The GM Hotseat

Being an NFL GM comes with a lot of pressure. They can do all the work they want scouting and projecting how players will fit into their teams but all they can do is hand over their new acquisitions to the coaching staff and hope they are able to unlock their potential. GMs also face pressure that is unseen to the public eye.  Ownership could be requiring the GM to make moves that increase fan interest for the season or increase the team’s bottom line.

The purpose of this article is to take a look at the current NFL GM’s and determine which of them might find themselves in the unemployment line this offseason. The main criteria used to determine these GM’s is the team’s current record, overall team record from the last couple of seasons, and current roster outlook.

This year is a little different than most since there are so many 1st and 2nd year GMs. Typically (unless you own the Browns) organizations keep GM’s around for at least three years before firing them and this makes sense because you can’t really evaluate a GM’s performance in the first couple of years. Without further adieu, let’s look at GM’s on the hot seat.

Pack YOUR Bags

Giants: Dave Gettleman

Year Hired: 2018

Record: 19-44

This is Gettleman’s second attempt at being a GM and it is not going near as well as his time in Carolina. When he was fired from that job, it came as a surprise as he had a record of 51-28-1 and the Panthers had postseason wins. When he gets fired from this job, nobody will be surprised.

Free Agent Results:

Gentleman has mostly struck out when it comes to big ticket FA signings. Nate Solder who he signed to a 4 years, $62 million contract was a major flop. Golden Tate (who happened to be the biggest free agent signing the next year) wasn’t much better. James Bradberry and Blake Martinez have been decent additions to the team but they are only on the second year of their contracts.

Draft

Gentleman has had six first round draft picks in his four years with the Giants and none of them have been too impressive. Based on the value of RB in the modern NFL, the Barkley pick looked bad when it was made but even worse now. Barkley has been a mediocre NFL running back with injury problems. His rookie contract is not the cost savings that most teams expect since he gets paid a good amount based on his draft position. The Daniel Jones pick is almost assuredly going to be a bust and the Deandre Baker pick is definitely a bust. None of his 1st round draft picks have been home runs and the best player he has selected in the first round (Andrew Thomas) might not even be the best tackle in the draft, despite being selected first. When looking through the other rounds of the draft, it is hard to argue that he is doing a good job. Some of the players that he has drafted have gotten playing time–but when you have been predominantly picking at the top of every round, more production should be expected.

Trades

Gentleman has done a decent job when it comes to trades. The trade that sent Olivier Vernon and Odell Beckham Jr to the Browns worked out better for the Giants and the trade for Leonard Williams also was a good trade. He also gets positive marks for being able to trade back a couple times in the 2021 NFL draft and pick up more draft capital.

Verdict

Gentleman has not pulled the Giants up into a contending team and he has made some cardinal GM sins. GMs usually get a couple years once they draft a rookie QB, but the Jones’ experiment is basically over and so should Gentleman’s time be with the GIants. He has already axed one head coach in his tenure and the next head on the chopping block should be his.

Raiders: Mike “Maybe a GM” Mayock

Year Hired: 2019

Record: 23-24

It’s hard to really judge how effective of a GM he has been since it is very apparent that Jon Gruden was the one that made the final decision. This is probably more of a good thing for Mayock since many of the decisions that have been made since he has been the GM have been head scratchers. Will the Raiders keep Mayock around now that Gruden is no longer the GM? The Raiders have a winning record this year and are a competent team but I think the writing is on the wall for Mayock and he should be sending his resume out now.

Dark Horses

Young QBs to the Rescue

Jets, Bears

These two teams have the same thing in common that usually gives a GM a get out of jail card. They both just drafted QBs in the first round this offseason and the verdict is still out on them. Ryan Pace barely held onto his jobs with the Bears this offseason. With the way things are going, it is almost certain that either he or Nagy (or both) are going to get the axe this offseason. The Jets have a reputation of not giving their GM’s much time and Joe Douglas should remember this. One thing that is in Douglases favor was that he wasn’t the GM that hired Adam Gase but one coach has already been fired since he’s been GM and his time might be approaching quickly especially if Zach Wilson doesn’t become the franchise saving QB that he has been billed as.

Old and Reliable Steads

Seahawks, Vikings, Saints

All three of these teams have had the current GM in the organization for a respectable amount of time. Each of them are facing the possibility of a losing record this season with very real problems within their teams. All three of these teams have a big question mark at their QBs. The Seahawks have a potential HOF QB on their roster but he wants out and there seems to be a real division between him and the front office. The Vikings have been sticking to the Cousins experiment for quite some time–does anyone actually think they can win a Superbowl with him? The Saints are in the worst position of all of them. They have been pushing their salary cap down the road for a decade and it is really starting to affect their roster construction. They have no real answers at QB and while they still have several really strong pieces it should be argued that they would be better off in the long run blowing it all up and restarting from scratch.

Final Prediction

Dave Gettleman and Mike Mayock are going to be looking for a new job in the next few weeks but who else will be joining him. I predict that there will be at least two more GM’s that will also be joining them, one from each of the categories that were listed. From the first category I am almost certain that the Bears will move on from Pace this offseason. Matt Nagy probably won’t make it to the offseason at this point and I don’t think the Bears will be able to find any reason to start the next chapter of their franchise with Pace leading the charge. Douglas should find himself with one more season to prove that he is the answer for the Jets but most likely he will be joining the rest of these GM”s in the unemployment line next season.

