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Potential cap cuts from around the NFL that should intrigue the Broncos

One team’s dead cap is another team’s treasure.

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As far back as last summer, it looked like Covid-19 would turn into a nightmare for the NFL salary cap. It remains a bit of a question where the final number will ultimately land, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter predicts no more than $181 million. It would be a $17 million decline from the $198.2 million teams operated under in 2020.

This is going to create a number of issues for teams around the league. While some teams will turn to creative contract structures to bend the books as much as they can, there will be veterans released to comply with a more restrictive cap. For some, this will become an opportunity.

I decided to take a look at the teams who seem like they’ll be most impacted by the salary cap and the moves that they may be forced to make in order to comply. The following list is not exhaustive, as players along the roster bubble routinely move in the off-season. Instead I tried to look at players that I thought could be “unexpected” cuts due to the Covid cap.

New Orleans Saints: -$74,634,226 in cap room*.

Mickey Loomis is a wizard and Drew Brees has already renegotiated his contract* so the cap number for New Orleans is a moving figure. The future Hall of Famer will now count for about $12 million against the this year’s cap instead of $36 million. Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger has already looked into how the Saints could field a competitive team in 2021, but there will be cuts. Keep in mind that some of the following are more likely than others.

LB - Kwon Alexander - An athletic backer who could provide range on the second level.

CB - Marshon Lattimore - A premier corner. More likely traded than cut.

OL - Nick Easton - If Munchak wants depth with experience, Easton has played in 23 games.

RB - Latavius Murray - We already know he can find success in the Shurmur offense.

DL - Malcom Brown - Could give the Broncos a big body who can two gap inside.

Philadelphia Eagles: -$49,049,596 in cap room**

If Howie Roseman moves Carson Wentz, the Eagles will be left with a dead cap hit just under $33.8 million, an NFL record.** In a way they are similar to the Saints in that Roseman’s continued to kick cap hits down the road in recent years because of a rising ceiling, only to see it all fall down this year. They were a roster built to chase a Super Bowl in 2020 yet they fell quite short. They could make a few cuts that could intrigue George Paton.

ED - Derek Barnett - He isn’t a premier pass rusher, but brings a balanced game.

WR - Marquise Goodwin - Speed out of the slot in recent years with potential return value.

CB - Avonte Maddox - Was a standout in the slot as a rookie.

Atlanta Falcons: -$31,668,889 in cap room

What makes the Falcons’ cap situation one to watch is that they have a new general manager in Terry Fontenot to go with Arthur Smith as the new coach. The duo inherits an aging core that’s just two years removed from a playoff berth and only 42 players under contract. To shape the roster around the new vision, they will need to get creative in year one. Three of the looming cuts could intrigue the Broncos.

DL - Allen Bailey - Fangio has shown an affinity for versatile ends.

LB - Foyesade Oluokun - Former Yale Bulldog who used to play safety.

CB - Isaiah Oliver - Boundary corner who may be miscast in the new defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers: -$30,601,664 in cap room***

We know the Steelers’ plan to sit down and perform some magic with Ben Roethlisberger’s contract this off-season.*** We also know it won’t be enough to steer Pittsburgh out of the hole they dug, so other moves look forthcoming. If Maurkice Pouncey retires as expected, that should help, yet there could be a number of cuts. I doubt the Broncos are interested in Eric Ebron or Vance McDonald, but there’s one potential cut that really caught my eye.

OT - Chukwuma Okorafor - 2018 3rd rounder who could interest Mike Munchak.

Green Bay Packers: -$28,194,726 in cap room

Another contender with an older quarterback who fell short in 2020. Signs point to Aaron Rodgers’ return next season, which means another run at the Super Bowl. To get there, Brian Gutekunst is going to have to make a couple tough moves to create cap space. A potential Davante Adams extension could open up some room, but it looks like cuts are coming down the pipe. Some of them might catch Paton’s eye.

ED - Preston Smith - Could be a Von Miller replacement if the Hall of Famer isn’t retained.

LB - Christian Kirksey - Overpaid last year, Kirksey could still be a nice addition.

OT - Ricky Wagner - The Broncos could use experienced depth on the right side.

OG - Lucas Patrick - Netane Muti is inexperienced, while Patrick started 15 games in ‘20.

CB - Josh Jackson - 2018 2nd rounder who disappointed under Mike Pettine.

Los Angeles Rams: -$26,779,096 in cap room****

Over the Cap has not yet accounted for the Matthew Stafford trade.**** We know that they will be on the hook for a $22.2 million dead cap hit, currently the largest in NFL history. Les Snead and Sean McVay are going to need to work some Loomis magic to keep the core together, and there’s probably going to be some moves at the margin. When you consider the fact Brandon Staley left for the Chargers and the Rams’ defense may not hold as much value to the new defensive coordinator, there’s extra incentive to keep an eye on L.A. The cuts have experience in a version of Fangio’s scheme.

NT - Sebastian Joseph - Could push Mike Purcell, who has a very flexible contract.

