The 2021 NFL offseason promises lots of big-name movement, thanks to an unprecedented quarterback trade market and a top-heavy free agent class featuring young stars like Dak Prescott and Chris Godwin. But the pool of available veterans could — and likely will — grow exponentially as teams trim bloated salaries and look to stay under a pandemic-affected cap.
Which big names could be victims of money-saving cuts? Here are 25 of the most notable potential cap casualties:
Note: All salary cap figures are courtesy of Over The Cap.
2021 savings: $23.6 million
The 49ers are OK riding with Garoppolo as their starter in 2021, but they’re not overjoyed about it. In the event they actually land an upgrade, whether via trade or the draft, there’s a decent chance they could get a draft pick for the former Super Bowl starter (hello, Patriots), but it’s not out of the question they’d outright cut Jimmy G to clear almost $24 million.
2021 savings: $2.9 million
Like the 49ers, the Panthers wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to entering 2021 with their incumbent under center, but Carolina has been busy hunting for an upgrade. The savings of a Bridgewater cut would not be substantial, but he’s also due more than $20 million in 2022, which could be grounds for a release — something he might also request in the event they crown a new starter.
2021 savings: $14.7 million
He was a great story in 2020, as evidenced by the Comeback Player of the Year honors. But he was not a great quarterback, and Washington seems to be well aware of that while exploring veteran replacements. Saving almost $15 million to let him find one last mentor-type gig elsewhere seems like a no-brainer, unless a major restructure is in order.
2021 savings: $6.4 million
To think, just one offseason ago, he was the centerpiece of Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins blockbuster. Johnson has enough tread on his tires to find a role elsewhere, but it’s hard to think he’ll be back with the Texans on his current deal.
2021 savings: $5 million
Johnson is a little bit of a stretch as a «big name,» but he’s been a top-level rotational back when healthy. At 27, he could easily find a market as a third-down specialist, barring a significant pay cut in Houston.
2021 savings: $2.5 million
The former Raiders and Vikings back has been productive in New Orleans, filling in admirably for Alvin Kamara, but the Saints are flush with cap issues. They may not want to part ways with their No. 2, but they may also have no choice.
2021 savings: $10.4 million
Solid rather than spectacular, Crowder is no sure thing to be cut, especially with New York loaded with cap space. But he’s not exactly cheap considering the role he plays. On a contender, he’d make a ton of sense as a No. 3 type.
2021 savings: $6.1 million
His days as a play-making starter are probably over, but as a No. 3/spot starter, you can do a whole lot worse. His departure from the Big Apple, meanwhile, seems like a foregone conclusion after a bumpy first year under new coach Joe Judge.
2021 savings: $4 million
If he were to hit the market, he would instantly become of the most underrated wideouts available — and likely a bargain option considering the depth of this year’s free agent class. The Saints, meanwhile, simply can’t afford to keep many costly vets.
2021 savings: $3.4 million
It’s anyone’s guess as to how much Edelman actually has left in the tank, but a few teams would definitely check in. He and the Patriots will always adore each other, but the time is now to move on, with New England pushing further into a rebuild.
2021 savings: $4.7 million
Ten years from now, Ertz will be a lock to enter the Eagles Hall of Fame. In 2021, he’s darn near a lock to play elsewhere. Philly is already trying to trade him amid its rebuild, but if a nice offer doesn’t come in, he’ll likely request and be granted his release.
2021 savings: $7 million
Graham wants to finish his career in Chicago, but just because Matt Nagy loves tight ends doesn’t mean the ex-Packer is likely to stick around. He was a solid red-zone target in 2020, but Cole Kmet’s presence makes the veteran expendable.
2021 savings: $5 million
Instead of parting ways in 2019, the two sides agreed to a big-money extension. Two years later, a split looks like the only solution. Rudolph wants to maintain a decent pass-catching role, and the Vikings want to increase Irv Smith Jr.’s duties.
2021 savings: $6 million
The Giants have some big decisions to make up front, where they can’t afford to let Daniel Jones be enveloped by pressure again. Andrew Thomas showed enough growth as a rookie, however, to justify moving on from Solder’s big salary.
2021 savings: $5.4 million
The Bears have holes across the board, starting at quarterback. Freeing up more than $5 million by saying goodbye to Massie after two straight injury-shortened seasons would be an easy way to reallocate resources.
2021 savings: $11.5 million
The Chargers appeared to win a lopsided trade when they landed Turner in exchange for Russell Okung ahead of 2020, but Turner looked like a shell of his former self trying to protect Justin Herbert. Maybe another offseason of rest will help him, albeit elsewhere.
2021 savings: $11.8 million
The Vikings dangled Reiff in trade talks during the 2020 season, so it’s not as if they haven’t entertained a cost-driven split before. That said, their recent bonus payout to the left tackle suggests a 2021 return is still very much in the cards.
2021 savings: $11.9 million
Vic Fangio’s got himself an underrated defense in Denver, but Casey will be 32 by the end of the 2021 campaign and, more importantly, costs more than all but three players on the roster. The Broncos shouldn’t be paying that kind of money here.
2021 savings: $9.5 million
Had the longtime Bengal actually registered more than a single tackle in his injury-shortened 2020 campaign, he might be on his way back, especially after Cincinnati refused to deal him in recent years. Now, a mutual parting of ways seems obvious.
2021 savings: $18 million
The biggest name on the list when it comes to career resume, Miller has a Hall of Fame track record to go with a middling past few years, punctuated by a severe ankle/foot injury that wiped out all of 2020. Someone should — and will — be happy to pay for the edge rusher, even at this stage of his career, but at more than $22 million this year? Denver could easily pass.
2021 savings: $8 million
Remember the Smith Bros. pass rushing duo? It could survive into 2021, but that would require Green Bay finding other creative ways to get under the cap. Za’Darius Smith will stay, but Preston is a logical candidate to go after a drop-off in 2020.
2021 savings: $14 million
There’s a reason Seattle gave up just a seventh-round pick to land Dunlap ahead of the 2020 trade deadline. While he’s got an underrated resume as a starting edge rusher, he certainly doesn’t warrant an elite salary going into his age-32 season.
2021 savings: $13.4 million
Maybe the easiest cap casualty to predict of the Saints’ many costly vets, Alexander simply will not return to New Orleans — or anywhere else, for that matter — under his current deal. He can start, but he’s not top-tier starting material.
2021 savings: $8.3 million
He doesn’t have a wholly unreasonable cap hit for a starting outside corner, and it’s more likely Pittsburgh would approach him about a pay cut, but after an up-and-down 2020 and team-wide cap issues, his future in Steel City isn’t guaranteed.
2021 savings: $8.7 million
Judging by the way the Raiders paid Joyner to leave the Rams a few years ago, you would’ve thought this guy was bound to be a perennial Pro Bowler. Now, he’s a safe bet to be cut and will likely explore both reserve CB and safety openings on the market.