Published On: Sun, Feb 11th, 2018

6 big-name players who could be cap casualties this offseason

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The NFL can be a brutal business, and at no time is that more apparent than when teams start examining their books to decide which highly paid players they’re better off cutting ties with and gaining much-needed cap space.

Here are six well-known players in danger of being cap casualties in a few weeks:

Dez Bryant

2018 cap hit: $16.5M
Cap savings if cut: $8.5M or $12.5M (post-June 1)
Years left on contract: 2
Age: 29

The last remaining member of the Cowboys’ 2014 triplets, Bryant‘s future is murky due to his huge cap hit and unwillingness to take a pay cut to remain with the team.

Dallas will likely agonize over what to do with Bryant. On one hand, he remains by far their best receiver and a beloved figure by fans, and it would be hard to replace him. On the other, he hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2014 and showed clear signs of waning athleticism in 2017.

The Cowboys have already laid the seeds for moving on from him. Stephen Jones said in late January that Bryant can be a sideline distraction and pointed to the fact the receiver’s production doesn’t match his substantial contract, according to Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News.

Aqib Talib

2018 cap hit: $12M
Cap savings if cut: $11M
Years left on contract: 2
Age: 31

Talib has been an integral member of the Broncos‘ vaunted secondary for the past four seasons, making the Pro Bowl in every year in Denver.

The Broncos defense’s regression in 2017 was noticeable but far from the team’s biggest issue. Still, it’s time for some fresh blood, and Talib is the most obvious candidate to move on from due to the massive cap savings if he’s released.

At 31, his best days are firmly behind him. Couple that with the fact Bradley Roby can slide from the slot to pair with Chris Harris Jr., and the veteran corner is as good as gone.

Michael Bennett

2018 cap hit: $7.39M
Cap savings if cut: $2.18M or $5.65M (post-June 1)
Years left on contract: 3
Age: 32

The Seattle Seahawks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and all signs point to an overhaul of the roster – especially in regards to some of the team’s elder statesmen.

Bennett has admitted he “probably won’t be back” with Seattle in 2018, though he remains one of the Seahawks’ best defensive players. He racked up 8.5 sacks and 39 tackles in 2017 despite playing with injuries, and there’s a decent argument to keep him for consistency’s sake, considering how different next season’s team could look.

The pass-rusher’s contract numbers aren’t crippling, so a restructure in the Seahawks’ favor could keep the two sides together for one more year.

Tyrann Mathieu

2018 cap hit: $14.1M
Cap savings if cut: $4.8M or $11M (post-June 1)
Years left on contract: 4
Age: 25

The youngest player on this list by far, Mathieu is just two years removed from a Defensive Player of the Year-type season. Unfortunately, the Arizona Cardinals defensive back suffered serious injuries in both knees during his first three seasons and hasn’t looked the same since.

To make matters worse, the Cardinals have backed themselves into a corner by handing Mathieu such a lucrative contract. If he’s still on the team by March 14, he’s guaranteed $19 million over the next two seasons – an almost untenable number considering his injury history and recent level of play.

The playmaking slot cornerback could be open to a pay cut seeing as Arizona took a chance on him after a troubled college career, but a parting of ways is a real possibility considering rookie safety Budda Baker‘s impressive debut season.

Randall Cobb

2018 cap hit: $12.72M
Cap savings if cut: $9.47M
Years left on contract: 1
Age: 27

The Packers are shrewd negotiators, but after signing Davante Adams to a big-money extension during the season, Green Bay finds itself with one hell of a cap headache at the wide receiver position.

Both Cobb and Jordy Nelson ($12.52-million cap hit) are in danger of being cut, though it’s likely Green Bay will look to retain at least one. Nelson is older, but he looked solid until Aaron Rodgers went down, while Cobb’s usage in the Packers’ offense has diminished in recent years.

Green Bay might tack on another year to his deal and push some of his money down the line, but could be better served finding a more dynamic talent for Rodgers from the slot.

Cobb would likely receive significant free-agent interest if he were to be released thanks to his versatility and age.

Muhammad Wilkerson

2018 cap hit: $20M
Cap savings if cut: $11M or $17M (post-June 1)
Years left on contract: 3
Age: 28

Wilkerson was rewarded for a monster 12-sack campaign in 2015 with a five-year, $86-million contract. Two years later, it was clear the New York Jets made a massive error.

The defensive lineman has been solid if inconsistent when on the field (though far from worth $17.2 million per season), but a constant issue off it. Wilkerson was benched for one series in Week 13 and two weeks later was left behind for a trip to New Orleans due to his tardiness at team meetings. He’s also routinely clashed with teammates and coaches.

The Jets could try to recoup some value by shopping Wilkerson around for a late-round draft pick, but considering his behavior and enormous cap hit, the open market is the far more likely path.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)
(Contract numbers courtesy: Over The Cap)

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