NFLTR Review: Diving Into Potential Cap Casualties For Every Team

     

The final weekend of the 2020 season is here and we have a highly informative issue of NFLTR Review to send you into the offseason! In this week’s issue:

  • A comprehensive look at potential salary cuts on all 32 teams
  • Recapping the latest developments for this spring’s potential Great QB Migration
  • Why the Rams’ bet on Matthew Stafford is riskier than it looks

Cap Casualties

It’s been well established that the 2021 salary cap is going to be lower than previous years thanks to major revenue losses from the pandemic. How low is yet to be determined exactly. The NFL and NFLPA agreed before the season that the floor would be $175 million. They could make it higher, the latest word is as high as $185 million, but no matter what, the league will be borrowing significantly from future revenues to compensate this offseason. 

In a similar situation after the last CBA, NFL owners hated the idea of smoothing out the cap by borrowing from the future, calling it an “interest-free loan” to the players. Plenty of things change in the league every year, but NFL owners prioritizing the bottom line above everything else is a constant. Coaches and general managers won’t want to slash their rosters to get under a lower cap but owners are the ones whose opinions carry the real weight. 

That’s setting up for a February that’s as brutal as any we’ve seen when it comes to roster cuts. Stars should be safe and players on rookie deals with minimal cap savings as well. Anyone else should be worried, as the veteran middle class in the NFL is about to get rocked. Fourteen teams need to cut salary to get under the cap and that’s not including the other usual trimming that goes on this time of year. It could even set up a mini free agency in a way before the real thing, as players who are cut are free to sign right away instead of waiting until the start of the league year. 

Here’s a comprehensive look at the players who could be on the chopping block in the coming weeks, team by team, with cap savings in parentheses:

Bears: DT Akiem Hicks ($10.5 million), TE Jimmy Graham ($7 million), RT Bobby Massie ($5.4 million), CB Buster Skrine ($2.737 million)

Graham is a pretty easy cut given how Chicago spent a second-round pick on Cole Kmet last year. Massie was replaced by Germain Ifedi after being hurt and the Bears didn’t seem to experience much of a dropoff. Cutting Skrine doesn’t free up a lot of cap space, but there are younger, cheaper players behind him. Hicks is the biggest name here and the Bears would likely try to find a different solution, perhaps a pay cut or an extension. But $10.5 million in savings is hard to ignore when looking at their cap situation. 

Bengals: DT Geno Atkins ($9.5 million), RT Bobby Hart ($5.837 million), TE C.J. Uzomah ($5.075 million), RB Giovani Bernard ($4.1 million), OL B.J. Finney ($3.3 million)

The Bengals are one of the league’s best-positioned teams in terms of projected available cap space this offseason but they could nearly double their number relatively easily and make major splashes in free agency for the second straight year. That’s not really Cincinnati’s MO, however, so don’t expect them to pull the trigger on veterans like Bernard or Uzomah even if they could find cheaper replacements relatively easily. Atkins, Hart and Finney are likely goners, though. 

Bills: DL Quinton Jefferson ($8 million), WR John Brown ($7.931 million), DT Vernon Butler ($6.818 million), C Mitch Morse ($4.843 million), LB Tyler Matakevich ($3.35 million), TE Lee Smith ($2.25 million), CB Taron Johnson ($2.183 million)

Buffalo isn’t in as bad of shape as some teams but the Bills still have work to do to get into the black. Beat writers have highlighted Morse as someone who has fallen out of favor despite being a somewhat major free-agent signing just two years ago. He could be cut and the savings reallocated to bring back G Jon Feliciano as a better scheme fit. Jefferson and Butler were signed last year but their cap hits don’t match their impact. Brown is still an effective player but the promise rookie WR Gabriel Davis showed could push him out given the savings. Matakevich is a special teams only player, which is a big luxury at that price tag. 

Smith is in a similar boat as an exclusively blocking tight end, but the Bills might find keeping him more appealing given their struggles to run the ball in 2020. Johnson likely won’t hear his name called in the first wave of cuts but keep an eye on him as the offseason progresses, as Buffalo has been searching for a hybrid nickel defender and the proven performance escalator pushed his salary above the minimum. 

