The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of business. Players are given massive contracts by teams after one or two elite seasons, and when those athletes fail to perform, they can find themselves unemployed. Sometimes, players are cut in their primes simply because their team wants to cut payroll. This happens to players every year. Some firings, like Joe Flacco, fans can see coming for miles away while others aren’t so obvious. These are the superstar players who could find themselves as surprise free agents in 2020!
Joe Flacco Was A One Year Blunder
When the Broncos traded for Joe Flacco the plan was to draft a quarterback and have him groom them for two seasons. When the season started, Flacco proved ineffective and was benched for Brandon Allen.
Allen, in turn, would be benched for Drew Lock, who the Broncos selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. With Lock suddenly entrenched as the starter in Denver, there is no reason for the team to keep Flacco on the roster.
David Johnson Couldn’t Stay Healthy
In Arizona, David Johnson was really good for one season. In 2016 he gained over 2,000 yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) and seemed like someone to build the franchise around. Then he got hurt, and then he kept getting hurt.
In 2019, the Cardinals obtained Kenyan Drake in a trade and he instantly became the team’s bell cow. Now, despite having all the potential in the world, David Johnson is likely to become a cap casualty and a reclamation project for another team.
Trent Williams Isn’t Giving Washington A Choice
In 2019, Trent Williams wanted nothing to do with the Washington Redskins. He held out from his contract and refused to report to the team. Halfway through the season he ended his hold out but continued his refusal to play.
At the end of the season, the Redskins hired Ron Rivera to be their new head coach, a move that many believe could help bring Williams back into the fold. If you ask us, however, we don’t see a scenario where he suits up in burgundy ever again.
Andy Dalton Is Done In Cincinnati
It was understandable when first-year Bengals head coach Zac Taylor decided to hold on to franchise quarterback Andy Dalton in his first year. It will be even more understandable when the Bengals select Dalton’s replacement with the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft.
As for what that means for Andy, well, the writing is on the wall. Like Joe Flacco, there just isn’t a reason to justify keeping Dalton on the roster when you cut him and save nearly $18 million instead.
Janoris Jenkins Did It To Himself
For the last season and a half if New York, Janoris Jenkins has not been the best version himself on the field. When he made comments about a fan off the field, the Giants decided they had enough and put him on waivers.
The New Orleans Saints claimed him, and now have to decide if they want to keep a depth piece on the 2020 roster for nearly $12 million. If New Orleans releases Jenkins, they will not receive a cap penalty, meaning Jenkins should be suiting up for a new team come September.
Josh Norman Is A 50/50 Proposition
At 32 years old, Josh Norman is officially leaving his NFL prime. In his second to last season in Washington, his diminishing abilities showed and he got benched for a younger player. If the Redskins move on from him, they’ll save $12 million.
The interesting part of the Norman decision is his head coach. Ron Rivera was Norman’s coach when he was with the Carolina Panthers. Will he want to coach the player he originally turned into a superstar for a second time?
Nate Solder Has Underwhelmed In The Big Apple
In 2018, Nate Solder signed a two-year, $62 million contract with the New York Giants. Why then, is he a possible cap casualty after his second season in blue? To put it frankly, Solder has massively underwhelmed.
In 2019 alone he gave up 11 sacks while trying to protect Eli Manning and Daniel Jones. By cutting him now, the Giants would save $6.5 million in 202 and $20.5 million in 2021.
Marcell Dareus’ Time Is Up In Jacksonville
If the Jacksonville Jaguars cut two-time pro bowler Marcell Dareus, the team will save themselves $22.5 million in 2020. For a player of his age and caliber, this seems like a bad decision. The Jaguars, however, might decide to make room for a “younger model.”
That player looking to break into the starting lineup is Taven Bryan, a first-round draft pick from 2018. In 2019, when Dareus was placed on injured reserved, Bryan took over the job and played his way into the hearts of his coaching staff.
Trey Burton Was Almost A Big Deal
Trey Burton was on the verge of being a superstar in the NFL when he signed with the Chicago Bears in 2018. They thought his four-year, $32 million was a steal, unfortunately, he never caught on.
In two seasons, Burton has never had more than 569 receiving yards. Last season he only started five games and caught a pedestrian 14 passes. It’s safe to say the Bears will strongly consider cutting him in 2020 and saving more than $8 million.
