2021 Edition: List Of Veterans Who Might Get Cut/Traded For Salary Cap Purposes

By Ari Meirov

The offseason is here and it’s time for teams to look at their rosters and decide which players aren’t worth holding on to anymore. 

We’ve already seen several cap cuts around the NFL from JJ Watt in Houston to AJ Bouye in Denver and Kawann Short in Carolina. 

I make this post every offseason and this year’s list has more big names than usual. The salary cap is expected to go down from the $198.2 million that it was at last year, and that will force teams to make some tough decisions.

Simply put, this offseason will see an unprecedented number of veterans flood the free agent market… and it wouldn’t be a surprise if some bigger names not listed below are let go.

Marcus Mariota

Mariota’s name has been in trade talks and it makes sense considering all the reports that Vegas will keep Derek Carr. Mariota showed flashes in his one appearance this past season, but his $11.35M cap hit it too much for a backup. The Raiders would clear all that money by moving on via trade or release.

Jimmy Garoppolo

The 49ers won’t move on from Garoppolo unless there’s a quarterback who is significantly better available. Moving on from Garoppolo would save $23.6M in cap while only leaving $2.8M in dead money. So expect San Fran to sniff around and see what’s going on around the league. They did just that when Detroit shopped Matthew Stafford.

Ben Roethlisberger

I don’t think this happens. However, Kevin Colbert was given every opportunity to commit to Ben for 2021 and he didn’t. The team is entering a transition period on offense. Longtime center Maurkice Pouncey retired, Matt Canada is the new OC, and Alejandro Villanueva is heading to free agency. JuJu Smith-Schuster will also hit the open market. The defense is also a mess with Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton likely to leave in free agency. The cap situation is messy, but there are ways to make it work. Bringing back Ben on a reworked deal is what’s likely to happen, especially since there’s no clear backup plan, but it’s definitely not a guarantee at this point. 

UPDATE 3/4/21: Steelers restructured Roethlisberger’s deal, ensuring he’ll be back.

David Johnson

Johnson joined Houston in the DeAndre Hopkins trade and played in 12 games. There’s no justifying the trade and with a new regime coming in, it would make sense to move on. Releasing Johnson would save over $6M in salary cap space.

UPDATE 3/2/21: Texans restructured Johnson’s deal, ensuring he’ll be back.

Odell Beckham Jr.

This one is really interesting. Beckham missed the majority of the year after suffering a torn ACL in Week 7, and his $12.791 million salary for next season is guaranteed for injury. In other words, Cleveland can’t cut him. If they were to trade him, it would probably happen later in the offseason. The reality is, when he did play, it always felt like Beckham was never on the same page with Baker Mayfield and some have argued the offense looked better without him. The Browns have publicly said that it’s a silly argument to have and they look forward to having him back … but we’ve heard that before.

Jamison Crowder

Crowder has been one of the best players on this Jets roster since arriving two years ago, so this might come as a surprise. But if the Jets could land Chris Godwin or JuJu Smith Schuster, the Jets would then be able to move on from Crowder and save over $10M in cap.

Tyrell Williams

This has already been reported as something that will happen before the new league year. Williams missed all of last season with a shoulder injury and the Raiders will save $11.5M in cap by moving on.

UPDATE 2/24/21: Raiders released Williams.

Alshon Jeffrey, DeSean Jackson, Marquise Goodwin

The Eagles are in cap hell and will have to make some serious moves to get back on the plus side. Goodwin opted out of the season and the Eagles would save $4.2M by moving on. Jeffrey is not the same player he once was and the Eagles are likely to cut him with a post-June 1 designation. Jackson has shown flashes of Prime D-Jax but his injuries seem to always pile up. He carries a $10M cap hit and that’s simply too much.

UPDATE 2/19/21: Eagles released Jackson.

John Brown

Brown dealt with some injuries this past season but he’s still a productive player. But with Diggs, Beasley and the emergence of Gabriel Davis, Brown might be expendable. Buffalo would save more than $7M in cap by moving on.

Golden Tate

There was talk that Tate could be traded before the deadline this past season and he also had an on-field outburst in a game which led to Joe Judge telling him to stay home instead of coming to practice. Add all that with Tate having an unproductive year and he’s as good as gone. Giants would save $6M in cap my releasing him.

UPDATE 3/3/21: Giants released Tate.

Zach Ertz

Ertz’s name is in trade talks and ESPN reported last week that Ertz is bracing for a change of scenery via trade or release. His time in Philly is likely coming to an end.

Jimmy Graham

Graham’s contract with the Bears was considered one of the worst free agent contracts from last offseason, but he was productive in his first year with Chicago. However, Chicago used a second-round pick on TE Cole Kmet and they expect him to take the next step in 2021. Graham might stick around but it’s not a sure thing.

Kyle Rudolph

Rudolph recently admitted that he wants a bigger role in the offense and that he won’t take a paycut. He’s the longest-tenured Vikings player but his time is coming to an end with Irv Smith taking over full-time. Moving on would save $5M in cap space.

UPDATE 3/2/21: Vikings released Rudolph.

Cameron Brate

Brate could be the odd man out in a tight end group that is expected to have Rob Gronkowski back on a new deal and OJ Howard back from an Achilles injury. Brate’s cap hit is slated to be over $6M in 2021, so Tampa will have to do something there.

Tyler Eifert

New Jaguars HC Urban Meyer will have until February 23 to decide if he wants to pick up a $6.1M team option on Eifert. Moving on would save $5M in cap space.

UPDATE 2/19/21: Jaguars declined Eifert’s option.

Jared Cook

The Saints are in the worst cap situation in the league and will have to make a plethora of moves to get back on the plus side. Jared Cook’s release is one that’s expected.