Broncos: OLB Von Miller ($18 million), A.J. Bouye ($13.218 million), DT Jurrell Casey ($11.874 million), CB Bryce Callahan ($6.812 million), TE Nick Vannett ($2.678 million), QB Jeff Driskel ($2.5 million)

Miller is obviously a huge name but that’s a huge price tag for someone coming off a major ankle ligament injury. Keeping him at that salary is hard, and Denver likely will find a hard time finding a taker for that contract in a trade. If they can’t agree to a pay cut and don’t want to extend Miller going into his age 32 season, the Broncos could cut him outright. 

Bouye and Casey are big names but their performance doesn’t match their price tag at this point. Denver has more depth behind Casey than it does Bouye, which could help the veteran corner’s chances to stick around. Callahan is a strong candidate for a pay cut given his injury struggles since signing with the team as a free agent. The Broncos have a few promising young tight ends that have made Vannett expendable. Driskel appeared to lose his hold on the backup quarterback job so we’ll see if Denver thinks he’s still worth keeping over an extra couple million. 

Browns: DT Sheldon Richardson ($11.5 million), DE Adrian Clayborn ($3 million)

Cleveland’s cap situation is pretty good and the roster is in good shape with not a lot of obvious cuts where cap space could be better allocated. Richardson is a solid starter, but he carries the 16th-highest cap hit for an interior defensive lineman in 2021. He was Pro Football Focus’ 49th-graded player, by comparison, so there’s some inefficiency there. Cutting him would mean the Browns would be replacing both starting defensive tackles this offseason but they need more out of that position anyway. Clayborn is fine but he’s the type of veteran who could find it hard to get work at anything more than the minimum next year. 

Buccaneers: LT Donovan Smith ($14.25 million), TE Cameron Brate ($6.5 million), DL William Gholston ($5.5 million), P Bradley Pinion ($2.8 million)

An interesting conundrum with the Buccaneers this offseason will be how they handle Smith. He’s caught a lot of grief in past years for being a weak spot on the offensive line but he played better in 2020, though still not terrific. Cutting him would free up a major chunk of change but also open up a gaping hole in the starting five that protects Tom Brady. Brate and Gholston are easier decisions, with Tampa Bay’s depth at the position making it hard to keep them at those cap hits. Punter is another place the Buccaneers can save money to both re-sign a number of key pending free agents and continue to make moves to keep the Super Bowl window alive. 

Cardinals: G Justin Pugh ($7.187 million), CB Robert Alford ($7.5 million), OLB Devon Kennard ($4.156 million)

Alford just hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and unfortunately, the Cardinals can’t commit to him any longer given how much they can save. Pugh is still playing well but not to a point where Arizona would experience a massive dropoff even with just a replacement-level player. His leadership on the team carries some clout, though, so that would qualify as a bit of a surprising cut. Kennard just signed with the Cardinals after being a cap casualty of the Lions last year but Arizona has some other younger edge rushers that money could be better spent on keeping. 

Chargers: G Trai Turner ($11.5 million), CB Casey Hayward ($9.75 million), LB Kyzir White ($2.183 million)

Acquired in a trade from the Panthers last offseason, Turner battled health issues for much of the year and never had the impact the Chargers thought they were getting. At his best with the Panthers, Turner was one of the league’s top guards, but $11.5 million is a big chunk of change to invest elsewhere if the Chargers don’t think they’ll get that return on investment. Hayward’s play slipped as well in 2020, so the Chargers will have to decide if he’ll go back to being an elite cover guy in 2021 or if it’s the beginning of the end for the soon-to-be-32-year-old. White is another example of the PPE putting a player on the roster bubble. 

Chiefs: RB Damien Williams ($2.175 million)

For a team nearly $20 million over the cap as projections currently stand, the Chiefs don’t have many cuts that would painlessly free up cap space. Williams is the lone example as the Chiefs have gotten okay production from their depth at the position and obviously committed majorly by drafting Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round last April. Something to keep an eye on is the status of Kansas City’s two starting tackles. Both have dealt with injuries and both could free up major chunks of cash if released, though at the expense of creating major holes at what once was a position of strength. 

