Joe Banner and I sat down to discuss the moves made over the past week. What further cap casualties can we expect, how will the teams position themselves to get under the cap, and what additional moves will occur as the start of the league year approaches?
Here’s a recap of some of the biggest moves this past week:
Washington Football Team
Approx. Cap Space: $57.2M
QB Alex Smith (played 42.2% of snaps in 2020) was released by Washington with two years remaining under contract. He was due an additional $40 million through 2022 and will carry an $8.6 million dead cap hit. After missing all of 2019 recovering from his broken leg, Smith started six games and was 5-1 as a starter. He only averaged 6.3 yards per passing attempt while throwing 6 Tds and 8 INTs.
Banner: “As amazing as his story is, I think they made the right decision. Forty million dollars over two years for a player of his caliber with his injury concerns would be unwise. I also would be far from comfortable with Taylor Heinicke (2.3%) as my only quarterback, so I think they need to address whether or not they can trade up from 19 and get a quarterback. They are probably capped at about where they ended up last year unless they do something meaningful there.”
Approx. Cap Space: $6.6M
QB Ben Roethlisberger (91.82%) agreed to a $5 million paycut, while also restructuring his contract to create $15.34 million in cap space for 2021. Roethlisberger was originally due a $15 million roster bonus at the start of the league year, expediting Pittsburgh’s decision.
Banner: ”I think Pittsburgh was smart to get Ben to agree to a true paycut, while also restructuring his contract to create space. If you look back at last season, that was an outstanding defense before they got wacked with all those injuries. I still think they can win with him, but they do need to start focusing on finding a long-term solution. Bringing Roethlisberger back one more season gives them another offseason to help find that answer.
“Looking at this year, that restructure is also meaningful. With Maurkice Pouncey (78.45%) retiring and both LT Alejandro Villanueva (100%) and LG Matt Feiler (77.27%) free agents; that is three-fifths of an offensive line missing, that for the first time in a while did not play that well. That needs to also be a focus this offseason.”
Approx. Cap Space: $15.6M
DE J.J. Watt signed a two-year contract with the Cardinals after being released by Houston. He received $23 million guaranteed and a total salary of $28 million that can increase to $31 million. He has just 9.0 sacks the past two seasons.
Banner: “! think this was a mistake. First, I think it exaggerates how close they are to winning. He is still very talented, but he is likely descending and most likely will not be there in three years. He is getting hurt more often, so it is also really high risk. This move may help, but it does not put them over the top as a Super Bowl contender.”
Approx. Cap Space: ($0.6M)
With three years left under contract, TE Kyle Rudolph (52.95%) was released by the Vikings. He was due $27 million the next three seasons and carries a $4.35 million dead cap hit.
Banner: “I was not certain he would get cut, but this was largely expected. I think if Minnesota still expects to compete at a high level, they need to rebuild their offensive line. They have put significant capital in players like Adam Thielen (85.42%), Dalvin Cook (61.72%) and Justin Jefferson (81.73%), that their lines, on both sides of the ball, have really begun to suffer. I think letting Rudolph go is a realization that those positions need to be their focus this offseason. That $27 million is significant money they can spend in other places.”
Approx. Cap Space: ($3.8M)
After being released by Las Vegas last month, WR Tyrell Williams signed a one-year $6.2 million contract with Detroit. The Lions currently have WRs Kenny Golladay (21.41%), Marvin Jones (89.77%) and Danny Amendola (43.98%) all entering free agency.
Banner: “I have been impressed with Detroit, because they have been making smarter moves lately, and I do consider this an abbreviation, but I do not agree with the signing. The smarter teams realize they need to save their cap dollars to sign their own guys or to be true players in free agency. Signing a guy for one season when you are not supposed to compete next year is not an efficient use of dollars. As I mentioned in my NFC North preview, if they anticipate losing all three of their free-agent wide receivers, then I can talk myself into the signing, if they just expect to be totally devoid at the position next year. I just hope it does not represent a wavering in their overall philosophy.”
Las Vegas Raiders
Approx. Cap Space: $6.3M
In addition to Tyrell Williams, the Raiders also released RG Gabe Jackson (98.06%) and LG Richie Incognito (6.83%). Jackson was due over $19 million the next two seasons with no dead cap. Incognito was due $5.5 million in his last year under contract. He also does not carry a dead cap hit.
Banner:“I have worked with Jon Gruden for a number of seasons, and I can say he is a very smart offensive mind. Jon is as good as anyone, but you still need to provide your quarterback with a reasonable degree of protection, or your offense is going to be really disappointing. I do not think this has been a priority for him, and I hope these moves lead to a larger rebuild there.”
Approx. Cap Space: $26M
A year after signing him away from New England, Miami released LB Kyle Van Noy (78.43%). He was still under contract for three more seasons and was due nearly $36 million. He carries a $4 million dead cap hit.
Banner: “I just think this is a great example of where we are at right now in the NFL. I do not think there is a team right now that is not thinking about cutting or restructuring certain players. Miami must feel they are deep enough at the position with guys like Shaq Lawson (55.32%) and Emmanuel Ogbah (76.69%), where they can afford to save the cap dollars by letting a guy like Van Noy move on.”
New York Giants
Approx. Cap Space: $9.1M
The Giants released WR Golden Tate (41.86%) and LB David Mayo (17.69%). Tate was under contract for two more seasons and was due $14.5 million. He has a $4.7 million dead cap hit. After signing a $37.5 million contract, Tate only recorded 84 catches for 1,064 yards in his two seasons in the Big Apple.
Banner: “The Golden Tate move was not surprising, but I do not believe they should have brought him back last year, since he has been on a steady decline for a few seasons.
“I think they backed themselves into a corner by giving him this money, and that all started when they traded Odell Beckham Jr. and were worried how people would react to that. They ended up rushing to sign Tate for too much, and that is almost always a really bad circumstance to sign someone under.”
Approx. Cap Space: $7.6M
Seattle is releasing DT Carlos Dunlap (27.43%). Dunlap was traded to Seattle last October after spending 10.5 seasons in Cincinnati. In eight games with the Seahawks, he only recorded 14 tackles but did have 14 quarterback hits.