As we near the opening of free agency at the beginning of March, there are a few interesting players under contract with other teams that could be released as those teams begin to maneuver to re-sign their own players or pursue other key free agents. These are usually expensive veteran players towards the end of their second contracts who have very little guaranteed money left in their deal. Sometimes they are cut because their performance simply doesn’t match up to what they’re being paid. Other times it has more to do with a team being low on cap space and having some higher priority players to re-sign.
The key numbers when looking for candidates are Cap Hit and Dead Cap. Releasing a player saves the team the difference between those two numbers against the cap. For example, Harry Douglas has a 2017 Cap Hit of $4,483,334 and a Dead Cap number of $733,334 which means the Titans could save $3,750,000 worth of cap space for 2017 by releasing him this offseason. Spotrac has put together a really good list of these roster bubble type players. Douglas and Jason McCourty were the only two Titans to make the list (although I would suggest Searcy, Woodyard, and Woods are all potential candidates if we sign upgrades at their positions in free agency). Below are a few of them that could draw some interest from the Titans if they become available:
Brandon Marshall, WR (NYJ)
Potential Savings: $7.5M
Reason He Could Be Cut: The Jets cap situation is a disaster coming in to 2017 and they will have to release several high priced veterans just to get under the cap before even considering signing new players. The good news, if you want to call it that, for them is that they have a lot of high-priced guys that they could move on from pretty easily besides Marshall (Revis, Clady, Giacomini, Gilchrist, and Harris are other options). The reason I think it is likely that Marshall could be gone is primarily due to issues that erupted in the Jets locker room this year primarily involving Marshall and Sheldon Richardson. This issue has followed Marshall throughout his career showing up in his previous stops in Chicago and Denver as well. Marshall has had a well-chronicled struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder throughout his life which often contributes to his emotional outbursts. Marshall should be commended for his openness about his mental health issues and his work promoting mental healthy awareness, but his issues seem to be exaggerated when combined with the stress of working for a losing team in the NFL. With the Jets likely in for a long rebuild, it just doesn’t make much sense for them to hang on to a 32 year old receiver who is easily frustrated.
Reason He Could Be a Titan: The Titans desperately need wide receiver help as we all know despite the additions of Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe last year. Marshall is just a year removed from the best season of his career. His 2015 numbers (109 catches for 1,502 yards and 14 TD’s on a 63% catch rate) were incredible and helped make Ryan Fitzpatrick look like a competent NFL quarterback, but he couldn’t repeat the magic in 2016. If the Titans thought he could return to form with a better quarterback and outside of the bright spotlight of New York, I could see a potential fit. Ultimately I think Marshall’s difficult personality and age make him an unlikely solution for the Titans. I think they will want to target a younger wide receiver who can grow with Mariota rather than a stopgap guy.
Jeremy Maclin, WR (KC)
Potential Savings: $5.2M
Reason He Could Be Cut: The Chiefs have quite possibly the worst cap situation in the NFL currently. They are going to have to cut multiple players just to be able to re-sign one of their premium free agents: Eric Berry and Dontari Poe. To even attempt to keep two they would almost certainly have to cut Maclin. He struggled in 2016 and the emergence of Tyreek Hill has made him somewhat expendable for KC.
Reason He Could Be a Titan: Maclin is just 28 years old and had put together back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in 2014 and 2015. He excelled in Philadelphia early in his career as a deep ball threat, but really developed in to a complete receiver before getting his big free agent deal from the Chiefs prior to the 2015 season. His skillset would fill a giant speed gap in the Titans wide receiver corps and he would get an opportunity to work with a quarterback that better suits his game. If the Chiefs sacrifice him to retain their two defensive stars I could definitely see the Titans pursuing him.
Mike Wallace, WR (BAL)
Potential Savings: $5.75M
Reason He Could Be Cut: Brandon Williams. Williams is the Ravens human wrecking ball of a nose tackle and he will be a free agent on March 9th if they cannot work out a contract extension beforehand. (The Titans would be wise to make a run at him if he does hit the market) That contract extension will not be cheap as Williams is one of the best nose tackles (possibly THE best) in the NFL. Something in the neighborhood of $12-13M per year is not outside the realm of possibility for him. If the Ravens are going to make that kind of offer they are going to have to clear some space in 2017. This is especially true if they decide to offer an extension to Timmy Jernigan to get out ahead of his potential free agency in 2018. Wallace was the Ravens leading receiver last season and with Steve Smith retiring and Kamar Aiken heading in to free agency, losing Wallace would leave them with just one receiver (Breshad Perriman) returning in 2017. I think Wallace will most likely be back with the Ravens somehow next year.
Reason He Could Be a Titan: If Wallace does hit the market, he could be a good, low cost option for the Titans to add some speed to the wide receiver corps. I really don’t think this one is going to happen though.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB (NYG)
Potential Savings: $4.5M
Reason He Could Be Cut: DRC had a fantastic year in 2016 as part of one of the best defenses in the NFL. PFF rated him as the 5th best corner in the NFL and he was selected as an All-Pro. Despite his excellent play, he will be 31 next season and the Giants drafted their “corner of the future” last year in Eli Apple. The Giants don’t have a ton of cap room and will need to re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul to a long term deal which could reach up to $14-15M per season. The Giants have some real issues on the offensive line, tight end, and running back which held them back this season. They may decide that adding a piece on the offensive side of the ball is more valuable than keeping DRC. More likely than an outright cut would be a trade to secure additional draft capital. There are rumblings out there that a trade is something the Giants front office could be interested in and given DRC’s age I suspect the most they could hope to get back would be something like a 5th round pick.
Reason He Could Be a Titan: Rodgers-Cromartie is still one of the top players in the league at the Titans biggest need position so if you are looking for a potential DeMarco Murray-esque trade, this is your most likely option in my opinion. Its an interesting alternative scenario for acquiring a veteran corner without wading in to the unpredictable and likely more pricey free agent market. I could see him as a good bridge type player to allow a rookie corner to grow rather than throwing him in to a full-time starter role immediately.
Vontae Davis, CB (IND)
Potential Savings: $10.1M
Reason He Could Be Cut: Davis is one of the league’s best corners when healthy, but he has struggled with injuries keeping him off the field or severely limiting his skills over the past few seasons. His contributions have been nowhere near equal to where his cap number is right now which makes him likely to either have his contract restructured or the Colts could decide to release him outright and move on.
Reason He Could Be a Titan: Davis is just 28 so he theoretically should have several good years left in him if he can stay healthy. If Davis hits the market, I could see a short, low risk deal to bring him in making a lot of sense for us. If he gets healthy he could end up being a steal.