 million; Cash Saved: $5.5 million

Marshall was brought in to be a veteran presence on a Super Bowl contender which clearly the Giants are not. Marshall struggled with the Giants and was easily on track to have the worst season of his career before he was injured. He has issues with the Jets two years ago as well so really its two years of football below his expected level of play. At 34 years old he is probably looking at a one year incentive laden deal somewhere else in 2018.

3. Allen Hurns, Jaguars
Cap Saved: $7 million; Cash Saved: $7 million

Hurns has one of the two worst contracts at the position and if the Jaguars intend to keep some of their other receivers then it is time to pull the plug on Hurns. The one good thing about this contract was that the Jaguars gave themselves and out in the event Hurns flopped and it would be foolish not to use that out now. Hurns was third on the depth chart this year and would have been fourth had Allen Robinson been healthy. That’s worth about $2 million not $7 million. Hurns hasn’t topped 500 yards since signing this contract.

4. Tavon Austin, Rams
Cap Saved: $3 million; Cash Saved: $3 million

Austin’s contract with the Rams is the worst wide receiver contract and one of the worse contracts in general in the entire league. Teams often take unnecessary risks on first round picks and that is what the Rams did with Austin. This is the one deal that can compromise every contract they do from here on out. He has a $5 million guarantee on the season but there is no reason for that to prevent the Rams from cutting him, though that guarantee is the only reason I don’t have him listed as 1.  The guarantee has offsets so they should pick up a credit for the minimum salary if he lasts the year with a team.

Jarius Wright, Vikings
Cap Saved: $2.6 million; Cash Saved: $3.7 million

Wright’s salary shoots up by $1.1 million this season and he is set to earn almost as much as Adam Thielen. Wright at best is a 4th receiver that can maybe get a shot as a 3rd with a frugal team. For the Vikings there is no reason to waste this money when they have far better players they can target with the extra cap room.

5. Torrey Smith, Eagles
Cap Saved: $5 million; Cash Saved: $5 million

In many ways Smith was a veteran insurance policy brought in to cover for ineffective play elsewhere.  The insurance was never needed as Alshon Jeffery played well and Nelson Agholor saved his career and established himself as a number 2. Smith was on the field quite a bit but this was his 2nd year in a row under 500 yards and his days as a speedster on the outside seem done. The Eagles need the cap room and this is an easy place to pick some up. They could do a new deal with him for about half the price if they want him back next year.

6. Jordy Nelson, Packers
Cap Saved: $10.22 million; Cash Saved: $10.25 million

Nelson is coming off a disastrous season in which he caught just 53 passes for 482 yards, a far cry from his 1,300 yard type seasons we have grown to expect from him. Though Nelson is a favorite of Rodgers, the Packers already have major investments in the position and his year away from Rodgers probably says more about his market worth than anything else. He’ll be 33 this season which may make him the odd man out in Green Bay. They could certainly look to modify his contract with a low cost extension but doubt he will remain at this dollar figure.

7. Travis Benjamin, Chargers
Cap Saved: $4.5 million; Cash Saved: $5.75 million

Benjamin probably still has some value but not necessarily with the Chargers. The Chargers are stacked at the position with Keenan Allen as one of the top receivers in the NFL and Tyrell Williams established as a two. With 1st round pick Mike Williams waiting in the wings and Williams potentially signing a new contract as a restricted free agent I would think in a numbers game that Benjamin is the odd man out as $6 million for a 4th receiver isn’t going to bring in enough value.

8. Michael Crabtree, Raiders
Cap Saved: $7.72 million; Cash Saved: $7.75 million

This is going to be a tough call for the Raiders. Crabtree was the most targeted player on the team last year and scored 8 touchdowns, but there comes a time when the higher upside players need to get a chance to shine and that may be the case in Oakland. Crabtree will be 31 years old and should be valued closer to $5.5 million. His role in the on field fights I think also won’t be looked at as a positive towards keeping him

9. Kelvin Benjamin, Bills
Cap Saved: $8.46 million; Cash Saved: $8.46 million

The Bills made the trade for Benjamin in hopes of getting a playoff spark and while they did get to the playoffs Benjamin didn’t exactly wow anyone in his time in Buffalo. Benjamin’s numbers have fallen in each season and even with his 1st round status he probably isn’t worth a season at this number. Benjamin should be looking at a lower cost salary for the year either in Buffalo or another city as he attempts to jump start his career.

10. Jeremy Maclin, Ravens
Cap Saved: $5 million; Cash Saved: $5 million

The Ravens are facing a bad salary cap situation and Maclin simply doesn’t have the upside to keep for the season at $5 million regardless of what the Ravens receiving corps looks like. Maclin at this stage of his career would be a third receiver on most teams and maybe even a fourth, which is worth maybe half of what he is scheduled to earn.

11. Randall Cobb, Packers
Cap Saved: $9.47 million; Cash Saved: $9.5 million

Since signing his big contract a few years ago Cobb has been a disappointment. His YPC dropped significantly and he hasn’t come close to even 1,000 yards. On most teams Cobb would have been gone a season ago, but the Packers generally hold onto their players until they draft a suitable replacement and he was young. While 28 is still young for a receiver, Cobb is nowhere near a $10 million receiver. Expect him to be asked to negotiate a lower cost extension or be released.

12. Dwayne Harris, Giants
Cap Saved: $2.45 million; Cash Saved: $3.25 million

Harris is a terrific special teams player, but can the Giants have a $4.05 million cap charge for that this year?  Probably not. Harris holds limited value as a receiver and with the holes the Giants have they can probably use this money elsewhere to improve the team by allocating it towards a guard or a linebacker.

13. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Cap Saved: $8.5 million; Cash Saved: $12.5 million

Three years ago Bryant became one of the highest paid receivers in the NFL and rightfully so, but between injuries and personnel changes in Dallas, Bryant now looks more like a two than a one. He hasn’t reached 850 yards since signing his new contract and his TD production is now normal rather than hall of fame worthy. Bryant has the third largest cash salary and second largest cap hit among all receivers. It’s Dallas so you never know with them but it is hard to see how he is worth anywhere near $12.5 million this season.

14. Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos
Cap Saved: $5.56 million; Cash Saved: $8.25 million

Normally I would say a team would take their chances on Sanders since the cap savings are not excessive but the Broncos are not most teams. Im sure they believe that given Sanders age and nagging injuries from last year that he is not going to earn more than $6 million as a free agent and will try to bring his salary down accordingly or cut him. With a guarantee that vests early in March this has the makings of faxgate II.

Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @jason_otc