Colts: TE Jack Doyle ($4.35 million)

The Colts have the second-best cap situation in the NFL behind the division-rival Jaguars so there’s not a lot of work to do to optimize their finances for GM Chris Ballard. One place Indianapolis could look is at tight end, where they’ve expressed an interest in getting more dynamic. Doyle is reliable, but not dynamic, so the Colts could try to get more bang for their buck. Then again, Doyle’s contract also isn’t prohibitive to keep given the team’s bounty of cap space. 

Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown ($2.75 million), P Chris Jones ($2 million)

The Cowboys will have other levers to pull, mainly restructures, to create cap space to accommodate QB Dak Prescott, either on a tag or long-term deal. But Brown and Jones are two underperforming starters they can move on from to get a little bit of space. 

Dolphins: S Bobby McCain ($5.659 million), DB Eric Rowe ($4 million), WR Jakeem Grant ($2.887 million), WR Albert Wilson ($2.85 million), S Clayton Fejedelem ($2.478 million)

Miami is $23 million over the cap without lifting a finger so no drastic cuts needed here. The Dolphins could let McCain and Rowe go to move on to other younger options in the secondary but Rowe’s ability to match up against tight ends is prized by the coaching staff and could help him stay on. Grant and Wilson both are dynamic slot receivers who have struggled to stay on the field. The Dolphins might want to hold onto them until they see what kind of other receiving help they’re able to bring in. Fejedelem is primarily a special teamer which makes his cap hit a little rich. 

Eagles: WR DeSean Jackson ($4.857 million), TE Zach Ertz ($4.7 million), WR Marquise Goodwin ($4.281 million), WR Alshon Jeffery, DL Malik Jackson

The Eagles started the process of getting under the cap at the end of the regular season with a presumed accounting trick to get the benefit of designating Jeffery and Malik Jackson June 1 cuts without carrying their cap hits until June 1. Both are expected to be released before the start of the league year. DeSean Jackson and Goodwin have been expected cuts for a while now but Ertz is a new name. There’s some thought that his trade market will be flattened by his salary, the fact the Eagles have little choice but to move on and his struggles this past season. It’s a situation worth watching. 

Falcons: S Ricardo Allen ($6.25 million), DL Allen Bailey ($4.5 million), G James Carpenter ($4 million)

The Falcons are one of a number of teams with a major cap hole to dig out of. Cutting these three should knock out a portion of that but they’ll need to make up the rest with restructures. Bailey and Carpenter are fairly easy cuts, Allen plays more of a leadership role and will be more painful to let go. 

49ers: DE Dee Ford, ($5.726 million), C Weston Richburg ($4.5 million), LB Mark Nzeocha ($1.5 million)

Richburg has struggled to stay healthy so the 49ers are already accustomed to being without him. While cutting Nzeocha doesn’t free up much space when considering he has to be replaced by someone on a minimum salary, San Francisco is tight enough against the cap that every little bit helps. Which brings us to Ford, who’s also dealt with a plethora of injuries since joining the 49ers. That $5.7 million in savings is offset by a huge $14.3 million dead money cap hit. But if Ford won’t be able to contribute, and the 49ers aren’t positive he will be ready by the start of the season, San Francisco can’t keep him on a $20 million cap hit. Designating Ford a June 1 cut would bump the savings to $15.3 million and though the 49ers wouldn’t get that money to play with in free agency, they could put it toward extensions for players like LB Fred Warner over the summer. 

Giants: G Kevin Zeitler ($12 million), WR Golden Tate ($6.147 million), OT Nate Solder ($6 million), TE Levine Toilolo ($2.95 million), P Riley Dixon ($2.675 million), LB David Mayo ($2.3 million), WR Cody Core ($2 million)

Zeitler’s name was floating around at the trade deadline this past season because of his high salary. He’s still a capable starter and should find a decent market, but that’s a lot of money to save for New York and the Giants have younger alternatives at guard. Tate won’t mind the opportunity to leave after clashing with the coaching staff last year. Solder opted out and might either retire or have the Giants make that decision for him this year. Toilolo, Dixon, Mayo and Core are all backups and special teamers making more than the minimum, which is harder to justify this year. 