It is much more difficult predicting which of the three GM’s listed in the second category will be handed their pink slip but I think the most likely of the three would be John Schneider of the Seahawks. He has had a great run with the Seahawks but their organization is one that is in decline without many answers to the problems that their team faces. I think this would be a great time to move on from Schneider and Carroll and start anew. Carroll is an older coach and I don’t think he has or will learn any new tricks that will bring the Seahawks back to their glory days. For the other two GM’s I think they both keep their jobs. I think the Vikings are much more likely to fire Mike Zimmer and keep Spielman but they might decide to fire both of them. The Saints salary cap is a mess and they don’t have a QB that inspires any real hope but Sean Payton is still a great coach and won’t be going anywhere. Because of this I don’t think the Saints will do anything with Loomis but even if they did I think it would be hard for the Saints to attract the top tier talent with the mess they have made.

Dave Gettleman, Giants; Mike Mayock, Raiders; Ryan Pace, Bears; John Schneider, Seahawks.

If you would like to see any more details on why I think some of these GM’s are on the hot seat or think that there is another GM that is going to get the axe let me know and maybe I’ll do a breakdown on them and see what their chances are.

Cowboys Release LB Jaylon Smith

In a pretty stunning move the Cowboys will be releasing linebacker Jaylon Smith despite owing him the balance of his $7.2 million salary this year according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter

While there has been much offseason talk about when the Cowboys could get out of this contract I am not sure anyone saw this coming. Smith had started two of the Cowboys four games this season and had played in 56% of their defensive snaps. While he did not live up to the lofty $12.75 million a year contract extension that the Cowboys signed him to in 2019 it is rare to see a player cut in-season with such a large salary when the player also has a role of sorts on the team.

This will wind up as one of the worst contract decisions in Cowboys history. Smith was under contract to Dallas for $1.34 million in 2019 and would have been a restricted free agent in 2020. While negotiating an extension the Cowboys agreed to use a 1st round RFA value of $4.671 million as a placeholder for the purposes of calculating the contract value.

Rather than paying him the $6,006,678 for those two years the team wound up agreeing to an extension that paid him $19,006,678, a $13 million raise. He had a $7.2 million salary this year and that was fully guaranteed, bringing the total bill to $20.2 million in additional salary paid for Smith to appear in four games this season.

To put that number in perspective the Rams paid Todd Gurley $20 million to appear in 0 new games, which was probably the standard for bad contract decisions not involving a QB (Jared Goff was at $32.5 million while Carson Wentz was at $29.6 million), That is not good company to be in. If Smith signs elsewhere Dallas will earn an offset on the salary but most likely it will just be for the minimum, so in the ballpark of $770,000.

The bizarre thing is that Dallas could have avoided the guarantee by simply releasing Smith back in March as his salary was guaranteed only for injury until early March and I believe he was healthy at that time. It would have been expensive on the cap but they could have designated him a June 1 cut, carrying him on the cap at $9.8 million until June 2nd and then having the charge drop to $2.6 million. The Cowboys will be left with the full cap charge for Smith this year at $9.8 million and $6.8 million in 2022.

I was incorrect on the above information (Ill keep it as a strikethrough just to keep it) as Smith has been dealing with an injury which protected his contract back in March and forced it to vest. So Dallas was unable to release him even if they wanted to in March.

Unless something turns up regarding a non football issue there is little sense to be made of the cut. It is possible Dallas was worried that an injury guarantee of $9.2 million for next year could kick in if he got hurt, but they could have simply taken him off the field to avoid that. While his contract was bloated, the $7.2 million salary was not and they still had a few weeks to try to trade him even if it meant eating some of the cost since they are eating the cost anyway. At the very least they could have released him after the trade deadline which would have exposed him to waivers and maybe a desperate team would have picked up the contract.. That would be a low probability but at least you had a chance. Maybe they announced this in hopes a team will call them tomorrow as that is about the only logical thing I can see.

Unless there is more than meets the eye here everything about this process was terrible. It was a terrible extension decision. And it sure doesnt seem to make much sense to release him now.

Panthers Cut Graham Gano

Former Pro Bowl kicker Graham Gano will be released today by the Carolina Panthers. Gano has spent the last eight years of his career with Carolina but was hurt all of last year and also finished the 2018 season on injured reserve. The Panthers will save $2.95 million in salary for the year and create $2.75 million in cap space.

Gano, who signed a four year $17 million extension with the team in 2018, will leave the team with $1.5875 million in dead money in 2020 and $1.5375 million in dead money in 2021. The Panthers lead the NFL with over $42.7 million in dead money as they look to reset the books after a few years of some questionable contract decisions. While that strategy has not been very successful for many teams it was probably a necessary step for Carolina this year.

Bears, Panthers, and Patriots Make Some Cuts

While NFL Combine week is usually filled with rumors about free agency and the draft it often is the unofficial start of the cut season for teams. While some teams release players very early in the offseason most wait until now to kick that into high gear. Some players will be approached about pay cuts this week and others just allowed to walk. So let’s look at today’s action and the impact on the cap. Continue reading Bears, Panthers, and Patriots Make Some Cuts »

Chargers Cut Flowers and Johnson

The Chargers continued their roster purge today with the release of veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers and wide receiver Steve Johnson. The releases will save the Chargers over $10 million in cap room. Combined with the earlier release of lineman DJ Fluker the Chargers should now have around $23 million in cap space. They are a team with a number of holes so they may not be done yet in trying to find ways to free up cap room in the coming days.  Continue reading Chargers Cut Flowers and Johnson »

The OTC Potential Player Cut Series

Last January I put together a series of posts that looked at the possible salary cap casualties for each position. To make them easier to access I decided to put a link to each article in this post so you can quickly reference them during the lead up to free agency. Each article will detail the cap space saved by cutting a player and a brief explanation as to why I considered the player a possibility to be released. Continue reading The OTC Potential Player Cut Series »