UPDATE 3/3/21: Saints released Cook.

Jesse James 

James signed a lucrative contract a couple years back and the deal did not work out at all. His cap number for 2021 is over $6M and new GM Brad Holmes is likely to move on.

Nate Solder

Solder didn’t play this past year after opting out, but he had struggles with the team the last time he played. No. 4 overall pick Andrew Thomas is the left tackle moving forward, so Solder could make the move to right tackle. Or the Giants could move on entirely and create $6M in cap space but endure $10.5M in dead money. Retirement is also an option.

Trent Brown

This is another interesting one as Brown is a solid offensive tackle when on the field. But he’s only played 16 games in two years after signing a four-year, $66M deal in 2019. He has no guaranteed money left on his deal and the Raiders would save $14M if they were to move on.

Riley Reiff

The Vikings came close to moving on from Reiff before the season but they agreed to a reworked deal. His cap number for 2021 is a whopping $14.9M and they would save over $11M by moving on. The Vikings value Reiff so both sides could once again work on a reworked deal.

Bobby Hart

The offensive line is Cincy’s biggest weakness and Hart has had some positive moments, but they could save close to $6M by moving on and looking for a better option.

Weston Richburg

Richburg hasn’t played since the end of the 2019 season and he has no guaranteed money left on the massive deal he signed a couple years back. The 49ers would save $4.5M by parting ways.

Kevin Zeitler

Zeitler is the only proven player on the Giants offensive line, so a restructured contract might make more sense in this situation. If the Giants moved on they would create over $12M in cap space. 

Trai Turner

Turner was a major disappointment for LA in his first season with the team. He was a liability when on the field and dealt with lingering injuries. Cutting him would save $11.5M in salary cap space.

Greg Van Roten & Alex Lewis

The Jets hoped this would be the answer for the interior of their offensive line but it didn’t pan out. Releasing Lewis saves $5M and moving on from Van Roten would save $3.4M.

Bobby Massie

Massie played well in 2020 before going down with a knee injury and ending up on IR. He’ll be 32 at the start of next season and moving on saves $5.4M.

Henry Anderson

The previous Jets regime rewarded Anderson with an extension after a breakout season in 2018. His on-field performance has not lived up to it and the Jets would save over $8M by moving on.

UPDATE 3/2/21: Jets released Anderson.

Jurrell Casey

Casey played in only three games in his first year with Denver and has no guaranteed money left on his deal. Moving on saves close to $12M in cap space.

UPDATE 2/25/21: Broncos released Casey.

Geno Atkins

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported after the season that the belief is the Bengals will move on from Atkins. Atkins will be 33 in March and his tremendous run in Cincy is likely over. The team would save $9.5M in cap space.

Malik Jackson

Similar to Alshon Jeffery, Malik Jackson will likely be cut with a post-June 1 designation as Howie Roseman tries to navigate his way through a cap mess. 

Vernon Butler & Quinton Jefferson

Buffalo signed both players last offseason and they had roles with the team. However, the play didn’t warrant that price tag they have for 2021. Moving on from both would save close to $14M in cap.

Von Miller

This is probably the biggest name on this list. Miller has a team option on the final year of his deal with Denver and declining the option would save $18M in salary cap. He missed all of last year with an ankle injury suffered before the start of the season, and there’s a new GM in town with George Paton running the show. Miller and the Broncos could consider a restructure that would include an extension at a reduced average salary. All options will be on the table for the former Super Bowl MVP. He also is under criminal investigation by the Parker, Colorado, Police Department for an undisclosed reason. There’s a lot to sift through on this one and Denver must decide by March 16 

Preston Smith

Smith was less effective this past season and former first-round pick Rashan Gary is ready to take the next step. Packers would save $8M in cap by parting ways — money that could be used elsewhere.

Benardrick McKinney

McKinney still has four years remaining on his 2018 extension, but not much guaranteed money beyond this past season. He had four consecutive years with at least 95 tackles before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in October. Moving on would save $6.4M in cap.

Malcom Brown & Kwon Alexander

Releasing Alexander is the easiest move the Saints could make to help their cap situation, as moving on would save $13M with no dead money. Brown has been decent but his $6.4M cap hit might be too much.

Malcolm Butler

Butler has played well for the Titans, but they can save $10.2M against the cap by releasing him. The Titans want to keep impending free agents Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith and they also must upgrade at pass-rusher, which might make Butler’s cap hit a bit too much unless they rework his deal.

Robert Alford

Alford signed a three-year deal worth $22.5M in 2019, but he has yet to play a game for Arizona due to injuries. Cutting him would save the Cardinals $7.5M.

 Justin Coleman & Desmond Trufant

Coleman was a disappointment in 2020 and with a new regime coming in, he’s likely to be cut. His cap hit for 2021 is $11M. Trufant only played in six games last year and Detroit would save over $6M by moving on.

UPDATE 3/4/21: Lions released Trufant.

Lamarcus Joyner

Joyner signed a lucrative deal with the Raiders in 2019 but he’s been a disappointment. They’ll save over $8M by moving on.

Ricardo Allen

New Falcons GM Terry Fontenot is entering a tough cap situation in Atlanta and moving on from the team leader is a likely move. They would save $6.2M in cap. 

UPDATE 2/18/21: Falcons released Allen.

Thomas Morstead

Morstead dealt with injuries and inconsistency last season and his time in New Orleans might be nearing an end. The Saints held on to rookie punter Blake Gillikin all season and he’s likely the future at the position. Moving on from the longtime punter would save $2.5M.

UPDATE 3/4/21: Saints released Morstead.

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