By: Jason Sarney
The NFL’s next seven days NFL will likely have a flurry of rumors and transactions brought on by the 2021 salary cap. With the league lowering its salary cap and other roster changes due to an interesting and unique 2020, this offseason will result in a very different look for many teams.
Prior to the March 17th kickoff date of free agency (and even two days prior when negotiating is no longer considered tampering), expect a feeding frenzy of one or two-year deals across the NFL with some big-name players. In addition to traditional releases/cuts, keep an eye on cap-cutting trades by teams strapped for cash such as the Saints, Rams, Eagles, Chiefs and Falcons to name a few.
These teams are currently in the red when looking at their total 2021 cap number. Green Bay, Minnesota and Chicago all claim the same stigma according to the salary cap figures on www.spotrac.com.
For the Dolphins fan out there anxiously waiting to see who will become available, or who may be traded, here is a look at some of the potential candidates for movement in positions the Dolphins are in need of on cap-burdened teams.
Adam Thielen: With Justin Jefferson coming an instant star, Thielen is suddenly expendable for the Vikings with a potential 2021 savings of approximately $8M. Whether traded
or released, there are equal savings. However, if Minnesota waits it out and moves him after June 1st, they save $11.6M and spread the Dead Cap hit across 2021 and 2022.
Tyler Lockett is a stud as the WR2 on Seattle. The WR2 label isn’t a knock, as D.K. Metcalf is making a case for an eventual league-wide No. 1 WR. While not in a dungeon of cap-issues like the aforementioned teams, Seattle is still below the league average.
Miami is deep in the WR market, and Seattle could be looking at a savings of $11.5M if they trade Lockett. I wouldn’t be shocked if a player-for-player/pick move is made. Remember, Miami has been making efforts to trade Kyle Van Noy instead of just releasing him, so perhaps there are moving parts still in rotation for Miami and the potential Van Noy move. Van Noy and a late pick for Lockett could be a surprise move for 2021 bringing in his one-year remaining contract. This plan could work well with Miami drafting another WR for their future plans.
The Saints are in the basement of misery in terms of NFL salary cap at approximately $-47mm. There really isn’t a safe bet of a player who remains a Saint, so looking at 2022 when some contracts expire, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them release or try to trade to trim that cap. Emmanuel Sanders had a solid season and earned Drew Brees’ trust; he could be a savvy veteran one-year signing for a team if they want to use him in spurts and as a mentor for young WRs. Releasing Sanders will save an overall $2.5M for New Orleans when factoring in Dead Cap. If they wait, and cut post June 1st, they will save a net of $6.5M.
While I don’t think Miami is a slam-dunk for Sanders, I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if Lockett or Thielen are names thrown around this week.