Nick Foles Is Not The Hero Of Jacksonville
The Jaguars thought they had a can’t-miss deal when they signed Nick Foles to a two-year deal a year after he won the Super Bowl. Then, in his first start for Jacksonville, Foles broke his clavicle and was benched for eight weeks.
In that eight-week span, rookie QB Gardner Minshew took over and became a sensation. Perhaps it was his mustache or his love of jorts, or perhaps it was his exceptional TD to INT ratio. Whatever it was, Minshew looks like he’ll be the starter in 2020 and Foles will be in a different uniform.
Is Tyreek Hill Worth The Trouble?
We know what you’re thinking – why in the world would the Kansas City Chiefs ever release Tyreek Hill? The short answer is they probably won’t. The longer one is that you shouldn’t be surprised if they do.
Hill has shown to be unstoppable on the field. The problem is he has also proven to be unstoppable off it and has had multiple run-ins with the law. Combine that with his inability to stay healthy, and you can see why the Chiefs would consider this move.
Delanie Walker Might Be Sent… Walking
When healthy, the Titans’ tight end Delanie Walker is one of the best at his position. The problem is he has trouble staying healthy. The last full season Walker played was 2016. He caught 74 passes and gained 807 yards.
The next season, he only played one game and in 2019 he played in seven games. Tennessee, knowing they can’t rely on Walker going into his age 36 season, drafted a tight end to replace him.
Alex Smith Got Hurt At The Wrong Time
The Washington Redskins were desperate to change the direction of the franchise when they traded the Chiefs for Alex Smith. When the trade was announced, the team also announced a massive extension for the quarterback.
In his first season in Washington, Smith broke his leg and required several surgeries. In the offseason, the team drafted Dwayne Haskins and signed Case Keenum. By the end of 2019, Haskins was the starter and Smith never saw the field. He might not ever again.
Le’Veon Bell Could Be Cut Or Traded
There’s trouble in paradise in New York, where Le’Veon Bell’s future is in doubt after one season. Bell was signed to his deal before Adam Gase was hired as the team’s head coach. And although they played nice during the season, there were rumblings that Gase never wanted Bell on the roster.
All that drama could boil over and lead to Bell being cut in New York after one season. The more likely scenario is that he gets traded, but where’s the fun in that?
Jerick McKinnon Will Be On The Next Flight Out Of SF
Two seasons ago, the San Francisco 49ers signed Jerick McKinnon to add an explosive element to their backfield. Then, during the preseason, he tore his ACL and hasn’t seen the field since. In that time, Raheem Mostert has emerged as the team’s most dangerous speedster.
McKinnon, who signed a four year deal with the 49ers, should find himself in free agency. Still young and extremely talented, he should catch onto another contract easily, even if he has to prove that he can stay healthy on the field.
Sammy Watkins Could Be The Odd Man Out In KC
If Tyreek Hill stays in KC as he likely will, it would be hard to see Sammy Watkins staying with him. Cutting Watkins would save the Chiefs $14 million, and with the emergence of rookie wideout Mecole Hardman, that is money that KC would probably like to keep.
If the Chiefs decide to trade Watkins instead, they would save even more money. Considering his age, contract, health concerns, and overall usage though, there would not be too many teams lining up.
Jimmy Graham Hasn’t Been Worth The Money
Jimmy Graham was a revelation as a tight end in New Orleans. When the team traded him to Seattle, fans were shocked. When he floundered in Seattle, the Saints looked justified. Now in Green Bay, Graham continues to look like a product of a scheme.
In 2019, Graham failed to reach 500 receiving yards for the first time since his rookie season. That alone is reason enough for concern for a team paying him $11 million. If the Packers are smart, they won’t make that mistake in 2020.
Dontari Poe Doesn’t Rack Up The Numbers
In his eight-year NFL career, Panthers defensive tackle Dontari Poe has 20.5 sacks. He has never finished a season with double-digit sacks and is worth $13.3 million against the salary cap in 2020.
If Poe’s production was higher, his place in the Carolina locker room wouldn’t be in question. As it stands, the Panthers have a new head coach, and he will be thoroughly looking the roster up and down.
Cam Newton Became His Own Kryptonite
After winning an MVP, going 15-1 in the regular season, and leading the Carolina Panthers to one of the team’s two Super Bowls, Cam Newton’s time is running out. Past his prime and injury-prone, new head coach Matt Rhule would be wise to install his own young quarterback and start 2020 with a clean slate.