Jaguars: G Andrew Norwell ($9 million), C Brandon Linder ($8.562 million), TE Tyler Eifert ($5.25 million), G A.J. Cann ($5 million)

The Jaguars did a lot of their cutting last year, making multiple trades to dump salary. As a result, they’re projected to have the most cap space to spend of any team this year with $73 million. If they wanted to, they could clear even more to push $100 million in space by moving on from essentially their entire starting interior offensive line and Eifert. Moving on from all four might not be realistic, as the three linemen played pretty well and Eifert could be a security blanket for Trevor Lawrence. But one or two of them very well could hit the chopping block. 

Jets: DE Henry Anderson ($8.2 million), G Alex Lewis ($5.2 million)

The Jets will be one of the few teams swimming in cap space this year. They can get even more by cutting WR Jamison Crowder and RT George Fant, but that would open up even more holes they’d have to fix and both can still be starters in 2021. Anderson and Lewis are easy cuts though. 

Lions: CB Desmond Trufant ($6.187 million), CB Justin Coleman ($4.942 million), DT Nicholas Williams ($4.65 million), DT Danny Shelton ($4 million), QB Chase Daniel ($2.3 million)

Detroit appears to be gearing up for a long rebuild and the previous staff brought in a lot of scheme-specific players. So it wouldn’t be shocking to see some of the most extensive cuts coming from the Lions in the next few weeks. Trufant and Coleman have both underproduced compared to their salaries. The same is true to a lesser extent for Williams and Shelton as the Lions retool on defense. And Daniel is interesting as he has a lot of familiarity with the new coaching staff from his time with the Saints. But with Jared Goff on board, Detroit’s need for a veteran backup is minimal. 

Packers: OLB Preston Smith ($8 million), LB Christian Kirksey ($5.69 million), OT Ricky Wagner ($4.25 million), DL Dean Lowry ($3.3 million)

Smith was a big-ticket free-agent acquisition just a couple years ago and a big part of the team’s success in 2019. But his play dipped last year and a $16 million cap hit is tough to carry with the cap dipping. There’s a ready-made replacement behind Smith as well in former first-round OLB Rashan Gary but it still will be a tough cut to make. Kirksey, Wagner and even Lowry won’t be as difficult to part with. 

Panthers: DT Kawann Short ($8.6 million), DE Stephen Weatherly ($5.9 million), P Michael Palardy ($1.9 million)

Season-ending shoulder injuries in back-to-back seasons and a $19.6 million cap hit in 2021 probably means it’s curtains for Short in Carolina. Weatherly was a free-agent signing last year that has not worked out and Palardy was replaced fairly adeptly by rookie UDFA Joseph Charlton this past season. 

Patriots: RT Marcus Cannon ($7 million), WR Julian Edelman ($3.437 million), DL Beau Allen ($1.95 million)

The Patriots hit gold in the sixth round again with OL Michael Onwenu, who excelled pretty much anywhere New England put him as a rookie. If he can lock down right tackle, that makes Cannon expendable. Edelman’s body is failing him and the Patriots aren’t known for being sentimental in those situations. Allen never suited up for the Patriots due to injury. 

Raiders: RT Trent Brown ($14 million), WR Tyrell Williams ($11.6 million), QB Marcus Mariota ($11.35 million), DB Lamarcus Joyner ($8.7 million), G Richie Incognito ($5.6 million)

It’s not guaranteed that the Raiders will cut Brown, as if he’s healthy he’s still one of the game’s better right tackles and $14 million is worth that. Health is the major question, though, as Brown has missed as many games as he’s played in two seasons. This year was always the out in Williams’ deal when he signed it two years ago and injuries have ruined any chance he had to avoid being cut. Mariota’s one relief performance was intriguing but $11.35 million is far too much for a backup. Joyner is yet another free-agent signing who hasn’t lived up to his deal and the Raiders can get out of it. Incognito has been a pleasant surprise but the Raiders have younger, healthier options at guard. 

