The NFL’s new league year won’t start for a few more weeks, but it already feels like the offseason is in full swing. Ahead of the start of free agency, there could be dozens of players that are made available, including some big names. These are the top high-profile NFL cut candidates for 2019. [Cap numbers all via Spotrac.]
Eli Manning, Giants
The status of two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning appears to be very much up in the air—and, unintentionally or not, the Giants have been sending out mixed signals about their starting quarterback. Head coach Pat Shurmur sounds like he would be happy with Manning returning as the starter next season, while general manager Dave Gettleman would not commit to anything about Manning’s future. Eli’s status in the coming weeks might come down to whether the team has interest in another former Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles. If the Giants aren’t interested in Foles, they might opt to keep Manning and see about targeting someone in the draft in 2019 or 2020.
Justin Houston, Chiefs
Underrated throughout his career probably because he plays in the middle of the country with the Chiefs, Justin Houston could arguably become the best overall player available in free agency if Kansas City releases him to clear cap space. Houston has a $21 million cap hit that the team will almost certainly want to do something with to bring it down, and it could lead to the versatile edge player’s release if he doesn’t want to restructure his deal. Also, while Houston is good enough to play at a high level in any scheme, the Chiefs might not feel he’s a perfect fit for a 4-3 defense.
Kelechi Osemele, Raiders
The Raiders are clearly in a rebuild, and some have pointed at the decline of the offensive line as the reason the team went on the verge of Super Bowl contenders in 2016 to back-to-back subpar seasons. Jon Gruden and new general manager Mike Mayock might want to break up the offensive line with cheaper players they feel can hold their own as run blockers and pass protectors. A trade ultimately might be more likely for the former First-Team All-Pro, but the Raiders would save money and wouldn’t have to worry about cap issues if they just cut Osemele outright.
Sean Lee, Cowboys
Jerry Jones is a sentimental owner, which does make it hard to see him simply cutting longtime Cowboy and former All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee. However, with Lee’s injury history and his playing time declining behind a talented young group of linebackers, it probably makes sense to move on. Lee has restructured his contract before, though, and he might be OK without a full-time role as an every-down linebacker on a lesser salary in 2019.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos
The status of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is going to come down to whether the Broncos want to keep him with a cap hit of nearly $13 million in the last year of his contract, because Sanders is not going to take a pay cut.
🧐 it ain’t happening.. no way Jose.. ✌🏾 https://t.co/QmRhzR10sZ
— Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) February 19, 2019
Considering Sanders is coming of an Achilles tear, and the fact that Denver has Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton ready to lead the receiving corps, it feels like the two sides will be heading their separate ways at some point this offseason.
Malik Jackson, Jaguars
After his playing time declined during Jacksonville’s disappointing 2018 season, Malik Jackson admitted he doesn’t see a future for himself in Jacksonville. Due $15 million for a team that probably wants to reshuffle the locker room in an attempt to get back on track, Jackson is likely headed out the door. The 29-year-old would have multiple suitors if he hits the open market, as he’s scheme versatile and can play both inside and outside.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
The Dolphins plan to “tank” in 2019 (or at least as close to tanking as you can get in the NFL), according to the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero, and parting ways with Ryan Tannehill is part of that plan. Miami probably hopes to trade Tannehill, but there might not be a huge market for teams because a) there don’t seem to be many teams in the market for a starting quarterback, and b) teams might just call the Dolphins’ bluff and wait for Tannehill to be released. It’d be a surprise if Tannehill remains with the Dolphins at a $26-million cap number.
DeSean Jackson, Buccaneers
DeSean Jackson is in a peculiar situation, as he apparently doesn’t want to play in Tampa Bay anymore, but new Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said he wants Jackson to remain with the team. The Bucs can get out of Jackson’s contract without any cap ramifications, but it looks like it’ll come down to the relationship between the veteran receiver and the veteran coach. You would think Jackson will be excited to play in an explosive vertical offense, but we’ll see.