Each free agency period, teams pledge hundreds of millions of dollars to players that have never been within their own systems, taking on new roles and expecting big breakouts. As you can imagine, these deals don’t always go the right way, and teams are forced to get rid of the players at some point to relieve salary cap space. While the cap rises each year, there are always new players coming onto the market that front offices see as better fits, so they clear out space to add the new players. Whether it be due to a scheme mismatch or just poor play in general, big-deal players get cut all the time. Each team has some, whether they come from their own team or if they are free agent add-ons. Let’s look through which players could get cut from teams before the 2018 season.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Cap Hit: $20,600,000 (11.3% of cap)
Dead Money: $3,600,000 (nets $17,000,000)
Smith has been one of the most boring and unexciting quarterbacks in the league, and their offense and team as a whole will not move forward until he is replaced. 2017 10th overall draft pick Patrick Mahomes was chosen for this sole reason, and he should be ready to replace the former Utah Ute as soon as the 2017 regular season. Smith could certainly be on the outs soon, as trade bait or as an outright cut. The Chiefs have an estimated $-15 million in cap space for 2018, and this would allow them to clear a roster spot for a veteran option in free agency.
Derek Wolfe, DL, Denver Broncos
Cap Hit: $10,925,000 (6.65% of cap)
Dead Money: $3,750,000 (nets $7,175,000)
Wolfe has been an important part of a Broncos defensive line that has lost key players for much of the past few years. He also has suffered plenty of injuries throughout those years. Wolfe plays through most of these, and has hit a recent span of back-to-back solid years with near 50 tackles and 5.5 sacks consecutively. He also hasn’t topped 6 sacks since his rookie year in 2012 and is being paid like a top 15 defensive end, which he is not. On a team that may be facing a mini-rebuild in the coming years, Wolfe would be a nice piece to send away for a late Day 2 or early Day 3 draft pick in 2018. For a team projected to have less than $4 million in cap space, this would be ideal.
Byron Maxwell, CB, Miami Dolphins
Cap Hit: $10,000,000 (5.56% of cap)
Dead Money: $0 (nets $10,000,00)
The Dolphins have been in a bit of purgatory since Ryan Tannehill came to the team, but they finally made the playoffs last season. The team was expected to get better before their quarterback was injured and out for the season, but now this has unfolded this seems like a wasted year. Maxwell came with linebacker Kiko Alonso in a trade with the Eagles, and while Alonso has been much better, Maxwell has been an okay player. He is paid much more than what he is worth, and the team should look to either move him or cut him soon. He could fetch a Day 3 pick from a team that is in desperate need of secondary help, and his absence of dead money is a positive in negotiations. Miami is expected to have $-12 million in cap space, and this almost lets them break even.
Sean Smith, CB, Oakland Raiders
Cap Hit: $8,500,000 (5.18% of cap)
Dead Money: $0 (nets $8,500,000)
Sean Smith is playing behind an undrafted defensive back in training camp this year, and one of Oakland’s prized signings from last offseason isn’t looking too great right now. There’s a good chance his starting spot is taken over by 2017 first round pick Gareon Conley in this season, and that leaves someone being paid over $8 million in a bad spot. Smith was expected to be an important piece in a secondary in dire need of help, and it never worked out. He probably wouldn’t fetch much on the trade market for Reggie Mackenzie and co., but the lack of dead money is a nice way to get out of a contract with no penalty. The Raiders are projected to have just $4 million in cap space, and this cut would allow them to sign a legitimate player in the secondary.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Cap Hit: $22,200,000 (13.96% of cap)
Dead Money: $12,400,000 (nets $9,800,000)
This may be a surprise to Giants fans who are blind to this, but Eli Manning was not a great quarterback last season, and he’s never really been special. While PFF insists that interception rates have decreased in recent years, Elisha’s has been high, especially for someone who is considered a Hall of Famer by many. The Giants have a few problems on offense (certainly not receiver), and removing a quarterback that costs this much would help them fix other problems. Saving that near-$10 million in space would allow them to pick up a mid-high tier running back, as well as possibly pick up a draft pick in a trade to use on a new, younger quarterback. The Giants have a projected $9 million in space for now, and if they added $9,800,000 to that, that’s enough money to sign a good quarterback (or let Geno Smith play. #Believe)