Rams: LT Andrew Whitworth ($5.3 million), RT Rob Havenstein ($5.17 million), DL Michael Brockers ($4.66 million)

The Rams roster is pretty maxed out toward a Super Bowl, so there aren’t a lot of places they can cut to clear cap space. They could drop one of their starting tackles perhaps as they have a little bit of depth to potentially absorb that loss. They noticeably didn’t unequivocally commit to Whitworth being back when he decided he wanted to play another year. However, it’s more likely they retain both for 2021 to protect their investment in Stafford. Brockers is another option as interior defensive linemen can be easier to replace and Los Angeles has some depth, but it again opens up a hole that needs filling. 

Ravens: LB L.J. Fort ($2.25 million)

Baltimore is really going to have its hands tied behind its back to make a lot of waves this offseason. The only really obvious cut is Fort given the Ravens’ other younger options they want to give playing time to. Nose tackle Brandon Williams and CB Marcus Peters could free up $7.5 and $9.5 million respectively but they play pivotal roles for the Ravens on defense, so it would be surprising to see them go. 

Saints: LB Kwon Alexander ($13.165 million), TE Jared Cook ($9.115 million), CB Janoris Jenkins ($7 million), G Nick Easton ($5.875 million), DT Malcom Brown ($4.943 million), P Thomas Morstead ($2.5 million), TE Josh Hill ($2.573 million), RB Latavius Murray ($2.487 million)

The Saints have a ton of work to do this offseason, with both cuts and restructures. Alexander won’t stay unless he renegotiates his deal a lot lower. Jenkins is probably also someone the Saints will have to move on from. Easton and Brown haven’t performed to the level of their deals and are depth pieces that won’t be too hard to move on from. Morstead, Hill and Murray are more valuable role players but each have younger, cheaper players on the roster behind them. 

Seahawks: DE Carlos Dunlap ($14.037 million), S Quandre Diggs ($6.15 million)

Dunlap provided a much-needed boost to the Seattle pass rush after coming over in a trade midseason but it’ll be untenable for the Seahawks to keep him at that cap hit. Perhaps they negotiate a pay cut but what’s more likely is Dunlap is cut and tests the market. Diggs is valued as a starter and leader but there are some decent cap savings to be had if the Seahawks think they can find a cheaper replacement. 

Steelers: CB Joe Haden ($7 million), LB Vince Williams ($4 million)

A couple of retirements helped out Pittsburgh’s cap situation and a reworked deal for QB Ben Roethlisberger can net them more space. But they’ll have to make some cuts to get into the black, and that probably includes Haden and Williams. The Steelers spent a third-round pick a couple years ago on Justin Layne, so it’s probably time to see what he can do. Williams is valued for his run defense, blitzing ability and leadership, but the Steelers need to get younger and reinforce their depth there anyway. 

Texans: LB Benardrick McKinney ($6.437 million), RB David Johnson ($6.412 million), C Nick Martin ($6.25 million), RB Duke Johnson ($5.025 million), DT Brandon Dunn ($3.156 million), G Zach Fulton ($3 million)

New Texans GM Nick Caserio has a big mess to clean up in Houston and he can start taking the first steps soon by cleaning up their financial situation. McKinney, both Johnsons at running back and Martin at center are all starters, but Houston will have to make some cuts to get under the cap and none of them are crippling losses. Dunn and Fulton are also expensive for backups. 

Titans: WR Adam Humphries ($4.75 million), S Kenny Vaccaro ($3.9 million)

Humphries battled concussions for much of this past season and is making a lot for a seldom-used slot receiver. Vaccaro is a solid starter but the Titans also need to make some moves just to get under the cap and they have some younger players they could turn to at safety. 

