13 High-Profile Receivers That Could Be Available Via Cut or Trade
We already know the 2018 free-agency class is underwhelming, especially at the skill positions, where the Ravens are trying to bulk up.
The receiver class in particular isn't the most exciting, and it could get worse if teams decide to place the franchise tag on top options like Miami's Jarvis Landy, Jacksonville's Allen Robinson or L.A.'s Sammy Watkins.
On the flip side, the options could get much more intriguing depending on who ultimately finds themselves on the street or trading block.
"'On paper, it's the worst group of free agents I've seen since I've been doing this,'" a top NFL executive told CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora. "Of course, things could get a little more interesting via the trade route, and undoubtedly a handful of accomplished veterans will hit the market at some point due to being released for cap or other purposes."
That's music to the Ravens' ears, as cap casualties and trades don't count against the compensatory pick formula.
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal compiled a list of cut candidates around the NFL, and I've pared it down to 13 receivers and tight ends that could hit the market.
Strong Candidates for Release …
1) New York Giants WR Brandon Marshall (33 years old)
2017 stats: 5 starts, 18 catches, 154 yards, 0 TDs
2018 cap numbers: $6.2M cap hit, $1M dead money if cut
Marshall underwent ankle surgery in October, prematurely ending his season. He'll turn 34 just after free agency opens, which puts Marshall on the back-nine of his career. The Giants have plenty of young ascending pass-catchers with receivers Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram.
2-3) Green Bay Packers WRs Jordy Nelson (32) or Randall Cobb (27)Nelson's 2017 stats: 15 starts, 53 catches, 482 yards, 6 TDs; Cobb: 14 starts, 66 catches, 653 yards, 4 TDs
Nelson's 2018 cap numbers: $12.5M cap hit, $2.3M dead money; Cobb: $12.7M, $3.25M
"This is shaping up as an either/or scenario," wrote Rosenthal. "Green Bay handed receiver Davante Adams a big extension in December, and it would be surprising to see the Packers bring back their top three receivers for more than $35 million." Quarterback Aaron Rodgers may have something to say about who stays or who goes, but it may require a pay cut (or two) for all three receivers to remain in Green Bay.
4) Miami Dolphins TE Julius Thomas (29)2017 stats: 14 games, 12 starts; 41 catches, 338 yards, 3 TDs*2018 cap numbers: $6.6M cap hit, $2M dead money if cut
*Thomas had nowhere near the production in Miami that he saw with the Denver Broncos, where he scored 24 touchdowns in two seasons in 2013-14. His quarterback at the time was Peyton Manning. Miami was hoping the 6-foot-5, 262-pounder would be a big red-zone target, but he only notched three touchdowns last season.
5) Los Angeles Rams WR Tavon Austin (27)2017 stats: 16 games, 9 starts; 13 catches, 47 yards, 0 TDs*2018 cap numbers: $8M cap hit, $5M dead money if cut
*Austin has only eclipsed the 500-yard receiving mark once in his five-year career, so his $42 million deal with $28.5 million in guarantees "was the strangest" personnel move made during the Jeff Fisher era, says Rosenthal. Austin is a Baltimore native who played at Dunbar High School.
6) Jacksonville Jaguars WR Allen Hurns (26)2017 stats: 10 games; 39 catches, 484 yards, 2 TDs2018 cap numbers: $7M cap hit, $0M dead money if cut"GM David Caldwell made all the right moves in 2017. The same wasn't true in 2016, when … re-signed Hurns on a too-early extension for a former undrafted free agent," wrote Rosenthal. Hurns had a 1,000-yard season in 2015, but has failed to reach 500 in the two seasons since.
7-8) Chicago Bears TE Dion Sims (26) and WR Markus Wheaton (27)Sims' 2017 stats: 14 starts, 15 catches, 180 yards, 1 TD; Wheaton: 11 games, 3 catches, 51 yards, 0 TDs
Sims' 2018 cap numbers: $6.33M cap hit, $333K dead money; Wheaton: $5.75M, $750K
*"Wheaton was handed $6 million guaranteed and produced three catches in 2017," Rosenthal wrote. "Sims gave the team so-so blocking at tight end for the exact same price." Cutting this pair would result in about $12 million in cap savings. Wheaton hasn't lived up to the production he saw in Pittsburgh when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was throwing to him. *Sims isn't known as a pass-catching tight end.
