The draft always paints a picture for the future, and the 1st round of the 2018 NFL Draft is no exception. As the picks came in, my mind often times immediately went to what implications certain picks could have for incumbent players on their respective teams. Here are my thoughts on veteran contracts that could be in jeopardy or subject to change in the near future.
Let’s start right at the end of the 1st round where the Ravens traded up to draft Lamar Jackson. Flacco’s gargantuan contract birthed from the failure of Rahim Moore to play deep is one of the most leveraged in the NFL with prorated bonus money. It’s thus made it impractical for the Ravens to part ways with Flacco for several seasons. 2019 will be the first season in which the Ravens could do so without incurring a cap loss. Although $16 million in dead money is still a large number, the Ravens would still save at least $10.5 million against the 2019 if they cut or traded Flacco. ($18.5 million if they used a June 1 designation). By drafting Jackson, the Ravens have set themselves up well with the option of giving him a redshirt in 2018 if need be, with the hope of holding a viable starter at quarterback in 2019 while they escape from the shackles of Flacco’s contract.
It was no secret that the Jets were going to take a quarterback in the first round once they gave up three 2nd round picks to move up to the 3rd overall selection. Now that Sam Darnold is in the fold, the Jets currently have five quarterbacks under contract. In addition to likely the biggest quarterback bust in the 2016 NFL Draft in Christian Hackenberg, Bridgewater’s place on the Jets could also be in jeopardy. His only guaranteed money was a $500,000 signing bonus. At $5.5 million, Bridgewater could also be an attractive trade offer for a team that does not fully satisfy their quarterback situation in the remainder of this year’s draft.
Bradford’s official two year deal is better interpreted as a one year deal with an option for 2019. With the Cardinals succeeding in drafting Josh Rosen, it gives them flexibility to decline Bradford’s 2019 option, leaving behind only $5 million in dead money with $20 million in cap savings. Declining the option would also make Bradford eligible for the 2020 compensatory pick formula, and given Bradford’s knack in garnering huge contracts owing all the way back to being the last 1st overall pick in the old CBA, it could be likely that the Cardinals would get a 3rd round comp pick if they elect to decline his option and go with Rosen for 2019.
The Jaguars acquired Dareus’s bloated contract from the Bills in the middle of last season that treated them well in their defense fueled playoff push. But the drafting of Taven Bryan could spell the end of Dareus’s contract soon. After 2018, all of Dareus’s guaranteed money will have been earned. And because the Jaguars acquired Dareus by trade, they have no prorated bonus money from him on their books. That means come 2019, the Jaguars could be fully clear of over $10 million in salary should they part ways with Dareus at that time.
John Elway was noncommittal before the draft on picking up Ray’s fifth year option. It was good that he was, as one can never be for sure who will fall in one’s lap in the draft. That was the case with the Broncos, who had Bradley Chubb rated as their highest defensive player but had zero mock drafts in which they thought he would be available to him. With Ray’s 5th year option likely coming in at around $10.6 million, and the Broncos having the fifth least 2019 cap space at the moment, it may now be more likely than not that Denver will not pick up Ray’s option.
The status of Ray could also affect Barrett, who is currently signed for a 2nd round RFA tender of about $2.9 million. With both Ray and Barrett heading to unrestricted free agency in 2019 if the Broncos decline Ray’s option, Denver could elect to reprise the situation they had in 2016 with Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson: extending the one that was willing to do a more team friendly deal. Barrett as the long term #3 edge rusher behind Von Miller and Chubb could make good sense.
The drafting of Calvin Ridley would presume a plan to demote Sanu to a #3 WR option. Would paying him around $6 million each year from 2018 through 2020 be worth it for such a role? Sanu has no more guaranteed money left on his deal, and will gain cap space in any season if the Falcons decide at that time to move on from him.
Drafting Kolton Miller fills an immediate need for the Raiders at right tackle. However, if the team thinks he could also play left tackle in the future, that could jeopardize Penn’s role with the team in 2019. That year, he will turn 36, and be due over $10 million, with none of it guaranteed, and no dead money on the Raiders’ books if they part ways with him then.
When the Raiders acquired Martavis Bryant from the Steelers, Jason noted that they will need to make some contract move(s) to free cap space before they sign their rookie class. If the Raiders want to avoid cutting anyone, they may need to move away from their practice of avoiding restructures and prorated bonuses like the plague. One reasonable move could come by an extension of Mack that provides him with a modest signing bonus. Mack has a similar reputation to Derek Carr, who did receive a $12.5 million signing bonus, so the Raiders could afford to do this without backing down on their modus operandi with lesser players.