Vikings: LT Riley Reiff ($11.75 million), LB Anthony Barr ($7.262 million), TE Kyle Rudolph ($5.037 million), DT Shamar Stephen ($3.75 million)

Minnesota forced Reiff into a pay cut this past summer and a similar situation could take place now. Unlike last time, though, Reiff will be more incentivized to stand firm with more teams having potential room in their budget. Barr is another interesting decision, as his cap hit is one of the biggest on the team and he’s coming off a major injury. He already took less to re-sign with the Vikings in free agency so another pay cut would be hard to square. Rudolph has been phased out of the offense and will likely welcome a chance for a bigger role elsewhere. Minnesota needs to do better than Stephen on the interior and the cap savings are a nice byproduct. 

Washington: QB Alex Smith ($14.7 million), LB Jonathan Bostic ($2.69 million)

Bostic wasn’t bad last season but Washington has some other promising linebackers and can get younger, cheaper and better there. Smith is a much more interesting case. He’s set to count $23.3 million against the cap in 2021, which isn’t bad as far as starting quarterbacks go. But for as much as Smith is valued as a mentor, leader and inspiration, his situation with his leg makes it hard to realistically count on him as a starter for a full season. He could retire and make this all moot, but it’s really hard to see him back at his current cap number, especially if Washington makes a veteran addition at the position. 

This Week In Football

  • The headliner from this past week was clearly the Rams making one of the most unique trades in NFL history, sending two future first-round picks, a third-round pick this year and Jared Goff to the Lions for Matthew Stafford. There’s so much to unpack from this trade, from the additional first being included to get Detroit to take on Goff’s contract to the Rams’ chaotic disregard for dead cap, first-round picks and sunk costs. The end result is both teams have what they were seeking: certainty and a higher ceiling at quarterback to open a Super Bowl window in 2021 for the Rams and a bounty of picks to start a rebuild for the Lions. 
  • Stafford being dealt is just the beginning of the potential quarterback craziness this offseason, and the wheels started turning in some other situations. The Texans are maintaining that QB Deshaun Watson is not available and appear to be gearing up for a long standoff. But in comparison, the Eagles aren’t completely shutting down teams who are calling about QB Carson Wentz. Combine that with rumblings that Wentz is still ticked with the team and a potential competition with Jalen Hurts, and new life has been breathed back into the Wentz trade saga even after former HC Doug Pederson was fired. 
  • There was also a report about the Raiders potentially having a trade market for QB Derek Carr that can only be described as weird — on a number of levels. First, the sourcing was “NFL insiders” which is vague enough to mean anything, including folks with no real connection to the situation who are just speculating and connecting the dots like we are. One said given the Stafford trade that Carr could fetch two first-round picks, which seems steep and ignores the real reason why two firsts were involved in the Stafford deal. And there were rumblings of those two firsts being the first step in a three-team trade that ended with Watson in Las Vegas. Perhaps if this was the NBA, but there are too many moving parts for that to be even a remote possibility, in my opinion. This offseason is already wild so it’s hard to rule out the Raiders doing something with Carr. But a lot of stuff from this report doesn’t add up. 
  • Other pieces of the quarterback puzzle appear to be settling into place. It’s not a big surprise given the negative financial ramifications, but the Falcons don’t plan to trade QB Matt Ryan, or WR Julio Jones for that matter. The Giants also are apparently content with Daniel Jones and his 39 turnovers in 27 starts and won’t throw their hat in the ring for Watson. And Saints HC Sean Payton spent a fair amount of time buttering up QB Jameis Winston as he was making his rounds in various pre-Super Bowl interviews, as he figures into their plans post-Drew Brees but ideally as a cheaper option for 2021 at least.
  • It’s a rite of passage for prominent NFLers who retire to go through annual “will they come back” rumors. Sometimes they’re for real but in the case of former Colts QB Andrew Luck, team owner Jim Irsay said fans are better off abandoning all hope that Luck will come back.  
  • Another problem has apparently been added to the Ravens’ plate this offseason, as OT Orlando Brown — previously a right tackle but pressed into service on the left side after an injury to Ronnie Stanleyappears dead set on staying at left tackle. Given Baltimore just gave Stanley an incredibly lucrative deal to be their franchise left tackle, that makes it unlikely they can keep Brown. The importance of left vs right tackles isn’t as stark as it used to be but left tackles are typically paid much better than right tackles, which is likely what Brown is angling for. The cap-strapped Ravens likely can’t give him the type of deal he’s seeking. 
  • A second straight NFC title loss was too much for Packers DC Mike Pettine and Green Bay did not renew his contract. There’s a long list of potential replacements with some intriguing names, including Wisconsin DC Jim Leonhard, Saints DL coach Ryan Nielsen, Washington DB coach Chris Harris and Packers DB coach Jerry Gray
  • The last few stragglers are starting to fill out their staff, as the Titans promoted TE coach Todd Downing to offensive coordinator to replace former TE coach turned OC and new Falcons HC Arthur Smith. They also officially gave OLB coach Shane Bowen the defensive coordinator title after he filled a lot of the duties last season. The Dolphins appeared to be picking between QB coach George Godsey and RB coach Eric Studesville and instead chose both to be co-offensive coordinators in what is something of a unique setup. 