As a free agent, Newton will surely attract plenty of attention from teams looking for bridge quarterbacks. He still has the talent, he just needs to find the right system.
Eric Reid Makes Too Many Headlines
Prior to the 2019 season, safety Eric Reid signed a three-year contract with the Panthers. So far, he has played up to his salary, which won’t be why he gets cut. Reid has become a divisive player in the NFL after kneeling with Colin Kaepernick.
It doesn’t help Reid’s case that he has publicly made it known how many times he has been “randomly” tested by the NFL. Cutting him would save Panthers $5 million and headache-inducing headlines.
Look For A True Slot WR
He had an okay 2019 campaign, but the Chicago Bears need more than that if they want to start seriously competing again. Bringing in Khalil Mack was a great move, but the offense isn’t where it needs to be.
Taylor Gabriel is more like a top 75 talent at the WR position that relies on athleticism due to his smaller frame. There are other affordable receivers on the market, so Gabriel can look to get cut soon.
The Carr That Won’t Go
For 11 years straight, Brandon Carr started every game of his career. That shows you just how much he takes care of his body. If the Ravens want to cut some of their salary-cap issues, then they will get rid of Carr.
It would make sense too, since the Ravens already have young players capable of playing Carr’s position. This is more about money then it is about production, so it’ll be interesting to see what route they choose.
The Chiefs Won’t Need Him
There was a time when LeSean McCoy was a force on the field. He would rack up yards with ease and didn’t need much blocking to do it. Those days aren’t here anymore.
McCoy is a reserve on a one-year deal with the Chiefs. With them making Super Bowl LIV with little to no help from McCoy, chances are they won’t exercise another contract. He might be a great practice squad player now, but the Chiefs don’t need him.
The Lost Star
“As you know, I think we had a real vision for what we could do with him,” owner Jerry Jones said. That’s what Jones said after they acquired the WR, but it didn’t turn out as he planned.
The Cowboys aren’t the team America hoped for, but they’re trying to improve. That might include giving Austin the boot, but whether that happens remains a mystery. They got rid of their former head coach, so anything is possible.
Bidding A Stud Farewell
Since 2011, Chris Harris Jr. has had an impact on the Denver Broncos at that cornerback position. He’s been there so long and accomplished so much, he thought it was right to ask for an extension.
The Broncos weren’t too happy about the idea. “That has not been thought about just yet,” general manager John Elway said at the NFL Scouting Combine, per the Denver Post‘s Ryan O’Halloran. “… We’re going to get through this first wave and see what we can do in free agency. Then after that, we’ll look at different options.” Other teams like the Eagles have already expressed interest.
Riddick Isn’t The Correct Fit
Detroit used to be the place running backs would go to have their careers end. That isn’t the case anymore after Kerryon Johnson rushed for 100-yards against New England not too long ago.
“We’re trying to be a complete offense, we’re trying to be complete players,” Johnson said, per the Detroit Free Press‘ Dave Birkett. The thing is, Riddick isn’t a complete player. He’s more one-dimensional so the Lions might send him packing sooner rather than later.
Parker Might Get Parked Elsewhere
DeVante Parker hasn’t played out of this world, but he isn’t the worst either. Due to this, he’s had no problem staying on the roster of a team that hasn’t had much luck lately.
With the addition of a new coaching staff, Parker was excited about a “fresh start,” but the coaches need to see progress. He had his best season in 2019, but it wasn’t attention-grabbing. We won’t be surprised to see him leave the franchise.
Where Is The Future For Joseph?
Earlier in 2019, the Raiders declined to pick up Karl Joseph’s fifth-year option. “That’s a big story for some people,” head coach John Gruden said afterward, per the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Matt Kawahara. “But that does not mean that we don’t want Karl with us this year and in the future.”
Now with the Las Vegas Raiders, Joseph might not be able to enjoy the late-night slots in the future. The Raiders are a tricky organization, so we’ll see if Gruden’s words hold weight.
A Torn ACL Might Keep Him Away
Early in 2019, the Seattle Seahawks agreed on a one-year extension with Mychal Kendricks. It’s not like he didn’t deserve it, as he’s played well at the linebacker position. Sadly, things didn’t go as planned towards the end of the season.
Kendricks tore his ACL before the playoffs and couldn’t help the Seahawks on their journey to the big game. If Seattle has any reason to believe that he won’t be able to come back at the same level, he might not come back at all.
