I’ll soon be getting into the OTC team by team offseason previews either later this week or early next week, but until then I thought it might be fun to look at all 32 teams and pick out the one move I would (or would not) make for each team this offseason if I was GM. Yesterday I did the AFC and today I’ll look at the NFC. Feel free to leave any comments on my picks or your own.
Arizona Cardinals: Try to Extend Michael Floyd
This is a tricky one because Floyd may very well see himself as a top tier talent despite not really putting up top tier numbers. I see a lot of career similarities between he and Michael Crabtree and I think this would be a good time to try to get Floyd to sign one of those top of the number 2 receiver contracts. The team is already going to commit $7 million guaranteed to him next season and by extending now you won’t have to guarantee much more than that. I think he is a nice player to keep at the right cost.
Atlanta Falcons: Release William Moore
Moore has missed 14 games over the course of the last two seasons and is no longer the same player as he was a few years ago as one of the better safeties in the game. Moore will count for nearly $6.5 million against the cap in 2016 and the Falcons can save just a hair over $3 million of that figure by cutting him.
Carolina Panthers: Release Charles Johnson
Johnson’s contract has been a never-ending source of salary cap headaches, but in 2016 they can finally move on from Johnson. Johnson signed one of the most player friendly contracts for a defensive player in the history of the NFL when he received a $30 million signing bonus. Carolina will free up $11 million in cap space when they release Johnson, money that can go towards trying to keep Josh Noman on the team.
Chicago Bears: Re-sign Alshon Jeffery
If the Bears were to lose Jeffery in free agency they would lose the one real weapon they have one the team. Jeffery, when healthy, is as good as anyone in the NFL and one of the rare receivers who can basically command most of the attempts in the passing game. That fact that they have not extended him leads me to believe they planned on franchising him but I think that would be a mistake. He’ll only be 26 years old next year and if he decides to play on the tag the Bears will likely lose him in 2017. At the least they may be able to use last year’s injuries to get some injury protection in the contract.
Dallas Cowboys: Don’t Restructure Tony Romo’s Contract
With a $20.8 million cap figure, Dallas is going to be very tempted to rework Romo’s contract to free up space so they can be more active in free agency. That would be a mistake. Romo will be 36 years old next season and spent most of this year on the sidelines dealing with injuries. Romo’s cap number in 2017 is already $24.7 million and the last thing you can have is a 37 year old rapidly aging QB with a cap figure approaching $27 million and huge dead money charges in the future that leave you stuck in 2018.
Detroit Lions: Trade Calvin Johnson
Johnson mulling retirement seems more like a strategy to either get paid a high dollar figure for the next two years or force his way out of Detroit. Either way it is time for the Lions to get what they can for their superstar receiver who is set to count for $24 million on their cap. They have gone as far as they can go with this group and moving Johnson will free up $11 million in cap space and begin the process of stabilizing the Lions salary cap. This will be their best chance to get something of value for him.
Green Bay Packers: Re-sign Casey Heyward
As a team built to win now the Packers probably can not afford to allow a good piece of the secondary leave the team regardless of what that cost may be. Hayward should be able to give the Packers three good seasons and provide a future replacement for Sam Shields who will likely be asked to renegotiate his contract in 2017. While this may lead to a one year heavy investment in the cornerback position it should fix itself by the following year when the dollars are shuffled around.
Minnesota Vikings: Release Mike Wallace
I have no idea what the Vikings thought they would get out of Wallace who hasn’t had a meaningful season since 2011 when they made this trade, which was one of the worst of the offseason. Wallace had a career low 473 yards and even worse chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater than he had with Ryan Tannehill in Miami. Wallace makes $11.5 million next season, all of which will be saved when they cut him.
New Orleans Saints: Release Brandon Browner
This signing had the makings of a disaster when Browner began discussing resuming his career in Seattle one day right after he signed this contract. Browner was one of the worst cornerbacks in the NFL. If he wasn’t giving up a big play he was usually getting called for a penalty. Browner still has $2.75 million remaining in guarantees, but its far better to pay that rather than his full $5 million salary.
New York Giants: Release Jon Beason
The Giants front office is sometimes too optimistic when it comes to believing chronically injured players will somehow find their way onto the field and there is no player in the NFL that seems to miss more time than Beason who has failed to play in more than 5 games in three of the last four seasons. The Giants can’t waste more time keeping their fingers crossed about Beason’s health and need to find some younger talent to bring their linebackers back to being a respectable unit. If they rely on Beason again and he can’t play the general manager can’t rely on an injury as an excuse…it’s simply bad judgement. The team saves $4.5 million by cutting him.
Philadelphia Eagles: Extend Fletcher Cox
I’ve been puzzled why this did not happen last year, given the Eagles successful history of early extensions to minimize salary cap impacts, but I’ll be even more puzzled if it does not happen this offseason. There were rumors that the Eagles were looking to trade Cox as part of some fantasy package to move up in the draft but by waiting his value should have only increased after a statistically dominant season. Getting his contract done before something happens with Muhammad Wilkerson’ deal would be a good move.
St. Louis Rams: Release Jared Cook
Cook was one of the big winners of free agency a few years ago when the ties to the Titans seemed to inflate the Rams valuation process of Cook. Cook has been little more than an average player and has done nothing to help elevate any of the quarterbacks. Cook produced just 481 yards last season and no touchdowns. The Rams can save about $5.7 million in cap space by cutting him.
San Francisco 49ers: Release Ahmad Brooks
The time has probably come for the 49ers to turn away from veterans like Brooks and find younger players to take his place. Brooks can provide a decent pass rush at times, but in general has probably never lived up to expectations in San Francisco. He is a player at his best on a good team where deficiencies are hidden and he is not asked to do a lot. That is not the case with the 49ers anymore. Brooks also has some legal issues hanging over his head that rightly or wrongly make it much harder to keep him on the roster. Cutting him frees up $6.4 million.
Seattle Seahawks: Trade/Release Jimmy Graham
Seattle is the best in the NFL at admitting mistakes and finding their way to reduce the impact of those mistakes as soon as they can. The Seahawks never seemed comfortable using Graham the way he was used in New Orleans and Graham certainly did not seem comfortable in the offense. Graham will cost $9 million next season and for what he will do in the offense that is too much to spend especially given some other contracts that may be coming up. Trading him will prove more difficult because of a season ending injury but if they can not find a suitor for him they should move on as it is best for both sides.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Renegotiate Vincent Jackson’s Contract
Jackson is 32 years old and coming off an injury filled season, but with all the cap room the Buccaneers have there is no reason why they can’t retain Jackson on a more reasonable contract. Despite the injuries Jackson did average over 50 yards a game and 16 yards per reception. Those are perfectly fine numbers for a number 2 target. Jackson is set to earn nearly $10 million next season and they should be able to bring that down to closer to $6 million. If healthy he should help Winston continue to develop.
Washington Redskins: Franchise Kirk Cousins
It seems clear that the Redskins see Cousins as the future of the organization but NFL history is littered with one season wonders that crippled team’s salary cap’s and rosters once the clock struck midnight the day after a contract was signed. Despite the high price of the tag it was made for players like Cousins to give teams more information before jumping in on a massive contract extension. If he plays great you may cost yourself a few dollars, but quarterbacks play for a long time so waiting the extra year won’t force you into downside years the way it would at other positions.
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.