Nickels & Dimes

Quick-hit thoughts and observations from around the NFL…

Preach…

The NFL certainly has a type… 

Look, no shade to Sirianni, or to Dan Campbell, Josh McCown or other coaches who have been raised as examples of how messed up the NFL’s hiring practices are. Hiring coaches is hard. Nobody has any read on who will thrive out of the gate or flunk. Some coaches flop in their first gigs and thrive in their second (Belichick, Carroll), some find success early on and can’t replicate it (Mike Shanahan), and some are all bad or all good. But there’s a clear trend when you look at who owners are willing to take a leap of faith on and who they have higher standards for… 

Take for instance this tweet from the Texans’ own tweet announcing interviews for Josh McCown and Jim Caldwell. One has won multiple Super Bowls, has a career winning percentage better than Mike Shanahan, Sid Gillman and Tom Coughlin, to name a few, and is one of the most esteemed quarterback developers in the league. The other’s lone qualification is being a high school quarterback coach. Not a head coach, not even a play-caller. A ton of people talk highly about McCown’s potential aptitude, but that would be like asking an undergrad physics major to lead the dev team for a Mars mission…

Off the top of my head, the 18 teams could include the Jaguars, Bears, Colts, Washington, Patriots, Panthers, Saints, Broncos, Jets, Eagles and Texans. The Lions and Rams are free squares. That still leaves five teams to hit Schefter’s line. The 49ers, Raiders, Dolphins and Steelers have also been mentioned at different times as being candidates to make a change, though I’d classify all of them as less likely. So to hit 18 and go over it, something surprising will have to happen with one or two out of the Falcons, Packers, Cowboys, Browns or Vikings…

With some rumblings starting about how long Brady plans to play beyond this season, it’s worth noting that Tampa Bay doesn’t have anyone on their roster under contract beyond the 2023 season. They’re all the way maxed out on the present…

Something to keep in mind when forecasting the Rams in 2021. Defensive performance is hard to maintain from year to year. Los Angeles should still be good defensively in 2021 but expecting them to be No. 1 again is unrealistic…

Summing up the Rams’ blockbuster trade in one picture…

Check This Out

  • With the Chiefs on the verge of announcing themselves as the NFL’s next dynasty, the Ringer’s Kevin Clark looks at how they’ve been built. Obviously, the duo of Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid gets them most of the way there and guys like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Tyrann Mathieu and Chris Jones are rare talents. But the way the rest of the roster has been filled out is notable and should give Chiefs fans hope — and the rest of the NFL foreboding — about how sustainable this all is. 
  • The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin is good for strong, interesting and analytical takes on quarterback play in the NFL, so it’s worth reading his read on the Rams’ trade for Stafford. Essentially what it boils down to is whether Stafford is truly that much of a step up from Goff, which is what the Rams are betting and what they paid for. 
  • Just want to plug our job posting one more time. We’re hiring a part-time writer to join the team and help us continue to grow here at NFLTR! This is a perfect job if you love football and I can heartily recommend the working environment. There’s no shortage of content mills on the web that are happy to exploit folks trying to make a living writing about sports. I’ve worked for a few myself. But there’s a real path to grow here and make a viable living writing about a game we all love. That’s the dream. 
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