Will He Stay Or Will He Go?
Artie Burns lacked the one thing every corner needs to be successful and it showed. We’re talking about his confidence, which is a big deal when sticking the best receivers in the league.
“Artie lost his confidence and wasn’t where we needed him to be and was replaced in the starting lineup,” general manager Kevin Colbert said. The Steelers declined his fifth-year option in 2019, making him a free agent in 2020. Chances are they won’t work out a new deal.
Bernard’s Days Might Be Numbered
While the Bengals did recently sign Giovani Bernard to a two-year contract extension, that doesn’t mean he’s safe from getting cut. They already have Joe Mixon — he leads the charge, so why keep Bernard around?
In a limited role, the back only racked up 170 rushing yards during the 2019 season. Those aren’t the greatest numbers, even as a number two. Cutting him can save the Bengals money and allow them to bring in other pieces they really need.
There’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is Derrick Henry. The Titans were only one win away from going to Super Bowl LIV thanks to Henry, but not so much Dion Lewis.
He’s been solid in his career, but 2019 wasn’t too spectacular for Lewis. He only had 209 rushing yards to go with zero touchdowns. The Titans don’t need him on their roster, so maybe he can find somewhere that doesn’t already have a game-changing running back.
What Happened To Cooks?
There was a time when Brandin Cooks was one of the most dangerous threats on the field thanks to his outlandish speed. Drew Brees would find him late in games, but that quickly changed.
After playing with the Patriots, he made the move to the Rams and in 2019, Cooks had his worst season since his rookie year. Cooks isn’t the player that defenses once feared anymore and it shows. The Rams can save some money cutting ties.
Can’t Help But Feel Bad
Jordan Reed used to be the Redskins’ biggest threat on the offensive side of the ball. Then, that slowly started to change after the 2015 season and his numbers dropped.
In 2019, Reed didn’t play one snap thanks to concussion symptoms. Something like that could easily spell the end of Reed’s career as we know it, but it might be too early to tell. The Redskins might look to get rid of him before things get worse.
Another Cook Doesn’t Make The Cut
Jared Cook’s career has been nice, long, and productive. His best season might’ve happened when he was on the Raiders in 2017, but his 2019 campaign with the Saints wasn’t too bad.
It’s hard to have a bad year when Drew Brees throws you the ball all year. With Brees thinking about calling it quits, who would be there to feed the veteran and help him continue his consistency? This one relies on Brees, so we’ll see what happens.
The Olgetree Goes Down!
Alec Ogletree began his career with the Rams, where he would become a second-team All-Pro player in 2016. In the past, he’s been a reliable linebacker, but can he keep it up on his new team, the New York Giants?
In the 2019 season, he only recorded one interception, and it was against an inexperienced quarterback. The verdict is still out on whether the Giants will decide to keep him around or cut down the tree.
A Limited 2019 Might Cost Trufant
Outside of the 2016 season, Desmond Trufant hasn’t missed more than one game in a year. Then 2019 came around and he suffered a toe injury that cost him seven games for the Falcons.
When he’s on the field, he does his job. There’s no real reason for the Falcons to cut him if we’re basing it on production, but Trufant might become too expensive soon. If the Falcons want to save some money, then they might get rid of him.
Will The Lions Keep Daniels?
The Packers elected to release defensive tackle Mike Daniels on July 24, 2019. Only a few days later, the Detroit Lions picked him up on a one-year deal worth $9.1 million.
While he was effective in Green Bay for the start of his career, he slowly began to decline in 2017. While with the Lions, he only played nine games before they placed him on injured reserve in December. Chances are high they don’t bring him back.
Los Angeles Might Lose A Back
Jatavis Brown played in 13 games during the 2019 season for the Los Angeles Chargers. In those matches, he only had four solo tackles and no quarterback hits. He also didn’t have one sack to his name.
We aren’t the brightest experts of the NFL, but we know that doesn’t equate to having a team want to bring you back. The Chargers could cut him and save over two million on their cap, so that doesn’t help his case.
Will Keelan Cole Remain?
The Jacksonville Jaguars look like they can compete one week, then the next they might look like the top college team can beat them with ease. That’s the nature of the NFL, not every team can remain consistent all the time.
With Keelan Cole, he really isn’t contributing to helping them advance. In 2019, he played in all 16 games, but he only started in one. With the Jaguars having a bevy of options at receiver, things don’t look too bright for Cole.