Packers Release Wagner and Kirksey

The Green Bay Packers salary cap situation for 2021 has flown a little under the radar but they were projected to be around $21 million over the cap for next season with plenty of free agents they may want to keep. They began the process of getting their cap in order today by releasing right tackle Ricky Wagner and linebacker Christian Kirksey.

Wagner was signed last season to a two year contract following his release from the Lions. Wagner was serviceable last year, appearing in 16 games and starting 9 of them for the Packers. Our valuation metric had him in the upper $8 million range which would put him around the mid way point of all right tackles.

This was likely a salary cap dump as he was going to carry a $6 million cap charge which is a lot for someone who will likely be a reserve lineman next year on a cap starved team. The team will carry $1.75 million in dead money, freeing up $4.25 million in cap room. I would expect Wagner to pick up with another team.

Kirksey was a bold move to say the least. The team signed him to a two year, $13 million contract last season despite the fact that Kirskey had played in just 9 games over the last two years. While he did suit up for 11 games as a Packer he only played in 53% of the teams defensive snaps and was not very effective. We had his value to the team under $2 million.

Kirksey’s contract was backloaded for cap purposes and his salary cap number was set to be $7.6 million. By releasing him they created $5.6 million in cap room. He will count for $2 million on the Packers cap as dead money.

The Packers should now be around $11 million over the $180 million salary cap floor.

Eagles Release DeSean Jackson

In a move that was expected before the season even began, the Eagles are going to release veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson was set to count for $10.659 million on the Eagles salary cap in 2021. By releasing him the team will save $4.857 million on the salary cap. He will cost the team $5.802 million in dead money.

Jackson had been a dynamic receiver for the Eagles years ago before an ugly split saw him wind up with Washington and later the Buccaneers. The Eagles were very aggressive in bringing him back in 2019, first trading for him and then signing him to a new three year contract worth $27 million.

The second run for Jackson with the Eagles, however, was nothing like the first. Jackson could not stay on the field playing in just 8 games in two seasons. The Eagles wound up paying Jackson $17.4 million for 25 receptions for 395 yards and 3 touchdowns. Following the release the Eagles should be around $42 million over the $180 million cap floor for 2021.

Ravens Release Earl Thomas

After an on field blow up Friday at practice followed by an apology of sorts that included airing practice footage, the Ravens have made the decision to release star safety Earl Thomas.

The language in the Ravens tweet is important because it means that they will be releasing him for conduct in an attempt to void the remaining guarantees, which total $10 million, in his contract. As I discussed yesterday the Ravens could get out of Thomas contract if he either willingly missed practice or was suspended for conduct his guaranteed salary would void.

The next step will likely be a grievance by Thomas in an attempt to recover the $10 million salary for the Ravens. Typically cause for a conduct related release requires multiple incidents in the same year and some type of ability to prove that you are not treating this player any different than another.

The situation somewhat mirrors what we saw happen in Oakland last year with Antonio Brown, albeit on a much more accelerated timeline. Brown’s incidents were, however, well documented and he was given multiple warnings and opportunities to comply. Thomas’ incidents seem far less egregious unless the Ravens have simply done an exceptional job of keeping things under wraps. I would lean more toward Thomas side in this instance. Thomas’ contract does contain salary offsets if he signs elsewhere.

The contract overall proved to be a big blunder for the Ravens. They typically don’t make bold moves like they did for Thomas when they very aggressively made an offer that paid him $22 million in the first year of his contract while also guaranteeing him an additional $10 million in the second season. Even if he fails to win his grievance you won’t find many worse returns on investment than $22 million for one year of play.

The Ravens will carry $5 million in dead money this season and $10 million in 2021 for Thomas. Once Thomas files a grievance another $4 million placeholder will be put on the Ravens cap so they will need to set aside that cap space for whenever the grievance is filed. They would receive a credit if they successfully win the grievance or wind up paying him another $10 million and having to account for another $6 million in cap charges if they lose.