1-2) Denver Broncos WRs Emmanuel Sanders (30) and Demaryius Thomas (30)Sanders' 2017 stats: 11 starts, 47 catches, 555 yards, 2 TDs; Thomas: 16 starts, 83 catches, 949 yards, 5 TDs
*Sanders' 2018 cap numbers: $10.9M cap hit, $5.4M dead money; Thomas: $12M, $4.4M
*Reports on what could happen with these two are all over the place. Per La Canfora, NFL general managers believe both will be available via trade. The Broncos have until mid-March to decide whether to exercise a $1 million option in Thomas' deal, which would trigger the final two years of his contract with $12 million and $17.5 million cap hits. "I wouldn't think either receiver is at much risk of leaving, but Broncos GM John Elway is looking to shake things up this offseason and was notably non-committal when asked about the duo at the Senior Bowl," wrote Rosenthal. "Sanders would appear to be the more likely candidate to go."
On the Bubble
1) Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (29)2017 stats: 16 starts; 69 catches, 838 yards, 6 TDs*2018 cap numbers: $16.5M cap hit, $8M dead money if cut
*There's no question Bryant can still put up big numbers, but he hasn't hit the 1,000-yard mark in three years and $16.5 million is a lot to pay somebody who isn't consistently putting up massive numbers. Owner Jerry Jones already admitted the Cowboys need to see more from Bryant. Rather than cut him, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports an extension to flatten out his cap hit over several years might be the route the two sides take.
2)Philadelphia Eagles WR Torrey Smith (29)2017 stats: 14 starts; 36 catches, 430 yards, 2 TDs*2018 cap numbers: $5M cap hit, $0 dead money if cut
*Per OvertheCap.com, the Eagles are the only NFL team who would be over the cap limit if the new league year started today. So, they'll have to make some room before March, and releasing Smith won't give them any dead money. The Eagles have plenty of other receiving options, as Smith was the fourth on the team with 36 catches.
3) Oakland Raiders WR Michael Crabtree (30)2017 stats: 14 starts; 58 catches, 618 yards, 8 TDs*2018 cap numbers: $7.6M cap hit, $0 dead money if cut
*Crabtree has had a good run in Oakland, putting up numbers around the 1,000-yard mark in his first two years. It took a dip last year, however, as the offense as a whole didn't play up to its usual higher standards. With a new head coach in town, it's unclear who's safe. "How much rebuilding does Jon Gruden really want to do?" asked Rosenthal.
Questions About How Things Will Look When Eric DeCosta Takes Over
When Owner Steve Bisciotti announced this will be Ozzie Newsome's last season as the Ravens general manager and Eric DeCosta will succeed him, the news was still sinking in and reporters didn't ask very many questions about how things will look going forward.
The team released a statement from Newsome, explaining that he would still have a "significant position in personnel" while DeCosta takes over the direction of free agency and the draft.
Newsome is expected to speak in less than two weeks at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec will come prepared with several questions about how the new setup might work and what Newsome's exact role will be.
Among them are:
- "Given the influence DeCosta already has in the front office, how will a DeCosta-led draft be different from one led by Newsome?"
- "Will the Ravens hire an assistant general manager from the outside to work with DeCosta or will they promote from within, giving George Kokinis, Vince Newsome or maybe even Scott Cohen bigger roles?"
- "As coach John Harbaugh heads into a potentially critical season for his future in Baltimore, what's his relationship like with DeCosta — it's presumed to be good — and will there be any temptation for DeCosta to start fresh next offseason and pair himself with a new coach? Or is that mostly Bisciotti's decision anyway?"
Torrey Smith: 'I Feel Like It's Part of My Purpose to Be' in Baltimore
No, Smith isn't talking about playing football in Baltimore again. He's still under contract in Philadelphia … although he's not against the possibility of a reunion down the road.
But more than anything, Smith is talking about serving Baltimore in the community. Despite leaving the Ravens three years ago, the 2011 second-round pick still gives back in the area. He and his wife are also having a home built in Howard County.
Smith will return again March 17 for his annual charity basketball game at Royal Farms Arena.
"I see a lot of potential in the city and in the people," Smith told Glenn Clark Radio, per PressBox. "So for me, it's just as simple as wanting to help them. And you can't be so committed to the people and the city like I was and then just leave because my jersey changes.
"When I retire, you'll see me around here all the time, because we'll be living in Maryland. It's been a huge commitment for us, and, more so than the commitment, I feel like it's part of my purpose to be here and be the best that I can be for the city."
- "If you criticize the Ravens for not taking draft risks on players with character flags, do you not now have to praise them for bypassing the San Francisco 49ers' Reuben Foster, who was arrested Sunday for the second time this offseason and is now facing domestic violence charges?" asked Zrebiec. [The Baltimore Sun]
- "The onus will be on Harbaugh and his staff to make sure an extra preseason game and another week of practice because of the Hall of Fame Game doesn't lead to injuries and veterans wearing down," Zrebiec added. "Theoretically, more repetitions and opportunities for young players should be a good thing." [The Baltimore Sun]