NFL Analysis


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7 Notable Players Who Should Be Cut Before 2024 NFL Season

New York Giants tight end Darren Waller
Darren Waller of the Giants scores the first TD of the game in the first half. The NY Giants host the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on October 22, 2023.

A handful of big-name players are always released ahead of Week 1.

Last year, that list included Denzel Mims, Matt Corral, Bailey Zappe and KJ Hamler. Which players could and should be released before this year's opening game? Here are seven notable players who might be looking for new homes soon.

7 Players Who Should Be Cut Before the Season

Carolina Panthers running back Miles Sanders
Carolina Panthers running back Miles Sanders (6) during warmups before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Stadium. (Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports)

Miles Sanders, RB, Carolina Panthers

After a Pro Bowl season with the Eagles in 2022, Miles Sanders signed a four-year, $25.2 million ($13 million guaranteed) deal with the Carolina Panthers. Despite opening the season as the starter, Sanders was relegated to a backup role after Week 5. From Week 6 on, Sanders totaled just 68 carries for 242 yards and no touchdowns. He received just 14 carries in the final four games.

The Panthers drafted Jonathon Brooks in Round 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft and signed veteran Rashaad Penny to bolster their running back room. Brooks will be the lead back in the future and Penny, along with Chuba Hubbard, will be the primary backups. 

Cutting Sanders doesn’t save the Panthers much cap space, but designating him as a post-June 1 cut would save them more than $5 million in 2025. For a player who might not have a spot on the roster, they are better off releasing him now.

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs after the catch against the Minnesota Vikings during a game at U.S. Bank Stadium. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara has had a fantastic career with the New Orleans Saints. He has totaled more than 10,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 77 touchdowns. However, his time with the Saints should be coming to an end. 

Kamara averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last season and has averaged that same total for the previous three combined seasons (643 attempts). His best work always came in the passing game, but it’s hard to justify his contract given he hasn’t totaled more than 500 receiving yards in a season since 2020. His play is declining, and his huge cap number ($18.5 million) has put the Saints in a tough spot.

It’s also worth noting that the Saints already have multiple running backs to replace Kamara if they move on. The Saints selected Kendre Miller in the third round last year and signed 2022 touchdown leader Jamaal Williams to a decent-sized deal ($4.6 million cap hit in 2024). For a team with so many salary cap problems, moving on from a soon-to-be 29-year-old running back doesn’t seem that hard.

New York Jets wide receiver Allen Lazard
WR Allen Lazard made only 23 receptions for the New York Jets during the 2023 season after signing a four-year, $44 million free-agent contract during that offseason. (Chris Pedota-The Record/USA TODAY-Sports)

Allen Lazard, WR, New York Jets

This one is obvious, but it still feels unlikely due to his relationship with Aaron Rodgers. The New York Jets signed Allen Lazard last offseason, but he racked up just 311 yards in 12 starts. His lack of athleticism was an issue, as he never could create consistent separation against 1-on-1 coverage.

The Jets knew they had a weakness at receiver this offseason and addressed it, signing Mike Williams and drafting Malachi Corley. There shouldn’t be a roster spot for a soon-to-be 29-year-old receiver who is a glorified tight end.

The Jets could designate Lazard as a post-June 1 cut, but it wouldn't impact their 2024 cap space. However, it would save them nearly $7 million in 2025. The real benefit of releasing Lazard isn't for the cap space but for the roster spot.

The No. 4 WR job could go to a younger receiver with more athleticism, like Xavier Gibson, Jason Brownlee or Malik Taylor. While none of those options are proven, Lazard couldn’t get on the field much last season with a less impressive roster. 

Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis
Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis (7) warms up before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Malik Willis, QB, Tennessee Titans

The 2022 quarterback class will go down as one of the worst in NFL history. Brock Purdy, the final selection, was the only saving grace. However, Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, Zappe and Corral were all released or traded before Year 3 of their rookie contracts.

Malik Willis is the only quarterback drafted in the first six rounds who is still with their initial team, but that might not be the case for much longer. The Tennessee Titans signed Mason Rudolph this offseason as they continue to develop Will Levis. There is a new regime in Tennessee and none of them have ties to Willis.

... it might be best to move on from (Malik) Willis and allow him to try to find a home somewhere else.

With practice reps at a premium, it might be best to move on from Willis and allow him to try to find a home somewhere else. The Titans don't have the reps to develop Willis, and who knows what the upside is at this stage of his career?

Willis started just three games with the Titans, failing to throw a touchdown. He completed just 53 percent of his passes and averaged only 5.3 yards per attempt through two seasons. With his release, the Titans can save around $1 million in cap space in 2024.

Houston Texans wide receiver Robert Woods
Houston Texans wide receiver Robert Woods (2) signals a first down after a play during the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at NRG Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Robert Woods, WR, Houston Texans

The Houston Texans have made some big-time improvements to their wide receiver room this offseason, trading for Stefon Diggs, re-signing Noah Brown and acquiring Ben Skowronek. That is on top of already having Nico Collins, Tank Dell, John Metchie III and Xavier Hutchinson.

There just isn’t a roster spot for Robert Woods

Woods started 11 games for the Texans last season, giving them a much-needed veteran presence. However, his role in the offense diminished as the season went on, and it's clear that his age (32) is starting to catch up with him.

Woods has had a remarkable career, but it's time for the Texans to move on. They would save nearly $5 million by releasing (with $4.75 million in dead cap hits), which is a no-brainer decision.

San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell
San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell (25) before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers

This one is tough because when Elijah Mitchell is healthy, he is a quality running back who can provide juice to an offense. But he's played just 16 games during the last two seasons as he dealt with a knee injury. 

Mitchell's efficiency took a major hit in 2023, as he averaged only 3.7 yards per carry. He racked up 1,100 yards as a rookie, but the San Francisco 49ers can no longer trust him to be the No. 2 back due to all of his injury concerns. That's why they selected Isaac Guerendo in the fourth round this year and signed Jordan Mason two years ago. It’s clear they are getting ready to move on from Mitchell, and that time could come sooner than later. 

The 49ers can save upward of $1 million with Mitchell's release, and they could do that given how untrustworthy he's been during the past two years. If this happens, it's a shame. Mitchell is talented, but his knee injuries have taken a major toll on his body.

Darren Waller runs off field after touchdown
New York Giants tight end Darren Waller (12) celebrates his touchdown reception during the first half against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Darren Waller, TE, New York Giants 

This decision could be out of the New York Giants' hands because Darren Waller is contemplating retirement. But it might not be a bad idea for the Giants to move on right now.

The Giants traded a third-round pick for Waller before the 2023 NFL Draft, but hamstring injuries sidelined him for a good chunk of the season. Even when he was on the field, Waller wasn’t effective. In 12 games, Waller recorded just 552 yards on 52 receptions. He scored one touchdown and averaged fewer than 50 yards a game for the second straight season.

(Darren) Waller is an incredibly talented player, but the injuries are starting to pile up.

Waller is an incredibly talented player, but the injuries are starting to pile up. He hasn't played more than 12 games in a season since 2020, and his production has dropped. Waller will turn 32 ahead of Week 1 and is no longer the dynamic weapon he was in Las Vegas. 

The Giants drafted his replacement, Theo Johnson (Penn State), in Round 4 and have Daniel Bellinger under contract. Considering that the Giants can save nearly $12 million by designating Waller as a post-June 1 cut, that might be the best route, rather than waiting to see if Waller will return.