LB - Kenny Young - Would add range and could provide value on special teams.

OG - Austin Corbett - Another interior option that brings starting experience.

Las Vegas Raiders: -$18,883,169 in cap room

Gruden’s 28th ranked defense only looks worse when you consider Mike Mayock tried to buy a defense in 2020. Vegas can’t move on from Carl Nassib or Cory Littleton, but most of their veteran contracts provide them with some flexibility if they choose to churn the defense to fit Gus Bradley’s vision. The cap situation could change in a hurry if Gruden wants to make another splash in March.

DB - Lamarcus Joyner - Safety/Nickel who has disappointed since a career year in 2017.

LB - Nick Kwiatkoski - Former Bear who could do a little bit of everything beside Johnson.

RB - Jalen Richard - Three down skillset who could push Royce Freeman.

S - Jeff Heath - Experienced veteran who made a mark when he found the field for Vegas.

OT - Brandon Parker - Overdrafted in 2018, he could still serve as depth outside.

Kansas City Chiefs: -$18,689,876 in cap room

Patrick Mahomes’ cap number jumps to just under $25 million this season and the Chiefs had to know they’d begin to feel a squeeze soon. The falling cap means those concerns hit a little sooner. Many of the core players have contracts that may be reworked to create space this year, but a few interesting pieces could get pink slips.

RB - Damien Williams - Little wear and tear on the tires plus a versatile skillset.

DL - Derrick Nnadi - 2018 3rd rounder who could play all along the interior line.

Houston Texans: -$13,414,930 in cap room

Management matters and the Texans have perhaps the worst leadership in sports. If they hold onto Deshaun Watson they’ll have a barren war chest come Draft day and they’re in a tough spot to add veteran talent in free agency. Normally I’d expect a ton of movement at the margins since they have a new general manager and coach, but without picks they may have a tough time replacing most of their cuts. With that said, there are a few I’m keeping an eye out for.

DL - J.J. Watt - Odds are the Broncos can’t acquire him via trade or FA. He’s still notable.

RB - David Johnson - Fits what Shurmur likes at running back.

LB - Benardrick McKinney - Fit is peculiar as he’s more run stopper than coverage backer.

RB - Duke Johnson - Coming off the worst season of his career, but offers a 3-down skillset.

NT - Brandon Dunn - Another nose tackle prospect that could make sense.

iOL - Zach Fulton - Experience at all three spots between the tackle.

Minnesota Vikings: -$7,649,781 in cap room

George Paton’s lengthy tenure under Rick Spielman means there’s reason to believe the Broncos will sniff around Minny’s cuts for the next couple of years. 2020 was a reloading year for the Vikings that led to a revamped cornerback room. The cap decline means they aren’t out of the woods and could need to make a cut or two this off-season.

OT - Riley Reiff - Experience on both sides of the center is appealing.

S - Harrison Smith - Only makes sense if Kareem Jackson is cut, Smith’s chasing the Hall.

DL - Shamar Stephen - Has the length and versatility to beef up the interior.

Chicago Bears: -$6,153,635 in cap room

With perhaps the hottest seat in the NFL, I doubt Ryan Pace dumps Akiem Hicks because the Bears would struggle to replace the 31-year-old. However, Chicago’s cap situation and dire need for a QB means it can’t be ruled out. Cutting Hicks currently looks like the easiest way to get the Bears out of the red. There is a less heralded name that should make sense for a Fangio defense looking for depth.

DL - Bilal Nichols - Notched 27 pressures across 618 snaps and brings size the Broncos lack.

Tennessee Titans: -$3,079,736 in cap room

The Titans caught lightning in a bottle in 2019 with Arthur Smith coordinating the kind of “exotic smashmouth” attack that’d make Mike Mularkey jealous. Last year Jon Robinson elected to pay Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry to run it back for a Super Bowl only to fall short as the defense came apart without Dean Pees. There are a number of big names who could rework deals to create space, so the cap situation isn’t as bad as the number above looks. The Titans have drafted two corners high in recent years so a big cut could be coming.

CB - Malcolm Butler - 31 in March but he’s still playing at a high level.

Buffalo Bills: -$1,822,851 in cap room

There’s a number of players the Bills could talk to in order to create cap room so they probably aren’t parting ways with any big names. There are a few players who should land on Paton’s radar if Brandon Beane decides he has to make a cut or two.

DL - Quinton Jefferson - Gap shooter who could add juice to the rotation.

LB - Tyler Matakevich - Special teamer who could provide depth at linebacker.

New York Giants: $1,126,703 in cap room

The Giants are the first team on this list in the black, which doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods. The G-men overperformed in an abysmal NFC East last year but they’ll need to make some moves to stay competitive. I would think we see more roster churn in year two of the Joe Judge era. In addition to the name below, a number of offensive pieces could make sense as fits for the Pat Shurmur offense if they don’t survive the bubble.

S - Jabrill Peppers - Fangio’s said he likes to help talented prospects find their stride.