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Jets Release Quincy Enunwa

The Jets have released veteran wide receiver Quincy Enunwa less than two years after signing him to a four year, $36 million contract extension. The contract will likely go down as one of the worst contract decisions in Jets history.

Enunwa’s career peaked with the Jets in 2016 when he had a breakout year in which he caught 58 passes for 857 yards, but his career was derailed from that point forward by injury. Enunwa suffered a neck injury the following summer and missed all of the 2017 season. Enunwa’s numbers dropped significantly when he returned in 2018 with 38 receptions for 449 yards. Despite being injured again the Jets signed him to the contract extension a day before placing him on IR to end his 2018 season.

It was a strange contract which was seemingly a last ditch effort by former GM Mike Maccagnan to make a mark on the organization at a time when it was rumored his job was in jeopardy. Despite the injury history the prior two years the Jets guaranteed Enunwa $20.25 million of the $36 million total contract. It was doubtful in free agency Enunwa would have received a number anywhere near that total.

Enunwa wound up appearing in just one game after signing the contract, unfortunately suffering another neck injury on his first reception of the year. He was placed on the PUP list this offseason and it was unlikely he would be able to play again.

Enunwa’s $6 million salary in 2020 was fully guaranteed and he should be eligible to also collect on his $4.078 million injury guarantee for 2021. The Jets did fine Enunwa last year for missing treatment but I would doubt that this would void the guarantee. As long as the guarantees stand the Jets ultimately should wind up paying him the full $20.25 million for 1 catch for -4 yards.

Assuming the guarantee stands Enunwa’s dead money will be $11.879 million in 2020, a loss of $4.078 million in cap room. This is rare to see these kind of releases so I have a feeling that this is simply the Jets using newfound cap space from opt outs to get it off the books now rather than waiting until next year and also prevents Enunwa from being able to opt out to delay the timeline for the team. Enunwa will also carry a $3.6 million dead money charge in 2021.

The Jets look to be all in on creating cap space for next year now that they have traded Jamal Adams and watched CJ Mosley opt out of the season and this should do just that. They are up to $30M in cap space this year and will now be among the league leaders in projected cap space for 2021.

Jets Cut Guard Brian Winters

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and confirmed by multiple other reporters the Jets will be releasing starting guard Brian Winters.

We have long said that Winters would be a potential salary cap casualty this year so the release does not come as much of a surprise to me. With the expected revenue decrease it made a player in Winters situation much more vulnerable to not even have an opportunity in training camp.

Winters signed a four year, $29 million contract with the Jets in 2017 and had played the role of a steady presence on the Jets offensive line in 2017 and 2018. Last year Winters just played in 9 games before injury ended his year, the second time in three seasons he finished the year on IR.

Winters was set to count for $7.28125 million on the salary cap this year. There is no dead money associated with his release so the Jets will clear the full amount from the cap. Once the Jets process this release they will have around $28 million in cap space in 2020 with more to likely come if CJ Mosley makes his opt out official.

Broncos Release TE Jeff Heuerman

The Denver Broncos have released tight end Jeff Heuerman per various reports. Heuerman was expected the be the type of player who would be very vulnerable in a year of very uncertain economics. Heuerman was scheduled to earn up to $4 million this season with a cap hit up to $4.5 million. They will free up $4 million in cash and $3.875 million in cap space with the release.

Heuerman had signed a two year, $8 million contract with the team in 2019, but since then the Broncos had spent a first round pick on Noah Fant in 2019, a 4th round pick on Okwuegbunam this year, and signed Nick Vannett in the offseason. Those three players combined will earn just $5.42 million, this year, and the addition of the latter two players likely contributed to the decision to release him.

Heuerman will leave the Broncos with $500,000 in dead money. Though the cap is very fluid right now we currently estimate Denver to have about $20 million in cap room for 2020 following the cut.

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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.