Seattle Seahawks: $4,100,729 in cap room

Russell Wilson’s disgruntled and everyone is talking about a looming divorce with Pete Carroll, but odds are it doesn’t happen in 2021. I’d bet Caroll and Jon Schneider are aggressive in tryin to upgrade Wilson’s supporting cast to capitalize on what remains of their Super Bowl window. If that’s the case, they’re going to need to find some ways to create additional cap space and a Jamal Adams extension only goes so far. An effort to improve both sides of the line could give the Broncos a potential answer at right tackle.

OT - Brandon Shell - Could serve as depth behind Ja’Wuan James for a year.

Detroit Lions: $6,198,628 in cap room*****

When there are new decision makers atop an organization, there’s going to be roster churn. We’ve already seen Brad Holmes trade Matthew Stafford and incur a $19 million dead cap hit for his trouble. This is a general manager building for the long haul and so older veterans could be thrown out with the bathwater as the team looks to acquire scheme fits and prospects who will hang around through the looming tank.

DL - Nicholas Williams - 30-something who joined Fangio’s 2018 Bears.

DL - Danny Shelton - Makes sense if the Broncos are looking to beef up the interior.

OT - Tyrell Crosby - Played a little under 1200 snaps since 2018, most at right tackle.

Your Broncos’ News

Denver Broncos release cornerback A.J. Bouye - Mile High Report

The move creates more than $13 million in cap space.

What to do about QB in 2021? - Mile High Report

Broncos’ beat reporter at The Gazette, George Stoia, joins Broncos Country Tonight to jump in the QB debate for Denver.

Champ Bailey compares Broncos’ trading for Texans QB Deshaun Watson to signing Peyton Manning in 2012

“I kind of look at the Broncos right now, like it’s almost 2012,” Bailey said. “It’s kind of the same dynamic. You have a young guy that did well and has done some good things, but nothing to really make you feel good about the future. Then, you’ve got a guy that can really change the trajectory of your franchise like Watson. Yeah, you go get a guy like that — without a doubt.”

NFL News

Report: NFL hopes to “finalize frameworks” of next TV deals before setting 2021 salary cap - ProFootballTalk

This implies that the league could be inclined to shift some future earnings toward 2021, potentially bumping up the salary cap. It’s currently expected to land in the range of $180 million per team. It’s possible that, if the money to be earned under the next wave of contracts represents a sufficient increase in revenue, some of that money could be moved around in order to make more money available to all teams in the coming season.

Is Tom Brady the greatest NFL quarterback of all-time? - Mile High Report

Given how 2020 went, the argument against Tom Brady being the greatest NFL quarterback of all-time just got a whole lot harder.

Why has it taken so long to shut down Kansas City Chiefs passing game? - Mile High Report

Thoughts on why the Kansas City Chiefs offense was obliterated by the Tampa Bay Bucs

Contract expired, Britt Reid is no longer an employee of the Chiefs (for now) - ProFootballTalk

Whether Reid will be, or would have been, re-signed is a different issue. The Chiefs may wait to re-sign Reid until after the ongoing legal investigation ends and/or the NFL concludes its review under the Personal Conduct Policy. If the Chiefs hire a new outside linebackers coach, that would suggest the team is moving on.

All goes well with Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes’ toe surgery

Kansas City Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes underwent toe surgery on Wednesday and there were no issues at all, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Dr. Robert Anderson performed the surgery.

Agent’s Take: Consequences of a lower 2021 salary cap, including the three teams who’ll be hurt most -

The reduced salary cap likely will produce a glut of free agents, as well as tag dilemmas involving Dak Prescott and others

10 most reasonable ways the Packers can clear salary cap space this offseason

An in-depth breakdown of how the Packers can best clear cap space during the 2021 offseason.

Kirk Cousins’ contract advice to Dak Prescott: Franchise tag can be your friend - ProFootballTalk

“Well, the only piece I’ve said to him in crossing his path by going back maybe a couple of offseasons was just to make the point that the franchise tag can be your friend; it can be a help to you if that’s the route you choose to go,” Cousins said. “So, he played on the franchise tag this past year. I think he’s in a great spot now. Everybody knows he can play, and he’s an elite quarterback. Really, the ball is more in the court of the Cowboys and what they want to do going forward. But I think it’s a no-brainer that Dak’s the real deal and is going to have a great career moving forward. He’s in a really good spot.”

Washington settles claims of cheerleaders over lewd outtakes videos - ProFootballTalk

The matter has been resolved. Those five words appear in countless settlement agreements that include a broad and strong confidentiality provision. It means that money changed hands, and that no one can publicly disclose the amount that was paid.

It means that the settlement agreement includes specific language limiting any and all public comments on the settlement to the utterance of those five words: The matter has been resolved. Litigation, or settlements before litigation, had become inevitable for Washington. Multiple lawyers represented multiple former cheerleaders in response to an August report from the Post regarding a pair of videos prepared from outtakes, at the alleged behest of former team media executive Larry Michael, allegedly for Snyder.